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As you consider where you want to go to college or get training for a job, don’t forget to look in your own backyard, so to speak. Community colleges, auto body repair schools (for example) or universities within 100 miles may be perfect for you.

In addition to finding local options through your family, friends and neighbors, you can use your state’s department of education website to make sure you haven’t overlooked one. See Starting Your Potential List of Colleges/Programs: Intro and Wikipedia to get started.

One advantage to exploring local opportunities is that you can visit the campus or place and meet with admissions officers or recruiters. Talking with someone about their programs, expectations, admissions processes, costs, etc. in person is a great way to ask questions and get the information you need.

Here are a few basic tips for a successful campus visit to explore local (or other) opportunities. (See future posts for more tips for any campus visit.):

  • Treat every meeting or conversation with people on campus as an informal interview. It is possible that the staff, faculty or student with whom you had a casual conversation is on the admissions committee (or influences them).
  • Ask general and specific questions. You will get more and more useful information from your visit if you think in advance about what you need to know and generate questions in advance. As a dean of students, I was always more impressed with prospective students who asked questions that let me know that they did some homework about my school or program, i.e., looked at the website and used some of our own information to form their questions.
  • Don’t forget to follow-up by sending a thank you email or card to people who were particularly helpful and/or spent a significant amount of time with you. This is common courtesy, and (again) you never know who influences an admissions committee.


From Starting Your Potential List of Colleges/Programs: Intro and Wikipedia (Part 1) – ways to start your potential list of colleges/programs:

  • Local experiences (Part 2): considering local colleges/programs that are familiar (e.g., because you drive by them every week) [FEATURED IN THIS POST]
  • Word of mouth (Part 3): knowing about options because you have family, friends or advisors who attended those colleges/programs or who work there
  • Rankings (Part 4): choosing potential options based on a credible evaluation that ranks the opportunities
  • Role models or prominent people (Part 5): adding options to your potential list based on the education of successful people, athletic teams, etc. you have read or heard about or seen
  • Browsing (Part 6): finding potential options by accident or as you search for information for other reasons