College Guide

Please take time to review this information as you have time.  Use the checklist to keep organized.  Yes, it does take time, but a college graduate statistically has twice as much life time earnings as compared to someone who does not.  Besides successfully graduating from high school, college entrance exam preparation and financial aid tasks will be a bulk of the work.  


College Checklist


Date Due

Date Done

__ Complete College Planner Course 10th or 11th Year ________
__ Attend College Days for college of interest 10th or 11th Year ________
__ Begin SAT or ACT exam preparation Junior Year ________
__ Order class rings May of Jr. Year ________
__ Review Academic Projection September Sr. Year ________
__ Register for SAT or ACT testing  (Enter possible college choices.  If prepared, take test early enough to allow time for a retake.) September ________
__ Schedule senior pictures October ________
__ Complete College Application November ________
__ Get measured and order cap and gown November ________
__ Order graduation announcements December ________
__ Complete scholarship applications November ________
__ Apply for Pell Grants, Federal Loans (FAFSA) December ________
__ Complete other financial applications Before March 1 ________
__ Request GPA printout through 1st Semester February 1 ________
__ Request transcript through 1st Semester February 1 ________
__ Submit transcript requests for college apps  February 1 ________
__ Register to retake SAT/ACT, if needed  Jan. / Feb. ________
__ Send out graduation announcements (minimum average of $10-$20 each) April ________
__ Purchase Thank You Cards April ________
__ Graduation   ________
__ Send Thank You Cards for all gifts May/June ________

College Selection

High School juniors and seniors have a big decision to make just selecting the college or university they might want to attend.  You can do all kinds of research and in many cases even take a virtual tour of the campus to get a feel for the atmosphere.  However, the best way to determine if an institution is the right fit is to visit the campus and take a walking tour.


Tips for A Visit:

·        Arrive early

·        Take a student-led tour

·        Take a driving tour

·        Try the food at a college dining facility

·        Talk to students you meet, ask questions  

·        Find out writing style used at college (e.g. MLA1, MLA2, Chicago, etc.)

·        Find out whether the college prefers ACT or SAT

·        Check the recreational facilities

·        Visit the college bookstore

·        Attend a college-sponsored event-a concert, lecture, or athletic event

·        Tour academic buildings and the library

·        Visit the admissions office and pick up packets of information

·        Meet with a financial aid advisor and check on any scholarships available

·        Ask lots of questions


Remember to keep all options open.  Attend college fairs and gather all the information you can.  Apply to several colleges and hopefully you will be able to chose the college that offers you not only the best in academics but also the best financial package.  Above all, select the college with the “best fit for you.” 


Avoid last minute decision-making—apply early.  Many schools have early decision programs. Check to see whether the school requires SAT or ACT or allows either.  Most colleges allow prospective students to apply online.  Be meticulous in complete applications, essays, and references!  Create a checklist to make sure everything required is completed prior to the deadline.


The financial aid process parallels the applications process.  You should complete your federal aid form and documents in the spring of your senior year.  Do not shy away from interest in a college due to finances.  There are grants based on academic performance and there are grants based on family need.  Explore all options.  

College Finances

Paying for college education with loans and scholarships is well worth the investment . Experts say that a college graduate will earn over twice as much money in their lifetime as a high school graduate. This will pay for the student loans, and then some! And scholarships are free, of course.  With all the resources available for a student today, paying for college with loans and scholarships should be no problem. There are several federal student loan programs available to help you pay for college. Some are based on financial need, but some are open to anyone. With some of the federal student loans, the government will even pay your interest while you attend school. All these loans feature low interest rates to begin with. They can be used to pay for your tuition, room and board, books, supplies, lab fees, and living expenses.  

First Step: All students should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid ( FAFSA) below.  Normally, the intended college(s) should be known at the time of the application.  Your FAFSA will cover applications to a Pell Grant and other Federal programs all in the one application.  

One program is the Perkins loan, which loans up to forty thousand dollars at low interest rates to students who need help paying for a college education. Another very popular federal student loan program is the Stafford loan, which students can use to pay for their education regardless of financial need. With Stafford loans, undergraduate students may borrow up to $46,000 toward covering their college tuition, room and board, and other related expense. 

