Merry Christmas! Your Child and the Christmas Child

Your Child and the Christmas Child

Second only to you is there someone who values and cares about your teenage children as they stand on the threshold of their adult lives, backs to their childhood homes, about to step forward, irreversibly and consequentially. That someone, in the existential sense, is me your college admissions and financial aid coach. Beyond that is the one who called me to my work, our Lord and Savior. In his name I serve you.

It is important for you to know that. At this time of year nearly everyone is caught up in some expression of observance. For me, Christmas is the right word, because the child born in Bethlehem is the right person to worship and adore. It is he who gives inexpressible and eternal value to your child's life. In a world in which prenatal life is widely disregarded, your child's life is of supreme value to our Creator, and has been since conception. It is that moral conviction that forms my relationship with the students I coach for college admissions and financial aid. In other words, it is not so much the "where" of college, as the "who" the young man or young woman going to college.

I hazard a guess and declare that all of the high school students with whom I have worked know, beyond doubt, that I value and respect them sincerely. It is important to me that your child is affirmed and valued. A primary aim of my work is that all of the teenagers know someone believes in them as human beings, as persons of worth, loved and admired for who they are, more than for what they have accomplished (or will accomplish). Your child is important because your child is present among us.

The opportunity I have to engage with teenagers at one of life's crucial junctions is a privilege I would have no claim to except by the call of God on my life, and your parental permission in my life. For all of that I thank you, and our Lord this Christmas.


Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies.

Gear Up, Tenth Graders

You are at, or about to begin the winter break that coincides with Christmas and Hanukkah. For most of you there are (+/-) fourteen days in which to do as you please. It might please you, if you're a tenth-grader intending to go to college, to write out your plan for college selection, and to set that plan in motion.

In my book, College is a Consumer Purchase (available here), are listed the most common mistakes people make regarding college admissions and financial aid. Among those mistakes is they wait too long to start.

This article is intended specifically for students in the middle of their tenth grade year. A common perception is there is plenty of time before you have to start thinking about college.

Reality check! Twenty to twenty-four short months from now you will be receiving letters of acceptance (or not ugh!).

Suggested Outline for 10th graders in high school to begin college planning

Two years when you say it that way it sounds like a long time. Twenty-four months? Not so much. Think about everything else you are packing into those two dozen, thirty-day windows of opportunity. There are (at least) eighteen months of school, with homework. There are family vacations, sports games or dance, and similar activities. There are parties to attend, friends to hang-out with you get the picture, right?

Here is a suggested outline of what your plan might look like:

  • December, 2020 complete a professional career assessment. We use the Birkman Profile, administered by LEAProgram, Cincinnati, OH ( It is worth every dollar.

  • January & February 2021 study and assimilate your Birkman report. Begin exploring the career suggestions, hyperlinked in the document.

  • March & April, 2021 continue to explore career options, and also identify college majors that would logically prepare you for those career tracks. For example, what major would you choose to prepare you to become an optometrist?

  • May & June, 2021 begin identifying colleges that are strong in majors you are considering. Universities, in particular, offer a broad array of majors. They do not support those departments equally, however. For example, a university that graduates 500 business majors is going to direct more resources that way, than to its social sciences department that graduates 20 per year.

  • July & August, 2021 Delve more deeply into colleges that look attractive. Contact them. Learn what are their key considerations for admissions.

  • September & October, 2021 Which entrance test will you take SAT or ACT? Do the colleges on your list have a preference? Ask. What is the score on either of those tests that will put you in the top 25% of applicants.

  • November & December, 2021 You are a year into now, and you are beginning to get a clear picture of why you are going to college (that is, what you will do with that education and diploma). You should also have a family conversation about what you can afford by what of annual, out-of-pocket costs.

  • January & February, 2022 Enroll in an SAT/ACT preparation class. That will consume most of the extra time you have for six to eight weeks.

  • March & April, 2022 You will sit for your SAT/ACT exam. Phew! Got that done. You also will continue (or begin) in-person, campus visits. A clear picture of your future

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as #collegeplanning, #collegeplanningtimeline, #tenthgrade.

Apply for Fall, Get Spring Semester. Why do colleges send "Spring Semester Acceptance" letters?

Why do colleges send "Spring Semester Acceptance" letters?

Are you familiar with the phrase "hedging your bets"? It describes a strategy whereby you reduce your risk of loss. You bet on more than one winning option, and reduce your chance of total loss.
Did you receive a Spring Semester Acceptance letter? Here's why and how you can approach it.

By offering some students Spring semester, rather than Fall semester admission, colleges are hedging their bets.

