Tips for Making the Final Decision on Where to Attend College

Choosing the right college is extremely important, and that is why you should take necessary steps to address the decision-making process in a calculated manner.  With this in mind, consider the following tips to help you narrow down your college list and make the right decision as to where to attend college.

Narrow Down the Colleges Provided in Your Smart College Report

First, get access to your personalized Smart College Report, and review the “Top Match” College list together as a family.  After you and your family review the list of colleges that match your qualifications and preferences, be sure to narrow down your selection of colleges to no greater than ten.  This will enable you to conduct further research on a number of colleges that’s manageable for you and your family.

Experience the Campus Environment

To choose the right college, it is important for you to visit that college to find out what it is like to walk around campus away from a typical tour of the main buildings.  Sitting in the “quad” or green space of campus can provide students with a true feeling of what it would be like to be a student there.  Also, if possible, be sure to visit the residence halls, student common areas, playing fields/practice sites, if applicable, etc. to also get a full and complete sense of the feel of the college. 

Ask Alumni for Their Opinions

Visiting a college is certainly a vital step in making a final college decision. Also, speaking with college graduates about their choices is just as valuable.  Getting information from college graduates with first-hand experience can shed light on things that may not be obvious when visiting a college. Speak with alumni from the colleges that interest you, as they can advise you of their experience to help you determine whether a certain college is right for you.

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Top Considerations When Negotiating for Financial Aid to Pay for College

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Financial aid is probably the most important factor for a high school student (and his or her family) when applying for college.  The cost of college tuition has increased substantially over the past couple of decades, and the trend is continuing.  Financial aid is essential to pay for tuition, room and boarding, textbooks, food, and other general living expenses.  Many students are not able to work while attending college as they are focusing on a full course-load.  As such, all students and their families should consider the following key factors when negotiating for financial aid or scholarships at a college of choice.

1) Research a College’s Financial Aid Appeals Process

Students receive financial aid based on their specific financial need and merit.  A student’s financial need may be different from what is reflected on a student’s application, as it is typically the student’s parents whose financial information is used to determine the amount of financial aid for the student.

If not satisfied with the financial aid amount, a student should speak with the financial aid department of his or her college of choice to find out the process for appealing a financial aid package, then follow that process and work out the best solution.  Barging into the financial aid office or calling them in anger can only make things more difficult for both the financial aid department and the student.

2) Have Evidence Ready for Needs-Based Financial Aid

Students who have a legitimate need for additional financial assistance must have proof that they do not have the means to pay for college with the financial aid they have been offered.  Perhaps a parent has lost a job, or maybe a student has excessive medical bills that make it difficult to save money and pay for college.  Whatever the case may be, it is crucial to have evidence that documents a need for additional financial aid.  Colleges usually work with students who have shown a strong desire to attend a college and the only thing holding them back is the need for some additional assistance.

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Tips for Choosing the Career That is Right for You

If you’re in high school, it’s very likely that you’ve not decided what you want to do as a career after college.  Choosing the right career sometimes isn’t easy, and it’s a very important decision that can shape your future. 

If you’re preparing to enter college, the following tips may help you choose the right career.

Tip #1 – Don’t Think Too Far Ahead

Planning your career way in advance can create uncertainty when things do not go as planned, or when sudden life changes take you down a different path.  As such, you should focus on the “now” and make decisions one step at a time; keep an open mind to the opportunities today.  For example, if a good internship opportunity presents itself, you should consider taking that internship, even if it is not in the career field that you currently wish to pursue.

Tip #2 – Know What Your Priorities Are

You should make decisions based on what is practical to meet your priorities in life. Know what your priorities are, and choose a career that will ultimately meet those goals in life.  If a career will not enable you to reach your goals, then there may be no purpose to choose that career path.

Tip #3 – Try Things on For Size

Taking an interesting course or volunteering could help you find your career path.  Gaining experience and knowledge in new areas can not only help you develop academically and personally, but can open your eyes to new career possibilities.  For example, you could be set on being a doctor, then decide to be a teacher instead, after having a positive experience working with children in a volunteer program.

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Why a Two-Year Community College May Be Right for You

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Going to a four-year college or university can be an excellent experience. However, four-year institutions are not always feasible or the best for your situation.  You may be adamant about attending a particular college, but it’s important to keep an open mind and consider the following reasons why a two-year community college program may be the right choice for you. 

Reason #1 – Tuition to Attend Community College is Affordable

The cost to attend a four-year college can be significant, resulting in many people still paying on student loans more than ten years after graduating.  While earning a degree and obtaining a good job are essential, the financial consequence associated with a four-year degree could follow you around for a long time.  Instead, two-year community colleges often offer the same required courses at a much more affordable rate. 

