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Choosing A College

    Q.  What are freshman retention rates and why do they matter?

    A.  What You Should Know About Retention Rates?

    Freshman retention rate statistics will give you some insight into how much the college or university values YOU! The transition to college requires adjustment, how much assistance does the college offer to help you succeed in this critical first year?

    There are several factors that make freshman retention rates matter:

    The obvious first factor to consider is how much you're paying for this first year experience. Most students will pay between $20,000 at a public and $50,000 at a private university; so shouldn't you get your money's worth?

    Factor two, transferring to another college after one year can have a significant impact on ability to graduate on time. Looking down the road, what are the statistics for how many students are graduating from this college? Colleges and Universities are now quoting six year graduation rates, not four. Even with an extra 2 years to complete a 4-year degree, their retention rates might only be 60%.

    Factor three, if you do decide to transfer, how many of those course credits are transferrable to another college and what impact will having to make up credits have on the bottom line cost of your 4-year degree.

    Freshman retention rates for the colleges and universities are a critical question to explore when deciding to place a college on your list. The more time and effort you spend in individualizing your college list and exploring your options while in high school, the easier the freshman transition will be when you get to the college of your choice.

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    Q.  Tuition aside, what benefits and drawbacks exist by going to school in-state vs. out-of-state?

    A.  It's All About What Works For You

    Well working in a state that offers a great scholarship program, this question comes up all the time. If a student could receive a scholarship that pays for 100% of their tuition with a 3.5 GPA and 1280 on the SAT's, why would they consider other options?

    So here are the BENEFITS of attending your State College!

    1. So close to home that I commute, saving dorm and food costs.

    2. I can come home when I want without paying for a plane ticket.

    3. Some of my high school friends will be attending the same college and we study well together and I won't feel so alone in this new setting.

    4. I'll graduate owing very little in loans and can use my savings for graduate school.

    5. I've graduated in the top 5% from my "very good" high school and know I can compete academically with students from my own state.

    There are many more reasons, but let's look at the DRAWBACKS and why you might look into an Out-of-State College.

    1. This out-of-state college graduates 80% of entering students within 4 years, my state schools are quoting 6-year graduation rates.

    2. The graduation rate of these out-of-state universities are over 85%, my state loses 48% of entering students by sophomore year.

    3. I get to exercise my academic interests and explore my options with a population of students with a "different mind set" since they're not from my state.

    4. Since they're interested in attracting students from all 50 states and countries from around the world and my academics are excellent and scores are top-notch, there are scholarships available to me.

    5. "I need to be farther away from home" and "on my own" to feel independent and successful.

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    Q.  When should students start the college search?

    A. It's never TOO Early...

    What courses should I take in high school to prepare me for success in college and after?

    These are questions that begin as early as middle school, so there are some parts of the college search that need to begin there. More and more middle schools are offering high school courses and if you're really interested in preparing yourself for college acceptance and success, you need to be enrolled in these classes. By researching, "What courses are colleges looking for in a successful candidate," you will be better prepared to enroll in the right courses for you. As a high school student, you need to have a four-year plan early and it needs to be reviewed each year. Don't forget their are opportunities to accelerate through summer programs, online and dual enrollment options too!

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    Q.  We don't have time or money to visit some schools I’m really interested in. What can I do?

    A.  Why Not Do It Virtually?

    The college entrance process can be very, very expensive. There are SAT or ACT tests to pay for, application fees, the cost of purchasing study materials and review programs to finance. How can I afford to visit all of the colleges on my list?

    Why not start by taking the virtual tours on the colleges own websites? Most colleges have great promotional videos to show you. Or vist the following websites for an "insider view" of the college: http://www.youniversitytv.com/ or www.yourcampus360.com/ for a first time view? This will give you a sense of whether you want to investigate the college further and begin to provide you with some interesting facts about the college for your databank.

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    Q.  How do you know if community college is right for you?

    A.  Staying Close To Home - The Community College Experience

    Whether to attend a community college and transfer after completing an Associate Degree is an option families explore for many reasons. Decisions are always about personal choice and should be based on facts, so let's take a few minutes to examine the Pros and Cons:

    Pros

    1. The community college system in your State has a 2+2 program, meaning that when you complete your two-year degree, you are promised entry into one of your top three choices of State Universities, with all credits transferable.

    2. Your State scholarship will pay 100% of tuition and you live at home, so no food and board expenses for the first two years of your college experience.

    3. You have a great P/T job and will be able to keep that while you're attending the local college.

    4. You have family responsibilities or concerns and need to remain "close to home."

    5. You were a "late bloomer" academically in high school and want an opportunity to improve your academic profile and standing to enter the four-year university of your choice.

    Now let's look at some of the Cons

    1. Focus is important when attending a community college, drop out rates are higher.

    2. Community college attracts students through "open enrollment" meaning the only requirement to enter is an application, transcript and fee payment. This can mean that some of the students who attend may not be as focused on their academics and goals as you are. The question to ask yourself here is, "what will I be learning from my peers?"

    3. Class sizes are large, parking is a nightmare, and course selection options are snatched up quickly. Will you be able to graduate in two years?

    4. Will you be able to enter competitive majors, like nursing, or is there a two year waiting period to get in to that major? What will you be doing in the meantime? Will you even get in?

    5. When you've completed your two year degree, how many of those credits will transfer to a four-year university, does this mean you'll need 3 or 4 years more to complete your university degree?

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    Q.  Any tips on getting the most out of campus tours and info sessions?

    A. The College Campus Tour

    There’s nothing like being on campus to give you a sense of whether you will get the kind of 24/7 learning experience you are looking for in a college. Visiting as many college and university campuses as you can is the best way to learn which college is right for you. It’s never too early in high school to start. But go when students are there, summer time will only show you the buildings. Here are some questions that you might think about to help you discover which schools are the “best fit” for you.

     Do I want to be near a city or in a rural setting?

     How far away from home seems comfortable-what do my parents think is comfortable?

     Do I want a small or huge campus population?

     What university offers the academic programs that I’m interested in?

    Now that you’ve decided to explore your options, Campus Visiting does take some organization to maximize your experience.

     Make a list of the colleges you think you’d like to explore, then map them.

     You can usually see 2-3 colleges in an extended weekend if they are within

    5-7 hours of your home, or if flying, each other.Plan to start your travel on a Thursday night, college tours are not available on Sundays. Book your hotel well in advance, many colleges have Open Houses or Parents’ Weekends and you can find that there isn’t a room to be had. The admission’s office can help you locate a place to stay.

     Amtrack has discounts for college visitation and some airlines do to.

     Call ahead to schedule a student guided tour. Tours are important since you’ll be able to ask questions of your tour guide while seeing most of the campus.

     If you’re a senior and this college requires an interview, schedule a tour and interview at the same visit.

     Do your research-read everything that is public knowledge about the college and take notes-outstanding programs, faculty-student ratio, educational mission, sports teams, study abroad programs-everything!

     If you’re interested in a particular department, ask the admission’s office if they can schedule a meeting with the department chair while you’re there.

    When the Weekend Arrives-Here are some TIPS

    Arrive early and drive around the town, does it look interesting? Safe?

    Make up a standard list of questions to ask the Tour Guide or during the informational session in advance, this will help you compare all of your colleges using the same criteria:

     What is the typical class size?

     How many of your classes were taught by teaching assistants?

     Are the professors accessible to the students, only during office hours or in casual dining room centers?

     Are there support centers for assistance with papers, or are tutors available? Is there a charge?

     Is housing guaranteed all four years? Deadlines for securing a dorm room?

     Are dorms co-ed, by room, floor, wing? What about the bathrooms-are they co-ed?

     Are there fraternities and sororities? What percentage of the student body gets involved?

     Ask your Tour Guide some specific questions: How challenging are the academics? How safe is the campus? What is the quality of the faculty advising? Do students remain on campus on the weekends? Can freshman have cars on campus? What professors are known as outstanding regardless of a student’s major?

    After the Visit-remember to write a thank you note: to the Admissions Counselor who spent time with you, to the tour guide and to that Department Chair who stayed on campus that weekend just to meet with you.

    Finally, file your notes in that college’s folder so that when you go to make comparisons and finalize your college list, you’ll be able to relive your college visit accurately.

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    Q.  Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

    A. It All Boils Down To You...

    I always discuss with my families the importance of "being on the ground." By that I mean, visiting the college when students are there so get a real feel for the campus and the students who attend there.

    Researching colleges by reading guidebooks, speaking with relatives and reviewing rankings have all become part of the landscape of the college review process. It is important to remember that even though "Uncle Joe" had the time of his life at Fun Time University, doesn't mean your expectations of a college experience match his.

    So where should the college search begin....with you, of course!

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    Before You Apply

    Q.  Are there activities/organizations that impress highly selective colleges?

    A. What's In A Brand?

    Involvement should have little to do with impressing highly selective colleges and more to do with defining your interests and expressing your passions. Entering High School really offers so many opportunities to "get involved." Which should you choose?

    In the college admissions process, you will sometimes hear the term, "Branding." What the counselor is trying to relay is the concept of "packaging" your application so that the materials you submit clearly display your interests and passions. One of these ways branding works is through your activities and organizations. Students who decide to "collect clubs," especially at the last minute, will not win friends in the admission office.

    With all of that said, students who are admitted to highly selective colleges often have very clearly displayed passions, and are highly recognized and acclaimed for their talents. During a visit with the Director of Admissions at Harvard several years ago, he described some of the individuals who were included in that year's Freshmen class: Olympians, internationally reknowned pianists, published authors, nationally awarded science and math students and the list goes on and on. These are very powerful human beings!

    My best advice? Be involved, be consistent, be a leader, be yourself!