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If the College Fits...

How to Find the Right School for You

October 4, 2011

If the College Fits...

by Katie Askew

Finding the right college for you may seem daunting but it’s actually easier than ever before. (Thanks, Internet!) For those new to the process, here are a few tips to get you started on your quest to find your perfect school:

The easiest way to find colleges is to let them find you. A major part of a college admissions counselors’ jobs is to recruit prospective students so keep a close eye on your snail mailbox, your email inbox, your phone and even sites like Scholarships.com because you’ll most likely be contacted by a college via one of those paths. (Side note: Create a more professional email address for college communications – the admissions office WILL laugh at your 2hawt2trot@whatever.com address so keep it simple and classy with some variation of your.name@whatever.com.)

Don’t turn away any one type of school just because you think it’s not for you. Generic college brochures and pamphlets you receive in the mail are just that: generic. It’s impossible to get the big picture from a few glossy pages; it takes some personal research to find the parts of the school that pertain to you.

Just because a school was perfect for your parents, best friend or significant other doesn’t mean it’ll be the right fit for you. College Board and Scholarships.com both have great college search tools that allow you to narrow your search based on location, majors, cost, activities and housing. Just pick from your personal list and you’ll get links to colleges’ admissions pages.

Virtual tours are helpful but try to physically visit the schools you’re most interested in. I can’t stress enough that the campus visit can be the most important factor in a student’s decision. Visiting various kinds of schools can help to narrow your search as well; tech schools, public institutions, private institutions, rural colleges, Big 10 universities, Ivy League universities, community colleges, small schools and even beachfront colleges all have something unique to offer and you may not know what that is until you step foot on campus!

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.


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Calculating Your College Choices

by Angela Andaloro

It’s coming up on that time of year where high school seniors and college students are filling out college applications or beginning the transfer process, respectively. It’s a challenging time without a doubt and it doesn’t help that students are bombarded with college advice, statistics and rankings information from countless sources. How do you know what’s legitimate information and what’s not? Here are three factors you should definitely consider before submitting those applications.

Applying to college is a big step, as any of these institutions could be where you spend all or part of your college career. In the end, the most important factor is to pick the schools that you can picture yourself being happy. The decision is ultimately yours – it’s truly the first step in taking your future into your own hands.

Angela Andaloro is a junior at Pace University’s New York City campus, where she is double majoring in communication studies and English. Like most things in New York City, her life and college experience is far from typical – she commutes to school from her home in Flushing and took nearly a semester’s worth of classes online – but she still likes to hang out with friends, go to parties and feed her social networking addiction like your “average” college student.


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Adventures in Visa Acquisition

by Darci Miller

You may think your study abroad experience is going to be all fun and games but in its early stages, I’ve found that it’s anything but. While I know it’ll be more than worth it in the end, it’s a lot to handle: Not only is there paperwork for your home university but sometimes there’s also the added benefit (note the sarcasm) of applying for a visa. Here are some things I’ve learned about the process so far:

Most importantly, though, remember the stress will pay off. In a few months, you’ll be abroad and having the time of your life!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!


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College App Prompts Become Quicker, Quirkier

Schools Encourage More "Tweet Speak" and Video Essays

December 13, 2011

College App Prompts Become Quicker, Quirkier

by Alexis Mattera

As regular admissions deadlines draw closer, high school students are putting the finishing touches on their college application packets and preparing to send their materials off to their schools of choice. As they sit down to write their admissions essays, however, they are increasingly surprised: Traditional essay questions like “Why this school?” and “What is your greatest achievement?” are disappearing in favor of quirkier prompts and quicker responses.

