I feel strongly that a thoughtful college search should start with some “window shopping”. If you are a parent of a high school junior (or motivated sophomore), encourage your son or daughter to start now the serious phase of identifying schools that might offer what they are looking for in a college. If they have already started, that’s great, but it may still be helpful to read on.
Why now? The primary reason is that it can be difficult to find the time for the critical step of visiting colleges. Advance planning can be necessary to book travel and reserve spots on campus tours. That’s particularly true during the popular, but very crowded winter and spring school vacations. What’s more is that most students need to get comfortable with the basic features, academic and social, that separate one college from another. Then they will be ready to dig deeper to discover what matters most and establish their own priorities.
Here is a short list of colleges and universities, most within a 2-3 hour drive of Boston, that are good choices for this kind of “window shopping”. In other words, each of these schools can be very useful as a representative of a certain type of college or a particular college setting. The goal of these early visits should be to learn what to take away from a campus tour and how colleges differ. Don’t be concerned that in most cases this school won’t end up on the student’s final list. The visit will likely be very valuable for the other reasons noted above.