posted Nov 30, 2010, 9:30 PM by Glenda Durano   [ updated Nov 30, 2010, 9:41 PM ]

    Over the last month and a half, I’ve met with several clients (juniors) who have yet to begin their college search.  The problem seems to be that that they simply don’t know where to start.  Yes, the college search is daunting, but there are several steps you can take to expedite your search.

            First, look at yourself.  What are your passions and interests?  How has God equipped you with talents and abilities? How do you spend your time?  What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?  When beginning the college search, many students mistakenly look at schools before they look at themselves.  The first step, however, needs to be about you and the calling that God specifically has on your life.  Some students are able to discern this easily; for others, it is more difficult.  Remember, we discover our passions and interests experientially, so if you don’t know what you want to do, get out there and try some things!  Just like learning to enjoy a new food, you can’t know that you love something until you do it.  Even if you do have an idea of the direction that God is calling you, I still encourage students to try interning or shadowing in that field to make sure that their personality and Spiritual gifts support their interests.  If you still don’t sense a specific calling on your life, find an excellent liberal arts school with several good departments and take a variety of classes when you enter college.  Eventually, you’ll find your path.

            Secondly, develop some criteria.  What do you want in a school?  What programs are necessary to facilitate your gifts?  How far away from home do you want to be?  Would you do better in a large school or a small one?  What are the students’ average test scores, and where do you fit in? How likely are you to receive merit-based or need-based aid? What is your idea of the perfect socio-academic balance?   Think about what is important to you, and, without being too limiting, begin to search for universities that meet that criteria.  Remember, however, there is a big difference between viable criteria and a general wish list.

            The third step in the college search process is the most difficult:  begin.  There are many excellent books and good college search engines—simply pick one and use it.  Input your profile and start with a general college search on,,, or any other of a number of websites.  Peruse Fiske’s Guide to Colleges or The College Finder. After you determine an initial list, search each university’s website for programs and opportunities.  See if a school meets your criteria (or at least, most of it).  If it does, investigate it further; call the admissions office and ask questions; and ultimately, visit the campus.  Ask God to guide you in this process, and commit to a specific schedule (e.g., Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 7 to 8:30 pm) until you have developed a list of possible schools.

            All that being said, one thing is certain:  There is no perfect college.  However, because we have a perfect God who loves us perfectly, He does have a perfect plan for each of us—including college!  Don’t worry that you’ll miss God’s will.  God is big enough to tell you what He needs you to hear.  He is in control, and He will do whatever it takes to keep you on His path…as long as you completely surrender to Him.

            If you still feel like you are floundering, Competitive College Coaching has numerous assessments available to guide you in determining your passions, gifts, personality, and college criteria. Transitions (available on this website) breaks the college search process into week-by-week, what-to-do-when assignments. Additionally, Competitive College Coaching is launching a new service in 2011 whereby, after we have assessed your preferences, we offer an initial list of 15 to 20 schools that you can use as your starting point in the college search.  This is certainly easier than starting with 2,400 schools!

            The college search is complicated and confusing, but by taking it one step at a time, you will ultimately arrive at the destination that God has for you.  Don’t be undermined by fear or worry.  More than anything, Satan would love to keep you right where you are.  Move a head, one step at a time.  Let the promises found in Isaiah 42:16 serve as your inspiration:  “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.  These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”

            Now, start walking.