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Question I have received at least 50 or more letters from universities around the country. My parents want me to stay here in Texas, but I want to go out of state. What are the advantages and disadvantages of going leaving your home state? – LaTausha

AnswerCost is one of the key factors in considering staying closer to home or attending college in another state. Other factors to consider are your readiness to be away from home and your family; which college has the best academic program for your interests; which has the kind of student body and atmosphere that suits your personal interests and style. We suggest to students that the key factor to consider is the right match for yourself, more so than whether it is nearer or farther from home. Texas is a big state with many fine colleges to consider. The issue, then, is if you would like to experience a very different environment from the one you are used to. This is a major learning and growth experience for students who choose to move away for college.

Question I’m only a sophomore, but I’m always receiving mail from colleges to attend there open houses. Should I be attending these activities as a sophomore? In addition, I receive a lot of different programs about college programs and opportunities. However, I never know if these programs are credible. Do you know of any college scams? Or Do you know of any sites that could inform me about college scams? Thank you. – Morgan

AnswerIf you took the PSAT as a sophomore and did well on it, that is likely to be where a lot of this mail is coming from. It is probably too early now to attend some of those open houses. During the late summer or in the fall as a junior, it will be a good time to start considering some college models (big/small, rural/urban, etc.) and open houses are a nice way to explore some campuses in a reasonable distance from your home. The college programs are sometimes a “pay to play” type of option — not necessarily a scam, but also not something that is going to “impress” any college or provide you with much of a valuable educational or developmental experience. You should look carefully at what is being offered, whether it fits with your interests and goals, and what kinds of students seem to attend. Don’t pay to have your name listed in any book, or participate in something to get your name listed for which you then are asked to pay to order materials.

Question i wonder what is the different between the liberal arts colleges and other colleges? Why less people chose liberal art colleges? Which one is the best? – Keng

AnswerThe liberal arts really refers to a constellation of disciplines across a variety of academic fields: social sciences, mathematics, sciences, humanities, including arts, music, languages, and so on. What is not included are the professional or pre-professional fields, such as communications or business, though many liberal arts colleges and universities do offer some majors and courses in these areas.

The liberal arts colleges, or colleges of liberal arts within larger universities, teach essential skills (reading comprehension, critical thinking, analysis, communications through writing and speaking, etc.) while you master one or two specific disciplines and gain exposure to a variety of others. Colleges vary in terms of their graduation requirements within or across the liberal arts. Which is best? That’s a personal decision based on your goals for your college education and career, your learning style, and the type of college and academic experience you seek.

Question I heard from a teacher that when getting a job, it is frowned-upon to get a degree AND a masters degree from the same university. She said it was better to go to one school, get a degree, and then transfer to another for a masters degree. Is this true? If so, why? – Betty

AnswerThis isn’t always true. Yes, it’s nice to diversify your background and experiences, sometimes taking some time off to work prior to earning your master’s degree. However, we think this decision depends on your academic interests and the university you are attending. For example, some institutions have great 4 plus 1 or 4 plus 2 kinds of programs that allow you to earn a second bachelor’s or a master’s degree with one or two additional years of study at your home school. Others offer accelerated degree or guaranteed entrance programs for medical school or law school or business school.

Another consideration is the selectivity/reputation/prestige of your current school. If you do well at a less competitive or less well known college or university for your bachelor’s degree, then it probably does make sense to apply to master’s degree programs at institutions that have a stronger reputation and stronger program in your specific area of interest. That will likely help you stand out more in the job search process once you complete your degree.

Question Hi, I am currently a Junior at a college-prep high school in Illinois. I have been looking at colleges since my freshman year, already visiting three: UNC, Duke and Clemson. As I get deeper into the college search, I just become more confused. There are so many choices, and I feel that if I make a wrong one then my whole life will be jeopardized.

I have taken all Honors classes, three AP classes, am the drum major and major participant in band, and almost have a 4.0, yet I have no idea what I want to do for a career because of my very diverse interests. How can I find the “right” college if I don’t know what I want to study? The only search factor I have been going by is if the college is in the southeast and I fear that I may be missing out on great schools, but opening up other locations also brings me back to the drawing board.

