Tuesday's Tips

Each week we will add a new tip to help you with your scholarship search, college application or funding a college education.

 

SAT/ ACT Prep
February 7, 2017

While college admission applications are completed and many scholarship deadlines have passed, today we will focus on our future applicants, those who are underclassmen in high school.  Let's look at testing.  While how many times you take the SAT or ACT is n individual decision., there are some folks who suggest taking it as many times as possible (or however much you can afford).  The reasoning is getting comfortable with the test usually helps improve your score. One thing all experts agree upon is taking it early enough in your junior year, so you allow the time for retakes if necessary. 

The next SAT will be March 11th test and regular registration ends Friday, Feb. 10th. Visit  https://sat.collegeboard.org/home  to register or get more information about the test.

The next ACT test is this Saturday Feb. 11th but it's too late to register.  The next exam is April 8th with a registration deadline of March 3rd. http://www.act.org 

A great SAT/ACT prep resource for Military Families can be found at http://www.eknowledge.com/Affiliate_Welcome.asp?coupon=3A8E9CEFCE This site offers free SAT/ACT prep material for students.

Remember, it is never too early to prepare for college.

Lessons Learned the Hard Way

January 31, 2017

It has been a very busy here at WOASF with our pre-qual deadline tomorrow.  We have processed over 300 pre-qualifications to date, with more still pending. There are a few things we have noticed over the years and wanted to give you a heads up as you move on to this process... 

Follow up! This is good advice that applies to almost all aspects of your life, but truer words could not more important in the application process. Don't assume just because you requested that a transcript or letter of recommendation to be sent that it actually was sent. Our applicants are very lucky in that they can access the "summary of application" page 24/7.  If you notice the day before the deadline that your are missing a letter of recommendation, follow up with that person.  Don't assume they will get it done in the last 12 hours. Maybe it is time to ask someone else to fill in last minute.  Even though you have asked someone to help you through the process, ultimately it is your responsibility to ensure that everything is submitted on time.

Do it yourself! While your mom or dad think they are helping you out by filling out part of your application, in the end it doesn't usually work out. We can tell that they wrote your essay or that they missed a vital part of the application.  Since students are very comfortable with the "online world" and in particular filling out online applications (all those for college), they know best how to navigate them. Last year, I spoke with a dad, who said "he just finished submitting his daughter's application" and unfortunately for him and her, he missed a part. A teen who has already submitted several college applications would have known the difference between an "official" and unofficial transcript and would have submitted the correct documents. Unless you are packing mom in your duffel bag and bringing her to college with you, it's time to cut the cord and stand on your own two feet.

Take Responsibility! This goes hand in hand with the other two.  If your application is incomplete, it is your fault; not your teacher, not your guidance counselor, yours!  It is your application and therefore your responsibility.  You would be shocked as to how many calls we get when a student has an incomplete application and the parent blames everyone under the sun except their child. Which brings us back to follow up...

While most of our applicants did everything they were supposed to in a timely manner, there are always a few that miss something and then complain about it.  While missing out on scholarship consideration is a painful lesson, it is a good time for students to learn the valuable lessons listed above, so that these mistakes aren't made later in their lives and professional careers which could be even more costly. 

 

Be Prepared!

January 24, 2017

In the words of Scar from the Lion King - Be Prepared (take a break, watch and have a little fun).  

You never know what circumstances might come up that may delay the completion of your application.  It might be technical difficulties, human error or stormy weather, but if you prepare ahead of time, all that can be managed.  Don't wait until the last minute.  Websites have been known to have difficulties, internet connections sometimes go out, and your computer is always just one virus away from crashing.  Don't wait until 11:30 pm the night something is due to submit, get it in with days to spare and sigh of relief that you are done.

Even if you have done everything properly, what about those responsible for sending in your transcripts or letters of recommendation?  If they wait until the last minute they may experience technical difficulties, have a family emergency or maybe just plain forget about your request.  It is your job to follow up.  On the WOASF application site, you can check 24/7 what parts of your application have been submitted so you can see if things are complete and if they aren’t, follow up in a timely manner.  If you are getting near the deadline and missing a letter of recommendation, maybe it's time to ask someone else.

