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Getting organized will pay off when shopping for colleges

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Bob McDonnell

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Posted: Sunday, January 15, 2012 10:35 pm

While evaluating options for furthering your education and starting your career, you should place colleges into three different categories:

• Reach. Colleges that will be difficult to get into.

• Likely. Colleges you have a good chance of getting into.

• Safety. Colleges that will almost definitely admit you.

A good rule of thumb is to apply to at least two to three colleges in each of the groups mentioned above. It is important to remember that you should be ready to attend any of the colleges in each category if you are admitted. To determine whether or not a college is affordable and within your reach, you should consider the following:

• What percentages of applicants are offered admission each year?

• What is the average SAT or ACT score for admitted students?

• What is the average financial aid package, and does it include books and travel to and from campus?

• Will the college meet 100 percent of your demonstrated financial need?

When preparing to apply through regular admissions, you should visit the colleges' websites to learn what materials you will need to submit by each admissions office's deadline. We hope that you will take advantage of the opportunity to apply to a range of colleges that offer an excellent education and generous financial assistance.

• Bob McDonnell is executive director of Arizona College Planners, L.L.C., a member of the College Planning Network, the National Association of College Funding Advisors and the National Association of College Acceptance Counselors. For questions, email

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