How many Recommendations?

Keep it simple folks! Give the application what it asks for. Typically a college requests recommendations from:

  • one guidance counselor and
  • one or two teachers,
  • and nothing more…

At this point, hopefully, you have created positive relationships with a few teachers whom you can ask for a recommendation. The teachers should be from junior or senior year, who taught you core courses (i.e., Math, English, Science) or if you are applying to a special program, i.e., music or art, then you would include those teacher recommendations as well.

According to University of Virgina’s  Senior Assistant Dean of Admissions Jeannine Lalonde  admissions blog :

“Colleges ask for the items they would like to receive.  We like having the counselor and teacher perspectives in the application, We always say that we’ll read a supplemental recommendation if you feel like there’s something else we need to know, but repetition is not needed.  In fact, when reading 28,000 applications, repetition can be a bit tedious at times”

Over the years, I have written recommendations for students that I have known through scouts, family friends, etc.  They are often for scholarship applications, an internship program or a job, but rarely are they for a supplement to the college application. Since it often takes several hours to write a great letter advocating a student’s application you don’t want to “use up your favors”, especially if the school does not want additional recommendations.

There’s a saying in admissions, “the thicker the file, the thicker the applicant”.  Remember, don’t pad your application and be sure to send a thank you note (homemade cookies, etc) to your teachers and guidance counselor who took the time to say nice things about you. It is particularly appropriate to send the note around the holidays when most of the application pressure is behind everyone and before you know the outcome. :)

Boost your GPA, without studying!

You don’t have to be Einstein to get great grades!

First impressions count, even in the classroom. It is the beginning of a new school year, so now is the time to let your teachers know that you are a driven “A student. You must let the teachers know, in September, that you are a “Go Getter”. Some school districts pressure teachers into limiting the number of “A”s awarded. This is known as grade deflation. Therefore, often subconsciously, teachers loosely separate their students into 3 sections; the “A”s,  “B”s, and the “C”s and below.

In the next few weeks, you want to impress your teacher with “A” student qualitiesDo this by arriving on time, sitting in the front, asking questions, and turning in assignments. Be the straggler out of class and ask a few more questions. If you are having trouble with a homework assignment, go to “teacher hours” or send the teacher an email requesting an appointment. Finally, do really well, especially on your first assignments or tests. Okay, so that probably requires studying  – the title lied. 😉

Once you have established a good rapport with your teachers, it is difficult to dumb down your grade. Afterall, you are a conscientious and engaged student! This type of bias may appear when grading an test essay or homework assignment or it may even appear when you go for extra help and the teacher tells you exactly what to study for the upcoming exam. That often happens when you go to extra help!

Review all graded homework and tests to see that it was graded accurately and fairly. You may want to challenge your teacher’s grade or request a “do over” for an assignment to bump up your grade. Most teachers respect the student who comes forward and will often offer them a second chance. That is what learning is all about. Additionally, now the teacher is aware that your grades are important to you.

It’s difficult for a teacher to penalize a student who appears to be putting in extra effort. Thus without even doing a lot more work or studying more, your teacher may unknowingly give your grades a boost. In Elizabeth Wissner-Gross’s book,  What Colleges Don’t Tell You (and Other Parents Don’t Want You to Know) 272 Secrets for Getting your Kid into Top Schools, she dedicates a section to what she calls “Registering for an A”,  or letting the teacher know that you plan to be one of the A students in their class. Many of her themes are clearly explained to help the student perform to the best of their ability and be rewarded accordingly.

Your GPA, is the primary consideration of your college application. Forget about joining a million clubs, you need great grades to help your application. Get the highest grades you can, while taking the most challenging courses such as AP and Honors classes. Next in order of importance are your SAT/ACT scores, then essays. Of less importance are; the teacher recommendations, your demonstrated interest, high school extracurricular activities, work, awards  and special circumstances including your family income. The order of relevance of the last few factors differs from college to college, some schools will give preference to legacy as well.

Great grades are not handed out easily. You are competing with your fellow classmates to be recognized as one of the top students in the class. You may not be the smartest brainiac in the class, nor do you have to be the teacher’s pet. You must earn your grades by demonstrating that you are an engaged student. The bottom line is that you need to let your teachers know, by actively reaching out to them, that you are working for good grades.

Don’t forget to ask GOOD questions!

