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Planning for college begins far before freshman year. Those who want to make the most of their education, and dollar, often begin taking college level courses while still in high school. One example of such classes are Advanced Placement (AP) classes. AP classes allow students to complete a test for college credits at the end of the semester and are available for most subjects.

College board recently announced that major changes are underway for AP classes to help students most efficiently achieve these credits. This includes improved formative assessment and adding an integrative experience. The changes were implemented after teachers shared feedback following existing AP classes and after scientists released information from studies that found what skills are needed in college in the 21st century.

One of the biggest changes is the final test. Students will find that the College Board changed test questions to create a greater challenge that promotes deeper learning.

“The redesigned AP exams are increasing their focus on essays and open-ended problems, and reducing the number of multiple-choice questions; the remaining multiple-choice questions are shifting to measure not just content knowledge, but content knowledge and the skill to use that knowledge in meaningful ways essential to college and career success in that discipline,” said Trevor Packer, Head of AP at College Board via statement. “There’s not a single exam question now that measures memorization only. They each evaluate skills and the application of knowledge.”

Teachers believe that the new layout is helping high school students prepare for college. 80 percent of AP biology teachers believer that students are learning more in classes. Students are also tested more regularly than with just one final exam throughout the year. The assessment helps students complete the course with less stress while knowing where they stand.

The new layout is based off the International Baccalaureate program. In this program students spend one year researching a global project with presentations and a seminar project. In the second year students deeply research the projeect and report on their findings.  “Schools and teachers love it because it allows content flexibility while giving external validation of mastery,” said Packer.

In contrast students in the past studied a specific subject, such as 19th century British literature, and deeply studied the subject throughout the year. At the end of the year students would take a test to see how much they learned throughout the year. The new layout is intended to help students absorb and relate the information to their college careers.

Read more College Board Makes Major Changes to AP Program

A college education is necessary to enter most industries, but a major problem is that most people feel they cannot afford such an education. One solution to the problem is that 17 universities are offering free online classes in the United States and abroad to assist with students obtaining college educations within a budget.

According to the Associated Press, 200 online courses will be offered to anyone with Internet access. The classes come from such established universities as Brown, Columbia, Emory, Vanderbilt and Wesleyan as well as smaller colleges and universities around the globe. The article states that 1.3 million students are taking advantage of the programs, even using it as a way to take a handful of free classes to simply complete necessary credits.

Read more 17 Universities Offer Free Online Classes to College Students

Students often fear that college is not an option because they do not have money saved to pay for tuition or do not have good enough credit to obtain a student loan. Despite these issues, there’s another option that guarantees that a student will be able to afford tuition- scholarships.

Scholarships are a form of funding that is granted to students who write essays or participate in programs. This money is often privately funded and does not have to be paid back as a student loan would. At times students feel that scholarships are unattainable because thousands of people apply for most major ones. However, there’s plenty of lesser known scholarships that are available around the world.

Read more Scholarships- The Fun and Wacky

Students often think that they cannot afford college, even if this is the furthest from the truth. For students whose families make a combined $20,000 or less annually, a Pell Grant is one way to pay for college.

According to the U.S. Department of Education the Pell Grant Program “provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate and certain postbaccalaureate students to promote access to postsecondary education.” In comparison to other loans, a Pell Grant is different for a variety of reasons.

Read more Pell Grants Show Economic Diversity Among Colleges and Universities

It is never too early to begin building up your resume during college. Employers will see lists of activities and organizations you joined, showing that you have initiative to use your time wisely and take interest in your career field. However, college extra curricular activities are more than just a career builder. Studies show that students who join extra curricular activities have a more positive college experience while building characteristics needed for success.

Read more The Importance of Extra Curricular Activities in College

Students stress over picking a major during their first year of college to assure they stay on a distinctive career path, despite not needing a major until the sophomore year of school. Minors are often overlooked at this point, though they are just as important as majors.

A minor is similar to a major, emphasizing in a specific area of study. In a way it is a less extensive double major. The main goal of a minor is to help guide students towards their career goals. A major and minor go hand in hand because the minor is a reflection of what the student wishes to accomplish in life. For example, if a student is working on a business administration degree, a Spanish or Chinese minor is helpful because he will work with foreign business men to make deals. While working on a foreign language minor, he will become fluent in that language.

Read more What is a College Minor? Do I Need One?

High school counselors drill into students’ brains to apply early to get into their colleges of choice. Some students put off applying because they don’t know what school they want to go to, if they want to go to college, or sometimes they apply and don’t get into the schools they wanted to go to. If you haven’t applied for college yet or have not been accepted, this doesn’t mean that you can’t go to college in the fall.

According to the 2012 Space Availability Survey from the National Association for College Admission Counseling, 375 of the nation’s 2,200 colleges still have spaces available for fall. 70 percent of the colleges listed are private schools in 48 states and the District of Columbia. Students can view the list that shows not only what schools have space, but who has housing and financial aid available as well.

Read more It’s Not Too Late to Apply for Fall Semester!

Planning your college schedule doesn’t have to be overwhelming if you understand each part of making a schedule. One of the most challenging parts of making your schedule for the semester is choosing your elective classes. However, with proper planning these can be a pleasant break from grueling core classes, while helping you gain insight to your future career.

What is an elective?

Elective classes are those you are required to take for your major, but you have a pool of classes to choose from instead of a list of specified classes. For example, if you are studying journalism, you may be required to take 12 credits of science. This means you can pick any science classes to take during your college career, as long as you have a total of 12 science credits upon graduating. Some programs may require you choose from a list of specific classes, but this is less common.

Read more How Do I Choose an Elective Class?

College students face thousands of dollars in debt (sometimes even in the six-digits) upon graduation from rising tuition and interest rates. The cost alone scares a number of students off of attending college because they don’t want to spend twenty years paying off their education. Ultimately students do have the option to apply for scholarships or apply for need-based financial aid. In the end they may have a debt, but on a smaller scale.

Read more Baby Boomers Let Students Live at Home Rent-Free According to New Survey

Students heading away from home to college are living on their own for the first time. Most colleges require that freshman live in student housing for the first two semesters (at the least). Student housing is defined as “a dwelling unit occupied by two or more students who are not related.” This includes dormitories, student apartments and fraternity or sorority houses. After the required time on campus, the student can then choose to continue living in student housing or in an off-campus apartment.

Read more Save Money on Student Housing
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