Would you like to save money and time when looking at colleges this summer? Let’s try to make every visit count, as you probably have a limited amount of time to visit colleges this summer.

The goal for college selection is to go to the best school for the least amount of money. In past articles, I have written about the three major considerations for college selection. They are admissions, graduation rate, and cost.

All of these statistics can be found on a federal website that is run by the National Center for Education Statistics and is called Navigator: www.nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator.

Since it is run by the government, the search is pure. In other words, the government is not motivated by colleges paying them money to have their name appear at the top of a search. Also, the site does not ask you for your e-mail, so you will not receive annoying follow-up e-mails from any colleges that you select.

What is the college’s average range for math and verbal SAT scores? What is the average ACT composite score? If a student’s scores are below the average range for the college, then the chances of acceptance are greatly reduced. I recommend that you select just one college to visit that is above the student’s range. Any person can sign up for a tour of Harvard University, but is that the best use of your college visit time? The students that end up dropping out or transferring often did not take enough time to research schools that were a fit for them.

Students and parents are paying a lot of money to invest in the student’s future. What is the college’s percentage of students who graduate on time?

What will be the four-year projected cost for students/parents? That amount can be found under the Net Price tab in Navigator.

There are also five additional criteria that can be easily found on College Navigator.

1. Student-Faculty Ratio—This information is found in the paragraph description of the college, when you select it from Navigator. The student-faculty ratio is the number of students divided by the number of faculty. It is a good indication of class size. The smaller the class size, the easier for students to learn.

2. Net Price Calculator—Navigator has the cost of college broken down by a family’s taxable income. It is an income range average under the Net Price tab, so it is not family-specific. There are five ranges of income and an average of what the college will cost (in loans) for each bracket of income.

The Net Price Calculator itself takes 12 to 15 minutes per school and it is family-specific. It is a more precise estimate of the actual cost, and is also accessed under the Net Price tab.

3. Percent Admitted—Under the Admissions tab you will find the percent of the applicants admitted. This criterion is the number of acceptance letters sent out divided by the number of applications. Student/parents often assume that if the student has a 3.4 GPA, and a 600 Math SAT score and a 600 Verbal SAT score, along with some extracurricular activities, that they have a chance for Northeastern University.

Northeastern’s percent admitted is only 28 percent. Harvard’s is just 6 percent. Since all of the applicants have the general criteria listed above, the college goes on to the next level of selection. The school is looking for what else the student could bring to the college that will make the college a better place. Twenty-eight percent is about three out of 10 applicants.

4. Retention Rate—The retention rate is the percentage of students who come back for their sophomore year. Every college has students who leave for a variety of reasons. The better schools have a higher retention rate. Harvard is 98 percent. Bentley is 95 percent. University of Massachusetts Boston is 78 percent. This information is found under the Retention and Graduation Rates tab.

5. Campus Security—Statistics are kept about all crimes. How safe is the campus? This information is especially important when a student/parent is considering an urban setting. Harvard had 34 rape charges last year. Northeastern had 88 drug arrests. University of Massachusetts Amherst had 160 liquor arrests. This information can have an influence on one’s decision for attendance. The information is under the Campus Security tab.

Make good use of your car ride and find out this information before your tour.

Tip of the Day: After the tour, if you like the college, find out their interview schedule. Many colleges stop interviews by November 1.

Mr. Zorski was in business for 23 years and has been in education for 22 years. E-mail questions to jzorski47@aol.com.

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