When I think back to my senior year of high school and the college entrance process, I can still feel the pangs of anxiety that dominated those many months. The college search and application process consists of several steps, each of which are equally daunting, and it required a lot of time, research, and my high school counselor’s number on speed dial for me to navigate successfully to the end.
For parents, the process can be equally foreboding. You want to help your child find the right school, boost their scores, and secure a first-rate financial aid package, but as the years change, so do the forms, test versions, and applications.
In order to help parents steer through these murky waters, we have formed partnerships with programs that will assist you in each step of the college entrance process for free just by using your Cecil County library card. By following the Test Prep and Scholarships link under the Digital Library tab above, you can find tools to combat the three main stressors: finding the right school, getting in, and paying for it.
Finding the Right College
On the Test Prep and Scholarships section of our website, there is a link for the College and Scholarship Search Database. Choose the College Prep tab and then scholarship search to use this incredible resource where your child can input their preferences and generate a list of potential schools. There are specific searches for students looking at nursing schools and distance learning programs, and a more general search for undergraduate institutions. You can be as general or specific as you like when choosing your preferences, as the website allows you to pick everything from school size, location, and tuition to options such as intramural sports, majors, and study abroad opportunities. Once your list is generated, you can easily compare schools at a glance and follow the links for an in-depth look at each institution.
Okay, so now your child knows what schools they would like to apply to, but they need to take their dreaded entrance exams. The Test Prep and Scholarships page has a wealth of test prep resources as well.
You may have heard about or considered signing your child up for SAT/ACT classes offered through companies such as Kaplan and Sylvan Learning Centers. While these courses seem like a great way to help boost your child’s scores, you have probably realized that they can be quite costly, ranging from $750 to over $3,000, and they are not offered in Cecil County. Fortunately, we offer programs that allow your child to enroll in SAT/ACT courses with their library card for free.
From the College and Scholarship Search Database link, there is a free SAT/ACT course that allows you to choose between short, medium, and full-length versions and that starts with a diagnostic quiz to asses your child’s strengths and weaknesses. This resource is perfect for the student taking their test in a few months or even a few days, and it also offers three full-length practice tests and automatic essay scoring.
If you are looking for something even more personal, the Gale Online Courses link will take you to a program where you can access two free, online, instructor-led courses for the SAT/ACT that run for a duration of six weeks and are comprised of weekly lessons, practice exercises, and quizzes. These courses allow you to interact with a real instructor and have all your questions answered without emptying your wallet.
If your child is more of a paper and pencil person or wants to practice the test-taking strategies they will use on exam day, they can also download printable copies of SAT practice tests from the Khan Academy link. If your child is an underclassman, never fear; this link also includes a practice version of the new SAT that will launch in March of 2016. You have to create a Khan Academy account to access this page, but don’t worry: it’s free!
Paying for College
All right, so now your child has found their dream schools, secured stellar SAT scores, and is excitedly anticipating those acceptance letters, but how in the world are you going to pay for it?
The College and Scholarship Search Database has several tools to help you make smart financial decisions. In the Scholarship Search section, your child can input their interests, extracurricular activities, parents’ occupations, and more to generate a list of available scholarships. This list shows the student the award amount, due date, and requirements, such as essays or letters of recommendation, all at a glance.
This same database also offers great resources for parents. There is a College Savings Calculator that helps you to assess your savings plan based on tuition, fees, and expected growth and an Award Analyzer that allows you to compare financial aid award letters from various institutions. This tool will take into consideration components such as grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study to help you figure out where you are really getting the best deal.
We have compiled these resources in one convenient spot to help guide you through the entire college entrance process. Our goal is to help Cecil County’s teens achieve their goals and to save you time, money, and your sanity throughout this stressful period. We are always available in the branches and over the phone to help with college-related questions, and we look forward to hearing your success stories this spring. So, parents, stay calm, use these tools, and remember, it will all pay off in the end.