Test Your Way to a Lower Tuition


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College Transitions bloggers

Widely considered one of the best documentaries of the 2000s, The King of Kong takes you deep within the surprisingly fascinating subculture of competitive retro video gaming. The film tells the story of two middle-aged men competing to obtain the world record in Donkey Kong, a rudimentary arcade game from the early '80s, with such cutthroat ferocity that you would think millions of dollars or perhaps even eternal life was at stake—in reality, only bragging rights are on the line. They stay up in the wee hours, nestled in their garages, trying desperately to unlock additional points and outdo their competitor. So, you ask, what in the heck does this have to do with testing your way to lower tuition?

Most people approach endeavors in life, whether we’re talking about Donkey Kong or the SAT/ACT, as challenges to be conquered and then quickly moved on from. If a college-bound junior scores well on their SAT/ACT and feels that that score will be good enough to secure admission at the schools which they are interested, he or she typically refocus themselves on coursework, extracurricular activities and life outside of school. While this approach is completely understandable, students who take the King of Kong approach to standardized tests often make out with, well, a whole lot of quarters. It costs less than $55 to retake the SAT or ACT, but it’s important to understand that 55 bucks plus hours of dedicated preparation can be worth thousands upon thousands of dollars in merit aid money.

Guaranteed Scholarships

Many public and private schools offer guaranteed scholarships to students that meet defined criteria, usually in the areas of GPA and SAT/ACT scores. For example Hartwick College, a private liberal arts school in New York, offers five different scholarships levels, the highest of which grants $26,000 a year to students with an A average and at least a 1260 SAT/28 ACT score. West Virginia University, a public institution has a range of scholarships for students with GPAs ranging from 3.0-3.8 and SAT scores from 1030-1340. At WVU, the amounts awarded to non-residents are much greater than scholarships for West Virginia residents, who already enjoy a greatly reduced in-state tuition.

Other schools do not offer a 100 percent guarantee on these scholarships, but still state minimum SAT/ACT requirements for consideration. One such school is The University of Kentucky, which requires applicants to their top scholarship to have an unweighted 3.8 GPA and a 1440 SAT/34 ACT score. While students possessing the requisite credentials are not guaranteed the awards as in the cases above, winners receive quite a bounty including full tuition, room & board, a stipend, a new iPad, and cash to use while studying abroad.

Other merit aid

Even at colleges where scholarship criteria is not explicitly laid out, SAT/ACT scores play a huge role in determining which applicants receive offers of merit aid. Remember, the point of non-need based merit aid from an institutional standpoint is to offer enough of a discount to attract top talented students. There are two metrics that will clue you in on your chances of scoring merit aid at a given college or university. The first is the percentage of students that receive merit aid, numbers which are readily accessible online. The second is to look at the 75th percentile of SAT/ACT scores for accepted students, also easy to track down online or in literally any college guidebook. If your score falls at or above that number and a given school is known for being relatively generous with merit aid, chances are you will get a substantial offer.

Test-optional still reward high SATs

Remember, just because officials at a school are willing to admit an applicant without consideration of SAT scores, they are still less likely to award a scoreless applicant merit aid. Some test-optional institutions explicitly state on their websites that they will not take the submission of standardized test scores into consideration when making merit aid decisions. In our experience, regardless of such proclamations, strong scores always impact award decisions. Even test-optional institutions are still concerned about their rankings in U.S. News and will dish out merit aid to reel in candidates with exceptional standardized tests scores.

Second time is a charm

Students typically take the SAT or ACT for the first time in the spring of their junior year. Those who elect to retake the test the following fall improve their overall score by an average of 40 points. It makes sense that students would receive a natural boost for two reasons: 1) it’s not their first rodeo, they know the routine, the timing of the test, the format, etc. and 2) they’ve been exposed to more relevant academic material in the classroom since the last sitting. And these advantages don’t even account for the biggest difference of all—you have an entire summer to learn the secrets of the SAT/ACT backward and forward.

Study hard the summer before senior year

We even recommend taking the test again in December as you near the end of your first senior year semester. You’ve likely been exposed to even more challenging academic content that will make some of the most difficult questions on the exam less mysterious and unfamiliar. Your scores may not be available when you submit your application but they will be available to schools by the time they are pondering merit aid decisions.

