How to stay organized during your college search

Finding the right college for you is a big decision, and can be a time-consuming journey. Whether you’re a high school freshman getting a head start or a rising senior trying to narrow down your list, the key to navigating this journey is to stay organized.

Here are four tips from past applicants to help you organize your college search:

  • Dedicate the time to research your options
  • Use digital tools to organize your research
  • Keep one calendar to stay on track
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Dedicate the time to research your options

Just as an after-school job or an extracurricular activity requires dedicated time, so does deciding where you want to continue your education. So, when starting the college search process, its best to dedicate time to researching your options.

Think about what you’re looking for in your college experience so you can find the right fit for you. Answering these questions will help you narrow down your options:

  • Location: Is the school in-state or out-of-state?
  • Distance: How far is the school from home?
  • Type: Is it public or private?
  • Campus size: How many students are there?
  • Does this school have my major?
  • What about extracurriculars, student experience, athletics?

Do you already have an idea of what you plan to study? If not, check out our guide to choosing the right college major.

When it comes to campus size, it’s important to consider all of the pathways some schools offer. For example, the Uptown Campus is the University of Cincinnati’s largest campus – home to nearly 50,000 students. But UC also has two regional campuses, UC Blue Ash and UC Clermont, that both feature smaller class sizes and a different campus atmosphere, while still providing the same UC education.

Use digital tools to keep everything organized

After identifying the schools you are interested in exploring further, collect your research in one centralized spreadsheet. Here, you can track the information above, compare tuition, fees and information on each school’s student life, and track key dates like application deadlines and when to apply for FAFSA and scholarships.

Here is a checklist of steps we recommend keeping track of:

  • Schedule a campus visit
  • Complete admissions essay
  • Request letters of recommendation
  • Submit test scores and transcripts
  • Complete application

Our past applicants recommend creating a separate email account specifically dedicated to your college search. This will be the email you use when you sign up for college information. You don’t want to have that important email from your dream school get lost in the shuffle.

Happy, Study
Lindner College of Business (LCOB) students pose for undergraduate marketing materials.

Photos/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

Keep one calendar to stay on track

Once you’ve identified all the key dates for each school, the next step is to enter them into one master calendar, so you don’t miss any deadlines. Here you will track when you’re visiting each school, when the application deadlines are (early action and final deadlines), when you need letters of recommendation, scholarship due dates and FAFSA deadlines.

Tip: Start thinking of who you’d ask to write you a letter of recommendation. Understand that asking someone last-minute won’t confirm you have one by the time you need to apply. Plan and make a list of who you’d like to ask. Then seek them out and ask if they’d consider writing you a letter of recommendation in advance.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Remember that you don’t need to go about this journey on your own. Whether you’re reaching out to your school counselor or one of UC’s admissions counselors, asking for help is a great way to stay organized throughout your college search. No matter how prepared you might feel, it can still be hard to navigate the college search process. Our team is here to help you throughout the process.

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Whether you’re a first-generation student or from a family of Bearcats, UC is proud to support you at every step along your journey. We want to make sure you succeed — and feel right at home.

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