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At Eagle Ridge Academy, we believe in a rigorous education, academic achievement, and life-long learning. College is the natural continuation of the strong intellectual preparation that students receive at Eagle Ridge. College is an opportunity for students to pursue their education with a focus on the subjects that interest them most and with an eye toward a fulfilling career.
Resources to Help Plan for College:
Making a plan for college starts with understanding yourself, your interests, strengths, and dreams for the future. The next step is understanding the college options and using available resources to help you prepare, apply, and pay for college.
Fair Opportunity Project Webpage – a free college application and financial aid guide for families (available in multiple languages).
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- March 13 – Army ROTC
- March 14 – U of Minnesota – Morris
- March 28 – University of Jamestown (North Dakota)
- April 24 – Hillsdale College
Take personal assessments to learn more about how your personal qualities, values, and strengths pair with careers.
Careerwise is an extensive tool from the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MNSCU) with personal assessments tied to career information that is specific to Minnesota.
GPS Life Plan is another tool from MNSCU with many links to assessments and career information.
Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator is a great tool to better understand yourself and your preferences. The 16 Personalities website does a great job of tying the types to career options.
My Next Move is an assessment connected with O*Net, a tool from the US Department of Labor. It asks you to rate how much you’d like to perform different tasks.
My Plan has a values assessment that is different than the other tools because it helps you consider what’s important to you and what you believe about work.
My Majors has assessments that help you create a profile based on your academic aptitude and interests. You are matched with majors and careers that fit you!
Once you have some ideas about possible careers, learn more about them. What kind of education does the career require? What is the average wage? How quickly is the field expected to grow?
Many of the tools above are linked to career information. Below are three of the best sources of career information:
The Occupational Outlook Handbook contains data from the US Department of Labor and has extensive profiles of hundreds of careers.
O*Net is also a US Department of Labor tool that allows you to sort careers by skills and career clusters.
LinkedIn has an alumni tool that students can use if you create a LinkedIn profile. The tool allows you to search by college and career area and look at the profiles of people who have careers that interest you. Where did they go to school? What did they study? What was their career path?
Enrichment and Career Exploration
As a high school student, you can try out careers that interest you. Do an informational interview or job shadow, attend a camp, volunteer, take a class. All of these activities will help you know if the potential career is really a fit for you.
Explore academic interests by taking an online class. Many of the top universities in the country offer Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC). These courses are usually free or if you want a certificate of completion, you can pay a small fee. Two great options are www.coursera.org and www.edx.org.
Try a career focused camp or pre-college program. Teen Life is a website with thousands of summer and school year enrichment programs that can be sorted by interest or location.
Volunteering is a great way to explore your interests and learn more about possible careers. Volunteer Match is a great way to learn about opportunities in your local area that match your interests.
Do Something is a website to help young people start their own project to support a cause.
Some great local career exploration programs include:
Minnesota Business Venture, a week-long business camp for high school students.
Scrubs Camp is a week-long camp for students considering health care careers.
Doing Informational Interviews and Job Shadowing are also great ways to explore careers. Talk to your parents, your parents’ friends, and the parents of your friends to find these opportunities.
This is a website with virtual job shadowing interviews to get you started: www.jobshadow.com. The following websites have tips for informational interviewing and job shadowing:
- How do you learn best?
- What are your reasons for going to college?
- How independent are you? How far away from home do you want to go?
- What are your academic work habits like? What level of challenge do you want?
- What are your favorite activities?
- What subjects do you like to study?
Start with visits to local colleges
Sophomores and juniors should take advantage of school breaks to visit local colleges. Before you get serious about making a college list, first go and do a few tours right here in the Twin Cities. It really isn’t important if these are colleges you think you’ll want to attend. The idea is to learn about different kinds of colleges and what they look like.
Schedule a visit online – almost all colleges have an online calendar (google “name of college” and “visit”) so you can easily schedule a visit.