Editors Note: Originally published  9/2013. We thought it was time to reprint to help your student have a great 2015-16 school  year! 


College Rankings, a questionable Beauty Contest

With over 3,ooo colleges and universities in the US, it is impossible not to check out a school’s ranking. Annual publications such as US News “Best Colleges ” and Princeton Review’s “The 377 Best Colleges” often become staples when college shopping. With tuition being sky-high, you want to do your research. However, different books mean different rankings. Who do you trust?


The vicious contest of rankings

Remember, the goal of the publishing industry is to get you to purchase their books. This is reason # 1 why you should interpret each college ranking with a grain of salt! If the rankings do not change each year, then there is no need to publish and sell a new book. So starts the vicious cycle of ranking colleges.

When a college is ranked in the top 100, it is deemed more desirable, which positively effects an increase in applications. The more applications a college receives, the lower their acceptance rate become, which helps their overall rankings! For example, a school may it receives 5,000 applications and it offers 1000 acceptances, thus the acceptance rate is 20%. The following year, the school sees a jump in applications to 10,000  (Maybe the basketball team won the big game or they now offer free applications.)  However, the school still can only offer 1000 letters of admission. The increase in applications is good for the college because now their  acceptance rate is 10%. By increasing the number of applications they receive, they increase their deemed attractiveness or desirability. Wow, the college is hot! It will move up in the rankings.

It’s Good to be King or Queen…

The higher a school moves in the rankings, the easier it is to fill seats, collect full pay tuition and increase the school’s endowment. These qualities assures a college a seat at the table of the Top, Best, Fabulous Colleges. Life is good. There are clear benefits of being highly ranked. What is a school to do?  How do they get to crack into the top-tier?

Each publication has its own measures of how it ranks the colleges, US News “Best Colleges” includes factors such as student selectivity, alumni giving, retention rate and peer assessment amongst others measures. Thus a college will work very hard to improve their rankings in these categories. Unfortunately, a few colleges, even very selective schools have been accused of skewing their statistics to demonstrate more favorable data than the competition.

Like a beauty pageant contestant will use all sorts of tricks to enhance her beauty, so might a college skew their own self reported statistics to boost their image. The rankings of colleges are not a definite science nor should it be. A top-tier school might be an absolute awful place to attend if it’s not the right fit for the student. Selecting a college is a very personal. Factors such as location (i.e., cities, mountains, rural) or culture  ( i.e., liberal, intense, athletics, religious)  are not typically measured in these rankings. If you go to school # 254 on the list and you love your classes, can afford the tuition and make great friends, wouldn’t you rank this perfect school #1?  After all, isn’t beauty in the eye of the beholder?

Deferred from EA or ED? Take action!

Pick Me!No rest for the applicant weary! If you have been deferred from
schools where you applied Early Action or Early Decision, now is the time to show “Demonstrated Interest”.

In the next few weeks, you can improve your chances of moving from the “limbo” stack of applications to the “Admitted” stack. There are many ways for the student (not parents!) to demonstrate interest:

  1. Visit campus again, and be sure to register with admissions office when you do.
  2. Email your admissions counselor, ask good questions, and confirm that your application is complete.
  3. Send any additional information which may have not made the application deadline, i.e., did you get published in the school newspaper, make the honor roll, earn a great report card, or receive other acknowledgments? Send a copy of your award with a note, “just thought you would like to know….”
  4. Respond to all emails from the admissions officers, even if they seem superfluous or not serious. They are!
  5. Do you have an opportunity to interview with the college? Be sure to go for it.

Note: This is also an important tactic for the regular admissions cycle. However, if you are notified that you have been waitlisted, these are the same type of initiatives you will need to take to move off the waitlist.

You need to show the love! Many Admissions Departments consider demonstrated interest very seriously. They want to improve their acceptance rate and increase their yield of accepted applicants who commit to attending. Every time a college can improve their Admissions statistics, it benefits their place in the college rankings, the holy grail in a university’s endowment.

Be assertive, enthusiastic and motivated and  give the Admissions Department a few more good reasons why they should accept you.  :)




Your College List Strategy…

Few students will apply to only one school (usually for the purpose of early decision or they have the heart set on their flagship public university), but for the rest September is the time to polish up your final college list and commit to sending 7 to 10 applications.

