How to Navigate the College Search Process

By Dr. Zach Gautier

This was a surreal week for my wife and me. Our oldest son had his shadow day at Valor. Even though he is still trying to figure out his eighth grade schedule, we have completed the application, he’s requesting teacher recommendations, preparing for the family interview, and readying for admission’s testing. All of this is a jolt to our family because he was only two when I first began as a history teacher here. Like many major markers in our kids’ lives, they come too fast. I’m reminded of a saying about parenting that I’ve found to be true: “The days are long but the years are short.” 

In four short years, we’ll be preparing for life’s next major transition. For many of you, this time is already looming. I wanted to use the following few moments to share a couple of thoughts on how to make this process as meaningful and valuable as possible. 

Explore Your Passions

To our students: You do not have to have it all figured out. There are students at Valor who have felt a clear calling on their life and seem to have every step along the journey figured out. This can be freeing and invigorating. However, just as many students do not have this same level of clarity and at times, it can be debilitating. I want to encourage these students that they are okay and they do not have to know what comes next. 

One tool that we recently provided for students is an assessment called YouScience. This is a diagnostic software that uses short online games to help draw out a student’s aptitudes and interests. From these results, the program exposes students to various career fields that may align well with their passions and abilities. When students read through information about the careers, it also provides recommendations on college majors and the needed education to reach that job. This resource is provided for free to Valor students and a fantastic conversation starter to spur thinking about college and beyond. (If your student does not have the YouScience welcome email, please reach out to Tessa Powell for assistance.) I believe that all students can benefit from investing a few hours in this resource.

Start with Research

The second recommendation that I would make is that time spent researching a broad range of colleges is time well spent. We often talk with families and find that their list of schools is predictably narrow based on Division I athletics, warm weather, or name recognition. These are natural places to begin one’s college search but should not be the only deciding factors. With over 4,000 colleges and universities in the U.S. and even more compelling options in Canada and Europe, there are many great fit schools for a student that they have likely never heard about. 

One helpful resource in learning more about schools is a college fair. Three years ago we began hosting our own fair and this year’s edition will be Thursday, October 3 from 1-3 in the main and small gym. Students will have a modified schedule on that day so that they can attend and parents are welcome to join. Nearly 90 college representatives from a wide range of institutions have confirmed. We would encourage students to seek out and talk with five or six schools they do not know much about. They might find a hidden gem that is perfect for them! 

Our goal in academic and college counseling is to come alongside students and parents to assist in the academic advising and the college process. Our hope is that both YouScience and the Valor College Fair support you as you prepare for life’s next chapter. 

Oh, and if you have any advice on how to accept the fact that your eighth grader is starting high school, let me know.

Share This Story

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin