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Over 1200 major scholarships offered by colleges around the U.S. including full-ride and full-tuition scholarships!

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National Merit Semi-Finalists – Find Major Scholarships

Chalkboard 1National Merit Finalists are the ones who usually get all the glory and the full ride scholarships.  There are not as many major scholarships for National Merit Semi-Finalists.  But that doesn’t mean National Merit Semi-Finalists are overlooked.

If your high school Junior didn’t make it to National Merit Finalist status, but was named a National Merit Semi-Finalist, there are still many good scholarship opportunities available to him or her.  There are small scholarship amounts automatically given to semi-finalists by colleges around the country.  But even better, there are colleges that offer major merit scholarships to National Merit Semi-Finalists.

On my Full Scholarship List, there are 39 scholarships awarded to National Merit Semi-Finalists and most of these are full tuition or better.

According to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, approximately 16,000 students qualify as National Merit Semi-Finalists each year.  For complete details on how the competition works, click on the link above for the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.  About 1.5 million students each year take the PSAT/NMSQT test each year to enter the National Merit Scholarship competition.  That means the top 1% or so of all students taking the test achieve the Semi-Finalist status.  This is no small accomplishment!

National Merit Semi-Finalists will surely be disappointed if they don’t make it to the Finalist level, but they should take at least a moment to celebrate the accomplishment of being among the top 1% of all the test takers.  Then they should go searching for great merit scholarship opportunities.

Among the schools offering full tuition or better to National Merit Semi-Finalists are the following:

  • University of Alabama
  • Harding University
  • University of Maine
  • University of Mississippi

My Full Scholarship List provides details on all 39 opportunities available to National Merit Semi-Finalists, as well as other major scholarship opportunities based on GPA and ACT/SAT scores that Semi-Finalists may also be eligible for.  The majority of major scholarships listed on the Full Scholarship List are automatic or competitive merit scholarships based on GPA and test score qualifications, so students making it to National Merit Semi-Finalist status will qualify for many of these.

In addition to scholarships offered to Semi-Finalists directly by colleges, there are also what the National Merit Scholarship Corporation calls Special Scholarships.  Here is what nationalmerit.org says about those:

Every year some 1,200 National Merit® Program participants, who are outstanding but not Finalists, are awarded Special Scholarships provided by corporations and business organizations. To be considered for a Special Scholarship, students must meet the sponsor’s criteria and the entry requirements of the National Merit Scholarship Program. They also must submit an entry form to the sponsor organization. Subsequently, NMSC contacts a pool of high-scoring candidates through their respective high schools. These students and their school officials submit detailed scholarship applications. NMSC’s professional staff evaluates information about candidates’ abilities, skills, and accomplishments and chooses winners of the sponsor’s Special Scholarships. These scholarships may either be renewable for four years of undergraduate study or one-time awards.

These can be more difficult to find, but your high school counseling office should be able to help.

 

 

Determining Your Senior Year Class Schedule

TextbooksMany high school juniors, preparing to determine their senior year class schedule, are asking, “What classes should I take senior year?”  They are worried about getting the senior year class schedule just right.  Too tough a course load and grades could drop.  Too easy and colleges might not be impressed.  It is a delicate balance because college admissions counselors want to see two things:  1) Great grades, especially in core courses,  2) The most challenging course schedule available.

If I could only provide one piece of advice regarding the senior year class schedule, it would be this – Don’t take your foot off the gas.  Senior year is not a chance to take it easy.  It is more a chance to keep running across the finish line.