Smart applicants will cast a wide net of schools that fall into the below categories:

2 Reach Schools

Match Schools

Safety Schools

2 Financial Safeties  

= 10 Applications

Guidelines of  “Reach”, “Match”, “Safety” and “Financial Safety”:

Reach schools– have low acceptance rates, and your GPA and SAT/ACT scores are might be school’s average. The college also has a very low acceptance rate.

Match schools–  means you have a realistic chance of being admitted. For a school to be a match,  your GPA and SAT/ACT scores are above the college’s average and the acceptance rate >30%.

Safety schools–  GPA and SAT/ACT scores are well above the college’s average and the college has a high acceptance rate, >60%. Note that a college hates to be considered a “safety”, so be sure never to mention that you think they are a safety!

Financial Safety– means you apply to schools that you can afford to attend; in-state public college, community college,  or a college which will give you significant scholarship. There are very few opportunities to receive big scholarships. Examples include if you are a recruited athlete, or your SAT/ACTs are outstanding and a less selective college offers “full ride”.

Where to start? You have talked with friends, family, and your guidance counselor. You have attended college fairs and visited a few campuses. Now print a copy of bart “College Comparison Spreadsheet” and start filling it out. Our favorite site for researching a college’s data and fast facts is

Do you want Merit Scholarship offers? Then apply to more “safety” schools and “Early Action” schools. If it is a state university, apply ASAP. Many are rolling admissions so do not wait until the deadline! As the saying goes “the early bird gets the worm, the acceptance, financial aid and the scholarship”! Note that very selective colleges rarely offer merit scholarships, although they will offer financial aid, and that usually means loans.

Applying to several colleges, at about $60 each, is expensive. However, do not limit yourself because of the application fee. Remember you are “casting a wide net” and want to create opportunities to be considered for merit scholarships. If it is too expensive, apply for a fee waiver. Go to  fee waiver application .

Do not let your high school guidance counselor discourage you from applying to your well researched, list of 8+ schools! After you have received several Acceptance Letters, your next hurdle will be comparing tuition, financial aid and maybe merit scholarships.

Many colleges are offering “Priority” applications which often will waive the application fee if you apply by a certain date. Do call your favorite admission office and find out if they are offering “Priority, No Fee” applications. An increase in applications benefits the college’s rankings so many are offering this marketing strategy. Colleges want you to apply to them.

Do you have your List? Now attack those applications!

Pondering SATs, ACTs and Test Optional Colleges

Are you troubled with high-pressure, expensive standardized testing for college admissions? You are not alone.


 There has been a ground swell of support for the nonprofit organization, FairTest – The National Center for Fair and Open Testing whose mission includes ending the misuses of testing practices.  maintains a list of approximately 850 Colleges and Universities that are either deemphasizing the use of SAT & ACT or have gone completely test optional.

If a college or university has moved away from requiring SAT or ACT test scores it means that they will be evaluating the applicant’s GPA, class rank, course load and extracurricular activities more intensely. Many of the colleges believe that this increases the diversity of the student body. Furthermore,  admission departments see that test optional colleges have become more appealing to a greater audience of students. If you are interested in one of the colleges on the FairTest list, be sure to verify the school’s specific admissions guidelines.

Although it is not recommended that students eliminate all standardized tests (test scores maybe be required at a later date for scholarships, job internships, etc.) it is a liberating to know that they can be taken out of the equation for some college applications.

Surprisingly, if one is going to put effort into achieving high scores, before they even go the route of hiring private tutors, standardized tests are expensive.

Typical Standardized Testing Expense incurred by middle-income students:

Standardized Tests Potential Fees*  
SAT exam $55- most students take at least twice $110+
Sending 3 additional scores** (either ACT or SAT) $50+
SAT Study Guide $32
1 ACT exam, with writing sample*** $56.50
ACT Prep Book $30
SAT Subject Tests may be required for highly selective Universities $26
Total (without test rep classes) $305.50****

* Both ACT and SAT offers fee waivers for low-income students.

** If  applying to more than 4 schools, you pay an additional $11 fee per school. This example demonstrates applying to 7  schools (4 + 3 paid ) .

*** Many students will take both the SAT and the ACT exam since a student may score higher on one verses the other.

**** More expenses are incurred if the student takes a test preparation course. A Google search found that in a New Jersey zip code a 30-hour, in class Princeton Review SAT class is $999 and an 18-hour Kaplan prep class is $599.

