Juniors: Make a List of Potential Colleges Reply

Making a list of collegesAs a high school junior, the task of picking a college can be daunting. There are so many colleges out there. So much to consider. There are a variety of different guidebooks and websites designed to help you search for a college that is right for you. Sometimes, the sheer amount of information on colleges makes things more confusing. You won’t really know for sure if a college is right for you until you visit it, but you certainly can’t visit every single college you find interesting. So how do you decide?

The best way to start is to make a list of colleges that you could see yourself attending.  In preparation for making this list, it’s important to really consider what qualities you are looking for in a college. It is much easier to evaluate a school, once you have done some thinking about what you want in a college. Make a list of the things you need and want from your prospective school.

Qualifications

Some qualifications are obvious and fairly objective. If you know what you want your major to be, or at least have an idea of where your main interests lie, then you’ll want to make sure that the school you are looking at offers degree programs that fit your goals. Location can be a factor.  Do you want to go to school close to home, or are you looking to move away? Cost is always a factor, though one that is difficult to measure.  Certainly you don’t want to add a school to your list if the cost to attend will exceed your budget.  Still, many schools that may have a tuition expense that is out of your range also have grants and scholarships that can help you offset those costs. A school’s athletic program might be an important decision factor for athletes who plan on continuing their sport at the college level.

Other qualifications are more subjective. What is the best college environment for you? Would you rather be in a big university or a smaller college? In a big city or a smaller one? College is not just about classes and grades and diplomas.  It’s also an experience.  Think about the things that are important to you as a person. What are your hobbies?  What kind of weather do you prefer? What clubs do you think you’d like to join?  What is the overall environment like?  These questions are much harder to answer without visiting the college – and if you are making fairly long list, you probably cannot visit them all! Sometimes visiting the school’s website, talking to someone who attends or did attend the college, or to the admissions personnel might help with some of these more subjective questions.

Share Your List of Schools

Once you have more clearly defined what types of colleges you’d like to attend, then it is much easier to research and add good candidates to your list of colleges.  Throughout this process it is a good idea to talk with your parents, other family members and your high school counselor to get feedback.  Those around you, who know you well, can be great resources because they can provide insight and ideas that may not have occurred to you. Once you have a list, they can also help you narrow it down to a handful of colleges that you can visit.

Time to Get Moving on Early Decision Reply

DecisionIf you are a high school junior or senior that is planning on applying for early decision, then you are a student who knows exactly what your first school choice is. It also means that you have to be on top of all of the various deadlines you will need to meet in order to successfully apply for early decision. You can only submit an early decision application to one school. This is because your application is binding. By applying, you are committing to attending this college if you are admitted. You may perhaps have some other schools that you are applying for, but these schools are really second choices. You know for certain where you want to go to college and why. You’ve done your research. Here are some items to consider about early decision:

SAT and ACT: Something for juniors to consider:

  • If you are considering completing and early decision application for a school, then you will want to make certain that you have completed your SAT or ACT test by October of your junior year. This ensures that your test results will be available when you are sending in your college application. If you take the test any later, there is a high probability that your test scores will not be ready and you will not be able to complete your early decision application.
  • It may be a good idea to take the test even sooner than October however, so that you can retake the test if you are not satisfied with the results.

What seniors should be doing now.

  • Obtain information from your prospective college about the early decision process, and obtain an application. While you are preparing to start your new school year, it is important to remember how fast the time goes, and how busy you often get as you acclimate to another year. By starting your application now, you can be proactive and make certain that you obtain everything you need to complete your application.
  • You’ll need letters of recommendation to submit along with your application. If you did not start obtaining these in your junior year, you need to start asking for these. Letters of recommendation can come from teachers, counselors, community leaders who know you, or other references.
  • Get working on scholarship and grant applications. One of the more complicated aspects of early decision is that you will be making a decision on your college before you really know how much financial aid you will receive. Applying to more grants and scholarships now may help insulate you from the unknown.
  • Know your deadlines. Many early decision application deadlines are in November. Some are as early as October. Make sure you are persistent in getting any information you need to complete your application by the deadline.
  • Complete your financial aid applications. If a school offers scholarships directly, make sure you apply for them as you are applying for early decision and that you know the deadlines for financial aid applications, which may be different. Complete the FAFSA in January.

Early decision works well for students who are certain they know their top choice of college. In some cases, applying early may increase your chances for getting into a school. It also saves you stress because you won’t have to wait as long to receive your decision. Still, early decision is not for everyone, be certain to talk with your parents, school counsellors and college admissions people prior to committing to early decision.

