I've done posts on questions to ask when choosing a college (part one, part two), but it can be difficult to decide what colleges to tour in the first place. In a state like Virginia, there can be dozens of options, and all of them can start to look the same after a while. Here are ten people to talk to when first sorting out college choices.
State department for the blind and visually impaired
Often times, these departments have a small list of colleges that students have attended and found great success in doing so. While it wasn't an official list of any sort, I was recommended about five colleges this way, and I ended up choosing one of the ones on their list!
I have been lucky to have friends that are older than I am, and when trying to navigate college choices, I asked them a lot of questions about why they chose to attend their particular college. One of my friends even met up with me when I came to visit and gave me a tour.
Staff members with your degree
For students studying a topic related to education or similar, talking to a staff member at school with the same major can help with learning about the different programs. I didn't have this opportunity (since the person I knew got their degree in another country), but I know it can really help other students.
Guidance counselors can often point students in the right direction and help find colleges to research. Since they often know a lot about the students they work with, they usually come up with some excellent matches. Also, if you have a disability, they can recommend colleges that other students with the same disability attended.
We talked a lot to family friends about different colleges they attended, and their older kids attended/were attending. This was very helpful as we were able to learn a lot about smaller schools that we would not have heard of otherwise.
The teacher with school spirit
If one of the teachers has college memorabilia in their classroom, chances are they would love to talk about how much they love their college and help students learn more about it. Here in Virginia, there are a few colleges with a very passionate alumni group that are always willing to help the next generation of students.
Different than a guidance counselor, a college counselor is well versed in admissions and can help students find the best college for them, as well as help with items like applications, essays, and resumès. Some schools may have their own college counselor, or have resources on where to find one.
My parents talked to me about college choices a lot, and we pretty much had my first choice picked out by my freshman year of high school. My brother had the same thing happen, probably because he went on college tours with me beforehand.
I did a high school mentorship (more on mentorships here) and my mentor frequently talked about colleges with me, and about their experiences. It was extremely helpful, and I actually ended up being accepted to the college they graduated from.
The internet isn't a person, but it's helpful to look around and learn about colleges this way. Students can also email bloggers and ask about their college choices and experiences.
Choosing colleges can seem extremely overwhelming at first, but it is worth it in the end when a student gets a perfect match. Happy searching!