Black Excel African American Student's College Guide: Your One-Stop Resource for Choosing the Right College, Getting In, and Paying the Bill [NOOK Book]


Your One-Step Resource for Choosing the Right College, Getting in and Paying the Bill
  • Inside tips on admissions
  • Profiles of 100 top colleges
  • Hundreds of scholarship sources

How do you pick the right college? Can you get in? And if you get in, how will you pay for it? Choosing a college is the most important—and daunting—decision facing today’s high school students. ...

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Black Excel African American Student's College Guide: Your One-Stop Resource for Choosing the Right College, Getting In, and Paying the Bill

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Your One-Step Resource for Choosing the Right College, Getting in and Paying the Bill
  • Inside tips on admissions
  • Profiles of 100 top colleges
  • Hundreds of scholarship sources

How do you pick the right college? Can you get in? And if you get in, how will you pay for it? Choosing a college is the most important—and daunting—decision facing today’s high school students. Unfortunately, when it comes time to narrow down the choices and throw the perfect admissions punch, young people are often left to navigate the tricky admissions process on their own.

Now, from the nation’s top African American college guidance service, comes help at last—a comprehensive, one-stop guide to finding the right college, getting in, paying the bill, and much more. With insider tips on the entire admissions process, including advice on choosing a school, getting into the elite colleges, writing a powerful essay, preparing for the SATs, and packaging the application, the book shows students how to package themselves. No wonder college counselors nationwide look to Black Excel for resource materials. A one-of-a-kind manual for success, African American Student’s College Guide also provides:

  • In-depth profiles of the top 100 colleges for African American students
  • Black Excel’s exclusive list of hundreds of scholarships
  • The "Get-the-Money Guide"
  • Extraordinary sample essays
  • Invaluable Internet resources

Whether you’re a superstar student shooting for the Ivy League or a high school underachiever who needs a "second chance," African American Student’s College Guide will give you that much-needed edge–including the "real rules," insider’s tips, and how to beat the admissions odds. BLACK EXCEL: THE COLLEGE HELP NETWORK is the nation’s premier college help service for African Americans. Founded in 1988, it has garnered continuous praise for its personal counseling services, information packets, and its award-winning web site

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Editorial Reviews

This reference is designed to help African American students to negotiate the process of selecting a college, getting through admissions, and finding funding. Coverage includes, for example, test scores, essays, recommendations, transferring, financial aid, and loans. Profiles of the top historically black colleges as well as predominantly white schools are included. The volume also contains information on some 350 sources for scholarships. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470310380
  • Publisher: Turner Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 4/21/2008
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 1,300,693
  • File size: 778 KB

Meet the Author

ISAAC BLACK, the founder, is a youth counselor who has received widespread recognition for his work. He has helped thousands of students navigate the college admissions process, appeared regularly at college fairs and high schools, and lectured for community and cultural organizations, such as the Urban League.
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Read an Excerpt

Black Excel African American Student's College Guide

By Isaac Black

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-471-29552-3

Chapter One


Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

At Black Excel, our aim has always been to cram as much helpful information and guidance about the college selection, admissions, and payment processes as we can in a session; we try to demystify the process and provide students and parents with answers to all their key questions. Too often, black high school students-especially when they're the first in their families with the opportunity to go to college-begin the process with almost zero information about what to expect; we're still at the starting line while everybody else is off and running!

When I was in high school, a grade adviser told my parents I wasn't college material. Luckily my parents had attended small, historically black colleges in the South, and "can't" wasn't in their vocabulary. Or mine. But with the wind knocked out of us by my adviser, we proceeded on our own in a haphazard way, as if lost in a desert. Nevertheless, two months after high school graduation, I was in a college classroom. That was a start! I would go on to attend seven colleges and attain three degrees. Thinking about my own hit-or-miss beginning, and after a decade of interacting with thousands of students and their families, one thing has become crystal clear: Information is power, and all too often, we don't have it. Good grades and test scores areimportant, but strong guidance, insiders' tips, and knowing "the rules" matter.

