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In last week’s Educator companion blog to our Friday Five series, we covered how to help students begin thinking about their post-high school plans and the importance of helping students see themselves in college. This week we shift our attention to the importance of helping students reflect on their needs, their preferences, and their priorities. In other words, Know thyself: a college planning maxim for a successful college search.

What are your students’ needs and preferences?

Personal factors permeate each of the major areas of consideration. Here are some self-reflection questions to share with your students to help them begin thinking about their needs and preferences:


What are my personal, academic, and/or professional goals? How close or far from home do I want to go to college? Are there family circumstances I need to consider? Do I care where my friends are going to college?


What majors and careers interest me most? What type of learning support or other accommodations might I need? Will it be important for me to have access to internships or other hands-on learning opportunities?


Is average class size important to me? Is student-to-faculty ratio important? Does it matter whether I attend a college that is private vs. public? What college setting suits me best? (e.g, urban, rural) Do I want a campus that looks and feels like my community? In what type of social environment am I most likely to thrive?


To what extent is my family able to help me pay for college? Am I willing to take out student loans to help pay for college? Will I need to work while I’m in college to help pay for it?

What are your students’ priorities?

Once students have identified their needs and preferences, the next step is to prioritize them. And this is where things can get tricky. As students’ circumstances and environments change, so can their priorities. One way to help students prioritize the variables above is to ask students, “What do you want college to do for you?”

For the most part, college-bound students want and need a degree that takes them from learner to earner. The events of the last year have impacted the ways students are thinking about their priorities. Each year our colleagues at Eduventures Research study “Prospective Student Mindsets” to identify the ways college applicants prioritize various aspects of their college search and selection. Students with a “career pragmatist” mindset, for example, might be prioritizing their college decision with a higher degree of sensitivity to affordability, and are looking for a job right away. Students with an “exploration and meaning” mindset, on the other hand, may be prioritizing their decision based on wanting a broad liberal arts experience with lots of opportunities for cultural discovery and self-exploration. Regardless of labels or buckets, the key here is encouraging students to think about how they want their college experience to serve them and prioritize accordingly.

Help students first identify their needs and preferences and then prioritize those variables based on what they want from their college experience. It will help frame these conversations to ultimately help students build a smart, balanced college list that leads to their success. Stay tuned for our next episode as we build on the momentum from our first two episodes and shift our attention to helping students build a balanced list.

As you have these conversations with your students, don’t forget myOptions Encourage is here to support you as you support your students. myOptions Encourage is a no-cost platform that helps guide the college search process with integrated exploration apps, progress monitoring, and reporting. And for more, be sure to check out our Counselor Resource Library.