College Planning

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How do I choose a college?

- How do you want to grow and change in the next few years? What kind of environment would stimulate the growth that you would like to see?

- What degree of academic rigor is best for you? Do you want an academic program where you must work and think hard, or one where you can make respectable grades without getting stressed out? How important is it for you to perform at the top of your class? How well do you respond to academic pressure and competition from others?

- What interests do you want to pursue in college? Do your interests require any special facilities, programs, or opportunities? How competitive will it be in order for you to be involved? How important is it for you to be able to nurture these interests, participate or compete at the college level?

- How would you enjoy living in a different part of the country? How often do you want to be able to go home?
What kinds of surroundings are important to your well-being? Are there certain places, activities, environments, weather, or pace of life that make you happy?

- Do you enjoy being a part of large groups of people or do you need a more personal environment?

- How important are the opinions of your parents, teachers, and friends in choosing a college? How important are the factors of college prestige or reputation?

- How important are costs when looking at colleges? Have you and your parents talked about how your college education will be financed? How important will financial aid and/or merit scholarships be in choosing where you might go to school?

How do I know if a college is right for me?

There's no such thing as a perfect college experience, but we recommend you choose a college that:

1. Offers the program of study to match your interests and needs
2. Provides a style of instruction to match the way you like to learn
3. Provides a level of academic rigor to match your aptitude and preparation
4. Offers a community that feels like home to you
5. Values you for what you do well and what you hope to do in the future

Which test should I take to get into college?

The answer to this question depends on what colleges you are thinking about applying to. Most schools will accept both the ACT and SAT, but someone colleges might accept or prefer one over the other. Contact the college admissions office or check out the admissions page for the colleges you are interested in applying to find admissions requirements.

When should I take the ACT/SAT?

Sign up for a test at least once during your junior year of high school. If you would like to improve your scores, you can spend time in the summer building your skills before retaking your exam in the fall. Colleges will only consider your highest scores, which should be sent directly from the testing agency. Scores will also be submitted to SWCHS and added on to student transcripts.

What are colleges looking at?

1. Grade Point Average (GPA)
2. Difficulty of Curriculum
3. Test Scores
4. Extracurricular Activities
5. Recommendations
6. Essays or Personal Statements
7. Demonstrated Interest in the School

How soon should I apply?

As soon as you can! You don't have to decide right away, but many scholarships are given on a first-come, first-serve basis! Act quick and be a front runner for scholarships! There are academic, leadership, athletic, and artistic scholarships available at many schools!

How can I get the most out of touring a college?

College visits will help you determine if the colleges that look good on paper feel good in person. Conversely, some colleges may become more attractive than they seemed to you once you are actually there. You should call or e-mail the admissions representative before coming to campus to register for information sessions, campus tours, visits to classes and lecture halls, and housing tours. If you would like to meet with an admission officer, be sure to set up an appointment before you arrive on campus – some admission offices may take “walk-ins” but most adhere to appointments. Admissions counselors are big advocates for scholarships, so make sure you make a great impression!

Plan to visit no more than two colleges in one day. Each visit takes about 2–4 hours. If possible have a meal or snack on campus to get an idea of the food they serve. Pick up a student newspaper and visit the student union or sports facilities. The best way to experience a college is to go when students are on campus (not Christmas or Spring Break). You will be able to experience student life and see what your potential new community will be like. Immediately following your visit, jot down your impressions of the college. What did you like and what did not appeal to you? Can you see yourself living there?

Should I consider a 2-year school or community college?

Most two-year colleges are public and offer a less expensive and more convenient option for students wanting to receive a college education. Though two-year colleges offer associate degrees, many students start their post-secondary education at a two-year college and then transfer to a four-year college or university. Many four-year colleges accept community college credit though it is always best to check to see if specific coursework will transfer between institutions. Some examples of community colleges in Minnesota are Normandale Community College (Bloomington) and Minneapolis Community and Technical College (Minneapolis)

What is the difference between technical or trade schools?

These schools offer training for a specific occupation and usually do not offer general or “liberal arts” coursework such as English, social studies, or the humanities, etc. These schools can be public or private, and coursework can usually be completed within two years or less. The difference between technical schools and trade schools is that technical schools teach the science behind the occupation, while trade schools generally focus on the more hands on skills needed to do the job. Some examples of technical, trade, and specialty schools in Minnesota are Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis, Aveda Institute of Minneapolis, and Hennepin Technical College in Eden Prairie.

What FAFSA (financial aid) data has the most impact on the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) calculation?

Parents’ income and assets, household size, number of dependents attending college, and the student’s income and assets.

What should I compare when looking at financial aid awards between my school choices?

- Cost of attendance
- Total amount of aid
- Types of aid offered
- Amount of gift aid vs. loans
- Whether the amount of work-study is realistic
- If grants/scholarships are renewable and whether there are terms for renewing (ex. GPA, credits, course of study, etc.)
- Whether aid may change from year to year