Sorting Through Acceptance Letters: Which to Choose?

It may seem like having a few acceptance letters to choose from would be a great problem to have in the spring of your senior year. While it is an honor and an exciting time, it can also be stressful to make the final decision, especially when faced with several excellent choices. It is important to put in the time to make the best decision possible and end up at the perfect college for you next year.

Refer Back
Be sure to hold onto the brochures and materials you collected during interviews and campus visits. These things, along with any notes you made at the time, can help to jog your memory and make the decision a little easier. Think about how you felt on each campus, which ones stand out and which made you feel at home from the beginning?

Additional Research
If you come up with additional questions or feel like you still need more information, don’t be afraid to contact the admissions office or to follow up with contacts you made on campus. These people can help you to feel confident about your decision and ensure you choose the right school for next year.

Practical Considerations
For many students, cost is an important factor in making your decision. If you are being offered a particularly generous financial aid package or scholarships from one of your top school — it may help to bump it ahead of the competition. Similarly, an acceptance from a good state school with a great deal for students in the state can be tough to pass up if cost is a big component of your choice. Similarly, you may want to consider other practical matters, like the location of the school and how far from home you would be while attending college.

Talk it Over
It can sometimes be helpful to talk through your options with a parent, teacher, or guidance counselor as you make your final decision about college. Just the simple act of talking about your schools with someone else may help the top school to become clear. A guidance counselor may also be able to help you to narrow your options and a parent may have insights from going along on the process with you.

When one school ends up the clear front runner, it’s time to send in your acceptance, announce it to your family and friends, and celebrate the end of your college search process.

Beyond Financial Aid: Tips for Paying for College

College tuition costs are rising every year. As the cost of tuition, books and fees continue to increase, financial aid alone is not enough to pay for an education. Careful planning and research, and a bit of creativity, can help pay the bills and make college affordable again. Here are some tips to help ease the cost of tuition.

Scholarships

Communities, schools and organizations of all types offer scholarships. Review the criteria and apply for everything possible. Employers sometimes offer scholarships for children of employees or for the employees themselves. Certain clubs and community organizations have scholarships for just being a member. There is also assistance available for many types of high demand careers like nursing and teaching. The internet is a great resource for finding listings of available grants and scholarships.

Take an alternative route

Taking classes at a community college for the first two years can save thousands of dollars. Most colleges will transfer credits from a two year school making the transition easy. This path does take cautious planning since taking classes that will not transfer can be a waste of both time and money. Taking advanced placement (AP) classes in high school can also save money. Many colleges will grant credit for AP classes which will save on tuition long term.

Commute in state

Room and board are a large part of the college bill. While living at home is not glamorous, it can save enough money for a down payment on a home after school is done. Local state schools are another great way to save money when combined with commuting. State schools usually have reduced tuition rates for in state residents. Check with individual schools for more details.

Student Loans

When free money is not available, student loans are the next best option. Loans are available through the government and from private lenders. Loans do carry interest rates and will have to be paid back once school is complete. Interest rates may be variable or fixed and often students can defer payment until they find employment after graduation. The government offers loans as part of a financial aid package and there are limitations on the amount that can be borrowed. Private loans are available from banks and credit unions and they can bridge the gaps left by financial aid. Loans are an extremely useful tool for paying for school but they should only be used when necessary to avoid incurring excessive debt.

Work for the money

It is difficult to balance school and work, but it is almost impossible to get through four years of school without at least a part time job. Even working during breaks or the summer can provide enough money for books. Some employers even have tuition reimbursement plans for employees attending school. Those who serve in the armed forces may meet the qualifications for the G.I. Bill to assist with tuition costs. Work-study programs are also part of a financial aid package and while these positions usually do not pay well, they are typically on campus or related to the student’s major in some way. Certain colleges have paid co-op programs as part of the curriculum which allows students to earn money and credit at the same time.

The key to finding sources of funding for school is to start early. Start saving in a 529 plan or a savings account early on so there is money available when the time comes for college. Look for scholarships at least a year in advance as most applications have requirements to fulfill before a deadline. It takes time to find sources of aid and to complete applications. Tap all available resources and be sure to meet deadlines to ease the stress of finding money to pay for a college education.

