Thursday, February 16, 2012

Resources: 7 College Blogs/Websites You Should Know About

In my role as a high-school counselor, I am often asked about issues pertaining to college and college admissions:

When to apply to colleges? 
How to select schools to apply too? 
What the criteria are to get into college?  Do I have those criteria?
How will I pay for college? 
When should I take the SAT or ACT?
How important is the essay?
How do I set up a tour?  What should I ask on the tour?
How many AP classes should I take to get into college?

One of the challenges of school-counseling is that you are expected to be an everything. 

Depression and mental health issues?  Expert.  Study skills and test taking strategies?  Expert.  Alternative schools and placements?  Expert.  Parenting?  Expert.  Post-secondary planning to include college, apprenticeships, jobs, community colleges, four-year universities, trade and professional schools?  Expert.  Social skills?  Expert.

There is no possible way that we can be all-knowing omniscient beings, able to tackle every problem with a single keystroke or wave of a magic wand.  Thus, we need to have resources either to educate ourselves or to share with our school-communities.  The following is a list of college-blogs that I both follow and share with my students and their parents via regular electronic newsletters that I mail out through Naviance, a post-secondary planning platform that my school system utilizes.

The thing I love most about this blog is that is is written by actual students going through the college admissions process.  The writers are current high-school juniors, seniors, and even post-grads writing from the vantage point of having already applied, been accepted, and now attending college.  I find that students are often more likely to take information in from their peers than from adults--in this respect, this blog definitely fits the bill.  The students cover topics ranging from test-prep to choosing the right classes to time-management.

The Times runs a wonderful blog, The Choice Blog, which covers the world of higher education to include college admissions and financial aid--you should definitely be following it as a high-school counselor.  However, a subset of this blog is, like the ACT Student Blog, written by current students as they go through the college search process.  They are wonderfully honest essays about the ups and downs of this process--currently the students are all in the midst of the post-application-anxiety-sit-and-wait-phase and also combating heavy cases of senioritis

I may be biased as I live in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, but this is a highly informative and timely blog that follows the trends, trials, and tribulations of the entire college and post-secondary process.  It does not have student writers like the previous two, but it provides strong analysis of changes from year to year as well as insight into where the process stands in any given moment.  A guest post from an author with an upcoming book about the college admissions world wrote the following:
"Q: What is the ACT?"
"A: Another standardized test, which up until twenty minutes ago was popular only in the Midwest. But because there are no trick questions, they allow score cancelling and unpenalized guessing, and offer an early September test date, it is the test du jour . New Yorkers are now obsessed with the ACT, and it is gaining fans in other trendy cities. In fact, for the first time ever, the number of ACT test takers is about the same as the SAT. Poor SAT — it now stands for Sad Anachronistic Test." (source:

This is another blog that does not feature student writers, but contains a lot of great information that is written by a woman who is both in the know as a journalist and higher-education expert as well as a mother who has been through this process twice.  You might find that she resonates well with your parent population.  However, her posts are also wonderful for students--her latest series featured three posts about getting ideas for a college-list, finding "hidden gems" for that list, and eight-ways to build the list.  I have found this information extremely helpful as we are currently working with our 11th grade students on beginning the process of searching for colleges that would be strong matches.

The next three websites are not really blogs, but are really top notch resources to share with your students and parents.

This website has many features, but the one I find the most useful is the "Advice" page.  Here you can find articles full of useful information and perspectives.  However, my favorite part are these short, minute-to-a-minute-thirty seconds videos that you can put in e-newsletters or show to students as part of presentations.  Take a look at this one that covers the differences between the SAT and the ACT.

This is another website that helps students and families plan ahead for the admissions process.  The aspect that I really like is that it has separate lists for the tasks that freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors should do in order to make themselves strong applicants for colleges as well as find a school that will work best for them.  The graphic nature of the website also makes it high-school student friendly. 

This website has multiple features.  First, like Naviance it has a full range of college match, college search, and scatagram features--if you are in a school that does not have the Naviance software which will compare students' GPA's and test-scores to the averages of the college or university that the student is considering, this website might be your next best choice.  However, beyond this it has first-person accounts from students of their experience through the process.  They are not really blog entries, but, as previously mentioned, these stories might resonate with your students since they are written by peers.  

These websites will never replace the one-on-one interactions you will have with your students, but as more and more people want information "in the moment," they can certainly help to provide multiple perspectives on a single topic as well as fuel more informed conversations when you discuss post-secondary planning. 

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