How To Find The Right College For You

outside university pic

What’s the perfect college? Well, some of our clients would say location, while others would say athletics. Unfortunately, there’s no magical answer for you. However, according to College Board, these are the things that you should consider.

What Do You Want In A College?

Ask yourself what’s important to you, where you want to be and who you want to become. Then you can figure out what types of colleges will allow you to reach your goals.

Here are some aspects to consider:

  • Size
  • Location
  • Distance from home
  • Available majors and classes
  • Housing options
  • Makeup of the student body
  • Available extracurricular activities
  • Campus atmosphere

Which of these aspects are things you feel you must have to be comfortable at a college? Which things are you flexible on?

Also, think about what you want to accomplish in college. Do you want to train for a specific job or get a wide-ranging education? If you have a major in mind, are the colleges you’re considering strong in that area?

Keep An Open Mind

While it’s good to have some ideas in mind about what sorts of colleges will be right for you, stay open to all the possibilities at the beginning of your search.

Challenge your assumptions about what will work for you. For example, “you may not think you’re able to thrive in a large institution because you come from a small high school, but … you may actually do better in that type of setting,” notes Luis Martinez-Fernandez, a history professor at the University of Central Florida.

Talk to people who know you. Tell parents, teachers, relatives, family friends and your school counselor about your goals, and ask if they can suggest colleges that may be a good fit for you.

Don’t limit your search. At the start of this process, you may rule out colleges because you think that they are too expensive or too hard to get into, but this may not be the reality. Remember that financial aid can make college more affordable and colleges look at more than just grades and test scores.

Do Your Homework

Once you have a list of schools, it’s time to do research. To learn more about the colleges you’re considering, check out college guidebooks and the colleges’ websites. Jot down your questions and get answers by:

  • Talking to your school counselor or teachers
  • Checking out colleges’ student blogs, if available
  • Contacting college admission officials
  • Asking admission officials to recommend current students or recent graduates to talk to
  • Visiting college campuses, if possible (for more information, see the Campus Visit Checklist)

Facts about the SAT & ACT

girl with curly hair taking test

What’s the difference between the SAT and ACT?

Why Take ItColleges use SAT scores for admissions and merit-based scholarships.Colleges use ACT scores for admissions and merit-based scholarships.
Test StructureReading Writing & Language Math Essay (Optional)English Math Reading Science Reasoning Essay (Optional)
Length3 hours (without essay) 3 hours, 50 minutes (with essay)2 hours, 55 minutes (without essay) 3 hours, 40 minutes (with essay)
Reading5 reading passages4 reading passages
ScienceNone1 science section testing your critical thinking skills (not your specific science knowledge)
MathCovers: Arithmetic Algebra I & II Geometry, Trigonometry and Data AnalysisCovers: Arithmetic Algebra I & II Geometry, Trigonometry, and Probability & Statistics
Calculator PolicySome math questions don’t allow you to use a calculator.You can use a calculator on all math questions.
EssaysOptional. The essay will test your comprehension of a source text.Optional. The essay will test how well you evaluate and analyze complex issues.
How It’s ScoredScored on a scale of 400–1600Scored on a scale of 1–36

10 Lowest Paying College Majors

One of the most stressful decisions when determining a college major is job security. However, due to the astronomical rise in tuition prices, financial security is more important than ever before. Luckily, Ensphere offers ways to pinpoint a major that fits your personality while also showing you the industry pay scale. We offer services such as Kolbe, Career Cruising, OpGig, and more. This will better determine which career path would be a good fit for you. 

In addition to our services, we always want to keep you up to date on external information such as “Best Pay Lists”. I am fond of the U.S. News lists that they produce each year. This one titled “10 College Majors With the Lowest Starting Salaries”, is a great source! They used the data from PayScale to determine this list.

Here are the 10 college majors with the lowest median salaries for alumni with three years of postgraduate work experience whose highest degree is a bachelor’s. Also included for each major is the college where alumni make the highest median salary in that field. During the next few weeks, we’ll be releasing more pay related lists.

