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College Planning Resources

General Resources

  • Book: 171 Answers to the Most-Asked College Admission Questions (Mark Stucker)
  • Podcast: Your College Bound Kid (Our college counselor cannot overstate how excellent this resource is. But beware: you may get hooked! The podcast host is Mark Stucker, who wrote the book 171 Answers to the Most-Asked College Admissions Questions. He knows it all.)
  • YouTube Channel: SuperTutor. (Host Brooke Hanson is a wealth of knowledge about testing, college essays, and the whole process. Her channel features short, direct, very helpful videos that cover all aspects of the admissions process.)
  • Website: This Treasure Trove is the place where college essay and admissions guru Ethan Sawyer generously keeps all of his resources so you can find them easily. He has a great timeline of what to do when, exercises to help write the college essay, personality tests, financial aid info, and more. 

Knowing what to do when

Making a college list and researching “college fit”:

  • Website: CollegeVine is robust, user friendly, and full of answers. There is a great college search tool, and the capability to save your college list, along with test scores, GPA, and activities. Then College Vine will let you know if the school is a stretch, possible, or probable fit, as well as whether or not you are better off including your test score or going test-optional. 
  • Website: CollegeData has a great college search tool that will find schools that match your preferences and needs. Once there, you can see all kinds of demographic data about the schools to see if it is a good academic and financial fit.
  • Website: Niche.com. A student favorite, this site has a great search tool to make a college list. You can also look at individual college information, including a variety of reviews. You can also use this site to build a list by clicking the “Similar Colleges” link. 
  • Book: The Fiske Guide to Colleges (2021). This book is a classic for a reason: terrific summaries of several categories from the campus culture to key programs…it’s a perfect book to have around to discover new schools and learn more about yourself based on what piques your interest. 
  • Book: Colleges That Change Lives (CTCL). This book features 40 terrific, smaller colleges, many of them not well known, that read applications carefully and are known for providing students with excellent teaching and support. 
  • Book: The K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Differences. Great resource to help students who need extra support find schools who are excellent at providing it. 

Visiting Campuses:

  • Virtual tours: Check out YouVisit, eCampusTours, and Princeton Review’s list of virtual campus tours.
  • Head to YouTube and type in the name of a college. Watch vlogs, videos, etc., to get a sense of what a place and its students are like. 
  • Once vaccinations are rolled out, campus tours may become possible. Three- and four-day weekends are great times to visit. This article talks about how to plan a campus visit. 

Paying for college:

  • Read The Price You Pay for College (Ron Leiber) and Debt Free Degree (Anthony Oneal). Different takes on the same question: How will we pay for college? Both books have excellent advice and the same goal: to help students graduate with little to no debt so that they and their families can pursue opportunities instead of work to pay off debt. 
  • Head to Facebook and join the group “Paying for College 101.” This group’s hive mind is full of ideas and perspectives (maybe sometimes too many? hmm…). An invaluable resource.
  •  FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Each year prior to the one when a student plans to enroll, families complete financial information on this government site to see what kind of grants, loans, and work study options are available. The FAFSA Application is a necessity. Most, if not all, financial aid applications require completion of this form. 
  • Some schools also require families to fill out a CSS Profile, which is more extensive than the FAFSA.
  • Before you complete either the FAFSA or the CSS, students can get an estimate of how much financial aid they may be eligible for with the FAFSA4caster. Ttis is an excellent predictive tool. To understand how to use it, check out this link: What is the FAFSA4Caster?
  • Check out this comprehensive video explanation of how to fill out the FAFSA so you can avoid costly mistakes. 
  • Look for scholarships starting as early as 8th grade. GoingMerry.com is a great resource: it stores and autofills information; finds scholarships specific to your background, experiences and interests; and even bundles scholarships together so you can apply to multiple scholarships at the same time. 
  • To better understand how much a college might cost and how much you will need each year (including for projected tuition increases), use QuatroMoney. It is a free financial planning resource that makes planning more tangible. 

Other great resources:

  • Wondering what to major in? MyMajor’s assessment helps identify best-fit majors for the curious, the undecided, or those who seek confirmation of what they already know. 
  • If you love taking quizzes, Your Free Career Test is another great resource to determine possible good career fits. 
  • YouScience is an excellent tool that helps people of all ages determine their aptitudes and interests, and maps out academic plans to achieve one’s goals. It’s well worth the $29 fee.