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Launch Into The Future



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Office of College and Career Success
School Counseling and Postsecondary Advising
42 W. Madison St., 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60602

LearnPlanSucceed@cps.edu

Learn.Plan.Succeed

College

This pathway includes any institution of higher education that awards a degree or credential post-high school graduation. There is a wide array of choices when considering college, including universities, community colleges, trade schools and more.

How to Pursue This Pathway

The college pathway has become the premier pathway to economic opportunity. Employment opportunities that require a college degree make up about 56% of good jobs, due to employer demand for upskill. This pathway typically leads to a majority of professional and technical jobs, including those held by doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, computer programmers, journalists, architects, and managers, among many others. (Source: Center for Education and Workforce Development)

What to consider when comparing colleges?

Different schools serve different purposes. Make sure you choose the type of school that helps you achieve your goals. As you research colleges and trade schools, consider such factors as:

Consider starting your search in Illinois. The Handbook of Illinois Postsecondary Institutions contains up-to-date admission and financial aid information about Illinois institutions and is an invaluable reference source for students and families as they plan for college. The Handbook contains direct links to the website of each school. The costs listed in the handbook - which are for the 2019-20 academic year - are intended to provide a range that can be used to help make enrollment and financial planning decisions. Please check with each institution for exact costs.

Why is “accreditation” an important factor to consider in a college?

You may be wondering why you need to know about college accreditation. Simply put, not every institution is what it appears to be. In order for you to become a smart consumer, you'll need to have a basic understanding of accreditation in the United States and how it works, the difference between accredited or unaccredited institutions, and the pitfalls of enrolling in a "diploma mill."

A diploma mill is an unaccredited school (or a business claiming to be a school) that awards a degree without requiring classwork that meets college-level standards. Learn more about diploma mills and how to avoid them.

What are Safety, Reach, and Match schools?

There are no assurances or absolutes when it comes to college admissions. Consider adding a few in each category to your list of options.

  • Safety Schools – Your GPA and test scores exceed those of the average incoming freshman class.
  • Reach Schools – Often referred to as “Selective Institutions,” they admit few students or have requirements that exceed your selectivity match.
  • Match Schools – Ones in which your academic profile, which typically includes GPA, ACT/ SAT scores, and coursework are similar to those of the average freshman.

What is your College Selectivity Match?

Typically, a college is considered a match if it accepts, on average, students with a similar GPA and SAT or ACT to your own. Use the College Match Grid (below) and the College Selectivity List to identify your general match level and potential colleges of interest.

  Unweighted GPA in Core Courses
< 2.0 2.0 - 2.4 2.5 - 2.9 3.0 - 3.4 3.5 - 4.0
Missing SAT Missing ACT Two Year Colleges Less Selective Four-Year Colleges Somewhat Selective Colleges Selective Colleges Selective Colleges
< 940 < 18 Two Year Colleges Less Selective Four-Year Colleges Somewhat Selective Colleges Somewhat Selective Colleges Selective Colleges
940 - 1050 18 - 20 Less Selective Four-Year Colleges Somewhat Selective Colleges Somewhat Selective Colleges Selective Colleges Selective/Very Selective Colleges
1060 - 1150 21 - 23 Somewhat Selective Colleges Somewhat Selective Colleges Selective Colleges Selective Colleges Selective/Very Selective Colleges
1160+ 24+ Somewhat Selective Colleges Selective Colleges Selective/Very Selective Colleges Very Selective Colleges Very Selective Colleges

NOTE: In 2008, the University of Chicago Consortium introduced the College Match Grid to illustrate categories of access types based on CPS graduates’ GPAs and ACT scores and patterns of college enrollment.

To demonstrate concordance of ACT to SAT, the College Match Grid shown on this website was adapted from:

Collegereadiness.collegeboard.org. (2017). Guide to the 2017 ACT® /SAT® Concordance.

Roderick, M., Nagaoka, J., Coca, V., Moeller, E., Roddie, K., Gillian, J. and Patton, D. (2008). From High School to the Future: Potholes on the Road to College. [online] Consortium.uchicago.edu.

How can my family and I pay for college?

Most students and their families pay for college using some combination of savings, income and financial aid. Financial aid is money you must apply for and can receive to help cover college costs. Some financial aid, like grants and scholarships, do not have to be repaid.

  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid - The FAFSA form allows students to request federal grants, work-study, and loans, all in one application. In addition, postsecondary schools use information from the FAFSA to award non-federal financial aid. The application is available free of charge. For a step-by-step guide on completing the FAFSA and all the steps that follow leading up to a financial aid award notice, visit the Federal Student Aid website.
  • Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid (only for qualifying undocumented and transgender students) - The Retention of Illinois Students & Equity (RISE) Act, which went into effect on January 1, 2020, provides that “a student who is an Illinois resident and who is not otherwise eligible for federal financial aid, including, but not limited to, a transgender student who is disqualified for failure to register for selective service or a noncitizen student who has not obtained lawful permanent residence, shall be eligible for state financial aid and benefits…” The Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) has developed the Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid to provide a pathway for students who meet the provisions of the RISE Act to apply for the Monetary Award Program (MAP) for the 2020-21 award year. The Alternative Application collects much of the same data as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), but is administered by ISAC. For more information, visit ISAC’s website at ISAC.org or refer to the Alternative Application Resource Guide.
  • Apply for Scholarships - It’s never too early to start researching scholarship options. By December of your senior year or sooner, complete the Academic Works General Scholarship Application. AcademicWorks is the web-based scholarship application system for students at Chicago Public Schools. You can review up-to-date scholarship opportunities in the live CPS Scholarship Alert Workbook.