Another consideration is the amount of time each exam involves, which is 4 hours long, plus factor in another hour for traveling to and from the test center. A student will spend more than half of a Saturday for one test. Many students will take at least 3 tests since they may take both ACT and SATs, take the SAT subject tests or retest to improve their scores. This is time that could be spent at a part time job, doing homework, playing on a team or looking at colleges. The  SATs and ACTs are big business and they are both a financial and emotional drain.

Although it is unlikely that your complete list of targeted schools will include all test optional schools, knowing that many of your top choices are Test Optional, may eliminate some of the stress and help you decide how much you want to invest into the standardized testing ordeal. Unfortunately, most large state flagship universities rely heavily on the standardized test, which may be used for both admissions consideration and merit scholarships.

Check out to see if any of your favorite colleges or universities are test optional.  However, for good measure sign up for the free SAT and/or ACT Test question of the day. A daily dose of these questions is truly a painless way to tackle your test preparedness. :)




Future Tuition Worries? Read this!


In December of 2014 Kiplinger created a tremendous chart Best Values in Public Colleges (click for chart) . It compares the tuition of 100 top public Colleges and Universities.  The chart includes  in-state tuition verses out-of-state tuition while including critical data such as admit rate, four-year graduation rate, financial aid consideration and average debt at graduation. Notice how many schools report average debt at  graduation is $20K or less, over four years. $5K per year  in loans  is a very reasonable amount for a student to borrow. This chart is interactive & can be resorted as you heart desires by clicking at the top of the columns! Very FUN for spreadsheet geeks!

Who cares about the Admit  (Admissions) rate?  If an admit rate below 30%,  that means that it is very competitive to be accepted and your GPA and test scores should be in the upper % of the school’s averages, although you should definitely submit an application since statistics and candidate pools change every year.  Never think a school is “safety”, many students have been disappointed by their so-called “safety” schools. Learn what  the admissions department is looking for beyond the published statistics, by  attending their information sessions or calling the department.

Four year Graduation Rate is an important consideration. Many of the best students do not graduate in four years, sometimes due to their own missteps or perhaps they switched majors or withdraw from a difficult class. However, if students are NOT graduating in four years due to the university over enrollment and the college cannot meet the demand, this could be a costly problem.  Sometimes a student will miss out on taking a  required class due to over enrollment. The university may just shrug their shoulders and  advise them to take it the following year, which could delay graduation and mean more tuition bills.

The graduation rate is important in that it reflects the culture of the school, such as:

  • are the students happy on campus and with their overall college experience?
  • are the students studious and goal-oriented?
  • are 100s of students failing out because of a party culture?

If 50% of the students are not graduating on time it is a red flag that you might as well consider tacking on at least another semester of room, board and tuition or earning credits by attending summer school, which will be another tuition bill. A low graduation rate does not have to deter the potential student, they should be aware that their may be obstacles and to prepare accordingly.

Freshman Retention rate is another statistic to keep in mind. Although freshman retention rate is not part of the Kiplinger chart it is another noteworthy statistic for the same reasons as mentioned above. If 100s of freshman students are not returning to campus you need to ask yourself why and would these reasons affect you.

Although a school might have a low freshman retention rate, or graduation rate, if you are interested in the school, you should check it out.  If you like the classes or programs offered, make your decision to attend and be part of the solution for improving their statistics.  Finally, earn your Bachelors degree at a college you can afford. :)

Decisions, Decisions… Where to go?

choosing the right collegeCongratulations! The acceptance letters have come in! All of your hard work has paid off.  Now what do you do?  “Choosing the Right College” by John Zmirak, might help you decide, or follow the below check list to help you make a fool-proof decision.

Attend  “Accepted Students Day”. This is the college’s opportunity to shine. The agenda often includes a welcome by the College President, presentations and testimonials by professors and current students. There may be giveaways, free continental breakfast & lunch, the marching band, campus tours and afternoon sessions with department deans. Not all colleges host these events so take advantage of those who do. Both parents and students should attend. They are fun and will help you evaluate your decisioncollege_bound

Stay overnight with a current student. Do you have an acquaintance at the college you are considering? Reach out to them, find out more about the college and ask if you can visit overnight. It will give you a very good sense of the social life. Where do kids go on a Saturday night? Are frat or dorm parties  what you think they are?  Do kids travel off campus, go to the city, or is everything in walking distance?