Finally, as major storms sweep through the country, it's always smart to consider the weather's effect on your application.  If schools are closed, counselors can't send out transcripts. That is not the problem of the scholarship foundation, it’s your problem.  If you were prepared ahead of time, your transcript would have beaten the storm.  However, even with all the planning in the world, mother nature can still wreak havoc.  If that happens to you, contact the foundation.  If you take some proactive steps, then perhaps considerations can be made.  If you wait until after the deadline is passed, you will probably find unsympathetic ears.  Remember, we receive 100's of applications from across the country.  We might not know about a raging storm in Colorado or flash flood in Florida.  Call us to let us know and perhaps we can help.  If you don't call and your application is incomplete, it will not be reviewed.  Failure to plan is planning to fail. Make sure your application is completed on time to maximize your chances of being selected as a scholar. 

 

The End is Near!

January 10, 2017

As the WOASF deadline for pre-qualification approaches (it is Feb. 1st  11:59 p.m. EST, that's three weeks and one day from now), I want to remind everyone not to procrastinate completing any application.  Online applications normally shut down at midnight at EST, if you are on the West Coast, plan accordingly.  Also, as the deadline approaches, many applicants may be trying to access the website at the same time creating slow response times or possible crashes. Don’t get caught in the fray, be early with your submissions. Scholarships may not accept late items due to technical difficulties.   

Another bonus of getting in applications prior to the deadline, there is time to correct any missing information.  If something didn't upload properly, or your transcript still hasn't arrived, you have time to correct it.  If you wait until the last minute, changes can't be made and you are out of the running. 

 

You're Ready, You're Set - Now Go!

January 3, 2017

Welcome to 2017!  Now is the time to get serious.  Many deadlines are fast approaching both for colleges and scholarships. WOASF pre-qual deadline is February 1st and if you need to request documents from BUPERS, it could take 30 days, don’t delay.

College acceptance letters are rolling in, but financial aid packages may not have arrived.  In the meantime, shore up your finances by applying to as many scholarships as possible (within reason). You can still get them in on time if you start now.  

Be sure to follow directions.  Many of you are closing in on first semester this month and some scholarships want transcripts after first semester is completed.  Please follow directions, don’t send the transcript too early.  At best, you’ll have to request another transcript (and pay for it), at worst, your applications may be discarded for lack of correct information. Colleges and scholarship organizations receive many applications and they need to start making cuts somewhere, if you don't follow directions you may end up in the circular file. 

The Days Before Christmas...

December 20, 2016

'Twas a night before Christmas and all through the house,

Not a creature was stirring, except the college-bound mouse.

Applications and essays were written with care,

In the hope that admission letters soon would be there.

The mouse was all nestled and snug in his bed,

While visions of college campuses danced in his head.

Then what into his dreaming head did appear?

But the cost of attendance for his freshman year.

How will I pay for tuition, board and books?

He knew in an instant just where to look!

Tuesday’s Tips was just a click away,

Providing many ideas on just how to pay.

With just a little more time, work and effort,

All his worries about money could quickly be severed.

Scholarships can relieve his angst and woe,

And will help him come up with some much needed dough.

So use your time wisely over this holiday break,

A lot of money could be at stake.

Just an hour a day can make a big difference,

Your parents will be so proud of your work and diligence.

Soon onto campus you will all slowly drive,

Wondering inwardly, “Will I survive?”

But with all of the challenges you soon will face,

As a scholarship winner, your money’s in place.

They’ll hear you exclaim as they drive out of sight,

Thanks Tuesday’s Tips, your information was right!

Happy Holidays!

Use Your Holiday Break Wisely

Dec. 13, 2016

 

Now is the time to get serious.  Many deadlines are fast approaching both for colleges and scholarships. WOASF pre-qual deadline is February 1st and if you need to request documents from BUPERS, it could take 30 days, don’t delay.  You have a few days unfettered with school work and extra-curricular activities,use them to your advantage!

College acceptance letters are rolling in, and some may also have their financial aid packages too, while others may not.  Take steps to shore up your finances by applying to as many scholarships as possible (see More Bang post below). You can still get them in on time if you start now.  Two submitted applications per month, will net 8 submissions by April.  That’s not overwhelming, is it?

Be sure to follow directions.  Many of you are closing in on first semester but won't be done until January. Some scholarships want completed transcripts after first semester is completed.  Please follow directions, don’t send the transcript too early.  At best, you’ll have to request another transcript (and pay for it), at worst, your applications may be discarded for lack of correct information. Colleges and scholarship organizations receive many applications and they need to eliminate applicants, if you don't follow directions you may end up in the circular file. 