Senior Year Class Schedule Considerations for Your Student

  1. Minimum College Requirements –  Make sure you are meeting the minimums for the schools you plan to apply to.  This can be easily found on the college websites under Admissions.  If you are looking at schools that require 4 years of math, make sure you have 4 years of math.  If prospective schools only require 3 years in certain subjects, it is still a good idea to go above and beyond that requirement if you can.
  2. Advanced Placement (AP) Courses – Even if you aren’t confident about passing the AP tests for college credit, AP courses are often considered the most challenging or rigorous courses offered because they are supposed to be taught at a college level and be roughly equivalent to what you would take in the first year of college.  You do need to be realistic though – if you are mediocre in math, you  probably shouldn’t sign up for AP Calculus because you are going to struggle and that will most likely be reflected in your grade.
  3. Honors Courses – An honors class is the best option as long as you are confident about achieving a B or better.  Although colleges would prefer As over Bs, a B in an honors course may look better than an “easy A” in a non-honors class.
  4. Dual-Credit Courses –  Dual credit classes are a great way to earn early college credit.  These are usually considered to be of a greater difficulty than regular high school classes because they are taught at the college level.  You will want to look into whether the colleges you are looking at will accept these courses as transfer credits.  This can vary widely by college and between different states.
  5. Teacher’s Assistants – There are often opportunities for a student to be a teacher’s assistant at his or her school.  I would argue that this will be looked at as a “blow off” class period unless the student is planning to become a teacher.  If you are planning to major in Education in college, a teacher assistant position will most likely be viewed favorably as a chance to shadow or try out a perspective career.
  6. Electives – Try to fit in an elective in an area you may be interested in studying in college.  Electives should always be a lower priority than core classes.  Make sure you have enough high-quality core classes first.
  7. College Competitiveness – What types of colleges are you planning to apply to?  For Ivy League or other top-tier colleges that are very competitive and very selective in their admissions, you will definitely need to show top grades, preferably As, in the most rigorous classes offered by your high school.  If the schools you are looking at are slightly lower on the competitiveness scale, being a well-rounded student will carry more weight and you will have more flexibility to balance your senior year class schedule.  That will give you a little more room to explore electives.
  8. What Fits in Your Schedule – Juggling the needs of a hundred to a thousand seniors is a daunting task for any high school.  Sometimes schedules just don’t work out the way you want them to.  Especially at smaller schools, they may not be able to make everything you want to take fit together into a school day.  In this case, explore other options like online high school or online college classes to supplement your in-school schedule.  Your high school’s counseling office should be able to help you figure this out.

There are no easy answers when it comes to selecting your senior year course schedule and even experts on college admissions disagree as to what extent students should push for the most challenging courses.  There is a great college admissions podcast called, “Getting In.”  In a recent episode, the host, Julie Lythcott-Haims made the statement, “You have the right to enjoy high school.”  She was talking about the topic of what to take senior year and she was advocating for getting some opportunity to explore topics you are interested in and take some enjoyable classes rather than pushing 100% for the hardest classes offered.  I couldn’t agree more.  Above all, you need a balance and you need a realistic schedule so you have time for college applications, scholarship applications and the things you want to participate in senior year.

Finishing the College Search

race
For my oldest daughter, finishing the college search came down to choosing between two schools.  I gave tips on how to do that here: The Final College Choice – Choosing Between Two Colleges. This year, for my middle daughter, finishing the college search was much easier.  She knew where she wanted to go and she had a couple backup schools.  When her acceptance came in, she promptly paid her deposit and signed up for housing.

For many students, finishing the college search is not that easy.  The decision can be agonizing.  Below are a few things to discuss with your student to help him or her think through the final college choice.

Final College Choice Considerations:

