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Whether you remember or not, you’ve used — or will soon use — CollegeBoard.org. That’s because The College Board owns and administers the SAT.
But the self-ascribed mission-driven not-for-profit organization does a lot more than allow you to take college entrance exams. Its tools and resources just might help you decide where you go to college and how you pay for it.
Let’s look at CollegeBoard.org by answering four questions about what it is and how to use it:
CollegeBoard.org is home to some of the best data about how we educate teens and 20-somethings in America today. That’s because it’s led by members of 6,000-plus colleges, universities and other institutions.
It’s also a go-to resource for high school teachers, administrators and other professionals in the field of education. For example, there is an online community for teachers of Advanced Placement (AP) courses. The College Board created AP to give high school students the opportunity to receive credit for college-level classes at a lower cost.
But it’s no surprise that the primary users of the website are students. CollegeBoard.org has claimed that it helps more than 7 million students each year make the jump from high school to college.
Because it’s the only gateway to college entrance exams like the SAT, high school juniors and seniors are directed to use the website by their high school’s college counselors. Once logged in, you’ll find free library-like resources on college planning and career mapping.
You can roam CollegeBoard.org without creating an account. However, signing up for an account is necessary to:
- Register for the SAT and CLEP (College-Level Examination Program) exams and print your admission tickets
- Access your SAT and AP scores and send them to schools
- Build and manage your list of preferred colleges
- Create and save your college scholarship searches
Signing up is an easy process — it took me less than five minutes to complete. You’ll be asked for your basic personal information, and you’ll also need to choose your high school from a drop-down menu.
You could also include your parent’s information so that they receive the same updates you do, plus a monthly newsletter containing information about SAT prep and college planning.
Once you’ve signed into CollegeBoard.org, you’ll be welcomed onto the site by your first name and grade level. If you’re an 11th-grader named Andrew, for example, here’s what you’ll see upon logging in for the first time (as of July 2020):
If you’re a junior, you’ll also receive a season-by-season checklist to prepare college. You’d be advised to:
- Sign up for the PSAT in the fall
- Sign up for the SAT in the winter
- Create a list of 15 to 20 college choices by the spring
- Visit your preferred colleges on a budget during the summer
No matter your year in school, there are many useful free tools and resources on the site. Here are six things the CollegeBoard.org website can help you accomplish with ease:
1. Register and prep for the SAT
2. Learn about and explore AP courses
3. Build your list of preferred colleges
4. Study up on majors and career pathways
5. Complete the CSS Profile and pick up financial aid advice
6. Search and apply for college scholarships
The SAT is a standardized test used all over the country by colleges and universities to compare applicants. High school juniors and seniors take the grueling exam, each chasing that perfect 1600 score.
Via CollegeBoard.org, you can:
- Register: It takes 30 to 40 minutes to complete.
- Choose a test date: 67 percent of students do better on their second try.
- Study up on the test’s content: It will test reading, writing, language and math.
- Send scores to your preferred colleges: The first four submissions are free.
CollegeBoard.org has also partnered with the Khan Academy on SAT prep, meaning you won’t have to rely on thick paperback books or expensive prep courses. Using the Khan Academy platform, you can set up your own schedule, identify your weaknesses and take up to eight practice tests.
Aside from the SAT, you can also sign up for the following tests:
- Preliminary SAT 8/9: Eighth- and ninth-graders can get their feet wet with an introduction to pre-college exams.
- Preliminary SAT 10/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT): High school students can qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program by recording eligible scores.
- College-Level Examination Program (CLEP): Students can also earn college credit by passing any of 34 exams.
Although all AP placement and learning takes place at your high school, CollegeBoard.org is the one-stop-shop to:
- Learn how to approach teachers about enrolling if they haven’t approached you
- Consider the benefits, such as college credit and improving your college application
- Explore specific courses, from art history to calculus and beyond
The site is particularly useful for finding the courses you might be interested in taking. If you think you might major in journalism down the road, for example, you could explore CollegeBoard.org’s guide to AP English Language and Composition.
Taking that course as a high school junior or senior might mean you can cross off a general education requirement once you arrive on your college campus. It could also be a test for whether you truly enjoy the written word.
Beyond AP prep, CollegeBoard.org is also the place to find out how you performed on your AP tests. Colleges and universities look at your scores when deciding whether to grant you college credit.
To match your scores to your College Board profile, you’ll need to enter your AP number and student ID. You should have received both when you enrolled in an AP course.
Everything that CollegeBoard.org has to offer from this point forward is about looking forward. You’ll be moved to a section of the site — and a URL — called BigFuture.CollegeBoard.org.
The College Board doesn’t have the market cornered on comparing colleges. Other established companies, from The Princeton Review to Fastweb, offer the same filters to narrow down your list of preferred schools. After all, filters like school type, cost and admission statistics are among the factors to consider when choosing a college.
The difference at CollegeBoard.org or rather, BigFuture.CollegeBoard.org, is that it offers instruction about how to think about these categories before beginning your college search. For each category, you might benefit from asking questions like these:
|Kinds of colleges||Am I limiting my choices by focusing on whether a college is public or private?|
|Location||How close to home do I want to be? Close enough for meals and laundry, to visit on weekends or to only come home on breaks?|
|Campus setting||Do I see myself at a college with lots of students or in a smaller community?|
|Cost||Will I qualify for financial aid?|
|Majors||What are my favorite school subjects? What do I like doing when I’m not in class?|
|Learning environment||Do I prefer to be part of small group discussions or to listen to lectures? How much interaction do I want with my professors?|
Answering these questions first will help you become more efficient in whittling down your college choices from 3,711 to, say, 15 or 20. You can be as specific as you see fit, from zeroing in on schools that accept a specified SAT score range, offer a certain amount of financial aid for college or have a unique sport or club activity on campus.
