November, besides being the kick-off to the holiday season, is also a critical month in the college application process.
So amid planning for shopping and family feasts, students and their parents are trying to meet college decision deadlines. The College Board has unveiled a tool it says could be helpful in staying on track.
It's called BigFuture, a place where students can create a personalized plan that gives them expert advice on all the steps they need to take to apply to college. It might prove helpful to those who tend to procrastinate or get overwhelmed by decision-making.
It offers guidance on how to finalize your application list, how to get a great letter of recommendation and how to craft your application essays.
"The key to minimizing the stress of the college application process, whether you are starting as early as middle school or are a senior just beginning now, is to get and stay organized," said April Bell, director of counseling at the College Board. "A step-by-step action plan will allow you to keep track of deadlines and various elements of a strong college application."
Students can get started by answering just five simple questions. Parents can also find action plans on the Website to help guide their children.
It also provides comparative information on almost 4,000 college options.
Finding the right school
Worried about getting into college? The site might prove helpful. College admission isn't as competitive as many students think.
Fewer than 100 colleges in the U.S. are highly selective, accepting fewer than 25 percent of applicants. Close to 500 four-year colleges accept more than 75 percent of applicants. Open admission colleges accept all or most high school graduates. The site can help students find those schools.
The College Board cites research showing that applying to at least three colleges improves your chances of successfully enrolling in college.
"Also critical is the ability to narrow your list once you've explored all of your options," Bell said. "Most counselors recommend that students apply to five to eight colleges -- more than that may not be the best use of time and resources."
Of course, paying for college is also a challenge. BigFuture has a tool providing students a personalized cost estimate from more than 300 colleges by using the College Board Net Price Calculator. They can also link to an individual institution's net price calculator by clicking on the "paying" tab on the school's profile page on the college search section of BigFuture.