  1. Size – A small campus may feel really intimate and less scary when you visit.  How will it feel after 2 or 3 years? Will it feel claustrophobic?  Will it feel like high school?  A small school will offer fewer courses to choose from.  A large school will offer many more courses, but will have much more competition for the spots available.
  2. Majors – Does your student know what he or she wants to major in?  How likely is it that a change of mind will occur?  My oldest daughter went in undeclared.  Had she known that she would choose the major that she ended up choosing, she would have selected a different college.  Although her college offered the major she wanted, it is a small and not very strong program.  Sometimes it makes sense to select a school that has many more majors to choose from.
  3. Location – How far away is the school and how often will your student want to come home?  Will it be difficult for you to visit?  Or does your student need to be far enough away not to be tempted to come home every weekend?
  4. Friendly Faces – Some students want to walk on campus and be anonymous.  Others may benefit from some friendly faces, especially at really large schools.  One thing that really resonated with my middle daughter was when a couple older friends who attend the school she has selected said that they were so glad to know a few people on campus when they started.
  5. Cost – When everything else is pretty much equal between schools, I would argue that your student should select the one with the lowest out-of-pocket cost.  The most expensive college is not necessarily the best.  It’s more important to select a school where there are lots of things to get involved in such as extra-curriculars, research, internships, volunteer opportunities and more.  Hopefully your student can find a school that offers a lot of value for the price paid.
  6. Statistics – You can also look at the final college choice by measuring meaningful statistics such as the 4-year or 6-year graduation rate, the freshman retention rate, the percentage of graduates who find full-time employment within 6 months, and more.  Collegedata.com is a good place to find these statistics.

There are lots of considerations for you and your student when finishing the college search process.  Encourage your student to attend Admitted Student Days to do a final assessment on the schools he or she is considering.  Hopefully one school will stand out ahead of the others and feel like the right choice, all things considered.

Top 8 Ways to Find Affordable Colleges

Roadmap to Cutting College CostsToday’s post is from Michelle Kretzschmar of DIY College Rankings and Debbie Schwartz of Road2College who have created the online course, Roadmap To Cutting College Costs, for parents with kids in 9th, 10th, & 11th grade, to help them start understanding financial aid and ways to cut the cost of college.

 

With the media reporting horror stories of students graduating with over $100,000 in debt and the constant announcements of tuition increases, finding affordable colleges would seem to be an impossible task. Many families have resigned themselves to dipping into retirement funds or talking out private loans to finance college. However, there are affordable colleges if you know where to look.

The following are suggestions on where and how to find affordable colleges. These are guidelines, not rules because there will always be exceptions. But we think these are good places to start.

  1. Colleges that have acceptance rates of 40% or higher.

Why? Simple supply and demand. These are schools don’t have as many students applying so they have to offer more incentives to get students to attend.

  1. Colleges ranked below 50 in the US News Best Colleges national rankings.

Why? Some of these colleges would really like to move up in the rankings and are willing to offer qualified students generous financial aid.

  1. Colleges where the applicant’s test scores put her into the top quarter of the freshman class.

Why? When a student has the credentials to get into more selective or prestigious schools, colleges will offer more merit money to attend.

  1. Colleges not located in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Chicago, San Francisco, or Los Angeles.

Why? Two reasons. First, these are expensive places to live no matter what you’re doing and will be reflected in the college price. Two, colleges not in these locations have to work harder to lure students away from big city lights and are more likely to offer scholarships.

  1. Colleges that take more than a day to drive to.

Why? It’s easy for colleges to get students from “local” areas to attend and apply. If they want to develop a national reputation, they have to offer incentives for students from other parts of the country to attend.

  1. Colleges with less 5,000 full-time undergraduates.

Why? This is just a matter of numbers.  There are 1,168 colleges with 5,000 or fewer undergraduates compared to 418 with more than 5,000. More colleges mean more possibilities for scholarships.

  1. Colleges where less than 40% of the freshman have the same gender as the applicant.

Why? Students prefer attending colleges where the gender balance is roughly equal. Private colleges are more likely to accept a student whose gender is less represented on campus. Think women in engineering schools or men in nursing schools.

  1. Honors programs at public universities.

Why? Some public universities use their honors programs as a way of keeping talented students in-state and attracting talented students from out-of-state. If these universities aren’t highly ranked nationally, they are likely to provide tuition breaks along with a variety of perks for students in their honors programs.

So unless you have an extra $250,000 per child to cover tuition, use one or more the tips described above. And research these suggestions BEFORE letting your student send in any applications. Once your student has finished applying to colleges, they will only receive financial aid offers for that set of schools, so make sure you’ve done your research! To learn more ways of how to cut college costs, where to research, and what data to use sign up for our upcoming course Roadmap To Cutting College Costs – is a great place to start.