More Bang for your Buck

Dec. 6, 2016

Applying for scholarships can be very time consuming.  Of course you if you are awarded one, the time is definitely worth the effort. But how can you work smarter instead of harder?  One way is to apply for several scholarships with just one application.  Much like the Common App for college, there are organizations who partner together to have one application (perhaps with a few supplemental items) that is then eligible for several scholarships. 

WOASF is one of those organizations.  With just one application, you can win several scholarships. They are not mutually exclusive, meaning it's not "if you win this then you can't have that", rather, you can win all of them if qualified. Take a look at our administered scholarship page for a complete list of scholarship partners.  

There are other organizations that use the same strategy, specifically, community foundations. There are many small scholarship programs or wealthy individuals, that want to award scholarships, but don't have the resources to conduct a thorough process. The community foundation can step in with an application and review system and assist the organizations award scholarships. Community foundations that may be helpful to our families are the San Diego Community Foundation, the Greater Seattle Community Foundation and the Hampton Roads Community Foundation.  They provide many scholarships with just one application.  But don't take too long to apply. Most of these applications are currently open and have deadlines in early winter. Work smarter, not harder over your holiday break, and you could be flush with scholarships come spring!

Keeping Focused

Nov. 29, 2016

Many High School seniors are starting to get their acceptance letters, and boy, are they excited!  While it is great news and a relief that you have been accepted to the school of your choice, “don’t give up the ship”. You must finish high school strong!

Many scholarships require transcripts with your completed first semester grades, so if “senioritis” has set in, you may lose out on thousands of dollars in scholarships.  The other BIG reason to keep your nose to the grind stone is AP exams and credits.  If you are a senior and currently enrolled in Advanced Placement classes, you want to get the most out of the experience and your test scores.  If your score qualifies, you can earn several college credits per test and in the end save several thousand dollars in tuition.  The extra bonus of earning college credit while still in high school is many large colleges and universities hold class registration based on the number of credits you have earned.  An incoming freshman with 32 college credits (earned from AP tests), will register before an incoming freshman with no credits and even perhaps a rising sophomore with only 30 credits.

Keep at it and finish strong.  Make the most of your high school classes for a firm foundation in college.

Thanksgiving Time is Scholarship Time

November 22, 2016

During your few days off for the Thanksgiving holiday, don't just use it to catch up on some much needed sleep and perhaps some football games.  This is high season for scholarships!  Most applications are now open (some with December deadlines) and have a few days off from school give you time to concentrate on your applications.  Here is a recipe for success!

Recipe for a successful scholarship application

  • Four years of rigorous classes
  • 3 clubs and activities
  • Dash of leadership
  • 2 letters of recommendation
  • 1 cup of well done essay* (see note)
  • Fold all ingredients gently together
  • Bake in a 1200 SAT oven for several hours
  • Sprinkle with confidence

Serve while hot to all scholarship organizations

*Essay Recipe

  • Take prompt and consider carefully your approach
  • Use good grammar and correct spelling
  • Inject humor if appropriate
  • Be sure to follow directions and word count
  • Let simmer on low heat for three days
  • Review, rewrite and review again
  • Submit when well baked

Happy Thanksgiving!

Junior Year - the never-ending uphill climb

November 8, 2016

Junior year can be overwhelming for any and just about every student.  Teachers and parents alike keeping reminding them that "this is the year", "this is your last chance to improve grades before applying to college", "this will be the toughest workload you've ever had".  The stress can be all consuming.

While Junior year is important, no student can do his best, if he is overcome by stress.  So here are few tips to ease the angst of junior year.

1. Let teens know it is about the effort. 

Sporting experts will tell you that we can master and control process, but not outcome. The focus, any coach will tell you, should be on practice and the mastery of skills. When students really try and put forth 100% of effort into studying, writing etc., then you should let them know you recognize their effort and what is to be will be. They will not always get an A, but if they are truly doing their best, you should both be proud.

2. Teach Teens to Talk to their Teachers

So much school stress comes from worrying what a teacher thinks, wants or expects. Anxiety is produced by conjecture. Learning to speak up and ask questions of a teacher, whether it is clarification on an assignment, an explanation of a grade or a request for more time is helpful in reducing stress. You cannot overemphasize to your student that teachers like to talk to students.

