Starting Your Kid’s College Search

Published by Wendy Nelson on

Smiling woman working at homeStarting your kid’s college search can be a very confusing and overwhelming time.  I am here to help.  That’s why I started the My Kid’s College Choice website.  Today, I would like to provide some tips and tricks to make it easier.

Important First Steps for Starting Your Kid’s College Search

  1. Get Organized – You need some way to keep track of all the important details for all the schools your student will be investigating.  When I started this with my oldest daughter, I used a very simple College Search Spreadsheet template that I created in Excel.  Since I ended up creating additional spreadsheets to track admissions and financial information, I decided to combine everything into one spreadsheet with two tabs.  You can download my improved College Search Spreadsheet template.  Otherwise, create your own in Excel or a Google sheet and keep it on a cloud drive so you can access it from multiple devices.
  2. Get College Information – Back when my oldest daughter was starting her college search, the most popular way to get college information was still College Fairs.  College fairs are still popular, but if your student doesn’t want to wait for one, or doesn’t want to come home with lots of paper, jump online and search college websites.  Rather than randomly going to different college websites, you can start with a College Search website to find schools that may be of interest based on location, size, majors, selectivity and many other options.  The college search websites I recommend are and Big Future.
  3. Assess Your Finances – One of the first things you need to do is decide how you are going to pay for college and discuss it with your student.  Read Don’t Go Broke Paying for College to learn about important options for covering the high cost of college.
  4. Discuss Standardized Tests – Your student will need to decide if he or she is going to take the ACT, the SAT, or both, and also whether he or she may want to look for “test optional” colleges that do not require submission of either test.  There used to be some good comparisons published online for what type of student does better on the ACT/what type does better on the SAT.  However, with the change over to the “New SAT” this year, all bets are off.  The SAT was revised to be a lot more like the ACT.  At this point, my advice is to assess which test is more popular for your area and the schools your student is interested in.  In my area, the Midwest, the ACT is much more popular.  Once your student has decided on a test to start with, look into test prep options.  There are great study guides available through Amazon like The Official ACT Prep Guide and the College Board’s Official SAT Study Guide for the new SAT.  If your student would do better with online study options, is a great and economical option.
  5. Start Visiting Schools – As I write this, there is somewhere between a month and a month and a half until school starts in the fall.  You may be able to get a visit or two in this summer.  Of course there are benefits to waiting until fall when students are back on campuses too.  A summer visit can work well for a first “look and feel” campus visit.

These are just a few of the important first steps for starting your kid’s college search.  Remember, your student should drive this process.  However, some students just don’t want to do that.  I will talk more about that in my next post.