 

Michelle Kretzschmar of DIY College Rankings and Debbie Schwartz of Road2College are professionals with a passion for educating parents on college funding and using data to find affordable schools. Michelle has a background in data analytics science and education research with a graduate degree in Education Public Policy from the University of Texas. Debbie previously worked in financial services for investment, credit card, and student loan companies; and has an MBA from MIT Sloan School.

Michelle and Debbie have developed an online course, Roadmap To Cutting College Costs, for parents with kids in 9th, 10th, & 11th grade, to help them start understanding financial aid and ways to cut the cost of college. This course comes with a tool that allows parents to compare, sort and filter colleges using any of the 50 data fields provided. Every week participants will be provided with written lessons, videos, a webinar, handouts, and access to discussion boards. Find further information about this online course here.

Disclaimer:  While I am signed on as an affiliate for Michelle and Debbie’s course and will receive a commission for referrals, I greatly believe in and support the work they are doing to educate parents about college costs and would recommend this course even if I wasn’t an affiliate.

 

 

 

How to Find College Talent Scholarships

If your student is interested in pursuing a talent like music, art, theater, dance or writing in college you may want to search for applicable college talent scholarships that will give your student “free money” to pursue his or her passion.  If your student has a few particular colleges in mind, then it is as easy as going to the colleges’ websites to see what they offer for talent scholarships.  However, if you want to “shop the field” to see what’s out there, it can be a challenge to find talent scholarships.

Similar to academic merit scholarships, the majority of college talent scholarships are going to come from the colleges themselves.

There are private talent scholarships out there, but they are few and far between, reserved for the top talented students.  I’ve included some resources for these below.

Colleges themselves offer a wide variety of talent scholarships to students who want to pursue their talents in college.  The majority of these scholarships are available for students who want to major in art, theater, dance, music or writing.  However, many colleges also offer talent scholarships for students who don’t wish to major in their talent, but do want to stay involved in it while in college.  This could involve clubs or other organizations on campus or participating in campus productions, contributing to campus publications, marching band, and more.

I have researched colleges around the country and have found over 800 talent scholarships offered directly by the colleges, ranging from hundreds of dollars up to full tuition.

The majority of the talent scholarships offered by colleges are thousands of dollars per year.  These will be listed out on a brand new product I am releasing soon.  Sign up for my Weekly Newsletter to be notified when the new list is available.

As I mentioned earlier, there are also private talent scholarships that are open to talented students who will be attending any college.  It is difficult to find talent scholarships on the major scholarship sites.  It can take forever to search for them.  If you want to try this route, I suggest Niche (search by interest) or Scholarships.com.  I have listed some good resources for finding private talent scholarships below.

Resources for Private Talent Scholarships

Scholastic Art & Writing Scholarshipshttp://www.artandwriting.org/the-awards/categories/

Davidson Fellows Scholarships (music)http://www.davidsongifted.org/fellows/

Young Arts Programhttp://www.youngarts.org/

National Federation of Music Clubshttp://www.nfmc-music.org/index.php?src=gendocs&ref=Competition%20%26%20Awards

Educational Theatre Associationhttps://www.schooltheatre.org/programs/ags/scholarships

Glenn Miller Scholarshipshttp://glennmiller.org/scholarship/scholarship-information/

1200 Major Merit Scholarships

money-bag-400301_640For those of us who don’t expect to qualify for need-based aid from colleges and whose college-bound kids are near the top of the class, large merit scholarships are the “holy grail.”  However, it can be difficult to find all the opportunities that are out there.

I recently completed a MAJOR update to my Full Scholarship List, taking it from around 450 major merit scholarships to over 1200 major merit scholarships.

For those of you who have already purchased the Full Scholarship List, please bear with me.  I am just excited to tell others about what the updated list offers.