3. Provide a judgment-free zone

So much of teen pressure arises around fitting in socially and the myriad of pressures to conform. Teens feel this pressure every day just walking through the halls of their schools, let alone the hours they spend on social media each day. Home can be a true respite from the real or perceived judgments that teens feel in their daily lives with support from parents and siblings. As parents, try to keep your opinions to yourselves. Commenting on clothes, hairdo or acne, doesn't relieve any of your teen's stress, it just adds to it.  

4. Exercise and rest are important.

When we are busy, our time at the gym is usually the first to suffer.  This can be the same for our teens. Exercise is a great stress reliever, it produces Endorphins which elevates mode and can help your teen "face" the rest of their day.  And while activity is necessary, so is sleep.  Many students wait to do homework until later in the evening and then realize they have not given themselves enough time and stay up into the wee hours. Without the proper amount of sleep, their work will suffer and that creates more stress.

5. Remind them that are 168 hours in a week. It is enough to get everything done, with planning.

Research has shown that teens have an impaired ability to plan with the late development of their frontal lobes. While it is tempting to act as that frontal lobe for them, a better suggestion might be to model planning for them. Open up a calendar app and show them how 24 hours really is enough, or if not, what plans need to be abandoned. Sometimes committing their time demands to a piece of paper or electronic calendar allows them to literally see how they will deal with their responsibilities and have time for the things they enjoy.

 Juniors - We're putting you to the Test!

Nov. 1, 2016

You have finished taking your PSAT and are awaiting your scores, now what??  You could sit back and relax and see what happens in December when you receive your scores, or you could be proactive. At this point you have probably taken the PSAT one, two or maybe even three times.  You have a good feel for the test and while not perfect, those skills will translate to the SAT.  But what about the ACT, where is that practice test?  Well there isn't one.  So how do you know what the ACT is about and if it is the right or better test for you?  Most students score similarly on both tests, but there are some that do better on one over the other.  How do you know if you're one of these students? Take both tests to find out.

I always recommend taking both tests early in junior year (before March) so you can get your scores and then retake the test with the better score, hopefully gaining a few more points the second time around due to familiarity or more preparation. Here is great link that compares and contrasts the tests. FYI, all colleges accept both tests, so submitting scores from the best test you have will only help your application. 

For more information about prepping for both tests and timelines, click here. With adequate planning and prep you can max out the score you need to get into the college of your choice.  

The Essay

Oct. 25, 2016

Your college application is a compilation of facts and figures about you and in particular, your high school experience.  It is comprised of your transcript, test scores, perhaps details of extra curricular activities.  But how can you show the admission office your personality? How can you explain what makes you tick?  The answer is the college essay!

With some help from the Washington University in St. Louis, here are some helpful guidelines for your essay.

  • Choose an appropriate topic. Choose something real to write about - something you are passionate about. 
  • Remember your audience.
  • Focus on the chosen topic. Reflect on what you have to say so you exhibit depth.  
  • Feel free to be provocative or funny if that is truly who you are.
  • If focusing on another person, be sure to indicate in detail and in a reflective way how that person has influenced your life.
  • If you choose to focus on an event in your past, make sure it has relevance to who you are now.  Make the connection for your readers as to how and why this past event may have been a turning point.
  • Once it is written, proofread!!!
  • Read your essay aloud, does it sound like you?
  • Make sure it is your own work.
  • Submit the essay (and all other materials) on time.
  • Keep a copy of all submitted material for your files. 

As we have said time and time again, many applicants to colleges or for scholarships have very similar academic backgrounds.  It is often the essay that is the tipping point for success.  Don't "blow it off" thinking grades alone will do the trick.  Put your best package forward so you can rest assured you have done everything in your power to present the "best you" to the admissions board. 

College Fairs

October 18, 2016

We have all heard of and perhaps attended college fairs at some point.  These are usually hosted by a school system and many (sometimes hundreds) of colleges and universities attend, setting up information booths to attract students and perhaps get them to join a mailing list. These fairs can be either helpful or overwhelming for students and parents, but nonetheless seem like a rite of passage for a prospective college student and can give you maximum college exposure in a minimum amount of time. 

The one thing that is missing from these fairs is information about how to pay for all of these colleges. Some forward thinking cities may include a financial aid workshop, which will give you information about loans and grants.  If you live in Hampton Roads, College Night at the Virginia Beach Convention Center is Tuesday, Oct. 25th 5:30-8:00 pm. There will be two financial aid sessions at 6:00 and 7:00.  If you need more information about looking for scholarships, check out our links page - we have great list of search engines and over 50 military related scholarships. 

