The New York Times article, “Why Does the SAT Endure?” shares the opinions of students and educators relative to the importance of the SAT and its relevance to college admissions. I would like to examine their comments within the larger college admissions and college-planning context.
Professor David Z. Hambrick, an associate professor psychology at Michigan State University states:
“The SAT works for its intended purpose—predicting success in college…the SAT is largely a measure of general intelligence. Scores on the SAT correlate very highly with scores on standardized tests of intelligence, and like IQ scores, are stable across time and not easily increased through training, coaching or practice. SAT preparation courses appear to work, but the gains are small—on average, no more than about 20 points per section.”
I would respectfully disagree with Professor Hambrick
According to College Results Online, the University of Michigan students have median SAT scores of 625 Verbal and 690 Math. The University of Michigan’s student population is 65.3 percent White, 6.3 percent Black, 11.9 percent Asian, and 4.4 percent Latino and has a 72.7 percent four-year graduation rate.
In contrast, Spelman College students’ median SAT scores of 540 Verbal and 530 Math are 22.9 percent lower than those of students accepted at the University of Michigan. However, Spelman College, whose student population is 91.2 percent Black, boasts a higher four-year graduation rate (75.5 percent) than the University of Michigan.
Contrary to Professor’s Hambrick’s beliefs, the SAT is not a predictor of general intelligence or college success. A much greater predictor is the “college choice,” i.e., where a student enrolls in college.
Fred Oswald, associate professor psychology at Rice University states:
“Decades of research findings on more than a million students indicated that the SAT can identify promising and well prepared high school students. Admissions tests predict college and university grades as well as many other academic professional outcomes.”
The median SAT scores of the freshman class at Rice University are 700 Verbal and 725 Math. The four-year graduation rate at Rice is 82.5 percent. However, despite SAT scores that are 33.2 percent higher than students at Spelman, the four-year graduation rate is only 8.5 percent higher. Subsequently, the 33 percent difference in SAT translates to less than a 10 percent in graduation rates, or college success.
Despite research evidence that suggests that SAT scores are a predictor of college success, there is other research that suggests that the SAT is racially bias. Perhaps students and parents should carefully consider how much time and money they devote to increasing SAT scores as opposed to the time and money they devote to engaging in a good college search to identify the best college for the student to attend.
Despite research evidence that suggests that SAT scores are a predictor of college success, there is other research that suggests that the SAT is racially bias. My advice to students and parents is to carefully consider how much time and money they devote to increasing SAT scores. A much better predictor of college success is:
- Ensure that students take high school classes that adequately prepare students for college, particularly the ability to think, write, and communicate
- Carefully research colleges to ensure the right fit, i.e., size of the school, average class size, graduation rates, institutional concern for student success, the overall climate and culture of the college or university
- The learning environment and institutional belief in the success of its students, i.e., “Does the college care about whether a student is successful and adequately prepared for graduate school or careers.”
I revisited the Education Trust’s report, “Shut Out of the Military: Today’s High School Education Doesn’t Mean You’re Ready for Today’s Army” with great interest. My younger son has entered the JROTC program at his high school and is in the process of applying for an NROTC College Scholarship. He is interested in joining the Marine Corps. Through his research, he has learned the importance of a four-year college degree as part of the pathway to becoming a commissioned officer in the Marine Corps:
“Potential Marine Corps Officers are young men and women of high moral standards who have or will have a four-year college degree, are physically fit, and have demonstrated potential for leadership. Applicants must be U.S. citizens and pass the initial Marine Corps physical fitness test. Additionally, applicants must take either the SAT, ACT, or AFQT/ASVAB aptitude tests. Minimum acceptable scores are: SAT – combined verbal and math scores of 1000; ACT – 22; and AFQT/ASVAB – 74. The only age requirement is that a person must be at least 20 and less than 30 (waiverable to 35) years of age at the time of commissioning. Applicants for law programs must score a minimum of 30 on a 50-point scale, or 150 on a 180-point scale, of the LSAT.
Marine Corps officers are selected from various sources, including but not limited to Platoon Leaders Class (PLC), Officer Candidates Course (OCC) Program, Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) Program, and United States Naval Academy.”
Not only is the pathway to becoming an officer in the military out of the reach of most high school students, pathway into the military and the resulting many post-military careers in the private and public sector are out of their reach.