Reason #2 – Community College Allows Students to Live at Home

Community colleges typically do not have dormitories like four-year colleges.  The cost of living in a dorm can be just as expensive as the tuition itself, when attending a four-year college.  By choosing a two-year community college, you can live at home and save a lot of money.

Reason #3 – You Get Your Basic Courses Out of the Way

Whether you attend a two-year community college or a four-year college, the initial coursework will be the same for many majors.  Also, credits obtained at most community colleges are transferable to many four-year institutions.

Reason #4 – Community College Professors Place Emphasis on the Students

Many professors at four-year colleges are not only required to teach courses, but also to conduct research and publish papers.  In such cases, the student may not be their primary focus.  With community colleges, professors are usually not required to do research, thus able to spend a considerable portion of their time teaching and assisting students, providing them with the real-world knowledge they’ve acquired in their own careers and life experiences – which could be more beneficial to you.

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What Prospective College Students Should Think About When Searching for the Right College

As a high school student, knowing certain information ahead of time can help you make smarter choices.  While it is not realistic to prepare for everything, you can certainly shape your college career for the better, by considering the following key points before starting your first semester.  

Be Open to Multiple Career Opportunities

Many students enter college with a career goal in mind already, such as becoming a doctor, lawyer, psychologist, or teacher, among others.  While some students find out that they have luckily chosen the right career path, others could find themselves unsatisfied after graduation.

In order to avoid the latter, you should be open-minded to many career fields and can do so by participating in internships, mentorships, and even volunteering.  Any experience that can help you choose the right career path is invaluable.

Take Courses that Interest You

As early as high school, you should intentionally start taking courses that are of interest to you, in order to help you decide on a major and potential future career that may be a good fit.

Appreciate Your Professors

It is equally important to learn from every professor as it is to learn the subject being taught.  Professors can provide more insight than simply the material that they are teaching.  Be sure to look beyond the subject of the specific course, and appreciate what a professor has to offer.

Writing is Everything

It cannot be stressed enough that solid writing skills are essential to most career fields.  Many employers require writing samples to evaluate a candidate’s ability to communicate on paper.  If you are not a strong writer, consider working with your high school teacher or a tutor to improve your skills and be sure to strengthen them, so that you are ready for college and your future career (which may require strong writing skills – e.g. if you want to be a business analyst).

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Preparing Your Teenager for College – 5 Tips for Parents to Consider

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There are a lot of steps in between helping your child with the college application process and dropping them off at the college dorm, so it is important for you to have a plan of action.  The following tips can help you get off to the right start and have a solid plan to follow.

Tip #1 – Search and Apply to Colleges and Universities that are Reasonable

You and your college-bound teenager should look for and apply to colleges that are feasible, affordable, and provide a curriculum that fits their needs, qualifications and interests.  However, there are thousands of colleges to choose from, and oftentimes it is hard to know where to start.

With this in mind, a quick, easy and hassle-free way of beginning the college search and selection process is to access the Smart College Report, which offers everything from a list of colleges that match your son or daughter’s preferences to invaluable tips and resources about loan borrowing, financial aid, scholarship information, letter templates to contact admissions officers, and if your child plays a sport and wants to continue playing in college, a letter template series to help them contact coaches, and much more.

Tip #2 – Narrow Down Colleges Wisely

Once you and your teenager review the list of colleges in their Smart College Report, we recommend that together, you narrow the colleges down as follows:

First, select a few that are known as “safety schools”, which means that based upon their academic profile, your son or daughter will almost certainly be admitted (i.e., their GPA and test scores are higher than the average student at that college).  Next, they should choose an additional few colleges that are “match schools”, which are those that they can be reasonably certain they can get in to, because their GPA and test scores match the college’s specific requirements.  Then, your teenager should also pick several “reach schools”, which are colleges that put them at the lower end or below the admitted student spectrum.

This systematic approach will give your son or daughter a full range of colleges to choose from and apply to.

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How to Compose an Outstanding College Admissions Resume

Think that resumes are only for those looking for a job?  Well, not exactly!  High school resumes are a perfect way for colleges to get a detailed glimpse of you in terms of your academics, accomplishments, extracurricular activities, hobbies, and work history.  They are also important in that they can help you to prepare for a college interview, supplement your scholarship applications, and give those who are writing recommendation letters on your behalf a sense of who you are, holistically.  Don’t know how to get started?  Follow these simple tips for creating a stellar college resume!

