…from GuidedPath Edge Guru

  • Where will I be living next year?

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    One of the big questions you have as a student (and your parents too) is ‘Where will I be living next year?”  Be sure to explore the housing choices on campus and learn which choices are available to you. 

    Housing Styles 

    • Traditional residence halls typically have double occupancy rooms off of a hallway, with shared bathrooms for several rooms.  This is usually the most common option for incoming freshman. 
    • Suite-style residence halls have more of an apartment feel.  Several students share a common living and kitchen area, with bedrooms sharing bathrooms.  Although often available to upperclassmen, some colleges offer these for freshmen. 
    • Apartment-style residence halls are as they say – student apartments.  These are most often for upperclassmen, graduate students, or married/family housing. 

    Themed Communities 

    • Living/learning communities – Many colleges offer themed living communities.  Those themes may be honors, specific academic programs, language or culture based, or communities based on lifestyle commitments like green living or substance free. 
    • First Year Experience – Often in addition to housing together, classes are offered for first year students to take together.  Living in first year experience housing gives students opportunity to learn and grow together.

    Other considerations 

    1. Meal Plans: How is the meal plan handled – all you can eat meals, or a la carte?  Are there options for extra dollars to use in the coffeeshop or student market?  What happens on the weekend for meals?  Think about your lifestyle (do you eat on the run or sit down for each meal) and choose a meal plan that fits.     
    2. Gender housing: Are there single sex dorms?  Single sex floors?  Transgender friendly housing?  Single sex rooms (with both genders in rooms next to each other?)  How are the bathrooms set up?  What will make you comfortable?  
    3. Alcohol and Drug policies: Be sure to ask about party rules, for you and guests.  Is it a dry campus?  Are some dorms designated drug and alcohol free?  Obviously, all campuses follow the law when it comes to drinking and drug use, however some schools may have more strict policies for the campus or for certain residence halls. 
    4. Security: How secure is the housing?  Do you have to have ID to get inside the building?  What other security measure are in place?  Can you have guests?  What are the restrictions for guests? 

     

    Take Action
    Check online for each college’s housing options.  Make a list of criteria that are most important to you and ask about housing during your admitted student visits.  Make a choice and mark your choice in your discussion notes in GuidedPath. 

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  • Study in the UK

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    Have you considered studying abroad?  What if you could study abroad for your entire college experience rather than just one semester?  Studying in the United Kingdom could be a great way for you to experience another culture for college without worrying about a language barrier.  

    The UK has some of the most prestigious universities in the world – Oxford, Cambridge, and Imperial College of London all rank among the top 10 – along with over 160 colleges and universities across the country.  Just like in the U.S., you can find a university that fits your style. 

    There are several advantages to studying in the United Kingdom: 

    1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in 3 years.  You can finish your bachelor’s degree in 3 years (in England, Ireland, and Wales – still 4yrs in Scotland) which means moving on to graduate school or a career sooner than at an American university.  And a 3-year degree means less tuition cost!   
       
    2. Skip the general education.  General education courses are not required in the UK system.  You take only the classes you need for the subject you are studying.  This means as a freshman you’ll be studying business, engineering, political science – or whatever you’ve chosen as a major.
       
    3. Travel opportunities.  The UK can be a great jumping off point to travel to many other places in Europe and beyond.  You can fly from London to 10 other European capital cities in under 2 hours.  What a great way to spend some of your school breaks –  exploring other countries, cultures, and languages!  
       
    4. No additional cost.  The United Kingdom offers student loans to U.S. citizens and permanent residents who attend approved UK schools.  It’s possible for you to actually pay less to go to school in the UK than you may pay at an expensive school in a high-cost area of the U.S.  International Student Loan has more information and a list of eligible colleges in the UK.  

      Additionally, there are many schools around the world – including in the UK and Canada – that will accept U.S. Federal Direct Loans.  You can apply for Direct Loans using the FAFSA and use your U.S. loan money abroad.  The Federal Student Aid website has some helpful information and a list of eligible schools.    

    Take Action
    Explore United Kingdom schools through the Educate in UK website.  Make notes in your GuidedPath account. 

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  • College Size Matters

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    As you explore which colleges are the right match for you, consider the size of the student body.  How many undergraduates attend the college?  This can make a big difference in your experience on a college campus.  Think of college sizes in these four categories (based on undergraduate student attendance only).