In a recent Chicago Tribune article, both students and educators weighed in on the increased emphasis on brevity (we’re talking responses of 25 words or fewer) and creativity (schools like the University of Dayton, George Mason and Tufts now accept video essays). While some are definitely in favor – "It allows colleges to learn things they may not get from a transcript and a resume," said Katherine Cohen, a college consultant and founder of IvyWise.com – others, like Barmak Nassirian of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, are less than pleased: "It just reinforces that there's some secret code that needs to be cracked to gain admission," he said. Here are just a few of the more interesting prompts seen on college applications during this admissions cycle:

What do you think of this admissions shift? Would you rather write 250 words or 25? What has been the strangest essay prompt you’ve encountered on college application thus far?


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Dealing With Your Admissions Decision

by Kara Coleman

So you’re a high school senior and you’ve just applied early to the school of your dreams. With those decision letters starting to roll in, all sorts of questions are probably running through your mind. What happens if you're accepted, deferred or – horror of horrors – rejected?

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. If you receive a rejection letter, remember that it’s not the end of the world. Politely try to find out why you were denied admission and begin working on improvements. You’ve got a whole semester of high school left to study hard and enroll in challenging courses that show you’re a dedicated student. Don’t give up on your dream school, even if it means you must attend another college first. If you reapply after you have some college classes under your belt, admissions officers will see you are capable of doing college-level work. It’s also a really good idea to apply to more than one college in case you are not accepted into your dream school.

The same principles apply if your admission is deferred until a later date but the good news here is that you still have a shot at being accepted! Most likely, admissions officers just wants to review the entire pool of applicants before they make their decision. What you need to do now is update your resume as you win new awards or enroll in new clubs or activities and have someone write a new letter of recommendation. It will strengthen your chances of getting in!

If you do get accepted to the college of your dreams, don’t relax and get comfortable just yet! Take advantage of any AP or college-level courses available to you during this last semester of your senior year or over the summer. Explore your financial aid options to ensure you can afford to attend – new scholarships are announced every day! It’s also important to establish connections with the college by talking to your adviser and meeting your RA as soon as possible. If you plan on getting involved with student groups or clubs, contact the faculty advisers and let them know you are interested. That way, you will already have an edge your first day on campus!

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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And the Least Indebted Graduates Are...

U.S. News Lists Schools with Lowest Average Debt for 2010 Grads

December 28, 2011

And the Least Indebted Graduates Are...

by Alexis Mattera

If you are a recent college graduate, those student loans you haven’t thought about in four or more years are about to come calling...and collecting. While some students’ debt tallies are quite large, the amounts owed by others are much more manageable.

U.S. News & World Report has reported that the average amount of student loan debt (defined as money loaned to students from colleges, financial institutions and the government, not including parent loans) for a 2010 college graduate was about $25,000 but this number truly varies depending on what school a student calls his or her alma mater: For example, 2010 graduates of Alice Lloyd College have an average total indebtedness of only $3,108 and those from Princeton owe just $4,385, due in large part to more grants, scholarships and work study that do not require repayment. Here are all of the schools that made the top 10 and the average amount of student loan debt 2010 graduates incurred:

Does this information have you reevaluating your college plans or financial aid choices?


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The AP Debate

January 10, 2012

The AP Debate

by Alexis Mattera

Show of hands, students: How many of you have previously taken, are currently enrolled in or are considering signing up for an Advanced Placement course? That's a lot of you...but how many of you chose the AP path because you felt as though you had to in order to remain competitive in the college admissions process? Iiiiiinteresting...

With college hopefuls taking on so many AP classes that they have barely any time for non-academics, some schools in the San Francisco Bay area are pushing for a cap on the number of Advanced Placement courses a student can take or even eliminating them entirely. Though some teachers and administrators feel it would be a welcome change that would allow more freedom in the curriculum, parents and students do not share this mindset: They view any AP limits or bans as disadvantages when college application time rolls around, despite competitive schools like Stanford assuring applicants "We want to be clear that this is not a case of 'whoever has the most APs wins.'" Other educators think the caps are a bad idea, stating that not only will students feel less challenged but that limiting the number of AP classes could result in staffing cuts, as schools offering more APs are able to hire more teachers.

