If you started your school research, have been to a spring school tour, or are planning to attend one in the next few weeks, I commend you for taking the initiative. That means you are on the ball and are taking a key step towards putting yourself in the best position for the hectic summer and fall months ahead.
As you move forward with your school research, there are some things to keep in mind so that you can make the best use of this critical data. After all, without an effective plan, research in a vacuum will only take you so far.
Here are some suggestions for making the best use of this valuable information:
- Consistently commit to the time, and use a calendar. In other words, have a plan to be consistent with your time and research, whether it’s visits, online research, conversations with others, or follow up. Put it in your calendar each week, and protect that time like you would any other priority.
- Know thyself. See my blog on the importance of the self-assessment in the school search.
- Gather as much information as you can from a variety of resources. There is nothing quite like a school visit. But undoubtedly you will be collecting information from a variety of sources, and that is good. Do not limit yourself to just one or two resources, and take a wide variety of opinions into account. In the end, do what’s best for you and your child – not someone else’s. And remember, learning what you don’t like is just as important as learning what you do like. There is no such thing as a waste of time.
- Have process context. In other words, as you are conducting your research, have some understanding of how the admissions process works, how candidates are evaluated and prioritized, how matches are made, etc. Whether it’s eligibility, admissions priorities, admissions methods, or just an understanding of the programs that are offered in that school, understand the broader admissions picture.
- Get it down on paper, using an effective, easy-to-compare format. As much as you or your child may think you will remember everything and be able to easily evaluate what you have seen 6 months from now, you won’t. Take a few minutes after each session, visit, etc., and get something down on paper. Use a simple format where you can easily compare and contrast. Consider a school rating system, along with an overall rating (1-10, etc) to make your life easier down the road. Rate based on factors YOU consider important, not what someone else considers important.
- Make adjustments as you go along. What’s the point of all your notes and learning if you don’t make adjustments as you go along? What could you do or prepare better next time around? What did you learn that can make your next visit better or easier? What did you dislike that may apply to other schools, as well? You should be getting more efficient as you go along, not less.
- Finally, enjoy the process and don’t compare yourself to anyone else. I know this may sound impossible, but rather than worrying so much about the future and the outcome of the process, trust your plan and your hard work and enjoy going through this process with your child as much as you can. There will never be another time like this, and you can’t change the future outcome with anxiety. And there is no one exactly like you and your child, so don’t waste precious time and energy comparing yourself to others.
Good luck, and enjoy!