Not only does the government offer low cost loans to students to help pay for college, they also have a program called Pell Grants. These are grants based on financial need, and they range from $400 to $4000 per year, and since they’re grants, not loans, they never have to be repaid. Pell Grants have enabled literally millions of Americans to go to college who otherwise couldn’t afford it. Probably the most overlooked source of financial aid is college scholarships. There are literally billions of dollars in scholarships available every year, but sadly, tens of millions of dollars in scholarship money go unclaimed every year. Everyone’s heard of scholarships, but many people assume that you have to have a perfect grade point average to qualify for one. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, there are some scholarships which require high academic achievement, but there are many, many others for students who don’t have a 4.0 GPA. 

Apply for scholarships:  Visit the intended college website's Financial Aid section to see a list of possible scholarships.  These will vary from school to school.  If a parent works for a larger business, research to see if a scholarship is available.   

The number and variety of scholarships is simply amazing-most religious groups and civic organizations and medium to large businesses offer scholarship money to students who share their faith, or whose parents are members of their group, or work for their company. Wal-Mart, McDonalds, Target, Tylenol, and thousands and thousands of other companies offer scholarships to students, and many of these are for substantial sums. The best way to find out about the scholarships that can help you pay for college is to go on the internet to one of the many sites that offer a free scholarship search (i.e, With all these resources available-grants, loans, and scholarships, truly every one in America who wants to attend college should be able to, and shouldn’t be held back because they don’t think they can afford to pay for a college education.

Research Work Study Options:  Although having a part-time job while going to college may distract the student, often an on-campus, work study job can conveniently assist the student financially and provide good work experience.  Also check with the college's financial aid department for a list of historical off-campus employers. 

Financial Links:   Dept. of Education    Federal Student Aid   Aid for Online Colleges    Wachovia

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)

This requires some time from the parent, but it should be a high priority!  Normally, you will want to print out the current FAFSA on the Web Worksheet (usually the top link) so you can prepare information that you will need while filling out a FAFSA online.  The worksheet will require a little homework before filling out the application. You will need tax information and possible choices of schools.  Application deadlines vary by state, but are usually in early spring.   Both the student and the parent will have login accounts setup to check the status of the application.  You will also receive information via email.

ACT/SAT Preparation Information

Note: Please read this page over to become familiar with college entrance testing information that is needed during the junior and senior years.  You should also make sure to review our FAFSA (financial aid) packet at the beginning of the senior year.  Contact us to request the FAFSA packet if you have not received it or cannot find it.   Please let us know if any of the links did not work or if you have found another good resource.

Student Registration and Further Information:   SAT - ACT -

Overview: Which test should you take? What timeline should you be aware of?  Are there benefits to preparing for college entrance exams?  If so, which method makes the most sense?  Should we use only free resources?  Should we use software or an online course?  Should we use a tutoring service?  Should we use a course?  A higher score can mean whether the student is offered acceptance, scholarships, and other opportunities.  Even if a student has an impressive high school G.P.A., it doesn't mean he or she will receive a corresponding entrance test score.  Some concepts may have been covered in the student's curriculum long enough ago that brushing up may be required.  Students need to be familiar with the testing format so they can focus on the content of the exam.  

ACT or SAT?  Many colleges and universities require a particular exam.  You should research the schools you are interested in to find out.  Some schools, such as Ivy League, require special testing called SAT Subject Tests.  Maybe you already know whether you'll be focusing on the SAT or the ACT. However, for many applicants--particularly those in the Midwest and the South--this can be a difficult decision.

The major differences between the SAT and the ACT:

The SAT is preferred on the coasts, while the ACT is more often used in the Midwest. However, each school has its own policies, and many schools accept both exams. You should check with every school to which you're considering applying.

The ACT has a Science section. If you hate science, this is a potential reason to avoid the ACT. However, you should realize that the Science section of the ACT tests reasoning skills and not actual science knowledge.

The essay is required on the SAT, but optional on the ACT. More importantly, the essay factors into your overall SAT score but not your composite ACT score.

There is no penalty for wrong answers on the ACT. However, this shouldn't affect your decision about which test to take.