But never fear: we'll put a compass in your hands, boots on your feet, and tools in your pack to help you reach the elusive mountaintop of a college education. This Q&A session offers examples of some of the most frequently asked questions we've encountered in our meetings with parents, students, and others, along with our insights, suggestions, and opinions based on more than a decade's work. It will provide a snapshot overview of some of the material you'll find in the book. If you want more information on any of these topics immediately, you can simply follow the chapter references at the end of the answers.

Question 1: "My daughter is a good student. She wants to apply to Spelman, but she has heard that half the students who apply are rejected. Is this true? What can she do to improve her chances?"

It's true that Spelman accepts only about 50% of the students who apply, making it one of the most selective historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The average combined SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) scores at that school are about 1,075. Spelman is undoubtedly looking for the "cream of the crop." Students who fall short in SAT scores and GPA (grade-point average) should try to present impressive records in other areas such as leadership, special talents and extracurricular achievements to get noticed. Outstanding recommendations by teachers also are a must, along with a superior application essay. In a nutshell, your daughter's strategy should be to demonstrate that she is a standout, even if her overall academic record is a bit below Spelman's norm. And we almost always encourage students who like Spelman to also apply to Hampton. Both schools attract a similar kind of student and provide a similar learning environment.

For more information on the getting into selective schools, see chapter 9.

Question 2: "I am finally a senior in high school. But I messed up big time, failing and repeating many courses. I also suspect that I'm going to do poorly on the SATs. Still, I feel like I'm now ready to get serious and work. Is college beyond my reach?"

No, college is not beyond your reach. You should apply along with everyone else. There are more than 3,000 four-year colleges in the United States, and many schools have "open admissions"-that is, they accept any student who graduates from high school and forwards an application. Also, there are noncompetitive schools, both historically black and mainstream, that will offer you that second chance if you give indications of being ready to accept it. A community college is yet another option. All you need is a positive attitude and the desire. We have helped many students who have done poorly in high school. Many now have their degrees. Think of yourself as a runner starting an entirely new race. Then step up to the starting line. It's a race you can win.

For more information on college strategies for "second-chance students," see chapter 10.

Question 3: "If an African American student has an SAT score that's clearly below the average scores at a specific college, should that student still apply? Does he or she have a chance of getting an accept?"

Never count yourself out. Instead ask yourself, "Am I in the ballpark?" Indeed, when you see an average SAT score, that means that in all likelihood half the admitted students have scored lower than the published score. Note, too, that there have been articles about how colleges sometimes pad the scores they report to college guides. Even if your score is lower than the average, you might be a desirable candidate. If your total package is strong, there's no telling what might happen. Your GPA, special talents, extracurricular activities, recommendations, and other attributes could flag your folder. And, of course, there may be other variables. Are you involved in high school government? Do you play an instrument? Were you the editor of the yearbook? Showing marked improvement in the 11th grade could also signal that you've become a maturing student.

Of course, you've got to be prudent too. If a college or a university reports SAT scores in the 1300 range, and you're nowhere near 1000, you might be facing a wall that can't be climbed. You want to try for "a reach," but not recklessly toss away application fees, which can run from $25 to $60 a pop. Finally, are you ready (if accepted) to sit next to scholars who might study around the clock and sleep with Albert Einstein (or Benjamin Banneker) T-shirts on? Think about it. We've seen students do the impossible when given the chance. Whatever you decide to do, showcase all your positives, no matter where you apply and what your standardized test scores are. You never know.

For more information on standardized tests, see chapter 5.

Question 4: "What strategies or suggestions do you recommend in regard to taking SAT or ACT tests?"

