Why should I think about college?
A higher education gives you more choices in life. Whether you take a degree program or short-term training, your education is an investment. It will pay off financially, and by improving your skills, talents and abilities, it will give you more options. Pursuing further education after high school is one of the best decisions you'll ever make!
Here are some facts to consider:
- People who stay in school longer earn higher salaries. In 2008, those without a high school degree had median weekly earnings of $426. High school graduates made $591 in a week. Those holding an associate's degree averaged $736 weekly. People with a bachelor's degree earned $978. People holding a master's degree earned an average of $1,228. Doctorates averaged $1,555 weekly, and those with a professional degree earned $1,522 in a week. Those figures come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- A higher education helps you keep up with inflation and the rising cost of living. Only family incomes of those with five or more years of college outpaced inflation.
- People with higher education are more likely to stay employed. The unemployment rate is higher for high school graduates, compared to those with higher education.
- A higher education means greater employability. Recent studies have shown that 80 percent of jobs required some kind of training after high school.
When should I start thinking about college?
Start thinking about college in junior high or middle school. If you decide early on to pursue a college education, you'll be able to plan your high school courses to help reach your goals.
Use Your Plan of Study to plan your high school courses and prepare for college.
Take charge now! The decisions you make in high school can influence the colleges and programs you get into. The cumulative GPA, used for college admissions, includes freshman through senior years of high school.
But it's never too late to start thinking about college! If you decide on college as late as 12th grade, there are options available. Talk to your high school counselor.
What should I study in college?
There are lots of options out there, and the choices can be overwhelming. Explore Programs and Majors to see what's offered, and find out what interests you. You can also Learn About Yourself -- your unique interests, skills and abilities. Then Explore Careers that match your skills and interests.
You can also talk to people who work in a field you find interesting. Most would likely be happy to share their stories, and offer advice.
While it may not be necessary to decide on a career path right away, you can at least narrow down your choices, to guide your path through high school.
Other tests and programs exist to help you decide on a career path. Talk to your high school counselor.
What high school courses do I need to get into college?
Use Your Plan of Study to plan your high school courses and prepare for college. Follow pathways and careers that interest you!
Most colleges require at least three -- and preferably four-- years of study in English, math, science and social studies.
Many colleges also require at least two years of the same foreign language. Activities requiring time and study outside the classroom, like debate, band and drama, show colleges that you're willing to put in an extra effort and work with others.
Grades are an important factor in college admissions. However, the difficulty of your coursework is also a significant consideration. Typically, colleges prefer students who achieve average grades in tougher courses to those who opt for an "easy A."
A course in computer science is helpful, but not required. Computer skills come in handy when doing research or preparing projects in college.
What else improves my chances of being accepted?
Class rank -- Some colleges and universities consider where your grades stand in relation to your peers. Standardized tests -- Scores on standardized tests, such as the ACT and SAT, may be criteria for admission to some colleges and universities, in addition to coursework, grades and class rank. Test prep gives you a head start on the ACT or the SAT. Practice the tests and boost your test-taking confidence before you take the real tests!
College credits earned in high school -- Many high school students are eligible to gain college credit. Advanced placement, concurrent enrollment and early college are ways for high school students to gain college credit early and save on tuition costs. Talk to your high school counselor about your options.
You must score 3 or higher on Advanced Placement (AP) exams to receive college credit.
With early college, you can be enrolled in both high school and your local college or university. The courses you take will fulfill your high school graduation requirements, and allow you to work toward your college degree.
Concurrent enrollment courses may be taught in a high school or on a college or university campus, and are approved for college credit by some colleges.
What are standardized tests?
There are three exams associated with college admissions: the ACT, PSAT and SAT. Typically, community colleges do not require standardized tests for admission. However, they administer placement exams, to sort students into the appropriate writing and math classes.
College students planning to go on to business, law, medical or graduate school will need to prepare for and take additional exams, beyond the ACT, PSAT or SAT. Talk to your high school counselor, or the college you plan to attend, to find out what tests you may be required to take. Use test prep to practice the ACT and SAT. Familiarize yourself with the content, improve areas of weakness before you take the actual test, and boost your test-taking confidence!
You can also talk to your high school counselor, contact the testing agencies, or visit your local bookstore to find samples of past tests.
ACT -- The American College Test is one standardized admissions test used by colleges. The test measures your achievement in English, math, reading and science. Scores on each section are averaged to give you a composite score. A perfect score is 36. Use the High School Planning Timeline to check important dates, like when to register and when to take the test. You can also contact your high school counselor for test dates, locations and study materials. Or call the ACT information line at: 319-337-1000.
PSAT -- The Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test is a two-part exam similar to the SAT. The test includes two 25-minute verbal sections, two 25-minute math sections and one 30-minute writing skills section. Most students take the PSAT during the fall of their junior year of high school. Others take it during their sophomore year. PSAT scores determine National Merit Scholars -- students who qualify for merit-based scholarships. These scholarships are distributed through the United States. Talk to your high school counselor for more information, or call the PSAT information line at: 609-771-7070.
