Picking the right college to attend is a mind-boggling process of elimination. But there are thousands of schools to research, meaning that process could take forever if you don’t focus your search. Fortunately there are a lot of resources out there designed to help you. Below are some of the best:
1. College Board. A nonprofit that focuses on education, you might already be familiar with the College Board thanks to standardized exams such as the SATs. But this organization also provides a nifty college search tool that allows you to narrow down your choices according to distinct categories such as learning environment and popular activities.
2. College Navigator. Run by the U.S. Department of Education, College Navigator is an official resource that’s also pretty reliable, providing exhaustive information from enrollment data, net price, and even campus security statistics.
3. Princeton Review. Every guidance office has a copy of their college rankings for reason: they’re pretty accurate, as well as comprehensive. They also offer insider’s admissions advice, meaning they have your best interests in mind.
4. US News. To determine their rankings, U.S. News and World Report weighs the opinions of others. What does that mean, exactly? They ask universities to rank each other in the hopes of creating a fair list so that you can search for the best college without being duped.
5. Forbes. Renowned for their financial prowess, Forbes ranks colleges according their students’ career prospects, graduation rates, and levels of debt. What does that mean for you? You should search for colleges through Forbes if you want to keep your wallet happy.
A bit of advice: while college search engines are handy tools, you shouldn’t take them as gospel. While they shed a little light on all the college options that are available, they don’t tell the whole story. To get a better picture, visit campuses, seek advice from counselors, try to connect with alumni, and keep your options open.
If you like throwing around a football more than life itself, then that’s great, but it’s time to get down to the brass tax: if you’re banking on an athletic scholarship to pay for your education, it might be time to admit that there aren’t enough for everyone. According to The College Solution, the odds of getting an athletic scholarship are as low as 2%, and the average scholarship amount is only $11,000. That doesn’t mean you have to give up on your reveries of a field of dreams, but you might want to consider the following:
- Pursue merit scholarships. What’s much more common and potentially bigger than an athletic scholarship? A merit scholarship, which free money that you get if you perform as well in class as you do on the field.
- Intramurals. Even if you go to a school that isn’t particularly regarded for its sports, you’ll still likely have plenty of opportunities to play. For instance, nearly every school boasts extremely active intramural programs, meaning you can keep playing the sport you love, no sweat.
- College is a big place. At college, sports aren’t the only game in town, as there are so many activities available that your head is guaranteed to spin when you have to decide which clubs you want to join and which extracurriculars you want to participate in. Not playing sports in college isn’t the end of the world. After all, you’re there to get an education.
With so many majors to choose from, picking what you study is harder than picking what you wear. Fortunately we’re here to offer a little guidance:
1. Try a little of everything. The beauty of not knowing what your major should be is that you can sample everything: music, history, math, English, whatever. Think of them as appetizers to your eventual main dish. Just make sure these classes cover some of your general requirements.
2. Seek advice. Before you rush into making a choice, talk to your academic advisor, other professors, your parents, and peers. Take their suggestions into account and make a mental chart of the pros and cons of each plan. Just ask Isaac Newton, who said he was successful because he stood on the shoulders of giants, listening to those who came before him. Or don’t ask Isaac Newton. Obviously.
3. Choose what you love. If you still can’t make a decision, think about what you love. Do you spend a lot of time listening to or playing music? Is your nose always in a book? Get a thrill out of crunching numbers? Trust your gut, follow your passion, and you won’t make the wrong choice.
4. Think about what you want to do after you graduate. Because let’s face it: college is supposed to prepare you for a job. Think about your field of study. Then think about what kind of jobs it might prepare you for. If none of those jobs are something you’d want to make a career out of, then you’re studying the wrong thing.
First: an application. Second: an interview. Sound a little like job hunting? It does, but it’s also a common application procedure many students have to endure if they want to get admitted into college. If you’re one of those students, here are five tips to help you survive:
1. Research. While your interviewer might ask general questions, it’s your job to get specific. Before your interview, research the school as well as you can, and think about how you can tailor your answers. Does the school you’re looking at have a certain class you’d love to take? Does it have a major that suits you? Does it have a club or activity that you want to be a part of? Talk about these things, and demonstrate how much you belong at that specific school.