Getting the Most Out of a College Fair

College fairs can be a wonderful opportunity to gather information, speak with admissions office staff members, and get answers to your questions all in one place. Plan to attend at least one college fair during your college search process and you will walk away with plenty of new information and resources to aid in your search.

Do your Homework
Plan to attend college fairs well in advance so you can select fairs that have many of your top choice schools in attendance. Find out which schools will be there and make a list of the schools whose tables you want to be sure to visit, as well as schools on a second tier list if you have time to check out more of the tables at the fair.

Be Prepared on College Fair Day
Dress neatly and professionally for the college fair–you don’t have to be formal, but you want to be neat. You can’t go wrong with business casual. Bring along a bag large enough to carry materials you collect at the college fair, a pen, and a notepad to write down things you find out. When you arrive at the college fair, find a map right away and plot out where you want to go first and your plan for the day. Many college fairs can be busy and hectic, so taking a moment to plan ahead will make a big difference.

Ask Good Questions
Spend some time looking at college websites before attending and prepare a list of questions that you have about each of your top choices. You want to ask good questions that you could not answer from the website or admissions materials. This will help you to gather information as you make decisions about college and also help you to stand out to potential colleges. Subjective questions can provide more interesting information than objective questions, like class size, which can often be answered from admissions booklets. Ask the people representing the school about the things that makes their college unique, their favorite traditions, and what college freshmen would say about their first year on campus.

Keep an Open Mind
While you want to be sure to get to all of your top schools, allow some time tat the college fair just to wander and see the other school’s displays. If something catches your attention, stop and ask questions. College fairs can be a great time to add schools to your list and explore options you may have not heard of in the past.

Is My SAT Score Good Enough?

Looking at your SAT scores can be puzzling for many high school students, especially the first time taking the test. It can be tough to know whether your scores are good enough for your colleges and whether you need to take the test again. What qualifies as a good score on the SAT will be different for every student and very dependent on your future goals for college.

As you go along in your college search process, you want to pay attention to the numbers that you see in college ranking and admissions materials. You’re looking for the 25-75th percentile SAT scores for each college. These will give you a good idea of where most students fall. While there will always be exceptions, both extremely high scores and students who get in on other qualifications even with lower scores, this is a good guideline. You may also inquire about perks for higher scores, such as merit-based grants or being able to test-out of required classes during your freshman year of college.

For example, Harvard University’s 25-75th percentile scores are 2100 – 2380 and Stanford University’s 25-75th percentile scores are 2000-2310. University of California San Diego‘s 25-75th percentile scores are 1700 – 2030. Identifying these numbers before you have to decipher your scores will help you to understand where you need to be to attend your top choice schools. If you have goals in mind, it will be easier to decide if your SAT scores are good enough to be your final scores, or if you need to take the test a second or a third time and try to improve.

If your scores fall right in the average for your top choice schools, you may still wish to improve them in order to increase your chances of acceptance. If you’re well above the scores you need, you may feel comfortable with your current scores and choose to be done taking the SAT.

It’s also worth paying attention to the breakdown between subject areas. Colleges generally want to see people with balanced scores, not extremely high scores in one section and significantly lower scores in another. Some variation between the scores is normal, especially if you have a much stronger interest and talent in one area. If the scores are too lopsided, however, you may want to spend some time studying for your weaker subject and take the test again to improve your scores.

The Value of the SAT

Everyone knows that the SAT is important, but in recent years, its value has only increased. Close to 1.6 million students graduating from high school in 2010 took the SAT, this is a higher percentage of graduates than ever before. Minority participation in the SAT is also up compared to past years. The SAT is increasingly becoming an assumed part of the high school to college transition and can be a valuable resource for college admissions.

Studies have revealed that performance on the SAT is an excellent predictor of college readiness. High school grade point average and SAT scores are of equal value in predicting students’ first year college grade point average. By looking at the combination of the two, colleges can get a fairly accurate reading of how prepared a student is for college coursework.

