Free Tools For Back To School
Free Tools For Back To SchoolAngela Garcia, Executive Director of College Planning, the College Board
This post originally appeared on Forbes.com on August 27.
The start of the school year is an exciting albeit busy time for many high school students and their families. Classes begin, extracurricular activities start up and college planning kicks into high gear. Whether students are taking on challenging course work, practicing for the SAT or creating a game plan for life after high school, a new school year is a great time to think about the future and set achievable goals.
However, planning for college and beyond can sometimes be daunting — logistically as well as financially. As executive director of college planning at the College Board, I’m often asked how students and families can save time and money in preparing for college. My first piece of advice is always to talk to a school counselor, teacher or principal about starting the college search process. I then encourage students to take advantage of the many free tools and resources available to help them find, apply to and enroll in colleges that are a good fit for them academically and financially, and that meet their personal criteria (for example: close to home, diverse student body, highly regarded biology program).
1. Free Online College Planning Tools
At bigfuture.org, the College Board’s free college planning resource, students can access easy-to-use tools to search for colleges, explore majors and careers, and make a step-by-step college plan based on their grade level and interests.
Students and families can also find tools and calculators to help estimate what it will cost to attend individual colleges, compare financial aid packages and get an idea of how much they should plan to save for college.
2. College Application and Test Fee Waivers
Every student who takes the SAT or an SAT Subject Test using a fee waiver will automatically receive four college application fee waivers directly from the College Board.
Students should talk to their counselors to find out if they qualify for SAT fee waivers, then check out the colleges and universities that accept application fee waivers. (Hint: There are thousands.)
3. Personalized Practice Tools
The College Board and Khan Academy have teamed up to offer high-quality, personalized practice for the new SAT — absolutely free for every student and available online 24/7. The new SAT more closely reflects what’s being taught in classrooms across the country, so Official SAT Practice is also an excellent tool to help enhance students’ performance in their high school courses as well as on the new PSAT/NMSQT.
At khanacademy.org, students will become familiar with the content and format of the new SAT by accessing thousands of sample SAT questions and having the opportunity to take four official full-length practice tests. The instant feedback students receive will let them know the areas in which they excel and in which they could improve. Khan Academy then provides a unique practice plan based on each student’s performance to help build the skills they need to succeed in college and beyond.
Students taking the current SAT now through Jan. 23, 2016, can also find Khan Academy resources to help them prepare for the test, as well as many free practice resources from the College Board, including a full-length SAT practice test and the SAT Question of the Day.
4. Scholarships Connected to Assessments
Sophomores and juniors should talk to their school counselors about taking the new PSAT/NMSQT on Oct. 14. By taking the PSAT/NMSQT, students get practice for the new SAT, and juniors may become eligible for the National Merit Scholarship Program, the National Hispanic Recognition Program and other programs.
The College Board has also recently forged new partnerships with scholarship providers, increasing access to nearly $180 million in combined annual awards for low-income and underrepresented students taking the PSAT/NMSQT. Sophomores taking the new PSAT 10 will be eligible for these new scholarship opportunities.
Students can find additional scholarship opportunities using the College Board’s free Scholarship Search tool.