How to survive the college search process

Step 1: Research

WHAT OR WHERE: Are you looking for a certain major? Are you looking for a school close to home—or far away? Start narrowing your search by your academic interests or by geography to keep your college options manageable.

DO THE RESEARCH: Check out college guide-books from The Princeton Review, U.S. News & World Report or Peterson's College Search as a way to compare and contrast institutions. Look for colleges with your major or interests, breadth or programs, study abroad opportunities or community life that matches your personality.

ASK ALUMNI: Ever heard this: "College was the best time of my life!" Find out why from family, friends, teachers, youth leaders.

TIP: Read the mission statement of a college—it's a huge window into what a college values.

Step 2: Apply & visit

SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATIONS: Fall of your senior year in high school is the best time to apply, and many colleges offer free applications. Apply to Calvin before Dec. 1, and we will waive your application fee!

SCHEDULE A VISIT: Some students say that a college just felt right—or wrong—when they visited. So experience it. Stay overnight in a residence hall, take a tour, talk to an admissions counselor, sit in on classes and get a feel for the place. Don't forget to bring your parents!

TIP: Find out what other admission materials may be required, such as transcripts, ACT or SAT scores, recommendations, essays, etc.

Step 3: Compare the #'s and enroll

APPLY FOR FINANCIAL AID: After you are admitted, apply for scholarships (your job!) and financial aid (most likely this will be your parents' job). Pay close attention to deadlines so you are considered for all the aid available.

ENROLL: Once you've made your college choice, confirm your place in the Class of 2015 by May 1, the universal college decision date. This may involve submitting a housing application, enrollment deposit, orientation registration and health forms.

TIP: When you receive your financial aid packages, comare not only the final costs but also the opportunities at colleges you're considering.

VERGE: fall 2011

First-Year Experience