Go with your parents or with friends!
Visit a big school (University of Minnesota?) and a few small colleges that are located in or around the Twin Cities.
Attend a College Fair (http://www.mn-acac.org/students) to talk with representatives from colleges that may interest you. The schedule is updated on the MACAC website each year.
The National College Fair takes place in October at the Convention Center in Minneapolis and includes as many as 400 colleges from around the country.
Minnesota Education Fairs take place in the fall and spring at local high schools and community colleges. These events are open to the public and usually include more than 100 colleges.
After a few college visits, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you like the resources of a large school or the close-knit community of a smaller school?
- Do you want to go to college in a city or small town?
- Which activities on the campuses sound most interesting?
- What academic programs sound really exciting?
- Are you interested in study abroad?
- What kind of athletic program do you want the school to have?
Consider graduation rates!
In the search tools below, look for information about graduation rates. The best colleges have 6 year (the standard measurement for the Dept of Ed) graduation rates of 70% or higher.
College Search Tools
Use these tools and what you know about yourself and your preferences to build a list of schools to explore further:
College Navigator from the Department of Education is the most reliable resource. It has extensive information about cost and financial aid, admissions, programs offered, graduation rates, and athletics.
College Scorecard from the Department of Ed is easy to navigate with great information.
College Board’s Big Future has filters and great graphics. The tool “College Search Step-by-Step” is great for students who don’t know how to begin the search process. It asks questions about what you are looking for in a school and give you a “snapshot” of your preferences to help you decide where to apply.
Affordable Colleges Online provides community resources and tools related to higher education with an eye on affordability and accreditation.
College Search Tools with Student Reviews
*Beware of disgruntled students – use these sites along with other tools.
Rankings are often where families start when looking for college options. This can lead students to create a list of schools that isn’t based on their personal needs and interests. Here are some other great resources for colleges that move beyond the rankings:
Colleges that Change Lives 44 colleges recognized for making a difference.
Beyond College Rankings has value added information about colleges.
College Lists Wiki is a treasure trove of specialized college lists for students with particular interests and needs.
College Visit Resources
Once you have a preliminary list, it’s a great idea to visit as many of the colleges on your list as you can. Some great resources for college visits:
College Representative Visits to Eagle Ridge Academy
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- March 13 – Army ROTC
- March 14 – U of Minnesota – Morris
- March 28 – University of Jamestown (North Dakota)
- April 24 – Hillsdale College
The most important indicators of college success are your grades in high school and your curriculum. However, colleges have long used admissions tests like the ACT and SAT as a way to compare academic records across high schools.
Most students who do well in high school classes will find similar success in the standardized tests. Some preparation can be helpful and there are many options that range from free to more expensive. The Compass Group Guide is a very thorough overview of these standardized tests.
Eagle Ridge Academy hosts both the ACT and SAT. 2016-17 testing dates are as follows:
SAT: November 5, 2016
ACT: December 10, 2016 and June 10, 2017
There are two options for admissions tests in the US – the ACT and the SAT. Some things to know:
- Every college will take either the ACT or the SAT.
- Admissions tests are usually taken in the spring of the junior year because students have completed the necessary curriculum in order to be successful.
- The tests can be taken more than once, although a strategy of repeating the test many times is generally not advisable.
- For most colleges, you can choose which score to send. A few very selective schools and the University of California schools require you to send all of your scores.
- A few selective colleges recommend or require SAT Subject Tests. Scroll down for more information.
- AP tests can be used to get college credit and can also be helpful in admissions. Scroll down for detailed information about AP tests at Eagle Ridge.
To Register for the ACT, go to www.actstudent.org.
To Register for the SAT, go to https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/register.
Not all colleges require the ACT or SAT. An increasing number of colleges have become test optional, which means that they will review your application without a standardized test. Here is the latest list of test optional schools.
