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The college search process

For high school students

If you are a sophomore or junior, you have likely started your college search. Steps 1 and 2 below can help you narrow your colleges of interest. After you have done this, visit the campuses (step 3). Don't forget to have a backup college(s) in case you're not accepted to your first-choice school.

For nontraditional students

As soon as you've made a decision to start college or return to finish a degree, check out steps 1 and 2 below to narrow your colleges of interest. After you have done this, visit the campuses (step 3). Don't forget to have a backup college(s) in case you don't get into your first-choice school.

1. Learn about requirements

Application and admission processes vary by college. Visit the college Web site or call the college admissions office to find out:

  • ACT and/or SAT requirements
  • Grade point average (GPA) requirements
  • Application processes and deadlines
  • How admission is determined
  • Transfer credit review and acceptance guidelines

2. Research college statistics

The college Web site or counselors in the admissions office can also help you learn more about the college. Sample questions to ask are:

  • How many students receive financial aid each year and what’s the average package?
  • What scholarships are available, and how do you apply for them?
  • What is the average student age?
  • What is the faculty/student ratio?
  • What is the average class size?
  • Do faculty or teaching assistants teach most of the classes?
  • Do students stay on campus most weekends?
  • Do most students live on- or off-campus?
  • Are your favorite extracurricular interests (athletics, intramurals, drama, art, music, service projects, etc.) available?

3. Visit campus

Nothing takes the place of a college visit. You’re going to invest a lot of time and money for your education, so make sure the college is a good fit.

  • Call or email the admissions office to schedule a campus visit. Let them know if you have a specific request, such as meeting with a professor or sitting in on a class.
  • Prepare a list of questions to ask college students, admissions staff, professors, etc.
  • Take a student-led campus tour. This is another opportunity to ask questions.
  • Take notes and pictures so you can compare colleges.


If you did not graduate high school, the GED (General Educational Development Test) may fulfill that college entrance requirement. Learn more about the GED and locate a GED testing center.

Career Resource Library

Department of Labor CareerOneStop is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor,
Employment and Training Administration