Questions and Answers

You and your family may have questions about getting ready for a post-secondary education. We’ll address your concerns here. Have a question that hasn’t been answered? Feel free to contact us and ask.

My Future

When should I start thinking about going to college?

Posted on 09/03/2009

It’s never too early to start thinking about going to college. If you know the courses you need to take in high school, you can start satisfying college admission requirements as early as the 8th grade. The decisions you make about your high school studies may influence the type of educational institution you want to attend and whether the schools you choose will also want you. You may decide to take Advanced Placement classes to better prepare yourself for college or participate in certain extracurricular activities
to strengthen your application.

I am the first in my family to go to college, who can help me with the application process?

Posted on 09/03/2009

You should reach out to your teachers and counselors for assistance. They can help you navigate the application process, as well as discuss your academic and professional options. Be sure to talk with them about what you are looking for in your college experience, so they can help you screen for appropriate schools and programs. You can also talk to people who are already in college for advice on where and how to apply via our online community.

Should I stay in my hometown for college or go away? How do I decide where I should live?

Posted on 09/03/2009

It depends on your academic priorities, what you can afford as well as your social needs and location preferences. Be sure to read up on all the schools you are considering. This includes looking at course catalogs, the size of their departments, the diversity of the student body and campus accessibility to nearby cities and attractions.

Living at home will be less expensive but may limit the amount of time you can spend getting to know your college campus. Living on campus will allow you to meet many other students your age, and it can make the adjustment to college life easier. Whereas living off campus can provide you with a lot of freedom since you get to make your own rules and determine what you do with your time.

My Choices

What’s the difference between a college and a university?

Posted on 09/03/2009

Nothing really! One is bigger than the other, but they all offer educational opportunities after high school.

What does certification mean?

Posted on 09/03/2009

It tells people that you’re qualified in a specific area. Some jobs may require a certification test. College is not necessary for all certifications. For example careers in Information Technology (IT), Financial Management and Planning, Medical Aid, Automotive, Fitness Training and many more careers require certification.

What’s “post-secondary education?”

Posted on 09/03/2009

It’s the schooling you get after high school: colleges, universities, community colleges, trade schools or vocational schools.

What’s community college?

Posted on 09/03/2009

It’s a school that is open to anyone with a high school diploma or GED. Community colleges provide targeted job training in several fields like auto mechanics, nursing, and culinary arts. Community College can also be a great stepping stone to additional education; after successful completion of two years, there is the option to transfer to a four year college.

What an Associate’s Degree?

Posted on 09/03/2009

The diploma offered by community colleges. You can earn this degree in two years, sometimes less. Recent studies also suggest that some two year degrees are as rewarding as four year degrees especially those in health sciences and technology.

What’s a Bachelor’s Degree?

Posted on 09/03/2009

This is the typical diploma awarded by four-year colleges and universities. Most professional jobs require a Bachelor’s degree.

My Money

How do I apply for federal student aid?

Posted on 09/03/2009

Getting financial aid starts with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. You can find more information at:

By filling it out, you apply for the U.S. Department of Education’s federal student aid programs, the largest source of student aid in America. In many cases, you’re also automatically applying for funds from your state, and your school as well.

It’s recommended that you complete the FAFSA online. More help is available online, and you’ll get a response within 3-5 days, rather than 2-3 weeks by mail.

How do I find out if I am eligible for federal student aid?

Posted on 09/03/2009

You might be eligible if all of these apply to you:

  • You are a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen
  • You are a high school graduate or GED holder
  • You are working toward a degree or certificate in an eligible program
  • You are not in default on a federal student loan and do not owe money to the government related to other grants or loans

You can get complete eligibility information here

How can I consider sending my child to college during an economic downturn that may cost me my job?

Posted on 09/03/2009

It’s natural to have concerns about the future when so much about our economy is uncertain. However, it might help you to know that federal aid programs may take a major change in your circumstances — like divorce, loss of your job or a major illness — into account. Encourage your child to get a good education, regardless of your financial situation. If you do lose your job, make an appointment with the Financial Aid Administrator at your child’s school. Explain your circumstances. Additional assistance may be available.

When do you find out if you received the scholarships you applied for? Does that money go directly to the school or to the student?

Posted on 09/03/2009

That depends on the specific scholarship. Some will write you a personal check, whereas others only count toward tuition credit. Read the fine print for every scholarship, because the notification dates and payment amounts can vary.

My Plan

Do I really have to take standardized tests?

Posted on 09/03/2009

Taking the SAT isn’t necessary to go to community college. But, most four-year schools want to see ACT or SAT scores. High scores on the ACT might allow you to skip certain college classes, saving you money or allowing you to take another elective class. And a top score on the PSAT (Pre-SAT) might get you a scholarship. So register for the PSATs, too.

What’s the difference between the ACT and the SAT?

Posted on 09/03/2009

Both tests are meant to test fundamental knowledge that a high school student should have. But the tests have different formats and test different subject matter. The ACT is more subject/achievement-oriented while the SAT focuses more on problem-solving and thinking skills. The ACT has an optional writing section, which students do last, while the writing section on the SAT is required and students must do it first. Be aware that many colleges require the optional writing section on the ACT, so check into that before deciding whether or not to opt for that test.

The ACT has a science section but the SAT does not. Both are mostly multiple choice—except for the writing section. Also, the SAT has one math section where students are required to produce their own answers. Students are penalized for guessing on the SAT but they are not penalized for guessing on the ACT.

Are there advantages to taking the SAT rather than the ACT?

Posted on 09/03/2009

First find out which tests are required by the school you are applying to. Most colleges will accept either test; a few do not require these standardized tests. You can generally find this information by looking online at the school’s site or by contacting the admissions office.

If money is not an issue, and if either test is accepted by the colleges you are applying to, you may want to consider taking both. If your budget is tight, it’s best to take practice tests to see if you score better on one or the other. You should also check to see if you qualify for fee waivers. In six states (Tennessee, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky and Wyoming), schools use the ACT as a statewide test and state funding pays for all juniors to take it.

Why do I need to know how to write an essay?

Posted on 09/03/2009

Essays are not only building blocks for more complex writing assignments; they can also be handy tools for the future. If you are faced with limited time and space to answer a question on an essay exam, you will find the five-paragraph essay useful to fall back on. So will a job applicant writing a cover letter. No matter what you do after high school, you’ll need to be able to think logically, write clearly and make your point concisely.

My Network

How can I talk to someone about what campus life is like?

Posted on 09/03/2009

Be sure to sign up on our site and join the “My Network” community. You can meet people that are currently at school and get their take on college life. (link to “My Network”)

How do I decide if I want to join a club or belong to a sorority/fraternity?

Posted on 09/03/2009

You can choose to join a sorority or fraternity, or any of the other student organizations that are offered on your campus. What’s important is that you get involved in an activity that appeals to you and fits your interests and goals.

If I need a tutor, will I be able to find one at my college?

Posted on 09/03/2009

Many colleges offer free or reduced price tutoring through a college tutoring office. Also, professors and teaching assistants who hold office hours may be able to help you with any questions or problems you might have.

Can I talk with a professor from a college I want to attend?

Posted on 09/03/2009

Absolutely! Most schools actually encourage contact with professors or administrators to help with the selection process. Be sure to talk to the school’s admissions office about the questions you want to ask and have them recommend a professor you can contact.


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This Week's Q&A

Posted 09/03/2009


Do I really have to take standardized tests?

Find the answers here

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