SAT -- The SAT is one of two standardized admissions tests used by colleges. The SAT is a three-hour and 45 minute exam measuring critical reading, math, and writing skills. Scores for each section range from 200 to 800 points. Use the High School Planning Timeline to check important dates like when to register and when to take the test. You can also contact your high school counselor for test dates, locations and study guides. Or contact the Educational Testing Service.
Should I take both the ACT and SAT?
Some students choose to take both tests, and some find that they perform better on one than the other. Ask your high school counselor or an admissions officer at the college or university you plan to attend about which test to take, and whether you should take them both. Colleges must receive all scores before admissions and scholarship deadlines.
What if I don't know where I want my scores sent?
You can send your ACT and SAT scores to several colleges, as well as scholarship programs. Even if you're not sure whether you'll attend a particular college, send them your scores. And if you decide on a college or university at a later date, you can pay to send another report.
Can I take the test a second time, if I get a terrible score?
Yes, you're allowed to take the ACT and SAT several times. Many students take the tests in their junior year, and then again in their senior year. You may see your scores improve, though there is no guarantee. To improve your scores, take some time to prepare. Use test prep to practice the ACT and SAT, improve areas of weakness and boost your test-taking confidence. Talk to your high school counselor before retaking a test.
When should I apply?
Each college's application deadlines are different. Contact the college you plan to attend for its deadlines.
What if I miss the initial filing period?
Most colleges accept applications after the initial filing period. However, some programs fill up quickly. Contact an admissions counselor at the college you plan to attend for details.
Should I let the college know that I will be attending?
Your admission letter should tell you what to do. Some colleges require a letter of intent from interested parties and give you a response deadline. A fee may or may not be required. Be courteous -- if you've received more than one acceptance, send a letter to the other college(s) to let them know you will not be attending.
What is selective service registration?
In the United States, the federal Military Selective Act requires most males to register with the Selective Service System within 30 days of their 18th birthday. Most males between 18 and 25 must register. Males born after Dec. 31, 1959, may need to submit a statement of compliance with the Act and regulations to receive grants, loans or work assistance under specified provisions of federal law.
You can pick up a Selective Service registration form at any U.S. post office. Many high schools appoint a staff member or teacher as a Selective Service Registrar, so check with your high school.
Also, if you're applying for financial aid, you can ask that information provided on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) be used to register you with the Selective Service.
Find out more about the Selective Service at http://www.sss.gov, and start the registration process online.
What are the admission requirements for the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP)?
The EOP offers academic, financial and other support to low-income students who are educationally disadvantaged. Specific requirements for eligibility vary from state to state, but most students must prove that they are a resident of the state in which they're applying, and meet low-income criteria.
How is my residency classification determined when attending state colleges?
Each state college must determine the residence status of all new and returning students. Non-residents pay non-resident tuition, which is higher than in-state tuition, and meet other conditions.
To be eligible for resident classification within a state, you must have established and maintained permanent residence in the state for a certain period of time before the residence determination date. (This could be one or two years, depending on the state.) You may also be required to complete a certain number of semester hours as a non-resident student.
Contact your college's admissions office for information about your state.
Can I apply to more than one college?
College Planning makes applying to multiple schools easy -- apply to college and track your applications. Remember, you'll need to pay an application fee for each application you submit.
Where do I send my application?
If you're using College Planning, your online applications will be sent directly to your chosen school(s). Apply to college and track your applications. Paper admissions should be sent to the admissions office of the college(s) to which you're applying.
How much does an application cost?
You must pay an application fee for each college application you submit. Fees are non-refundable, and vary from college to college.
When will the campus contact me after I've submitted my application?
The campus should notify you within a few weeks that your application has been received. If the college is unable to process your application, it will contact you as soon as possible.
When will I know whether I've been admitted?
Colleges have different timelines for notifying students of admissions. Some campuses will give you a decision soon after receiving your application. Others wait to notify students at the same time. You may have to wait several months before you receive a decision in the mail.
How do I get more information about a college or university?
Explore Schools to learn more about different colleges and universities, including school size, tuition and student life. You can even Compare Schools side by side, to see how they measure up! The site also lists school contact information, so you can ask any further questions.
Best of all, visit the campus yourself for a campus tour.
How can I find out about financial aid?
Read the Financial Aid Q and A's for more information. To apply for federal aid, you must complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). You can complete the FAFSA online.
Find Scholarships and use the Financial Aid Calculators to determine your costs.
Using the Financial Aid Wizard, you can build your own financial aid package online. In seven easy steps, the wizard helps you calculate all your expenses for any college you're interested in. It walks you through scholarship searches, provides deadlines for financial aid applications, and even helps you interpret your financial aid award letters.
Also, contact the financial aid office of the college you plan to attend to find out about financial aid opportunities.