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College Planning Resources

We know the volume of information available about applying to college can be overwhelming, so we distilled it down to the information below. We think these are especially helpful resources for starting you on your road to college.

Where should I begin?

First, review this college preparation timeline. It’s from the University of California but the advice is broadly applicable.

Then, learn about the types of colleges. Every college is different, but it usually fits within a general category. Begin your college search by learning about these college groups:

  • Catholic Colleges offer a challenging and supportive learning environment for students.
  • Western public colleges participating in the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) offer tuition reciprocity to California residents.
  • Approximately 1,000 colleges are Test Optional meaning students do not need to submit SAT or ACT scores.
  • 23 colleges make up the California State University (CSU) system. Check out map of CSU campuses.
  • The University of California (UC) system is comprised of nine undergraduate universities. As UC Admissions become more selective, it may be helpful to review the UC admission statistics from the past three years.
  • The Colleges that Change Lives are known for focusing on undergraduate teaching and preparing critical thinking graduates that employers love to hire.
  • Attending a community college for two years and transferring to a four year university is an excellent choice for students, especially now that the first year of community college is FREE!

What are the best resources for researching colleges?

Our go-to online resources for researching colleges are the College Board’s Big Future and College Search on Scoir.

One of the most efficient ways to learn about a college is by reading the Fiske Guide because it sums up everything you need to know in just two pages. Students may borrow copies in the College & Career Center.

How do I get the most out of visiting colleges?

The Director of Admissions at Georgia Tech shares his advice about the questions to ask (repeatedly) while visiting colleges in this short blog post. Key takeaway: asking the same question of many different people associated with the university ensures you get a balanced perspective of the school.

After reading the advice above, use this campus visit checklist to plan your visit from booking the tour to talking with Financial Aid officers.

Next, keep track of each college visit by using this handy college visit scorecard. You’ll thank yourself later when answering the “Why do you want to attend our school?” application essay prompt.

What’s “demonstrated interest” and why does it matter?

You’ve probably heard counselors and college reps refer to “demonstrated interest” but what does that really entail? The College Essay Guy breaks it down and suggests ways to demonstrate your interest to colleges in this helpful 90-second read.

What’s different if I’m an athlete or an artist?

If you’re interested in playing a sport in college, bookmark The Next Student College Athlete blog and read it frequently. The blog’s helpful articles simplify the complicated athletic recruiting process.

Thinking about pursuing a visual or performing arts major? This article from the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) breaks down the first four basic steps.

Amy Hutton, Director of Admissions for the Department of Music at Virginia Commonwealth University shares tips for applying to a performing arts school.

Should I take the SAT or ACT?

Check out this helpful infographic explaining the differences between the SAT and ACT.

Then, if you’re looking for more in depth information about testing, we encourage you to download The Compass Guide to College Admission Testing.

And finally, familiarize yourself with the upcoming SAT and ACT testing dates.

How am I going to pay for college?

Don’t immediately rule out a college or limit your search because of cost. There are many types of financial aid. Often, the price you see advertised, is not the price you will pay. We encourage you to focus on net price, not sticker price.

In this blog post, Mark Kantrowitz, a nationally-recognized expert on student financial aid, scholarships, and student loans does a great job explaining the different options to pay for college from 529 college savings plans to education tax benefits.

Now that you have a better understanding of how financial aid works, we encourage you to complete the Estimated Expected Family Contribution Calculator so you get a realistic idea of what a college may expect your share of the cost to be.

Lastly, create an account on Raise.Me and start earning scholarship money for college today.

How can I make the most of my summer?

Spend the summer between junior and senior year exploring your intellectual and personal passions. Applications for summer programs open as early as December of junior year. We posted information about several options on Schoology > Class of 2020 > Resources > Summer Enrichment Opportunities.

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