Whether you recall it, you’ve used — or will soon use — CollegeBoard.org. That’s because the College Board owns and administers the SAT.
But the 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.
Who should use CollegeBoard.org?
The College Board is home to some of the best data about how we educate teens and 20-somethings in the U.S. 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 the students themselves. CollegeBoard.org claims 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 resources on college planning and career mapping.
Getting started: Create an account
You can roam CollegeBoard.org without creating an account. And nobody would blame you, especially after The Washington Post recently questioned the College Board’s position on data privacy.
But signing up for an account is necessary to:
- Register for the SAT and CLEP 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 will 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.
6 reasons to use CollegeBoard.org
Once you’ve signed into College Board, 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:
If you’re a junior, you’ll also receive a season-by-season checklist to prepare for college. You’ll be advised, for example, 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 in the spring
- Visit your preferred colleges over the summer
No matter your year in school, there are many useful free tools and resources on the site. Here are the six things College Board does best.
1. Register and prep for the SAT
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 1,600 score.
On the College Board, you can:
- Register: It takes 30 to 40 minutes to complete.
- Choose a test date: Sixty-seven percent of students do better on their second try, reported the College Board
- Study up on the test’s content: The test has sections on 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 Khan Academy’s 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 order the following tests on CollegeBoard.org:
- Preliminary SAT 8/9: Eighth- and ninth-graders 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): They can also earn college credit by passing any of 33 exams.
2. Learn about and explore AP courses
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 Literature 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, the College Board 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.
3. Build your list of preferred colleges
The College Board also has a lot of resources on preparing for the future. You’ll be moved to a section of the College Board site known as BigFuture when learning about your higher-education opportunities.
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 top factors to consider when choosing a college.
The difference at BigFuture 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:
- Am I limiting my choices by focusing on whether a college is public or private?
- 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?
- Do I see myself at a college with lots of students or in a smaller community?
- Will I qualify for financial aid?
- What are my favorite school subjects? What do I like doing when I’m not in class?
- 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 be more efficient in whittling down your college choices from 3,715 to 15 or 20. You can be as specific as you see fit, from zeroing in on schools that accept a certain SAT score range, offer a certain amount of financial aid, or have a certain sport or club activity on campus.
As you’re clicking through schools, you’ll see brochure-like campus photos and hard data about the school. 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 $12,682 per student. The rival University of Kansas checked in at $15,269.
At this stage, you’re evaluating schools, not discarding them from consideration over one factor. The College Board’s tool is meant for:
- Adding 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 on pace for admission
4. Study up on majors and career paths
More useful for high school seniors than juniors, the College Board can help you find your future major. It works under the assumption that your future career is a sum of your current interests.
Whether you agree with this line of thinking, the College Board offers an array of resources centered around its major and career search engine. Pretty much every imaginable job has a profile page detailing:
- What to expect in classes for that major
- Characteristics that might make you a fit
- Considerations when reviewing colleges for that major
The upside of this section of the site is that if you’re not ready to get down to specifics, you can browse different 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 the site’s free resources. But your research here just might inform your decision down the road.
5. Learn how to finance your way through school
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 filling out 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 salary, and your student loan debt||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 from up to 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 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.
6. Search and apply for college scholarships
The calculators and tools in the “Pay for College” section of CollegeBoard.org might add some urgency to your scholarship search. Fortunately, the site also offers a useful scholarship search tool.
In fact, the College Board claims it has access to 2,200 aid programs offering nearly $6 billion in awards.
To narrow it down, you can enter personal information to see which scholarships might be best fits for you. There are scholarships geared toward minorities, students with disabilities, and students meeting other special conditions.
There’s nothing especially unique about this tool. It’s best to combine it with other scholarship tools that can help you find money for college.
Making a plan at the College Board
If those six areas of focus seemed like an overload, worry not. The College Board 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 a school.
If your brain needs a break, you’ll also appreciate the Mad Libs-style quiz that will help you build out a personalized plan.
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 resort to 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.
The College Board 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. 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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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.
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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.
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5 Important Disclosures for Citizens.
Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As March 1, 2020, the one-month LIBOR rate is 1.62%. Variable interest rates range from 2.72% – 10.98% (2.72% – 10.83% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Fixed interest rates range from 4.72% – 12.19% (4.72% – 12.04% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown requires application with a co-signer, are for eligible applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, borrower making scheduled payments while in school and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens One is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of the loan.
Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensone.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
Citizens One Student Loan Eligibility: Borrowers must be enrolled at least half-time in a degree-granting program at an eligible institution. Borrowers must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident or an international borrower/eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For borrowers who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens One reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Citizens One Student Loans private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens One Student Loans-participating school.
Please Note: International Students are not eligible for the multi-year approval feature.
Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
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|2.75% – 10.65%*,1||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|2.84% – 10.97%2||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|2.80% – 11.37%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.52% – 9.50%4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.14% – 11.88%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|2.72% – 10.98%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|