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10 TIPS FOR FINDING THE RIGHT COLLEGE 


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New York State's Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) has many links that can help you make the college choice that's right for you. The suggestions that follow are applicable to any college you are considering, so do visit HESC's Web site at www.hesc.com, which offers many links for middle and high-school students, college and adult students, parents and families. (They even have links for school counselors, college advisors, college administrators and lenders.)

1. Curriculum - Look for the schools that offer the right courses and facilities offered for the kinds of studies you want to undertake. If you're not sure yet, look for a school with a broad-based liberal-arts program. If you want science, make sure they have up-to-date labs, computers and other facilities.

2. Location - Decide where you want to go to college. If you need to live at home or just want to be close to home, or if you want to live in a big city with all its other attractions, limit your scope to that area.

3. Size - If you think you might be overwhelmed at a large university, look for a school with a smaller number of students. But remember, even at a larger school, after your first couple of years, classroom size gets smaller and you get to know the students in your major area of study.

4. Sports and Activities - A rich social life is an important part of college. Find out if the school you're interested in has clubs or other organizations you can participate in. If you like big-time athletics, make sure your college has the teams in the sports you want to watch or intramural programs you can play in.

5. Religious Affiliation - If a religious orientation is important to you, find out what types of campus-based religious activities and places of worship are available.

6. Cost - Find out what the tuition, fees, room and board charges will be at your choices. You can also find out what the average student pays after financial aid is factored in. The results can be surprising.

7. Financial aid - Financial aid is available at every school you might want to attend. But some schools make aid more available than others. Private schools may charge more for tuition and other expenses, but they also tend to offer more financial aid. Get in touch with the financial aid office at your choices and inquire how they can help you.

8. Academic Standards - Find out what the average test score is for the accepted students at the college of your choice. If your scores aren't quite high enough, you might have to emphasize other attributes to the admissions officers.

9. Visit the Campus - Make visits to a number of schools. Sometimes you can get a good feel for the campus and the people by visiting the place in person. Many schools offer open houses and campus visits on weekends. You can also take "virtual tours" at many college Web sites.

10. Talk to Students and Alumni - Nobody knows as much about a school as students who are currently enrolled and alumni who have graduated. The students can tell you about campus life and academics. The alumni will tell whether a degree from this institution fulfilled their educational expectations and how it helped them in their careers.

(Note: If you are thinking about a college in New York State, visit www.hesc.com, click on College and Career Planning, then Search for Colleges. There, you will find costs, financial aid, admissions criterion, virtual tours, etc. for every college in New York State. If you want to go to a school outside of New York, you can use its sister site at www.mappingyourfuture.org, which is a national Web site supported by HESC to provide college, career and financial aid information and services for students and parents.)

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