According to the study:
“The study shows that many of them [today’s high school students] will be denied that ambition. Data from the Army’s enlistment examination show that, for too many of our young people, the Army and the opportunities that it offers are out of reach. This is true for men and women of all races and ethnicities, but especially for young people of color. That’s because they don’t have the reading, mathematics, science, and problem-solving abilities that it takes to pass the enlistment exam, which is designed specifically to identify the skills and knowledge needed to be a good soldier.”
The United States Army’s Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is the test that determines if applicants qualify for enlistment, and, if they do, what occupations—and what levels of those occupations—they are prepared for.
The ASVAB tests:
- Word Knowledge
- Paragraph Comprehension
- Arithmetic Reasoning
- Mathematics Knowledge
- General Science
- Mechanical Comprehension
- Electronics Information
- Auto and Shop Information
- Assembling Objects
Additionally, the Armed Forces Qualification Tests (AFQT) measures cognitive ability by grouping the subtests of the ASVAB (Math Knowledge, Arithmetic Reasoning, Word Knowledge, and Paragraph Comprehension). Each branch of the military has a minimum AFQT score for entry into their branch of service.
Service Branch and Minimum Required AFQT Score
In addition to meeting the minimum requirements for enlistment, the ASVAB and AFQT scores are used to determine an enlistee’s Military Occupational Specialties (MOS), special opportunities, and high-level career paths, higher active-duty experience and pay, and prepare enlistee’s for better post-military jobs and careers.
An analysis of the ASVAB data from 2004-2009 reveals:
- Over 20 percent of high school graduates do not meet the minimum standard necessary to enlist (which includes physical ability, no criminal record, and the necessary academic proficiency)
- Over 20 percent of students who were qualified to apply failed to achieve the minimum qualifying score on the ASVAB
- 16 percent of Whites failed to qualify
- 29 percent of Hispanics failed to qualify
- 39 percent of Blacks failed to qualify
- States with the highest number of students failing to qualify were:
- Washington, DC
- South Carolina
- States with the highest number of students with qualifying scores were:
- New Hampshire
- The ASVAB scores of many students who qualify for enlistment are so low that such students are excluded from assignments that provide high-level training and education
- There is wide disparity between state educational systems and how well they prepare students for college, careers, and military service
The NROTC programs that my son is currently researching are at Harvard, Yale, Morehouse, Hampton, Northwestern, George Washington, and USC. The very competitive admissions requirements for the colleges and the competitiveness for receiving a NROTC scholarship puts a military career and a world-class education clearly out of the reach of far too many students.
Students interested in pursuing a military career or applying to one of the U.S. Service Academies must commit themselves to becoming better students and to maximizing their high school opportunities. Students who find themselves attending a high school that does not sufficiently prepare them for achieving a high score on the ASVAB will have to the initiative and accept personal responsibility for self-study, identifying a tutor, or identifying a test preparation class.
“You are never given a dream without also being given the power to make it come true. You may have to work for it, however.” — Richard Bach
“So perhaps it’s not surprising that when then-Hollwood übermogul Michael Ovitz’s son wanted to enroll in 1999 [Brown University], Ovitz (father, not son) sent word to Brown administrators. As described in a book about to be released, Brown admissions officers found the academic record of the younger Ovitz not close to what would be appropriate for an offer of admission. But they were pressured to admit him anyway, with top administrators far more concerned about the abilities of the elder Ovitz—to host receptions for Brown administrators to raise money, to bring movie stars to campus, and presumably to help build Brown’s endowment.”
Such favored admission status for America’s elite is also profiled in the book, “The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class buys Its Way Into Elite Colleges –and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates” by Daniel Golden and the Inside Higher Ed article, “Legacy of Bias” by Scott Jaschik.
The children of alumni are referred to as legacy applicants. Such children whose parents graduated from the college can have a significant advantage over other applicants, for example:
- Princeton admitted 41.7 percent of legacy applicants and less than 10 percent of applicants for the general pool of students
- Notre Dame’s legacy admissions is double that of regular applicants
With high school counselors being overburdened, college admissions being hugely competitive, and with privileged, legacy, and well-connected families snatching up more and more of the precious few admissions slots at America’s top colleges and universities, it is more important than ever for parents and students to have a plan. Not just a good plan, but a great plan! Begin by reading Daniel Golden’s book, “The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way Into Elite colleges—and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates” so that you have an appreciation of how competitive and how unfair the college admissions process can be. Then read my book, “A High School Plan for Students with College Bound Dreams” and develop a comprehensive plan to increase the changes of getting accepted into your top choice colleges.