All your SAT scores show up on every SAT report, but you can send only the ACT scores you want. So it's easier to hide bad ACT scores. However, most schools claim to look at only your highest score on a particular test. The biggest ramification of this difference is probably that it's harder to hide taking the SAT many times.

While the College Board would deny it, the SAT tends to work slightly more like an IQ test than does the ACT. The subject matter is no more advanced, but math is trickier and grammar concepts are harder to pin down. So at least marginally, good test-takers do better on the SAT while good students (including "grinders") do better on the ACT. 

In the end, you'll need to take whichever test your prospective colleges require. But if those colleges will accept either exam, you should probably make a decision about where to focus most of your prep efforts.

Still, don't forget that you can at least take both the SAT and the ACT. A lot of overlap exists between the exams, and at least attempting both of them may give you the best shot of getting the score you need. Taking the exam as early as possible may allow time to retest if necessary.  More specifics about SAT  SAT Registration/Test Dates   More specifics about ACT   ACT Registration/Test Dates

PSAT or PLAN? The PSAT (Practice SAT) is given to sophomores and juniors each fall in mostly public schools. You will need to inquire with a local school to learn of their procedures for non-enrolled students.  It's primarily just a practice SAT that isn't sent to colleges. The PSAT is also, though, used to determine National Merit Scholarship qualifying. The PLAN is a test similar to the PSAT for those who will later take the ACT. The major benefit of either of these tests is the student can get an idea of test expectations AND still be able to take the SAT or ACT the next year.  More about the PSAT

Preparation: Helpful Timeline Information  There are enough factors involved to warrant test preparation of some kind to achieve a realistic score that represents the student's knowledge and ability. Preparation costs can often be a valuable financial investment.  It can possibly make the difference from being accepted or considered for a scholarship. You may want to start with the free resources, then use a paid online course in addition to software such as Kaplans to equip your student.  Struggling students or the necessity of a high score may warrant attending a course or using a tutor.   Here are some popular choices for preparation: 

Free Resources:    With some effort on the student and parent's part, free resources can be a good way to prepare. (Some of these free resources are on sites that also sell products.)  Supervision, encouragement, and accountability should be provided by the parent.  Purchased prep material may still be required to maximize the student's potential.  Consider tutoring or a course if you are a busy parent.

SAT Online Course

SAT Prep 

SAT Prep

SAT Practice Questions|902546864

SAT Practice Test

SAT Practice Test

SAT Essay Prep

SAT Essay Prep

SAT/ACT Prep Course

ACT Online Course

ACT Prep 

ACT Practice Test

SAT or ACT Prep

PSAT Practice Test

PSAT Online Course    

Paying For College  Make sure you have our FAFSA Packet!


Software/Online Course:  Although this method usually has built in controls to make sure the student is reviewing all material, it may still need parental involvement to make sure it is completed and used properly.  

SAT Online Course  (from Publisher of Test $70)

ACT Online Course  ($169 plus 15 hours of tutoring can be added for $50)

SAT/ACT/PSAT Software (Local Discount Store for approx. $35)  Kaplan SAT/ACT/PSAT Platinum 


Course/Workshop that is attended by student:  Student travels to their location for classes. This option may cost more than software, online courses, or free resources, but may be good for a student that needs interaction and accountability.  It is often the easiest method for the parent and is usually less expensive than tutoring.   You may want to search online, Yellow Pages, community college, or other parents for options available in your specific geographic area  (i.e. "SAT Prep Course" in the phrase and your state/town in the word box).  

PowerScore  Course (approx. $600)  Weekend (approx. $350) available all over the U.S. and usually includes a score increase guarantee.


Tutoring:  This method can be the most expensive, but may help a student the most.  The tutor should have a proven track record with college entrance exams and not just academic experience.  There are several online or telephone one-on-one tutoring options that include live help while completing a customized course.  These can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars ($15-$100 per hour).  Google "SAT Tutoring" or "ACT Tutoring" to find several options to compare. Normally, you can use your local Yellow Pages to find a local college entrance exam tutor. Local options may have less expensive small groups options.


SAT Online Tutoring 

SAT Online Tutoring

SAT Telephone Tutoring 

SAT/ACT In-Home Tutoring for So. Cal