Snoqualmie Valley High School Juniors: Tips To Jump Start The College Search Process

Guest Post #2 By Kiersten Murphy of Murphy College Consultants, LLC.  This post is geared toward high school juniors, but is just as useful for any student approaching that pivotal junior year.

Launching the college search process is no easy feat.  It can feel overwhelming with over 4,000 colleges and universities scattered across the United States to choose from.  How do you do it?  How do you narrow the field and find your best fits?

The key to the process is to start early so that you have time to really take ownership of the process, and form solid opinions.  College is a tremendous investment and I strongly believe that you should do your due diligence by spending a great deal of time researching, exploring and defending your choices. If you haven’t already begun, here are a few things that might help launch your process:


  1. Senior Classes. It is almost that time of year when you will be registering for your senior year classes.  Be sure to select the most challenging curriculum that is possible, especially if you have hopes of attending selective universities, such as University of Washington, Whitman or Stanford.  Colleges expect to see that you have risen to the challenge, that you are taking a third or fourth year of a foreign language, Pre-Calculus or Calculus, and AP or IB classes whenever possible.  Classes like ASB or Marketing are not going to impress colleges, and they will often remove them when recalculating your GPA.  There was a great article in the Washington Post this week that touches upon this very subject – College Admissions: When High School Matters The Most by Martha Allman, Dean of Admissions at Wake Forest University.
  2. Know Yourself.  Most students don’t consider this, but it does factor into the equation.  In what academic setting do you learn best?  Will you thrive in a lecture hall of 500 or in a seminar class of 15?  How do you want to interact with your professors?  What opportunities do you expect to have in relation to your major?  What are your peers like?  Do they like to learn for learning’s sake or are they more concerned about just getting a job? How do they socialize? What do you want?  Answering just some of these questions should help you start to develop a college type.
  3. Explore Resources. This is a little harder for me to recommend as I am in the business of helping students develop their best fit college choices.  This is based on years of experience and travel to hundreds of colleges across the U.S. so that I understand the strengths and weaknesses of each school.  So how do you start? Explore college search engines like CollegeBoard or use data on College Navigator.  You might want to buy The Fiske Guide or Colleges That Change Lives. You might even want to put the Colleges That Change Lives summer tour date on your calendar now – Saturday, July 28th in Bellevue. These are a terrific set of schools that fly under most people’s radar.  Take the time to review the special attributes of each college and zero in on the great things coming out of that university, rather than judging it by the SAT scores of incoming students.  How satisfied are students with their experience – the level of academic rigor and professor interaction?
  4. Cost.  Now is the time to have a frank conversation with your parents about the total cost of attendance.  What is affordable for them?  What will you be expected to contribute?  How might this factor into the colleges you research?  Does it look like you will qualify for need-based aid? Will you look at colleges that have a history of meeting 100% of financial need?  Will you need to look at schools where you are pretty darn certain that you will be awarded a merit scholarship for top grades, challenging curriculum and high SAT or ACT scores?
  5. Test Prep.   If you haven’t signed up to take a SAT (or ACT) Prep class, you could be at a bit of a disadvantage.  Students that do enroll in test prep do reap the benefits, as the SAT is coachable.  I realize that this is not fair, but it is our current reality. There are many test prep companies out there, and your budget might dictate choice.  I think that working in small groups or one-on-one is always the best way to go.  I think that PrepNorthwest does a great job with my clients – tell Molly I referred you. If you aren’t satisfied with your test scores, you might want to consider test-optional colleges.
  6. Visit. Although the cost can be quite high for families to make a big trip, I do think there is great value to the experience. Spring break is the optimum time to visit as college is in session and you get to interact with current students.  Not only can you tour, but you can also meet students, attend classes, meet professors and coaches and possibly stay overnight with a student host.  How might that experience compare to a visit in the summer when no one is around? If you are on the fence, think of this: you wouldn’t buy your first car without test driving it, so how can you decide on a college without giving it a test run? The other thing to remember is this – colleges today track interest.  That means, if you aren’t making an effort to get there, this will be taken into consideration at the time of application review, especially if the college is within driving distance.
  7. Become a Fan.   If you want to be kept abreast of current trends in college admission or review photos of college campuses, be sure to “like” my Facebook page or sign up for my newsletter.  The best source of information about my practice can be found on my Murphy College Consultant website.


For over fifteen years, Snoqualmie Ridge resident Kiersten Murphy of Murphy College Consultants has been committed to facilitating a personalized match between a student and his/her future college. A combination of specific training and experience in the field allows Kiersten to recommend colleges that are best suited to the strengths and interests of the student to ensure the best possible fits for academic success.  Services range from specialized packages to personal assistance with all phases of the college search and application process.  Kiersten works with a small client base from across the nation and around the world. As a recognized expert on college admission counseling, Ms. Murphy has been frequently quoted in the press, including articles in USA Today, Forbes and Fox Business.  Ms. Murphy also serves as a faculty member at UC Irvine in the College Counseling certificate program. Ms. Murphy is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), an organization of experienced educational consultants as well as NACAC.

Comments are closed.

Living Snoqualmie