Studying does not necessarily mean taking high-priced Kaplan courses or paying exorbitant fees for one-on-one tutoring. Burying your nose in a prep book can be just as effective if you are truly self-motivated and committed. Take sample test after sample test and read the detailed explanations provided on every question you get wrong. Trust us—it works.

Your dedication will pay off

The only thing mastering maneuvering Mario up a series of platforms to depose an oversized ape will get you is a good reputation among a couple dozen socially-awkward grown men. However, obsessive dedication to the SAT/ACT, even just for a brief spurt of time, can earn you and your family significant tuition discounts, money that will can impact not only your undergraduate years but your adult years as well.

College Transitions is a team of college planning experts committed to guiding families through the college admissions process. As counselors and published higher education researchers, we aim to bring perspective (and some sanity) to college planning, and we strive to provide students with the support they need to enroll and succeed at a college that is right for them. Please visit our website—www.collegetransitions.com—to learn more.

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College Transitions

Expert advice for finding the right fit


About This Blog

College Transitions is a team of college planning experts committed to guiding families through the college admissions process. As counselors and published higher education researchers, we aim to bring perspective (and some sanity) to college planning, and we strive to provide students with the support they need to enroll and succeed at a college that is right for them. Learn more at collegetransitions.com

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Calendar

September 2018

Run Club meets every Sunday at 8 a.m. in Midtown Raleigh or Wake Forest. Stroller friendly; children invited. 

Cost: $10/run or $100/annual pass

Where:
Optimist Park Community Center/Greenways
5900 Whittier Drive
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: FIT4MOM
Telephone: 919-348-0472
Contact Name: Missy Currin
Website »

More information

Due to inclement weather, this event has been canceled. Children make treasured memories while increasing their knowledge of plants and animals. Ages 7-10. Register online.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
Website »

More information

Enjoy a street arts festival located in Durham’s historic city center that showcases 145 juried visual artists from across the U.S. and 600 performing artists from North Carolina. Food,...

Cost: $5 suggested donation

Where:
Downtown Durham
120 Morris St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Step back in time with our 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Tours are offered every 20 minutes beginning at 1 p.m. Reservations are...

Cost: $5 for Adults $4 for Seniors (ages 60 & over) $3 for Children (ages 7–16)* *Ch

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675

More information

Tour the farm, spend time with farmers who care about the environment and meet friendly animals. Tickets must be purchased online; the farm is not open for drop-ins.

Cost: $10/person

Where:
Hux Family Farm
1923 Shaw Rd.
Durham, NC  27704
View map »


Website »

More information

Sunday, Sept. 16, 1–5 p.m. Learn how farmers harvested crops such as wheat before the invention of mechanized harvesters, try threshing wheat by hand and make a craft to take home!

Cost: free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675

More information

Celebrate Latino culture with live bands, food trucks, dance performances, face painting, a pinata giveaway, crafts and more.

Cost: Free

Where:
Garner Performing Arts Center
125 Avery St.
Garner, NC  27529
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the family for live entertainment, food vendors, rides, hands-on activities, local talent performances, a car show, concerts and more. See website for hours.

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Clayton
E. Main St.
Clayton, NC  27520
View map »


Website »

More information

Sharon O'Donnell discusses her new book and tell humorous and poignant stories of having a child at 38.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
760 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

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Children with special needs make a creamy vegetable curry. Ages 11 and older. Register online. Choose course #116721.

Cost: $19/resident, $24/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

More information

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Read the story by John Parker, sing a spider song and pretend to be a spider before taking a short walk to mist spider webs and to see who’s home.  Ages 18 months-3 years with...

Cost: $2/child

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Website »

More information

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

More information

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Wednesday, Sept. 19, 10–11 a.m.** All great inventions start out as merely ideas, and some even happen by accident. Hear invention stories, including the story of Oliver Evans, who invented the...

Cost: $4/child

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Do you have what it takes to be a History Detective? Come to Yates Mill and find out! Solve puzzles, hunt for clues, and investigate the mystery of milling with real historical artifacts inside the...