If you don't live in Hampton Roads, ask your guidance counselor about a fair near you.  It is a good place to start gathering information that college websites just can't provide. 

Guidance Counselors

October 11, 2016  

Get to know your counselor and make sure s/he knows you. You really only have 3 years to do this since s/he will be writing your recommendations early in senior year. Most counselors work 12 months and are available to meet over the summer.  Take advantage of this “down time” for both of you and let her/him know what colleges you have in mind, what you have accomplished in school, what you do outside of school etc.  Many counselors cannot only provide insight about where similar students have been successful with their applications, s/he may have some insights about how you can best present your application.

Counselors can be pivotal for scholarships as well.  Counselors know of scholarships that are available to a particular population of students; soccer players, Key club members, student government reps, etc. A counselor once told me he literally walked down the halls asking if anyone was part of the Big Brother/Big Sister program because he had a scholarship to give away and had no known candidates. This happens with many community based scholarships. By providing an updated resume to your counselor Fall of senior year, you'll be in the forefront of her/his mind during scholarship selection. This will put you in a better position for selection for any scholarships that cross her/his desk.

PSAT/NMSQT Coming Soon!

October 4, 2016

The PSAT/NMSQT will be administered in a few weeks, Wednesday, Oct.19th in most areas.  This test has two purposes.  It is given to most 10th and 11th graders as well as select 9th graders to provide a practice test for the SAT (which juniors will take in the spring). Please be aware that the Fall 2016 PSAT is the same new format and will reflect the restructured SAT (two parts each worth 800 pts.) . The test will include the following (click on the links to learn more):

The PSAT is also a qualifying exam for the National Merit Scholarship Program (this is for juniors only). Doing well on this test can move you forward in the National Merit Scholarship Program.  It is all automatic, no additional paperwork to fill out.  For more information about the PSAT/NMSQT click here. Some corporate based scholarships also use the PSAT/NMSQT for scholarship selection, so even if you don't think you can be a National Merit Finalist, always try your best, you may not know what it leads to.

Note: We suggest creating an email, that is used strictly for the college/scholarship process.  If you can start as early as the PSAT all the better. The email should be simple and professional - for example - last.first2020@gmail.com. You will get a lot of "junk" mail in your inbox during the college process and if you use your regular email you'll never get it back to normal again.  By creating an email specific to the process, once you are done, you can let it die a slow death and go back to using the email  that you love without fear of waking up each morning to 20 college solicitations.  It is also an opportunity to give your parents access to an email account that also concerns them (college process, financial aid etc.) In creating a different email everyone can have access to college information, without intruding on your personal email. 

College Vocabulary 101

September 27, 2016

While sitting at college night at your school here are some common terms that will be discussed. Increase your vocabulary now so you can be better informed during the session:

Early Action - applying to the college early (usually by Nov. 15th).  This process is usually less cumbersome and involves mostly grades and test scores. The school looks to see if you meet their profile and if so, you are accepted.  Many say it can give you a higher rate of acceptance. Some schools choose over 80% of its incoming class through this process, so if you wait until the final deadline, there may not be many open spots left. This is NON-BINDINGMany institutional scholarships are awarded based on the early action application.  If you are looking for a scholarship from the school, it's best to apply early action.

Early Decision - choosing your number one school and applying early.  You agree that if accepted you will attend that university and not apply to any other schools. You are basically committing with your application. This is a FINANCIALLY-BINDING agreement.

Cost of Attendance (COA) - This number will differ at each school.  It includes tuition, fees, room and board, books and materials, transportation costs and living expenses.  Of course each student will have a plus and minus on this number depending on how they must travel to and from school (car vs. airplane), what meal plan they choose, etc. but this number gives you a realistic idea of what that college experience is going to cost.

 Admit-Deny: process of ranking students who have been accepted to the college. ie. A college wants 500 freshmen, it sends 1500 acceptance letters and uses aid to entice the 500 most wanted students.

Scholarships – Scholarships do not have to be repaid. They come from many places including national, state, public, and private sources and are based on a variety of criteria such as financial need, academic or athletic merit, program of study, personal background/family heritage, etc. Every scholarship has its own criteria. This is free money and should be your first funding source.

