Although freshman year may seem early to start thinking about college, the truth is that the process starts as soon as you choose your first high-school schedule. Are you taking the hardest classes you are capable of? Are you studying a foreign language? Have you taken the time to introduce yourself to your guidance counselor? Learn more about the college application process at these five sites.
Because CollegeBoard administers the SAT college entrance exam, their name may be familiar. But in addition to SAT registration and test prep, their site features a terrific collection of articles about how to choose a college and a major, and a database of colleges. Peruse the articles to get a better understanding of your search criteria (urban, rural, large, small, coed, religious affiliation, etc.) Then use their College MatchMaker Tool to find schools based on your criteria.
CollegeConfidential is a popular site that combines expert advice (such as Ask the Dean) with forums overfilled with chatter from college-bound high-school students (and their nervous parents.) CollegeConfidential also publishes college visit reports written by prospective students, so you can see what other high-school kids thought about their campus tours. As with any site that publishes user reviews and discussion forums, keep a healthy skepticism and don't believe everything you read. And remember, not everyone wants or needs the same things in a college.
Like CollegeBoard, Peterson's has separate portals for students and parents. For students, the site is quite extensive, and is divided into four steps. "Getting Started" provides an overview of the process, including a timeline that starts in ninth grade and will probably answer a lot of questions. Next is "Find a School," which is a database search that lets you save your criteria so you can return to it later. "Prepare for Tests" is the third section, and the always important "Pay for School" is last.
"Counselor-O-Matic is an advanced search engine that combines your academic and extracurricular history (screens 1-3) with your preferences (screens 4-8) to help you find the right college." Register for free, and you'll be able to save your preferences, and come back later to change them. Although it can be tedious, Princeton Review reminds us "the more questions you answer, the more precise your results will be." Use the buttons on the left-hand side to navigate from page to page, and from section to section.
Each year U.S. News publishes a ranking of the country's best colleges. Even if you disagree with the premise that a college can be summed up by a single number, their online College Search and their collection of articles is a worthwhile stop. Best clicks are Alex Kingsbury's Weekly Advice Column, the quirky Top 100 Lists, and the College Search database. Although much of the site is free access, some of it requires a paid upgrade.