Kudos to The College Board!

The College Board has recently launched a new free comprehensive college planning web resource: www.bigfuture.collegeboard.org. At this site, you will get expert advice on everything from planning a strong high school academic program, ideas for summer experiences, searching for college majors, searching for your best fit colleges, financing your education, and tips on college success. This site incorporates slides and videos that feature college students and college admissions professionals.

But use the BIGFUTURE’s college search engine and all other web-based college searches with caution. No matter how carefully crafted, the college search engines on all college planning websites have limitations. They allow you to put in items such as location, size of desired school, possible major, SAT or ACT scores. Some allow you to put in your GPA. Please be aware college matches based on that information alone can be skewed. For example in the BigFuture college search, I put in this information: In-State public or private; 4-year; 26 Composite ACT; medium size; American History major. Clicked on See Results: Sorry NO MATCHES. So, I deleted American History and replaced it with History. Clicked on See Results and a number of colleges appeared. But why not a certain university I had in mind? Ok, I deleted the ACT Composite score of 26 and replaced it with 28. Now that university and several others appear! And with a 100% match! Does that mean that I have a 100% chance of acceptance? NO! Only a 100% match with the information I supplied.

Always rely on your human connections such as your family and friends. Know that your school counselor is your main link to college. Working with an independent college counselor can add further enrichment and support for you, your parents, and your school counselor. These counselors know the trends in college admissions and they know you as a person, your unique characteristics, talents, rigor of your academic program, life experiences, and contributions to your school and community. These personal qualities and achievements, more than any other measure, are crucial in finding your best fit colleges. We all know that test scores do matter; however, the degree to which they matter varies from school to school. But when it comes to an admissions decision, approximately 80% of that decision is based on your personal attributes and academic achievements.

What is the lesson?

· Use a website’s College Search as a way to expand your options.

· Don’t limit yourself to only public institutions–do you know that many students actually pay less to attend a private college?

· Always refer to a particular college’s website to see how your SAT/ACT and GPA compare with the students who have been accepted.

· If you put in ACT or SAT scores, take time to vary your responses with different ACT or SAT scores; different major names; and any other characteristics. Notice how the college list changes.

This new College Board website has many excellent features. It carefully takes you through the processes of planning for, searching for, and applying to colleges. I encourage all high school students and their parents to utilize BIGFUTURE.

More Blogs from Russ Ingersoll: Click here.