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College Talk Blog

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Navigating the Covid-19 College Conundrum

Posted on April 9, 2020 at 2:28 PM Comments comments (253)
We are all on an adventure of the 100-year event type. That does not mean we have to be at a stand-still in our lives. Think of it as a pause during which those of us sheltering in place can take full advantage of something we have complained that we never have enough of.....TIME.

High school sophomores can take some of this time to start thinking what they are most gifted at and researching careers that require those gifts. High school juniors can use this time to maximize their scores on the upcoming at home AP tests. Juniors can also get a leg up on college and major research and writing essays. High school seniors-can pay close attention to changing deadlines and instructions from their colleges and be prepared for new deadlines and instructions on how the fall will unfold for them.

The best advice for every student is to be flexible, use this time to get ready for opportunities that will present themselves and stay connected virtually to extended family, friends, teachers and future colleges. It may not seem like it now, but the best is yet to come and humanity is counting on you to help guide us all into the future.

Sheltering in place-what to do?

Posted on April 5, 2020 at 4:32 PM Comments comments (18)
Talking to students daily since covid-19 stopped us from circulating in the usual ways in our communities and schools, I find that many of them are wondering what to do. Unfortunately, too many of them report that they are sleeping more than needed because they are bored. The good news is that there is much that students can do from home for their college process. 

To-Do List for Self as a High School Junior:

  • prepare for the SAT or ACT using an online resource such as Khan Academy
  • prepare for at home AP tests by using school online classes/videos or videos
  • start writing college essays
  • create a resume of activities
  • research careers related to areas of strength and interests
  • read and then read some more-read anything-just read
  • write in a journal, we are living through a historic event, record what this is like
  • tour colleges through online resources such as
  • connect with friends and classmates online to help improve morale
  • learn a new skill (play an instrument, speak a language) using online resources
  • do something altruistic or philanthropic for your community using online resources

To-Do List for Self as a High School Sophomore

  • prepare for the SAT using online resources
  • read as much as you can
  • start a journal of your experience with the pandemic-this could be a college essay later
  • tour colleges using online resources
  • research careers

Penny Wise But Pound Foolish

Posted on January 11, 2020 at 12:26 PM Comments comments (15)
I've always heard the cliche', "penny wise-pound foolish" and never thought much of it until the last few years. I think of it when a parent asks me if I will work "hourly" with their child. I don't do that because it does not serve the student or parents well.

Early in my educational consulting career I did work on an hourly basis. That meant that the client was deciding how many hours to work with a professional on college admissions. The problem with that was that parents did not know the process and would skip important activity with me and leave it up to their student who also did not understand the process. The results were ok, at best.

When I started operating on a plan basis which is not dependent on a number of hours but rather on a flat fee for all services, results and client satisfaction increased dramatically. I was able to spend whatever time it takes with each student and provide the services I knew each student needed. 

Fees for most independent educational consultants are a very small fraction of the cost of a four year college degree. The results are lower costs for parents and better results for students. So the figurative "penny" spent, saves many "pounds" as well as frustration and family arguments and stress.

The key to saving money in higher education is early effort, family involvement and expert help with planning and application. It also helps to seek the best fit for the student over the prestige factor which is useless if the student fails to graduate.

Parent Oversight in the College Process

Posted on September 24, 2019 at 1:20 PM Comments comments (1)
You would not abandon your teenager to choose and purchase a car-right? There are consumer, safety, quality and cost issues to oversee. Imagine what could happen if you turned your teen loose on a car lot with no supervision, direction or guidelines to purchase an item that could cost $30,000 or more?

My question to parents is: If you would not let your child drive a lemon-why would you let your child attend one? For this discussion, a lemon is a car or a college that is not a good fit, over-budget and may not deliver what is needed.

While many teens have great judgement and organization skills, just as many are in a situation where their executive function has not fully kicked in. This means they might not consider all of the variables before making a decision and the decision may be less based on logic than you like. As parents, provide parameters in geography, cost, safety and other variables to provide a framework for college choice and selection. Unchecked, students can choose colleges from which they will never graduate and/or for which they will incur more debt than is reasonable.

North Carolina Public College Decision Rocks!

Posted on July 6, 2019 at 11:26 AM Comments comments (20)
Sometimes the AP policies of colleges are confusing to students who wonder (when they get their AP test scores) if their score will result in college credit? Their parents wonder if their AP test scores will result in saving money and help their child graduate on time or even early.

