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Tryouts, Part 2

Is Facebook attempting to take over the world? Do their seemingly benign terms like connection and algorithm really cover a secret plot to install a Zuckerbergian World Order? I don’t know. This is not that kind of blog. What I’m really doing is telling you I got a Facebook memory this week from my son’s “Academy” soccer tryouts last year.

If you are someone who insists on reading the foreword or won’t read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe until you’ve first read The Magicians’ Nephew, you can go back and read last year’s blog here. Here’s the short version: prior to academy soccer I coached my son’s recreational soccer team and he was trying to take the next step up.

Looking at the picture reminded me of a few things…

It reminded me of when the club director gathered all the parents for a quick meeting during the first night of tryouts. “Thank you all for coming out tonight. This is an academy, and we treat it like that: a school. We are all about player development and are here to teach the game and help your son get better. There will be three teams: elite, premier and united.”

As parents, we love our kids and want the best for them. Of course we want them to grow, improve, and develop, but sometimes we confuse what’s “best” on a list, ranking, or some contrived perception vs. what’s best for them as a person (a match, fit, etc.).  Too often (and sometimes subconsciously) parents begin to believe the reputation of the colleges their son or daughter gets into or chooses to attend is somehow a reflection of their parenting.

At least in part, this is why the first questions after the coach’s solid speech (especially given the steady rain under which he delivered it) were:

DAD #1 from under a Price Waterhouse Coopers umbrella: How many spots do you have on the elite team this year?

Coach: All returning players must try out again, so that number is yet to be determined.

MOM #1 standing just outside the tent with rain now tumbling off her loose-fitting jacket hood: “If my son has a bad tryout and gets placed on the lower level team, can he move up?”

Coach: Yes, we will move players. Sometimes during the season, but other times they’ll need to try out at the end of the year to be assessed for a different squad.

As your family visits colleges and works to create a list of schools to apply to this summer, fight the temptation to focus solely on rankings or preconceived echelons. Instead, ask “Does this school focus on and provide the type of environment to help our child thrive?” In other words, what is the best match based on location, size, setting, programs, and support systems?

Question whether you really see a discernible difference in student quality or alumni outcomes at a school that is 15 percentage points higher/lower in admit rate or 20 spots lower/ higher in a particular ranking.

Consider if what some online guide has categorized as “Elite, Premier, or United” is relevant or valid based on your kid’s goals and personality.

Look around you. If you’re like me you know plenty of people who went to schools that admit well over half of their applicants and don’t show up in many Top 25 or 50 lists, but are now running their own businesses, leading teams, and influencing their communities.

The picture reminded me that before we found out which team (if any) he made, we ensured he knew we loved him and were proud of him regardless.

Your job as a parent is to fall in love with ALL of your son or daughter’s college choices; to remind them (and yourself) that their worth and potential is not dictated by the name of the school they wear on a hoodie; and to emphatically convey that your love, pride, acceptance, and belief in them is not correlated with admission decisions.

The picture reminded me I needed to finish the story and tell you my son made the United team. He was excited. And even though it meant an end to my 15-season coaching streak, I was excited for him. After he got the call from the coach, I took my own advice and earnestly congratulated him, had him call a few family members so they could celebrate with him, and took him to an Atlanta United game (and for some ice cream).

Looking at him in that picture reminded me of how far he’s come over the last year, and reinforced that where he ended up really was the best place for him. As promised, he has gotten significantly better. The Academy has done what it said it would do—helped him improve as a player. His fundamental skills are stronger, he’s more confident, and he made a few close friends on the team who spent the night regularly and are rooming with him at a camp this summer. His coach was amazing— and perfect for his transition into that league. He not only liked my son but took time frequently after practice and even on a few off weekends to work with him.

