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College Planning
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College Planning
for Teens at RCPL

Are you planning on going to college? No? Well, great. You can stop reading this page now and go play some video games.

If you're still here though, good! College is a huge decision with a lot of implications. And you may be under pressure to pick a college to attend.

Good news! Planning for college doesn't have to be stressful. On this page we have some tools and some information that can make choosing and applying to a college a little easier.


Some Important Questions
What do I want to do in college?

While the majority of schools will not require you to select a major during your first (and sometimes second) year, some programs or universities look for applicants with specific extra-curricular activity experience or background. And if you're already passionate about something, there's no reason why you shouldn't study it as a major!

The CollegeBoard website is a great place to start. It features a tool for looking at jobs and majors, the expectations that come with pursuing those fields, and what schools offer the related majors. You can find the tool here.
What college is right for me?

This is the key question for the young adult looking to attend a college. While you may have friends or a partner who's been accepted to college already, the school they're going to might not be right for you.

CollegeView is a website that features an awesome, powerful search tool that you can use to find colleges more suited to your wants and needs. You can limit college results by size, cost, location, graduation rate, and even whether the school is LGBT-friendly or has a hot party scene.

How can I pay for college?

Good question. One of the major controversies in education right now revolves around the high cost of attending a college. There are a few options:

Complete your core classes at an in-state community college or public/state university. This can help to minimize costs associated with school because in-state tuition is often one of the lowest available.

Complete your whole degree at a public/state university. Same reason as above.

Apply for scholarships or special financial aid programs. There are several websites that can explain and help you find financial aid: SallieMae's College Answer, CollegeNET, The Princeton Review's Scholarship and Financial Aid page, and the Wall Street Journal's SmartMoney.
  How do I apply to a college?

Generally, most colleges and universities nowadays use online applications. Some may still accept mail applications, though may not provide the paperwork unless it's requested directly.

Keep in mind that almost all colleges will require you to write at least one application essay, if not several, so you don't want to leave your application 'til last minute.

Some colleges and universities also have an early application deadline. Often, early applicants will have priority enrollment or access to an expanded range of financial aid options, so be sure to check a school's website for the calendar of deadlines.

The National Application Center is a collection of online college applications. Not all colleges have their application forms here, so you may have to check websites, too.

College Test Prep
If you're planning to go college, you may have to wrangle with the mother of standardized tests, the SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test). Though fewer colleges are requiring SAT scores than in the past, most top universities will still want you to complete the test.

You may also have heard of the ACT. Once upon a time, whether you took the SAT or the ACT was largely a matter of geography. Now, it comes down to you, and which test you'd prefer to take. But what's the difference between the two? Here's an article discussing just that.

Below, you'll also find some helpful links that lead to exam help, practice tests, and general explanations.
 testing cartoon

SAT Information
  ACT Information
SATs are administered by College Board, a not-for-profit membership organization governed by a group of almost 6,000 colleges and universities internationally.

The College Board website offers information about the SAT and a number of study guides, practice tests, and sample questions. Some of the materials do cost money. There are many free test prep resources out there, so explore your options before committing to buy expensive materials from anyone.
  The ACT is administered by ACT, Inc., a company very similar to College Board in its mission.

ACT, Inc. offers study guides, practice tests, and sample questions, with comparable prices to College Board, at their student website.

Again, there are a number of free test prep resources available to you, so you may want to exhaust those materials before investing any money in expensive test study resources.