Choosing the college that matches your needs (and wants) can be a challenge, especially in the era of admissions scandals and runaway student debt.

The most important — and difficult — part of the decision is knowing where to look for information.

On Course provides guidance from school counselors, education consultants, students and colleges to help lead you through one of life’s biggest decisions.

Keep scrolling to view the wealth of stories included in the Fall 2019 edition of On Course, including tips for students on applying for early action admission, getting letter of recommendations and a year-by-year college-prep guide and more.

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It was an easy mistake — small print, lots of application balls in the air at once and a teenager who had never managed a complex process before.

The study habits you developed in high school may not be as effective in college.

Figuring out which teachers to ask for recommendation letters is difficult. “Think about the class where you’ve gone above and beyond, demonstrated leadership or collaboration, and ideally, were a standout student,” says a college counselor.

For colleges, recommendation letters offer one more way to understand who an applicant is. Here are tips for whom to ask — and how.

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Your student will experience bumps, but most of the time those challenges will be part of the normal growth of a young adult. Have faith. Your kids really can do it.

Nearly 2 million U.S. high school students in the class of 2018 took the SAT, and 1.91 million took the ACT.

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The New York Times asked readers about their college experience and what they wish they had known sooner both inside and outside the classroom.

Students who engage in undergraduate research will demonstrate to potential employers their ability to work independently, solve problems, think logically, and contribute to a team’s success.

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For students ready to jump into the college application process, there’s no need to wait until January for some schools in Washington — and beyond.

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Everyone knows that grades are key in college admissions, and at most schools, scores on the SAT or ACT play an important role as well.

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Evergreen State College, Whitworth University and University of Puget Sound are among those that do not require applicants to submit their SAT or ACT scores.

For Alex Ratcliff, a college science fair led to hands-on experience that opened the door to a career in sustainability.


A lot has changed since today's parents went through the college application process.

Ben Madlena took steps to connect with professors and mentors who could help him develop the skills and experiences he’d need.

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Life360 is either a safety precaution or a tattletale, depending on your perspective.

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Whether they are an inevitable sign of hyper-connected times or something closer to next-level helicopter parenting, Facebook groups for parents of college students are on the rise.

People sit on the main quadrangle of the University of Chicago campus. (Chicago Tribune file photo via TNS)

Ready for 'adulting': Despite how often your kids may have insisted they're adults over the past few years, most quickly realize there are many things they don't really know how to do.

For high school students with dreams of reaching top colleges, the pressure to prove they can handle a punishing academic schedule can have devastating effects.

When Natalie Flynn surveyed students in her Temple University intro to physical geology classes, she found half weren't buying the textbook she used.

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Want a great job offer before you've even crossed the stage at graduation? It's possible.

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The competitive environment of top-ranked schools can come at a psychological cost to those attending them.

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Oct. 1 marks the beginning of what can be the toughest part of applying for college, filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

America’s student debt is growing more slowly, but borrowing remains a fact of life for most students. The average burden for indebted college graduates is now nearly $30,000, a new analysis found. (Wenjia Tang / The New York Times)

America’s student debt is growing more slowly, but borrowing remains a fact of life for most students.

Are you among the 2.9 million freshmen nationwide who have just started college, or are about to?

College admissions counselors are always on the lookout for unique, memorable essays to give them a better picture of the applicant's personality.

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Lots of kids (and their parents) dream of getting a scholarship to play sports in college.


A Cliff’sNotes version of the process, so parents and teens can both survive the experience with minimal emotional scarring.


U.S. student loan debt now tops $1.5 trillion, an amount that has doubled in less than a decade.

When I take stock of all the anxious teens and parents I encounter at my kids' school and coming through my therapy office, I wonder if we're not all being done wrong by the admission process itself.

The country's most selective colleges have acceptance rates around 5 percent, and many state universities, once viewed by some as fallbacks, are getting pickier too.

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Research: Greatest gain comes from taking just one or two Advanced Placement classes and exams.

Paula Bishop is a Seattle-based CPA focused on financial aid and higher education.

How the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 affected exemptions, gifts and deductions.

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University of Washington students use CLUE, the Center for Learning and Undergraduate Enrichment, which offers tutoring and learning support to undergraduates. (Courtesy of Bryan Nakata / University of Washington)

Puget Sound-area schools share strategies for dealing with common freshman woes.

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Caroline Toombs (right), a 2018 graduate of Eastlake High School in Sammamish, meets her roommate, Chloe Downes, for the first time on the University of California, Santa Barbara campus. (Courtesy of Caroline Toombs)

The challenge: The ‘good-fit seekers’ are high school kids who may not know what they want to do next weekend let alone the next four years.

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This spring, many high school seniors learn that, despite their best efforts, they did not get into their dream college.

Most soft skills rely on what are conventionally perceived as communication abilities.

The University of Pittsburgh is offering graduating seniors up to $5,000 in federal student loan relief with one request: They pay it forward. (AP file photo by Keith Srakocic)

Using no-strings-attached student loan payoff-assistance programs, college loan alternatives and annual student debt letters, these three universities are doing their part to curb college debt.

Caleb Huffman at the Great Wall of China. (Courtesy of Caleb Huffman)

From a small Washington town to one of the world’s largest cities, Caleb Huffman is on a quest to connect with others.

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Where did we veer so spectacularly off-course when it comes to the entire point of college?

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Students walk past Sather Gate on the University of California at Berkeley campus in Berkeley, California. Choosing a college based on price can save you from overwhelming student debt, give your parents a break and increase the likelihood of a return on investment in your education. (AP file photo by Ben Margot)

Among other things, it will give your parents a break.

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There is a common theme among personal essays with the best results.

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Nam Nguyen studied on seven continents and brought back inspiration.

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College students spend an estimated $1,200 on books and materials every school year.

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