Archive for May, 2012

Choosing Colleges to Attend

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

May 14, 2012

Week 2: Choosing Colleges to Attend

We previously talked about looking at careers which led you to a major for college.  This is a good first step in starting a college plan. Now that you have a major or maybe a few that you’re interested in, you can now look at colleges to attend. As you search your colleges of choice make sure they offer the major that you have elected to pursue.  You want to see what courses the college offers and the time it takes to complete your major. Many times you will find that a specific field of study can require more than the expected 4 years. Look at all the regional schools that offer your major because there can be schools that can shorten your college stay by offering summer classes at a reduced rate to accelerate your graduation. There are also schools that will offer monetary discounts if you take over four years to get your undergraduate degree.

When you look at colleges to attend with your major there are other factors that will be important to you. These are some of the characteristics you need to consider as you make your choice of colleges.

·         Cost, does the college fit your budget?

·         Admissions Selectivity, what is the college’s difficulty of admission and can you get in? What type of competitiveness are you’re looking for or are you interested in exploring your interests?

·         Public-Private or Affiliation, The difference between public and private schools currently means a lot when we discuss financial aid and acceptance.

·         Geographic Location, is the school in the area of the country that you want to eventually work in?  Is it in a rural or urban area?

·         Enrollment, what is the average class size, total population of the school and student to professor ratio?

·         Types of Student, what is the makeup of the school? Is it diverse, liberal, conservative, religious, sports or arts centered, do students live on or off campus and do you share some of the same interests?

·         Special Programs, does the school offer programs that enhance your major or interests?

·         Services for Students with Disabilities, Does the school offer the most current or adequate programs to over come your handicap?

·         Sports, Are you looking for the college sports experience as a participant or fan?

I suggest that you think about what would make you happy about a school and then look at similar schools.  As you create your school list it should have about 9 to 14 schools in it. Over the last few years, we have found that the right number of schools to make application to is now nine. The old answer was 6 (2-safety schools, 2-that you should get into, 2-reach or dream schools). As the economy worsened attendance of colleges have increased and so has the difficulty to get in because of the competition. We are now seeing very good students not being accepted into schools that they should have easily gotten into. There are other advantages in applying to nine schools that effect financial aid being offered and your ability to negotiate the final aid package.

Once you are happy with your list you need to visit a few schools to see if they do have the characteristics that you are looking for. You can see if the items you originally thought were important really do factor into your final choice of a college to attend. When I have interviewed students about their visits, they tell me that sometimes they knew that a school was or wasn’t for them in about 10 minutes of their visit. Now, not everyone had that experience but as you visit a few schools you will be able to zero in on the things about a school that appeals to you. You will be able to modify your list as you visit your schools. The visit is important since is impossible to really tell what a  school looks and feels like. You cannot make that decision just by looking on the website of the college. Remember that these schools are in the business of filling all their freshmen openings at their college and they are good at this. We will discuss visits a little more in detail and offer you a plan for a successful college visit.

Picking the school to attend is the most important decision for many reasons. The biggest mistake students make is picking the wrong school for the wrong reason. Because of this we will get into more detail about the characteristics of colleges in the next step.

Please leave a comment or ask a question and I will be happy to respond.

Where to Start Your Senior Year

Monday, May 7th, 2012

High School Class of 2013: In less than 52 weeks you will be required to make your final choice of the college you will attend for the next four years. Through this blog we will be discussing the steps you need to take to make the best decision possible concerning  your collegiate future. We will be discussing  but not limiting ourselves to the topics of choosing the schools, visits, testing with ACT/SAT, high school GPA’s, applications to colleges including the essays, types of financial aid (aid based on need, merit, grants and scholarships), FAFSA,  the CSS Profile and negotiating with your final college of choice.

All of the topics listed  should be considered in the college process. The bad news is that even though you have until May 1st, 2013 to make a final decision you should complete all your applications by October 31, 2012 to take advantage of the priority application period. Students finishing Junior year that I have been working with, by now have completed many of the steps we will be discussing. I am not trying to say you’re too late to get this done,  just that the window is closing quickly and you need a plan to do it right.

So we need to get started. Many 16 and 17 year olds are hesitant to choose what they want to study in college. I suggest that you start with your career choices.  As you explore the different careers that might interest you look at the starting salaries and education level required to move forward within that career. This is the time to dream a little. Try to list as many careers as possible while you create your list.  When you have your list next,  go through and look at the college majors that will be needed to start in your careers of choice. You should find that there will be a number of careers that you can pursue with the same college major. When you have completed your research you should be satisfied that your major will offer you a number of career paths. This can give you the piece of mind that as you complete your undergraduate degree, even with economic changes, some of your career choices will be hiring and even thriving. This way you can feel confident with your choice of major and stay committed to your chosen field of study. This confidence can keep you from  one of the most expensive college mistakes, changing your major between sophomore and junior year. This many times will extend the time to complete your degree and increase your total college costs.

As college freshmen start school this Fall they and their parents expect them to graduate in four years. Many families have based college education budgets on this assumption. The unfortunate truth is that the average college student is now taking 6 (six) years to graduate with an undergraduate degree. The current  statistic is that only 40% of entering freshmen throughout the nation will graduate in 4 years. You need to know that the graduation rates issued by the colleges are all based on the 6 years graduation rate, required by federal requirements.  Having said that, there are many schools that do graduate 60% or more of their students within the four year period. For more information on school graduation rates google the report “Diplomas and Dropouts, Which Colleges Actually Graduate Their Students (and Which Don’t)” written by Fredrick M. Hess, Mark Schneider, Kevin Cary, and Andrew P. Kelly. The report was written in 2009 and goes on to discuss the different types of schools and their graduation time periods. It does list all the schools by state with their graduation rates, costs, attendance numbers and school type. This could enter into your decision of which colleges to attend as we discuss the next step: Choosing your colleges to attend.

Please comment below with any questions or ideas.