Need College Application Help? Look Online

  • College Application Navigation

    Students these days can get a lot more help than decades ago with the college application process. And they might just need it. This year, about 19 million students registered for college, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and that number is on the rise, meaning there could be some fierce competition for seats at the best schools next year. Traditionally, students have applied to five to eight different colleges, according to The College Board. But increasing competition might just be why some students are now applying to 20 or more schools (which The College Board considers too many.) As students and parents ramp up their college application endeavors, here are a few tools, some free and some for a fee, that can help. Photo Credit: tostie14

    Services Provided: Essay writing instructions and tips in book and video form; editing help. Cost: $39.95 per book, $19.95 per video, $49.95 for both, $150 to have your application essay edited, $1000 for step-by-step guidance through the application process including resume writing, interviewing, essay writing and self-marketing. Philosophy: “Students must show their experiences and their voices to the colleges,” says Shannon Barth, founder of “This is accomplished by using creative writing techniques like dialogue and stream of conscience." Whether the site’s “Show! Don’t Tell!” method is any different than what any high school English teacher might teach about essay writing remains unanswered. But the exclamation marks in what College Apps calls its own method are sure to catch students’ attention. “Most of the students who use our 'Show Don't Tell Method' attend their first choice university,” the company’s Web site says.
  • WiseChoice

    Resources Provided: A school search function for information on colleges provided by actual students, personality tests that can be used to match you with schools, information based on your personal and financial information detailing how much it would cost for you to attend each school. Cost: “We wanted to make it broadly available,” says Richard Taylor, founder and president of WiseChoice. So you can actually pay what you wish, even if that means nothing. Philosophy: WiseChoice sells itself as the eHarmony for college decision making. The site uses data from 15-minute personality tests plus a proprietary algorithm to come up with the best college matches, how much it’s likely to cost and your odds of getting in, factoring in the student’s background, learning style and financial information as well as a college’s social scene, academic programs, location, tuition and scholarships.
    National Association for College Admission Counseling
  • National Association for College Admission Counseling

    Resources Provided: Advice and checklists to help prepare for the admissions process. Cost: Advice and Information is free, but seeing a college counselor could cost as much as a few thousand dollars. Philosophy: This Web site represents a trade organization for college admissions counselors, but it offers free advice for kids through all their years of high school on how to prepare for the application process. It tells students when they should meet with guidance counselors, take SATs, get recommendations from their teachers, and plan visits and interviews at schools. For high school freshman, the site advises that students “begin saving money for college,” which, for many, may not be early enough. And of course, there’s a directory of college counselors.
    The Common Application
  • The Common Application

    Resources Provided: A single application that’s accepted at hundreds of colleges. Cost: None Philosophy: As an organization, The Common Application functions as a not-for-profit membership group. The application itself is accepted by 391 different colleges, which could save students the time needed to fill out multiple applications individually. “All members fully support its use, and all give equal consideration to the Common Application and the college's own form,” the organization’s Web site says.
    College Board
  • College Board

    Resources Provided: The SAT and college application advice. Cost: College tuition and scholarship info is free, you’ll likely be paying them in testing fees. Philosophy: The College Board, the company responsible for the SAT, goes beyond writing tests and collecting fees from them. Its Web site also offers advice on picking a college that matches your personality, how many schools you should apply to and how to prepare to write your essay, decide what school to go to and what to do if you’re waitlisted at a school.
    College Confidential
  • College Confidential

    Resources Provided: A college search tool for specific majors, information on college rankings, the admissions process, college life and paying for college. Cost: Free Philosophy: College Confidential wants to help students and parents through the application process by demystifying it. Its editorial team includes a former college admissions officials and authors of books and other guides on applying to colleges, including some of the top schools.
    My Chances
  • My Chances

    Resources Provided: Your estimated chances of getting into one of 1,700 colleges, essay feedback from current students at the school you’re applying to, editing services. Cost: Predictions are free. Premium EssayEdge Essay Editing costs between $93.95 and $335.95 depending on how much help you want. Philosophy: offers “Data-driven college admissions predictions,” according to the Web site. It uses an application database of more than 180,000 to help predict your chances of getting into a school.
    Education Conservancy
  • Education Conservancy

    Resources Provided: General tips, advice and information for students and parents. Cost: Advice on the site is free, but the book costs $19.50. Philosophy: This non-profit organization aims to improve the college admissions processes for students, high schools and colleges. But soon-to-be college kids might be especially thankful for the tips given to parents, including, “Recognize that gaining admission to college is merely one step in a process of education that will include your student attending a college where she or he can maximize talents and growth. Emphasize the education,” and “Resist doing for your students what they are capable of doing for themselves.” The conservancy’s advice, and the advice from College Unranked, a book promoted by the site, may also ease application-time jitters, encouraging applicants to be themselves and avoid trying to “game the system” and make up what a student thinks a college wants to hear.
  • MyCollegeSTAT

    Resources Provided: You can compare your grades to those previously accepted to the college of your choice and information on their academic history including advanced placement exams they took and extracurricular activities they participated in. Cost: Free Philosophy: MyCollegeSTAT has data and statistics on SAT subject tests, leadership skills, extracurricular activities, but says it focuses on “the person behind the scores.”
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