This is the final blog in our five-part “Friday Five” series focused on helping students begin the college search process. The first blog in the series discussed how to help juniors begin thinking about their post-high school plans. As well as understand the importance of helping students “see” themselves in college. In the second blog we talked about assisting students in reflecting on their needs, preferences, hopes, and boundaries. Our third blog gave us the equation Match + Fit = Balanced List, where we focused on finding a good college “match.” And the fourth blog explored how “fit” rounded out that equation.
The Importance of Match and Fit
At myOptions, our team believes in the importance of building a balanced college list. And building a balanced list requires students to focus on the importance of Match + Fit.
Match + Fit = Balanced List
Research shows students who are well matched to a college are more likely to enroll, persist, and graduate from college. But finding a good college “match” (whether a student’s academic record aligns with a college’s admission standards) is only half of the equation. Students must also be mindful of “fit” (a college suitable for a student’s needs, interests, values, and preferences).
Next Steps in the College Search
This is not a “how to” guide. As an educator, you know every student is uniquely shaped by their family background, environment, and a host of other factors. So knowing where to begin is always context-dependent. That said, here are some important considerations as your students start their college search.
Make the most of college visits
Yes, of course, encourage students to take the official tour and other experiences organized by the admissions office (including sitting in on classes!). But also be sure to take time for unstructured exploration. Encourage students to sit in the student union or on a bench in a common area and observe students, faculty, and staff interact. It will help students gain a feel for the vibe of the campus. Also, it may not hurt suggesting students visit local colleges – even if they aren’t on a student’s list – as it may help them gain confidence and insight.
Most admissions offices have admission counselors assigned to specific regions or territories. They can be a student’s biggest ally in the college search process, providing insight and support from their first visit to the time they enroll. And there’s a chance they may even visit your school. When I was an admission counselor, I loved receiving emails, cards, and notes from students. I worked extra hard to support those with whom I’d built a relationship.
Read and research
Students should learn to be thoughtful consumers of information. Students will receive mail and emails from colleges by participating in the myOptions program. Encourage students to keep an open mind when they receive information from a school they’re not familiar with. And keep in mind that some colleges pay attention to how much students engage with emails and other e-marketing campaigns.
Prepare to apply
Each school’s application requirements may vary when it comes to test scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and more. Support your students by helping them build their brag sheets. Encourage your students to draft a brag sheet, for this will help them reflect on their high school career. Brag sheets should detail key experiences that your students will note within their college applications. Also, they serve as a student resume for teachers writing letters of recommendation.
American College Application Campaign
If your school participates in the American College Application Campaign, they should be sure to attend one of those events. They are built to support students through the application process. Your school or community might call these Application Nights, or celebrate college Application Week or Month.
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.