Every year I meet parents or counselors of students who did not get into their first choice school or could not afford to attend (we’ve written about this too). Inevitably, they tell stories about how well they’re doing and say things like, “Looking back I’m so glad she didn’t get into X college because Y University really has been perfect for her.” Sometimes the admission process is like a roller coaster. Even though you see people coming off the ride smiling and talking excitedly about the experience, there is still fear, anxiety, and some trepidation that it’s not going to go as well for you. My hope is you’ll lift your hands up, trust, and enjoy the ride — together.

It reminded me that tryouts are again this week. Last night we had the conversation you would expect a dad who grew up around soccer and is an admission director to have—“even though you have worked really hard and gotten so much better” (said in a gentle, encouraging way), “you may not get moved up. It depends on who else tries out; if Premier needs someone with your skill set; and who is making the decisions for setting the teams.”

When a school has an admit rate of 20% or 12%, the talent, preparation and skills to contribute are incredible. And the truth is those percentages don’t exactly translate to 1 of 5 or 12 of 100 because that year they may only be looking for a few “defenders,” e.g. students in a particular major or from your state. You will not be able to control who else or how many others are trying out. You won’t be in the room when applications are reviewed and discussed. What you do control is your mentality. You do control your perspective.

After I finished my speech, he slowly nodded his head, paused, and then said calmly, “I know, dad. I just like getting to play.”

Kids. Whether 8 or 18, when it comes to this kind of thing, they understand and can handle a lot more than we give them credit for. Sometimes we just have to get out of their way.

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An Inconvenient Opportunity

This week we welcome Communications Manager for Strategy and Enrollment Planning (and former Assistant Director of Admission) Becky Tankersley back to the blog. Welcome, Becky!

It was a rainy Mother’s Day in Georgia last week. Still a lovely day, but weather-wise it was dreary with showers that came and went throughout the day. In mid-afternoon my daughters, ages 3 and 7, went outside with our puppy to play outside. Even though it was wet, they needed to get some energy out so I put some old shoes and play clothes on them and told them to go for it.

This picture popped up in my Facebook memories today. Clearly, even years ago, I’ve always been okay with my kids playing in the rain!

While they were outside it started to mist… which turned to a sprinkle… which turned into a light, gentle rain. No wind, no storm, just soft rain falling from the sky. As I watched them (from the dry area underneath the edge of the house), it occurred to me that maybe I should bring them inside. At this point they, and the dog, were soaking wet—there was no turning back. I decided to ride it out. A little rain (and dirt!) is good for kids. And dogs, too, I guess.

The rain was an inconvenience. The wetness of these little people was definitely an inconvenience. But running laps through the house was slowly driving us all crazy (okay, maybe it was just me). It wasn’t what I planned or wanted. In truth, letting the kids play in the rain actually caused more work for all of us, as now I had to wrangle two wet kids (and one wet dog), with wet clothes, and get them from the backdoor to the bathtub without getting mud all over the house.

The easy thing would have been to bring them in immediately when the rain began. To let them stay outside, getting their feet muddy and their hair wet while pretending to fly on the swings, certainly created more work for me. But, it was time they spent together, outside, being free, and not in front of a screen. The inconvenience was absolutely worth it.

Inconvenience, or Opportunity?

Later that night, I had just finished my shower and brushed my teeth. I was pretty excited, as it appeared as though I might actually get to sleep at a decent hour (and on Mother’s Day, no less!). Just as I was wrapping up, my 7-year old walked in to tell us she was having scary thoughts. So I did what most moms would do—I went to her room, laid down with her, and stayed there until she was asleep. Getting to bed early (who am I kidding—on time, even!) wasn’t going to happen. It was an inconvenience.

But again, that inconvenience was an opportunity. An opportunity to be present, to comfort her, and to get some sweet snuggles. I know that as she grows up the opportunities to simply be with her and snuggle her will be fewer and farther between until they eventually disappear. As she gets older she will seek reassurance from someone other than me. So while this incident may have “cost me” a little sleep, it also presented me with a beautiful opportunity.