- Early in the junior year, take a practice test under test conditions (timed, etc.) to familiarize yourself with the structure, content, and timing of the test.
- Consider taking a practice ACT as well as a practice SAT to determine which test suits you best.
- Review strengths and weaknesses and decide how you want to prepare for the actual test.
- Register for the ACT or SAT in spring of junior year. Be prepared to take it one or two more times if you are targeting very selective colleges for admission.
Practice Tests for ACT and SAT
Live practice tests offered by test prep companies for free:
Online tests to be taken at home:
Preparation Options for the ACT and SAT
There are FREE and low priced options for ACT and SAT preparation. Some great options include:
- The Ultimate Student’s Starter Kit to the ACT
There are many paid providers of ACT and SAT preparation. This list is a sample of some area options and not an endorsement of the providers:
- Breakaway Test Prep: http://www.breakawaytestprep.com
- Club Z Tutoring: www.clubztutoring.com
- College Tutors: http://www.collegetutors.com/edinamn
- Huntington Learning Center: www.huntingtonhelps.com
- Kaplan Test Prep: www.kaptest.com/college
- Princeton Review: www.PrincetonReview.com
- Sylvan Learning Systems: www.sylvanlearning.com
SAT Subject Tests
SAT Subject Tests are college admission exams on specific subjects. These tests are recommended or required by some highly selective institutions. Many very selective colleges will consider SAT Subject tests and they can be another way to show a college what you can do. Here is some good information about the tests and which schools consider them.
SAT Subject tests are offered by the College Board. Their website offers detailed information about the tests, when they are offered, how to register and how to prepare.
AP Tests – 2017 AP Exam Order Form, Due March 15
AP tests are usually taken after the completion of an AP course. Taking an AP course is one way to pursue your academic interests and build a record of academic rigor. College admissions officers tell us that they are most interested in the rigor of your curriculum and your grades. Many colleges (not all!) will give academic credit for AP scores at a certain level. Check each college webpage for details.
Eagle Ridge Academy offers the following AP courses:
- AP Calculus
- AP Statistics
- AP Art History
- AP Biology
- AP Chemistry
- AP Physics
- AP Studio Art 2D
- AP Studio Art 3D
Eagle Ridge Academy students, based on the classical curriculum are well positioned to take other AP tests if they are willing to commit to additional study.
Almost everyone worries about the cost of college because it can be very expensive. Students and families should make good, strategic decisions about college that take cost into account. Yet it’s important to remember that college is a great investment! According to 2015 data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm), college graduates make, on average, $24,000 more per year than high school graduates.
A great overview of Financial Aid information: www.studentaid.ed.gov
There are two kinds of aid for students who attend college:
- Need-based aid
- Merit-based aid
Need-based aid can come from the federal and state governments or from colleges. There are two primary tools to apply for need based aid:
FAFSA (https://fafsa.ed.gov) is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. All federal and state aid awards are based on the FAFSA. Some things to know:
- The FAFSA application opens on October 1st of the student’s senior year. It uses financial information (tax returns) from the prior prior year. So, for a student attending college in 2017-18, families would report financial information for 2015.
- Students who have divorced parents use financial information from the parent they live with the most (50.1% of the time) and that parent’s spouse. If the student lives with both parents equally, it is based on the financial information of the parent who provides more support for the student.
CSS Profile (https://student.collegeboard.org/css-financial-aid-profile) is an additional aid application tool used by about 400 private colleges to gather additional information about the family’s financial situation.
Minnesota Dream Act Application https://www.ohe.state.mn.us/mPg.cfm?pageID=2065 state aid for college for undocumented students.
Merit-based aid comes from the college and is given to students because the college wants them to enroll. Often merit aid is given to students who have grades or test scores at the high end of the applicant pool for that school or special talents that the college values. Some colleges are more generous than others with merit aid. Here are some tips and resources regarding merit aid:
Know how to apply for competitive scholarships given by the college. Some of these are awarded on the basis of your college application. Others require an additional application. Read the websites for the colleges you are applying to!