If parents and students are relying on their middle school and high school counselors to provide the necessary guidance for college and career preparation then they are likely to find themselves in trouble. The research has long indicated that counselors are overwork, overloaded with non-counseling responsibilities, and responsible for far too many students. The Education Week article, “Counselors See Conflicts in Carrying Out Mission” highlights the challenges facing middle school and high school counselors and provide startling news for parents and students:
- 9 out of 10 counselors believe that ensuring that all students have access to high-quality education and that they graduate well-equipped for college and careers, however, less than 4 out of 10 believe that their schools share such goals
- Less than 2 out of 10 (19 percent) counselors in high-poverty schools said their college and career readiness was part of their school’s day-to-day mission
- Counselors reported caseloads of 368 students per counselor in most schools and 427 students per counselor in high poverty schools
- Counselors reported that a disproportionate amount of their training is directed at crisis intervention, group counseling, and human growth as opposed to college and career planning
The CollegeBoard identifies 8 components of College and Career Readiness Counseling, as essential to expanding college and career preparation:
- College Aspirations: Build a college-going culture based on early college awareness by nurturing in students the confidence to aspire to college and the resilience to overcome challenges along the way.
- Academic Planning for College and Career Readiness: Advance students’ planning, preparation, participation and performance in a rigorous academic program that connects to their college and career aspirations and goals.
- Enrichment and Extracurricular Engagement: Ensure equitable exposure to a wide range of extracurricular and enrichment opportunities that build leadership, nurture talents and interests, and increase engagement with school.
- College and Career Exploration and Selection Processes: Provide early and ongoing exposure to experiences and information necessary to make informed decisions when selecting a college or career that connects to academic preparation and future aspirations.
- College and Career Assessments: Promote preparation, participation and performance in college and career assessments by all students.
- College Affordability Planning: Provide students and families with comprehensive information about college costs, options for paying for college, and the financial aid and scholarship processes and eligibility requirements, so they are able to plan for and afford a college education.
- College and Career Admission Processes: Ensure that students and families have an early and ongoing understanding of the college and career application and admission processes so they can find the postsecondary options that are the best fit with their aspirations and interests.
- Transition from High School Graduation to College Enrollment: Connect students to school and community resources to help the students overcome barriers and ensure the successful transition from high school to college.
College admissions is extremely competitive and far too many quite capable students find themselves unable to gain admissions into colleges where they have the academic ability to perform well, due to grading practices that routinely punished such students for classroom behavior or lack of organization. Perhaps the beginning of the conversation about grading should begin with reviewing grading distribution patterns in schools by asking such questions as:
- Which students are concentrated in the higher grade ranges and which students are concentrated in the lower grade ranges?
- How great is the impact of late or missing assignments on student grades?
- How accurately do grades reflect student learning?
- What impact does a student’s behavior have on his or her grade?
Because grades have such a significant impact on course enrollment opportunities during middle school and high school, class ranking, scholarship consideration, and college admissions, teacher grading philosophy can have a profound impact on student opportunities. Although many teachers make the argument that punishing students will low grades for missing/late assignments and classroom behavior is important to “teaching students ’ a lesson,” the reality is that when students fail to qualify for scholarships or admissions into colleges that can provide families with much needed financial aid, the punishment is really directed at the parents. Beyond all of the philosophical diatribes, my question as a parent is, “Does my child’s grade fairly reflect his academic ability and whether or not he did the required work for the class?” This is precisely the question that colleges and scholarship committees want to know the answer to, i.e., “If we admit this student into our college, does he have the academic ability to be successful?” Or, “If we award this student a scholarship, does he have the academic ability to do well in college so that our money will be well spent?”
Susan Brookhart, in her article, “Starting the Conversation About Grading,” provides some important points that parents might use to initiate a conversation either with teachers on through their involvement on the School Advisory Committee or Local School Council. When initiating the conversation about grades, attempt to keep the conversation focused on purpose, i.e., assessment, measurement, motivation, rather than philosophy, punishment or preparation for what teachers or parents believe to be the “real world.”
