Review: The Secrets of Picking a College

The Secrets of Picking a College
The Secrets of Picking a College by Lynn F Jacobs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The 10 Qs as a starting point (paraphrased):

1) What reasons do you have for wanting to go to college?
2) Do you have 1 passion or many broad interests?
3) If you’ve done a summer program, what did you learn about what you like or don’t about a college?
4) What courses do you like or not like in high school and why?
5) Do you like a challenge? Do you want it to be easy? Do you want to be with kids smarter than you?
6) Do you want to choose all your courses or do you want a school that has requirements?
7) What kinds of extracurriculars do you want?
8) Diversity in student population?
9) What kind of a city or town do you want to live in?
10) How far away from home do you want to be?

College: Undergrad only
University: Graduate studies, too – research

larger school —> broader course offerings, more social activities, greater diversity in student body.
smaller —> small classes, greater access to professors, fewer majors

Make sure the school you pick has actual course offerings you’re excited about.
Ask: Who teaches the classes? Faculty or grad students?Adjuncts or full faculty?
Do the professors do research? Are the assignments their students do creative and original or busy-work?

Typical class size: 20? 300?
US News and World Report has these stats.

How seriously do the students take their studies?
What are your deal breakers?
for colleges that are comparable with one another.

Useful websites
National Association of College Admissions Counselors
edvisors. com
ten elite schools where middle class kids don’t pay tuition

schools offering the most merit based aid

spend the day
sit in on a class
look at the bookstore
Who’s the best prof and why?
Are the courses challenging?
How many lecture classes have you had to take?
Can you always get into the classes you want?
How many of your classes are taught by TAs?
How serious are students about academics?
What are the most popular majors?
Internship opportunities?
Do many students study abroad?
What’s the food like?
What’s it like here on weekends?
What’s it like in town?
What’s been your best experience here? Your worst?

Good section on ACT/SAT
including basics on how to register
good test prep tips – do the math and reading Question of the Day from the College Board website
Look at sample scored SAT essays on the College Board website

good section on crafting the application essay – we’re not there yet, but we’ll borrow this book again and the kid’ll read it when we are there. Ditto the section on deciding where to go once the acceptances are in.

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