    Boutique Size (<2000) 

    Over 500 colleges in the U.S. enroll fewer than 2000 students.  These schools are ideal for students with a strong participant learner approach to college.  You get to know your teachers and fellow students very well.  This provides opportunities to maximize your involvement in activities and construct your own learning experience.  Most boutique size schools are private, examples include Julliard, Amherst, Pomona, California Institute of Technology, Davidson, and Haverford.

    Liberal Arts Size (2000-5000) 

    Over 300 colleges in the US fall in the Liberal Arts size category.  Some of the most well-known and prestigious colleges fall into this category including Dartmouth, Rice, Middlebury, Carleton, and Vassar.  Small class sizes with a focus on undergraduates, opportunities to engage with faculty and peers, and close-knit campus communities are all reasons to consider colleges of this size. 

    Just Right Size (5,000-10,000) 

    “Just Right” refers to the college that is not too big, not too small, as Goldilocks stated, it is “Just Right”.  The college is bigger than most high schools, yet small enough to still retain a personal feel.  This is the smallest group of colleges in the US, with just over 200 campuses.  Both public and private schools fall into this category.  Examples include: Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Duke, the College of William and Mary, many California State Universities, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, and many more.  This is a campus size where many students feel comfortable.

    City University 

    There are some universities that are comparable to the size of a large town or small city.  Students benefit from many choices however the trade-off is you must be your own advocate and reach out.  You have the freedom to create your own path on a campus of this size.  Of the 58 colleges in this category, most are public schools including Arizona State, UCLA, UC Berkeley, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Michigan, Florida State, UT Austin, University of Alabama and many other flagship state universities.  There are a few private schools in this category as well, including New York University, Brigham Young University and University of Southern California.

    Take Action
    Use the Guided Search to find colleges within each of these size categories.  Explore the college profiles. Comment on what you find in the Discussions tab. 

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  • What if I’m waitlisted?…

    By now, application decisions should be rolling in to your inbox/mailbox.  If you haven’t already heard back from all your schools, the wait is almost over.  Most colleges aim to have final decisions to everyone who applied before April 1.  But what if your “final” decision isn’t so final?…  What does it mean to be on the waitlist? 

    Why do colleges have waitlists?  Can’t they just say yes or no?  
    With students applying to more and more schools, it’s become more difficult for colleges to predict how many of their admitted students will actually enroll.  Students are being accepted to many colleges – but you can only enroll at one.  That means many students who have been admitted to the college are not going to attend.   

    Enrollment targets are a serious issue for colleges – too many students result in overcrowded dorms and classroom, but not enough can mean funding shortages.  If a college realizes they may fall short of their enrollment target, they can accept students from their waitlist to fill the gap.   

    So – I’m on the waitlist.  What should I do? 
    Essentially, you can reply to the waitlist offer one of two ways: 

    1. “No, thanks!”  Although the college offered you a spot on their waitlist, you are not obligated to accept that offer.  Maybe the school that waitlisted you is not your first choice – if so, no big deal.  You can let the college know that you do not plan to remain on their waitlist.   
    2. “Yes, I’m willing to wait.”  If you think this school might really be the one, let them know that you are interested in waiting.  Follow the reply directions in your decision to confirm you intend to remain on the waitlist.  It’s also a great idea to follow up with a personal email to tell the school – if they accept you from the waitlist you intend to enroll (only do this if it’s true).  You can also reiterate why you think this college is such a good fit and ask if any additional information like new SAT/ACT scores, senior year final grades, etc. could help to improve your chances of admission from the waitlist.       

    You should seriously consider all of the admission offers you receive.  Schedule visits, compare financial aid packages, talk with your parents and your counselor, make a pro/con list, etc.  You have to confirm your enrollment with a college by May 1 (that’s the National Candidates Reply Date).  Most schools won’t make decisions about their waitlist until after May 1.   

    In addition, there are typically only a small number of students admitted from the waitlist (sometimes not any).  You should confirm your enrollment with one of the colleges that has admitted you (even if you stay on the waitlist at another college).  It’s hard to hear that you are on the waitlist (especially if it was your first choice), but maybe it’s an opportunity to get excited about a school that really wants you (and hopefully they offered you great financial aid to prove it).  Many colleges can be a good fit if you have the right mindset.   