What’s the “hidden” expense of this school? What is the spending culture at this college? Students’ recreational and spending money  varies greatly from college to college.  Go to a college in a semi rural area, expenses are usually modest since many social events are planned by the college to keep campus lively, i.e., hosting comedians, campus sporting events, concerts; $20 could last the whole weekend. Go to a city college and life is more expensive: the cab fare $25, lunch at a deli – $15 and dinner out could be $30.

It is uncomfortable to be the freshman that says no to social activities because they are too expensive. Yes, some students are above this social pressure, especially if they are in a rigorous academic program or an athlete, then study groups and practice become their social scene. Ask questions about what students do for fun.

What are the ramifications of Greek Life on campus? Does it feel like almost everyone is in Greek Life and you do not want to join? If you plan to join Greek life, are you guaranteed “a bid” or are many disappointed and not invited to join? Can you tolerate the disappointment if you do not get into your first choice?  Alternatively, Greek life maybe only a minor presence on campus. Is the pledge season in the fall or spring semester? Fall pledge seasons are challenging to most freshmen. Some schools do not allow pledging until sophomore year, this allows plenty of non-Greek friendships to form during freshman year which lessens the significance of joining.

Distance and Travel – The distance of a school from home is one of the most significant components in choosing a school. Many students do not return to a college because the distance created too much hardship or homesickness. If you live near a major airport and the school of choice is near a major airport than 1,200 miles from New York to Miami, FL may not be an issue.  A parent whose child was attending school across the country said, “I see him almost every six weeks so it’s not a big deal.” Apparently purchasing airfare was not an issue either. If your child is attending college that requires plane travel, budget in a few extra trips, for either you to go visit or to bring the student home. College life is intense and the normalcy of visiting home cannot be underestimated.

Also note that for school vacations, many colleges in the Northeast charter buses for affordable transportation. The buses leave campus and have planned drop offs at major malls off interstate highways, additionally they typically run chartered buses to the airports for vacation breaks.  Check if your college offers any of these services.

Fiske Guide  & – You have visited the colleges, spent time on their website and are connected to their Facebook page. Now read and study the profiles in the Fiske Guide (available at most libraries, photocopy the specific pages) and The Fiske Guide gives a good overview of the college’s culture and Niche gives you the “real scoop” of the students’ impressions of their college. Both guides try to give a balanced viewpoint. If they present a consistent specific tone, i.e., “We work hard and party harder”  then there probably is truth in it.

Your Major – Many students will change their major several times during their college career. An important consideration is is to determine how flexible the college’s policy is for changing majors. Often in a small liberal arts college it is not an issue. However, if you are attending a university that has separate colleges it may be nearly impossible to transfer between colleges. For example, if you start as an Engineer at Cornell and are doing poorly, you may not be able to transfer into the College of Arts and Science because your GPA is too low.

Tuition & Expense  – This is probably the #1  factor in determining which college you will attend. While ability to pay is critical, be sure to take into account the other contributing factors in making your final decision.  If the cost is the only driver in this decision, but you make an ill-advised decision, you may end up spending more. Many public Universities have low 4 year graduate rates. If it typically takes 5 years to graduate due to overcrowding, then going to a smaller, private may be the better investment.

One student we know went to an out-of-state, public college that offered a merit scholarship which made the school very affordable. Thus, he turned down other acceptances and their merit awards. Unfortunately,  he was extremely unhappy at the chosen school because it was too big, too far from home and “a suitcase school”. (A suitcase school implies that many kids go home on weekends.) He ended up transferring to a small, private school without scholarship. Yet, if he had gone straight from his senior year in high school there would have been a four year merit award.

When analyzing scholarship offers, be sure to read the requirements. Usually there is a minimum GPA requirement for each year.

Taking out loans to pay for college is common practice but be sure to not over do it! A reasonable amount of debt is exactly what is offered though the Federal Direct Loan program; approximately $5,500 per year, which allows you to borrowing the maximum amount of $27,000 over four years. To make it easy to understand, if you borrow in total $30,000 at 6% and with a 10-year repayment schedule your payments will be:  $30,000 = $333 per month.  Six months after graduation you must start to repay the Direct Loan.  Be careful not to have your student mortgage their future! If it is too expensive, attend community college for two years at a fraction of the cost.

