Choosing a College

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Choosing a College

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Choosing a College

Standardized Testing

Close to half of students take the ACT[4]
1,666,017 in 2013
And half take the SAT
1,664,479 in 2013

Students can score substantially better on one test than another.

Use Pretests to Discover the Best Test for You

Some Basic Differences:

What colleges accept: ACT and SAT
More Straightforward Questions: ACT
Emphasis on Vocab: SAT
Science Section: ACT
More Advanced Math Sections: ACT
Writing Section Required: SAT
Broken Up Into Smaller Sections: SAT
More of a “Big Picture” Exam: ACT
More of a Topic-by-Topic Exam: SAT

Course Planning

Essential: A broad based academic program
Fine Tuned: 4 years of English and math

Need a boost?
Rule of thumb:

1. Show colleges you consistently challenge yourself
A ‘B’ in an AP class is better than an ‘A’ in a normal class

2. If it’s an either/or situation, stick with math
Most selective colleges want to see four years of English and math.
And 2-4 years of study in other areas (history/social studies, foreign languages, science).

Community Service

Showing colleges you’ve expanded your horizons by working with others and outside of your comfort zone is always a good thing. Though not many schools require community service.[2]

Three Options:
1. Students needing to work to support themselves through high school can make do with less community service hours.
2. Students with talents or interests can often leverage other extracurriculars into service-centered uses.
3. Tried and true, more formalized service opportunities are often known by school counselors.


Quality > Quantity
1,2, or 3 extracurriculars delved into for years of your life show sustained interest and discipline.
Laundry lists of 10+ extracurriculars seem contrived and show less quality time spent developing yourself and others.

The Admissions Process:

Roughly twice the number of recent graduates were enrolled in college or university than working or looking for work.[6]
Enrolled: 74.2%
Working or looking for work: 34.1%
(In 2013)

But we’re talking a massive variety of experiences here:

% working and in school by college type:
4 year college: 27.8%
2 year college: 45.2%

% enrolled by demographics:
Women: 68.4%
Men: 63.5%
Asians: 79.1%
White: 67.1%
Hispanic: 59.9%
Black: 59.3%


2 year colleges
Vocational colleges
4 year colleges
For-profit colleges
Liberal Arts colleges
Residential colleges
University colleges
4 year public colleges
4 year private colleges
Research institutions
Art schools, design schools, specialized schools

So lets just go over some basics…

1. Parts of the Application

Over 500 colleges and Universities use the Common Application
Only schools that evaluate applications holistically may use the Common Application

Parts of Application:
Personal Data
Educational data
Standardized test info
Family info
Academic Honors
Extracurricular activities
Work Experience
Personal Essay
Criminal History
Letters of recommendation

Some Colleges Add:

Supplemental essay (choose one of five optional essays provided by the Common Application)
Short answer essay

The Common App may seem like a lot, but can easily be managed if spread out over several months of work during your senior year.

Avoid the Following:

Missing deadlines
Not tailoring essays to colleges (forgetting to change college names in essays).
Applying for early decision when it’s not the right choice for you.

2. Admission Types:[7]

Early Action:
Usual deadline: November
Usual decision: Before New Year
Acceptance Rate: higher than normal
Binding: No
Apply to other schools early action?: Yes

Early Decision:
Usual deadline: November
Usual decision: Before New Year
Acceptance Rate: higher than normal
Binding: Yes
Apply to other schools early decision?: No

Rolling Admission:
Usual deadline: late summer
Usual decision: several weeks after application
Acceptance rates: increasingly lower as year continues
Binding: No
Apply to other schools rolling admission?: Yes

Open Admission:
Pending space in the school, open admission offers admission to any student passing basic entrance requirements. Generally these requirements include test scores and GPAs. Almost all community colleges are open enrollment, as well as some 4-year institutions.

3. Financial Aid[8]

Financial aid makes or breaks the plans of many future college students. The good news is that most sticker prices are much higher than what students pay after financial aid. The bad news is that student debt is still growing for many types of schools.

Types of Aid:

Pell Grants
Teach Programs
Work-Study Programs

Every financial aid award for US Colleges and Universities begins with the FAFSA.

FAFSA: [definition] Free Application for Federal Student Aid [9]

Here’s how it works:

1.) Register a PIN
2.) Student demographics
–determines the types of aid you are eligible for
3.) School Selection
–Search for your school code. Indicate housing status to change cost of attendence.
4.) Dependency status
–A yes answer to any of the dependency questions renders you indepent.
5.) Parent Demographics
–Inaccuracies slow down processing times.
6.) Financial Information
— Need latest Federal tax returns or estimate.
7.) Sign and Submit
–Verify information and agree to filing agreement.
8.) Check your SAR (Student Aid Report) for issues with application
–Errors will be shown on your profile for you to fix. (Emailed within 1 week of filing.)
9.) Confirmation
–Correct estimates, finalize filing.

Cost of attending – Your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) = the amount of financial aid needed for you to attend college.


Loans can be tricky, here are some tricks to keep up:[12][13]

The Federal Government holds or guarantees more than $1,000,000,000,000 in student debt
An increase of 20%+ since 2011
Compared to credit card debt of $857,000,000,000
That had an increase of 2% over the same period.

10% of Federal loans are in default

7 in 10 college seniors who graduates has student loan debt.[14]
For an average of $29,400 per borrower.

Choose the types of loan that are best for you:[15]

Direct Loans: Low-interest loans lent by the Department of Education and serviced by banks and outside servicers.
Federal Family Education Loans: Includes Stafford, PLUS, and Consolidated loans. No new loans made under this program.
–Stafford (subsidized): The government pays interest while the student is in school, under a grace period, or in deferment.
–PLUS: Allows parents to borrow for their dependent undergraduate or graduate students.
–Consolidation: A combination of more than one federal education loan.
Perkins Loans: A low-interest made by your school with government funds. Your school pays a portion.

Repayment Plans:[11]

Fixed: Same payment for entirety of loan
–Up to 10 year loan term
Extended: A fixed rate over a longer period
–Extends fixed payments for 12 to 30 years.
Graduated: Gradual payment increases over time
–Monthly payment is 50%-150% of normal monthly plan.
–12-30 year loan term.
Income-Based: Payment amount determined by income
–Monthly payments capped as percentage of discretionary income.

Making the Choice

A long list of factors should be included in your eventual decision on a school:

Graduation rate
Student to Faculty Ratio
School Size
Future employment
Courses offered
Quality of professors
Availability of course of study
Living arrangements
Financial Aid

Find a place where the school is the right fit for you, and you are the right fit for the school.
Colleges reward feeling that you will benefit from their unique institution.
Thriving students lead to thriving universities.

College Choice



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