When is the best time to begin the college search?

The best time to begin your college search is the summer between sophomore and junior year. Tour campuses, explore the internet, talk to family and friends, request information and start making a list of things you want and expect in a school.

What criteria should I use in selecting a college?

College major needs to drive your search. Other considerations include academic reputation, cost, size, location, extracurricular activities, student demographics, access to transportation, shopping and entertainment, faculty research interests, and graduate school or job placement statistics.

How should a junior in high school best select a college major that’s right for them?

Most students start with careers, and the educational and licensure requirements and select that as their major. Others who are unsure of final careers use personality surveys to match personality type to potential. Often students pick majors based on subjects that they did well in high school. All these strategies are good starting points.

The cost of college is frightening. What are some ways to offset cost and keep from drowning in debt after graduation?

If budgets are limited it is best to stay in state and apply to public colleges. Although grants and awards are smaller than some private colleges, overall costs are typically thousands less. However, if you go out of state to public or private colleges the costs will escalate.  If your GPA and SAT/ACT scores are in the top 10% of the colleges freshmen profile you can expect to receive some grants or scholarships  at many private institutions. Out of state public colleges will have limited dollars for out of state students. Be sure to complete all financial aid applications (FAFSA, CSS Profile and specific college scholarship forms). These  represent the majority of your aid opportunities. Private scholarships are another path to explore, however, they represent a much smaller financial source of funds. Work-study programs and governmental loans are other areas of funding.

If candidates have similar GPA’s and standardized test scores how do the most selective schools make their decisions?

Strength of curriculum and the college essay are the two major differentiators, however awards, extracurricular leadership and teacher and counselor recommendations do influence the final decision.

How many schools do I need to apply to in order to insure I can matriculate in September?

The median number of applications in 2010 was six. However, more importantly you need to have a balance in the admission competitiveness of the colleges on your list. Be sure to have a blend of reach (most competitive), target and safety colleges. This will insure acceptance at a college that you would enjoy attending.

Are college interviews important? Do they enhance you chances for admission?

Some private colleges require interviews as part of their application process. Therefore, if they are required it is considered important for admission. Many other colleges will offer alumni or undergraduate interviews. These can be useful for the student to ask questions and learn more about the school. These will have less impact on the admissions committee, however, you must always represent yourself well with all collegiate contacts. Bring a resume, school profile and questions to the interview. Also prepare a response to the question ”Tell me a little about yourself”? Response should be 30-45 seconds and give a solid overview of your academic, social and career interests in attending thei schools.

Can I send my applications in by mail or am I required to send them electronically?

80% of applications were sent to colleges electronically (2010). Use of the Common Application has increased the number of online applications each year over the past four years. The majority of colleges, however, will accept applications by mail.

What is the most important thing a high school student should do before picking their final choice college?

Visit, sit in on a class, and stay over for a weekend to be sure your final choice is a perfect fit. Have a conversation with the financial aid officer to get a final estimated family contribution (EFT) number to establish your first year cost. Also ask questions about financial expectations for years 2-4.