What the New & Improved Full Scholarship List Provides:

  • Talent Scholarships – I have added Talent scholarships to the list.  Talent scholarships are usually lower dollar amounts, but I found 29 talent scholarships that range up to Full Tuition.  These are for Art, Music and Theatre.
  • Scholarships for National Merit and/or National Achievement Finalists/Semi-Finalists – There are 117 scholarships specifically given to semi-finalists and finalists in these competitions that indicate they will cover up to Full Tuition or even a Full Ride (including room & board).
  • Automatic Scholarships – There are 175 automatic scholarships that indicate they range to Full Tuition or Full Ride.  By automatic, I mean that your student doesn’t need to compete for these.  If he or she applies for admission at the college and meets the merit scholarship qualifications, the scholarship is automatically granted.
  • Competitive Scholarships – 899 scholarships on the list are competitive.  This doesn’t necessary mean your student has to go through a formal competition.  Many of these merit scholarships just involve a review of all eligible students and selection of specific students for the scholarship.  Of these 899 competitive scholarships, 756 are offered in an amount guaranteed to equal full tuition or more.
  • Scholarships for International Students – 53 scholarships are offered to international students, either exclusively, or in addition to U.S. citizens.  All of these are offered at a range up to full tuition or more.
  • Compare the Scholarship Amount to the Tuition Cost – The Full Scholarship List includes the current listed tuition rate for each school so you can see just how big each scholarship is.
  • Assess Your Student’s Chances for Competitive Merit Scholarships – I have included each school’s mid-50% ACT and SAT scores.  You can use these to compare against your student’s scores.  If your student’s ACT or SAT score is above the mid-50% range, his or her chances of winning a competitive merit scholarship are greater.
  • How Competitive is the School?  There will be many schools that you aren’t very familiar with.  The Full Scholarship List includes the percentage of applicants who are offered admission so you can assess the competitiveness of the school.

If you are interested in finding full tuition and full ride scholarships for your student, the Full Scholarship List offers the most extensive and most up-to-date listing of these available.  You can sort and filter to find the scholarships that apply to your student.  Click here  to find out more details.

 

 

Taking the SAT one final time in hopes for a higher Math score?

This is a guest post from Jung S. Rhee of Tapaprep.com.  He offers a unique perspective on studying for the current SAT Math test.

Standardized testing has an inherent weakness: among every administration of the test, each must be of the same scope, style, and difficulty. Otherwise, it becomes an unfair test, let alone the fact that it can no longer be considered a “standardized” test. The current version of the SAT (to become obsolete as of the afternoon of January 23, 2016) suffers immensely of this malady – and I call it such for many reasons heavily debated among U.S. educators. If your child is registered to take the final administration of the current SAT on the 23rd of this month, here’s how I suggest he/she spend the next few days to maximize the Math score.

Yes, practice helps, but on the current SAT, blind practice may waste time. It’s because to an ill-prepared student, every problem seems distinct. This, precisely, is the biggest challenge for current SAT test-takers; you can’t study some review packet and expect to ace the test. So while tons of practice is good, there’s something your child should be doing prior to that.

Take one of College Board’s SAT practice tests (available here and answers here, or use any one of the 10 tests available if you’ve purchased their Official SAT Study Guide). You won’t need to time yourself for the purposes of this suggestion. The College Board’s tests are the only tests you should be using when you’re trying to study the test (as opposed to the content). Other publishers offer great problem sets which are advantageous for specific types of practice, but none have an identical scope, style, and difficulty as that of the College Board’s exams. Unfortunately, the College Board doesn’t offer any explanations to their questions, so seek help from peers, teachers, and me – I’ll respond to every email as quickly as possible during this final week of prep. Get access to the solutions to as many of the test questions as you can. Master this set of questions, even to the point of committing these questions to memory. All future practice should be based on your mastery of at least one official practice test. But even if your child does not have the time for additional practice, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of the questions that your child answers this Saturday seem oddly familiar. Of course, the more official tests a student “masters”, the more questions he or she will find familiar. “Hey! But that’s not really learning math!” you say? Well, the contents of this test are not exactly fair to begin with.

