Doing the Impossible with College Planning

When it comes to college planning, time is of the essence. 

At my inbox appeared a telephone consultation reservation for July 27. No idea who the person was, and when we talked I thought, "Oh my; there's no way!"

Here are the details (with fictitious names):

  • Melissa, the mom, was desperate. Her daughter was a rising, high school senior. They had done no planning -- none! Melissa began to cry. My heart broke and, against my better judgment, I told her I would help them.

  • April, the daughter, got on the phone with me. I laid it out for her. I was honest, even blunt. If she wanted me to help, we would have to get done in about 10 weeks what I do with most students over the course of a year, or even longer.

  • April has amazed me! We have a weekly call, about 45 minutes duration. I satisfy myself that she thoroughly understands the assignment to be completed before our next conversation, and the call ends. I have done nothing for her that she cannot do herself. With all of my students, I am the coach, they are the players. 

  • At each phone call she is totally prepared, and her work is done well. She has accomplished about six months' work, in less than a month.

Thank you April! Not only have you demonstrated your readiness for college, your maturity as a young woman (18th birthday in January) and your determination to achieve your goals; but you have also shown me your pluck and capabilities, which certainly are not unique to you. 

No longer will I lower my expectations for my students. I will expect their best, knowing it is within them to do good work, on time.

If your student is a senior in high school and you have yet to begin the college planning process, don't waste a single minute. Work strategically and diligently, not allowing any time to slip through your fingers. As April has demonstrated, if your student is willing to do the leg work, great things can be accomplished in a short amount of time. 

At Succeed Where It Counts, we recommend to begin the college planning process during your student's sophomore year of high school. If that sounds too early to you, over a decade of experience tells you it isn't. You want time on your side so you and your student can learn, think and make wise decisions with time to spare. 

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College Campus Culture and You

Why Campus Visits Deserve Your Time and Energy

Is Community College After High School a Good Idea? 

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as college planning.

College Campus Culture and You

Campus culture is an important aspect of finding the right college. You want to be happy and comfortable at the college you choose. Four years is a long time to be unhappy and uncomfortable. The question, then, is what is campus culture and how do I identify it?

Colleges have unique personalities, just as do you and I. And, like us, colleges have general characteristics that make them similar. For example, human beings have similar, physical attributes. We can pick out a human being standing in a herd of cows. Colleges are plainly distinct from other educational institutions. You know when you are on a college campus, as contrasted with a public secondary school. It is not the obvious attributes we need to consider.

Less obvious, and actually more important, are those characteristics of colleges that make them different from each other. That is the campus culture you want to identify and evaluate. Campus visits, during the school year, if at all possible, are the primary method of evaluation.

Do you like what you see? Walk around the quad as classes change. Visit the student union and the cafeteria. Can you see yourself hanging out with those young adults?

Be brave and talk with some students. Ask them what they like, and don't like about the college. Ask them what surprised them their first year. One absolutely wonderful quality about college students is their willingness to talk, and their candor. When you identify yourself as a high school student, I expect you will find those young people to be very friendly and open.

Look around at posters, as well as notices of meetings and events. What is happening on campus? What is being pushed to the front of students' attention? If you are on a tour with a student ambassador, ask that person about things that the college frowns upon. Ask what gets students in trouble with the administration. Ask what the predominant, weekend activities are throughout the year.

Talk with an admissions counselor. Ask them about official conduct codes, dress codes, social codes. Ask about campus safety. Ask about students' rights, and if there is a published statement of student rights. Of course, those may be uncomfortable conversations, but you will be glad to find out before you enroll and pay thousands of dollars to attend.

Here's an example of why you want to have the conversations recommended in this blog. Matt Damon, famous actor, is in the news for doing something that would get many college students in big trouble; maybe even dismissed from school. Here's the story: Matt Damon Gets Schooled. What if you used that same slur at college? What would happen to you? Nothing happened to Matt, really. How about a college kid using that same, admitted, insult?

Campus culture matters from what is obvious to everyone to what is hidden from most, until it is too late. Figure it out before you enroll, and even before you apply.

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Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as college planning.

3 Things Every Busy High School Student Needs to Know

What does an F-14 Tomcat aviator have to say to your high school student? 

  • Follow your dream, it's worth it.

  • Make academics #1 priority.

  • Learn to manage your time-schedule.

Here's a link to a YouTube broadcast from Commander Ward Carroll (USN, Ret.).

Before you click to watch, finish reading this. Make sure you notice the following facts about Commander Carroll's experiences.

  1. His dream was the Naval Academy. However, because he did not give his maximum best effort in high school, he was forced to spend a year at a prep school in order to earn admission to Annapolis. That was expensive in dollars, and in time an entire year of his life.

  2. At the Naval Academy his dream became F-14 Tomcat officer specifically he chose RIO (Radar Intercept Officer; second seat) due to a substandard eye test.

  3. Once again, by not making academics his #1 priority at USNA, he had to detour for another year in order to qualify for the assignment.

  4. A highly significant skill he acquired, however, and by his own testimony in the video, is the skill of time management. Commander Carroll remarks that the USNA intentionally overloads your schedule. You cannot do everything with equal attention. Therefore, you learn to prioritize and focus on "first things first." He states emphatically, that skill is invaluable in a combat aircraft. It will save your life!

