I am here to tell you that you can have a great time stepping into the process of finding the colleges that are right for you!  Think about it, you’re planning the next stage of your life… and most of that planning is fun and (almost) easy!  Using your strengths-the ones that you identified last week-will make this project even easier!

You start by thinking about yourself…pretty easy, right?!

  • who are you (your talents, knowledge, skills, values, life experiences, extracurricular activities…)
  • what’s important to you
  • what do you want to do with your life (btw, it’s okay if you don’t have an answer to this… over 50% of students entering college have not chosen a major)
  • what’s your profile (grade point average, difficulty of course work {honors, AP, IB}, SAT/ACT scores, class rank)
  • what is the range of money available for college…talk with your parent(s) about finances*
  • list any questions or concerns you have about the search process and track down the resources (books, people, websites) with the answers

You learn about what colleges are about… you become a detective to get the scoop->fun stuff!

  • what’s the range of possibilities-from 85-55,000 students to a variety of settings
  • what are colleges looking for in students, what are their values (which they tell you about in all their materials), what do they need to learn about you

You think about yourself again… even easier the second time!

  • which settings are best for you (large, medium or small student body, city, suburbs, east, west, north, south, near/far from home)
  • which settings are a fit for your values
  • which schools have programs that interest you (subject areas, study abroad, extracurriculars)
  • which schools fit into each of the three “buckets”-likelies, possibles, reaches (re:  your profile)

You visit the colleges/universities…road trip!

  • plan your visits-who’s going with you, where, when, what will you do, what questions do you have about all the schools and each off the schools
  • check out the campuses-tour, info session, visit a residence hall, eat the food, walk the campus, sit in on classes, read the school newspaper, talk to professors, coaches and  students… and if you can’t get to a campus, check out their websites
  • take notes on all the campuses, to review when you get home

You make choices… how cool!

  • think with both your head and your heart about the colleges on your list
  • choose 8-10 schools to learn even more about-read the college guides, particularly the alternative guides, to get a sense of the schools
  • talk with family, friends, guidance counselors… ask questions/get answers, remember you’re getting both facts and opinions

You start applying!
That’s the next post!

*  Remember, state schools are less expensive than private schools, yet private schools generally offer more support to students.  There’s a lot of info about financial aid, scholarships, and loans in your guidance office, library, and online.  Most likely, you will want some help from a parent, guidance counselor or a professional in sifting through that information.


I love this saying!  How true, right?  I know that I approach tasks I like much more readily than those that feel difficult or boring.  What about you?

How do you feel about searching for colleges that are a match for who you are, and what you want and need?  Does it feel fun and exciting?  Big and scary?  Overwhelming and tedious? Maybe all those things?

How can looking for colleges that are matches for you be fun? By tapping into what you already do well.  Here’s a question:  What are your strengths?  What do you do really well?  I love helping teens get in touch with their strengths and then identifying how they can use them to make EVERYTHING easier… and more fun!

Take the next few minutes to think and then make a list of at least five of your strengths. If that feels hard to do, go here, www.authentichappiness.com and take the Brief Strengths Test.  It’s free, takes about 20 minutes, and will give you great information-about yourself!

Now reflect on your strengths and how they show up in your life… here are just a few examples of strengths:

  • Are you curious about the world and open to new experiences?
  • Do you have great perspective?  Do others seek you out to help them solve problems and gain another view of themselves?
  • Do you persevere, finishing what you start, being flexible, realistic, and not perfectionistic?
  • Are you kind and generous to others?
  • Are you a leader, organizing activities and maintaining good relations among group members?
  • Do you demonstrate self control, holding your desires, needs and impulses in check when appropriate?

How can you use these strengths to have more fun during your college search?
If you…

  • are curious, use that trait to become a super sleuth, figuring out who you are, what the colleges are about and how you will create a match (more on that in the next post!)
  • have perspective, maybe you want to approach your search as a problem solving exercise
  • persevere, then you will be in great shape to mange the big and little pieces of the project
  • are kind, then perhaps others will repay your kindness by working with you and answering questions
  • are a leader, then your organizational and people skills will help you manage the pieces of the puzzle, the “paperfun,” and the people you will meet during this months long journey
  • are a wizard at self control then you will manage yourself in the process, working when necessary, helping yourself feel more in control of the big picture and the niggling details, and stepping away from the search to take a break!

You may want to make a quick mindmap, web, collage of your strengths (mmmm, that must be your strength in creativity!) and keep it with your college search materials… to give you the lift you need when the task starts to feel too big.

I bet you’ll have more fun if you’re using your strengths to meet your challenges!


I wanted to share this information about my series for high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors at the JCC Rockland.    It’s an interactive, four session program for students ready to learn about, and to begin, the college search and selection process.  Every session we discuss new topics…

What is Involved in a College Search?
Tuesday, Jan 26 6:30-7:30 pm

Students begin by discovering what they know and what they have yet to learn about the college search, gaining confidence and clarity through the pre-planned exercises.

How to Make a Great Impression with Your Application & Interview
Tuesday, Feb 9 6:30-7:30 pm

Students will use a survey to identify their strengths and challenges, and then apply that knowledge to writing the application.  We will also cover strategies for the interview process.

What are Colleges Looking For?
Tuesday, Feb 23 6:30-7:30 pm

What are the college admission personnel thinking about the pool of applicants?  During this session students will gain a clear picture of what the colleges are looking for and how to put your best foot forward.

What Will the First Year Look Like?
Tuesday, March 9 6:30-7:30 pm

This session focuses on making the decisions about which colleges are the right fit and imagining life at college the first year; talking through what is new and exciting, and addressing potential challenges and fears.

It starts in less than 2 weeks!

Check out the full description and pricing here, Choosing the College That’s Right for You!


I LOVE this article!

I’ve been saying the same thing for years!  I mean really, how many activities can you be truly committed to/involved in?

During my workshops and in my coaching, I always talk with students about their activities and involvement beyond the classroom… and a surprising number of students say that they participate in 6 or even 8 extracurricular activities.  I’m straightforward, so I ask them:

  • How much time and energy do you devote to each extracurricular activity?
  • How long have you been a member of each of these groups?
  • What roles do you play in each sport, club, and/or society?  Have you taken on increasing responsibility in each activity?
  • What are your personally contributing to each of these activities/organizations, and what are you gaining from your involvement in each?

I ask these question for a few reasons.  I want students to become aware of how interviewers often perceive such activity.  I am an alumni interviewer and I am not impressed by students that are over-committed, as it feels like the students are trying to hard to impress others (as some call it, “resume-building”).  I have to say that I am a very high energy person, I own two different businesses and have volunteer commitments with five organizations-though only two of those organizations require significant time expenditures each and every month throughout the year.  I think carefully before extending myself and I know that, in this instance, “More is not better.”

If you’re feeling over-extended, take the time to assess those activities that energize you-and deepen your commitment. I realize that walking away from/giving up personal commitments isn’t easy… yet you will be happier for it.

Embrace what makes your heart sing and let go of all the rest.

Site Meter