Cost: $5 for Adults $4 for Seniors (ages 60 & over) $3 for Children (ages16 & under)

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675

More information

See Happy Dan perform magic, comedy and more.

Cost: $5/person

Where:
Renaissance Centre
405 Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Join park staff for an informal fishing experience for the whole family. Take your own poles or borrow one from the park through the Tackle Loaner Program. Bait and basic instruction are...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Parkway
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

More information

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

More information

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Ages 1-5 and caregiver discover nature on a morning stroll. Register online. Choose course #117285.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Jack Smith Park
9725 Penny Rd.
Cary, NC  27606
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Get great bargains on gently used kids' clothing, toys, furniture, baby equip & more at the twice-yearly Kidz Stuff Consignment Sale. From strollers to jumpers, bikes to wipes warmers-if a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Hayes Barton Baptist Church
1800 Glenwood Ave
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Celebrate Raleigh's creativity under the beautiful lights and cobblestone streets of City Market. Find locally-made goods and enjoy a night filled with music and entertainment with over 30...

Cost: Free

Where:
City Market
306 Parham St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Night Market
Contact Name: Sara Buxton
Website »

More information

Rodeos, a mule-pulling contest, arts and crafts, vendors, carnival rides, street performers, bluegrass shows and more are all part of Benson Mule Days. 

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Benson
500 S. Market St.
Benson, NC  27504
View map »


Website »

More information

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

More information

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The autumnal equinox signals the beginning of fall. It is the point when there are exactly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness at the equator. Mark the change of seasons by heading to the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Rodeos, a mule-pulling contest, arts and crafts, vendors, carnival rides, street performers, bluegrass shows and more are all part of Benson Mule Days. 

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Benson
500 S. Market St.
Benson, NC  27504
View map »


Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Get great bargains on gently used kids' clothing, toys, furniture, baby equip & more at the twice-yearly Kidz Stuff Consignment Sale. From strollers to jumpers, bikes to wipes warmers-if a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Hayes Barton Baptist Church
1800 Glenwood Ave
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

In celebration of the 151st anniversary of emancipation, MOJAA Performing Arts Company presents a theatrical experience that leads guests through Mordecai Historic Park to experience plantation...

Cost: $15/person

Where:
Mordecai Historic Park
1 Mimosa St.
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Website »

More information

Friday, Sept. 21, 6:30–7:30 p.m. Go on an Owl Prowl and discover the kinds of owls that are found in the Piedmont, what they eat, where they live, and what they sound like. Dissect an owl...

Cost: $1/Person

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Contact Name: Ashley Martin
Website »

More information

Join us for Scrappy Hour at The Scrap Exchange! This month at Scrappy Hour we will be upcycling mason jars! Join us to create useful and decorative items that will spruce up your space! We will be...

Cost: $25

Where:
The Scrap Exchange
2050 Chapel Hill Road
Lakewood Avenue
Durham, NC  27707
View map »


Telephone: 919-213-1278
Contact Name: Anna Graves
Website »

More information

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

More information

Take the family to see a movie by the lake. Movie begins at dusk. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Bond Park
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Americana powerhouse vocal trio Red Molly has graced stages from Denver to Denmark. The "Mollies" bring audiences to their feet with their gorgeous harmonies, crisp musicianship,...

Cost: $24

Where:
Garner Performing Arts Center
742 W Garner Road
Garner, NC  27529
View map »


Sponsor: Heartwood Montessori
Telephone: (919) 465-2113
Contact Name: Virginia McCollum
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The autumnal equinox signals the beginning of fall. It is the point when there are exactly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness at the equator. Mark the change of seasons by heading to the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Rodeos, a mule-pulling contest, arts and crafts, vendors, carnival rides, street performers, bluegrass shows and more are all part of Benson Mule Days. 

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Benson
500 S. Market St.
Benson, NC  27504
View map »


Website »

More information

2018 marks 300 years since the notorious pirate Blackbeard roamed the Carolina coast and lost his life – and his head – in a fight with British soldiers. Learn more about the history of...

Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Take part in nearly 100 exhibits and activities, including dragon boat races, cultural displays, games, health screenings, and stage performances. Enjoy a wide collection of ethnic foods...

