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College Selection & Admission
No matter what your goals are, some postsecondary education will help you to attain them. The following are some guidelines for you to decide what type of postsecondary school is best for you and the fulfillment of your dreams.

Catsup 1. Get started in your Junior year of high school.
Review your college preparation course requirements. Prepare for and take the appropriate college admission test - ACT and/or SAT I. If your test scores are a matter of concern, you may take these tests more than once.

2. Identify what you want from a college education.
In other words, how would a college degree fit with your future goals?

Consider these questions...
  • What are your career goals?
  • What are your personal goals?
  • What do you like to do during your free time?
  • What do you excel at or enjoy doing?
  • What is important to you?
  • Why do you want to go to college?
It's O.K. if you find it difficult to answer some of these questions. You can learn a lot about yourself by taking an aptitude or self-inventory assessment test. These tests are available at your high school guidance office or local community college.

3. Identify college characteristics that are important to you.

  • major and educational programs
  • type of school and degrees offered
  • location and size
  • costs and financial aid
  • college accreditation
  • academic reputation
4. Explore different types of schools.
Many offer a broad spectrum of academic programs to fit your goals. You can choose from among the following types of schools.
College - an institution which offers students a curriculum culminating in a four-year bachelor's degree in a specialized subject.

University - an institution which may be similar to a college, and in addition, may offer a graduate degree beyond a bachelor's degree.

Community College - an institution that provides two-year programs of study towards a certificate or an associate degree. A Community College can be either for the student who ultimately transfers to a four-year college or university, or for the student who wants a specialized training program for a specific occupation.

Vocational/Technical School - an institution which offers career-oriented programs in certain specialized occupations. This intensive course of study may take weeks, months or several years, depending on the academic program.

Throughout this Web site, when a reference to "college" is made, it means the school you will attend for your postsecondary education, whether that is a college, university, community college, technical, trade, or vocational school. Choose the type of school that offers the education which leads to the career you want. By selecting a school type, you will narrow down your choice of schools. If you are unsure of your area of study, look at schools which offer more general studies to allow you the time to decide.

5. Make a list of colleges you are considering and collect information.

Sources of Information:
  • Libraries
  • College representatives, catalogs and bulletins
  • High school counselors and teachers
  • Directories, computer information systems (Internet, Higher-EdNet)
  • Parents, siblings, friends, students and alumni
  • Professionals in your desired field of study

6. Take Time to Plan.
Your next move is to compile a list of college attributes that most appeal to you.
For example:
  • types of academic programs and degrees offered
  • job placement rates
  • geographic location
  • cost of attendance and opportunities for financial assistance
  • admission selection requirements
  • academic reputation in your field of study
  • size of student body and community
  • types of housing available
  • diversity of student body (male/female ratio, minority representation, religious organizations, fraternities/sororities)
  • ratio of students to faculty
  • facilities

Make file folders for each college that interests you - it will be easier to keep all the information together. You might want to group these files by:
Reach schools: where you may be admitted and they may be affordable
Likely schools: where you are likely to be admitted and they would most likely be affordable.
Certain schools: where you are certain to be admitted and they are certain to be affordable.
Refer to your files and compare the pros and cons of each school you are considering as you narrow the choices to a manageable list of four to six schools. As you make your final list, don't forget those schools that might be a "reach" academically or financially.

One of the best ways to research a college you are interested in attending is to make a college visit. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of a college visit:

  • discuss your interests and ideas about college with your parents and guidance counselor prior to the visit
  • research the colleges you plan to visit to become more educated about the academic programs
  • contact colleges you plan to visit to make an appointment at least two weeks in advance
  • evaluate your high school record so you are able to answer general questions about your academic performance in high school and your scores on standardized tests (ACT and SAT I)
Take with you on your visit a prepared list of what information you would like to know about that college. For example:
  • take a guided tour of the campus and talk with students and faculty
  • meet with an admission counselor to verify admission requirements
  • meet with a financial aid counselor to determine actual costs of attendance and types of financial aid available from the institution
  • investigate your academic program and inquire about observing a class or two
  • visit residence halls and eat a meal in the cafeteria
  • discuss your chances of success... admission arrow retention arrow graduation arrow job placement.
If a college visit isn't possible, use this same list of questions when you talk with a college representative at a college fair. Be prepared with your questions to get the most out of a rep's visit - being organized is impressive!

7. In your senior year, apply for admission.

  • weigh all the information you've received to make your decision
  • know admission application fees and deadlines. Fulfill all application requirements of the school, such as: admission application, financial aid application, transcripts, essays, letters of recommendation, achievement test results, interviews. Remember to keep copies of all information you submit!
In January of your senior year, submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and include your top six college choices on the form so they will receive your information directly from the processor. Be sure to put an Illinois school as your first choice on the FAFSA to put your application in line for the Monetary Award Program eligibility review.

8. Colleges have different admission timetables and processes.
    Be sure to know which apply to the schools you are considering.

highly selective - file application during the fall or winter of your senior year. Decisions are mailed to applicants from early to mid-April and acceptance or decline notifications must occur no later than May 1.

rolling admission - applications are reviewed as the file on each student is completed. The time frame for the mailing of the decision may vary at each school from a few weeks to a certain date determined by the school.

early admission - students apply during their junior year of high school. Most colleges reserve this option for truly exceptional academic students with achievement levels sufficient for early entrance to college.

early decision - students apply to their first choice college early in the fall (usually by November 1) of their senior year and agree by contract to enter that college if offered admission. Decisions are mailed in December. Students may be reconsidered for admission if not selected for early decision.

January admission - students are admitted as freshmen to begin study in the middle of the academic year.

deferred admission - admitted students may be given the opportunity to delay or defer enrollment for a semester or a year. Often a deposit is required by the college to hold a place in the next class of students.

open admission - admission is offered to virtually all students who apply until the enrollment capacity is reached.

9.  Communication is important.
Follow up with the colleges where you've applied. Inquire if they might need any additional information.

10.  Select the college of your choice.
Inform all of the colleges where you applied of your final decision; this is especially important if you were accepted by several colleges.

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