  • Colleges seek to fill every seat in the new, first-year cohort. Some of those students, a few, will drop-out, flunk-out, die (horrible thought); for whatever reason, create vacancies for the Spring semester. Colleges are not guessing, but rather forecasting based on decades of records.

  • A Fall semester drop-out represents a loss of revenue in the Spring. A Spring admit solves that problem.

  • Stats every college keeps them; and every college has to report them. The statistics in focus for this discussion are retention rates and graduation rates.

  • Both datum are required to be kept only on first year, Fall admits. Therefore, transfer students and Spring admits are not considered.

  • Spring admits are students who, by the college's reckoning, are less-well qualified academically and, therefore, more likely to leave the school short of graduation.

Your student has received a Letter of Acceptance, but for the Spring and not the expected, Fall semester. What does that mean?

  1. Your student is considered marginally qualified as a scholar for the college's academic rigor. In plain English, the college thinks they may be too hard for your kid. If you have other acceptance letters for the upcoming Fall semester, those options should be strongly considered.

  2. Your student will receive little or no financial aid, beyond what the family qualifies for based on financial need. The "scholarships" will have been given out to the Fall class. Even some federal dollars may be in short supply until the following Fall semester. That may be made up with financial aid in the form of loans (not really aid, but considered aid in the game of higher education).

  3. Most important, in this author's opinion, is the dilemma of what your student will do from June until the end of January. Students enrolling in a community college should check with the four-year school as to how those credits will be handled. Will your child now become a transfer student? Historically, that further impacts financial aid offered. Work? A great option, especially if your students saves most of the money for college expenses.

  4. Finally, and related to that last fact of what to do with the time, it is highly likely your student will not find the transition to be smooth. There are so many things shaping a student's experience of Fall semester admissions that simply cannot be replicated for the Spring admit. I am not speculating, but rather relating the experience of the few students I know who went ahead with a Spring semester matriculation.

Bottom line: decline Spring admission. Your child has better options.

Want to know the top 5 mistakes to avoid when sending your student to college? Be sure to grab your copy of our free download by clicking the button below! 

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as #applyingforcollege, #applyingtocollege, #collegeapplications, #collegeplanning, #financialaid, #howtopayforcollege, #springsemesteracceptance.

Why do colleges "Wait List" some students and what to do if you're on the wait list

Why do colleges "Wait List" some students? 

The answer is found in the principle that colleges are selling higher education services, and parents are the customers. That means that Letters of Acceptance are issued primarily for the benefit of the colleges. They accept who they want, when they want, how they want.
how to handle the college wait list

Colleges track their admissions data very closely, over decades of time. Those large numbers give them a very accurate picture of how many letters of acceptance are needed in order to fill every seat available. Remember, each seat in a first-year cohort is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of the student's education.

In the administrative offices, "yield" is the number of students who actually matriculate from among the greater number to whom letters of acceptance were sent. Let's take some easy numbers to help your understanding. 

Big Time College plans for a first-year class of 2,000. Their historic yield is 50%. Therefore, they sent out 4,000 letters of acceptance, and notify another 1,000 they are on the Wait List. Suppose this year they miss their yield by 1%; 20 students. Big Time College's wait list is now accessed. Starting at the top, they go down the list until they find the 20 students who will accept an offer of admission.

What is the top? The wait listed students are ranked academically from most-well-qualified to less-well-qualified. Those at the top of the list probably missed by inches a letter of acceptance in the first place.

Should you wait on the wait list? Probably not.

  • You will never know how close to the top you are.

  • You will not find out if you are chosen until the deadline for commitment has passed for the other colleges that accepted you.

  • Financial aid will be little or none, because whatever aid they had to give, was committed to those who were accepted in the first round, and who sent in their deposit of commitment.


Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as #collegeplanning, #collegewaitlist, #financialaid, #howtohandlecollegewaitlist, #waitlist.

Is There a Scholarship Awarded With Your Letter of Acceptance?

Is there a scholarship awarded with your Letter of Acceptance?

Students who submitted college applications weeks ago are receiving Letters of Acceptance already. Those affirmations make everyone happy. Congratulations!

It is not uncommon, not at all, for a scholarship to be awarded along with the acceptance letter. That is also a good thing and, again, congrats.

What is it not, however?

  • It is not truly a scholarship as much as it is a discount off of the price. In other words, no money will ever exchange hands. The college is just offering to charge you less.

  • It is possible the scholarship is for only the first year; not renewable for years two, three and four. Be sure to ask.

  • It is contingent. Contingencies include your senior year of high school grades, your personal deportment both in school and in your community (i.e. don't get busted for doing something stupid) and whether you commit by any deadlines mentioned in the letter.

