Debbie Stier thought she could motivate her son if she climbed into the SAT trenches with him. But what started for Stier as a scheme to rescue her son from "sliding by", became an obsession to superscore her way into the 97th percentile. One small traffic accident, a television purchase, an apology note written in "SAT words," a crisis in which her children moved out to live with their father and a large dose of humble pie later, Stier's enslavement to the SAT bore fruit. Most importantly, she was deemed by her son to be "the best SAT mom in the whole world." And seven -- yes, 7! -- SAT's later, she wrote The Perfect Score Project to share all she had learned -- from test prep and "bubbling" techniques to the secrets of snacking. But it's more than a book about standardized testing -- it's an intimate story of a family, a self-help book and a tale with a happy ending. We're a sucker for that combination.
Stier joins us today to answer our questions about her journey down the rabbit hole of answer sheets, the best free resources for preparing for the SAT, test day tips, the funniest thing that happened to her on the way to a perfect score and more…
Mary Dell Harrington of Grown and Flown joins us today to talk about the ups and downs students -- and parents -- weather as the wait for regular decisions winds down. It's always nice to have a fellow traveler with whom to share the experience. Read on for a friend's perspective...
Thick or Thin Envelope?
Welcome to the end of the waiting period, the last few weeks of March where kids who applied to colleges via regular decision still remain in the dark about whether they will receive the “thick or thin envelopes.” Our youngest child is one of those seniors and she (and I) know that the April 1 notification date is no longer some distant date in the future. It is practically now.
I have been down this road before with our son and his friends when they graduated from high school five years ago. I work as a PTA volunteer in the snack bar where we sell bagels, Snapples, and a host of comfort foods to hungry kids. From mid-December on, seniors accepted via early decision bounced up to the counter wearing new logo sweatshirts and broad smiles, expressing relief that it was all over. They could now finally begin to imagine themselves the following fall in Syracuse or Nashville or wherever. No more wondering, no more work to do.
When a $60,000 tuition bill is called a discount on a college education, blogger Jane Kulow wonders what they're smoking... In The Price of College, Kulow looks at the college cost learning curve parents must face. Her savvy recommendation that families look closely at the values and financial health of schools, as well as advice about what parents should ask about how colleges arrive at their "net cost" is recommended reading for all. See the whole column here.
Lisa Endlich Heffernan of the excellent blog Grown and Flown has some great advice for students -- and parents -- about best behavior and student etiquette so the college application process carries you where you want to go.
The college process is a long campaign -- it can be exhausting, distracting and anxiety-producing. So good manners should have a place of prominence. But it is all too easy for an overwrought, otherwise distracted teen to forget what they have been taught. As a parent I was often distracted by the details of the process, too, and failed in my job of reminding my sons to mind their manners along the way. So here are a few reminders, I wish I had had.
1. Teachers need to be asked for recommendations the old fashioned way. Writing recommendations is a time consuming process and yet a good recommendation is key to a good application. If possible, students need to ask their teachers/counselors/coaches for recommendations in person, showing that they are willing to make the effort and that their gratitude is genuine. Email is okay for a follow up thank you and to convey more information, but a handwritten note goes a long way.
John Carpenter has advice for the college lovelorn in this month's guest blog.
Don’t do it. Don’t fall in love.
It’s the month of love, and you’d have to be blind or an old grump not to see the messages everywhere, brandished in hot pink letters and decorated with cupids and hearts. I particularly like those little candy hearts that have messages stamped on them such as BE MINE, FOREVER YOURS, and YOU’RE A CUTEY. And of course, because just about everything in this world makes me think of college admissions, February is a month that is also very much connected to what juniors and seniors are going through in that regard.
For seniors, this short month feels like the longest month, and for juniors, February means watching what seniors are going through while beginning to get serious about their own college search. For both groups, the messages of love are everywhere: view books, websites, college fairs. Pick me! Apply here! Make us your first choice! And my message to you:DON’T DO IT.
Don’t fall in love.
With a college.
Not quite yet.
Hello, second semester, senior year. After the last few months discussing college applications, the focus now shifts to financial aid applications.
Parents often ask whether these applications are worth the time and trouble. My short answer: Yes. These applications offer the possibility of funding a college education -- grants, loans, and scholarships. (A number of colleges use the FAFSA and CSS College Profile along with the student’s file to determine merit awards or scholarships.)
As Michelle Obama recently said to northern Virginia high school students and their parents, “Don’t leave money on the table.”
FAFSA—Every college, from a local community college to a very selective private college, requires the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA determines a student’s eligibility for any federal aid, whether grants, subsidized loans, or work-study funds. The application is free; the 2014-15 school year version became available January 1, 2014.
Do your parents work in the beverage industry? Are you from Malta? Do you have a part-time job? Well, college advisor Alice Kleeman wants to talk to you about scholarships. Don't assume there are no scholarships available for a student like you. Read on for her excellent advice and some new ideas about what might be out there for you...
“Yeah, that’s if your family has NO money …”
“You have to have straight A’s to get one of those, right?”
“Oh yeah, those are for basketball players and other athletes, aren’t they?”
“Well, sure—if you’ve done four years of community service without stopping to breathe, you might get one!”
These are the views some students have about scholarships. And believing that scholarships are only for the top students, athletes, and those who serve might cause them to miss out on opportunities!
In the 19 years I have been administering scholarships, I’ve seen the most amazing opportunities -- opportunities to earn scholarships ranging from $500 to ten or even twenty times that amount and for unusual and even quirky talents, interests, and goals.
College advisor Alice Kleeman is back with advice for seniors on what you should be doing to pay for college. Remember it is you, the student, who applies for aid. But families need to work together to obtain the best result. Here are this month's financial aid reminders:
* Check with your high school counselor about financial aid evening workshops scheduled at your school or in the community and attend with your parents!
* Complete the FAFSA, reading all instructions CAREFULLY! You do NOT have to wait until you and your parents have filed your income tax returns; you may use estimates on the FAFSA and then update the information once you have filed your income tax forms. It is better to file on time with estimates than to file late!
* Submit your FAFSA electronically as soon as possible! Once submitted, the colleges you have listed and coded will receive your information electronically.
* Each state also has its own FAFSA deadline, which in many cases is different from the federal submission deadline each year. Make sure to submit your FAFSA by your state's deadline or as soon as possible after the first of the year to get the most financial aid possible. Deadline information can be found here.
It's not over 'til it's over. Seniors, you may have submitted your applications and caught up on your sleep, but -- apologies! -- there are still some things you need to do. High school counselor and author John Carpenter joins us again this month with some helpful reminders.
January… For most seniors that means applications are finished. Submitted. Done.
Submitting your application is only one part of this process. Most kids, I will admit, exhale a big sigh of relief after they've submitted their apps. They either celebrate that the deadline has been met or sleep for two weeks. And while both options are perfectly acceptable, there’s still a little more to do. It’s called follow-up.
Here’s a list of tasks to be sure to take care of AFTER you submit your applications: