College Planning Guide: Empowering College-Bound Students

There are a key number of sources of information for college-bound students to find and research colleges across the country and also around the world.

The key sources for college information can be many and some of them can be Personal Sources; Education department information; College Websites; Education fairs; etc

We’ll also review when to begin your college search, strategies for developing your list of colleges, how to narrow down your list of colleges, and the best admissions choices for you.

Beginning Your College Search

It’s important that you need to start your college search at the right earnest.
When should you start thinking about where you want to go to college? Whenever you feel ready to do so. Some students start thinking about colleges in their eleventh or twelfth grade, or some start as early as end of their high school. It’s a big transition point in your life and a good time to start some early thinking about your future, including where you might like to attend college.

The recommendations can be many, and it’s imperative that these information should be gained or accessed as early as possible, which helps you provide many options and can open up door to the whole new world of career awaiting students. It’s never too early to conduct some research, it’s time to get serious and use some of the sources we’ll discuss on the next few pages of the planning guide

And, once in your senior year, you’ll have narrowed your list of schools and begin the process of applying to your favorites. But before you get too far ahead of yourself, let’s look at some criteria you might use to find schools that best fit you.

College Choice Criteria

A review of some of the criteria you can use to find the colleges that are the best fit for you.

Before you even begin the process of researching prospective colleges/institutions, you need to take the time to consider the type of college that’s best for you.
Take the time to think about your personality and about your needs and wants in the ideal college.

You need to adopt the worksheet for your planning based on typical criteria that other students have used as follows:

  • Type of degrees offered (3-year associates, 4-year bachelors or integrated 5 years or medical UG 5 years; etc)
  • Location of college (region of the country)
  • College setting (urban, rural)
  • Costs (tuition plus room and board)
  • Average financial aid awarded
  • College type (public, private, regional or other affiliations)
  • Average standardized test scores of admitted students (common entrance exams or others)
  • Types of admission choices (early action, early decision, etc.)
  • Average class size
  • Percentage of classes taught by faculty
  • Study abroad opportunities
  • Quality of faculty
  • Student organizations (professional and social)
  • Accreditation
  • Graduation rate
  • Sports quota if any ( institutes that encourage sports)

Personal Sources for Finding Colleges

Some of the best sources for uncovering a college that is perfect for you are from the people around you.

The easiest place to look for some ideas on where to attend college is to ask the people you know and respect where they went to college. When you talk to them about colleges, ask them about why they chose the college they attended, what they majored in, what they liked and disliked about the school, and whether if they were doing it all over again would they go to that same school.

So, who can you ask about colleges? We suggest talking to:

  • Family Members — parents, aunts and uncles, older siblings, etc.
  • Teachers
  • Friends
  • Guidance Counselor
  • Other Respected Adults — bosses, clients, neighbors
  • Coach
  • Family Friends
  • Classmates

At this stage in the process, all you are really seeking is some ideas of colleges that might be right for you, but remember that the right college is a personal choice — and while a college could have been a perfect fit for your mom or dad, it may or may not be for you too.

Attending Education Fairs

Education fairs held at your college campus or at your town or city, or in other convenient locations are a great source for finding colleges.

College fairs — where admissions counselors from a number of different colleges come to your institute or local arena or convention center — are a great chance to learn about colleges.

While at the fair you can gather college literature, ask questions of the college reps, and attend informational sessions (often on topics like the ones covered by this tutorial).

Before heading to the fair, remember to grab some copies of your college choice worksheet, a pen, and a pad of paper. You might want to bring your back pack to carry all the materials you’re going to collect, but most fairs will have at least one organization with free bags. Also you need to talk to the college counselors of their academic record and performances of students, quality of teaching and placements for interns and jobs during and after the courses. Remember to check times for any of the informational sessions you might want to attend.
Have fun- but be prepared to be both mentally and physically exhausted by the time you’re done meeting with all the colleges.

College Materials

The colleges produce ton of material to help you make your college decisions, so take advantage of all they offer. A great source for learning more about a college that interests you is going directly to the source: the college itself. There is no shortage of resources and information, from the college’s Website, to literature and brochures, etc

Start this process by typing the college’s name into Google (or your favorite search engine) and navigate to the college’s Website. From there, you’ll be able to read key facts and information about the institute as well as request to be placed on the mailing list for even more information.