10 College Majors With The Lowest Median Salaries

10. Design and applied arts

Median starting salary: $42,727

School with alumni earning the highest salary for this major: Carnegie Mellon University (PA)

U.S. News rank and category: 25 (tie), National Universities

Median salary for Carnegie Mellon University graduates in this field: $75,700

9. Liberal arts and general studies

Median starting salary: $42,617

School with alumni earning the highest salary for this major: Biola University (CA)

U.S. News rank and category: 185 (tie), National Universities

Median salary for Biola University graduates in this field: $65,100

8. Human development and related services

Median starting salary: $42,252

School with alumni earning the highest salary for this major: Cornell University (NY)

U.S. News rank and category: 17 (tie), National Universities

Median salary for Cornell University graduates in this field: $56,400

7. Criminal justice

Median starting salary: $42,025

School with alumni earning the highest salary for this major: George Washington University (DC)

U.S. News rank and category: 70, National Universities (tie)

Median salary for George Washington University graduates in this field: $58,400

6. Psychology

Median starting salary: $41,890

School with alumni earning the highest salary for this major: University of Scranton (PA)

U.S. News rank and category: 6, Regional Universities (North)

Median salary for University of Scranton graduates in this field: $66,100

5. Criminology

Median starting salary: $41,722

School with alumni earning the highest salary for this major: University of Maryland—College Park

U.S. News rank and category: 64 (tie), National Universities

Median salary for University of Maryland graduates in this field: $50,900

4. Health and physical education/fitness

Median starting salary: $41,608

School with alumni earning the highest salary for this major: Rice University (TX)

U.S. News rank and category: 17 (tie), National Universities

Median salary for Rice University graduates in this field: $56,700

3. Animal science

Median starting salary: $39,905

School with alumni earning the highest salary for this major: Colorado State University

U.S. News rank and category: 166 (tie), National Universities

Median salary for Colorado State graduates in this field: $55,400

2. Education

Median starting salary: $39,082

School with alumni earning the highest salary for this major: Boston University

U.S. News rank and category: 40 (tie), National Universities

Median salary for Boston University graduates in this field: $53,100

1. Social work

Median starting salary: $37,035

School with alumni earning the highest salary for this major: University of South Dakota

U.S. News rank and category: 263 (tie), National Universities

Median salary for University of South Dakota graduates in this field: $49,800

Is College Really Worth The Money?

As a millennial, I am constantly bombarded with news outlets exposing the cost of college now vs. 30 years ago. According to Yahoo Finance, tuition has jumped 3,009% in just 50 years! I was born in 1987 and the cost to attend a 4-year public college was $1,490. Now, just 32 years later, the cost is $10,230. The college system has turned into big business and COVID-19 has exposed it more than before. Is college still worth it? 

The short answer is yes

The average college graduate earns a salary that is over $30,000 more than an average worker with only a high school diploma, according to new research by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. On average, the rate of return, or the net gain or loss on the college investment over a career, is 14 percent. So most families are still coming out firmly ahead on their investment in higher education, though rising college costs have slightly lowered the rate of return for today’s students. 

When determining whether to go to college, the ability to get a better job was cited by nearly 85% of freshmen enrolled in baccalaureate programs as “very important,” according to the University of California—Los Angeles‘ The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2017 survey, released this April. About 72% cited the ability to make more money. But in that same survey, about 76% of freshmen said gaining a general education and appreciation of ideas was a very important reason for enrollment.

To make sure that our students graduate within the 4 years (not 6 years) we offer an array of services that can guarantee that. We focus primarily on matching the students’ personalities with the job of their choice. If they’re unsure about a career path, we have a team that will work one-on-one to find the right fit. 

Earn More Money By Attending These Colleges

Choosing a college isn’t a simple task – you want to pick a school that will challenge you intellectually and provide you with life experiences that help you grow as a person.

PayScale’s College Salary Report has ranked colleges and universities by the median salaries of their alumni. By knowing how much you can expect to earn after getting your bachelor’s degree, you can choose a school wisely and set yourself up for future financial security, especially when evaluating how much to borrow to help pay for your education.

The Best 4-Year Universities in 2018

For now, we’ll focus on learning more about the universities that came out on top in 2018 for having the highest salary potential and what makes these schools so beneficial for students.

Harvey Mudd College – Mid-Career Salary: $158,200

Harvey Mudd is consistently among the top school on our College Salary Report year after year. The small, private school of about 800 students is located in Claremont, California. HMC offers students small class sizes, and the institution has an academic focus in science and engineering, with 85 percent of graduates earning a degree in STEM.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Mid-Career Salary: $155,200

It goes without saying that MIT is one of the most prestigious universities in the U.S. Students who enter the four-year degree program at MIT can expect to perform a lot of hands-on research related to their studies. Unlike Harvey Mudd, MIT has an undergraduate population of just under five thousand, which means larger class sizes for MIT students. MIT is largely focused on engineering and research.