The month of May, by all counts, is crazy. End of year school parties, field days, art days, awards days… and that’s just elementary school! At the high school level you’re adding prom, end of year ceremonies, AP tests, and a little thing called graduation. You’re either getting ready to go to college, or preparing to apply to college. Let’s be honest: May is crazy. And sometimes, well, inconvenient.

If you’re a graduating senior….

This is your last summer at home. Even if you’re not going far away to school, life will still change in many significant ways. So this summer when your mom asks you to drive your little brother or sister to summer camp, try not to scoff at the inconvenience. Your time with them is limited. Next year you’re going to change a lot, and so will they. Instead of getting upset that this takes time out of your day, try to be present and have a conversation. Appreciate the time you have. Realize that next year when you’re asked to do the same thing, you’ll be spending time with a different person, who has grown and changed in the time that you’ve been gone. And that little brother or sister, while perhaps annoying at times, will miss you greatly when you’re gone. They’ve never known a life without you! So take the opportunity to connect, and make some memories along the way. (Note: you may not have a younger sibling—or you may BE the younger sibling. Replace the sibling in this scenario with a parent, grandparent, neighbor, or other person who may need your help in this season—same theory applies!)

If you’re a rising senior…

You’re moving into what we in the admissions world call “visit season.” Your summer is likely booked up with activities, maybe a job, and oh, a list of colleges to visit in hopes of finding “the one” that you’re looking for. Hitting the road with your family and visiting college after college may start to feel inconvenient at a certain point. Remember: this is an opportunity. An opportunity to set foot on campus and see what it’s really like (not just what we tell you in our glossy brochures and mailers); an opportunity to engage the process with your family and have a voice in the conversation; an opportunity to ask good questions; and an opportunity to visit a new town. The summer college visit road trip will be tiring, but I promise it will be worth it if you keep a positive mindset. If you need some ideas for what you should be doing during these visits (hint: it’s more than going to an information session and tour), check out these tips.

If you’re rising into 9-11 grades…

This may be your first summer with a job, or a research opportunity, or in a leadership position. Likely this summer you will experience some type of “first.” As you get older, the days of freedom with no responsibilities will become harder to come by. You’re going to learn how to juggle more things throughout your day as new tasks are added on to the ones you already have. Being asked to do your chores may be inconvenient. Let’s be honest here—no one wants to unload the dishwasher or fold clothes. (Psst! Not even your mom—trust me!). Before you heavy sigh and/or roll your eyes, take a deep breath and look for the opportunity. It’s in there! Maybe it’s a chance to have a conversation with a parent or friend while you complete the task. Maybe it’s a chance for some much needed quiet in your day. Maybe it’s a chance to let your brain just rest for a bit while you do something mindless.

Welcome the Unexpected

Opportunities often lurk in unexpected places. When we get bogged down in the “I have to” perspective, rather than embracing an “I get to” perspective, we often lose sight of what we could gain from the situation. As you move into the summer and discover wrinkles in your well laid plans, look for the opportunity that is quietly presenting itself. Once you find it and embrace it, you will be amazed at what you gain.

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Burn The Ships!

Listen to the audio version here.

Last week I drove my family back from Florida after spring break. On the way, they watched the movie Hitch. Yes, you heard that correctly. I was driving and my two kids (ages 8 and 10) were watching a movie about a date doctor in New York. Yes, my wife was in the back with them eating chips and Capri Suns and laughing hysterically, having made an exception to her very stringent no PG-13 movie rule. Yes, I understand this is only because she has a huge crush on Will Smith. Yes, it’s a mini-van. Yes, I know I was the sucker on basically every level in this scenario. Can we please move on?!

Fast forward to yesterday when I picked my son up from soccer practice. “How’d it go?”

“I yelled at her. I screamed at my boss! I quit my job!” I literally spit my drink out. The kid’s recall on movie quotes is hysterical.  It’s particularly funny when he busts out quotes first thing in the morning or when I’m talking to him through the bathroom door. Yes, I realize our relationship is… interesting.

This started a back and forth pseudo quote war. While I usually get the gist, it’s amazing how he can recall quotes verbatim in both words and inflection.

