College Is Worth it, but How Do I Pay for it?

The debate that examines whether going to college is worth it has been around since higher education was founded, continues today, and will undoubtedly continue through the foreseeable future. Of course opinions on this topic vary, and valuable points are often made on both sides. The true discussion, though, centers around the cost of going to college and whether you (and your family) can afford it.

Not sure if college is worth it? Read this article from the Wall Street Journal for an economic/investment perspective

Okay, college may be worth it, but is it possible to graduate debt free? Here’s one account of how possible it is (here’s a hint – don’t simply accept that taking out loans and extremely large debt after four years is inevitable).





In-State or Out-of-State?

One of the biggest questions prospective students ask themselves is whether to stay near home or apply to schools out-of-state.

How do you decide?

Of course, this is a very personal decision that can involve a large number of variables, but the sooner you start seriously thinking about it the better off you’ll be.  Here are just a few examples of things you might consider:

  • Do you want to know lots of students at your institution, or do you want to reinvent yourself?
  • Is being able to get home easily over the weekend important?
  • What’s the cost difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition?

See what trends are happening in California – which California schools have the highest rate of in-state students, which have the lowest, and most importantly, does that matter to you?!



The 2013-2014 Common App… It’s Here!

The Common Application for those applying in 2013-2014 has been released, including new essay prompts a some other slight changes.

If you are applying in the 2013-2014 time period, this means it’s time to set up a new account.

The Common Application says: Accounts created before 8/1 no longer exist so password reset won’t work. Visit the Common Application’s website to sign up and start working through its six sections!






Which is better: the ACT or the SAT?

Which is better: the ACT or the SAT?

The answer to that question (of course) is that it depends. The folks over at CBS have some advice on which category you may fall into, however.

From the blog:

Teenagers who earn high ACT scores are more likely to:

  • Possess a strong memory.
  • Be fast readers.
  • Process information swiftly.

Teenagers who earn high SAT scores are more likely to:

  • Possess a strong vocabulary.
  • Be a strong reader.
  • Enjoy test-taking strategies.

As a test prep tutor, I tend to favor the ACT. Why? Because I believe it is more coachable.  The ACT mirrors actual classwork a bit more closely, but it requires a quicker pace. The ACT mirrors more of an AP exam, and has more difficult-to-see traps and tricks. If a student likes that sort of challenge, the SAT is great! But if a student just wants to get a decent score with the least amount of work, the ACT is the right test to take.

The only real way to know which one to take is to take a full length practice exam of each. Both the SAT and ACT have a single test available for free, available here (SAT) and here (ACT). See which one you like more. Unless there’s a huge score difference (and there likely isn’t going to be one), take the one you like the best. You’ll do better just because you’re more comfortable.


Transferring Colleges? Some Accept More Transfers Than Others

If you’ve started school and found—for whatever reason—your college or university of choice is not the right fit; don’t fret. Thousands of students transfer to different schools each year.

But some schools are much more likely to accept transfers than others, according to a report released last week by U.S. News & World report, which tracks college rankings.

And the proportion of students who do transfer at least once during their college experience is as high as one in three according to the report.

The largest number of transfer students ended up in California, Florida and Texas, with some California schools receiving high rankings for the percentage of transfers accepted in 2011, the last year tracked by U.S. News.

California state college Sacramento accepted nearly 87% of its transfer applicants that year. Arizona State had the greatest number of incoming transfers, at more than 6,700.

Are you considering transferring? Check out the full list of most transferred-to schools at U.S. News & World.


Your Fall Test Scores

Your Fall Test Scores

As summer is winding down and summer reading, college applications and essays are all starting to weigh on your mind, it’s time to also consider when or if you’ll be taking the fall SATs or ACTs.

Among the advice for Seniors shared by CollegeView, “57 percent of students improve their ACT score on the second attempt,” although they also caution that “test prep—and test taking itself—can distract you from completing applications and maintaining those crucial senior-year grades that many colleges will begin requesting in January.”

Another thing to keep in mind is if the repeated attempts will negatively impact your application. If you are taking the ACT, the colleges and universities you apply to will never know how many times you’ve taken it, whether it was just once or their max of 12 times. This means you have little to lose (other than precious time) by taking it again.

However, if you are taking the SAT, this can be quite a different discussion altogether. Many schools still refuse the ScoreChoice option, so taking it again and scoring lower could impact your chances at a school. Of course if you score higher, it would only help. But there is also the likelihood of your score staying the same, or even dropping a little, in which case it might be best to focus your energies on other ways to improve your application.


Tip File: Starting your college essay

Because your personal statement is a major opportunity to come alive on the page for the collage admissions officer reading your application, drawing the reader in from the first sentence is essential.

That’s where your “lead” comes in.

Read your first sentence to yourself. Does it tell a story? Does it say something strong about who you are? Most importantly: is it possible or likely that someone else could be starting his or her essay in the same way?

If the answer to that last question is yes, scrap your first sentence and start again. Make sure your first sentence isn’t one that has been done before. You only have one chance to hook the reader. Use it to your full advantage!


Common App Introduces New Word Counts for 2013-2014

In addition to new essay prompts, the Common Application this year has introduced new word count maximums for its personal statement essay.

Up from the previous word count of 500 words, the new essay will require a 250-word minimum and 650-word maximum, and they promise to be enforced strictly.

Writes College View’s Lisa Mader:

“Essays now carry a 250-word minimum and a 650-word maximum, an increase of 500 from last year. Additionally, where in the past students would aim for somewhere around 500 words, the 650-word maximum is now enforced. The essay box will keep a running tally and cut off at the maximum. As a result, word choice and concision will be essential.”

Have you started your personal statement for your applications due in Fall 2013? The new prompts will go into effect in August. Check out the prompts.


US News: 8 Strategies to Launch your College Application into Full Gear

It’s almost July. Have you started your college search yet? Whether you are still in the process of narrowing down your list of potential schools or if you have honed in on the “short list,” there are several tips and tools that can help your application process move swiftly and smoothly—rather than turn into a race against the clock.

Writing for U.S. News and World Report, college admissions veteran Peter Van Buskirk this week lists his 8 strategies for starting the process. From visiting campuses to starting a resume and researching financial aid, Van Buskirk hones in on what best to do this summer as students gear up for fall deadlines.

Find out how to get started now. View the list.


Admissions Officers on Application Dos and Don’ts

From deadlines to follow ups, the New York Times took a recent survey of college admissions officers to find out what they wish they could tell every applicant. 

Among their tips: Choose wisely and parents need not apply. 

“Put yourself on the mailing list. Contact a current student, alumnus, or admission representative. The more you know about the university and what it offers academically, socially, and financially, the better informed you will be. This also helps you set and manage realistic expectations concerning the university that you ultimately choose,” Linda Sanders-Hawkins, director of admission for Howard University told the Times. 

Read the article for the full list of tips