Hint: Don’t just spend all your time in the admissions section of a college’s Website — dig deeper into the academics, student services, athletics, and more. Also look into disclosure laws and other regulations from the HRD and Government related information is vital.

College Visits… Just Do It!

Whenever it’s physically and financially possible, your best bet for getting the inside scoop on a college is with a campus visit. No amount of glossy brochures or stories about a college matches the impact from a campus visit.

Contact each college that interests you and request a campus visit. (You can typically make the request from the Website.) Of course, you can always just drop in on a college, but you might have to walk around by yourself rather than being shown around the campus by a student tour guide.

While on the tour, certainly listen to the narrative and observe the buildings, classrooms, hostels, pantry, basic hygiene levels and the people. Do students look happy? Is the campus attractive? Does it feel like it could be your home for four (or more years)?

Most colleges do not require any kind of interview, but you could at least meet with an admissions counselor while you are on campus — especially if you have questions that you need answered.

Hint: While you may not be able to visit all the colleges on your initial list, always try to visit the institutes that make it to your final list.

Top choices of your College Admissions

One of the key decisions you’ll make deals with whether you have a clear top college or several.

Now that you’ve narrowed your list of college to the manageable number, you have one final decision to make. Is there one college that is a clear top choice! The college you know you want to attend? If so, you might want to apply for some sort of early action/early decision. If you have several clear favorites, you should probably do what the vast majority of students do and apply for regular admission.

Please break your choices into Early Action; Early Decision or Regular admissions

Early Action: An emerging trend in admissions that allows students to apply for admission to the college of their choice early and receive a decision within a few months, well in advance of the normal response dates. Unlike Early Decision, you are not committed to enroll at that particular institution, and you can compare offers from other institutes before making a final decision on what college to attend.

Early Decision: A required agreement between the applicant and the college that basically states that, if accepted, the student agrees to attend the college. While you are still permitted to submit applications to other colleges before the decision, once you’ve been accepted through early decision, you are asked to withdraw all your other college applications.

Regular Admissions: The typical admissions process for college bound students who do not have a clear favorite choice. With this method you send in your completed application about midway through your senior year (check each college for deadlines for their applications), and each college notifies you of the dates and so when you apply through the regular admission channels you have no obligation to attend any of the colleges to which you have already applied.

College Entrance Criteria

After narrowing your list of colleges and before you start your applications, you should review the different elements admissions used to evaluate candidates.

Hint: If you can’t find information about admissions criteria from the college materials or Website about admission criteria, contact one of the college’s admissions counselors and ask him/her for specifics.

Over the next several pages of the guide, we’ll cover these admission criteria of Entrance Exams; their Grades and Ranking and other related information

College Entrance Standardized Exams

One of the key criteria most colleges use for admissions decisions is the applicant’s score on a standardized entrance exam. By the time you’re done with your secondary school or UG; you’ll be happy if you never see any more standardized exams. From state-mandated assessment exams to college entrance exams, I am sure your eyes are probably still blurry from taking them all

All your hard work does come down to a test score and for most colleges, your entrance exam score is one of the top criteria used to decide your admission fate.

In terms of college admission exams, students basically have two choices: either the states run entrance tests or if the institute is autonomous, they may have their own sets of entrance tests. For sure the assessments standards are something similar on those lines evaluating specifics based on their student’s choice of subject preferences.

If you are a science student, you possess admission for engineering- the choice of assessments can be physics, chemistry, math or equivalent
If you possess admission for dental and medical, the choices of assessments are physics, chemistry, and biology and so on.
If students possess admission to commerce, the choices of assessments are skill of basic math and exemplary calculations (in turn help them for accounts and finance)
If student possess law as the career, the assessments are English comprehension, general knowledge & current affairs, legal aptitude, logical reasoning, elementary math and so on.
Likewise you have many other courses with their own exemplary and students need to prepare based on the criteria of their choice and passion
If student are aesthetic in nature! If their creative juice are involved in self-expression or artistic appreciation. Then the interests can be visual, literary, musical or dramatic forms of art.

Your Goal? You certainly want to do your best to score as high as you possibly can on whichever test you take. Most colleges’ admissions information provides a range where most incoming students fall and your goal should certainly be in that range or higher. You can sometimes compensate for lower test scores with higher grades, class ranking, essay, and amazing recommendations.

One further note: Check all the colleges you plan to apply to and see if they list a preference for which test they want applicants to take.

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