Ms. Brookhart suggests:
- As school districts contemplate a journey toward standards-based grading, they must make quite a conceptual and practical shift. With most conventional grading practices, one grade sums up achievement in a subject, and that one grade often includes effort and behavior. With standards-based, learning-focused grading practices, a grade sums up achievement on standards—there are often several grades per subject—with effort and behavior reported separately.
- As they attempt to make this shift, many schools go off track or get swamped by side issues. They waste energy having hard discussions about details of grading practice that, by themselves, cannot accomplish real reform. Merely tweaking the details of a grading system can result in a system that makes even less sense than the one it was intended to replace. Any school that is interested in reforming grading needs to talk about it in ways that challenge colleagues on the right questions.
- Standards-based grading is based on the principle that grades should convey how well students have achieved standards. In other words, grades are not about what students earn; they are about what students learn. To what degree do you and your colleagues believe that? If you do agree, what are the advantages to you and to your students? If you don’t agree, why not? That’s the discussion to have.
The conversation about grading is perhaps one of the most telling conversations of how vested teachers are in student success. For example, when any teacher assigns a ‘0’ to late or missing work and establishes a policy that does not provide an opportunity for a student to submit or make up the work, such a teacher is not vested in student success. No matter what you believe, when an assignment has no value because it is late, then 100 percent of the assignment’s value is assigned to timeliness! What value is to be attributed to learning? Through such a philosophical approach to grading, a ‘C’ student who submits all assignments on time is considered a smarter student than an ‘A’ student who is highly unorganized and submits every assignment late, thereby resulting in a failing grade for the class. It should also be noted that a highly unorganized student, with parents who can ensure that all assignments are submitted on time will have substantially higher grades than the student living in foster care or who does not have a similar support system. Clearly the grades of such students will not fairly reflect their respective ability levels, but rather their inequitable support systems.
No matter how difficult the conversation about grades may be, it is one of the most important conversations to occur in schools if we are to ensure equity, fairness, and achieving grades that are more reflective of student learning and less reflective of student behaviors, organizational skills, or support mechanisms.
1/7/2015 Update to the original posting
Since writing this original posting on 11/13/11, there have been additional articles and research on this very important area that many teachers continue to struggle with “philosophically.”
“By refusing to be lenient when students submit assignments late or do not know the material on the day of the test, I am preparing students for the real world–for college. In college professors are not lenient.”
When teachers make this statement, they are expressing a distorted worldview and basing their argument on their limited college experience–typically, the one college they attended as an undergraduate and perhaps the graduate program they attended, even if this was actually their experience.
Cornell University professor, Dr. Andy Ruina, provides insightful comments from the vantage point of a professor at an Ivy League institution, one of the most difficult to gain admission provides insight into the college grading system that teachers may find helpful to stimulate a classroom discussion (elementary, middle, and high school) as they explain their own grading philosophy:
- What are grades for?
- What’s wrong with grades?
- Grading schemes.
- Grading on a curve?
- What does your grade really really mean, in a deep sense?
- Grade cutoffs
Douglas Reeves, in his Educational Leadership article, “Leading to Change/Effective Grading Practices,” (2011) notes:
“If you wanted to make just one change that would immediately reduce student failure rates, then the most effective place to start would be challenging prevailing grading practices…To reduce the failure rate, schools don’t need a new curriculum, a new principal, new teachers, or new technology. They just need a better grading system.”
“Guskey and Bailey (2001) and Marzano (2000) have synthesized decades of research with similar findings. Neither the weight of scholarship nor common sense seems to have influence grading policies in many schools. Practices vary greatly among teachers in the same school—and even worse, the practices best supported by research are rarely in evidence.”
“Contrast these effective practices with three commonly used grading policies that are so ineffective they can be labeled as toxic. First is the use of zeroes for missing work. Despite evidence that grading as punishment does not work (Guskey, 2000) and the mathematical flaw in the use of the zero on a 100-point scale (Reeves, 2004), many teachers routinely maintain this policy in the mistaken belief that it will lead to improved student performance. Defenders of the zero claim that students need to have consequences for flouting the teacher’s authority and failing to turn in work on time. They’re right, but the appropriate consequence is not a zero; it’s completing the work—before, during, or after school, during study periods, at ‘quite tables’ at lunch, or in other settings.”
