Archive for the “Colleges & Universities” Category


One of the latest websites to join the ranks of online college guides is InsideCollege, which helps students research campuses by publishing a wide range of “college lists.” From more serious topics like looking for an honors program at a public university or knowing which schools offer a loan-free education to low-income students to finding colleges known for their school spirit or discovering obscure programs of study like glass blowing, Inside College is a great jumping off point for creating your own college list. The site is also currently promoting a monthly $2,000 scholarship contest, so you just might score some extra cash for school while perusing Colleges Where Geek is Chic.

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And you thought video games were just extra-curricular activities.  Well, next time your parents guilt you for spending too much time gaming, just tell them you’re preparing for college.

This fall New York University debuts a new course “Guitar Heroes (and Heroines): Music, Video Games and the Nature of Human Cognition” which aims to tackle the topic of why human beings invest so much time into playing video games, according to the New York Post.
The class, which according to its instructor will focus primarily on the effect of video games and human cognition, proved to be so popular it reportedly already has a waiting list for upcoming semesters.

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If you love the Harry Potter books and movies, then you may be interested to learn more about the universities throughout the United Kingdom that inspired the story. Want to learn more about the setting for the newest film? Ever wonder who designed Hogwarts, or which British professor was the source for Albus Dumbledore?

Well, you can find the answers to these questions and more on the British Council’s website which features behind the scenes trivia for the latest installment, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as well as the rest of the series.  And if you’re interested in studying filmmaking, animation, or set design, you can find out which UK universities contributed to the creation of the films.

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With money especially tight for a lot of people these days, it may not be an option to go on a college tour this spring break.  But it’s still super important to research as much as you can about the options that are out there, and thankfully there are some great low-cost alternatives to the more expensive college visits.

I’ve blogged before about Unigo, the website featuring hundreds of college reviews by college students.  It’s awesome because you get unedited perspectives from a whole range of students, plus videos, forums, and the ability to save the information you’ve researched to your personal account.

Another great site to check out is YouTube’s recently launched EDU.  Colleges and universities are able to upload videos about the school, lectures from featured professors, or any other broadcast-worthy event from their campus.  What I like about EDU is the opportunity it gives you to “sit-in” on some classes from the comfort of your own living room.

So whether you’re a senior getting your decision notices this week or just starting to research colleges, take some time to know your schools before you make that all-important decision of where to attend.

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With the economy making it especially hard right now to afford college visits, College Week Live (the world’s largest online college fair) provides students the opportunity to virtually visit hundreds of colleges across the country and speak to admissions officers, college counselors, and experts in the areas of applying, paying for, and choosing the right school for you.  It’s totally free and a truly cost-effective way to learn more about your favorite schools or even discover some that weren’t initially on your radar.

It all starts next week, (March 25th and 26th), and yours truly will be doing a session on “Writing A Great College Essay” on Thursday, March 26th at 11am PST/2pm EST.  I’ll be answering your questions about what college admissions officers look for in essays, pitfalls to avoid, and tips for writing to stand-out. And everyone who logs in during my session will have a chance to win a copy of my book “Seventeen’s Guide to Getting Into College.” You can register and view the full line-up of college and speakers at College Week Live.com.  Hope to see you there next week!

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It’s that time of year when anxious students start receiving college decision notices, and it used to be there was only one way to find out: the thin or thick envelope waiting in the mail.  Now, however, colleges are texting, emailing, video messaging, and care-packaging their admission notifications. And I wonder if anyone bothered to do some research on how students preferred to be notified.  US News & World Report recently ran a story about all the admissions hoopla. Here’s an excerpt:

“The controversy over the best way to inform students of their fates is likely to heighten in 2009 as a growing number of colleges experiment with:

Text messages. Baylor University is one of a growing number of schools that blast out congratulatory text messages (though it sends rejections via snail mail).

