There are many resources available for college-bound students. Here are just a few that we have found useful:
How do I decide on a college?
Questbridge has an excellent overview of the many factors that go into choosing the right college for you. As they note, aside from cost of attendance, you’ll want to think about:
- Your academic interests and available programs.
- Your learning style and the learning style of the school.
- School size.
- Student diversity.
- Non-academic opportunities, such as opportunities to participate in musical groups, dance groups, art, etc.
- Social life considerations, such as on-campus versus off-campus social life, fraternity and alcohol presence on campus.
- Urban, suburban, or rural setting.
- Distance from home can be a consideration.
- Geographic location and weather can be important to many people on a personal level.
- Opportunities to engage in things you personally enjoy.
What do I need to do in high school to prepare for college?
- Check out the CollegeAppMap, an interactive map to apps and websites to help you navigate the admissions process and beyond. It has links to online and mobile resources to help you find and apply to colleges, for aid and scholarships. The map also links to many free or low-cost iOS, Android, and Facebook apps.
- Junior year: Juniors College Admissions Checklist
- Senior year: Seniors College Admissions Checklist
- Plan your strategy for taking the standardized achievement tests: PSAT, SAT, and ACTs. Start here: College Entrance Exams Prep
- Make sure you are taking the correct classes for college-bound students (California’s A-G requirements).
How do I apply for college?
- The Common Application is an undergraduate college admission application that applicants may use to apply to any of 517 member colleges and universities in 47 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and United Kingdom. Get started here.
- All other colleges will have different deadlines and application procedure. Make sure you know what’s required for the ones you are interested in.
- Stay on top of deadlines for CA college applications:
What do I need to know about financial aid?
- One of the best resources we’ve seen that explains financial aid is also courtesy of Questbridge. Click here to read about how financial aid is determined and to increase your understanding of the process.
How do I apply for Federal Aid? What is available?
- Your starting place for Federal Aid (and if you wish to apply for aid to attend college in California) is the Federal Student Aid site. You’ll set up an account, and fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). You cannot access Federal aid without this standardized national form.
- Annual deadlines to submit the FAFSA are March 2; we suggest you file as early after January 1 as you can.
- A great tool is the FAFSA4caster. It will help you understand your options for paying for college. Provide some basic information and they will estimate your eligibility for federal student aid. Your estimate will be shown in the “College Cost Worksheet” where you can also provide estimated amounts of other student aid and savings that can go towards your college education.
- Federal student aid includes:
What other kinds of aid are available?
- Aid From Your State Government. Even if you’re not eligible for federal aid, you might be eligible for financial aid from your state, but you still must file a FAFSA application to be considered. California students can contact CSAC, your state grant agency, for more information:
- California Student Aid Commission P.O. Box 419026 Rancho Cordova, CA 95741-9026 Phone: (916) 526-7590 Toll-Free: (888) 224-7268 (Toll-Free Restrictions: CA residents only) Website: http://www.csac.ca.gov/
- Aid From Your College or Career School. Many colleges offer significant financial aid from their own funds. Find out what might be available to you:
- Visit your school’s financial aid page on its website, or ask someone in the financial aid office.
- Ask at the department that offers your course of study; they might have a scholarship for students in your major.
- Fill out any applications the school requires for its own aid, and meet the deadlines.
- Aid From a Nonprofit or Private Organization. Many organizations offer scholarships or grants to help students pay for college. This free money can make a real difference in how affordable your education is. Go local: the best opportunities are often found through community and church groups that award academic and other types of scholarships. To find these check with your high school guidance department.
Where can I find and apply for scholarships?
- Again, the good people at Questbridge have compiled an excellent list of scholarship resources: click here to find all you’ll need to start your search.
- Remember, you do not need to pay anyone to help you find scholarships!
How can I budget for college?
- It can be hard to know your college options without understanding the cost of attendance. Net price calculators can help. Here’s a list of net price calculators for the top 300 schools in the US. These online calculators can be found on every college and university’s website. Users input data such as age, veteran status, parental income and household size, and the tool calculates their estimated net price. That includes average tuition, room and board, books, supplies and personal expenses for first-time, full-time students, minus any grants or scholarships the student might receive.
- Look at the net price versus the sticker price (what most schools post on their websites). Don’t jump to conclusions too soon in your search: using the calculators at the very start of your search process will keep you from disregarding schools you might assume are financially out of reach.
What savings account options are available for me?
- Individual Development Accounts help low-income students and their families maximize their savings for college.
- While not an endorsement, for example, if your family qualifies, with EARN’s TripleBoost Account, you receive $3 for every $1 your family saves for your education. For parents or guardians: you can save up to $500 and receive $1,500 in match money, giving you a total of $2,000 to invest in your child’s education. Your child must be between the ages of 10 and 18 at the time you open an account. There are income qualifications.
- Here’s a directory of IDA providers in California.
- If your family income does not qualify, consider a 529 Plan, an education savings plan operated by a state or educational institution designed to help families set aside tax-advantaged funds for future college costs. In California the primary program available is the ScholarShare College Savings Plan. There are many others through financial institutions.
I’m overwhelmed! What do all these terms mean?
- Here’s a handy glossary to decode the terms you’ll see in your college and financial aid process.