Tips for Choosing the Right College

Which college do I choose?  Which region of the country interests me?   Can I afford it?  Where do I even begin to look and how?  Generally speaking, choosing the right college is not just about liking its campus, or is a “brand” name or wanting to attend an institution that has a reputation for being a great party school.  As such, consider the following helpful tips for choosing the college that is right for you based upon a variety of important factors:

    1) Focus on colleges that have the curriculum you are looking for – obviously, you want to attend a college that has the major and associated courses that interest you. If you are unsure, consider attending a 2-year community college, or a liberal arts school that exposes you to a number of different areas of study.

    2) Location – limit your scope to areas of the country that interest you. Do you prefer a big city, or do you want more of a rural, quieter setting?  These are questions you should be asking yourself when deciding where to attend college.

    3) Size – an extremely large university may not be right for everyone. Consider a college that has the size you are looking for.   Keep in mind that even at large institutions, the class sizes get smaller as you advance into your major and its curriculum.

    4) Sports and activities – if you are looking to play sports, be sure to apply to colleges that have the programs/organizations you are looking for. Are you looking for a big time athletic program, or the opportunity to engage in intramural sports?  Consider these questions when applying to colleges.

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Reasons Why a Community College May be Right for You

Community College

The traditional four-year college experience may not be right for everyone.  Specifically, some students may not be sure what course of study interests them.  Or, they may want a more affordable education.  If you’re considering attending a community college or are interested in learning more about its benefits, check out the following:

    1) Transfer agreements – many community colleges have admission agreements with public colleges that allow qualified students to transfer their credits and gain admission to these schools after completing a two-year program. This allows students to initially save money at a community college and then gain entry to public universities to complete a bachelor’s degree.

    2) You save money – paying for college these days is a huge decision, and annual tuition rates have continued to soar into the tens of thousands of dollars each year. With this in mind, many community colleges charge around $1000 or less for in-state tuition. You also may not have to pay for housing when attending a community college, enabling you to live at home and save money.   

    3) They offer a flexible approach to education – attending a community college is a great way for students to ease their way into college rather than just jumping into a four-year program that they may not be prepared for. Community colleges allow you to learn at your own pace, offering much more flexibility than a traditional four-year college.

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Alleviating Test Day Anxiety

Without a doubt, having to take a standardized test, whether it be the ACT or SAT, can be nerve-wracking.  Understandably, getting a good score on your standardized test is a crucial part of the admission process for most colleges.  Accordingly, there are some tips you can follow to help alleviate your anxiety and put you in the best position to succeed on test day.   These are as follows:

1)    Preparation is key – make sure you study as much as possible, as too often, stress comes from feeling a lack of control over a situation. Meaning, sometimes people have anxiety on test day knowing that they are not fully prepared.  With that being said, the more prepared you are, the calmer and more ready you will feel on test day.

2)    Take a standardized test prep course – there are plenty of prep courses available to help prepare you for all aspects of the exam. Taking a prep course is important because they give you invaluable tips on studying and they enable you to take several practice tests.   This way, you are fully prepared on test day and will likely experience less anxiety as a result.

3)    Take deep breaths – when you sit down to begin the exam, take a few deep breaths by inhaling and then exhaling slowly. Not only does this calm your system down, it also increases the flow of oxygen to your brain, allowing you to be more focused.

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What 12th Graders Can Do to Plan for College

12th Grade

As a high school senior, this is the final year for you and your family to get everything together and make a decision about which college to pursue.  As such, the following is a guide for you to follow, which can help to maximize your chances of successfully choosing a college and making prudent financial decisions to fund / pay for your education:

Spring

  • Process college responses. This will include how to respond to colleges that reject you, put you on a waiting list, or accept you outright. Be sure to respond to those colleges that accept you, even if you decline their offers.
  • Review financial aid offers and do not borrow more than your Post College 1:1 Ratio.
  • Visit colleges that have accepted you and find out more about their major choices, what classes you will be able to take, etc.