School Expense Spreadsheet – Create a spreadsheet of all your schools. Include:

  • Tuition
  • Room and Board (Meal Plan)
  • Hidden Fees (i.e. Student Union, Lab expense, joining Greek Life)
  • Travel Expense
  • Computer (some schools include this in their tuition)
  • Books

Deduct any Scholarships or Financial aid packages to determine Net Cost.

Hang your chart up for the entire family to see and determine what is best! Can you afford to pay “X” amount for the next four years? How much per year do you want in loans? What about grad school? One student cried and begged her parents to send her to a college that would cost about $40,000 per year. Instead she attended the school that cost $20,000 and absolutely loves it and will graduate with no debt. It was very hard for the parents to make that decision, but they knew that did not want those loans to follow their child into adulthood.

Part II  Make a Contract! 

This is especially a great idea if you are the parent footing the tuition bill. It is also helpful to the student since it helps them create a plan. Many students think they have a pretty good idea of how they will live, study and make their way in college. However, their priorities are probably different from their parents. All students should write their own contract because it gets them thinking!

Elements of a New Student Contract or “Business Plan” 

  • How much time do they plan to study on a daily basis
  • What are their academic goals
  • What are their social goals
  • What is the spending money budget
  • When they should call home
  • Parental access to student’s log in info i.e. for transcripts, schedules, university notices
  • Purchasing of Books  (who is paying, when & where  you expect them to buy them, (1st day of class, amazon, rent through, etc.)

The student should make a 7 Day spreadsheet of their anticipated schedule*:

  • integrate class time
  • studying in the library
  • meals
  • Professor or TA hours
  • on campus errands
  • room cleaning
  • laundry
  • socializing and
  • sleep

* Yes, a spreadsheet with time blocks may seem over the top but it can be a “fun” exercise and it is especially helpful if you are concerned about maturity. This will truly help the student envision how their day should look and prevent them from becoming overwhelmed. If something goes awry at school such as illness, roommate conflicts, or a week without clean underwear, a new student can quickly go down a slippery slope and lose sight of their goals.

A  self-written Student Business Plan or Contract is empowering.  Students should write it and then discuss it with the parents. It may need to be sent for a rewrite if expectations are overzealous or too low.

You are assisting your child obtain the privilege of a college education. Maybe you will take out loans to do so. If you were borrowing money to launch a business the bank would require you to submit a business plan. Why not help your child understand the significance of the expense of a college education?

A Final Word- Attending Harvard  Happiness

A college education resulting in earning your degree, is a privilege and a worthy goal. You want a great experience of learning and growing while be able to pay for it. This does not mean going to the most prestigious or expensive college. There are many ways to accomplish earning a college degree. There are over 3,000 colleges in the United States and much to be said about being the “Big Fish in a Small Pond”. Many students who attend Harvard, Princeton and Yale are not happy, so think outside the box and find the right fit for you!

Timely March Tips regarding Applications

Seniors – You are closing in on making a decision.

You have done the hard work of submitting applications, filing financial aid forms, test taking and visiting campuses. Maybe you have received some acceptances. Now finish strong with these tips:

  • Check in with all the admissions offices that your application is complete: recommendations, SAT scores, and high school transcript.
  • Revisit the colleges where you have been accepted. Try to arrange staying overnight with an acquaintance. This is when you will get a real snapshot of the school. Stay at more than one school so you can make comparisons. Is nightlife important to you? This is how you find out.
  • Attend accepted student programs.
  • Make a list of pros and cons of each school. Use the College Comparison Spreadsheet. Go to home page  >”Freebie Worksheets”.   
  • Read the college campus reviews on Know what culture of the school is. Does it work for you or would you be a fish out of water. Push yourself for growth and self-awareness and be truthful with yourself.
  • Discuss the finances of paying for your education with your parents. Can you afford attend a residential college? Or should you start slow and take a few community colleges first?
  • If you are ready to make a decision, submit your deposit. *  Many schools give priority housing on first come, first serve basis. This could be the difference of living in an awesome location or in a “forced tripled” off in the no man’s land part of campus. Please note that it is unethical to submit more than one deposit, although some schools do allow you to submit a non-binding, refundable deposit. Read the fine print.
  • Local Scholarships, apply to all! Contact your guidance office and reach out to organizations, i.e., church, scouts, etc. to find out if any are offered. Although the award may only be a few hundred dollars, the odds of winning are usually good and they are impressive on your resume as you search for internships later.