Videos. Elon University has started informing this year’s accepted students by E-mailing a link to a video of cheering crowds and the words “Congratulations. You’ve been accepted to Elon!” followed by inspirational music and shots of the scenic North Carolina campus. After receiving complaints that its Web admissions notifications weren’t celebratory enough, Binghamton University added flash animation to its E-mail last year. The University of Georgia, which has for several years greeted accepted students with a link to an animated graphic of fireworks, says this year’s fireworks will be flashier than ever. Bryn Mawr, which launched its video acceptance last year, is promising an even better video this year.

Goodies. St. Bonaventure University in western New York this year gussied up the acceptance package (which contains a T-shirt) that it sends out. MIT sent out a tube filled with a poster and confetti to its early acceptees, as it has for several years. Other schools are shipping bumper stickers, decals, and other knickknacks.

Fancy letters. Ithaca College three years ago replaced its single-page acceptance letter (contained in a misleadingly thin envelope) with what it calls its “Phat package”—a foot-long envelope emblazoned with the words “Something big is about to happen.” Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa., upped its game this year with a fancy new translucent envelope holding a green linen folder embossed with the college seal and the words: “You have been accepted.”

Certificates. Baylor this year joined many other schools, including Rutgers and Elon, in sending out suitable-for-framing acceptance certificates.”

So…it begs the question, how do students prefer to be notified?  Is the electronic rejection too impersonal?  And does a fancier admission letter really influence your decision of where you’ll attend?

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One of my pet peeves when it comes to the media’s portrayal of education is the all or nothing mentality, and it seems especially ripe given the recent economic upheaval.  I was watching Heroes (one of my favorite shows) this last Monday, and (I promise…no spoilers) in it Claire (Hayden Panettiere) and her father discuss college options.  Should she take on the pressure of an Ivy League or chill out at the local community college?

Obviously, in the fictionalized world of Heroes there are other factors in play, but for the average American high school student a decision between community college and a four-year probably has more to do with the perceived cost of the education.  And while it may seem that community college is the immediate financial solution for a family looking to reduce college costs, in actuality starting a college education at the local jc may end up costing a family more money in the long run.  According to the U.S. Dept of Education, “Students who begin at public 2-year institutions must transfer to another institution in order to complete a 4-year degree. Students who did so took about a year and one-half longer to complete a bachelor’s degree than students who began at public 4-year institutions (71 vs. 55 months), and almost 2 years longer than those who began at private not-for-profit 4-year institutions (50 months).”

So here’s the math:

2 years community college + 3.5 years public/private college= bachelor’s degree

4 years at private college=bachelor’s degree

4.5 years at public college=bachelor’s degree

If your plan is to ultimately transfer to a 4-yr university, you may end up with some immediate savings, but keep in mind that it may take you longer to complete your degree which could mean more money in college fees and tuition and a longer wait until you’re able to earn a full-time salary.

But there is a compromise somewhere between paying full price tuition at a pricey 4-yr and the in-state discount at the local junior college, but like most compromises this one does require a little more effort or, in this case, research.   And a good place to start your research is with the Colleges That Change Lives website.  Founded by Loren Pope, CTCL features some of our countries best but oft-overlooked college campuses at some pretty affordable prices. Another great resource is Lynn O’Shaughnessy’s The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price, which outlines some great strategies for finding good college deals.  There are over 3500 colleges in the U.S., so if you feel like you’re faced with the decision to “go big or go home,” know that there are lot of other options out there that may be more fulfilling and cost-effective in the long run.

