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Now is the time for juniors to step up and get involved in the college admissions process.

The first item on the agenda that many students overlook is getting to know themselves a little better. It is very common for juniors to create a college list based only on colleges with which they're already familiar. January and February are the time to "open the net" and explore colleges that perhaps hadn't yet reached the student's radar screen. There may be a match to be made.

>First step

Know thyself. Start by taking a simple self-inventory. Make a list of favorite and least-favorite classes in high school. Follow this by brainstorming a list of possible career choices. Then consider a few key college factors: academic fit -- make sure the college is strong in your areas of interest; social fit -- think about what kind of social environment feels right, sports, Greek life, etc.; size/location of college -- determine your preference for big/small as well as city/suburban or rural campus and what's a good distance from home; affordability -- begin to identify the opportunities for merit-based or need-based scholarships.

>Next: Resources

Follow this self-inventory with one or more of the following college, career, values, personality, interests or values assessments:

*College Matchmaker www.collegeboard.com (click on "College Planning" and then "Find Your Match"): A good starting place to help you determine college fit. A computer model begins with more than 4,000 colleges in its database. As you answer each question, it removes colleges that don't meet your criteria.

*Naviance: A computer-based career and college guidance program available through many public and private high schools. The "Do What You Are" career assessment is a personality inventory that will help you understand yourself. Ask your guidance counselor for more information.

*O*NET Work Importance Locator www.onetcenter.org/WIL.html: A self-assessment career exploration tool that identifies different occupations based on the similarity between work values and the occupation's characteristics.

*Career services -- careerservices.rutgers.edu (click on career assessments).

*Holland Personality Assessment -- www.roguecc.edu (type Holland into the search box): Personality types developed by psychologist John L. Holland.

*Books: Fiske's Sizing-Yourself-Up Survey, in the "Fiske Guide to Colleges," is a simple 30-question guide to help you identify your college fit. "The Everything Career Tests Book," "The Everything College Major Test Book," "The Complete Idiot's Guide to: Choosing a College Major," and "The 10 Best College Majors for Your Personality."

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Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte, N.C. For more information, visit www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com.