  • Finally, and most important, it is not the final and formal offer of financial aid. That will come, typically, in late March/early April.

What is that scholarship then?

An enticement to commit before you hear from any other colleges.

Therefore, wait. Wait until at least the end of 2020. By then you will likely have heard from every college to which you applied. If, by then, there are schools from which you have no formal letter of acceptance (or denial of admission) call the school(s) and check on the status of your application.

That last thing reminds me to remind you to check NOW with every college on your list. Make certain they have every requirement in hand. Don't wait. Deadlines are hard stops in college admissions.

Next time let's talk about Wait List and Spring Admission.

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as #collegeplanning, #collegescholarships, #financialaid, #financialaidoffer, #howtopayforcollege, collegeacceptanceletter, scholarshipsforcollege.

Is Test Optional Permanent?

SAT/ACT Test Optional One time only?

The SAT/ACT tests were declared optional for high school students applying for Fall Semester 2021 college admission. Most colleges made that decision as an accommodation to the disruption caused by COVID-19. A handful, however, did not (e.g. University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, University of Florida).
SAT/ACT testing for college - will test optional be permanent?

What should you do if you took either test?

· If your scores have been published, get those sent to your colleges of choice.
· If you took the test and have not yet seen any scores published, contact your colleges. Most are flexing the application deadline to accommodate late score reporting. However, that is the only exception to their deadlines. Everything else required on the applications must be completed prior to the school's published deadline.

What are future plans for current high school juniors (11th grade) and younger?

"Test-optional" will most likely be dropped (with the exception of colleges that had been test-optional previous to the pandemic). That is, current high school students with college intentions, should plan on taking either the SAT, or ACT, or both (that is another article). Ohio State and University of Michigan have already made their intentions known test scores will be an application requirement.

Other important points:

· Regardless of anything written above, it is always a good idea to talk with your college admission contacts. Discuss what is going on in your world, and follow their guidance.
· Super-scoring has always been, and remains, the prerogative of the college. Most do, but none are required to do.
· SAT/ACT tests were developed in hopes they would be indicators of the likelihood of academic success in college. They are not perfect, but they are, for now, a key measure, along with GPA and the academic rigor of your high school transcript

At one time, conventional wisdom favored taking an SAT/ACT, and re-taking it after receiving your scores; combined with a test-preparation regimen leading up to the second test date.

Trends in test scores indicate that test-preparation prior to even the first test date proves worthwhile. There are free resources online (; However, those tests have become very well integrated into college admissions decisions, and test-preparation companies have become very sophisticated at "teaching to the test." Professional tutoring will help in evaluating your high school transcript and GPA, and understanding the predictive value of PSAT/PACT scores. Seek help understanding your rung on the competitive academic ladder. Test-prep is pricey. You need information in order to determine if it is worth the price for your student.


Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as #acttestoptional, #acttestprep, #collegeplanning #sat/acttest #sat/acttesting, #howtostudyforsat/acttest, #istestoptionalpermanent, #sattestoptional, #sattestprep #satacttestprep, #studyforact, #studyforsat.

Is Community College a good option after high school?

Is Community College a good option after high school?

You're going to hate me for this answer, but it is, in fact, "Yes and no."


  • For students who are borderline academically qualified for college-level academics. The academic rigor of college is harder than of high school. Most four-year colleges demand more academically than most community colleges.
  • For students who desire expressly to earn a technical certification and enter the job market from there. No one should consider that choice as lesser than attending a four-year college. It is simply a different choice. Every adult knows, once in the work force, job performance determines career advancement.


  • For families who think it will save them money. If any money is saved, and that is a proposition easily challenged from the data, the amount saved is modest compared to what is missed.
  • For students who think a community college will help them figure out what they want to major in, and what career they want to pursue (with the exception of a technical certification, as mentioned).

The original question (Is community college a good option?) reveals an underlying issue that parents and students should address. Why go to college?

  • To find direction for life as an adult? At $25,000 per year (or more) those are expensive directions. Instead, consider getting a job and learning what it takes to earn $25,000 in a year. Enlist for military service and be trained in a career-quality skill, mature as a young adult and, upon completion of active duty feel a sense of accomplishment.
  • Because that's what others are doing? That is seldom, if ever, a good reason for doing anything. To reiterate, get a job instead. Find out how hard your parents work to provide for your family. Save most of the money for college. Pay taxes. That's an education, too. 

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as #collegeplanning, #collegeplanninglkn, #communitycollege, #howtopayforcollege, #payingforcollege.

The Future of Financial Aid and Scholarships, Part 2

Did you see it coming? I didn't. Epidemiologists report they have been warning about it for years. Never got above the horizon on the news cycle, did it?

