Eight Tips to Finding the Perfect College

Did you know the perfect college really does exist?

On your first day, you could step foot on a campus with a culture aligned with your values. Classrooms the ideal size for your desired learning environment. Resources available to help you where you need them most to help you thrive. 

This is because the perfect college exists for you, but that doesn’t mean it’s the perfect college for everyone. Just like your hair color, freckle pattern, unique experiences, and more make you the amazing individual you are. Your perfect college is uniquely perfect for you. 

If you put in the work of self-acceptance and college research now, you may be lucky enough to find it. 

Some people focus their research on U.S. News and World Report’s Top 50 Colleges. However, from experience, we know the best place to start your research is to uncover and analyze your own strengths, goals, and interests with the Birkman Assessment. 

Bright Futures Founder Dr. Beth Dennard’s view of general college rankings is that they “tend to hype and add stress to an already frenzied process.” This is because college rankings can be subjective and misleading. What some may list in their top 50 may totally miss the mark for another student. It’s best to look within yourself to determine your perfect college.

How To Determine Your Perfect College

When researching which college best suits your needs and wants, Dr. Dennard advises students and their parents, “Center every aspect of the process on the student’s strengths, goals, interests, and budget.”

1. Use The Birkman Assessment

Uncover your strengths, goals, and interests with the Birkman for an accurate and reliable personality assessment. 

The Birkman is so reliable that many Fortune 500 companies use it to hire, organize, and promote employees. That’s one of the reasons the Birkman is the gift that keeps on giving. 

Not only will it help uncover possibly overlooked interests, but it will also help identify the environment which will allow your student to thrive. This is helpful in dealing with roommates, working with mentors, choosing classes, exploring career options, and more.

Because career prospects are constantly shifting, the Birkman will continue to be a useful tool if the time comes to switch careers later on. When an individual clearly understands their strengths, behaviors, interests, and goals, they are in a position to identify the best opportunities for themselves – in any circumstance. 

2. Explore College Majors & Careers

After completing the Birkman, use it to examine careers and college majors that match your strengths, interests, and goals. 

A major point of the Birkman is that it helps you get to know yourself on a deeper level. This makes the practice of self-acceptance more feasible when determining where you should go and what you should do. 

With self-acceptance comes remembering who you are when things get confusing or challenging. If your Birkman relays that math is not your strong suit, then you’ll want to avoid math-centered majors in college. Maybe you’ve always thought of majoring in art, but the Birkman points towards computer science. Explore those options and let them open your eyes to your bright future full of possibilities. 

3. Start Sooner Than Later

It is never too late to start working towards something you want for yourself. 

However, the earlier we start working with clients, the more we can help them prepare for the college admissions process. Many of our student clients are in the 7th and 8th grade preparing for critical high school strategies, schedules, and plans. 

Some parents feel this is like buying a pair of shoes a few sizes too big. But our experience shows that students who start early do best. Preparing for college should be a multi-step, multi-year process. 

The earlier a student forms long-term goals, the better we can support them and help them accomplish those goals. This is not to say what someone wants in 8th grade is set in stone. Because we also help students pivot when they realize or uncover new interests they want to work towards. 

Ready to start working toward your bright future? Contact us today for a complimentary consultation to find out how we can help you on your college admissions journey. 

4. Advocate For Support

The college admissions process can be confusing and overwhelming. This is why we encourage students and their families to find mentors, advocates with expertise, consultants, and objective school counselors. Their experience can help your family navigate the confusing and competitive college process. 

At Bright Futures, we help our students navigate these relationships to keep them both productive and safe. Dr. Dennard is part of the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship mentorship program, and their #1 priority is each mentee’s well-being. Things she looks out for include:

  • Signs of stress
  • Broken relationships
  • Depression
  • Isolation
  • Sickness
  • And other signs of distress

However, her role as a mentor also includes celebrating, dreaming, and casting vision for the future. Each Bright Future team member encompasses these same values when working with students and their families. Because success at the price of one’s well-being may not be a success after all. 

5. Manage Transitional Stress

Graduating high school, starting college, choosing majors, exploring clubs and activities are all transitions that can become overwhelming.

Students need to manage the stress of pre-college and college transitions to remain focused on their goals. Major life changes require planning, disciplined work, and interpersonal understanding through self-acceptance. 

Having an objective and a trained consultant in your corner can ease the process and reduce stress. 

6. Work With A College Expert

Your student and your family don’t need to navigate the college admissions process alone!

Bright Futures can help identify colleges with the right programs, environments, and budgets that will best fit your student. One size does not fit all when it comes to colleges and majors.

With thousands of colleges across the country, the options may seem endless. But our experts have the in-depth knowledge and continuing research to help identify the best possible fits for each of our amazing, unique students. 

7. Use The College Admissions Process To Your Advantage

When it comes time to apply, don’t just look at it as a form to fill out and an essay to complete. This is your time to shine!

Use your college applications to communicate your strengths, especially through the essay. As the number of college applications continues to skyrocket for the most desirable colleges, your student needs to make sure their application is shining above the rest. 

Bright Futures’ experts work with clients to write eye-catching essays and host summer essay workshops. Contact us today to find out how we can support your student through the college admissions process. 

8. Stay Within Your Budget

Parents, do not dip into your retirement funds to pay for college. There are scholarships and need-based financial aid resources available to your student. Furthermore, 3rd-party scholarships, such as ROTC, are also available. 

Determine the college budget break-point and communicate it with your student. There is no need to put off retirement or pull funds out early with penalties when there are so many other options. Moreover, you can also appeal financial aid offers if they don’t meet your needs or if you have additional information you think should be considered. 

Your Perfect College & Bright Future Is Waiting

One person’s ideal college may be another’s worst nightmare. Leave comparison at the door and find the school that matches your values and best suits your needs.

At Bright Futures, we help students unlock their hidden potential and find the colleges where they will thrive. Ready to learn how we can propel your student to success? Contact us today!


Note: This post was originally published on June 23, 2015 and has been completely revamped for comprehensiveness.