The Handover Research brief, “Effective Grading Practices in the Middle School and High School Environments,” (2011) notes five ineffective grading practices:
- Grading for Behavioral Issues
- Incorporating Teacher Expectations and Judgments into Grades
- Using Zeroes as a Punishment
- Using a Points System and Averages
- Grading Homework and Other Formative Assignments
- Grading on a Curve
- Allowing Extra Credit
The research provides insight into standards-based grading models and notes a standards-based grading model implemented in Oregon public schools, that many teachers, who are dogged in their belief that zeroes have value:
“In some standards-based grading models, students can redo summative assessments until they have demonstrated proficiency. This method ensures that students have multiple chances to become proficient at their own pace. An article published in The Oregonian on standards-based grading in Oregon public schools notes, ‘It used to be in the first six weeks, if a student got an F, they gave up,’ says Principal John O’Neill. ‘Now, they have all year to bring up the grade by retaking until they ‘get’ that skill’”
The University of North Carolina – Charlotte’s Center for Teaching and Learning notes nine principles of good practice for assessing student learning. The first principle addressing a critically important concern that is frequently absent in teacher discussions on grading practices:
“Assessment is not an end in itself but a vehicle for educational improvement. Its effective practice, then, begins with and enacts a vision of the kinds of learning we most value for students and strive to help hem achieve. Educational values should drive not only what we choose to assess but also how we do so.”
The School District of Waukesha, Wisconsin’s, “Best Practices in Grading” provides an extensive overview of research pertaining to grading practices and provides insight into practices, deemed by research, to inhibit learning:
- Not providing objective or targets
- Grading students against a norm-referenced curve
- Not using rubrics for scoring student work
- Grading by comparing students to each other (p. 12)
- Using grades as punishment does not work and does not create responsibility
- Averaging grades is not fair, it can given an inaccurate picture of student achievement
- Using zeros as grades in a 60 to 100 or 70 to 100 scale vs. a 1,2,3,4 scale makes unequal intervals
- Basing grades on things like attendance, attitude and work habits is not an accurate account of what students have learned academically, and is unfair (p. 14)
- Playing “gotcha” with expectations
- Only communicating expectations verbally
- Not communicating methods for determining grades (p. 16)
Research shows that using grades as punishment actually serves to de-motivate students. O’Connor (2002) lists seven pointers for getting work in on time (p. 19):
- Set reasonable and clear targets
- Ensure clear communication of tasks
- Support struggling students
- Find out why work is late and assist
- Establish reasonable consequences such as:
- – After school follow-up
- – Make up in a supervised setting
- – Parent contact
- Provide an opportunity for extended timelines
- If all else fails, use small deductions which do not distort achievement or motivation, not zeros
Robert Marzano and Tammy Heflebower, in their Educational Leadership article, “Grades That Show What Students Know,” (2011) outline four recommendations regarding standards-based assessments. Their final recommendation notes:
“Our fourth recommendation is probably the most transformation in its implications. As the school year progresses, teachers should allow students to upgrade their scores from previous grading periods. To illustrate, assume that the teacher addresses six topics during the first quarter. At the end of the grading period, he or she translates these into an overall grade. Now assume that he or she addresses six more topics in the second quarter. At the end of this grading period, the teacher once again translates these scores into an overall grade. But what if during the second quarter, students work on content to raise their scores on the six topics from the first quarter? Of course, this means that the second quarter’s overall grade would be based on the six topics addressed during the second quarter as well as on the six topics originally introduced during the first quarter. One interesting option some schools have reported is to allow students to earn a score of 4.0 if they can tutor another student to score 3.0 status.”
Barbara Moore’s Southern Regional Education Board presentation, “Effective Grading Practices: 12 Fixes for Broken Grades,” highlights a number or research findings:
“…(grading) practices are not the result of carful thought or sound evidence, …rather, they are used because teachers experienced these practices as students and, having little training or experience with other options, continue their use.” (p. 5)
“Assigning a score of zero to work that is late, missed, or neglected does not accurately depict students’ learning. Is the teacher certain the student has learned absolutely nothing, or is the zero assigned to punish students for not displaying appropriate responsibility?” (p. 27)
The YouTube video by Jessica Lovett, examines Tom Gusky’s article, “Are Zeroes Your Ultimate Weapon.”