The virus known as COVID-19 has changed every map of everyone's future scenario. Wafting out of China sometime during 2019, it has infected the planet's human population, and is killing-off hundreds of thousands of our kind.

Reports indicate that teenagers are not especially vulnerable to the flu virus of the current pandemic; nevertheless, their futures are greatly impacted. As you will read, the effects may not be all negative.

Among the negative side-effects of our very own pandemic, higher education is reeling. When colleges across America closed their campuses in March, 2020 an economic shock wave roiled us all. Few, very few college teachers were prepared to teach in a virtual environment. One, a personal friend, told me she was informed on a Friday that her classes would be online the following Monday. She had the weekend to prepare. She cobbled together decent content, and then faced the learning curve of the technology. It was not pretty, she reports.

As the academic year ended, and college students were pondering the fall semester, it dawned on parents that they had not received what they paid for on campus, in class, in person college education and campus life for their children. Law suits were filed, and the colleges began bunkering in self-defense. Not to be unsympathetic to the parents, but the colleges, in fact, had little or no money to refund. By the time the virus locked us inside, the costs to operate were already in accounts payable. There might have been a few unspent dollars for utilities, laundry and other minor budget items. But the big dollar items were irreversible.

Parents, most being convinced, shifted to "credit" for future enrollment and living costs. Once again, the colleges are caught between a rock and a hard spot. Most of the colleges and universities that the average person might think of are non-profits. That means they operate on close margins. Income pretty much equals expenditures year-by-year. (Remind me to talk about "yield" and other admissions office lingo.) Furthermore, the public universities are heavily dependent on their state legislatures' funding. Well, guess what has happened to tax revenue during the pandemic. Oh. How about that.

The fact is, there is little to no ability to offer credit for returning students, with one exception: financial aid. Reduce financial aid by thousands per student, and the cash flow may be realized to deal with parents' demands for credit.

Private colleges and universities are another story. They receive no taxpayer subsidies. They operate on similarly narrow margins (income-to-expenses). To compete for students with the public universities, private colleges often discount their tuition by tens of thousands of dollars. You need to understand this, so here's a hypothetical example.

The University of the North (public) advertises its annual cost of attendance as:
  • Tuition                                                           $11,000
  • Mandatory fees                                              $3,000
  • Room and Board                                            $9,000
  • Books and personal expenses (estimated)    $4,000
  • Total                                                              $27,000
  • Institutional Financial Aid average/student  <$4,000>
  • Net cost (before loans)                                  $23,000

The Bellwether University (private):
  • Tuition                                                            $40,000
  • Mandatory fees                                               $5,000
  • Room and Board                                             $10,000
  • Books, etc                                                       $4,000
  • Total                                                               $59,000
  • Institutional Financial Aid average/student   <$30,000>
  • Net cost (before loans)                                   $29,000

It's that Institutional Financial Aid that will be impacted in upcoming years. Whether in the public universities or private, the burden of the pandemic's financial impact will be, in large part, passed on to the consumer (just as increased production costs are passed to consumers in every other aspect of the economy). Parents, you are the consumers of higher education. One mitigation you retain is helping your child be very intentional about to which colleges to apply; and helping your child focus on the "Why" of attending college. Among the fatalities attributable to the pandemic of 2020 is "the four-year experience." Attend college for a pragmatic education, not for an experience.

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies.

Home Schooling and College Admissions

In this article you will read three recommendations to help your home school student gain admission to a college-of-choice. First, however, here's a perspective that should interest you.

One recent May I was privileged to be given a tour of the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO. I won't take your time now to describe the indescribable beauty of its setting, in the shadow of Pike's Peak. The reason I mention it is my tour guide was a just-graduated, 2nd Lieutenant who was a home school scholar. That resolved forever my doubts about the quality of home school education.
homeschooling high school students, college admissions for homeschooled students, college admissions, homeschool, how to apply to college
Add to that, in the years since, I have proudly watched two of my grandchildren excel in education as home school students. I confess, I was nervous and doubtful when their mom, my daughter, announced the decision to home school. In this instance, being proven wrong is my great pleasure.

The anecdote above, along with my confession of doubts about home school is relevant because you may find people just like me (formerly) in a college's admissions office, reviewing your student's application. Here is a startling, perhaps alarming fact: admissions counselors at colleges across America have mere minutes to consider applications literally, just a few minutes per application. On the first run-through the filter is eliminate as many as possible. That means an application with omissions, or portraying circumstances that require extra time to understand may be among the first placed in the "Deny" stack.