Kudos to the North Carolina college system for standardizing their accepted score for college credit from AP exams! Now a score of 3 will result in credit at any North Carolina system college. As students decide where to apply this fall, they might take a look at their AP scores to see just how far ahead they will be at the colleges they are considering. There may be a dramatic difference that could save their families thousands.

Is middle school too early to think about college?

Posted on June 10, 2019 at 12:23 PM Comments comments (0)
It is never too early to begin to think about what your child will do after high school. No matter what plan you develop from apprenticeships to college, education will be the key to success. 

The young student in your family needs skills to be successful in school and in life. Those skills include the ability to critically read and evaluate information, quantify their work and resources, think broadly, focus specifically, understand their history and culture, interact successfully, act on their values and have an awareness of how they are uniquely equipped for their mission in life. Without these skills, they will have difficulty being good citizens, learning, earning an adequate living and successfully raising a family.

If your child is struggling with a subject, understand their barriers before writing off that skill as impossible to develop. Too many families allow their children to take only the minimum required to graduate from high school. Those same families later wonder why their adult children struggle with college, job training and advancement in their employment.

We live in a world where education makes a big difference in employment, job security, citizenship, health and happiness. It is never too early to stress the importance of learning to children and provide the help they need to succeed.

Tuition Sticker Shock Season is Here!

Posted on April 8, 2018 at 9:00 PM Comments comments (0)
Tuition is high and getting higher. The way to save money is to be a smart college shopper. That means college searching and deciding should be a family affair rather than left to high school juniors to figure out.

You would not send a sixteen year old to a car dealership to buy a car on his own -and a car costs much less than college. College costs are more to house prices. Given that fact and the fact that parents would like to retire one day, it is in the best interests of parents to be involved in the search and decision process.

Does your kid need to go to popular big-bucks U? No. Your kid needs to go to an academically solid college you can afford.

Do what you love

Posted on February 14, 2018 at 2:37 PM Comments comments (13)
Teens are focusing more and more on careers where they would love going to work every day. Most feel if they can love what they do, they will never feel like they are working. An encouraging trend is that their parents are allowing them to choose the thing they love rather than forcing them into a career because of job vacancy rates.

The wisdom in both the student and parent point of view is that job vacancy rates change dramatically and students who are majoring in what they love are more likely to graduate from college and find employment.

Junior Year is Critical

Posted on August 17, 2017 at 12:21 PM Comments comments (0)
All years of high school are important to preparing for college. Ninth and tenth grade are years when students jump-start both their GPA and their activity resume. Eleventh grade is the year that students ramp up college efforts with visits, essays and an ever increasing amount of rigor in their courses and leadership in their extra-curriculars. Twelfth grade is the year students continue to add rigor to their course schedule and more leadership to their activity resume.

Too often, both students and parents are unaware of the important role that each year of high school plays in preparing students for college. Students who do not start preparing for college early will feel the impact later in terms of which colleges are likely to accept their admission applications.

The reason parents are often unaware of the importance of academic and activity choices on later opportunities is partly because students who are top achievers are often in similar activities and classes. Their parents know each other but are less likely to know students and families who are late to get on the achievement track.

Parents are an important part of the advising team for their teens. They need to be aware, as early as possible, of opportunities that can help their teens have the best college opportunities. A proactive step for parents is to ask college admissions professionals, middle school and high school counselors about opportunities while their child is still in elementary and middle school.

What do colleges want?

Posted on July 4, 2017 at 1:46 PM Comments comments (0)
Colleges want students who are intellectually curious and altruistic and who want to grow. They are also looking for students who are grounded, welcome a challenge and have a reasonable chance of success at their institution. Having a good work ethic and evidence of playing (and studying) well with others are also a plus. In addition to all of those things, colleges want students who want to be at their institution to study a major that they offer.

Each prospective admissions candidate has many of these attributes but in different levels of personality and skill development. Colleges differ in the emphasis they put on these characteristics. The best fit for a student headed to college are colleges that look for students who are compatible with who the student is now and who can help the student become the professional the student wants to become in the future. Those factors  and the current skill level of the student today are a recipe for college success.

What colleges seek are important attributes to college success. There are other qualities that help students succeed in college including assertiveness, determination and good problem solving skills. Adaptability is another key ability of students who acclimate easily to college and are able to develop new behaviors needed for success in their field.

Students preparing for college should take personal inventory of these skills and attributes and consider where they are in their development. Armed with this knowledge, they can further develop areas that need more advancement and also consider their skills when they attend college tours and listen as colleges describe the students who benefit best from the program at each college.