Me: “You don’t need no pizza, they got food there.”

Him: “I had a… great time, too, Allegra… with a beard.”

Me: “I’m a guy. Since when do we get anything right the first time?”

But I conceded defeat (plus I was basically out of lines) when he nailed an Albert Brennaman classic from the movie: “I’ve waited my whole life to feel miserable.”

Decision Time

Later, I was thinking about that line a little bit more. “I’ve waited my whole life to feel miserable.” It got me thinking about conversations I’ve had with a lot of high school seniors over the last month. A LOT. Some of these conversations were in person on campus or in high schools. Others were over the phone or email. A few were kids from my neighborhood and surrounding community who I know personally, while others were in states around the country, and several occurred abroad (it’s been a busy April!).

Bottom line—these students had precious little in common except they were all in their final months of high school and on the precipice of making a final college decision.  When it came to making a decision, the most common words they used to describe how they were feeling were uncertain, stressed, and confused. It was almost like they’d “waited their whole life (or at least the last year or so) to feel this miserable.”

If you are still weighing your college options, I hope I can alleviate some of your uncertainty, stress, and confusion with these quick thoughts.

You Get To Choose!

Options and choices can feel overwhelming, but don’t forget that THIS WAS THE GOAL! This decision is not a burden—it is a privilege. It is a blessing. THIS is why you visited schools, researched colleges, and applied to more than just one place. THIS is why you took tough classes, studied, worked hard, and sat through multi-hour standardized tests—to have choices, to have options. You are EXACTLY where you wanted to be! You did this to yourself—and that is a great thing!

If you are still weighing your options this week, you don’t have to decide—you get to decide! You get to think about the place you will thrive and create a lifelong network. You get to talk through your options with your family who loves you, are proud of you, and are excited about this next chapter of your life. You get to do this while finishing high school alongside peers who want to excel and teachers who have always wanted you to learn, grow, and succeed. Don’t be uncertain—you get to do this!

Trust Your Gut

Adam Grant (organizational psychologist/ great follow on Twitter/ Ted Talker/ brilliant dude) said recently, “When people come to you for advice on a decision, resist the urge to give them an answer. People rarely need to hear your conclusion. They benefit from hearing your thought process and your perspective on the relevant criteria for making the choice.” Well, I’ve given you mine over the last few years (see basically all blog entries, specifically Ask GOOD Questions and Ask the Same Questions, Again and Again).

Here is the simultaneously beautiful and disconcerting reality (life in a nutshell) – in the end, only you can make this decision. This is a big deal, for sure. But it is not life or death. This is not about being right or wrong. At the risk of sounding trite: you know you.

As life goes on, you will continue to find closing other doors is never easy. If no one has told you before, I consider it a privilege to be the one to tell you this is the first of many times you will experience these types of choices: relationships, jobs, graduate school, or moving to a new city,  state, or country. Sometimes the hardest part about being talented and wanted, and the most difficult part about having options, is there is not a definitively right answer.

Perhaps Steve Jobs said it best in his 2005 Stanford Commencement address, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” Your goal is to be confident in and excited about your college decision.

Ultimately, the best advice is to trust your gut. That is not a cop out—it’s the truth. You can do this; you need to do this. YOU got this!

Burn the ships!

In 1519, Hernán Cortés sailed to Veracruz, Mexico upon the direction of the King and Queen of Spain, in order to find gold, silver, and a new place to settle. When they arrived, his crew talked incessantly about returning home. They were thinking about home, family, their known life, other places, and an easier path. As they came ashore, Cortes ordered them to “Burn the ships!” Why? So they could not look back, and instead would be fully committed to the expedition.

Once you put down your deposit, that is your job as well. Be all in—buy the t-shirt, put the window decal on the car, start following student groups on social media, donate or trade the shirts you have from other school (don’t go all Cortes here and burn them), close/cancel your applications from other colleges, and start planning on  orientation in the summer.

