In Part One of our Roadmap to College series, we mentioned that getting an early start on college admission planning is a good idea. Sophomore year of high school is not too soon to begin thinking about your future college career. While we recommend beginning your research in 10th grade in order to cut down on stress, this is an ongoing process that will continue until your college applications are submitted in your senior year. Starting early allows time for “course corrections” if you hit unexpected roadblocks.
Our last article presented an optimized standardized testing and test prep schedule. However, testing alone doesn’t get you that acceptance letter! Here are a few guidelines to help you be productive in between preparing for the PSAT, SAT, and/or ACT.
- Start gathering college information. Before you start anticipating what schools will accept you, it makes sense to decide which of them meets your standards. To make an informed decision, you need data—the more, the better.
- The University of Pennsylvania is an Ivy League school. However, for a physics or astronomy major the University of Arizona (listed in U.S. News and World Report’s top ten schools for space science) might make more sense. Are there certain professors you are interested in working with?
- Do you want to travel or stay local?
- Are you looking for a busy city campus or a more secluded location?
- Look at college websites. Collect catalogs. Read informational articles. Check out college guides such as the Fiske Guide.
- Attend college fairs. This is almost a subcategory of the above recommendation. In addition to gleaning information from the internet and highlighting features in catalogs, get out and meet some people who can answer your questions. You don’t necessarily have to travel. Did you know that over 400 schools were represented at the Philadelphia National College Fair this past October?
- Research financial aid information. The average tuition for a four year college—a “moderate college budget”—can be anywhere between $25,000 and $50,000. Maximizing your financial aid package is a crucial part of managing educational costs. Mom and Dad may be shouldering a lot of the weight on this one (providing financial information and filling out forms, for example). However, you can help by researching scholarships and knowing each college’s policies. Do you know the difference between needs-blind and needs-aware admissions, for example? Have you looked at the cost difference between commuting and living on campus? Does your major fall into a scholarship-rich category like STEM?
Planning ahead for your academic future means that you can take time to fully investigate opportunities that interest you. It means you can consider important decisions without feeling rushed or under pressure. The time you devote to researching colleges is an investment in your future.
At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, our focus is always on you. Our practices are based on the latest developments in educational theory and research. We have an excellent team of tutors who can help you with standardized testing, executive functioning, or achievement in any other school subject. If you would like more information, our Client Service Directors Anne Stanley and Susan Ware are available to answer questions and provide solutions. You may reach either of them by calling A+ Test Prep and Tutoring at 215-886-9188.