A Guide to the College Process

Sam D'Ambrosio

Going off to college can be an extraordinary opportunity for students to find themselves and grow as individuals. This journey can pave the road for our future successes and a bring us one step closer becoming more independent young adults. However, getting started may seem like a complicated and stressful process to even the most prepared and organized students. Even though it requires some time and dedication to set a strong college plan, it is practical and well worth the effort. For those that feel overwhelmed by the introduction to a new chapter in their lives, I have come up with a step by step guide to creating a college plan that is personalized to you and your goals.


Step 1: Give yourself options

When researching colleges, it’s best to have an idea of the field(s) that you want to study. Although this may change overtime, it is good to keep it in mind. Consider the qualities you want in a college. Things such as location, student body, course options, and extracurricular activities will help set the scene and ensure that you are in an environment that is well suited to you and your lifestyle. You will also need to decide if you would like to dorm or commute. You can begin your search on websites such as www.naviance.com, www.collegeboard.org, and www.petersons.com. These websites will help you narrow down your options to the recommended six schools. It is highly advised by most guidance counselors that students chose two “reach schools”, two practical schools, and two low risk schools. Reach schools are the colleges that you are interested in, but may have a hard time getting accepted. Practical schools are exactly what the name implies, they are the schools that you are not only interested in, but also have a good chance of being accepted into. Low risk schools are the colleges that may not necessarily be at the top of your list, but have decent qualities and a higher acceptance rate. Once you have a grasp of your options, it is time to move onto the next step.


Step 2: Go to college events

This next step can be done throughout the entire college planning process by high schoolers of all levels: going to college events. New Milford High School holds several college visits throughout the year where people from varying schools come to the career center to give information about their colleges. For more specific information about these visits as well as college fairs, you can contact Mrs. Neill in the Career Center. It is important to not only go to local informational events, but also set some time aside to visit campuses that you are interested in. These campuses could potentially be your new home for several years, so it is crucial that you feel comfortable in the environment.


Step 3: Filling out the forms

This is probably the most intimidating part of the college process, but once it is broken down you will see that it is just another step towards your end goal. Letters of recommendation, applications, resumes, scholarships, and student loans make up the bulk of the forms needed to begin your college journey. Most colleges would like to see two letters of recommendation, however it is best to have three. For this step, all you have to do is make sure your resume is finished and ask three teachers that know you well if they would be willing to write your letter of recommendation. Filling out your resume is as easy as filling out the outline provided by Common Application, which is then uploaded to Naviance where teachers can view it. Your eligibility for scholarships is not only determined by your GPA and SAT scores, but also by your community service hours. Considering the organizations providing scholarship money are community-run organizations, they love to see students giving back to their own communities. This is solid addition to your resume that will make your college plan run a little smoother. Last but not least, we are all familiar with the horror stories of student loans. However, it is the most practical approach for the majority of incoming college freshmen. To begin this step, you must fill out the FAFSA forms. The fastest way to do this is to create a FAFSA account online at www.fafsa.gov. After your account is created you will receive an ID number which you will use when filling out your application. This website will walk you through more detailed instructions on filling out the application and completing the process.


I hope this step-by-step plan helps make the college process seem a bit less intimidating, and if not, the Career Center and guidance offices are always open to answering any questions. Good luck to all students that may be pursuing a higher education after graduation.