Next Steps

If college is a postsecondary option that interests you, consider taking the next steps:

  1. Research colleges. Different schools serve different purposes. Make sure you choose the type of school that helps you achieve your goals. See your school counselor or college and career coach at your earliest opportunity.
  2. Narrow down your list. Choose schools with a range of qualities. Have a dream school, have a school that’s financially affordable, and have a school where your grades meet all of the requirements and you have a high likelihood of being accepted—aka your safety, reach, and match schools. Ideally, you want to apply to 3 to 5 colleges. Request application fee waivers, if available.
  3. Take SAT. All Illinois juniors must take the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT). The SAT is a college entrance exam used by most colleges and universities to make admissions decisions. The purpose of the SAT is to measure a high school student's readiness for college, and provide colleges with one common data point that can be used to compare all applicants. Visit the College Board website to learn more and to get practice tests, dates, and other details.
  4. Draft and finalize college essays, if required. Not all colleges require essays or personal statements. If they do, keep in mind that these documents are your introduction to a selection committee and may determine whether you are invited to participate in the next steps of the application process.
  5. Ask for letters of recommendation, if required. Choose recommenders who know you well and can speak to your strengths. This is not a section of the application to be put off until the last minute. Give your recommenders time to write the best representation of you.
  6. Complete Scholarships and Financial Aid Applications. If eligible, complete the Free Application for Federal Students Aid (FAFSA) or Alternate Application for Illinois Financial Aid (for qualifying undocumented and transgender students). Additionally, by December of your senior year or sooner, complete the Academic Works General Scholarship Application. AcademicWorks is the web-based scholarship application system for students at Chicago Public Schools. You can review up-to-date scholarship opportunities in the live CPS Scholarship Alert Workbook.
  7. Provide supplemental information, as requested by each college. Most successful applicants submit only the required application materials. Because most admissions committees give the greatest weight to the required documents, it is recommended that you focus your energy primarily on those elements of the application that are requested by a college.

Sources of Information

In general, information published by these sources is both current and based on reliable research.

  • After FAFSA Checklist
  • Academic Works for CPS - The web-based scholarship application system for students at Chicago Public Schools.
  • Alternate Application for Illinois Financial Aid (for qualifying undocumented and transgender students) - Effective January 2020, the IL RISE Act permits state aid to be awarded to persons who are not otherwise eligible for federal financial aid, including, but not limited to transgender students and noncitizen students who have not obtained lawful US permanent residence.
  • Alphabet Soup - A one-page list of acronyms and definitions of financial aid terms.
  • Chicagoland Career Pathways - A free and open website where young adults and their guides (parents, teachers, counselors, mentors) across Chicagoland can learn about free or low-cost training and certification programs that can lead to rewarding employment. The directory is searchable by career field, eligibility requirements, certification/credential, location, and more. The directory is a resource for adults finishing GED programs as well.
  • College Glossary - An alphabetical list of terms or words relevant to college and financial aid; a brief dictionary.
  • College Advising Guide for Undocumented Students - A tool of the Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling (IACAC) that provides tips about questions to ask, scholarship opportunities, and information about colleges that provide supports to undocumented students.
  • Federal Student Aid (FSA) - A part of the U.S. Department of Education, FSA is the largest provider of student financial aid in the nation.
  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) - This form is used to apply for federal financial aid for college, career schools, or grad school.
  • FSA ID - A username and password that gives you access to Federal Student Aid’s online systems and can serve as your legal signature. Only create an FSA ID using your own personal information and for your own exclusive use.
  • FSA Pubs - The office of Federal Student Aid provides publications, fact sheets, online tools, and other resources to help you prepare and pay for college or career school. Resources are grouped by topics.
  • Illinois Postsecondary Handbook - A reference source produced by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) to provide general admission and financial aid information about Illinois postsecondary institutions. Please check with each institution for exact costs.
  • Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) - The state’s college access and financial aid agency.
  • Naviance for CPS - A tool that enables students in grades 6 through 12 to conduct comprehensive college and career planning. Use your CPS username and password to login.
  • SAT - Find out tests dates and information on what kinds of questions you’ll see and what the test measures.
  • CPS Academic Works - Complete the General Application to begin reviewing scholarship applications.
  • CPS Scholarship Alert Workbook - Search for scholarships.

Page Last Modified on Monday, February 03, 2020