Don’t look back. You made the right choice. Embrace it. Enjoy the end of your senior year and a well-earned summer. Too many students second guess themselves and spend their summer in angst. Burn. The. Ships!

Final Note: You may find you need to go for a walk, a drive, a run, a treadmill (bear with me), or just sit in the dark as you come to your final choice. To assist our staff put together a “Decision Time” playlist. This is unedited and unfiltered, so enjoy. Good luck! We are excited for you!

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Owning YOUR Campus Visit

I had the opportunity to visit Munich, Germany last week. It was a beautiful town. Rich history, amazingly friendly people, and extremely walk-able.

In advance of my trip I got lots of recommendations from friends and colleagues who had visited before. “Definitely go to the Hofbrauhaus;” “Climb the 299 stairs to the top of St. Peter’s;” “Go to the public bathhouse right in the center of town;” “Just be sure you get a pretzel… from anywhere.”

I also asked my e-friends, Siri and Google for “Top Things to do in Munich.” In the end, I hit a few of the “must dos” but also picked the experiences and sites that most interested me. However, some of the most enjoyable moments were actually sitting in the train station, eating in the restaurants, and riding the trams downtown, and going into local grocery stores. Granted I only half understood every fifth word (yes, that’s another way to say roughly 10%), but it was still a great way to observe and appreciate the city’s culture and personality.

I share this with you partly to talk up Bavaria as a possible future vacation or study abroad destination, but more so because April is one of the heaviest campus visit months of the year— as are the summer months that follow.

If you are planning a trip to a college campus soon, I hope you’ll follow these tips:

It’s not all about the Hofbrauhaus

Every person and site listed the Hofbrauhaus. I get it- remarkable place— and definitely a classic city trademark. But if you were to only go there, you’d miss the real heartbeat of the city.

Same thing with campus visits. Yes, you should go to the admission info session and tour. Not for the big brother element of whether they’re going to count it or track it, but because this is where you will get the highlights, hear the key messages, learn some history, understand their unique mission and goals, and see the key iconic buildings and top destinations on campus.

Wander, listen, engage

View from the top of St. Peter’s (after I caught my breath).

Unfortunately, too many people visit campuses and cities the same way. They hit the highlights and follow the crowds or lists. I’m imploring you to break away from the well-traveled path to dig a bit deeper and really feel, see, experience the places students (aka- the locals) spend time.

During my three days in Munich I probably covered a good 20 miles on foot just meandering down the river on trails, taking random turns on city streets, or walking to meetings. Yes, I got a little turned around (my wife insists there’s a difference between that and lost), but it was totally worth it because I was able to stumble on stuff I’d otherwise never have seen. And while my German is what you’d politely label “nicht gut,” walking so much led to some pretty interesting and memorable interactions.

Here is the good news— people on campus want to answer your questions. They want to help you understand what makes their school so great. Make time to wander around, loiter (in a non- threatening way), talk to students, peak in on a class, eavesdrop (we’ve covered this before as a critical life skill).

Listen the conversations around you; observe what students are wearing, discussing, and doing; sit in the student center and pretend to look at your phone or a student newspaper while really glancing about. If you will extend each of your campus visits by just an hour or two and make time for this, you’ll walk away with a much better feel for the place than simply running and gunning from one canned admission talk to the next.

This is YOUR visit

I have read a good bit about the 1972 Olympics and really wanted to see that area. It wasn’t what most people listed and it was not as convenient to my hotel, but it was important to me.

You’ll be spending time, money, and energy to go see these schools. Make the time to see what specifically interests you- the places you think will make up your experience. Get a feel for those areas of campus. A tour guide may simply point out the business school from 200 yards away, but if that’s going to be your major, you need to get there.

The bottom line is you should not simply take what they give you. Own YOUR visit. Are you thinking about playing on the rugby or participating in robotics or doing research or singing in the a cappella group (if all of the above, you are a truly unique individual, my friend)? Get over to the IM fields, reach out to a department advisor, or contact out to the club or group’s advisor in advance of your visit.

