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Online counselor has perks

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Color Illustration by Craig Holyoak, Deseret Morning News

The senior year is supposed to be the best year in high school. Most seniors have all of their credits completed, so they can take classes that are of interest to them.

For many seniors, though, it can be the most stressful year. At this point in life, we are supposed to decide what to do with our lives after graduation. For many, the next step is college.

Deciding what college to go to can be stressful. Your school guidance counselor knows the ups and downs about college, which ones might be best for you and what the requirements are for a certain school. With budget cuts, however, many high schools will have more students and fewer guidance counselors than ever before.

With the Internet, many students are able to get online and find out which colleges might match their goals.

Recently two other Pulse reporters and I tried out two college-matching Web sites: The College Board and Princeton Review sites. Both gave information about colleges with just a click.

College Board, found at www.collegeboard.com, lets you search colleges, put them on your "favorites" list and even apply to them online.

It also helps you to plan for college, whether you are a junior or a senior. It reminds you of important test dates, what types of classes to take in high school and suggests questions you should ask your guidance counselor.

There's a lot more research involved with Princeton Review, located at www.princetonreview.com. You can take about a 15-minute survey, which is titled "Counselor-o-Matic," that asks questions about you academically, socially, what you prefer and financial matters. After the survey is completed, you can search for different colleges and find out which ones you have a chance of getting into.

You can also find out what students that are going to the school of your choice think of it and what the best school is socially. All three teen reporters — Cindy Washburn, Rachel Eddington and I — found Princeton Review easier to navigate. It seemed to have more accurate searches than the College Board site.

Washburn said her first attempt with College Board gave her no clear results. When she broadened her search, she got 19 schools. Idaho State University and the University of Alaska were her top matches, and they were schools she'd never before considered but was willing to. Princeton Review matched her with Berkeley and the University of Washington in St. Louis, both of which she'd already considered.

College Board matched Eddington with one of the California state universities as well as a Methodist college in the East (one she'd never heard of before). Princeton Review, initially, only came up with one match: Brigham Young University. After she widened her search, it gave her more options, including schools that were a good match, a "reach," and a "safety" or school to which she'd likely be accepted. Eddington appreciated the fact that the Princeton site even takes into account what school your parents went to.

In short, an online counselor has its perks. You can access it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also research a college, find out the tuition and apply within 10 minutes. Using your guidance counselor at school might also be a good idea, because he or she can help answer more personal questions.

Mallory Hill is a senior at Murray High School. Cindy Washburn is a junior at Copper Hills High School, who has not yet spoken to a guidance counselor about college. Rachel Eddington is a junior at Union High School in Roosevelt; she says her local Utah State Extension counselor may also have some good advice about choosing and applying for college.