Pressure is high, and I really need your advice on how to find a college that I won’t regret choosing. I already know I want to study abroad, and have on-campus housing, but that doesn’t seem enough to narrow down my options. Please help, I really don’t want to screw up this very important, and life-altering, decision. Thanks. – Amanda

AnswerFirst, don’t worry too much about ruining your life by choosing the wrong college or university. There are likely many schools that could work well for you (thus the challenge of making a decision!). We find most students do not have a strong academic focus heading into college. That’s why most are looking at liberal arts colleges or colleges of arts and sciences within larger universities. True, many choose business, but that again is as a default choice for most, rather than a serious background or interest in business and finance.

If you aren’t sure of an academic area, then it is fine to focus on factors such as size, location, climate, student culture, special programs (like study abroad), on-campus housing, and so on, to build your list. Apply broadly, and to a balance from more to less competitive, and then plan careful revisits in spring of senior year prior to making your final decision. Perhaps you will have clearer preferences by then.

Question My child has been accepted into one of the top two LAC’s in the country, some financial aid, and a highly regarded state university in their honors program, on a full scholarship. Four years to graduate from the LAC at say $120,000 and 3 to graduate from state school for free. Desires to be a lawyer or journalist or finance, and as such wants to attend a top graduate school. What’s the right choice of undergraduate school? – Gary

AnswerWell, on the face of it, the state university appears to be the better deal. Your son or daughter gets advanced standing, all or mostly A’s, special opportunities and support as an honors program student, stands out near the top of the class with at least a 3.5 + GPA, and then attends a great graduate school (whatever that might be, and whenever that might be). No debt, so no concerns about which career to choose and so on.

The key concern revolves around the different educational experience at the state university versus the (presumably much smaller) liberal arts college. We do believe that a motivated student can gain a fabulous education at almost any college or university that is at least solid in the programs of interest to the student. A smaller college, however, will typically provide more support and more focus on teaching the undergraduate. What you are paying for, in other words, is that personal attention, access to professors, perhaps better resources in terms of dorms, classrooms, internships, etc., and perhaps overall a more motivated and challenging student body with whom to share the classroom and out of class activities.

Now, the honors programs can often address a number of these issues. And, many students do prefer the larger, more vibrant social environment of a state university. They might like big-time sports, or a larger menu of academic (including pre-professional) offerings. The important factor for career planning and graduate school admissions is how your child does at a particular college, and whether he or she is happy there (and thus more likely to be persistent and successful) as opposed to the name of the school. Careful visits and evaluation of the campuses and programs is clearly the next step prior to making a commitment to either school.

Question Would you recommend going to a college thats further away because its better even though you want to stay close to home? – Heather

AnswerProbably, though you need to assess how strongly you want to stay close to home, and your reasons for doing so. If you are unlikely to succeed at a better college because it is far from home and you are likely to get homesick or feel very out of place, then you might want to start close to home. If you do well academically, but outgrow your first college, you can then transfer to a more challenging school farther away if and when you are ready to do so.

That said, consider carefully your first choice. Perhaps by the time fall rolls around, you will be ready to go farther from home and friends. A careful visit to the colleges that have admitted you in April, including flying or driving to that farther-from-home school, will help you discover both the rational and intuitive pros and cons of making your decision.

Question My son is planning on majoring in Chemistry. Two of the colleges he is looking at have programs accredited by the American Chemical Society, The third does not. Should he not apply to the school that does not have the accreditation, how important is it to apply to a college with an accredited program. thank you – Andrew

AnswerAt the undergraduate level it is less important to enroll in an accredited departmental program. Certainly the accreditation suggests a strong program that has undergone rigorous review. Nevertheless, particularly at smaller liberal arts colleges, for example, you might find very good chemistry majors within the context of a broader liberal arts education which will prepare a student for graduate school of one kind or another. It is important to look at the course offerings and faculty backgrounds in the department to ensure that there are enough opportunities and quality.

Question i want to go to ucsd (and I know I’m only a freshmen in high school) and I don’t where to start so is there any way I can chat with someone who goes there? – zara

AnswerIf you’re only a freshman, then try to see UCSD as a model, but clearly not the only school you should consider. In fact, if you continue researching the school, visiting it, and talking with students, admissions officers, and faculty there, you might either confirm or change your decision about wanting to go there. The UCSC and University of California system’s Web sites have a lot of information about course and testing requirements for entrance. UCSD might also host a blog or student chat space to give prospective students the opportunity to hear from or talk with current students or alumni.

Down the line, during your junior year, a tour with a current student, and possibly chatting on campus with students in the cafeterias or walking around campus might help diversify the comments you are getting. Further down the line, you might be able to arrange an overnight visit in the fall of senior year through the admissions office or someone you know at the university. That will really help you decide if it is the right place to attend.

Question My son is trying to decide between attending Trinity in San antonio or Rollins in Orlando.  He will major in Biology/Pre-med then attend Med School. How do we determine which is the better to attend and do you have an opinion which is the better college? – Marla

AnswerThey are both strong schools. The key criteria to consider are: courses regularly offered in the sciences (biology, chemistry, physics) as well as mathematics; existence and strength of the pre-med program and counseling services available; number of students in the pre-med track, number admitted to medical colleges, and percent admitted to medical colleges; size of typical science classes; existence of special programs, such as research projects and internships in the sciences during the year and in the summer; special relationships to any medical colleges.

Of course there are other variables that come into play, in particular how good a match the college is for your son. Will he be happy there? If so, he is more likely to persist, succeed, and, thus, move on to graduate studies. There are other college-wide factors, such as overall graduation rate, faculty-student ratio, ability to double major, opportunities and requirements outside of his chosen major area, and so on to consider. We don’t have an absolute opinion about which is “better,” since both are good undergraduate programs, but you should carefully research the choices, and revisit the schools in April to make as informed a decision as possible.

Question I am in process of achieving my ged, and from there I want to go to college, but it all seems so complicated, and confusing, where do I start? I’m not sure what to do, and I want to be able to benefit in every way possible. – April

AnswerThe first key step for every individual contemplating college is to do self assessment of your interests (personal and academic) and your particular strengths. Consider what kinds of activities, or reading, or television viewing, or kinds of people you have consistently found most interesting and rewarding. Most people discover a pattern that emerges from this analysis. Then consider what you find you are most comfortable with in terms of learning skills. For example, are you better at reading and writing or the visual arts or do you like thinking and solving problems in science and math? Again, you are likely to find a pattern emerges as you consider your school background.

You can then begin a search of colleges, two or four programs, that match with some of your interests. You also need to take into account the many practical issues of tuition and living costs, the level of academic competition, and location that will affect where you should look.

Question i have been admitted to PURDUE as a international freshmen. i have read at many places that Purdue is a conservative school. what exactly does this ‘conservative’ mean??? i am a international undergraduate student for my BS in engineering. – Kunal

AnswerLinguistic generalizations (aka stereotypes) are sometimes hard to understand, and, as broad generalizations, usually capture only a part of the cultural atmosphere on a college or university campus. This is especially true of a larger university like Purdue. Sometimes we use words like “traditional” to describe a university like Purdue, a public university in Indiana with an emphasis on engineering and sciences.

Indiana is generally a more conservative state politically and culturally, as compared to other American states. A public university attracts most of its students (usually) from in-state. Thus the majority of Purdue’s student body comes from Indiana and surrounding midwestern states. You will find that the bulk of the students are thus not “alternative,” “liberal,” “non-traditional” (in a social sense), etc. Are there students who fit these labels on campus? Of course. Is the overall tone similar to that of a less “conservative” college like Vassar? No. Purdue also offers traditional campus activities like big time football, and has a “traditional” social life on and around campus.

As an international student, what you should focus on at Purdue, or other campuses, in addition to your academic program, is the percentage of international students on campus, percentage of international faculty, students and faculty of color, associations for international students, support services for internationals, and so on. This will give you a sense of the overall welcome and support for international students on campus.

Question Can you explain the differences between Tier 1, Tier 2, etc. colleges and how that rating is assigned and how often it may change? – Andrea

AnswerThere might be as many answers to this question as there are colleges (or at least college guide books). And, as you suspect, the ratings can change quickly, and for no reason, either. The somewhat “official” categorization of colleges and universities is the Carnegie classification system, which is not a ranking, but rather a listing by university type (doctoral, bachelor’s degree granting only, etc). This will give you some sense of what a university offers, and how extensive are the resources as far as the advanced degrees offered.

Rankings/ratings guides and magazines do often establish tiers, or levels of competitiveness. Are there differences between “tier one” and “tier three” institutions in terms of offerings and quality? Probably. Between number ten and number sixteen? Probably not. We often talk about tiers of selectivity, in other words, not in terms of quality, necessarily, but in terms of how competitive entrance will be. A Tier 1 in these terms would include Ivy League universities, Duke, Stanford, MIT, Cal Tech, Amherst, etc. Tier 2? Many of the liberal arts colleges and strong public and private universities. Sometimes we talk about a Tier 1A, those schools not quite as tough as the toughest, but not a Tier 2, which could be a “target” school for those most competitive high school graduates.

So, you see that your college list might have your own Tier 1, 1A, 2, 3, and 4 categories. The key is to have breadth on your list, from more to less competitive, and to ensure that your list includes good colleges that you feel are a good fit for you in terms of environment, academic programs, and so on.

Question How can I choose what I want to learn in college if I don’t know it yet while am senior high school? – Umelkayr

AnswerMost students really have no idea what they might like to pursue in college. Or, if they do have an idea, they usually change their minds several times during their college career. Most colleges report that “undecided/undeclared” is one of the top three choices for majors of incoming students.

If you really are unsure of a direction, you are headed toward a liberal arts college, or a college of arts and sciences within a larger university. You typically will not need to declare a major until you are headed into your third year of study. By then you should have a better idea of your focus given courses you have tried along the way.

Even if you are unsure of your focus now, you probably know what you like and dislike, what you excel at and what you are weak in, more or less. You might be able already to eliminate some areas, and to concentrate on a few strengths and interests. A liberal arts education these days means developing critical thinking, analysis, and communication skills. You are learning substance, to be sure, but you are also learning process, and how to become an effective lifelong learner and consumer of information.

Question i am 14- years old entering the ninth grade do you think that i should be taking the initiative to start preparing for college and that i should be writing letters to various colleges that I would like attend asking for booklets enclosed with information? – Blossom

AnswerGood for you for starting to think about college planning early in your high school years. You don’t need to send away for information, but you do need to think about the most important factors for college admission: strong courses and good grades. Choose the most demanding curriculum you can handle, and which allows you to pursue your strengths and interests at the highest level. Do as well as you can. That alone will open up many college options for you. Consider taking SAT Subject Tests if they fit the courses you have completed at the end of each high school year (May or June). Pursue your passions, work, and volunteer in the summers. Those are the basics. Keep reading about college, and browse school Web sites. The time to really start contacting colleges is the summer before junior year or a bit later.

Question I’m curious about going to a university, but I’m not sure where to look. I have relatives in Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, and in various parts of Wisconsin. I want to go to school near my family, and though I presently live in California I want to get away for a few years, but still be near some family, and I also want to be a lawyer, though I really want to play baseball! I don’t have the money to go to a school like Yale, or Harvard. I’m not sure what if any are good options for me, can you please help me, I need an outside opinion because my family is all telling me to go to different places! Please help me! – Ron

AnswerFamily tension around admission to college, and pressure or desire to be near some family are pretty common. Fortunately, you have some good locations in the mix, with some very good institutions in those areas. First, we must say that you shouldn’t rule out any college on the basis of cost. Harvard or Yale, if you got in, could provide you with enough need-based financial aid to make attendance there less costly than another private or public college or university with a lower price tag. So look at both private and public in crafting your list.

Second, if you want to play baseball, spend some time on the ncaa.org Web site to link to college baseball lists and rankings and to help you add some schools where you might be able to play. You’ll need to contact coaches to inquire about recruiting, and possibly plan some visits to representative schools.

A trip to Boston or Chicago would allow you to see a mix of colleges in one area, to see what you might like. So, for example, in Boston you could see Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern, Harvard (if you’re that competitive a candidate), Tufts, and Wheaton. You’ve got small colleges, middle-sized universities, urban schools — a nice mix. Nearby to Boston are such places as Holy Cross, Providence College and many others.

In Chicago, you could see a Lake Forest, but also Northwestern or the University of Chicago, as well as the University of Illinois. In Wisconsin, you have the University of Wisconsin, as well as Beloit and Lawrence in the small liberal arts college category.

As you can see, this is a quite a list of possibilities, so you’ll need to use your academic record, test scores, preferences in terms of size, location, and culture, academic program interests, and, possibly, baseball recruiting potential, to help you expand and narrow it over time.

Question I live in NJ and have been accepted to the University of Oregon and to Rutgers. I would really like to attend the U of Oregon but am afraid of becoming homesick as i have never been away from home for more than a week. Is there anything i can do to help myself with my decision? – John

AnswerWe have found from our work with many students who are concerned about the distance from home and potential home sickness that it is best to follow one’s instincts. It is very natural in contemplating the change from the familiarity of home, family, and friends to a new and strikingly different environment to feel some anxiety and uncertainty as to what lies ahead. However, if you feel a serious level of emotional stress and are not at all confident that you are ready for so extreme a change (Oregon is a long way from New Jersey), then enroll at Rutgers which is an excellent state university initially. You may be very happy for four years and then be ready to move on to a new environment for work or graduate school, or you may be ready and interested in transferring for the last two years of your college career.

Question I am a junior student and Can you give me suggestions about which American university has the best chemistry or biology programs? – Xin

AnswerThis is a tough question. It is very hard to gather reliable “rankings” of strong undergraduate individual majors. If you start by considering the general models of college that might fit you best (public/private, large/small, university/college, etc.) that can give you a place to start. Within categories (small liberal arts colleges, middle-size universities, large research universities, and so on) you can then research which departments have the most to offer you.

Criteria to consider include: how many students major in chemistry and biology; how many courses are offered regularly in the department — how many are listed, for example, in the course offerings for the next two semesters; how many full-time faculty teach in the department, and what are their areas of expertise and research; how much in research funding/grants do the faculty bring in; what record do the departments have in terms of placement in medical schools and other academic graduate programs in the sciences.

You can find out most of this information on the colleges’ Web sites, and gather additional details by visiting the departments, and e-mailing faculty.

Question I need to know of a university with a great pre-law program. I would like for this college to be a HBCU. – Leslie

AnswerAs you may know already, the best preparation for admission into an accredited law school is an undergraduate curriculum that emphasizes history, political science, government, English, psychology, and sociology courses. Both the study of law and the practice of law are based on a tradition of what is known as the common law which is an evolution of interpretation and decisions and laws that pass down through the decades based on our Constitution and an understanding of the rights and the needs of people and our institutions. This is why a strong exposure to the subjects mentioned above is important as a background for the legal world.

There are a number of historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) that offer such a liberal arts curriculum. You should start your research by looking into several organizations that are dedicated to the understanding and the advancement of HBCUs. We recommend www.UNCF.org and www.hbcu-central.com. Study some of the colleges that look appealing to you on their individual Web sites. Look for the courses you will want to take. Also check out the statistics on the number of students who go on to law school upon graduation.

Question My son is entering college. He has been accepted to Boston U. and George Washington. He wants to go there, but the problem is that I cannot afford (and am not willing) to send him there for four years. I have another child at Duke U. and with him going there it is too much to pay. I have suggested that he consider going to the state university (univ of Tenn.) where he has a almost full scholarship for two years then transfer and that I could pay for this. We do not qualify for fin. aid. He does not know what he wants to do as far as a major except that it will be in the sciences most likely or business area. I think he would be better served by going through college without having any debt, but he thinks having the four years of quality education is worth the debt. Who’s right!!!! – Alan

AnswerThat’s a tough one. One could make the argument either way about the benefits of a stronger college program for four years at the college of your son’s choosing, and the path of choosing two years at a state university prior to transferring to a more selective institution, or completing the degree there and then going on to graduate school. Your son should choose an environment where he is likely to be happy and successful, and to be able to take advantage of the academic programs of most interest to him. That will help to build his foundation for future learning and career opportunities.

If you don’t qualify for need-based aid, then your son will not graduate with loan debt, since he’s unlikely to receive loans. He won’t be able to qualify for aid on his own, since, as a dependent student, colleges will look for a parent and student contribution as part of the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). If you are having difficulty affording the price of BU or GWU, you might consider speaking with the financial aid office at each school to see what options they might be able to open up for you, either in terms of need-based aid, loans, additional scholarship opportunities, and so on. They can at least discuss the options and overall price tag with you. If you didn’t apply for aid, there still might be time to do so.

A compromise, if you haven’t done so, is to revisit all three schools together and to discuss the paths each would look like for undergraduate education. If you cannot afford the fee at Tennessee, and aid is not forthcoming from BU or GWU, then your son might have to settle for two years at UT, knowing that, if he does well, he will have your support for his final two years at the college of his choice. Is there a “value” in going to these more selective private colleges? It depends on the program he will pursue and how well he will do there, which are difficult aspects to determine.

Question I am in a very difficult situation. My father wants me to attend his Alma Mater but i really do not want to go there. He has made me apply to the school and i now have to go for an interview. If i get into this school, my father told me i have to go there. If i choose to attend someplace else, he will not contribute to my education. My question is this:  Could i “botch” the interview to decrease my chances of getting in? – Doug

AnswerIt sounds like you need to have a serious sit-down with your father prior to this interview to discuss your and his goals for college. It is understandable that he wants you to follow in his footsteps, but it is not reasonable to demand that you attend his college (which is likely a lot different than when he went there). We often say that you should neither rule in or rule out a college just because a parent went there. In this case, you might agree to visit and interview at your legacy school and give it a fair assessment. You don’t need to sabotage your interview or complain to the interviewer. Rather, give the college a chance and try to assess it for its merits and on your own terms.

But, before doing so, talk with your father about your hesitancy to commit to this path, and your concerns about the fit of the college for you. If you give it a fair chance, you’ll want his assurance that if it is not right for you, that you will have the opportunity to apply to and attend other colleges. You’ll need to make other applications in any event to protect yourself from not getting in anywhere (no legacy is an absolute guarantee of admission). If he refuses to pay if you get in elsewhere, you can begin the financial aid process as you apply to other colleges, and ask for a statement from him that he will not provide support for your college education. This, unfortunately, will be a hard path to go down, since colleges and the financial aid process will demand a parental contribution from your parents, and make it difficult to show that you are a non-dependent student.

Question how do i know that the colleges i want to attend are going to help me get a thorough understanding about what im learning? – Stephanie

AnswerYou have raised a very important question that, believe it or not, most students contemplating college do not consider until they are well into their studies. If you are a student who finds that regular feedback from your teachers helps you to stay on course and know how well you are progressing in your studies, you are more likely to feel comfortable in a college that emphasizes teaching its undergraduates more than advanced research and a focus on graduate students. When looking into potential college choices, find out the student to teacher ratio and the average size of classes for undergraduates. The individual colleges that have very positive statistics in these areas will highlight them in their literature or you can ask admissions officers for such information.

Question I am a high school senior and I’m having a tough time deciding between Georgia College & State University and Kennesaw State University. One is small and in a rural area and im worried i’ll have nothing to do and be bored out of my mind, but i think its the better school. And the other has a lot more students and a lot more to offer in the area. – Lauren

AnswerA key question would be, “Why is one a better school than the other?” In our experience, including surveys and interviews with thousands of college students, we have found that the most important factors to make your college education successful and rewarding are the following: the right peer group; the right academic program that challenges you and suits your interests; and good teaching, including access to faculty who can serve as advisers and mentors.

Clearly, every student has a different array of influences and preferences involved in choosing a college, and for some location, size, a key activity, cost, or climate, for example, might make a big difference. Ranking isn’t important. Minor differences in size don’t matter too much. If one of the colleges you are considering has an academic program that fits you much better and will allow you to pursue the interests you have in mind now, then that’s likely to be your better long-term option. However, if you strongly suspect that a rural location with not enough students, diversity, and outlets will lead you to become bored and unhappy, then you might have to rule that school out. Question: have you considered other options that might offer a compromise?

Question I am a Chemistry major hoping to some day go to Med school and I am moving to hawaii in June. The dilemma is that I am confused about which college to go to. There is the university of hawaii (public school) that only costs about $4,000 and then there is Hawaii pacific university, which is a private university and cost almost $10,000. Both of their websites do not give enough info to make a certain decision, so my question is how do you choose? Is it better to graduate from a private or public university and what looks better on your transcript! – Schennel

AnswerThe most important thing for you as a prospective med school applicant is a strong pre-med/science curriculum where you can do well (aim for a 3.5 GPA or above). Additionally, pre-med advising is important, and possibly research opportunities and internship options with faculty and in the community. Neither public or private is necessarily better. Research each college’s curriculum carefully on their web sites, and look at what they offer in the sciences and by way of pre-med programs. Consider calling the biology or chemistry department, for example, and tracking down the right person (perhaps the director of undergraduate studies, or a designated pre-med coordinator) to ask about med school admission rates and opportunities at the university.

Question Is it true that international students are mostly discriminated against at the Colleges in the U.S.? – Sophia

AnswerThis is not true! Although international students do not receive as much financial aid as American students, they do not generally suffer racial/ethic/cultural discrimination on a wide scale. There are about a half million international students in the U.S. every year, at a very wide range of colleges. There are reports of slurs being used or discrimination against international students in subtle or not-so-subtle ways. After 9/11, many people raised issues associated with discrimination against Muslim, Arabic, or other students. However, we find that these tend to be very isolated incidents. Most international students are accepted here quite warmly, with most Americans seeking to learn from them and at the same time present a positive image of America.

If you are concerned about discrimination at colleges in which you are interested, we recommend contacting one or more of the international students associations that are typically present on campus and asking about the campus culture, recent incidents of discrimination or violence, and efforts being made to foster multi-cultural dialogue. You might also read some of the campus newspaper issues on the colleges’ Web sites to see what is being reported. The U.S. Department of Education maintains statistics on campus crime that (though not completely comprehensive and reliable yet) do give an indication of the overall level of safety and security on campus.

Question All schools seem to say that they are selective. How do you find out if a school is getting more selective this year vs. last? – Susan

AnswerYou can look at the history of that school’s application pattern, which you can often find by digging on the college’s Web site, and through looking at older versions of guidebooks. Key figures to consider: numbers of applications received; number admitted (selectivity percentage); number of admitted applicants enrolling (yield percentage); and then the academic, class rank/decile, and standardized test numbers. If you see increasing selectivity, higher yield, higher SATs, and more students graduating in the top ten percent of their class, you’re seeing a college that is indeed getting more selective.

Question Hi i am deaf and i am a sophomore at idaho city high school and 16 year old. i have been wonderful if Western Oregon University have deaf students at WOU? and do they have good program for deaf students? and do they have good serveant for deaf? i wanted to be a high school history teacher. – Savannah

AnswerAs an ambitious student who wants to attend college as a preparation for a teaching career, you should consider colleges or universities that offer a strong history major and opportunities to become certified as a teacher. As a student with a physical disability, you should also contact the office of student services (which you can do online) at those colleges of interest to you to inquire about their support services for the deaf. You may also want to check with the national associations for the deaf to inquire about colleges they recommend as supportive learning environments.

Question I heard that “research universities” place less importance on teaching and more emphasis on getting published, etc. than other schools. Is this true? – John

AnswerThis is a highly relevant topic to consider in choosing the type of college or university that might suit your particular interests and learning style. By definition a research university will be comprised of a variety of undergraduate schools, from arts and sciences to business to education to engineering and so forth, as well as a number of graduate schools that typically will include professional training programs such as medicine, law, business, engineering, education, and other even more other specialized professional studies. In addition there will be a host of master’s- and doctoral-level programs in the academic disciplines.

So, in addition to being large-sized institutions in terms of student enrollment, the faculties will be dispersed across the many departments and schools. Many faculty members are expected to carry on research in their respective fields and to train graduate students to do research and advanced scholarship. The end product is scholarly reports and books that are intended to advance knowledge in the field. The demands on their time and focus can be more on graduate students and their own research rather than on teaching and mentoring undergraduates. If you thrive on personal interaction with dedicated and knowledgeable teachers and smaller classes, the research university environment may be uncomfortable or unfulfilling for you.

Question How early should we begin planning & helping our kids prepare for college? We have 3 boys, 7,8,& 9 yrs. old and when they get older, college planning will be pretty intense as they will all be in High School at the same time. What would you advise? – Brooke

AnswerIt’s never too early to start planning for college, especially in terms of starting to save for each of your son’s educational expenses and establishing a college-bound culture or expectation in your family. The boys should know that you expect them to go to college — that high school is important in terms of preparing for college, and that their choice of educational path is their own.

Their number one job, even beginning in middle school, will be to get good grades, to get into tough courses in their areas of interest, and to pursue the activities they like the most to the highest level they can or want. The younger boys will learn from their oldest brother’s experience. The key is really making the connection between the “work” they do now — the things they might not like too much but need to get through — as well as the things they truly enjoy, and the eventual payoff in terms of more options, and possibly more money, for college in the form of scholarships and grants.

Question Unlike some of the other people asking questions, I have NO IDEA what I want to ultimately do or major in. How do I figure out what schools I should apply to, without having this figured out? thanks – Jason

AnswerWe hope it will reassure you to know that the majority of students who apply to colleges each year do not have a firm idea of what they want to study in college and what their career goals are. We encourage students to view the college education as an exciting opportunity to explore many academic subjects and extracurricular programs that are not available in the high school years. In our experience with students at all kinds of colleges, it is the exposure to a particular subject or an exciting teacher that convinces the individual to major in that field. Involvement in clubs and committees or internships has helped many students to decide on their long term interests.

Therefore, be somewhat relaxed on the issue of college majors and future directions when choosing the colleges you will apply to. What is very important is to study their academic course selection and activities to be sure there is plenty of variety so that you can explore across a number of areas. In today’s higher educational world, graduate school will provide you with training in a specialized subject or profession.

Question How meaningful is class size? Don’t most of the top schools hold large lecture size classes, where there are 200+ kids in one room? – Anthony

AnswerLike most of the significant factors in choosing a college, the average size of the academic classes can be a matter of personal importance to some and not an issue for other students. Many college undergraduates will report that they much prefer small classes or seminars where there is an active interaction between the professor and the students, and between students. The teacher is more likely to engage the class in a Socratic dialogue to get the students engaged in responding to the issues at hand and often have students presenting their work to the class.

Other students report that they like the bigger classes which will be a lecture format. A good teacher will present important information and concepts in an organized format and will expect students to do the assigned readings as background for the lectures. Typically, lecture classes will break out into small discussion sections one or two times a week for every lecture session.

You should consider what has been the most enjoyable and successful learning environment for you in high school and then check out colleges that emphasize one or the other approaches. Keep in mind that most smaller- or middle-sized colleges will present a combination of some subjects taught by the lecture method and others in a small classroom or seminar setting.