Ask a Carolina counselor: How do you begin a college search?

Vanessa Infanzon

Ask a counselor series: Finding the right college to attend is a big decision, and it can be an overwhelming process. Luckily, there are many trained people to help during this crucial time. Qualified high school and college admission counselors throughout the region are available to guide students and their families. In this series, Carolina College Bound will talk with these experts about the college search.

If you have questions you want answered by counselors, please send an email to with “Ask a Counselor” in the subject line.


Ask a Counselor: Meredith Sherrill at Myers Park High School

Meredith Sherrill has been a school counselor at Myers Park High School in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system for 10 years.


Meredith Sherrill

When do you recommend students begin the college search process?

“Informally, it’s never too early. I recommend that when families are traveling for vacation or to see a set of grandparents, it doesn’t hurt to check out a college that’s on the way, even as early as ninth grade.

“Traditionally, it starts spring of the sophomore year. They may begin college tours during their junior year.”


What are the first steps students and their families should take in the college search process?

“The first step is for the student to think about what they want. One of the things that our department feels is most important is for families to listen to their student. What does their student want? What is important to their student?

“Really, the first step is that students need to be driving the process, not parents.”


What are some of the barriers students face when searching for a college?

“It can be overwhelming. There are so many colleges out there.  How do you whittle it down? Where do you start? One of the easiest things to do is to ask the students how far they are willing to go.

“Barriers can be the resources to go on these college visits, thinking you can’t afford X or Y college, having preconceived notions about what good colleges are or listening to the peer pressure of where certain high school students go to college.

“The barriers are the student not having an open mind to looking outside of what is comfortable.”


How important is it to tour different college campuses?

“Of the utmost importance. How can you know that you want to go to a big state university if you haven’t toured a big state university?

“We tell our kids to go see a small school. There are several in our backyard. Then visit a big school. Not to say that you are going there, but how does that feel for you?

“Parents have the hardest time with this – to trust an 18-year-old’s gut, and I get that. I raised two teenage daughters.

“The kids know when it feels right. When they feel it, they know it, and they know where they’re supposed to be. They also know when it’s not the right place.”


What piece of advice do you give parents?

“There are some great books out there that help the parents get the college search process in perspective. We recommend Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be, The Gatekeepers, Colleges that Change Lives and How to Raise and Adult.

“It’s about the kids. It needs to be about them, about what they want and about what they need, and not what sticker goes on your car.”


Vanessa Infanzon is a freelance writer based in Charlotte. In her former life, she worked in Student Life at Davidson College, UNC Charlotte and Queens University of Charlotte. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook @morethanVMI