Here's an example. In the most recent reporting year, the USAF Academy (mentioned above) received 10,354 applications, sent out 1,139 letters of acceptance and, of those, matriculated slightly more than 1,100 first year cadets. The point to catch is admissions counselors had to review more than 9,200 applications and send out letters of denial.

Another example: A very well known, public university recently received 33,012 applications. In order to fill their first-year class of 4,200, the admissions office had to identify more than 14,500 qualified applicants to receive a letter of acceptance. That means more than 18,400 landed in the "Deny" stack. That's a lot of work! The first irregularity in an application is all of the reason needed.

Here's the point, and the first recommendation: the application must be flawless.
  • My students begin working on their college applications in the first week of August. They submit them in mid-September. During those five or six weeks we begin, revise, edit, and add and subtract elements. We work on the applications every week. We double check everything. We get it right the first time because, very likely, there is only one chance to land in the "Accept" stack.
Recommendation two: emphasize your strengths.
  • That includes your individual characteristics and qualities. It includes your qualifications (SAT or ACT test scores are helpful, even though some colleges are going "test optional").
  • Most important, highlight the strengths of a home school education. Answer the unasked questions about science and math; about preparation for research and problem-solving.
  • Mention the many ways in which home schoolers are "well-rounded."
Recommendation three: in-person campus visits will serve you well.
  • In my book, College is a Consumer Purchase, I describe a three-visit regimen. The bottom line is, you want to be more than data on a computer screen. When the admissions counselor pulls up your application and your face comes to mind, that bright smile, the warm conversation, it may tip the scale in your favor. Of course, realize that you may not be the fit the counselor is seeking, but if it's close and between you and someone the counselor has not met, you are more likely to get the nod.
Home school education, when done well, is the best. Hold your head up and apply to college with confidence. There are colleges out there for every student who wants to attend college.


Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as apply to college with confidence, college admissions for homeschool students, college of choice, college planning, college planning company, homeschool scholar, homeschool students, homeschooling high school.

The Future of Financial Aid and Scholarships

Colleges will trim and revise financial aid offers for the next few years. High school Class of 2020 and 2021 will be the first to feel the impact.

College Admissions, Financial Aid, College Scholarships

Those statements are, admittedly, my own reckoning. I have no insider information. What I have is the ability to add 2+2+2 and come up with 6 as my answer.
  • The ongoing corona-virus precautions are generating new expenses (sanitizing alone!).
  • The onset of the pandemic wreaked financial havoc -- the closing of campuses.
  • The tanking of our economy is pressuring everyone -- citizen and university alike.
  • Every college in America is anticipating reduced enrollments and, consequently, reduced revenue.
  • Looking to the U.S. Treasury for bailouts?  Get in line, right?
Enough. You get my point and, I feel confident, understand the conclusions that present themselves. To parents and students anticipating college matriculation later this summer, 2020 --
  • Parents
    • Read again, and thoroughly, the agreements and contracts you and/or your student signed for financial aid awards. The colleges have language in there that is a backdoor for them. Understand what your rights are under the terms of the agreements, and what the college's prerogatives are.
    • Anticipate reductions in "scholarships" and other grants-in-aid (non-federal). Reductions in financial aid grants may not come this fall. You may see them Winter Term; and definitely anticipate revised financial aid offers for the 2021-2022 academic year. Revised -- what I mean is, you may not be proffered the same amount of financial aid for 2021-2022 as you received 2020-2021.
  • Students  
    • Now more than ever, devote yourself to academic pursuits. You do not need to make straight A's. Don't put that kind of pressure on yourself. You must, however, demonstrate maturity, along with focus and commitment to academic achievement.
    • Do NOT "cut" any college classes (i.e. skip school). Less-than-100% attendance will be a first consideration (my prediction) for modifying financial aid awards. If you miss because of illness, follow carefully the requirements to be excused. Read your student handbook.
    • On the same track do NOT veer astray of standards of conduct, honor codes, campus security, etc. Stay away from alcohol, marijuana, non-prescription drugs, and whatever else your peers are indulging. Violation of codes of conduct will result in revised financial aid awards.
    • Do NOT spend any cash deposited to your student account on personal-pleasure trips, non-academic gadgets, etc. Food, shelter, clothing and academic supplies only! Save those dollars to offset any reduced financial aid realities in your sophomore year, and so on. A school audit of your use of financial aid is not out of the question.
Financial aid appeals will, I predict, flood college offices in the spring of 2021. Staff will be overwhelmed and will grab the "Denied" stamp reflexively. Any deviation from excellence in academics, or personal conduct will be all of the justification needed.

Hang on tight, my friends. The decade of the 20's promises to be a wild ride.


Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies.

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