United States Naval Academy – Mid-Career Salary: $152,800

Military and service academies continue to be great options for students because the cost to attend is so low. The USNA campus is located near the water between the Severn River and Chesapeake Bay in Annapolis, Maryland. The curriculum at USNA is mostly focused on technology and learning skills for a career in service.

California Institute of Technology – Mid-Career Salary: $151,600

It’s not uncommon to see technology-focused universities take the top spot on our college rankings. As one of the top universities in California, CalTech has a lot to offer students ranging from university sponsored research opportunities to an athletics program that is sure to thrill. There are around one thousand undergraduates enrolled at CalTech, and ninety-six percent of those students are studying STEM-related subjects.

College Degrees With The Worst ROI

A bachelor’s degree earns you nearly $500 more per week than a high school degree, and, according to the Social Security Administration, you’ll earn a whopping $180,000 to $260,00 more across your lifetime.

But not all degrees are created equally. In fact, if you’re not careful, that bachelor’s may not give you much financial advantage at all. The true ROI of a degree depends on the college you choose to attend, the amount of aid you get, the job market you enter, and many other factors. Generally, though, the below degree programs are some of the worst investments you can make.

What’s the ROI of a college degree?

According to FOX Business, your ROI is your return on investment — the amount you made thanks to your degree vs. the costs you incurred to get it.

To calculate the potential ROI of a college degree you’re considering, you’ll need to know how much the program costs (in full, including room, board, etc.), what the projected earnings are for that career path and the exact program/school, and how much in loans/debt, if any, you’ll need to cover your costs. The interest you’ll pay will factor in, too.


Here’s a formula you can follow once you have this data on hand:

Total Career Earnings / Total Spent on the Degree * 100 = ROI

A good way to compare degree programs is to calculate the potential 10-year ROI of each program. To see how earnings measure up between programs you’re considering, see the Department of Education’s College Scorecard website.

What degrees have the worst ROI?

The true ROI of a degree depends on the college you choose to attend, the amount of aid you get, the job market you enter, and many other factors. Generally, though, the below degree programs are some of the worst investments you can make.


It’s no secret that teachers aren’t paid well. But considering the costs of their education and future projections for the industry, the picture gets even bleaker. Let’s look at Alabama A&M as a good example. A student attending the public college’s teacher education program will pay about $88,000 for four years of schooling. They’ll also come out of it with about $33,000 in average federal debt. But upon graduation, they’ll make $25,400. To make matters worse, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects virtually no employment growth for primary and secondary school educators over the next 10 years.


Employment opportunities for radio and TV professionals, as well as reporters and correspondents, are on their way down. The BLS projects a 7.3 percent decline in radio/TV announcer jobs, and a 12.1 percent dip in reporting gigs by 2028. What’s more? These media professionals often pay a pretty penny for their degrees. Journalism and media students at Auburn University leave school with a $128K bill in tow and around $20,000 in federal loans. Average earnings for these grads is $35,000.

Best Cities For College Grads

Raleigh, NC

Last year, Thrillist, introduced their “Best Cities For Grads” and this years list is a bit different. The list included cities that you may expect to be there due to popularity and population growth. Thrillist shares Zumpers list of the best cities for grads to move to in 2020.

In order to determine the ideal spots, Zumper analyzed data from the top 100 US cities on seven key metrics: The unemployment rate (as of March 2020), the price of a one-bedroom rental, the population of folks ages 20 to 34, the population of 25 year-olds with a Bachelor’s degree, the median income of those 25 years and younger, the non-married population, and restaurants per 100k people.

Here are the most popular cities for graduates in 2020:

1. Salt Lake City, UT
2. Raleigh, NC
3. San Francisco, CA
4. Columbus, OH
5. Nashville, TN
6. Minneapolis, MN
7. Boston, MA
8. Lincoln, NE
9. Norfolk, VA
10. Madison, WI

First off, even though all of this data was from before lockdown, the cities are kind of ideal for the circumstances, anyway. You’ll note that none of these cities are massively condensed, nor do they rely as heavily on public transportation as, say, New York City, where most of my non-athletic friends have crashed their newly purchased COVID-19 bikes already.

