College Prep

6 Steps to Understanding the College Process: Step 2 – College Searches

Once your student has completed Step 1: Career Research, you’re ready to proceed on to Step 2 – the college search process.

This part of the process is both fun and a bit challenging. To start, your student needs to take the information they’ve gathered from their career research and figure out what educational majors they would need to obtain in order for them to pursue their desired career field(s). Best place to start with this is to Google “What college degree do I need for ______”.  Another great route to find out what degree they would need is to once again, interview a professional in their desired field. I can’t stress this avenue of research enough! You’ll never learn more and be inspired more than by talking with someone who enjoys their work. Have your students find someone they can look up to, who could even potentially be a mentor to them, and ask them all the questions they can (including what form of a degree is needed for that job).

Once your student has figured out that information – your next step is to go to  the and conduct a college search. Before you start the college search questionnaire, be sure to create a student account that they can save their research information in and come back to later.  At the College Board your student can filter their school options by size, price, location, degree options, and more. Once they have their comprehensive results list, have your students read each schools profile information and visit each schools website to get a better understanding of what each college has to offer. Be careful not to worry too early about that initial sticker price of each school or if the school is public or private. I highly encourage you and your student to look at both public and private options – as we will discuss in later articles, limiting yourself to only public schools or colleges, that appear on the surface to have really good tuition pricing, will drastically limit your potential options. Under the surface, there is a lot more crucial information that will determine what you will pay for college than that initial, often scary sticker price. So for now keep that list open and dream big! In later articles I will show you how to whittle down that list to schools that will give you the best bang for your buck while still providing your student with an excellent education in the degree they desire.

If your student happens to choose a career field that doesn’t require a four year degree, I will be working on an article in the near future about 2 year college options, trade schools, apprenticeships and other educational avenues that could be appropriate for them.

In the mean time, while your student is working on compiling this list of possible college – you the parent will be working on Step 3: calculating your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which I will discuss in my next article. Until then, continue to encourage your student to work steps 1 and 2.

For a list of all six steps, see College Prep Cheat Sheet.

And as always, if you have questions please feel free to comment on this article or email



College Prep

6 Steps to Understanding the College Process – Step 1: Career Research

Last week I started out this series with a post entitled  College Prep Cheat Sheet. There you will find a summary list of these six steps which I will begin addressing in depth starting today.

Before you begin looking at colleges, scholarships, and finances you first need to talk with your student about their aspirations in life. What do they want to pursue as a contributing member of the American workforce? What career path do they want to study and what type of education do they need to get there? Not every job requires a 4 year college degree. Does their desired field require a two year degree?  Apprenticeship? Trade-school? Or does it require far beyond just the traditional four years? All of these questions and their answers will determine your next steps. A great resource for your student to begin their research is the Occupational Outlook Handbook.  Every year the government puts out up-to-date statistics on just about every career option available. Here you’ll find a summary of the type of job you’re looking for, the type and level of education required for an entry level position, most recent median pay rate, expected job growth and so much more. I also recommend having your student talk with real professionals currently working in their desired field of interest. Reading data is one thing, but talking with someone who actually does the work for a living is another. It could help solidify your student’s desires toward that field of study or help them take that career path out of the running. Talking with a career professional can also help your student better understand what field of study they need to actually be pursuing. Too many student end up choosing a field of study only to find out too late it actually isn’t leading them where they truly wanted to go.

The next question you need to ask your student is if they’re prepared to go right off to college after high school and if the career they think they want is the one they really want. This is very important – the average college student changes their major 2-4 times between their freshman and sophomore year of college; and many students graduate unsatisfied with the degree they settled on. Also, college costs have having risen nearly 260% since the 1980, and cost of attendance continues to compound at 5%-7% annually, College is no longer an affordable right of passage. College debt is the second highest debt rate for the average American next to their first home mortgage.  This is a huge financial undertaking for both you and your student and not one that should be done lightly. I highly encourage you and your student to consider their need for, and the benefit of, taking what is called a “Gap Year” and make sure they have a clear head of what they want and why before heading off to college.  For more information on the gap year visit

Also, while you are discussing these big picture ideas for their future – you need to discuss money. I will share more about how to broach this topic with your student in the next few posts in this series, but beginning to open up the dialogue about college finances is crucial. Do you and your student have the same expectations of who is taking on the brunt of their college expenses? Do you have resources saved for your student and are they aware of it? Or have things changed in recent years and this is no longer a viable option for you to help take on this expense as hoped? And do your students know this? Do you expect your student to work while going to school to help pay for their education? Having a base-line understanding for these questions will be important as I help your family begin the process of selecting colleges, understanding the financial aid process, and how to maximize your potential for receiving the best possible financial aid packages from each school.


I hope you found this helpful! If you have questions or thoughts, please share your comments or email me at




College Prep

College Prep Cheat Sheet

There are many things to learn about the college application and financial aid process; too much to teach in a one hour class or in one simple blog post. To help simplify this complicated process, over the next month I will be sharing six steps to  help you successfully walk the road to college.

I have also created a summary cheat sheet of those six steps that you can print off and keep at hand as you work your way through this exciting journey.

College Prep Cheat Sheet

As always, if you ever have any questions about the content discussed on this page or issues that may arise during your personal application processes, please email me at and I’d be happy to do what I can to answer your questions or direct you to resources that could help.