Organize Your College Search

Published by Wendy Nelson on

We Have Researched Schools – Now What?

You need a place to capture and organize all of the information you have gathered.  This will be a key resource in your kid’s college search.  I have created a spreadsheet format that has worked well for me and for other parents involved in the college choice process.  It is available on my Resources page – here is a link.

First, you need to decide the things that are important for you and your child to keep track of.  Everyone’s needs are probably a little different, so the column headings on the spreadsheet can be changed to whatever matters to you.  Some of the basics that most parents and students would want to know are:

Where is the school located?

How far is it from home? 

What is the current undergraduate enrollment?

How much does it cost?

When you capture the school’s cost, you may want to break it down like I did into two columns – one for tuition and one for room and board.  You should be able to find this information broken out in the brochures you picked up or from the school’s website.

I wanted a column to enter any important information about academic scholarships.  I enter the dollar ranges they offer, any details the school provides on automatic scholarships based on GPA/Test Scores, and any special competitions they have for bigger scholarships.

I added a column to capture whether or not the school has an Honors Program and any details specific to the program like eligibility.  If your child is not interested in an Honors Program, you could change this column to capture information on Athletics, specific academic programs, or whatever else is important to you.

The columns on the right side of my spreadsheet are designed to turn it into a working document with relation to college visits.  You can capture the organized visit days that the college has, determine the days that may work for you, document the day you sign up for, and then enter any important notes on the college after the visit.  I have also designed a color-coding system for the spreadsheet.  The key is at the bottom of the spreadsheet (feel free to change the colors!).  This will help you to keep the information organized as you go along, eliminating any schools that are no longer in the running and highlighting the schools that stand out.

One more important point:  Listing colleges on the spreadsheet should not be a once-and-done task.  As you start the college search/college choice process with your child, other schools are going to pop up.  Once your child has taken the ACT or SAT test, a lot of college brochures are going to start arriving in the mail.  Keep an open mind, review the materials you receive, and add any other schools of interest to the spreadsheet.  Also, as you start visiting colleges, your child’s interests might move in a specific direction.  Maybe your child will decide he is only comfortable on a small campus, or maybe she will hate the feel of a small school.  Criteria will evolve and change as you go through the process.  That is the signal to go back and re-evaluate your list.  Research other schools that are similar to the one you really liked and add them to the list.  Remove or gray-out the ones that are no longer of interest.  Just remember to keep this as a working document, especially as you start college visits.

Speaking of college visits, they will be the topic of my next post.  I will cover things like when is a good time to start visiting colleges, visit days vs. private visits, what to look for, how to gauge what your child really thought of the school, and more.