Over the course of the last 12 years this version of the test has existed (Mar 2004 – Jan 2016), I’ve had the chance to test every aspect of the validity of this examination. To me, an average of 49 out of 54 math questions on every administration of the test seem “familiar.” But understanding the fact that most students don’t have as much time to study the test as I did, I collaborated with a self-admitted poor math student to see how well she could ultimately perform on this test. She was definitely a hard worker, but math wasn’t her forte and her SAT math score wasn’t an accurate reflection of her true abilities. When we first began our prep work, she was able to correctly answer a little over half of the problems in each Math section. We chose 30 tests to master. She wasn’t able to comprehend many of the questions, but she memorized the questions and solutions anyway. I knew she was doing the work because she came to me with a list of specific questions to address each week, and whenever I began to explain a question from her list, she would stop me midway, turn to a specific test, find a similar problem, and ask, “Is this the same problem?” In the end, she still wasn’t able to tell me why her responses made any sense, but she received a score of 730 out of 800. That was back in 2007. Since, I’ve been teaching all of my students both the test and the content to ensure maximum scores.

I wish everyone the best as you take one of the most important tests you’ll ever take. For anyone looking for last minute help, we’re offering our current SAT course at 40% off with the promo code TOPSCORE40, and we’ll also include the New SAT course (currently in development) free of charge in case your child decides to give the new test a shot.

Is Your High School Senior Sick of High School?

For those of us with a high school senior, it’s the start of their last semester of high school.  They feel like they have seen it all and done it all and it’s now time to fly.  Most college-bound seniors have completed their college applications or will be wrapping them up this month.  Unless they applied early decision or early action and already received all of their responses, they are stuck in a waiting period.  It can seem like a long, boring, frustrating wait.  And they just want to select a school and be done!

What Should Your High School Senior Focus on During Second Semester?

  • Don’t let those grades slip!  You’ve probably heard it a million times – colleges care about second semester grades.  Your student could be in jeopardy of having his or her acceptance revoked if he or she bombs the last semester of high school.  Don’t let them stress out too much about it, but do make sure they keep working all the way to the end.
  • Scholarship Applications – Focus on local private scholarships and any special scholarships with separate applications that are offered by the colleges your student wants to attend.  Spring of senior year is when most of the scholarship deadlines arrive.  After college applications are complete, there is usually a second round of work focused on scholarship applications.  Your student will probably need a fair amount of encouragement and help with organization in order to get these all completed.  Check out my Scholarship Tracker to help your student stay on top of scholarship application requirements and deadlines.
  • College Visits – Almost immediately following the college acceptance notifications will come the invitations to Admitted Student visit days.  Make sure your student takes advantage of these to assist in making the final college selection.  These visits offer so much more than the visits for prospective applicants.  Now that your student has been selected, the school really wants to show him or her why their school is the right one to pick.

Above all, sympathize with the fact that your student is excited to leave high school and move on to the next chapter.  Enjoy the time you have with him or her at home and help make sure your high school senior makes the most of the last semester of high school.

College Fit – Sometimes You Just Know

At this point during senior year of high school, college-bound kids and their parents are focused on college fit.  A lot of kids ask, “How will I know what college is right for me?”  A lot of parents stress out when their students are still looking at several colleges without seeming to have an idea of what they want.  In my last post, The Importance of the “In Depth” College Visit, I talked about taking my daughter to one of her top choice schools for a customized in-depth visit.  I really do believe that such a college  visit can be key to figuring out college fit and I will share what happened with my daughter’s visit as an example.

Going into the visit, this was my daughter’s second-choice school.  She was invited to visit to check out the major she was applying to.  She had already been to the school twice, but had been interested in different majors at the time.

At this point in her college search process, I wasn’t nervous at all because she already had it narrowed down to two schools and was highly favoring her top-choice school.  I was relishing the fact that she was smooth-sailing through her college search.  The school we were visiting, her second choice, had a program for the major she was planning to study.  The top-choice school didn’t really, but had a way to get the same end result with an extra 15-months of graduate work.