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Looking for a good college deal in this economy?  Check out Kiplinger’s just-announced list of the best private, public, and liberal arts college values for 2009.  The selections are based on a combination of academic quality and affordability and topping the lists are:

Private Universities

1. Cal. Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA
2. Yale, New Haven, CT
3. Princeton, Princeton, NJ
4. Rice, Houston, TX
5. Duke, Durham, NC

See full list…

Liberal Arts Colleges

1. Pomona College, Claremont, CA
2. Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA
3. Williams College, Williamstown, MA
4. Davidson College, Davidson, NC
5. Washington & Lee Univ., Lexington, VA

See full list…

Public Colleges

1. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
2. University of Florida
3. University of Virginia
4. University of Georgia
5.College of William and Mary

See full list…

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At the end of August I had the amazing opportunity to spend some time with my family on the sunny beaches of Florida’s east coast. Knowing that I would be going off to college in two years we decided, instead of flying back to New York City, to pack up all of our luggage on top of our big, tan minivan, and drive home—stopping at seven different colleges along the way. My mom told me we had 4 days, and 5 nights to get back to New York City, and the rest was up to me. I was in charge of plotting, planning, mapping, and scheduling tours and hotels and everything. Although it was time consuming, with the help of Mapquest.com, I was able to map our way through seven schools of my choosing: Davidson, Wake Forest, UNC Chapel Hill, Duke, William and Mary, UVA and Georgetown.

I was initially really excited to visit certain schools (Duke, UVA), and others were just kind of on the way (Davidson, Georgetown). However, all of them sparked some interest. Before hitting each college, we read the 3-page summary in the Fiske Guide to College (I highly recommend it for a brief overview of TONS of colleges). So arriving at each campus, I already had some preconceived notions.
I thought I would love the medium-to-large size campuses, with a great sense of community and school spirit.  I was expecting to love UNC Chapel Hill and was really excited about seeing Duke.

But after our 5-day East-Coast College Tour, I ended up falling in love with totally different colleges than I imagined. What I thought about a school on paper wasn’t necessarily consistent with the feelings I got once I was on campus. I realized that I could fit in a smaller school (like Davidson, with only 1,700 students) or a much larger school (UVA has approximately 22,000 students).

Getting a basic grip on the whole college thing was a great experience. I have no idea where I want to go, but I do know that a school can look and sound great on paper, but you might have a totally different opinion if you visit. Being able to actually walk around the campus (especially if you can sign-up for a tour) really gave me a feel for the different schools, and I would highly recommend seizing the opportunity if it arises.

Hannah and Family Gearing Up For A College Road Trip

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Being a senior, I am on the seemingly never ending task of selecting the right college to attend in the fall. With all these great universities to choose from, I have found myself wondering about the reasons for which I am selecting a college.

Obviously being seventeen years old, friends and boyfriends have influence over the choices you make whether you realize it or not. I am currently sitting in a Berkeley dorm room wondering if I want to go to Berkeley because my best friend goes here, or if I want to go to Berkeley because I genuinely love the school.

To be completely honest, I have always been more of a city girl. I love to shop, eat at restaurants and surround myself with the sounds of a bustling city. When I picture myself at college, I have always pictured myself at a school like USC or USF. All of the sudden I find myself thinking that it would be best for me to be up in the free-loving town of Berkeley.

What causes this sudden shift? What causes this abrupt change in the thought process that I have had for so many years? I think that those two questions are better suited for a therapist or college counselor but as a young woman, I find them rather interesting. I like to think of myself as a mature, level headed young adult. And all of the sudden, all these plans that I have for myself have been over-ruled by a brief thought of spontaneity.

I guess the ultimate question that I am getting at is whether or not to run with this new found excitement. Do I abandon what I always thought would be the right path for myself and attend a smaller, private university? Or do I see myself fitting into Berkeley, California?

Taking the time to sort out all these thoughts is just one minor process involved with college. Compared to applications, essays, transcripts and interviews, ironically, this seems to be the hardest. There is always the fear that once you make a choice, it will be the wrong one. How do you move past that fear to bigger and greater things?

I don’t know the answer to that question, but through my blogging, I hope to find it!

Alex is a Youth Editor for Guide & Seek and a senior at Santa Margarita High School in Orange County, California. Her ultimate goal is to attend law school to become a sports and entertainment attorney, however, before that can happen she hopes to attend UC Berkeley or the University of Southern California in the fall.

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