Of course, the stronger your high school preparation (e.g., taking honors or advanced placement courses), the better prepared you'll be to tackle the tests. Still, no matter what level you're at, you should always go in knowing the rules of engagement. You should know what the tests entail, the varying sections, and what to expect. Walking in blind is foolhardy. The very least you should do is study and review the guidebooks. Less than a month's preparation will not be enough. Time yourself while taking practice tests. Take no shortcuts.

Hopefully, your high school will be giving you guidance. If not, study and practice on your own. Do not go in without a clue. One key is pacing. You should have a feel for how fast or slow you should be moving from question to question. Remember that the results of these tests, for better or worse, will be as important as your GPA and your four years of coursework to many admissions officers.

A must-particularly if you are a super student looking at those prestigious schools-is to take the best prep course you can find, even if it means some sacrifice of time and money. Top students of other cultures routinely do this. You shouldn't concede any advantage to anyone.

If you can get into the prestigious ballpark with your score (perhaps 1200 or over) and you have been taking a strong college preparatory track courseload, there is no need to keep taking the test over. If you have a solid GPA, concentrate on other facets of your application, particularly polishing your essay and obtaining superlative recommendations, rather than retaking the test in search of a few more points.

If you're "not ready" and know it, study as hard as you can, and even if you don't get a top score, take the test only once. Let that score stand. Over and over, we see students retaking the test in the hope that a miracle will occur. It rarely does. Amazingly, a good deal of the time the do-it-again student has done absolutely nothing to improve his or her score. It's better to have one low score-perhaps you had a bad day!-than three or four test scores that confirm that you were ill-prepared. You only retake the test if you have been seriously prepping for a rematch.

In regard to the PSAT, which is usually given as a prep test in the 11th grade, treat it seriously. In fact, we recommend that be your first strike in your college campaign. Take your prep courses before you take that test. Do well, and you're eligible for National Merit Scholarship and other awards. Do well and the highly ranked and strong colleges will start sending you "Congratulations" and "recruit" mail.

Here are some excerpt samples from colleges after you do well on those SAT and PSAT tests:

Williams: "Congratulations on your impressive academic achievements!"

Brandeis: "You're in the top ranks of the nation's rising high school seniors...." Stevens Institute of Technology: "Congratulations. Your excellent PSAT scores and interest in humanities are a winning combination."

Simon's Rock of Bard College: "... consider applying for a W. E.B. Du Bois Scholarship ..."

Wellesley College: "I hope that Wellesley College is one of the schools on your list."

Get the point?

For more information on standardized tests, see chapter 5.

Question 5: "How are the SAT, PSAT, and ACT tests different?"

The SAT is a three-hour test, with seven sections. There are three math and three verbal parts. Also, there is an experimental section.

The PSAT (usually given in October in your junior year) is often called a "practice" test. Don't practice here. We recommend that if you are not ready, skip it. Get books and practice at home. These "practice" scores show up in your college folders. The three sections here will focus on math, verbal, and writing skills.

The ACT is usually given and used in the midwestern states. Most schools, however, will accept it. Here you're find four pivotal sections: math, English, writing, and science.

Your high school should provide info in regard to taking all these tests. If not, call (609) 921-9000 for SAT instructions/timetables or (319) 337-1000 for ACT guidance.

For more information on standardized tests, see chapter 5.

Question 6: "I have taken advanced placement courses and did well on the exams. Folks are saying that I can jump over a semester to a year's college work if I apply for the credits. They say, too, that I can cut my college costs, because I would be reducing the time and credits I would need to get my degree. What's your opinion?"

We have worked with many students who have taken advanced placement courses and done well on the tests. We have also worked with students in international baccalaureate programs (i.e., students who are pursuing college credits in high school). The positive in pursuing advanced credit in college is that you can save money and time. The negative is that you might be jeopardizing your eventual GPA. If you are a "super student" who is thinking of medical or law school, we would advise you to forget about the tempting positives.

