Q: What is the best time to start college planning?
A: Most colleges will have admissions requirements based on high school classes and overall grade point average (GPA). Many will also want a resume of extra-curricular activities throughout high school. When students apply to colleges during their senior year, this means that their 9th through 11th grade classes and grades are the numbers used by colleges. The junior year should be the exploring year for students to consider college options and visiting college campuses.
Q: How should I decide which colleges I should consider?
A: A number of factors may come into play in deciding where to start: area of study, size, location, costs, competitiveness, extra-curricular, etc. Resource material is available with information on colleges at book stores, libraries, and the internet. Also, a good place to start is by taking time to visit nearby colleges that vary in size, cost and programs.
Q: When is the best time to visit colleges?
A: The college visit is essential to get a first-hand look and feel for a school. It is best to visit on a typical day with students on campus: going to classes, eating in the cafeteria, socializing and being able to observe students in classroom settings. The campus tour should include exposure to campus buildings, housing, recreational, sports, music facilities, classrooms and study areas.
Q: I do not have a strong academic record. Are there colleges that would be a possibility for me?
A: Most colleges take a holistic approach to the admissions process. They consider the caliber of classes taken, the extra-curricular activities, recommendations, test scores, the high school, and many ask for a personal statement. In addition to the GPA or class rank, all of these factors are taken into consideration. There are colleges that have open admissions and do not have selective requirements. So yes, there are many possibilities.
Q: I have no idea what I want to study in college. Is it important to have a major selected when applying to colleges?
A: This is a major stress factor for many high school students as they contemplate college. Students are asked by friends, family, extended family and college admissions personnel what they plan to study. As a result, students virtually guess at what they think they should major in without enough experience about the area of study or knowledge of themselves to know if the career fits their personality and talents. The fact is that the vast majority of students who declare a major in high school will end up changing their major several times. The first two years of college open students’ minds to the endless possibilities for them to consider. Most all colleges provide students career classes, career programs and advisers to assist students in discovering their talents as they relate to careers.
Q: I know a college degree is important and I know it is very expensive. I want to go but I don’t want to take out loans that will put me deep in debt. What can I do?
A: Yes, colleges are expensive and they realize the importance of helping students and families find ways of funding their education without going into deep debt. It could be scholarships, grants, work study or low interest loans that are affordable. Applying to a variety of schools will give you a chance to compare offers. Also, colleges can vary greatly in their costs. Certainly, community colleges and state universities offer lower rates and a number of out-of-state schools offer competitive rates. Keep in mind that all colleges will provide a financial aid “package” in March of your senior year with all the costs and aid provided. You then have until May 1st to decide which is the best offer.
Q: I am a pretty good student but I don’t do well on standardized tests like the ACT. Since many colleges put emphasis on the ACT score for acceptance, what can I do?
A: Over 815 four-year colleges and universities across the U.S. act on the belief that “test scores do not equal merit” and do not use the SAT or ACT to make admissions decisions about a substantial number of their incoming freshmen classes. Community Colleges also do not require ACT or SAT scores for acceptance. Also, colleges using the holistic approach may minimize the emphasis of the standardized score.