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Parent of a high school sophomore or junior? There are two things you should do today to help your child begin the college search
How to organize your college list, find patterns, and narrow effectively
Written by Jack Delehey on September 16th, 2022
Previously written on 01/08/2021
The holiday season is behind us and, for most juniors, this comes with a realization: 365 days from now, their college applications will all likely be submitted!

For some, this is exciting.

For others, this may be daunting.

Regardless of which camp you fall in (perhaps, even, you are in one camp and your high school junior is in another), I want to help you get organized in one important area:

The college list.

Ultimately, no high schooler can apply to college without having a list of colleges to apply to. So on the theme of reducing stress and increasing organization, I think it’s a valuable place to be smart.

Why a school list is important beyond just listing names of schools
First and foremost, a school list, whether on a word document, spreadsheet, or piece of paper is more valuable than keeping a list in your head. So word to the wise: get the list written down in some way, shape or form. Doing so will allow you room in your brains for more important things than memorizing the location of Wake Forest University (note: it is not, in fact, in Wake Forest, NC!)

More importantly, it will allow you and your child to see valuable trends and patterns. For example, do you notice that your daughter seems to rave about schools that all have 5,000 to 10,000 undergraduates and all seem to be located below the mason-dixon line? This is valuable information for recommending future schools for her to research (likely virtually these days). Patterns like this are very easy to spot if you have a great college list system.

Lastly, when it does come the time to start pairing down your school list, it will help expedite that process. You may be able to notice your daughter has noted in her school list that she wasn’t a fan of NYU due to its lack of centralized campus...if that’s the case, you can be fairly certain you can eliminate other city/non-campus schools from the list with one swift mouse click!

I don’t have a school list. Where do I start?
In my program, I get all parents and students set up with a neat, organized, personalized school list tracker.
But if you’re not in my program, have no fear! Here are some suggestions below if you’re looking to get started:

  • Start a Google Sheet and share it with your child. Why Google Sheets? Because I can nearly guarantee they’ve worked with Google Sheets before so it’s an easy way to reduce the “getting started” hurdle.
  • ​Make it clear; the document should be mutual--both you and your child can, and should, add to the document!
  • ​Across the top, put the following titles: School Name, Location, Size, Gut Feeling, Mid-50% SAT, Mid-50% ACT, Avg GPA, Acceptance Rate, Student Notes, Parent Notes, Tentative Acceptance Chance
  • ​You can then begin adding schools to your child’s school list. He can do so as well. The communal method to this approach may actually make it fun and interesting.
I need a place to research schools. Where do I look?
My recs:
The key with the school list is consistency. If you and your child make a pact to add/update the school list 2-3 times per week, it will become a habit and actually may be fun. After all, the college search should be fun. And, if you work on it consistently and start early enough, your stress will be drastically reduced and you may actually enjoy the process with your child!

With this said, proactively managing this stage of the process doesn’t work for every family. Some families just need, or would prefer, support from an expert so they know their child is in the best possible position for college application success.

Does this describe you? Do you and/or your child need help navigating the college search process (or know someone who does)? Click here to see if and how I can help (or pass the link along to your fellow parent that might be able to use it)!

Happy college-searching,

Jack Delehey

Jack Delehey (Vanderbilt '14) is a college admissions expert originally from Concord, MA and now resides in Denver, CO.  It is his goal to pass on his college admission knowledge, strategies, and unique perspective to high school students in a young, fun, relatable, older-brother type manner.

The college application process is often confusing and stressful. But it just doesn't have to be that way! If you are interested in gaining clarity, peace of mind, and a detailed step-by-step program to help your child through the college application process, reach out and request a free strategy session today.
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