Knowledge Bound: The RSC Blog
Visit the Knowledge Bound Blog regularly for news analysis, editorials and facts about education and financial aid.
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People comparison shop for almost everything: cars, cell phones, furniture, groceries. Sometimes it comes down to price, sometimes service; usually a combination of the two.
You should do the same for college prep services. You’ll find that too many just don’t offer enough.
Important Considerations in College Prep Service
· Grade Levels. At what grade do they start preparing students for college? Many services start Junior year, because families are thinking about college. Try to find a service that starts no later than 8th grade, because it takes four years of high school to prepare for four years of college.
· Number of College Prep Services. Many services focus on only one or two aspects of college prep, like SAT scores, college applications, or financial aid forms. Unfortunately, college prep covers a wide variety of areas, including academics, career research, college research, applications, and financial aid assitance. Find one that handles as many areas as possible -- and at your convenience.
· Financial Aid Advice. Companies that specialize in financial aid often provide poor college prep, while college prep companies only dabble in financial aid advice. Make sure a service provides in-depth advice, as well as services that can benefit you, like a list of colleges with the best financial aid, a plan that involves need-based and merit-based aid, and much more. Financial aid isn't about a form or two; it's about having the ability to pay for college.
· Length of Contract. You’d be surprised how many college prep services last just a few hours or weeks. That won't do you any good if you're in 8th or 9th grade (which you should be when you start preparing for college). See that they provide service during your entire college preparation period.
· Cost. Many services are a thousand dollars or more. Sometimes much more. Of course, the real question is: what are you paying for? How many services are you getting? Don't just look at the bottom line; see if the program is cost-effective. College prep -- like college -- should be affordable for everyone who wants it.
These days, that’s a unique approach.
How to Focus on Every Aspect of College Prep
Too many college prep services take the small-picture approach. That’s great for students who need help in one area, but not much help to the majority of high-school students looking for help with their SATs and ACTs, or in selecting colleges, putting together an impressive college application, knowing how much various colleges will cost them, and understanding the complexities of financial aid. In fact, a quick view of our Video Report shows you just how much of the big picture there is to cover.
When you’re choosing your college prep expert – the person you think really can help you get into the college of your choice – look at the road map to success they’re laying out for you. If it doesn’t take you where you want to go, while accounting for all the detours and pit stops you need to make, keep looking.
You could be investing hundreds of dollars, if not more, in one of the most important services you’ll ever buy. You need to compare programs like you do for everything else.
That way, you get a college prep expert that truly prepares you for college.
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