Sometimes You Just Know

The last part of our visit involved sitting in on a class in the program.  This was what clinched it for me and I was anxious to hear what my daughter thought.  The professor was great.  He had a way of engaging the students and drawing them out that even made me want to be in the class.  It was a small, discussion based class and my daughter was able to participate along with the 13 students in the class.  After class, the professor took time to talk to my daughter more and give her advice about making her final choice – honest and practical advice.

I couldn’t wait to hear her thought on the visit, but, taking a queue from my experience with my oldest daughter, I didn’t ask.  I patiently waited for her to bring it up.  It turned out she loved the experience as much as I did and felt that this was the right college fit for her.

College Fit – What to Look For

These are the signs to watch for to assess when your student has found a good college fit:

  • A feeling that he or she “belongs” there – It could be the campus overall, a particular academic program, or a group of students that triggers this feeling
  • A strong program in the field of interest – Maybe your student doesn’t know what he or she wants to study.  In that case, look for the college to have a strong methodology for helping students decide on a major.
  • A sense that he or she is important and not just a number – If a school takes the time to contact a student to extend a personalized visit, this is a great sign.  If all your student gets from the school, even after applying, is generic emails, this is not a good sign.
  • Good follow through – Do the department heads or admissions reps get back to your student when he or she emails with questions?  Do they seem ready and willing to help?
  • A safe place – Does your student feel comfortable walking in and around campus?
  • General excitement about the school – The more enthusiasm your student shows for a particular college, the more likely that it will be a good fit, at least initially.

Soon after my daughter’s visit, she said she was no longer interested in her former top-choice school.  She felt that the school we visited was the right school for her.

It’s not always this easy.  I know it wasn’t with my oldest daughter.  It may seen agonizing as your student takes time to make a decision, and you may need to wait for acceptance letters to come in to even narrow down the choices to a “top two.”

My advice to parents is, don’t get too stressed out about this.  Your student will make a good decision.  The easiest way you can help is by taking him or her to campus for in-depth visits to help answer the things I listed above.  Then give your student time and space to figure it out.

The Importance of the “In-Depth” College Visit

This week, my daughter and I are driving to one of her top two college choices for an “in-depth” college visit.  My idea of an in-depth visit usually includes sitting in on a class, looking at the specific requirements and 4-year plan for your student’s expected major, talking to students, and getting a complete tour of the building (or buildings) that house this area of study.

Typically, it is up to the student to contact the college to arrange an in-depth college visit.  Some schools will be more accommodating than others.  For example, very large public universities may only offer specific visit days and may only allow you to meet with an advisor who covers your student’s intended major.  Sometimes these very large schools only extend an offer to sit in on a class and/or meet current students in a particular major after your student has been offered admission.

In our case, this very large student reached out to my daughter after she submitted her application listing this intended major.  She had already been on two visits to the school and did a summer program there, but she had switched areas of interest since then.  They offered a meeting with a program advisor, sitting in on a class and lunch with a current student in the program.  Of course we were excited to take them up on it!

An in-depth college visit is important for narrowing down final school choices and really understanding if a school and program are a good fit.  Often, this can be done as part of an “Admitted Student Visit” in the Spring.  However, I think it is great to do these earlier if you can.  Spring gets really crazy with the pressure of final decisions, especially for students applying to 5-10 different schools.

In-Depth College Visit Tips

  1. Make arrangement for your student to sit in on a class in his/her intended major, if possible.
  2. Try to get time with a student or group of students in your student’s intended major – not a tour guide.
  3. Make sure you get to tour as many of the facilities used for your student’s intended major as possible.
  4. Get time with someone associated with the department so you can ask questions.
  5. If you have concerns regarding scholarships and financial aid, get an appointment with someone in the financial aid office.
  6. Take advantage of any “admitted student visit” programs that are offered.  The more exposure your student gets to a school, the easier it will be to make a final decision.

Help your student make the most informed decision possible on where to go to college.  In-depth visits are a great way for a student to assess whether he or she “belongs” in a particular school and program.