Ask YOUR questions

Tour guides are awesome people. They are involved, passionate, and volunteering their time. They are taking you around a place they love, which means they can absolutely wax poetic about campus history or spin yarns about classmates or friends and their adventures in college.

They’ll go into lots of detail on history, facts and interesting information, but they also love to hear and answer your questions. Be proactive and bold enough to ask. Don’t want to interrupt the tour guide or ask publicly? Totally fine. Wait until you’re walking between points or hold your questions until the end and ask privately.

Think about it this way- you are making a decision about where to spend the next four or five years of your life (a time span representing a solid 20-25% of your life to this point). If you are serious about applying to or attending that college, you need to hear first- hand from as many people on that campus as possible about the things that matter to you (students, advisors, faculty, admission reps, etc.) Are their answers similar? What can you learn about the college’s culture based on commonalities?

Too often we hear students say, “Yea. I didn’t apply there because it was raining on my visit.” Or “I just didn’t like what my tour guide was wearing, so I didn’t apply.” Come on, people! You would not want someone to judge your high school or hometown based on one person they met from there, right? Don’t do that to a college that has 5000 or 50,000 on campus. YES, this means working a little harder. Sorry. That’s college, my friends.

I’m challenging you to go with 3-5 questions you really care about and be sure to get those answered while you are there. Can’t think of unique or helpful questions? Here are a few:

  • What has surprised you or disappointed you about this place?
  • What do you wish were different here?
  • What do most people not realize this college is really good at?
  • What makes this place different (not better) than other schools?
  • How has this school changed or shaped you?
  • What has not been asked today that you think is important for everyone to know?

Document, document, document (this is also a good HR lesson, but we’ll save that life advice for another time).

If you are barnstorming through 8 campuses (or 18 campuses) in a week, they’re going to start to blur together:

Where did we see that library that didn’t have any books?

Who was it that said they were adding a program in artificial intelligence?

Was that in Illinois or Indiana where we met the kid who held the national jump roping title?

Take the time during or right after each visit to write (type, bullet point, take pictures, voice record, etc) down your impressions. More of a spreadsheeter? Go ahead and quantify or rate things that matter to you: academic program, quality of food, campus feel, style of tour guide, surrounding community, access to internships. Just get this stuff recorded in some organized manner, so that you can revisit it later.

  • What impressed you about the students?
  • What did you not like about the size or layout of campus?
  • How was the food or coffee?
  • What did the labs look like if you are going to be a bio major?
  • What did they say about internships or co-op opportunities?

Yes, I’m jet lagged and spit balling here (a dangerous combo). Again, you need to have your questions answered and focus on the elements of campus that matter to you.

Last thing

Be nice to the people at the front desk when you are checking in for tours. Sometimes this is a student (could be you in a year or two), sometimes this is the admission counselor who will be reading your file (and they have great memories and a powerful note taking CRM at the ready), sometimes this the director of admission just taking her/his shift at the desk. Bottom line- Don’t be jerk. This can also be applied to baristas, hotel clerks, airline gate agents (bear with me), etc. Golden rule, my friends. Embrace it.

Have fun and travel safe. Enjoy the adventure!

 

Does This Bring Me Joy?

This week we welcome Senior Admission Counselor Samantha Rose Sinclair to the blog. Welcome, Sammy!

Everyone has that one thing they struggle with, whether it’s watching YouTube until 1 a.m. (me), drinking enough water (still me…) or picking their socks up off the floor (also me. I regret making this list!). Months ago, as the world crept into 2019 and forged hopefully into tackling New Year’s resolutions, many people’s to do lists were topped with my #1 kryptonite: organization.

In elementary school, my mom used to get calls from teachers saying the contents of my desk were spilling, literally, out onto the floor. One time, my third grade teacher paired the class up to go through one another’s backpacks and reorganize the contents in hopes we’d stop losing assignments. Boy, did my partner have a daunting task ahead of him (sorry John).

