Tips for college-bound students: Take the ACT as many times as you can

NORTH OLMSTED, OH (WOIO) - College Recruiting Specialists Kelly "College Whisperer" MacLean said one important tip for students looking to get into college is to take the ACT and SAT multiple times and earlier in the school year.

She said she's helped more than one thousand local students get into college over the past six years. She does tutoring, test prep, career and college counseling. She's been known to hold a parent's hand or two as well. College Recruiting Specialists is based in North Olmsted. Her services cost from about $500  to a couple thousand dollars.

ACT or SAT test scores are a big part of getting into a school and getting scholarships, she said.

MacLean said to take the test as many times as a student can.

St. Ignatius sophomore Jacob Reidl said he gets why.

"Even if you don't do as well as you think you should, you still have plenty of time to boost your grades," he said.

Start thinking about college early.

"Statistically, a high school students GPA will drop sophomore year, so if you're in the process of thinking about it, these are the type of grades for Ohio State, students at least know because 'good grades' is ambiguous," she said.

Volunteering is also important. Colleges want to see a well-rounded student.

"They want to know you're going to bring something to their community, how are you going to impact the campus when you get there," said MacLean.

Picking the right college for your major is critical.

On average it takes students 5.5 years to graduate college. But MacLean said picking the right major, and the right college, can cut down that time and save a lot of money.

"I mean it's tens of thousands of dollars if not more."

The average cost of an in-state public college for the 2016-2017 year is $24,600. For a moderate budget private college, $49,300.

Twenty million students in the United States apply to colleges every year. And for a student or a parent, that process can not only be difficult, it can be intimidating too.

There are essays to write, financial information to provide, deadlines to meet.

There are more than 6,000 colleges in the United States. Figuring out which one to apply to, let alone that process, is intimidating.

"I had no idea. I was looking everywhere," said Emma Riedl.

Emma is the oldest of three in the Riedl family. The Magnificat senior thought she wanted to be an FBI agent, and maybe go Dayton or Ohio University, but all that changed when she met MacLean.

"Families don't realize how early they should start thinking about this process," said MacLean. "I think it's more stressful for the parent than the student. Parents are like, 'Oh my God,' we've got to get it done, how are we going to do this?"

MacLean has already started meeting with Joey Reidl who's in 8th grade.

Emma thought she wanted to go into law enforcement. After talking with Kelly, it turns out early childhood education is a better fit. Emma said she loves kids.

"She encouraged me to do what I want to do, you have to be passionate about it and I can see you are, and she really helped with that decision," said Emma.

The major helped with the college selection too. Emma is going to Mercyhurst University, which wasn't even on the map before MacLean.

"It is a private Catholic school. It isn't too far away. They have a really good teaching program. She can get a masters in five years, versus six and that'll save financially," said Melissa Reidl.

MacLean also helped Reidl get scholarship money.

The right school, could mean more help financially.

"So many people feel like we have to go to a state school because it's less expensive, but a lot of private schools do so much in giving students merit rewards and scholarships, it brings costs down substantially," said MacLean.

"We have a lot of friends who's kids are transferring, dropping out, trying to figure things out and I think our kids are going to be poised and ready, in the right direction earlier," said Jim Reidl.

The Reidl's said the "College Whisperer" is a worthwhile investment because ultimately the savings from scholarships MacLean helped find will more than make up for that.

Watch the story May 2 at 11 p.m. on Cleveland 19 News.

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