Here's the reason I write this blog, and share Commander Carroll's wisdom. The greatest challenge I have in coaching teenagers to achieve their goals is their overly busy schedules. School, part-time job, sports, friends not to mention self-care such as sleep all add up to more than can be done in a 168-hour week. Then I come along and ask a 16, or 17-year-old to accommodate one hour (two at the most) per week. Crash and burn!

The facts are:

  • None of the students I work with plan to be professional athletes, yet everything in their lives seems to get subordinated to the practice and play schedules.

  • None of the students I work with is working their part-time job in their anticipated, adult career. Behind sports, work seems to get the next time grab. Even asking a student to notify an employer a week or two in advance of a need for a day free, is met with resistance from most students.

  • Success in our common goals (right college, right price, graduate on time with the right degree) can be valued, literally at thousands of dollars of savings, plus a college education with purpose for the future.

Bottom line: Commander Carroll's video is an admission of poor priorities, as well as testimony to the value of his military academy education.


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Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as college planning.

Why Campus Visits Deserve Your Time and Energy

Campus visits matter a lot!
According to the prestigious non-profit,
Complete College America, the second factor in students needing more than four years to complete their four-year undergraduate education is transferring from one college to another.

That is often precipitated by a change in major; which is the number one reason for prolonged, undergraduate education.

One extra year of college, in many instances, is the cost-equivalent of the first four years. You can look for the white paper, "The Four-Year Myth" (, and learn the details. I have also posted a 6 part series on the subject. You can check those out here - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6.

There are a few "must-do" activities every prospective college student must complete during their high school years (and before they start 12th grade). 
I have those detailed in my book
College is a Consumer Purchase, 2nd edition (now available for purchase on amazon). Among those are strategic, campus visits.

Remember, students live and work at the college of their choice, for weeks on end. If a student is not more than comfortable on that campus, it is nearly inevitable that he or she will leave hopefully to transfer rather than drop out. 

"The" pandemic (you know of the one I mean) further complicated campus visits. My current students, rising seniors in high school, are scrambling to complete a strategy for campus visits; one that has proven powerfully effective for more than a decade. The reason for the scramble, of course, is that college campuses were closed to visitors for more than a year. A virtual tour is great. In fact, it is one of the responses to COVID-19 lockdowns that represents an advancement. I am a fan! However, the virtual must, eventually, be followed up with the in-person inspection.

My recommendation to you is actually an urgent appeal. Whatever plans you have to change in order to fit in at least six, meaningful campus visits before high school resumes (August?), do it. The consequences of slacking off may include:

  • Great(er) anxiety a year from now (or whenever the student starts college),
  • Increased likelihood of transferring colleges,
  • Costs of a college education rising more than 50%, to as much as double.

Listen, you may be making a mental list of reasons why you can't align your summer to a heavy, campus visit schedule. Consider, as a counter-balance to excuses, that this is the most important decision for nearly every family. It is your student's first step along the adult path of life. My prayer is, that step will be made confidently, on the best path among the many choices facing you.


Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as Campus visits, college planning.

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.

Paying Your Way through College — Financing Options Available in the US

It is no secret that college education in the US is expensive. In fact, most students in the United States require student loans to finance their education. There are two types of financing solutions available to them -- federal student loans and private student loans. Even though most students choose to go with federal student loans, looking at other financing options available can help you select a financing option that works best for you.

Federal Student Loans

The five types of federal student loans include:

1. Direct Subsidized Loans

A direct subsidized loan means it is funded by the government. It is a cost-effective loan, allowing undergraduates to borrow money for tuition and related expenses. With a direct subsidized loan, interest does not accumulate for the student while they are enrolled in an undergraduate degree program, including for six months after graduating.

Interest begins to accumulate after the grace period, which means the student needs to start making the required payments unless they get a deferment. Direct subsidized loans are based on the student's or their family's financial status. For this reason, it is difficult to qualify for this loan.

2. Direct Unsubsidized Loans

A direct unsubsidized loan accumulates interest over the lifespan of the loan. The student is responsible for paying off the loan with interest. Interest can add hundreds and sometimes, even thousands of dollars to the total repayment amount.

3. Parent PLUS Loans

The Parent PLUS Loan is available to the parents of the undergraduate student. It offers a fixed rate and flexible loan limits. Parents can only qualify for this federal loan if they have a good credit history. A bad credit card history is:

· Current delinquency of 90 or more on over $2,085 in total debt.

· Over $2,085 in total debt in collections or charged off in the previous two Read more

Posted in College Planning. Tagged as college, college planning, Financial planning.

Money for College -- Dangers Lurk

Beware of Loan Programs with Fine Print

A recent email arriving in my inbox was from a major credit card company offering money for college expenses. Forgive me for stating the obvious but, be careful!. That link recounts just one of the snares awaiting families who fail to exercise the utmost caution when dealing with the very emotional issue of sending a child to college.We offer a helpful (dare I say vital?) & objective perspective. We are good at "finding money." Call us. Read more

Posted in College Planning. Tagged as college planning, college planning strategies, money for college.

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