The National College Match application opens in August and closes in September.
A note from us: You may find the prospect of applying to the National College Match a bit overwhelming. Rest assured; you are not alone. The college application process can be challenging and stressful to virtually everyone who goes through it. But remember that it also can—and should—be exciting: it is a time to focus on your future, reflect upon your past, your strengths, and your passions, and keep yourself organized in the present so that you put forward the best applications you can.
You May Apply Through QuestBridge in Two Ways
The National College Match application requires you to provide extensive information on your academic accomplishments and financial background, as well as write three essays, complete short answer questions, and gather three letters of recommendation, a transcript, and test score reports.
The National College Match allows you to apply to up to 8 of our partner colleges by using one application. You will be asked to rank these colleges in order of your preference. The National College Match application is due on September 30.
The QuestBridge Regular Decision process allows you to apply to any or all of our partner colleges through a traditional regular decision process. You may choose not to rank colleges for the College Match process and only apply to our partner colleges for Regular Decision. Or, if you apply for the College Match and are not selected for a match scholarship, you can request to have your application forwarded to our partner colleges for Regular Decision.
In order to participate in the Regular Decision process, you must submit your National College Match application by September 30.
For parents of students currently diagnosed with a learning-disability or who are currently enrolled in elementary, middle, or high school special education classes, please reading the October 18, 2011 USA Today article, “Learning-disabled students get a firmer grip on college” by Mary Beth Marklein. Ms. Marklein highlights some of the challenges confronting students as well as the increased college opportunities available to such students. Nearly nine out of ten of the country’s two-year and four-year colleges enroll students with disabilities. And, while 86 percent of such schools enroll students with learning disabilities, only 26 percent provide sufficient support mechanisms in place. Nearly 11 percent of college students have some sort of disability. Students with attention-deficit or related disorders have increased to 19 percent. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, all colleges are required to provide accommodations to college students. However, unlike elementary, middle, and high schools, which are required by law to identify, evaluate and help students with disabilities, colleges do not have to do anything unless a student asks for help.
Landmark College in Putney, Vermont hosts summer boot camps to assist students in developing strategies to prepare for a successful transition into their first year of college. Students learn how to cope with academics, speak to instructors, and advocate for their rights such as extra time on tests, access to a professor’s notes, or a distraction-free place to study. The program stresses the importance of students learning how to advocate for themselves. Most most students had parents advocating for them throughout their K – 12 schooling and teachers who failed to effectively prepare students for college.
One of the greatest challenges facing such students is the lack of postsecondary preparation that they received in their K – 12 schooling. Many students were not taught note-taking, test preparation, or public speaking skills or how to maximize their strengths while minimizing their weaknesses. Few Special Education classes engaged students in the type of critical-thinking discussions they would be expected to engage in at the college level. In essence, the disabilities that they entered school with were oftentimes worsten during their K – 12 schooling. To fully understand what I mean, visit the Special Education classrooms one of your local schools and observe how little expectations teachers have of student performance. Then visit one of the athletic fields or gymnasiums and observe the stark contrast in the expectations that coaches have of their athletes (who also special education students). This is the best example of mainstreaming special education students. If you are truly interested in preparing your children or students for college, adopt a coaches’ mentality–expect more and they will give you more!
What you should do if you have learning challenges and you are planning to attend college:
- Research scholarships for students with learning challenges
- Thoroughly research colleges to identify those that offer the best support programs
- Research colleges that offer special degree programs for students with learning challenges (e.g., Sage and Excelsior colleges in Troy and Albany New York, University of Alabama, University of Arizona)
- Be honest and upfront, tell colleges what your challenges are and ask how they can support you in being successful
It is highly advisable that students research and visit potential colleges. The completed College Research Sheet illustrated here provides a quick glimpse of the differences between Ivy League, HBCU, public, military, and highly-selective liberal arts colleges. There are huge differences in acceptance rates, graduation rates, number of students, costs of attendance, and diversity. Students should identify a group of colleges they are interested in applying to, thoroughly research the schools, schedule an on-campus visit, and carefully discuss their options with parents, counselors, coaches, and students who have attended the college or university.