While having a strong knowledge base from high school classes is certainly part of good SAT scores and being prepared for the college, the SAT tests a lot more than that. By taking time to study for the SAT through SAT prep and online classes, students can demonstrate their ability to prepare for a big test and retain information. These are skills that will continue to serve students well in college and contribute to better grades and a higher likelihood that they will finish college.

SAT scores matter, now more than ever, and college admissions offices will be looking at them for a glimpse into how well a student will handle college-level work and how well students can budget their time, follow directions, and prepare material for a test.

In 2010, 80.8% of the students graduating who took the SAT also took the PSAT. The PSAT can provide an opportunity for students to see how the test day will work so that they feel comfortable for the SAT. PSAT scores are also a good way to get a better idea of which areas of the test will need the most work during SAT prep.

The College Board anticipates that upcoming studies will reveal the impact that SAT scores have on college performance after the first year and college retention for all four years. This is valuable information that can be gleamed from test performance early in student’s academic careers.

How Do I Choose a College From My Accepted List?

It’s a great thing to know that you’ve been accepted to multiple colleges. After years of researching colleges, preparing for the SAT, and keeping your high school transcript strong, you can relax and know that you have some real options for next year. For some students, choosing the top college from the accepted list is easy, one has stood out all along. For many high school students, however, choosing a college from the accepted list can be a challenging and nerve wracking process. There are several factors that can help you to narrow your list down to the perfect college.

Financial Aid
One important factor that high school students should discuss with their parents is the financial aid packages that have been offered by each college. If one stands out as a great deal, it may be too good to pass up. College is expensive and being given a significant financial aid package or scholarship from one of your top-choice schools can be a huge relief for the family.

Location
Once you have visited the colleges on your list, you can think about how their locations will affect your college experience. Maybe you always anticipated going to school far away, but as the time draws nearer, that school one-hour away seems like a much better choice. For other students, proximity to a favorite city or a certain landscape may make the next four years seem a lot better. Location is important and it’s okay to factor that in when you choose a school. Remember, you’re also choosing a new temporary home.

Campus Visits
Thinking back to campus visits can be a deciding factor in the college decision process. Was there one school that felt like home from the beginning or a place where you really saw yourself fitting in with the current students on campus? If you can’t remember details from a college, you may not have been very impressed with the school. If professors stand out in your mind as being great teachers or you really had a great day during your tour, that can help to make your decision a lot easier.

Don’t Stress!
Remember, while it’s tempting to think that you are searching for that one perfect school, chances are you will be happy on any number of college campuses. You have already put in the effort and narrowed schools down from your original list to come up with the very best fits for you. In the end, it’s all about making an informed decision.

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Planning out the Application process

There are many steps and requirements in the college application process. In the beginning, you will want to be preparing for the SAT test, exploring your options, and planning for campus tours and information sessions at colleges that you want to consider. This is the time to narrow your list of colleges to a manageable pool where you will be sending applications. Once you have a list of the colleges where you will be applying, it is time to focus on completing all of the application materials for each school.

Time management and organizational skills are critical to the process. You will also hone your information-gathering skills. During your campus tour and visit with the admissions office, you may have learned about the admissions requirements. You will want to locate all of the information for each college and put together a master chart of the materials that each school will require in your application packet. Create a chart with parts that you can check off for each school and be sure to list the application deadlines for each individual college where you will be submitting an application-the deadlines will also vary between colleges. Having this master chart will help you to feel organized, manage your applications, and be confident that you are sending complete applications to each college.

Many colleges use a general application, sometimes referred to as the “common app”, but these schools may still require supplemental short-answer questions, forms, or other materials from applicants. Requirements about letters of recommendation often vary slightly as well. Other schools will have their own unique application that you will need to complete. It is important for you to have all of your information before you begin the process. This will help to avoid any problems close to the deadline. If you have questions about the requirements, you can always contact the admissions office for answers.

