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College Counseling Tips: Do Your Homework

By Kiersten Murphy - Murphy College Consultants, 04/05/17, 10:00AM PDT


Special to WWFHA, pro-staffer Kiersten Murphy of College Murphy Consultants –

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Seniors are seasoned pros by now, and are celebrating the good news of their college acceptances. A year from now, juniors will be in their place, having to decide next steps about where to enroll. If you haven’t already started to develop your college list, now is the time.

In addition to identifying your learning style (that is, what learning environment best suits you), your strengths, weaknesses, your admissibility (can you get in to a particular school? choose wisely!), potential for need-based aid (use the net price calculator to get an estimate) and college must have’s, you need to spend time getting to know your college choices by analyzing their websites.  Do they have what you want, does their philosophy and graduation requirements match your own, what opportunities will you have for internships or research, will you be able to continue special interests like hockey, music, leadership, etc.? Believe me, not all colleges are created equally and we want to find one that works best for you!

One of my favorite examples to share is of a student that comes to me, thinking that they know where they want to apply. They have based their search off of the location (California!) and proximity to the beach. They tell me that they want to apply to the University of California Santa Barbara, and want to study business, and get lots of merit aid, while sunning themselves on the beach; who wouldn’t right about now? Right away, I know they have only evaluated UCSB on their desirable location on the ocean. UCSB does not offer a major in business, and if you are looking for an affordable price, the UC system is one of the most expensive public schools in the nation. I encourage you to not make little mistakes like this – know the school beyond surface level details. And have candid conversations about affordability with your parents before you settle on your final list.

After you have spent a lot of time exploring the college’s website, it is helpful to visit other websites such as U-CAN, College Navigator and CollegeData to explore further.  Be sure you consider the value of the education offered and explore statistics released as part of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). You should have a keen awareness of where you fall in terms of your test scores and GPA to ensure that you will have lots of options this time next year! If you are really on top of things, you will pay attention to newly released admission stats coming out daily (see my Facebook page for more info).

Sophomores – your time is approaching. You can certainly get a jumpstart on what juniors should be working on, but you can tackle other things too. Make sure you are signing up for a rigorous junior year, with classes that challenge you. Consider taking an AP or IB course (or two!) as colleges always appreciate and value rigor over the easy path. And yes, you should do well in these courses too. Don’t give up on pursing a third year of a foreign language – keep chugging along as that is what colleges want to see, especially selective ones. You also want to be forward thinking to standardized tests, to not only evaluate which test is the right one for you, but when are you going to prep for them, and when should you take them. Making plans now will make your junior year go smoothly.

If you have any questions about how I help students with items discussed above, feel free to call or email me to inquire about my services. You can also follow college admission trends/news/etc. on my Facebook page -