Make sure your college resume has the essentials

Your resume should include the following information: 

  • A header that includes your name, contact information, and email address;
  • Information about your high school such as the date of your graduation, weighted GPA, class ranking, and standardized test scores;
  • Any awards such AP honors and other achievements;
  • A list of courses, even those that you took during the summer or abroad;
  • Extracurricular activities;
  • Community service and involvement;
  • Work experience;
  • Hobbies; and
  • Special skills and talents, such as fluency in a foreign language or some other type of expertise.

Be concise

Pare down all of the activities you showcase to the ones that represent you best as a worthy college candidate. Also, make sure to not be too wordy and try and limit what you include on your resume to one to two pages, max.

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Advice for Student-Athletes to Thrive Academically

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Student-Athletes have to constantly be on top of their game both on and off the field, which is no small task.  While sports to the student-athlete are extremely important, remember that student-athletes are students first, and they must maintain good grades in addition to optimally performing the sport of their choice in order to be successful and ultimately, play college level sports in the future.  So, keep in mind the following advice is to help student-athletes excel in all aspects of their athletic and academic lives, which will help pave the way for a successful future.

Play hard and learn hard

Apply the same discipline in the classroom as you do in your sport, knowing that you are at a great advantage as a student-athlete by already understanding what the results of hard work and dedication look like.  To help balance your responsibilities, treat your daily tasks as a full time endeavor by creating and sticking to a routine that allows you to successfully accomplish all of your daily goals, including doing homework, studying, practicing, eating, relaxing, and socializing with friends.  College coaches are only interested in recruiting players who can rise to the challenge and strike an appropriate balance between academics, athletics, and their social lives, so make sure to keep this goal at the very top of your list.

Coordinate with your teachers       

Being a student-athlete is something that takes time, patience, and diligence.  Treat it as such by working with your teachers to make sure you are succeeding in the classroom and continuing to be on top of your homework.  If you are struggling with a certain subject, ask your teacher to help you.  Why is this important?  Because college coaches expect students to perform optimally both on and off the field, and if you want to advance to college level sports, academics must be given equal weight to sports.

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Tips for Achieving the Ideal ACT Score

Like the SAT, the ACT is a standardized test that colleges across the United States use as an important factor in determining whether a student is eligible for admission.  So, if the first time you take the ACT you do not obtain your intended score, you will probably need to take the test again.  However, the good news is that it will likely become easier the second time around since you now know what to expect having one full test under your belt.  Moreover, ACT statistics demonstrate that most students who take the ACT more than once are able to increase their scores the most between the first and second administration.  So, if you have taken the ACT and are unsatisfied with your score, don’t give up, as there are several ways to dramatically improve it. 

Accordingly, the following are some helpful tips for improving your ACT score and an explanation of how you can achieve the gain that you are striving for:

  • Start preparing as soon as your first ACT test is over

If you did not reach your ideal score the first time taking the ACT, immediately start preparing for the next one.  The same day you took the first test, or soon thereafter, write down what you recall about the exam, including areas where you feel you had some weaknesses and/or lost time, and any distractions you may have experienced, etc.  Overall, any memories that you have about the test will become important to consider when you take the test again.

  • Know how to interpret your score

When you receive your score, which is typically available between two and eight weeks after taking it, your inclination is likely to view your composite score and quickly glance at your section scores.  However, it is highly recommended that you review your entire score report as a learning lesson for the next time you take the test.

For instance, you should definitely pay attention to each sub-score, which is a great way to identify weakness areas.  Also review the Detailed Results section of your report to learn which areas you scored the lowest.  This will give you the full picture as to where score improvements are needed.

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To-Dos – For Student-Athletes Preparing for College

College Preparation

All college bound students are required to take certain steps in order to complete the college search and application process. However, high school student-athletes face several additional steps if they want to play college level sports.  These are as follows:

Be clear about what level of play you aspire to

It is very important to be clear about your abilities and what division of college is realistic for you to pursue.  Talk to your coach to help you narrow down a list of colleges and choose one that is right for you based upon your skills and experience.

Attend a summer sports camp at your college of interest

Attending a sports camp at a college of interest is extremely important because not only does it expose you to college coaches, it also helps to give you a good feel for the campus. 

Register with the NCAA Eligibility Center

To be eligible to play Division I or II sports, you must register with the NCAA Eligibility Center, ideally by the beginning of your junior year of high school.  The NCAA recommends that student-athletes register at the beginning of their junior year in high school, but many students register after their junior year. There is no registration deadline, but students must be cleared by the Eligibility Center before they receive athletic scholarships or compete at a Division I or II institution.  Visit the NCAA Eligibility Center website to learn more.

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