American College Test (ACT) - This college readiness assessment is a standardized test for high school achievement and college admissions.
CollegeBoard - Manage the college search, college planning, testing and more.
FAFSA - The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is for students interested in financial aid for college.
FairTest - An alternative to standardized tests.
Naviance - Family Connection allows you to manage the college search process.
NCAA Clearinghouse - For student-athletes who wish to compete in college.
Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) - Required for students whose primary language is not English.
The Common Application - Apply to many schools in one location.
The Ten Golden Rules of a Good College Search
- Be your own person, trust your instincts, and do not compare your college search to anyone else’s. You are a unique individual with your own special combination of interests, abilities and personal goals. Recognize that your educational path can and should be different from your peers. This is all about YOU!
- Keep an open mind about what constitutes a “good” college, and do the self-evaluation and research necessary to make an INFORMED decision next spring.
- Commit to learning as much as you can about the schools that interest you and make every effort to visit the colleges you intend to pursue. It is very difficult to judge a school fairly if you have never set foot on the campus or talked to current students.
- Do not let arbitrary “rankings” influence your choice of colleges. While there are some reliable sources that may help you pinpoint specific program strengths, almost every college and university has strengths and weaknesses despite their overall reputation for excellence.
- Do not equate popularity and selectivity with academic quality. Just because a college may be extremely difficult to get into does not mean it offers the program and environment that is best for you. Conversely, there are many less well-known gems that have a tremendous reputation for educational quality but are able to admit a higher percentage of students. Remember that education is supposed to be about ACCESS, not about how many students are turned away.
- Do not stereotype any college or groups of schools and make choices based upon them. Keep in mind that the “Ivy League” refers to an athletic conference, that “Catholic” colleges admit students from a wide variety of religious backgrounds, that many all-women’s colleges have affiliations with nearby co-ed schools and a strong engineering/business/pre-law/pre-med program can be found at many liberal arts schools. The colleges are as unique as the students who go there.
- Understand that there will likely be some disappointments in the course of your college search. While our objective is to help you craft a balanced college list that includes several schools where our best information indicates you are likely to be admitted, there is not always a perfect relationship between merit and admission. A college or university may have unpublicized institutional goals such as geographic diversity, departmental priorities, gender balance, etc. over which you have NO CONTROL.
- NEVER equate a college decision with your sense of self-worth. It is NOT a referendum on your achievements or potential…no college can predict how your special gifts will unfold as you grow into a young adult. As one of my favorite college admission officer advises, “PERSONALIZE the application process but DEPERSONALIZE the decision.” Smith College waitlisted Meryl Streep…enough said!
- Have an honest discussion with your parents about how you will finance your college education and how a college’s affordability will factor into your choice of school. If you reside in a state with a good public university system, it is NEVER a bad idea to consider applying there. Many state universities also offer honors programs or colleges which can make a large institution feel much more manageable.
- Encourage and support one another during this final phase of your high school career, and try to make every moment count. Work to the best of your ability, celebrate your successes, treasure your friendships and be grateful for the tremendous educational opportunities you have had. Never forget that a single random act of kindness can make a huge difference in someone’s life, and never miss an opportunity to say thank-you.