Understanding College Admissions Assistance

Help For the Application Process

Washington University in St. Louis, MissouriCredit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=303

For many high school students, the time between taking the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) for the first time during sophomore year and getting a university letter of acceptance during the spring of their senior year can be harrowing.  This goes for their parents as well.

The journey from high school student to prospective college student is one that parents and their child undertake together.  There are many, many resources available for folks needing college admissions assistance and all of those resources fall into two categories: free assistance and paid assistance.

Obviously free assistance is help without a fee.  Your child’s high school academic counselor should be able to provide assistance, particularly with academic test deadlines and other hoops students planning to attend college must jump through. 

Other valuable resources are the websites for the university/universities your child is hoping to attend.  They can offer the most specific information regarding the kinds of students the university accepts for admission and the parts of the college application that must be filled out along with the deadlines.  Ideally, your child will be self-motivated to apply for college admission, write college admissions essays, etc, but it always helps if you, the parent, know what is expected in the application process as well.  If you have questions about the application process for a university or if you’d like to set up a campus visit, usually you can contact the admissions office and they are very happy to help you.

Of course, another valuable resource in the research you will do about college admissions will beGoing to CollegeCredit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=2280 the Internet—not just university websites but the sites dedicated to college preparation and admissions in general.  There are thousands of websites devoted to providing information about universities, scholarships, school rankings and lots of other aspects of the application process and the collegiate experience.  Unfortunately, some of them will offer general information about the process for free and then charge a fee for specialized information and/or consulting services.  To avoid spending money on college counseling and/or consulting, try to do the following:

Patronize websites that offer services that universities or other organizations must pay for so that they can be listed.  An example of this kind of site is Fastweb which has the largest scholarship database available online and it earns money by charging to list scholarship opportunities and by showing ads on most of their pages.

Visit websites that offer information about college admissions but that don't offer another tier of service for a fee.  For example, the most helpful article I found on the first two pages of a Google search was on the TLC website, HowStuffWorks.  This site which has no ulterior motive other than to show you how the college applications process works, has a comprehensive admissions guide with plenty of links where you can find more free information as well as paid assistance.  Another great site is U.S. News and World Reports annual Best Colleges Guide that comes out every fall.  In it, you’ll find the most up-to-date information about the strengths of all kinds of American universities as well as comprehensive guides about paying for college, college applications and a wonderful database of schools.

Perhaps the only kind of information I endorse paying for in terms of college admissions assistance are the annual college guides published by a few well-respected organizations that dedicate themselves to collecting university data all year long for students and their families applying to schools.  Since they  include up to date information about college admissions, it is important to buy the most current edition you can.  All of them are available at Amazon and some of the most reputable college guides include The Best 376 Colleges from The Princeton Review and The College Handbook from The College Board.

Basically, there are two kinds of college admissions assistance: free and paid.  Both free and paid college information is available online.  I certainly don’t mean to knock college admissions consultants that you can hire but the sources I have listed here are on reputable sites and published by reputable organizations.  Best of luck on your college admissions journey!