Staying Organized During the College Search | College Coach

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describe the image In 1990, I started my first job at a college. I processed federal student loans in a proprietary trade school. Two years later, I became an Assistant Director of Financial Aid at a four-year personal college and then, five years later, the Director of Financial Aid with another four-year private college, exactly where I stayed for seven years, also serving a stint since the Director of Admissions. This college was quite small, allowing me to interact with people in many departments on campus: residence life, college student services, the registrar, and college student accounts. I thought I knew most of there was to know about college admissions plus financial aid…  

Then my twins became high school juniors and our own process began.

Here, in this to begin a series of blog posts about my kids’ college application and enrollment processes, I plan to share all the new items that I have learned along the way. First: ways to stay organized.

Tips on how to Stay Organized During the College Search


First, the obvious: colleges keep the U. Ersus. Postal Service in business. The amount of postal mail your child will receive from colleges (most of which you have never heard about! ) is overwhelming. Set up a system to deal with this mail, whether it is having one “keep file” and another “circular file, ” or a program that has the materials that have been read in one place and the unread within another. If you don’t have a system, you may never see your kitchen counter again!

Mail may start arriving as early as sophomore year when the PSAT and Aspire (practice ACT) assessments are taken. In May of mature year, you will find great satisfaction within recycling all the brochures from your child’s unchosen colleges.

Not surprisingly, it is not only the snail mail that will piles up, but the emails too! Before registering for and taking SAT or ACT, set up a message account that the student will use meant for test registrations, interactions with admissions offices, and college AND scholarship searches. Don’t do what my daughter did and put Mom’s personal email on the PSAT registration form! I still get emails through colleges looking to recruit her!


We began officially going to colleges during sophomore year of high school, but the children had been on college campuses just before that to visit me at work, attend sporting and theater events, plus attend summer camps. Casually checking out some local schools may help your kids get over the “wow, college is definitely cool! ” factor before seriously beginning the college search process. Whenever you visit colleges, whether for an recognized visit or just an informal drive thru, keep track of what your son or daughter thinks from the school. We kept a laptop in the car, and wrote lower our pros and cons after each visit. We ended up going back to look at these types of comments after all our visits—and all the schools—began to blend together. I possess met other parents who videotaped their child’s reaction to a college visit. When I was working in a college aid office I fulfilled a mother who stated, “I know this is the best place meant for my daughter. ” “How did you know? ” I asked. “I will be able to tell by her body language that she actually is comfortable here—smiling, interacting with people, and just relaxed overall. At larger universities, she was overwhelmed and nervous. ” You know your child best and will be able to evaluate these reactions.


Eventually you will have list of colleges to apply to. I found an accordion file folder having a pocket for each school was really helpful. Anything and everything that came in from a college my kids were applying to went into that will pocket, and we referred to that document folder several times before making a final decision. When we decided on a college, we all set up one file folder meant for info from that chosen college. The acceptance packet, financial aid offer , academic diary, parent weekend invites, etc . are now in that file.

Staying organized throughout this overwhelming process may take some thoughtful planning in the beginning, but it will save you time and help your child make the best college choices along the way.

Make sure to subscribe to the The Insider weblog to be notified of additional blogposts in my series on ROTC, evaluating scholarship offers, work-study, getting to know your school, and buying books.

Laurie Peltier  is a college finance expert at College Coach. Just before joining College Coach, she was obviously a Senior Financial Aid Officer at Becker College and Anna Maria College.

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