Research does show students who take AP courses do better in college than students who don't but is it worth the stress placed upon students by parents, teachers, colleges and even their peers to take and excel in these courses? Do you think students should be able to decide what their own workload should be if it means the AP credits earned will help them graduate from college early and save thousands on tuition? What side are you on in the AP debate?


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The President on Education

Obama Talks Higher Ed in State of the Union Address

January 25, 2012

The President on Education

by Alexis Mattera

In addition to talk of the economy and spilled milk, President Obama shared his thoughts on higher education during his third State of the Union address last night. On his to-do list: reduce student loan interest rates, extend a tax credit and continue supporting community colleges.

Ideally, the president would prevent the interest rate increase on federal student loans currently set for July, double the amount of federal work-study jobs in the next five years (moves that would cost $5 billion and $1 billion per year, respectively) and make the American Opportunity Tax Credit permanent. Obama praised community colleges as he has in the past for their links to job training and their contributions to keeping college affordable but had some harsher words for other institutions: Colleges that continued to hike tuition were put "on notice" and a document accompanying the speech said the president would propose to shift some federal aid away from colleges that don’t provide good value. "It’s not enough for us to increase student aid," Obama said. "We can’t just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition; we’ll run out of money. States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets. And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down."

Did you watch the State of the Union? What did you think of what President Obama had to say?


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Get a (Residential) Life with NACURH!

by Radha Jhatakia

Do you think your residence hall life is a little dull and in need of help...or so great that other schools could benefit from your programs? Either way, I have the perfect opportunity for you to let your voice be heard and maybe do some traveling. Ever heard of NACURH?

NACURH stands for the National Association of College and University Residence Halls and they are having a conference soon. At these conferences, you gain ideas to host different programs at your college, meet students from a wide array of schools and learn many new things. I personally haven’t been to a NACURH conference yet but I attended a PACURH (Pacific Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls) conference at Washington State University in Pullman this past November and it was an amazing experience!

How do you get involved? I applied in September (the only requirement is that you live in university housing) and was selected as a delegate for San Jose State University. In the weeks leading up to the conference, we had many meetings to guide us through the tasks we had to accomplish and along with learning about new programs, delegates have to submit program ideas of their own – what a great way for you to share your ideas! Also, you have to show your school spirit so if you are proud of the college you attend, you can represent with school gear, chants and different competitions that will gain your delegation some points! The program I created for PACURH helped celebrate multiculturalism and was selected as a top 10 program – I was even able to present my program at the conference twice!

You won’t get many opportunities like this to make a difference and learn something new while having the time of your life! If you’re interested in NACURH or one of its affiliates, ask your residence hall government how you can get involved and start making a difference in residential life on your campus and beyond today!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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10 Most Expensive Public Schools for Out-of-State Students

by Suada Kolovic

For the budget-conscious high school senior, it seems like a no-brainer to apply to the local state school for the best shot at affordable tuition. But with the economy in a slump and funding cuts becoming the norm, public universities across the country are more interested in recruiting out-of-state students. Why? It’s pretty simple: On average, tuition and fees for students crossing state lines is more than double that of their in-state peers. So if you have your sights set on schools beyond your state’s boundaries, check out the 10 most expensive public schools for out-of-state students (figures do not including room and board, books and other miscellaneous costs):

  1. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor: $37, 265
  2. University of Virginia: $36,570
  3. University of California – Irvine: $35,780
  4. University of California – Davis: $35,672
  5. College of William and Mary (VA): $35, 409
  6. University of California – Santa Barbara: $35,386
  7. University of California – Santa Cruz: $35,211
  8. University of California – San Diego: $35,006
  9. University of California – Riverside: $34,729
  10. University of California – Berkeley: $34,645

Did your prospective college make the list and does this information alter your interest in the school? Is it fair for colleges facing financial woes to place the burden on the shoulders of incoming out-of-state students?


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