College Knowledge Via the World Wide Web

Student-oriented Web sites are making the grade. Sites catering to college-bound high schoolers are linking potential candidates with study guides, financial aid programs, scholarship awards and athletic opportunities to make the transition from high school to university fast, efficient and economical.

Today’s high school students are more Web-savvy than ever. Students consider the Web to be the second most important resources available to them — second only to their guidance counselors, according to a study cited by Campus Pipeline Inc., a Salt Lake City, Utah-based vendor of enterprise software to about 65 colleges and universities. The survey was conducted by the Arts & Sciences Group, a private consulting group.

And teenagers are increasingly using the Internet to assimilate and share information, as well as evaluate products to make informed purchase decisions. According to Jupiter Research, 47 million teens and kids will be
online by 2005, as a result the growing integration of the Internet into the educational curriculum will be a contuing catalyst for online adoption.

No doubt, evaluating data in the college selection process is part of this estimation. More and more college applications are being completed online. Further, as Web sites set up by individual colleges and universities expand, there are complimentary locations that exist exclusively to assist students with their pre-college needs and concerns.

Here are some of the online services available to students.

Test Preparation: No doubt, the SAT/ACT exams are the starting
point for the college-entry process. Online tutoring is available to assist
students in achieving their highest potential scores.

For example, Advantage Education
provides tutoring online or in-person.

“We keep the online tutoring on a low-tech level, so that we can work
with the computer systems of all students,” explained Steve Dulan, president
and founder of the E. Lansing, Mich.-based service. “We use AOL Instant
Messenger so that we have an interactive working environment.

“We hold online sessions for one hour at a time and offer practice
tests,” he said. “Our curriculum is built around actual past exams. This,
combined with the methods taught by our instructors, has proven highly
successful. In our feedback surveys, at least 90 percent of our students say
they would recommend us to others.”

Other players in the test-preparation arena include:

Matching Students and Institutions:
CollegeRecruiting.com was
created to connect college hopefuls with thousands of colleges and
universities interested in discovering the right students, according to
founder and COO Wendi Swanson.

“We simplify the process for a significant number of students who are not
blue chip but who do have the ability to participate at the college level,”
she explained. “This site provides them with a whole new way to gain
exposure and access to colleges throughout the country that they never would
otherwise get.”

CollegeRecruiting.com has a database with more t han 4,000 college and
offers a medium for students to paint a self-portrait and present it to
universities.

“We facilitate communication between schools and recruiters,” noted
Swanson. “We want to make sure that the kids know what is available to
them. For instance, a female lacrosse player can go to our site and find out
what colleges have a women’s lacrosse team.”

The site tailors student profi

les based on 45 different activities,
including athletics, music, instruments, vocal, art, theater, dance and
academics.

“In the long run, we are paving a path to a successful college
experience,” Swanson said.

Peterson’s has implemented a
matching methodology that takes the burden off of the student and places it
on the university.

“Traditionally, it was up to the student to contact colleges, get a
catalogs and make sense of what is out there,” noted Michael Fleischner,
vice president of business development and marketing for Peterson’s, which
is based in Lawrenceville, N.J. “We now offer a program that improves on
that.”

Through BestCollegePicks.com, the
organization matches students to colleges based on the students’
aspirations.

“We take information collected from alumni with regard to various skills,
values and occupations,” he explained. “We ask the students to describe what
type of person they want to be after college and match them with the college
alumni who have those characteristics.

“By collecting data on what behaviors the alumni use in their paths of
life, we can update which schools will best appeal to the individual
candidates,” Fleischner said.

Financial Aid/Scholarship programs: Once a student is accepted to a
university, they face the daunting prospect of tuition, academic and living
costs.

FinAid, based in Pittsburgh, was
created in 1994 to “provide a comprehensive, informative and objective Web
site for students looking for ways to finance their education,” noted Mark
Kantrowitz, founder and publisher.

“This site has more than 17 calculators that allow candidates to estimate
their eligibility for certain programs,” he said. The site is owned by fastweb.com, a Chicago-based scholarship
program site. “We work very closely with fastweb to provide a comprehensive
guide to securing financial aid,” Kantrowitz said.

The site details loan programs, military aid programs, government aid
offerings, and scholarship awards. Calculators allow candidates to evaluate
college costs, savings plans, financial aid estimations, savings growth
projections, annual yields, life insurance needs, housing analysis and more.

Admissions.com was recently set up
by fastweb to match students with college scholarships. The site includes an
extensive college directory of more than 4,000 schools with information on
admissions, financial aid and general information.

The mother of all educational financing sites may very well be Sallie
Mae
, which is a private source of funding and servicing support for higher education loans
for students and their parents.

The company — which offers online scholarship and financial programs —
purchases student loans from commercial banks and other eligible FFELP
lenders, including savings and loan associations, mutual savings banks,
credit unions and insurance companies, educational institutions and state
and private non-profit loan originating and secondary market agencies.

In April, the Reston, Va.-based, organization started
WiredScholar.com, which, according to
Forbes.com’s ‘Best of the Web’ review,
“Methodically takes students through the technicals of financing an
education from the ABCs of student loans to choosing the right lender, down
to the types of aid offered at each college.”

“The site is designed to help students and parents with all they need to
know for applying to schools,” said Michael Darne, director of ecommerce
business development for wiredscholar.com.

“This site is geared for people who are trying to decide whether college
is

right for them and we assist in which schools meet candidates’ criteria.
We also provide applicants with information about admissions and
applications, and offer checklists for campus visits and interviews.”

The site was built around extensive research, Darne noted. “Before going
online, we did interviews and conducted research as well as held focus
groups to find out what kids, parents and guidance counselors needed from a
Web site,” he said. “Now that we are up and running, 80
percent of survey respondents rate us as ‘very useful.’

“The real message is that we provide a broad and comprehensive resource
that helps people go through the process of finding and paying for college,”
he said.

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