Know which schools are most generous with merit aid. Below are two lists of colleges that provide significant merit aid:
Estimating College Costs
Because of need based and merit aid, the posted cost of tuition and room and board may not tell you anything about what the college will cost you. Below are some tools for estimating college costs.
Net Price Calculators are required by federal law to be offered by every college on their website. These calculators will ask for financial and academic information in order to give you estimates of the price of the college after need-based and merit aid. Ask admissions offices how accurate their net price calculators are.
FAFSA4Caster will give you an estimate of your eligibility for federal financial aid.
Types of Aid
Grants are offered by the federal government, state government, and some colleges based on need. The funds do not have to be paid back.
Scholarships are offered by colleges and private organizations based on student qualifications. They sometimes require an application and essay.
Work Study is a federal aid award that will allow you to earn money for college by working a job on campus. A large portion of the pay for the position is funded by the federal government.
Loans are available from the government and from private lenders.
Federal Subsidized Loans are need based and the government pays for the interest while the student is in school. The loans are eligible for income-based repayment and other programs.
Federal Unsubsidized Loans are not need based. Every student is eligible for federal unsubsidized Stafford loans that start at $5500 for freshmen. Interested students must complete a FAFSA. The loans are eligible for income-based repayment and other programs.
Private Loans are offered by banks and eligibility is determined by credit score. They require a co-signer, the interest rates are higher and they aren’t eligible for special repayment programs.
Education Tax Credits
Education tax credits are available to families in the year after education costs have been paid. From the IRS:
Education tax credits can help offset the costs of education. The American Opportunity (Hope Credit extended) and the Lifetime Learning Credit are education credits you can subtract in full from the federal income tax, not just deduct from taxable income.
Financial Aid Night: Financing A College Education (PowerPoint)
Searching for Outside Scholarships
The most successful students set aside time each week to search and apply for scholarships. Consider making a “scholarship” email address so that when you register on these websites, you don’t clog up your inbox with their messages.
- Peterson’s has scholarship search filters and many other college tools.
- UNIGO has many tools including a scholarship list that students can browse and scholarship-matching based on a profile.
- Fastweb has long been the go-to site for scholarships. You must make an account and a profile.
- Cappex needs you to register. It has a “What Are My Chances” tool that calculates the odds that you’ll get into a certain college before you apply.
- Scholarships.com has a very large database updated daily. It is searchable without a profile, but you can make one.
Reduced Out of State Tuition Options
Reciprocity: Minnesota has agreements with neighboring states to provide lower tuition for Minnesota residents to attend public colleges and universities in those states. This is called reciprocity. Typically, non-resident admission fees and tuition are reduced (or eliminated) if you’re a reciprocity student. Minnesota has reciprocity agreements with Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota. It also has an agreement with the Canadian province of Manitoba and a limited agreement with Iowa Lakes Community College in northwestern Iowa.
Midwest Student Exchange: Students from Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wisconsin may be eligible for tuition reductions at certain Midwest public and private schools and programs of study through the Midwest Student Exchange Program.
You can do this! As you get started, remember that most colleges accept most students –the average acceptance rate for US colleges is 65.8%. There is no perfect school but there are many places where you can be successful.
Finalizing Your College Application List
You should apply to a set of no more than 9 schools that you really want to attend. Make sure the colleges are a fit for you.
Know what’s important to you – is it a special major? A location? The size of the school? A particular activity? Narrow your list based on what colleges fit you best.
Consider cost – Many private schools cost less than their list price. Some out of state public schools offer reciprocity or special scholarships. Read the websites and ask your parents to use the colleges’ Net Price Calculators to help get a realistic idea of what a college might cost you.
Understand your likelihood of admission – Parchment www.parchment.com has a tool that will use your grades and test scores to give you a red, yellow, or green indicator of your admissions chances.