In regard to medical school, for example, getting an acceptance is almost tantamount to climbing Mount Everest. Sound strategy is to do everything and anything to keep your GPA as high as possible, start to finish. If you have advanced credits skills, you want to put that knowledge into play in beginning 101 classes. We say "Hedge your bets and try for A's." If you are given advanced placement credits in biology, calculus, physics, or chemistry (to name a few heavy-hitting courses), you don't want to willy-nilly "jump" to the next level.

With each upgrade, the rigor, content, and pace of a course can sometimes be maddening. Why not advance along with other students who are also freshman? In regard to medical school admission, that C+ in a course or two could signal the end. Note that some medical schools will actually have GPA cutoffs-a 3.2, let's say. And if you don't reach that, they don't even look at your folder. In a nutshell, don't risk forfeiting everything for a semester or a year. Your advanced placement strategy should depend on what you'll be shooting for down the road.

Of course, if you're an aspiring journalist or artist or are pursuing a goal that isn't dependent on some final do-or-die analysis of the numbers, then it might pay to take advantage of the opportunity for quicker advancement.

For more information on standardized tests, see chapter 5.

Question 7: "How many colleges should I apply to? Is there a formula, or a best strategy?"

We've always recommended that more is better than less. Often we've said six to eight is a good number range, depending on your finances and resources. In regard to some public college systems, a single application can sometimes leave you eligible for a half a dozen schools. Count that application as one. When the process is over you want to have several admits, as well as a number of financial aid offers to consider. One or two of these might be that super school that's a "tough admit." That's your dream school. Two others should be "probable admits" based on your record and test scores. The final two should be "certain" accepts. In a nutshell, you want to cover all bases and be left with a college you can attend.

Tip: If you are a super student you might want to increase your overall number of applications. Apply to a cluster of highly regarded schools in addition to a few "probable" and "certain" admits. Take no chances.

For more information on application strategies, see chapters 2 and 3.

Question 8: "My son is an honors student with great grades and test scores. Would it be to his advantage to apply to a college 'early decision' if they have such a program?"

Generally, students we have worked with have not chosen the early-decision route. If you opt for an early-decision try, you must attend your targeted school if accepted. You can't change your mind. Also, whatever financial aid package they award you, that's generally it, since you have no leverage for negotiation. Of course, if you are a super student and have the money, and one very special school is your dream choice, you might want to go that way. Schools such as Wellesley, Oberlin, Bowdoin, the University of Chicago, and Notre Dame always seem to be partial to any strong student of color. In fact, any highly ranked school with a relatively low percentage of black students will probably throw out the welcome mat if you're an impressive candidate. Still, it is our opinion that students of color who are "highly desirable" are in a win-win situation. Why have one stellar pick when you can have five bargaining for your attention? Why not pick and choose and then negotiate for the best deal? Maybe one of your selections will want to foot a large portion of the bill.

For more information on application strategies, see chapters 2 and 3.

Question 9: "I am a high school senior and want to go to a black college. My father thinks I should go to a predominantly white college, but my mother thinks a historically black college would be better. What do you say?"


Excerpted from Black Excel African American Student's College Guide by Isaac Black Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Getting Started: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions.

Picking a College: What You Know Can Help You.

Packaging Your Application.

Have You Been Naughty or Nice?: Your High School Record.

Your Test Scores: Beat the Bell Curve!

The Essay: Your Life Preserver.

Recommendations: You'd Better Beware!

Black College vs. White College: Which Is Better for You?

The Top Schools: Can You Do a Four-Minute Mile?

If You've Messed Up Just a Little: "Need a Second Chance" Students.

Transferring: Oops, Let's Do It Again!


Financial Aid: Rules, Myths, and Misconceptions.

Loans and Debt.

Scholarships (or, Make Somebody Else Pay!).

Scholarship Sources.


Top Colleges for African American Students.

Black Arts: Colleges of Art, Film, and the Performing Arts.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2006

    Great Resource

    The guide had important information for any student, but more specifically black students. I only wish all guides were organized in the same fashion. I could not stop reading the book once I started.

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