For her college search, Helena Daniels went online shopping.
Between advanced-placement classes and play practices, the Potomac Falls High School student managed to find time to apply to 20 colleges and universities.
"I wanted to look at all my options," Daniels said. "I’ve also heard it’s more competitive now than it has been in the past."
However, Daniels only visited two of the colleges she applied to.
Daniels applied to top-tier schools like Wellesley College in Wellesley, Mass., and Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H.
"I was looking for small class sizes, personal attention and a school that is community oriented," she said.
Daniels was accepted into 18 of the 20 programs she applied to. Several weeks ago, she was accepted into her first-choice school, Dartmouth College.
"I really want to go to Dartmouth, but I haven’t looked at it yet," she said. "I will visit on Wednesday and hopefully I’ll be able to make a better decision."
Potomac Falls High School guidance counselor Edna Lutman helps 12th-grade students decide on post-graduation career paths.
The average student applies to four or five colleges, Lutman said.
"We see about the same numbers every year," she said. "We always have one student that applies to many different colleges."
PARK VIEW High School senior Jessica Cox is not your average student, either.
Cox applied to one school, the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
"I knew where I wanted to go," she said.
The decisive lacrosse player applied to U.VA.'s binding early admission program in November.
"I knew by Dec. 1," she said. "Now, I’m working on applying for scholarships."
Like Cox, Potomac Falls High School senior Amanda Ellis is busy filling out application forms for college scholarships.
The president of the International Thespian Society was accepted into Fordham University’s competitive theater program in New York.
Cox, who applied to eight schools, said she is waiting on financial assistance to make her college decision.
"Now, I’m applying for scholarships. That’s what is taking up my time these days," she said.
The advanced-placement student finds it hard to balance a full course load while applying for scholarships.
"First I had to apply to schools, now I’m busy applying for scholarships. It’s time consuming," she said. "My advice to juniors would be to start early. Start this summer."
If Ellis does not receive the funding she needs, she will attend the Virginia Commonwealth University in the fall.
"It was important for me to explore my options," she said.
THE INTERNET was an essential tool for both Daniels and Ellis’ to explore their options.
"My mom and I were on CollegeBoard.com everyday," Ellis said.
CollegeBoard.com is a Web site to help students prepare and register for the SATs, obtain SAT scores and apply to schools. The Web tool allows students to explore every accredited college and universities in the country.
"My parents were really involved in the whole process," Ellis said.
The Web site also provides tips and tools for parents and educators, including tips on how to spot a scholarship scam.
In addition to helpful Web sites, Common Application, a nonprofit organization in Herndon, allows students to apply to 300 participating colleges and universities by downloading an application from the Internet.
With resources like these, more and more students are applying to colleges.
"Most of my friends applied to four or five colleges," Cox said. "But I know a few people who applied to 10 or more schools."
Loudoun County Public Schools spokesperson Wayde Byard said Loudoun County had 2,304 high school graduates last year.
"Eighty-seven percent of our students go on to some form of higher education," Byard said.