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Top Illinois Colleges and Universities

Thursday April 17, 2014
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign made my list of top public universities, and Northwestern is one of the country's top private universities. Some of the other schools on my list of the top 12 Illinois colleges may be less familiar. The colleges on the list were chosen based on a variety of factors including academic strengths, curricular innovations, first-year retention rates, four- and six-year graduation rates, value and student engagement.
Augustana College
Augustana College, Old Main
Photo Credit: Augustana College

If there's an Illinois college or university that isn't on the list that you think should be, share your recommendation below. I'm a strong believer that my own selection criteria may have little to do with the best school for your own values, academic interests, and professional goals.

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10 College Interview Mistakes

Wednesday April 16, 2014
The interview is one of the few opportunities in the college admissions process for showing off your passions and personality, and it allows you to demonstrate your interest in a college. It also gives you a chance to learn more about a college. However, that wad of chewing gum or silent shrug of the shoulders can hurt your chances. Make sure the interview works in your favor by avoiding these 10 College Interview Mistakes.

Also be sure to master these 12 Common Interview Questions before you ever set foot in the interview room.

GPA, SAT and ACT Data for Top North Carolina Colleges

Wednesday April 16, 2014

North Carolina has some impressive options for higher education, and the admissions standards for places like Duke and UNC Chapel Hill can be daunting. Most top-ranking schools have holistic admissions, so the final admissions decision takes into consideration things like your extracurricular involvement and application essay.

That said, you're going to need high grades and strong test scores to get in. To see if you're on target for admission to some of North Carolina's top colleges, click on a school's name to view a graph with GPA, SAT score and ACT score data for accepted and rejected students: Appalachian State | Davidson | Duke | Elon | Guilford | High Point | Meredith | NC State | Salem | UNC Asheville | UNC Chapel Hill | UNC School of the Arts | UNC Wilmington | Wake Forest | Warren Wilson

Top New England Colleges and Universities

Wednesday April 16, 2014

New England is home to some of the most selective and prestigious colleges and universities in the world. My list of the 25 top New England colleges is filled with many familiar names -- Harvard, Yale, Williams, Amherst, and many others. A couple of the schools may be less familiar to readers. The colleges and universities on the list were chosen based on retention rates, four- and six-year graduation rates, student engagement, academic strengths, and financial aid.

Wellesley College
Wellesley College
Photo Credit: Allen Grove

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Act Quickly! 64 Scholarships with May Deadlines

Sunday April 13, 2014

With May fast approaching, you seniors out there probably think that you're about done with the whole college admissions process. Fair enough, but keep in mind that scholarship deadlines continue to pass you by. There are thousands of organizations out there with money to award to deserving students, but you can't win the cash if you don't apply.

These 64 scholarships with May deadlines range in value from $100 to $50,000. Check them out to see if any match your interests and background.

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Low ACT Scores? What Now?

Saturday April 12, 2014

There's so much hype surrounding a few of the country's most selective colleges that many applicants feel they need a 35 or 36 composite score on the ACT to get into a good college. The reality is quite different. If you're on track to graduate from high school and you've completed a core curriculum, you'll be able to find a good college that wants you. If you have high grades and strong extracurricular involvement, you'll find you have hundreds of excellent options even if your ACT scores aren't what you had hoped for.

For one, you can explore the roughly 850 colleges that do not require ACT or SAT scores. You can also browse through the college profiles to find interesting colleges where your ACT scores are within the range of many matriculated students. And, of course, strengths in other areas can help make up for less-than-ideal ACT scores. Learn more in this article on low ACT scores.

Good Luck on the April 12th ACT!

Thursday April 10, 2014

Best wishes to the thousands of students taking the ACT on Saturday, April 12th. Scores from the exam will be available online on Monday, April 28th. If you're worried about the ACT, keep in mind that at many colleges a strong academic record, glowing letters of recommendation, a winning essay, and interesting extracurricular activities can help make up for a sub-par score.

Also keep in mind that about 850 colleges are now test-optional. The test-optional schools include some excellent choices: Bowdoin, Holy Cross, DePaul, Pitzer, Wake Forest, and many others.

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Stanford University Admits Just 5% of Applicant Pool

Wednesday April 9, 2014

Stanford University had the most selective admissions process in the school's history.

Stanford University
Stanford University
matsuda.yukihiro / Flick
Of the 42,167 applicants vying for a spot in the class of 2018, just 2,138 were admitted. That's an acceptance rate of 5.07%, lower than the admit rate for any of the Ivy League schools (see Ivy League Admit Rates for the Class of 2018). See The Stanford Daily for more information.

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If Rejected from a College, Can You Appeal?

Tuesday April 8, 2014

Most college decision letters have now been sent out, and, unfortunately, many students have found themselves the recipients of bad news -- the dreaded college rejection letter. The likelihood of a rejection letter is particularly high for some of the country's most selective colleges that have acceptance rates well below 20%. But is a rejection letter always the end of the road? Can an applicant ever appeal a college rejection?

In the majority of cases, no. A rejection letter means the game is over for that college for the current admissions cycle (down the road, transferring might be an option). However, some schools do allow appeals if a student has significant new information to present, or if the student knows of an administrative error that may have weakened the application. Read this article on appealing a rejection to learn more about legitimate grounds for an appeal. The article also has a list of circumstances that do not justify an appeal. Also be sure to check out this sample appeal letter.

Waitlisted? What Now?

Monday April 7, 2014

If you've been placed on a college waitlist, the general advice is pretty simple: if the school remains your top choice, let them know of your continued interest. If you have new data to strengthen your application, send it along. Be careful not to harass or pester the admissions office--too much effort can backfire.

However, perhaps the most important waitlist advice I can give is that you approach your waitlisted status realistically. Waitlists are an insurance police for colleges. If too few students accept their offers of admission, the school turns to the waitlist to fill the gaps. Sometimes there are no gaps and no students get off the waitlist. In nearly all cases, the waitlist is much, much larger than the number of students who are likely to get off the list. The Ivy League schools, for example, typically waitlist hundreds of students. In many cases, just one or two percent of them will actually get in.

So if you've been waitlisted, take the recommended steps to keep yourself in the game, but move forward with other plans. Don't postpone preparing for college waiting for news that, in reality, isn't likely to come.

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