5 ways to simplify your college search
If you're the type to spend half an hour scrounging through grocery coupons or know all the inside secrets about getting the cheapest plane tickets, there's no reason why your college search shouldn't be exactly the same. The truth is, picking a two- or four-year institution is challenging, but instead of throwing in the towel before you even reach the starting line, here are five ways that you can make your search easy, stress-free and rewarding:
1. Use a net price calculator
All colleges and universities are required by U.S. law to have a net price calculator available online for parents and future students to gauge how much their education is going to cost.
Thomas Blum, vice president for administration at a New York-based university, warns college shoppers to be wary when they use these online calculators because some might be outdated or come up with results that are too good to be true.
"If you're working with a calculator that seems abridged, be careful," Blum told U.S. News and World Report. "It might be worth calling the financial aid office of that school and saying 'I'm nervous this number is not realistic.'"
2. Don't be afraid of a price tag
Just because a college or university might seem out of your price range, you shouldn't cross it off your list of prospective institutions. With an array of scholarships available to you, there's no reason to rule out any school, especially if it has online options or is known for providing excellent need-based financial aid. Additionally, you should never assume that you have to pay for the whole price of admission. Millions of American learners are applying for merit- and need-based financial assistance, and if you're an athlete, you could even be eligible for a sports scholarship at some schools.
3. Avert your eyes from rankings
Schools at the top of the rankings are often judged based on their research departments and not student success or specific departments, according to CBS. Keep in mind that a lot of the biggest ranking systems are based on endowment as well. If you already know what you want to study while at a university, your college search should focus on institutions with strong departments in these fields. It's pointless to attend an Ivy League university if its renewable energy department, for example, is ranked lower than that of a small liberal arts school.
4. Consider staying close to home
If you're concerned about being able to afford college, you can easily rule out thousands of schools by narrowing down your choices to in-state institutions. Not only will you get in-state tuition at public schools, but if you pick a private college, you can save yourself hundreds of dollars a year in transportation and living expenses by commuting to class. Students who attend school in their home state can also be eligible for a number of scholarships that are set aside specifically for in-state learners.
5. Prepare early
Before you sit down to shop for the perfect school, make sure you prepare by taking all of the necessary tests and filling out all of the proper paperwork. Students: Improve those SAT scores to present colleges with a winning candidate. With these simple steps, you'll be confident in applying for universities that will not only accept you, but be just as excited to have you attend.