Include no more than 3 stretch schools – go to Parchment for an idea of which schools are stretch schools for you (yellow or red). Limiting the number of stretch schools will ensure that you have plenty of good options in the spring.
There is a lot to do and you want to get it all done on time.
Create a spreadsheet with application deadlines and requirements. All of this can be found on the admissions website for each college. Note which application the college uses. If you have more than one college on your list that uses the Common App or Coalition App, that could save you time. Track the completion and submission of each item.
Create a calendar with targeted dates for completion of each application that are a week or two ahead of the college deadline so you have time if something goes wrong.
Essay list – make a master list of all application essays you’ll need to write. Sometimes a single essay can be used multiple times and that’s easier to determine if you see the essay questions listed together. Not all schools require an essay.
Activity and Awards list or Resume – compile all your activities and awards from both in and out of school onto a single document. It will be very helpful as you complete applications.
Athletes – If you are considering Division I or Division II athletic scholarships, register with the NCAA http://www.ncaa.org/student-athletes/future/eligibility-center.
It’s ideal if students can finalize their list and get organized in mid-summer and begin the application process in August. Most college applications are available by August 1.
Applications – Once you’ve determined which applications each of your colleges use, create an account and start by completing the basic information portions of the application.
- Common Application – www.commonapp.com
- Coalition Application – www.coalitionforcollegeaccess.org
- College specific applications – found on the colleges’ admissions websites
Essays – Not every college requires an essay. Some require 3 or 4. This can be intimidating! Remember that colleges want to get to know you, the real you. More about essays below.
Transcript Request Online Form PLEASE NOTE: College transcripts take at least 3 (working) days to be processed and teacher recommendations take up to 3 weeks so please ask your teachers early.
Letters of Recommendation allow colleges to learn more about you from your teachers and counselor. If you need a letter, it can take up to three weeks, so plan ahead and complete the required information form.
Types of College Application Deadlines
Each college offers a different set of deadlines. Always check admissions websites for the most accurate information and detailed requirements for the deadlines.
Rolling Admission schools review applications as they’re submitted and make decisions throughout the admission cycle (usually within four to six weeks of submission of the application).
Early Action means that you send your application by an early deadline (often November 1) and the college sends you its decision earlier, sometimes before the end of December. Some colleges do have additional restrictions on their early action programs, though, so make sure to read carefully the instructions from each college.
Early Decision deadlines require you to commit to attending the college if you are admitted. So, students who choose this option should be certain that the school is their first choice. It’s an appealing option because sometimes the admission rates are higher with Early Decision.
Regular Decision means that you turn in your application by the college’s deadline, and they let you know by a specified date.
Priority Deadline is an option that some schools offer. It’s often connected to scholarship or honors program opportunities. Colleges may offer another deadline option along with the priority deadline or they may not.
More about the essay
The college essay is a source of a lot of stress for seniors. It’s important to note that not all colleges require essays. Essays give the admissions officers more information about who you are as a person. Often colleges that practice holistic admissions will require one or more essays. Some essay tips:
Be you! The college admissions officers want to get to know you. You want to go to a college that fits for you. Relax and be you.
Tell a real story (it doesn’t have to be exciting!) about you that conveys something about your core qualities, talents, values or skills. The most ordinary stories can make the best essays!
Break the rules! This isn’t the time for a perfect 5 paragraph essay or a rigid adherence to beginning, middle and end. Start in the middle! Admit you don’t know how it ends! Break. The. Rules.
Show them your strength and determination. Life is challenging in big and small ways. College can be tough. Don’t be afraid to talk about a time when things didn’t go well, but you persevered. That makes for a great college essay.
Read some good personal essays, not necessarily just college essays. Don’t copy their themes or ideas, but get a feeling for the genre. These essays sound a bit different than other things you may have read. Reading a few good ones can help you find your voice.
Some great college essay resources: