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The Federal Department of Education has a wealth of helpful information for families and individuals preparing for college— all of it free and easily accessible online. Following are three particularly useful resources, each for a different part of the process:
Ready, Set, Go
The College Preparation Checklist is a resource for students of all ages who hope to attend college. Structured as a to-do list, it provides kids as young as elementary- and middle school-age and their parents with advice to help them get on the college track. It then moves into a year- by-year checklist for high school grades 9-12, when students and parents need to take the college search seriously. The types of information offered includes everything from course-selection strategies to tips on applying for student loans. Filled with links and videos for further exploration, The College Preparation Checklist is a comprehensive general resource that will answer many questions and point you toward more in depth information as your child grows.
Paying for College
Federal Student Aid: The Federal government awards more than $120 billion a year in grants, work-study funds, and loans to upward of 13 million students. This website gives you the low-down on all forms of aid for college-bound students, including how to access information on federal, state, college, and non-profit financial options. For quick and easy access, you can search these categories: Prepare for College, Types of Aid, Who Gets Aid, FAFSA Process: Applying for Aid, and How to Repay your Loans. Perusing this site will provide you with an excellent understanding of the financial aid options along with advice on how to lower college costs.
Finding the Place for You
College Scorecard is for those who are ready to begin their college search in earnest. This is an interactive tool that uses information you provide on what you’re looking for in a college, such as degree or program, campus location, and campus size (small, medium, large); you can also search by the names of specific institutions. With a click of the mouse, a list of places that meet your criteria will appear, detailing the number of students, average annual cost, graduation rate, and starting salary for graduates. Click on “View More Details” to dig deeper into the institutions that interest you most, or click on “Compare” to see how your favorites stack up against one another.