The question “So, where do you want to go to college?” is one of the most dreaded by High School Juniors and Seniors. While students are likely excited for the years they will soon spend in college, it’s the search and application process leading up to college that causes the stress. From searching for schools to apply to, actually completing applications, taking standardized tests, figuring out how to pay tuition, and ultimately selecting a college, there is no question that the college process is extremely difficult. So, we asked 14 current college students and recent graduates to share their advice for High School students navigating the college process. Here is what they had to say:

How did you search for colleges?

I took a lot of tours and used the Internet (e.g. social media, college websites, Naviance) a lot. I tried to look into student organizations and see if I truly felt I’d click with students at that school. Also, I looked into certain programs using school websites and tried to apply into programs that had really interesting courses.” -Charlotte V, Class of 2024

“I mostly used the Internet (Niche, College Confidential, College Board) to do research. I also used the Fiske Guide to Colleges as a starting point to find colleges I wanted to research further.” -Jewel L, Class of 2022

Did your political beliefs impact your college search? If so, how?

Not really. I knew I wanted to go to a top-tier school and most of them are notoriously liberal. I focused mostly on the environment of the school–because if I wasn’t happy as a person there, politics didn’t matter.” -Aryssa D, Class of 2018

“At the time, no. I wish I had looked into that. By my sophomore year, I hated the political climate and wished I could’ve afforded to transfer.” -Andrea M, Class of 2019

“Yes. My freshman year I attended a small, religious, conservative college and did not like it at all, so I ended up transferring to a big, liberal public school. I think you have to know yourself. I’m the type of person that loves debating and hearing different points of view, though it can be tiring when some professors constantly push their liberal politics and people scream at you when you wear a pro life t-shirt.” -Maggie S, Class of 2021

“They did. While I didn’t want to attend a school largely because it aligned with my political beliefs, I also didn’t want to feel alone, so most of the schools I applied to weren’t known for being super far-left. Visiting schools helps to determine the political climate.” -Geneva M, Class of 2022

“Not really. Accreditations and school rankings made applying to a liberal school worth it. Knowing there were Conservative groups on campus definitely helped.” -Elizabeth H, Class of 2024

Is there anything you wish you would have known as a High School Junior or Senior?

“I wish people had been more open about how financial aid works and explained that some great private schools have good financial aid–better than most state schools.” -Aryssa D, Class of 2018

“I wish I reached out for more help when writing my Common App essay. Asking for help and having people read it before it’s “perfect” can be hard to do, but it’s definitely worth it.” -Rose L, Class of 2022

“Pace yourself when writing essays and supplements! Also, really try to research and see if you can picture yourself at a school before applying. It’s not worth the application fee if you don’t think you’d be happy there.” -Charlotte V, Class of 2024

“There’s often a lot of people that want to give their input into your college decision, and although they’re probably coming from a good place, they don’t know exactly what you need, which is why it’s important to listen to what you feel like you need and what suits you. Similarly, it feels totally crushing to get rejected from your dream schools, but it truly will end up working out for the best.” -Geneva M, Class of 2022

“Take the PSAT in junior year! I missed out on a lot of scholarship opportunities because I didn’t take it. Also take a couple of SAT II exams in your best subjects if you’re interested at all in applying to the most selective schools.” -Jewel L, Class of 2022

“I want to encourage community colleges, which allow you to get a quality education at a cheaper rate!” -Courtney J, Class of 2019

“I wish I’d known about colleges like Hillsdale or College of the Ozarks.” -Jaime H, Class of 2020

“Make sure to do your research before deciding which major to apply as at each school. Sometimes, different schools will have different names for the same program.” -Elizabeth H, Class of 2024

Describe any regrets you have in terms of the college search or application process.

“I panicked and just picked the first college that I thought would be a good choice because I felt pressured to make a decision since all my friends knew where they were going. Definitely don’t do what I did. Find a college you truly love.” -Maggie S, Class of 2021

“I definitely regret stressing over high school as much as I did. Education is very important, but you’re only in high school once. You also don’t have to get into an Ivy League school to be successful. You’re going to end up where you’re meant to be!” – Rose L, Class of 2022

“I wish I would have applied to a few more really selective schools that meet full financial need because I had a strong application.” -Jewel L, Class of 2022

“Well, I wish I had applied to fewer colleges! I applied to 29 and ended up getting into and accepting my first choice, but I was so nervous that I applied to a ton just in case! It’s good to have a safety school—but you don’t need 20 of them.” -Aryssa D, Class of 2018

“I went to a private college for one year and went far into debt. I regret not applying just to state schools.” -Alexis B, Class of 2021

Share your advice for Conservative women navigating the college search process.

Visit the campus. Search their Facebook groups. Look at their college newspapers. But at the same time, don’t avoid a good school because the students are liberal. The prestige of a good school will far outweigh a few uncomfortable conversations with your roommates, I promise.  And don’t go into college with the idea that it’s impossible to change your major–college is about growth and if you grow out of politics, that’s okay too!” -Aryssa D, Class of 2018

“If you are looking for a college or university that is accepting of conservative women and holds conservative values, make sure you do your research, not only of the school as a whole but also of the department you will be studying in. The students and professors in your department will be the people that you work most closely with.” -Danni G, Class of 2020

“I’d recommend contacting conservative students you know who go there – we typically love to answer questions about this sort of thing and you’ll get an honest response. Additionally, there’s often a louder voice and institutional support for Liberal ideas and ideologies, but that doesn’t mean that Conservative students are always the vast minority.” -Geneva M, Class of 2022

“Be sure to consider your goals. Call the student services office and ask to speak with the campus life coordinator. Ask them about clubs that may pertain to you, such as conservative clubs.” -Courtney J, Class of 2019

“Be open to Christian schools and consider the location of the school, as it can impact the political climate. Also, consider those two factors much more if you are going into anything in the liberal arts or humanities which tend to lean left already.” -Andrea M, Class of 2019

“If you’re not finding the school you click with, wait. Keep looking. You will eventually find a college you love, and if you find out you don’t love the college you chose, don’t be afraid to transfer.” -Maggie S, Class of 2021

“Don’t be afraid to have Liberal friends – it’s a chance to expand your horizons, solidify what you believe, or maybe even spread the Conservative cause!” -Elizabeth H, Class of 2024

“Consider all options like working before attending college, going to technical school, etc. Any of these options are viable.” -Hannah L, Class of 2020

“If you cannot find a conservative campus, you can create groups!” -Alexis B, Class of 2021

“Learn the arguments that liberals make – and learn to discuss these arguments in class politely.” -Angela Z, Class of 2011

We hope this advice will be helpful to you in your college search. Best of luck!

*Some responses have been edited for length or clarity.

Madison S