The Art of Narrowing Your List of Colleges Reply

Narrowing your college list.

Deciding on a college.

As a high school junior just starting a new school year, it is easy to see your college career as something still far on the horizon. Certainly you are preparing (or have already taken) your SAT or ACT test. You’ve likely begun thinking about what schools you would be interested in attending, and maybe you’ve even visited one or two. Still, the actual idea of graduating high school and starting college can seem far off. It’s really not as far away

as it seems, and your junior year is a great time to do some fine-tuning of your list of colleges. Fine-tuning now can save you stress and frustration later.

If you’ve been doing your research, you may have quite a list. It’s not uncommon for a student to have a list of 10 or more desirable colleges. Now it’s time to narrow that list to something a little more manageable before beginning the application process. Applying to too many schools can be stressful and make a tough decision even tougher. Here are a few things to consider while narrowing your list.

Location

Some students want to stay close to home. Some want to go to specific areas of the country. For some, location isn’t as big of a deal. If location is important to you it’s time to think this through and possibly get rid of colleges that are not in a location you are interested in living.

Specific Degree Programs and Features

Obviously, if you’ve placed a school on your “potential school list,” you’ve chosen a school that offers the degree you want. Now it’s time to research further. Does the school have a good reputation for your specific degree? You may also want to consider special ancillary features each college offers. If you are interested in studying abroad, specific work-study programs or ROTC, you’ll want to narrow your list to colleges that fulfil those needs.

Cost

Let’s face it, one of the major considerations when choosing a college is the tuition and other costs. Determining the net cost of a year of college at a particular institution can be tricky. It’s not just a matter of looking at the tuition cost. On the surface, one school may be more expensive than another, but that school may also offer more grants and scholarships. Depending on your situation, it is conceivable that a more expensive private college could actually be cheaper than a public college with a lower tuition because of a more comprehensive financial aid program.

Composite image of student holding laptopLong Shots vs Sure Things

Depending on your goals, you may wish to apply to some schools that are more difficult to get into. Remember, even if you have great grades, you are not guaranteed admission into a school like Harvard or Yale. If schools like these are on your list, then it’s a good idea to also have some second choices on your short list that meet your goals, but tend to be easier to get into.

Every student is different, so likely there are other considerations to be made when reducing your prospective college list. Take some time now to think it through and narrow your list. This way you can focus your time and effort on applying only to those schools you most want to attend.

Sophomores: Now is the Time to Visit and Tour College Campuses Reply

iStock_000004837175SmallVisiting a college campus is a great way to find out if a college is the right fit for you. With all of the variation in college campuses, student housing, and academic and student life, the only way to experience a college before actually attending is to do a campus tour. Plus, it can be fun to have a road trip with your parents or friends during a summer to hit two birds with one stone. During the summer is usually the best time for high school students, however, in order to get a true feel for how the campus will be during the school year, it might be best to visit during the Fall or Spring semester.

The first thing you need to do when planning out your on-campus visits is to choose a number of universities and state colleges that are close and far from your hometown. How many you want to visit is up to you, but it is important to at least visit the colleges on your top 5 list. Keep in mind that sometimes college tours only take a couple of hours so you can visit 2 or 3 during one day if you schedule in advance. However, some colleges also offer the chance for potential applicants to stay the night with current undergraduates. If you have the time to do this, it is highly recommended. Staying the night in a dormitory is a great way to learn firsthand from students what the college experience will be like.

After you have narrowed down the colleges you want to visit, be sure to call the school’s admissions office so that you can be sure you are visiting during an appropriate time. If you want a tour that is led by someone who knows about the campus, most require that you call at least 2 weeks in advance. However, simply going to the campus and walking around without a guide can be helpful too. Though colleges prefer that you schedule a tour, exploring the campus can often give you a more authentic experience.

If you want to get all of the information possible in one visit it is also a good idea to set up appointments with an academic advisor, financial aid office, a professor in the field you want to major in, and a coach if you are planning on doing college sports. Professionals at the school will typically be willing to meet with you during business hours to help answer your questions and show off their school to get you to attend when you graduate high school. And don’t worry, you don’t have to have everything planned out right away. You still have plenty of time to decide what you want to study and where you want to go. Plus, over 50% of students change their major at least once, so don’t feel bad about trying out different specialties until you find one that you truly enjoy.

10 Body Language Tips for Your College Interview Reply

Having a successful college interview means more than just saying the right things and having a great digital resume, having the right body language is extremely important too. Non-verbal cues can convey a message stronger than your actual words since they can often be unintentional yet express your true meaning. Here is a list of the 10 body language tips for your college interview.

  1. Sit firmly back in seat

Sit up straight

Sitting all the way back and firmly in your seat not only shows that you have great posture, but also that you are confident. It gives a sense that you are comfortable and relaxed and ready to tackle any tough question that might get thrown your way.

  1. Keep feet on the ground

Planted feet shows that you are secure and steady. Since your feet are planted on the ground literally, it can figuratively mean that you practice sound judgement and good common sense, which any college interviewer would look for in a prospective student. Also, it has been scientifically proven that you can respond to questions more creatively and with more complex answers with both feet on the ground.

  1. Make and maintain eye contact – but don’t stare

Maintain eye contact
Making eye contact shows that you are being direct. Maintaining eye contact shows that you are listening and engaged to your interviewer. Even without speaking, proper eye contact shows that you are an active participant in the conversation. However, while you should maintain eye contact, you should not stare. According to Forbes, this can be interpreted as aggressive and even creepy.

  1. Gesture with your hands

It can often feel awkward to hold your hands still while talking, so it’s okay to use your hands to gesture while you speak. It can show that you are passionate about what you are talking about, which would be impressive to any college interviewer. Just be cognizant of your gestures, so don’t point in an aggressive manner.

  1. Palms up means honesty

According to Mashable, putting your palms up conveys honesty and engagement and can actually make the interviewer feel more comfortable. If the interviewer is more comfortable, this can cause you to relax, as well, making for a better and stronger interview.

  1. Nod while listening

Slightly nodding while listening is a great way to send the message that you’re listening, without actually speaking and interrupting your interviewer. Nodding at key moments drives home the fact that you’re engaged. Just remember not to overdo it and nod at every single word your interviewer has to say.

  1. Lean slightly forward

Leaning forward slightly during your interview can show that you’re listening intently. It’s also reducing some of the space between you and the interviewer, which can make things more relaxed and comfortable.

  1. Don’t cross arms

Crossing your arms can seem like a defensive mood, where you can seem off-putting to your interviewer. It’s better to keep your arms at your sides to seem more relaxed and personable. You want to seem open and approachable during your interview.

  1. No hands behind back

Don’t keep your hands behind your back at any point; it can seem as if you have something to hide. Place your hands lightly in your lap while not speaking or gesture with them while talking as cues that you are engaged throughout your interview.

  1. Make sure tone and expression match

You could send mixed signals to your interviewer if you are speaking passionately, while having a deadpan expression on your face. This can signify that you don’t believe what you are saying. Therefore, make sure that both your tone and expression match to convincingly get across what you are saying is exactly what you mean and how you honestly feel.


About Vera Marie Reed

Vera Marie Reed is an ex-elementary school teacher turned freelance writer from Glendale, California. She is now a stay at home mother to her two young daughters and enjoys writing about education and parenting issues. She hopes on day to write and illustrate a series of children’s books. Follow her on Twitter at @VMReed.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

Pay for College, Make Money? Reply

iStock_000004647415XSmallWhile catching up on admissions news over my morning coffee yesterday and putting together our Monday link roundup for this week, I came across an interesting article on CNN Money. The article fascinated me so much that I deliberately left it out of the link roundup, as I wanted to think about it, do a little research, and then talk about it in its own separate post. This is that post, if you haven’t guessed by now. More…

Big Scholarship News – Want $5,000 for College? Reply

Last week, Peterson’s introduced a brand new scholarship search tool that makes it easier than ever to search for and find scholarships that help you cover the cost of higher education. For more information on the search tool itself, check out our introductory post here and experiment with the tool itself here.

Today, we published a couple articles that give a glimpse into the huge number of diverse and interesting scholarships available through the tool. In the first, we focused on some of the more unique scholarships available for activities such as skateboarding and adult students. Check it out! More…

So, About those Common App Glitches… Reply

I’m guessing that most college applicants have heard about – or possibly experienced firsthand – the problems plaguing the Common App online interface recently. If you haven’t here are a couple news stories that should bring you up to speed:

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/10/16/common-application-glitches-block-students-applying

http://money.cnn.com/2013/10/15/pf/college/college-common-application-problems/

More…