Your high school guidance counselor can be another source of support as you are taking the SAT test, balancing your high school course load, and completing college applications. He or she has helped many students prepare college applications and can help you to get organized and keep deadlines. Make an appointment early in the process to be sure that you are on track and ask any questions that you may have about college applications.

Planning out your college applications can be a lengthy and detailed process, but with good organization and some hard work, your applications will arrive complete and on-time. A well-planned college application is the first step towards getting into the right school for you.

Choosing a college major

As you prepare for the SAT with online practice exams, complete SAT test prep, and prepare for test day, many students begin to think seriously about college and their options for the future.

For some students, choosing a major will not be a difficult decision. If you have known what you want to do after college for awhile, you can take this knowledge into account as you are choosing a college. Knowing your major early on gives you the opportunity to speak with professors in your intended major, ask about the program and find out what alumni from that major are doing now.

For other students, choosing a major is a decision that can feel overwhelming. At most colleges, it is completely normal for students to be undecided during the first year of college. This is something that you can ask about during college visits. Many schools have required classes that will fill up your first few semesters and allow you to try courses from many different departments. This is a great way to try new things and find the major that will be the best fit for you.

When choosing a major, it is important to consider the type of job you would like to have after college. If your career path is undecided or could accommodate many different majors, your best plan is to consider your academic strengths and interests. Choosing a major that you love will ensure that you put a lot of effort into your classes and finish college with a strong academic record. This will help you as you apply for graduate school, apply for fellowships after college, or look for your first job.

It’s also important to plan your course schedule to be sure that you will graduate on time with your major. Good planning will also allow you the option of adding a second major, minor, or concentration if you would like to take courses in different areas. These are all great ways to add another interest to your academic track and a good way to set your resume apart from others.

It is also common for students to change majors during college. This is always easier to do sooner rather than later, while you still have plenty of time to complete the course load. Before changing your major, you will want to speak with your current academic adviser and a professor in the department that you are considering. Find out just what the switch will entail and then you will be able to decide if it the right choice.

Should I take the SAT II?

The SAT II is made up of subject tests that students choose to take individually. Deciding whether or not to take any SAT II tests will depend largely on your academic strengths and the colleges to which you are applying. Some colleges will have requirements about SAT II exams while others will not require them at all.
Even if you are not required to take the SAT II, strong scores will only add to your college applications. Online test prep, including plenty of practice tests to get familiar with the subject tests, will help students prepare for each SAT II exam.

The Literature subject test is designed to measure how well students can read and interpret passages of literature. The test is made up of about 60 multiple choice questions in six to eight sections. The content is approximately half poetry and half prose and approximately half British authors and half American authors. Students taking the Literature subject test should know terminology used to interpret literature.

Two history tests are given: SAT II World History and SAT II US History. The US History test is made up of approximately 90 multiple choice questions covering political, social, economic, and cultural history, as well as foreign policy.

French, Spanish, German, Korean, Chinese, and Japanese are all available as a foreign language test and as a language with listening test. Italian, Modern Hebrew, and Latin are available only as exams without a listening section. The language exams are made up of approximately 85 questions that cover reading comprehension, vocabulary, and structure. The listening exam is made up of 35 percent listening section where test takers will listen to passages and answer questions based on the information.

There are two levels of SAT II math tests available. Math I is for students who have taken at least two years of algebra and one year of geometry. Math II is for students who have also taken courses in pre-calculus and trigonometry. Each math test is made up of 50 questions.

There are three SAT II science exams. Students taking the SAT II Biology can opt on test day to take Biology Ecological or Biology Molecular based on which type of biology questions they would like to answer. 20 out of the 80 multiple choice questions on the exam will be specialized towards either ecological or molecular biology based on the selection. The SAT II Physics exam covers all basic areas of physics and has 75 questions. SAT II Chemistry is made up of 85 questions covering major topics in Chemistry. Students should be prepared to recall knowledge as well as apply knowledge and synthesize information.

Each exam takes one hour to complete and is scored on a 200-800 point scale. If you excel in one or more of the subject areas that can be tested on the SAT II, it can often be beneficial to demonstrate this knowledge by performing well on the SAT II subject tests.


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