Cost: $5 advance tickets; $8 at the door. Free for ages 12 and younger

Where:
Booth Amphitheatre
8003 Regency Pkwy.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Website »

More information

Tinkergarten brings early childhood education to a park near you. In our classes, kids enjoy the freedom of independent exploration through well-designed play-based activities that lend from the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Hollow Rock Nature Park
692 Erwin Rd
Durham, NC  27707
View map »


Sponsor: Ali Wolfe
Contact Name: Ali Wolfe
Website »

More information

Take the family for a day of activity and fellowship. There are two different courses for beginners and advanced competitors, and the whole family can take part as a team. Register online.

Cost: Free

Where:
Hope Valley Farms YMCA
4818 S. Roxboro St.
Durham , NC  27713
View map »


Sponsor: Hope Valley Farms YMCA
Telephone: 919-401-9621
Contact Name: Kelly Johnson
Website »

More information

Embrace your inner rebel and celebrate the motorcycle lifestyle with family-friendly activities ranging from stunt shows and specialty rides to live music and local vendors. See website for hours.

Cost: $10 for ages 13 and older. Free for ages 12 and younger.

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Project Palooza benefits Project Enlightenment in Wake County and celebrates Project Enlightenment's service to children, families and educators. Enjoy games, crafts,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Project Enlightenment
501 S. Boylan Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Project Enlightenment
Telephone: 614-783-2507
Contact Name: Caitlin Howison
Website »

More information

Durham Public Schools Hub Farm hosts its biannual open house. This free event will feature music, food catered by DPS students, boating, tree climbing, tours, beekeeping demos, and is kid- and...

Cost: Free for general admission

Where:
The Hub Farm
117 Milton Rd.
Durham, NC  27712
View map »


Website »

More information

Children's booksellers read their favorite picture books. All ages.

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Website »

More information

Discover how beavers live, eat and play in their watery world. Search for beaver signs around the pond. Ages 3-5 with parent. Advance registration required.  

Cost: $3/child

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson staff
Website »

More information

Taste the world while enjoying free music and dance entertainment, kids games and raffle prizes. Enjoy authentic foods from a dozen countries, live entertainment, games, inflatables and more.

Cost: Free

Where:
J. Ashley Wall Towne Square
Cyprus and Third Streets
Wendell, NC  27591
View map »


Website »

More information

Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2 p.m., 2:30 p.m. or 3 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring...

Cost: $5 for Adults $4 for Seniors (ages 60 & over) $3 for Children (ages 7–16)* *Ch

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675

More information

Explore the historic heart of downtown Raleigh on a walking tour of Fayetteville Street. Tours highlight the people, places, architecture and political movements that have shaped...

Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

Where:
City of Raleigh Museum
220 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy live music in the Stephenson Amphitheater and Rose Garden. Kids can play games and make crafts in the Kids Zone. Gates open at 1:30 p.m.

Cost: $10 advance tickets; $15 at the door

Where:
Raleigh Little Theatre
301 Pogue St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Get great bargains on gently used kids' clothing, toys, furniture, baby equip & more at the twice-yearly Kidz Stuff Consignment Sale. From strollers to jumpers, bikes to wipes warmers-if a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Hayes Barton Baptist Church
1800 Glenwood Ave
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

In celebration of the 151st anniversary of emancipation, MOJAA Performing Arts Company presents a theatrical experience that leads guests through Mordecai Historic Park to experience plantation...

Cost: $15/person

Where:
Mordecai Historic Park
1 Mimosa St.
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Website »

More information

Many animals are active around sunset or shortly after. Take a walk with a park naturalist to explore the woods and fields at this special time. Look for deer, coyotes and owls. All ages....

Cost: $2

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson Nature Preserve
Website »

More information

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, a rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest with all the thrills and romance you could ever...

Cost: $12-$57

Where:
PlayMakers Repertory Company
120 Country Club Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Sponsor: PlayMakers Repertory Company
Telephone: 703-850-2282

More information

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Education Guide

The 2017-18 Education Guide offers 660 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

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Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. Plus, find out who our 2018 Readers' Favorites are.