P1010457 DAS Amer 4

Juniors – Now the fun begins!

  • Visit as many college campuses as you can in the next few months. It is better to see a campus while school is in session and the campus is full of students. Saturday day trips are economical and valuable (see below).
  • If a college is on break when you plan to visit, do so anyway. Never miss an opportunity to see a college campus. Every visit you make will help you in understanding what you want in attending college.
  • Even if you have no intention of attending a college that is within a 1-2 hour drive from home, visiting “local” campuses and going to an information session is a tremendous, low-cost (since there are no hotel rooms involved) opportunity for discovery. Get up early on Saturday morning and make a road trip.
  • Visiting several schools in a few days is exhausting. This is why day trips to nearby schools are excellent opportunities for determining the right school for you.
  •  Start thinking about the summer.  The more planning you, before the start of senior year, the better your application! A few summer jobs, essay writing, visiting more campuses, and studying for the ACTs and SATs. This is the summer to kill it! 

 Sophomores and Freshmen: Enroll for the most challenging classes.

  • Keep up the hard work in your classes. Don’t get lazy! If you are struggling in a class, be sure to seek extra help. Let your teachers know how hard you are working.
  • Do you have any special interests? Figure out ways to expand on them, maybe through volunteering or through a job. Are there any community college non credit classes that interest you? Take them! You learn a lot being on a community college campus. Bill Gates & Jeff Zuckerberg want you to take computer coding classes. Go to to learn more.

Campus Visits – A Parent’s Point of View by Kathleen Thometz

Welcome  Kathleen Thometz to CollegeintheBag’s guest blog spot! Kathleen, is a  very cool & creative mother of four who is preparing to send her oldest off to college in the fall of 2013. As she shared tales of recent college visits, I begged her to write about them. Thanks Kathleen and enjoy everyone!   

Up until Thanksgiving my husband had been in charge of our son’s college visits.  As we are from the Chicago area, they had been driving through the Midwest looking at various small colleges, Loras and St. Ambrose, in Iowa and Bradley in Peori, Loyola in Chicago.

As I was driving out to the east coast for Thanksgiving, I was charged with taking him to McDaniel (formerly Western Maryland) in Westminster and Goucher in Towson, Maryland.

I was surprised that I actually found myself enjoying those visits, in spite of the fact that McDaniel gave a lively 2 hour presentation to the parents before a tour of the lovely, colonial-feeling campus, and delicious lunch in their brand new cafeteria.

Goucher’s presentation was a one-man-band affair and down and dirty.  The one thing I liked about the school, besides the prairie style architecture, was the fact that it is the only school in the country that requires every student go abroad.  This is wonderful because it gives our students the much-lauded global experience.  It also allows them to savor the experience long after it happens because all of the older students have already done it and will want to continue to share their experiences and the younger students are gathering information to choose their experience abroad.

While I enjoyed the tours for the most part, I think these schools need to come up with a better way to give the tours.  Following a young man or woman across what feels like miles of campus, while they walk backward is disconcerting.  How about a mini-PA system or just walk frontwards and make the groups smaller? Since the writing of this piece I’ve discovered that it is very good for you, both physically and mentally, to walk backwards.

I was struck by the amount of great things, that don’t cost anything, offered at these schools that I don’t remember being offered when I went to college nearly 30 years ago.  I was impressed with the affinity housing, students with similar interests living together.  At McDaniel there is a house where the students raise a service dog together each year. I love the writing clinics both schools had available to students.

I know I’m a dinosaur but what I don’t like about college campuses in general is the too-fancy facilities. McDaniel just built a state of art cafeteria. I’d rather send my kid to a dumpy college with great professors and have lower tuition. I am not keen on paying to

High Point’s waterfall wall at the entrance of the cafeteria.

have my child eat in a kitchen more gorgeous than mine.  These kids will be in for a rude awakening when they move into their first dumpy apartment.  I’d rather have that experience come in college at less financial cost to me.