25 Tips for Picking the College of Your Dreams

With our son Cameron now in high school.college is the bright light at the end of the tunnel. He is still undecided about a which career he is interested in. It changes almost daily, yesterday he hit me with the news he is interested in becoming an Industrial Arts Teacher. Time will soon tell.  I recently found this great article online by Lynn O’Shaughnessy of CBS’s Money Watch.  She offers these great 25 tips for making the right choice for the four year school of your dreams:

  1. Don’t eliminate any colleges from your list just because of its price tag. Published prices are meaningless.
  2. Never assume that you must pay full price for college — two-thirds of students don’t.
  3. If you are affluent, look for schools that provide merit scholarships to rich students. Nearly all schools do.
  4. Use a college’s net price calculator to get a personalized estimate of what that school will cost your family.
  5. Don’t assume that only “A” students earn merit scholarships. At private schools, 85 percent of freshmen have earned grants and scholarships from their institutions.
  6. Encourage your child to take college-prep classes and earn good grades. Those are the two admission factors that schools typically value the most.
  7. Teenagers will increase their chances of getting accepted to a school and winning a merit scholarship if they look at colleges outside their region.
  8. Use an Expected Family Contribution calculator to determine the minimum amount you will have to pay for one year of college.
  9. Don’t automatically assume that a student won’t qualify for financial aid.
  10. If you are seeking financial aid, look for generous colleges that provide mostly need-based grants rather than loans.
  11. Double check financial aid applications for mistakes.
  12. If you’re disappointed with a financial aid offer, you can negotiate. But be nice when you try this approach.
  13. Don’t get hung up on college rankings. US News & World Report’s rankings are terribly flawed.
  14. When visiting schools, use the list of questions assembled by the National Survey for Student Engagement.
  15. Don’t stress out about getting into college. Three out of four freshman get into their No. 1 choice.
  16. If your child does poorly on the SAT or ACT exams, consider applying to test-optional schools. You’ll find the list of roughly 850 schools at FairTest.org.
  17. Look for schools that have high four-year graduation rates. You don’t want your child stuck in college for five or six years.
  18. It’s easier to get regional or local private scholarships than the ones with national reputations.
  19. Check out what other students are saying about individual schools at Unigo and College Prowler.
  20. If you’re still saving for college, avoid expensive 529 plans and stick with low-cost plans that you can buy directly.
  21. When borrowing for college, pick federal student loans first.
  22. If you must borrow through private loans, check out college loans offered by credit unions.
  23. Research potential majors before shopping for schools.
  24. Never assume that an academic department is strong just because the school’s overall reputation is sterling.
  25. Consider looking beyond brand names to find hidden college gems

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