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Answers to Top-Ten Questions About Getting Into College

When parents and students are confused about the college-application process or how to pay for it, many go online for answers. The popular search engine Ask.com responds to 1 million questions every day and many deal with college. Here are the top-10 questions received by Ask.com about applying for college. They are ranked in order of frequency asked. If you have other answers, please chime in with a comment.

1. Is college tuition tax deductible?
For 2009, you can deduct up to $4,000 of college tuition and fees paid for you, your spouse, or any other person claimed as a dependent on your return. This is an "above-the-line" deduction, which means you don't have to itemize in order to take advantage of the break. As of 2010, the federal government offers two tuition tax-credit programs with total deductions of $4,500. Check in with the College Board and its page on tuition tax credits regularly to keep up with IRS changes.

2. What should I write my college essay and personal statement about?

Great college-application essays should present a compelling view of you that helps you stand out from others. It should also be clear, comprehensive, and well-developed.

3. What is the average college tuition?

For 2009-10, the average yearly college tuition in the United States was $26,273 for private four-year institutions and $7,020 for public four-year institutions, according to the College Board.

4. Why is college tuition so high?

While explanations and opinions vary, many reports attribute the price hikes to colleges making up for reductions in the per-student subsidy state taxpayers provide to colleges.

5. Where can I find a list of college grants and scholarships?

A great list of college scholarships and grants is available at CollegeScholarships.org.

6. Which states offer free tuition programs for residents?

States that offer merit-based free tuition to residents include Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, and West Virginia. Indiana and Oklahoma have statewide free-tuition programs for families with financial need.

7. Which college-admissions test should I take?

Most colleges require either the SAT or ACT admission test, but some have test-optional policies. Contact the colleges you are applying to to see the requirements and ask about additional subject tests.

8. What does sliding scale mean for college admissions?

Some colleges use a sliding scale when admitting students, which usually means that a high grade point average can offset lower test scores, or vice versa.

9. Why is the question of race on college applications?

Some college-application forms ask students to state their race to track the diversity of the student population and to allow schools to qualify for government grants that consider the college's diversity.

10. How do colleges decide whom to select from their waiting list?

College-admissions staff usually look for signs of academic seriousness from students on the waiting list because they want to offer admission only to those most likely to accept.

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