Ask An Expert: Tips On Starting The College Search

Ask An Expert: Tips On Starting The College Search
Mrs. Sierra has worked in secondary education since 1996 and as an advisor and teacher, has overseen many students on their journey to getting well-deserved collegiate degrees. In her capacities as a Yearbook Advisor, Silver Knight Coordinator and Club Advisor, she helped found Pinecrest Prep’s first online newspaper,, and assists students in the Silver Knight program in presenting themselves to be awarded the honor, instituted by the Miami Herald in 1959, in various categories such as Art, Athletics, Business, Drama, English & Literature, General Scholarship, Journalism, Mathematics, Music & Dance, etc. Mrs. Sierra has been a Silver Knight Coordinator since her tenure at Saint Brendan High School in Miami, FL and her dynamic teaching style and dedication offer a great insight into starting the college search. She is a native of South Florida, graduating from Miami Southwest Senior High School, and is the mother of two children.
college selection Ask An Expert: Tips On Starting The College Search
Janette Sierra, Teacher
Pinecrest Prepatory Middle High School
14901 S.W. 42nd St.
Miami, FL 33185
305) 559-8583

Practice Reverse Engineering

Think of the end you’re seeking (professional career) and then look at the path that it takes to get there. Start with the top 3-5 careers/majors you are considering and then look for universities that have good programs in all of your top career/major choices. This gives you flexibility if you change majors along the way. Look at pricing, financial aid programs and admissions requirements of the schools that meet your criteria.

Start Your Search at the Start of Junior Year

There is more information readily available than ever, but that also means you need more time to sort through that large amount of information. As you do so, don’t eliminate options based on a single criterion such as tuition. Remember that tuition is relative to how much financial aid is typically offered. Look at the average financial aid package for incoming freshmen as a guideline.

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Be Careful of Information Sources on Colleges

Consider the source. When researching online, pay attention to the potential biases of the author. A university website, of course, is only going to list its best features. Likewise, a forum for angry former students will only list its worst features. Factor in the author’s biases and try to look at data-based information such as admission rate, graduation rate within four years, percentage of students receiving financial aid, percentage admitted into graduate school and percentage passing professional exams (if applicable to your career).

Shoot for the Moon, but Remember the Stars

It’s great to reach for the moon by applying to one or two dream schools because you may be pleasantly surprised by the outcome. Still, you also need to apply to two or three schools with reasonably good programs where you have a reasonably good chance of being admitted. Finally, you should apply to a safe school where you know your credentials virtually assure you admission.

college prep Ask An Expert: Tips On Starting The College Search

No matter where you wind up going to school, you are the greatest determinant of the quality of education and experiences that will get you there. In the end, it will be your academic efforts and extracurricular interests that will maximize or waste what your college has to offer. It's You-U!

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Eric L Labrador is a freelance writer covering all things Miami. His work can be found on