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What 11th Graders Can Do to Plan for College

As a junior in high school, this is a seminal year for you and your family to start putting the pedal to the metal and kicking your planning activities into high gear.  As such, the following is a guide for you to follow, which can help to maximize your chances of getting admitted into the college that best fits you and your family’s needs:

Spring

  • Review the colleges that were recommended in your Smart College Report and visit those that interest you the most.
  • Continue to research scholarship and grant opportunities.
  • Determine a good strategy for the summer. Summer jobs, volunteer opportunities and other interests help to make a student more well-rounded, which does matter to college admissions offers.
  • Visit colleges together with your family. Make plans to check out each college of your choice and speak to faculty, staff and students about the college to determine whether it is a good fit for you.

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What 10th Graders Can Do to Plan for College

10th Grade

We cannot stress enough the importance of starting the college planning process as early as possible.  As indicated in a previous blog, the more you do now, the easier it will be later on during crunch time when you need to start applying for college, financial aid, and scholarships.  At this stage of the game, it is important to look at the steps you can take during 10th grade, with one year of high school behind you already, to prepare for college.

Spring

  • Review the colleges that were recommended in your Smart College Report and visit those that interest you the most.
  • Determine a good strategy for the summer. Summer jobs, volunteer opportunities and other interests help to make a student more well-rounded, which does matter to college admissions officers.

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What 9th Graders Can Do to Plan for College

Believe it or not, it is never too early to start thinking about college, even as a 9th grader.  The good news is that the more you do now, the easier it will be later on during crunch time when you need to start applying for college, financial aid, and scholarships.  At this stage of the game, it is important to look at your steps during 9th grade as laying the foundation for your high school career and making choices that will help you to achieve your college and career goals.  These steps are as follows, per season:

Spring/Summer

  • Add to your credentials – meaning, if there are additional activities, community service projects, or other things you can join, it would continue to help pad your high school resume and help maximize your chances of getting a scholarship.
  • Start learning about college – spend perhaps a weekend during the spring and summer visiting college websites. Learn more about the costs to attend each college, the types of majors they offer, and their statistics on post-graduate career placement, income levels, etc.

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Top Five Most Popular U.S. Majors and Salary Information

Top 5

College is a very important path in life, one that involves over 20 million students heading to class each year.  With this in mind, many colleges offer hundreds of majors to choose from, which is a lot to consider when you think about it.  However, at the end of the day, most people choose the following top five majors, which are broad enough to give students the critical skills they need to add value to the workforce.  As provided by USA Today, these majors and their respective average salaries are as follows:

1) Business Administration / Management - Thousands of students pursue business majors each year in order to learn about how to run, manage and finance a business. Classes may include business administration, statistics, macroeconomics, microeconomics, finance, accounting, and more.  Careers for those who pursue a business major range from management all the way to being financial analysts or entrepreneurs.  The salary range for business majors who receive just a bachelor’s degree are about $41,000 starting out to a mid-career amount of $70,000.

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Quick Tips to Follow When Applying for Undergraduate Financial Aid

Financial aid is a very important consideration when applying for college, and if not done correctly, could result in lifelong financial hardship and consequences.  Consider the following:

    1)    Purchase Choose It Right’s Smart College Report and follow your recommended Post College 1:1 Ratio. This is a formula that calculates how much you should borrow in light of your intended career.  The resulting number represents an amount at or below what your first year salary will be following graduation.

    2)    Parents should not save money in their child’s (student’s) name. If you do, these could be considered assets that may substantially reduce the amount you and your son or daughter are able to borrow.

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Pointers for Applying to Colleges

College Application

When applying to colleges, there are many items on the to-do list.  That is why we have put together the following information for you to consider as you embark on this very important journey.  Keep reading to learn more.

Before doing anything, it is important that you purchase the Smart College Report, which provides you with a list of the colleges that match your preferences based upon your intended major, the type of college you are seeking and a number of additional criteria.  It also provides you with critical information as to how much you should pay/borrow for college, and a whole lot more.

Armed with the list of recommended colleges, we urge you to do as much research as possible on each college.  Visit each campus of the colleges you are most interested in and talk to as many people as you can about the college to help you better understand whether it truly is the right fit for you.  Walk around the campus too, and visit the financial aid office to learn more about the funding/borrowing process.  We suggest that you do this for as many colleges that interest you, and then narrow down your choices based upon your preferences. 

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