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Welcome to 2018! If you’re a graduating high school senior, this is the year you’ve dreamt about forever. Class of 2018. You’ve made it!

Well….almost. There are quite a few things to check off the to-do list between now and May (your final semester, senior prom, and - oh yeah - finalizing your college plans).

No matter where you are in the application process (and don’t panic if you haven’t applied yet, there is time), at some point you’ll need to narrow down your short list and make some decisions. It’s not always easy. A lot of factors weigh into the process, and let’s face it – college is a big investment.

Fortunately there are things you can do to help you narrow down your list and make the right decision for you. To help, here is a list of six tips to help you narrow down your college short list:

1) Visit In Person

You can only tell so much from a website or a glossy brochure. If you haven’t already, visit your top college choices in person. The best way to get a feel for the ‘vibe’ of campus is to experience it for yourself.

While you’re there, take some time to hang out where the students do. Eat in the dining hall or swing by the student center. Are the people friendly? Can you picture yourself there?

2) Attend a Class or Meet with a Professor

Most colleges will welcome you to sit in on a class in the field of your interest, or schedule a time for you to meet with a professor. This is a great way to experience academic life and ask questions.  Are the classes small and interactive? Do professors know their students’ names? What types of high impact experiences are available in your field of study (internships, research, study abroad, etc.)?

3) Connect with a Current Student

Who better to describe what life is really like at a particular school that someone who is living it! If you don’t already know someone who attends, the admissions office can help connect you with a current student. Whether it’s in person, via the phone or social media, you can ask questions about student life, residence halls, academics or anything else you may be curious about.

4). Reach out to Alumni

Another great way to learn more about a school is to talk with an alumnus/a. Chances are, there is an alum in your area that would be willing to meet you for coffee and talk about their experience at the school and beyond. Do they believe their undergrad experience prepared them and gave them the tools they needed to succeed? Are they pleased with the resources beyond graduation (career services, alumni associations, etc)? Do they have any other advice or words of wisdom?

5). Consider an Overnight Visit

Many colleges offer the opportunity to extend your visit and stay overnight in a residence hall. This experience helps you get a true feel for life on campus. It’s not for everyone, but some love it and for them it helps seal the deal. If your schedule allows and the school offers it, consider taking advantage of the overnight stay.

6). Complete your Application!

This may seem like a no-brainer, but with so many dates and deadlines, things can slip through the cracks. Now is the time to complete your applications and verify that you’ve turned in everything necessary, including financial aid documents such as the FAFSA and CSS profile if required by the school. Additionally, you’ll want to apply for local scholarships to compliment the school’s financial aid package (for more info and helpful tips for navigating the financial aid process, check out Financial Aid 101).

For more information about the college application process, including key dates, or to schedule a visit to Southwestern visit our Admission Page.

Southwestern Admission