As you’re clicking on schools, you’ll see brochure-like campus photos backed up by hard data. If financial aid is your (or your parent’s) top concern, you can use that statistic to compare schools. Kansas State University, for example, awarded an average of $13,657 per student — however, its intrastate rival University of Kansas checked in at $17,896.
At this stage, you’re evaluating schools, not discarding them from consideration over one factor. College Board’s tool is meant for:
- Adding potential preferred schools to your college list
- Comparing up to three colleges side by side
- Using the academic tracker to see if your grades and test scores are keeping you on pace for admission
More useful for high school seniors than juniors, this section of the site is working under the assumption that your future career is the sum of your current interests. That’s how it expects you to find your major area of study.
Whether you agree with this line of thinking or not, CollegeBoard.org offers an array of resources centered around its major and career search. Pretty much every imaginable job has a profile page detailing:
- Characteristics that might make you a fit
- Tasks you can take on during high school to get on track
- Information on the outlook and return on investment of majors and professions
The upside of this section of the site is that if you’re not ready to get down to specifics, you can browse different content about career paths. Click on interesting keywords and go down the rabbit hole of one before coming up for another that might interest you.
No one expects you to decide on a major, let alone a career, after reviewing CollegeBoard.org’s free resources. Still, your research here just might inform your decision down the road.
Like the SAT, the CSS Profile makes CollegeBoard.org a must visit for nearly all families preparing for college. Think of it as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), but for non-federal financial aid.
For the 2020-21 school year, the CSS Profile was slated to be used by 240 colleges and universities to dispense institutional, state and private financial aid for college. The CSS Profile becomes available annually on Oct. 1 (just like the FAFSA).
Beyond providing CSS Profile tips and tricks, CollegeBoard.org is not pretending to be the definitive source on how to finance your years of college. It does, however, have content on everything from applying for the FAFSA and securing grants to considering private student loans and comparing financial aid packages.
If you’d rather learn by doing, use your time toying with three interactive tools to estimate and plan for the costs of going to school.
|Tool||Question it answers||What you need||Best for…|
|College savings calculator||Are you saving enough to afford school?||Estimated college costs and current college savings||Middle and high school students and their parents|
|Student loan calculator||Will you be able to afford your postgraduate student loan payments?||Anticipated graduation year, projected first salary and your student loan amounts||High school seniors and college underclassmen who are wary of choosing a major that leads to a low-paying career|
|Compare your aid awards||Which of your top schools offers the best aid package?||Cost of attendance and financial aid awards of as many as four different schools||High school seniors who have already received college award letters|
This might seem like getting too far ahead of the game if you’re in the 11th or 12th grade, or the parent of someone who is. But the faster you can answer these questions, the more prepared you’ll be to pay for school — that’s CollegeBoard.org’s intent, anyway.
The calculators and tools in the “Pay for College” section of CollegeBoard.org might add some urgency to your search for gift aid. Fortunately, the site also hosts one of the web’s most useful scholarship search tools.
In fact, CollegeBoard.org claims it has access to 2,200 aid programs offering about $6 billion in awards.
To narrow it down, you can enter personal information to see which scholarships might fit you best. There are scholarships geared toward many different groups, such as underrepresented students, students with disabilities and students meeting other special conditions.
If those six areas of focus seemed like an overload, worry not. CollegeBoard.org dedicates a part of its site to making a plan, whether you’re a seventh-grader just learning about college or a senior in high school who’s already chosen one.
If your brain needs a break, you might also appreciate being presented with a Mad Libs-style quiz that can build out a personalized plan for you.
The five-question quiz will ask you about your:
- Grade level
- Experience searching for colleges
- Knowledge about financing college
- Preferences for two- or four-year schools
- Reason for looking forward to college
Taking your answers into account, your dashboard will list interactive activities. You might watch a video about talking to college counselors or go through an exercise to help narrow down your choice of major.
It’s a good spot to visit on CollegeBoard.org when you feel bombarded with all of the pre-college information you have to digest. The planning function makes a checklist of everything else on the site, allowing you to focus on one thing at a time and move through the content at your own pace.
CollegeBoard.org is not a perfect platform, but it does cater to users who aren’t sure about next steps just as it helps users who know exactly what they’re looking for.
It’s free to use, it’s there when you need it — and if you (or your child) is in high school, you’ll need it soon.
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1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
2 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
3 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Information advertised valid as of 9/24/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Lowest advertised rates require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.
4 Important Disclosures for Discover.
Lowest APRs shown for Discover Student Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants for undergraduate loans, and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.23% to 11.76% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 1.90% to 11.66% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 11.83% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.80% to 11.73% APR (with autopay). MBA AND LAW SCHOOL LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.30% to 11.98% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.97% to 11.89% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.60% to 11.26% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.90% to 11.16% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin and your APR may increase after origination if the LIBOR increases. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 07/10/2020. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. SoFi Lending Corp., licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).
6 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.
* Application times vary depending on the applicant’s ability to supply the necessary information for submission.
7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.17% effective Sep 1, 2020 and may increase after consummation.