First off, even though all of this data was from before lockdown, the cities are kind of ideal for the circumstances, anyway. You’ll note that none of these cities are massively condensed, nor do they rely as heavily on public transportation as, say, New York City, where most of my non-athletic friends have crashed their newly purchased COVID-19 bikes already.

(There is also a noticeable shift away from the coasts, and an even more noticeable absence of Austin, Texas, which is apparently not weird enough for the kids anymore.)

Now let’s break this down a little bit: The winner here, Salt Lake City, earned its top spot due to having a high concentration of young people and the fifth largest single population, so it seems like the place to go to take gorgeous hikes with new lovers. You’re also more likely to get a job here, in part due to its bustling tech scene.

Raleigh, at a surprising no. 2 in the ranking, earned its spot for being well-rounded — it was in the upper half for all categories. No. 3, San Fran, had the highest median income in the nation for young folks, plus a fairly low unemployment rate, though this has obviously changed. Other standouts are Columbus, for its restaurants, Boston, for its density of single people, and Lincoln, for affordable rent. You can find all the details here on the website’s blog post

Again, we’re really sorry about these graduate circumstances. If you can’t move this year, at least go and get as much free and cheap food as you possibly can from these sympathetic companies

Record Lows For Federal Student Loan Rates 2020-2021

COVID-19 has truly impacted every aspect of our lives. From mandatory mask rules to restaurant shutdowns and more, it’s no secret that many of us are just trying to stay sane. However, due to the massive hit our economy has taken, interest rates are at an all time low. As a result, the interest rate that will be charged for student loans this fall is going to be the lowest in a decade.

The interest rates for federal student loans for the following year are set based on the May 10-year Treasury notes auction. The 2020-2021 rates are effective July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021.

2020-2021 New Federal Student Loan Rates

According to Forbes, Based on today’s 10-year Treasury auction, we will see the following rates for the 2020-2021 year:

  • Undergraduate Direct Loans: 2.75%
  • Graduate Direct Loans: 4.30%
  • Graduate and Parent PLUS Loans: 5.30%

This represents a significant savings over current rates – a 1.78% rate reduction. Student loan interest rates are set for the following year based on the May 10-year treasury auction, plus an add-on interest rates. Given that the May 2020 10-year Treasury yield was 0.70%, we get the rates listed above.

The Department of Education uses the following formulas:

  • Undergraduate Direct Loans: 10-year Treasury yield plus add-on of 2.05%
  • Graduate Direct Loans: 10-year Treasury yield plus 3.6%
  • Parent and Grad PLUS loans: 10-year Treasury yield plus 4.6%

Congress has set upper limits capping student loan interest rates at 8.25% for undergraduate loans, 9.5% for graduate loans, and 10.5% for PLUS loans.

Common Questions

What Will Be Our Savings?

According to Credible, this rate decrease has the potential to save borrowers over $9 billion in interest over 10 years. That’s a huge savings.

The average savings on federal student loans taken out during the 2020-21 academic year will range from $669 for undergraduates to $2,797 for graduate students taking out federal PLUS loans at higher rates.

Are Private Student Loans Included?

These rates are for federal student loans. Private student loans already follow the 10-year treasury note pretty closely, but they also take into account borrower ability to repay, credit worthiness, and more.

If you have private student loans, now could be a good time to refinance, if you qualify. Rates are near historic lows for highly qualified borrowers.

However, it rarely makes sense to refinance a federal student loan into a private loan. By doing so, you would give up options like income-driven repayment, loan forgiveness, and your current COVID-19 forbearance and 0% interest.

5 Dos & Don'ts of Negotiating College Financial Aid Offers

With college acceptance letters flooding seniors’ inboxes and mailboxes–and the May 1st deadline to commit to a college on the horizon–families want to know if the financial aid offers they’ve received are truly colleges’ best offers.

Every year, we walk many families through the negotiation process to appeal below-average offers from schools. As part of our financial services, we analyze your financial aid offers and help identify your best opportunities for successful appeals. This process typically takes place in late March and early April.

Most of our seniors are still waiting on final offers from colleges … but in the meantime, here are some important dos and don’ts to prepare you for what’s ahead!


1) Talk about competing offers. Colleges are much more willing to work with you if they know you’ve received better offers from competing schools. This is one of the reasons why we urge students to apply to a minimum of 8-10 colleges. You can make a stronger case in your favor if you can point to multiple offers from colleges that will cost less than the college you’re negotiating with. Some colleges will match competing offers if you send them copies of those financial aid letters.

