Step into your favorite ice cream shop and you are instantly met by both an enticing aroma and by the daunting task of selecting the perfect flavor. If you are anything like me, you probably sample seventeen different ice cream flavors before making a decision. There are so many options and every mouth-watering flavor looks amazing.

Choosing a college is a much more intimidating (and important) decision than opting between chocolate chip and rainbow sherbet. With over 4,600 colleges and universities in North America, how can one possibly narrow down their search to find the perfect one? As you begin the college search, it is helpful to create a game plan to narrow down the college hunt and find the perfect match.

Pray
The best way to prepare for such a life-changing decision is to pray. Philippians 4:6 reminds us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Ask God to give you peace and clarity as you seek His guidance.

Consider Your Preferences
Jot down a list of characteristic that you desire in a college. Do you want to attend college in a particular region? Is there a specific major that you are looking for? Campus size? Internships? Christian growth opportunities? Housing options? Is there a certain athletic or extracurricular activity that you are looking for? Consider which factors are most important to you and which are negotiable.

Do Your Research
Once you have a general idea of what you are looking for in a college, begin to research institutions that match your criteria. Search online, chat with your guidance counselor, and attend college fairs. Don’t be afraid to contact various admissions offices to ask about their programs, campus life, or admissions requirements. Each campus has an entire admissions office that is there to answer your questions, so take advantage of this resource.

Visit
If possible, make an effort to visit as many campuses as you can. Visiting campuses is a great way to experience a college first-hand and to determine if you can picture yourself as a student at that campus. In an in-person visit is not possible, check to see if the campus has a virtual tour option on their website.

Apply
This step may seem obvious, but it too crucial to leave out! The first step to becoming a college student is to apply! Even if you have your eye on one particular institution, I encourage you to submit applications for multiple colleges. Even if you are guaranteed admission to your number one choice, it never hurts to complete multiple applications so that you can have a variety of options and gain the valuable experience of the admission process. Once you have applied, be sure to complete your FAFSA so that each college can present you with your financial aid award. From there, you will be able to compare all of your options, including academic opportunities, campus environments, and your offered financial aid.

Give it up to God
Finally, surrender your college plans to God. I leave you with one of my favorite passages from Matthew 6:25-34. Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” He closes with the reminder, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” He can provide just what you need. Seek him as you begin this exciting journey!

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