    Take Action
    Record your decisions and financial aid awards in GuidedPath so that you can make comparison before deciding where to enroll.  

     

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  • Comparing Financial Aid Awards

     

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    You got into the top schools on your list.  Each has sent you a financial aid award.  One offer looks better than the other two, but is it really?  It’s important to compare apples to apples when looking at financial aid offers.  Here are 6 questions to ask: 

    1. What is the Student Budget?  Does the college list all the costs for going to college: 1) Tuition & Fees; 2) Room & Board; 3) Books & Supplies; 4) Personal Expenses, 5) Transportation (getting to and from the campus).  If the award does not include these items, search the website for the information or call the college. 
       
    2. What is your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) on your Student Aid Report?  The amount your family is expected to pay toward college is on the student aid report generated when you filed the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).  This number is needed for comparing financial aid awards.  If your family contribution is close to or more than the student budget, then your awards from the college are going to be based on merit, and not on the financial need you have. 

    3. Is there a gap?  You should know your EFC from filing your FAFSA.  To calculate how much financial aid you should be receiving, subtract your expected family contribution from the total student budget (all five items from question 1).  The remainder is your estimated financial need at the college.  Is the college meeting your full need, or only a portion of it?

      Total Cost of Attendance – Expected Family Contribution = Need 

    4. How much of your award is grants or scholarships?  Grants and scholarships are money that you will not have to repay later.  You want to maximize the amount of grants and scholarships you receive and minimize the amount of loan money you must take out.  Are the grants or scholarships renewable for four years?  What conditions exist for the renewable awards (a minimum GPA, number of credits completed, etc.)?  

    5. How much is in student or parent loans?  How much of the offer is parent loan?  A financial aid award of $20,000 parent loan – but no grants or scholarships – is not a good offer.  The parent loans (when necessary) should ideally be used to help pay for the expected family contribution not meet your financial need. 

    6. Is there a good mix?  Is there something missing?  Are you being offered grants, scholarships, loans and work?  Look for a good mix.  If you are not offered “work study” ask about it.  It is especially helpful for you to have a campus job to earn your personal expenses while in college.   

    Take Action 

    Use the EFC Calculator GuidedPath to determine your Expected Family Contribution.  Add in all financial aid awards into Decisions in GuidedPath.  Use the Cost Comparisons Tool to view and compare all your financial aid awards. 

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  • Why So Many Questions…

    So Many Questions… 

     Have you signed up to take the SAT yet?  Or maybe you’ve already taken the PSAT?  Did you notice that there are a lot of questions about your grades, your interests, your intended college major, etc. in the registration?  What’s up with all those questions?    

     

    The CollegeBoard Student Search Service 

    Those questions are part of the SAT Questionnaire.  There’s also a box to opt-in to the College Board Student Search Service.  By completing those questions and checking the box, you are giving permission for the CollegeBoard to provide your contact information to colleges and scholarship programs.   

     

    Why do colleges and scholarship programs want my information?  

    You are searching for colleges that are a good fit.  Colleges and scholarship programs are doing the same thing – searching for applicants that are a good fit.  One of the ways they find applicants and promote their programs is by sourcing student information from the CollegeBoard.  Through the Student Search Service, colleges and programs can access your contact information and send you promotional materials by mail or email.   

     

    Should I opt-in?   

    That’s entirely up to you!  There are advantages to allowing colleges and scholarship programs to access your information – you may find out about a school or a program that is a great fit for you that you didn’t already know about.  However, it also means an influx of mail and email.  You can always filter this college email into a specific folder to keep it from cluttering your inbox.  You can also decide to stop participating at any time and contact CollegeBoard to opt-out.   

     

    What about the ACT?   

    ACT has the same kind of service for their test – it’s called the Educational Opportunity Service (EOS).  Just like with the SAT, colleges and scholarship programs are using the ACT to access to your contact information.  Opting-in to the EOS is completely optional and you must check the box on the ACT registration form to allow colleges to access your information.        

     

    Take Action 

    If you are a junior, it may be time for you to take the SAT or the ACT.  Spring test dates are: 

    If you are a sophomore, your school may be administering the PSAT or the PreACT.  Check with your school counselor to find out the test date.   

    Enter your test dates into GuidedPath so that you will receive registration deadline and test date email reminders.   

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