My organizational skills today are no better. My closet is overwhelming—clothes  are unfolded, unorganized, and overstuffed. The problem just might be that when given the option on what to keep, I keep all of it. I can’t be the only one who has a second wardrobe of aspirational clothes. After all, you never know when you might need a floor length black sequined dress for a Halloween-themed masquerade ball. It could happen!

Tidying Up Your College Search

Luckily, but not coincidentally, a unique organizational method took the world by storm around the start of the New Year. Marie Kondo won our hearts, while Goodwill won the contents of our closets. Marie Kondo introduced us to the Konmari method through her Netflix series. Her minimalism-inspired approach encourages people to take stock of what they have, cherish those things that bring joy, and get rid of what does not.

What does this have to do with college admission? Good question. Right now, the college search and application processes are wrapping up for high school seniors, which means it’s time for the next class of students to get started! Juniors, right now you’re probably listening to parents and counselors advise you to build a list of colleges to visit over spring and summer break. With over 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States alone, it can be absolutely overwhelming to know where, or how, to start.

Visualize the destination

The Konmari method starts with creating a vision of what you want your life to feel like once you’re done with the process—who  are you, and who would you like to be in the future?

When you start the college search process, it helps to visualize the end, so let’s work backwards. Where do you imagine yourself after high school? I don’t necessarily mean which college, specifically, but when you close your eyes and see yourself walking across a campus, what do you see? What don’t you see? There are categories that are more obvious in the college search process (big school, small school, urban school, suburban school, and so on) but don’t forget about the smaller stuff. For example, I didn’t know how important trees were to me until I moved to an area of the country that had lots of fields, but not so many trees. It mattered—and it didn’t feel like home to me.

Once you have a general vision, your college counselor is an invaluable resource to help you find a few matches. There are also online college search sites to get you started if a counselor isn’t available at your school. Still not sure where to start? Check out our college selection guide, designed to help you find the right match for you.

What fits, and what doesn’t?

A shirt can be a perfectly good shirt. A sequined dress can be a perfectly good sequined dress. And a college could be a perfectly good college. But if these things don’t suit you or your specific needs, then it’s time to move on. Before even opening up a web browser, the most important thing you can do is be thoughtful about what is most important to you (and your family!). Academic offerings, cost of attendance, distance from home, the list goes on. Choose which matter to you, and how much they matter to you. Only then can you know what fits.

A quick note on college rankings: we’ve talked time and time again about where college rankings might (or might not!) fit into the college search process. To sum it up briefly for our purposes here: once you dig a little deeper, there’s a good chance the methodology and values used in the ranking system don’t fit with the things that are most important to you. Rankings might be a good tool to help you discover colleges across the country, but keep the perspective of it being just that: one tool. You don’t have to force fit at a school just because it’s highly ranked. Also, be mindful of schools that might not top a ranking list, but could very well top yours. Keep going beyond the numbers, and keep in mind the things that are genuinely important to you.

What brings you joy?

Here’s the big one! The ultimate goal of the Konmari method is to surround yourself by the things that make you the happiest. A college might look great on paper, your goals might be aligned, but it’s still entirely possible it might not feel right. And that’s okay! Fit is entirely personal.  Much of this comes down to finding your place within the larger culture and community, and that isn’t something that can be reduced to a set of statistics in a glossy brochure or a website of major offerings.

Does the vision of the institution match your values and interests? Look up the school’s mission statement– what are they about? Look at videos and blogs, projects and organizations… who are the students at that school? It’s a magical thing to interact with a community of students and realize, sometimes for the first time, these are my people. Once you start narrowing down your list and eventually visit campuses, only you will know which campuses you see yourself at, and which you genuinely hope to return to as a student down the road.

So while I work on my closet, I wish you all the best as you work on your college search. And if you need a black sequined dress for a masquerade ball, you can now find it among the racks somewhere around Atlanta—I hope it brings you joy.

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