2) Have a parent be the one to communicate with the financial aid office. When it comes to financial aid, most colleges want to deal directly with a parent. A parent is the best person to speak knowledgeably about the family’s financial situation.

3) Be patient. We know that when the end of the admissions cycle is so close, waiting can be difficult! However, it is well worth it to wait until the end of March or early April before beginning the negotiation process. Your chances of receiving additional aid are greater if you wait until you’ve received complete financial aid offers (not just scholarship letters) from every college on your list. That way, you can cite all of the competing offers you’ve received, boosting your chances of receiving more aid.

Furthermore, in April, many colleges will have a clearer idea of how much additional money they can offer students. Colleges who are seeing a drop in enrollment numbers at that point are also more likely to do what they can to woo students who are still making up their minds. Over the years, we’ve consistently seen that families tend to be more successful in their negotiations as we get closer to that May 1st deadline.

4) Express interest in the school. Colleges are more willing to try to work with you if they think you’re genuinely a good fit for the school. Remain professional and polite for the best results. We usually recommend starting the conversation by thanking the college for admitting your student, talking about how excited your student is to attend, and then asking if there is anything more the college can do to make it more feasible for your family to finance your student’s college education.

5) Go in with reasonable expectations. There’s no quick and easy secret to going to college for free. If you’ve met with a member of our financial team, you’ve already received a full report on your estimated college costs (check your white binder). In most cases, your financial aid offers will put you within the estimated range. Sometimes, colleges will offer more if they are very excited about a particular student, which is why we do so much work to match the right student to the right college. But while it never hurts to ask if a college can offer additional aid, there is no guarantee that you will receive what you’ve asked for. If a college’s enrollment numbers are up, they may not have any additional aid to offer. Some colleges don’t offer merit aid to begin with. Every school is different, and every year is different. The financial aid evaluation report we give you will help to evaluate your best and worst offers and highlight opportunities for negotiation.


1) Complain to the financial aid office before you’ve received your official financial aid offer. Don’t jump the gun! Again, we know waiting is hard, but some colleges will release financial information in pieces over the course of a few months. You may receive an initial scholarship offer in December, another scholarship offer in February, and your complete financial aid offer (which includes scholarships, grants, loans, and work study) at the end of March. Wait until you have all of the information you need to make the best case possible for requesting additional aid.

2) Pay all of your deposits right away. If you’ve already paid your enrollment and housing deposits, a college is not very likely to negotiate with you. They already know you’re coming, so they have no need to further entice you to commit. The best thing that you can do is to be patient and wait until all of your offers are in.

3) Compare yourself to friends of friends of friends. It’s never a good idea to base important decisions off of a rumor you’ve heard about your friend’s neighbor’s babysitter’s cousin. It is highly unlikely that this most-likely-imaginary person got into Harvard with low grades and SAT scores and somehow got an amazing scholarship offer even though the parents make a ton of money. Even if it were true, it wouldn’t mean your family is guaranteed to have the exact same outcome. Stories like these make the rounds every year. People like to brag, people like to shock and one-up each other, and people like to make themselves seem better off than they really are. Every year we have families complain to us that “less worthy” students were accepted into a particular college over their child or that “less deserving” families received more money than they did. But you don’t really know the details of everyone’s lives. Every family’s situation is different, and it’s a waste of time to compare yourself to rumors you’ve heard through the grapevine.

Instead, we focus on the actual data we have based on your family’s financial information and colleges’ historical averages. We will use those numbers to determine how your student’s offer compares to average offers for students with similar GPAs and test scores from previous years. That lets us clearly see which of your offers are fair or unfair.

4) Lie. Some colleges will require you to send copies of the financial aid offer letters you’ve received from other schools before they will adjust your financial aid award. Don’t waste your time–and other people’s time–by making up numbers.

5) Threaten. Colleges do not have to award you the amount of aid you want. Colleges can rescind an offer of admission, although that usually happens only in extreme situations. It’s very easy to avoid being in that position. In the world of college negotiations, hostility and aggression will get you nowhere. As long as you remain polite and professional in your communications with colleges, you will have the best possible chance of working with a college to make the costs more affordable for your family.

Need help with this process? Still trying to figure out how much college will cost and how you will pay for it? Click here or email to schedule a meeting with someone from our college prep team!