Saint Joseph's University

How to Navigate Your College Search

Wherever you are in your college search, Brad Simon provides tips for successfully creating a plan for your journey.

The first thing to know about the college search is that you, as a student, are not expected to know exactly how this process works. Nor is it necessary to start with a specific end goal regarding a major or career path. What you must know is that you are in control; you are the captain of your own college search ship. And you have a crew behind you: your family, friends, school counseling staff, and even college admission counselors are here with you on this journey.

Create a game plan

It’s vital to acknowledge that no one shares the same path or plan. Depending on where you are in your voyage (school year), the timing will vary.

As a guide to creating this plan, utilize the various tools of The CollegeBoard and its affiliated service, BigFuture.

Create your account today to ensure calm seas ahead:

  • CollegeBoard administers the SAT, so you’ll have your credentials in advance to register for the exam.
  • BigFuture supports your journey through each stage of the college search, including:
    • Customize a Plan: Answers questions to better shape your path to higher education.
    • Find Colleges: Determines key factors in selecting a campus, learn which schools offer programs of your interest, and investigate the schools that you’ve heard about in your hallways and community.
    • Applying 101: Debunks myths and misunderstandings surrounding the application process.
  • Khan Academy provides free, customized study tools. Once you complete a PSAT or SAT, you’ll receive recommendations to help with your strengths and areas for improvement.

Stay organized

Consider an email account and calendar specifically for your college search. You can share your calendar with first mates, i.e. key stakeholders in your college search.

  • Select a username which is professional and easy to remember and share.
  • Routinely check this email for communications from schools and reminders of deadlines.
  • Add critical dates (application & scholarship deadlines, college open houses, and test dates) to this calendar with reminder notifications.

Do your research

Even if you’re still creating your list of prospective schools (I recommend 3-8 to start), get your research underway.

Begin with a school’s website. Hone in on student body size, application requirements, and most importantly visit opportunities.

Schedule your visits

campus tour with student talking

Campus tour at SJU’s Spring 2018 Open House

You won’t know if a college is a right fit until you visit campus and connect with students, faculty, and staff.

Take a campus tour or attend an open house as soon as possible. Your first campus experience doesn’t need to be at your dream school. This trip will set a baseline for future visits and help you figure out your needs. The key is to come in with an open mind and ask questions. Our world would be very different if people didn’t explore other areas and utilize the expertise of those they met along the way.

So grab your captain hat and set sail! Today is when your voyage to a brighter future begins. Expect a few storms along the way, but continue on knowing you are in control and have a crew of adventurous and seasoned mates to help you reach your destination.


by Brad Simon, Assistant Director of Admission