College acceptance (and rejection) letters are in the mail right now, so now comes the hard part: picking the right school.
I recently interviewed Eric Yaverbaum, president of collegeClickTV.com, who says families can save up to $10,000 on costs associated with visiting all the campuses they're interested in, just by looking at his new Web site.
CollegeClick TV offers "virtual" tours of around 200 colleges and universities in the U.S. Click on a school, from Adelphi to Vanderbit, and you'll see video interviews with students and faculty about their school. Tuition and book costs are covered, and you'll also hear the "inside scoop" on what restaurants to go to, where you can get student discounts and what football games and frat life are like. The idea is to give you a better sense of what the school is really like, going beyond rote speeches you'll get from student guides on college campus tours.
CollegeClickTV also has comparison charts to evaluate tuition and fees, SAT scores and GPA, and it also has "Top Lists" ranking best college libraries and newspapers, least appealing campuses, and the toughest schools to get into.
Yaverbaum is doing college research in real life too with his daughter, a high school junior, but he says families should really start looking at colleges when students are high school freshmen. "You've got to do a lot of research, which is a wonderful family bonding experience, but paying for college is more labor-intensive than ever before." He recommends that kids and parents apply for financial aid earlier -- "the later you apply, the more likely there's no money left for them to give you" -- and not to be scared of tuition because you can take advantage of some good education tax credits on your Federal tax return. Two other sites Yaverbaum recommends for college financing research are FinAid.org and Scholarships.com.
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