2. Dress the part. Like any interview, take it seriously. That means dressing professionally. If any part of you is worried that you’re dressed too casually then you probably are.
3. Ask questions. There are few better ways to show your interest than to ask questions of your interviewer. Ask about the life and environment of the school, not just the usual inquiries about class sizes and financial aid. In other words, try to ask questions that aren’t already answered on the school’s website. Showing curiosity will not only give you deeper knowledge of the school, but will make a lasting impression.
4. Use business etiquette. While your interviewer will most likely be friendly, remember that you’re not chatting with a friend; instead, you’re interviewing, so act like it. Shake your interviewer’s hand before and after meeting. Then follow up with a thank you note. A personal touch and a professional demeanor will set you apart from other prospective students.
5. Be yourself. While you should be professional and courteous, you should also be yourself. An interviewer isn’t out to scare or interrogate you, but to make sure that you’re a good fit for the school.
In only a couple of short months you’ll be moving to school and into a dorm room. Packing can be tedious—and of course, expensive—but it’s vital, as you need to bring your life’s essentials with you. So here are ten must-haves, as well as some tips on how to get them cheaper:
1. A surge protector. A good surge protector will guard all of your electronics, and will also serve as an extension cord, allowing you to plug all of your necessities (computer, lamp, phone charger, etc.) into one outlet. To get a quality protector that’s also reasonably priced, shop locally at a supplies store such as Office Depot, Staples, or Walmart and find one that’s on sale.
2. A floor lamp. Your residence hall might provide you with a desk light, but that’s likely not enough to illuminate your whole room. So pick up a floor lamp somewhere like Target or Lowe’s, and make sure it takes energy-saving bulbs so that you spend as little as possible.
3. A good bed set. A quality bed set goes a long way in ensuring you’re comfortable, so invest in one that will last. That way, you won’t have to spend money on bed supplies year after year. And if you sleep well, you won’t have to spend as much on coffee to keep yourself awake when you nod off halfway through your first class of the day.
4. Bed risers/storage boxes. If you’re like most students, your dorm room will be full of things that you can only classify as stuff. Since you need somewhere to put it all, purchase some cheap bed risers and a few plastic storage boxes at a store like Bed Bath & Beyond. You’ll be able to stay organized and neat, which also saves when it comes to state of mind.
5. A laundry bag and detergent. One of the worst aspects of dorm life is laundry. Still, it has to be done. To ensure that it’s done efficiently, pack a laundry bag buy your detergent in bulk—preferably off campus, where it’s probably cheaper.
6. Towels and clothes hangers. Don’t forget the small things such as towels and clothes hangers. Buying these items ahead of time instead of when you’re already moved-in won’t only save you cash, but also a major headache.
7. An Ethernet cable. With wireless technology in vogue, it’s easy to forget that wireless internet connections can sometimes be finicky. To ensure that you can always access the internet at school, pack an Ethernet cable just in case.
8. A first aid kit. While your school has a medical center, it’s best to have bandages and convenient medicine such as aspirin at arm’s length. Again, it’s cheaper to buy supplies ahead of time, as prices will be noticeably higher at the school’s store.
9. A small fan. In most cases, dorm rooms don’t have air conditioning. To beat the heat, bring a small fan that will keep you cool. That way you won’t have to sit in the food court chugging $5 milkshakes.
10. Posters. Not decorating your dorm room would be a crime, but you can still show your personality and sense for décor on a budget. For example, you could grab a stack of magazines and cut out distinctive pictures to make collages, which are perfect and personal decorations.
Of course, talk to your roommate ahead of time about who’s bringing what in order to capitalize both on savings and efficiency. For instance, you probably don’t need two floor lamps in your room, so communicate clearly and divvy up the more expensive items. Pack wisely.