Grants - Grants do not have to be repaid. The amount awarded is based on need, school cost, and enrollment status. This is also free money, however many times the student cannot control grant availability, the considerations are outside of his/her control.

Loans – Loans must be repaid with interest. Often, repayment is deferred until after graduation, withdrawal or termination of attendance. Both students and parents may borrow money to pay education expenses.  Please be aware, although student loans do not have to be repaid until after graduation, interest starts accruing as soon as the loan is initiated.  This can make loan payments skyrocket and therefore students and parents should consider loans carefully. 

Work Study - provides jobs for students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay educational expenses.  This is great program, but you must file a FAFSA in order to be able to qualify for work study at your school. Even if you aren't offered work study, visit the office on campus.  Many hours go unclaimed and they need additional students to fill all the jobs.

Institutional Scholarships

September 20, 2016

While this may sound a bit frightening, these may be the easiest scholarships to win- the ones offered right from the college or university you want to attend. Often these are merit based and if you have a GPA of X and SAT/ACT of Y you automatically get them. These awards usually don't require an additional application, the selection committee receives your application straight from admissions. If your academic merit meets the criteria, you are in the pool. Be careful though, sometimes you have to apply by an earlier deadline than regular admissions. 

Other institutional scholarships are a little harder to find and get.  Often they are based on a major/department.  You may have to search the school website and look further into department webpages. So what may be a quicker way to find these elusive scholarships?  Visit the school.  If that can't be done, then attend an upcoming college night in your community. Most large school systems host an evening in a convention hall and invite scores of college representatives.  While you are there ask them about scholarships, especially ones that may be either talent or subject specific.  They probably can point you in the right direction. Also, most colleges have admission counselors that are assigned to a particular region or state.  Contact them and ask about scholarships offered by the school. That will also show that you are truly considering the school and already trying to figure out how to pay the bill. 

As a military affiliated student you may also want to contact the Veteran's office at your prospective school.  They often have a scholarship list of both school scholarships and also military affiliated scholarships. 

Mark your calendars for the college night in your home town!

Narrow Down Your Search

September 6, 2016

As the new school year starts, many seniors will be asked - so where are you applying to school? Hopefully you have an idea of schools that interest you, but how can you learn more? Fall is high season for college representatives to leave their manicured campuses and visit high schools far and wide.  Your guidance counselor should have a list of schools scheduled to visit your school (or perhaps schools close by). Use your time wisely and go to their presentations.  This is a great time to ask questions and talk to someone who spends all day on campus.  They might even be your assigned admissions counselor (they are usually assigned by region) so developing a relationship now may come in handy later. 

Many school systems also host "college night" inviting dozens of colleges to one location in a resource fair. This is also a great place to talk to representatives and ask questions that can't be answered just visiting a website.

 

If your preferred schools aren't coming directly to your school, look on their website or give them a call.  They may be coming someplace close by and you can visit with them there.

Good luck and may you find a pot of gold at the end end of the rainbow!  

Senior Year - September Checklist

August 30, 2016

September is almost upon us so it is time to start planning for your month. 

-Register for the last SAT/ACT- the deadline is September 1st.

-Start writing your application essays.  Many senior English classes do this as an opening assignment, but it's a great time to get started on your own too.  Having something ready the first week of school will give you time for peer review, teacher review and rewrite. 

-Write or update your resume.  You will need to give this to your guidance counselor so they can write your letter of recommendation and you may also need to include one in a college/scholarship application. Remember to highlight awards, achievements, completed projects to show how you stand out among your peers.

-Narrow down your college choices. Hopefully you used your spring and summer to visit colleges and "got a feel" for which felt right to you. Don't waste your time or money by applying to too many colleges. After you have looked at a school's student profile, you'll know what is a sure thing/safety school, what is a good fit and what is a stretch school. Two schools in each category should work for most students.

-Gather your financial documents for the FAFSA filing - now October 1st! You'll need your 2015 tax information and your parents' information as well.  You may also have to fill out a CSC, a supplement financial form required by most private schools and some public universities.  This requires more financial information so be sure to take a look and get all of your necessary documents together before you sit down to fill it out (with your parents of course).

Enjoy your last fleeting days of summer - you're about to become very busy!

 

Moving and Education

August 23, 2016

Although we usually post information concerning preparation for college, in honor of back to school we are deviating a bit this week.  As military families, our lives include mandatory moves.  We don't usually get to pick when or where, but there are some things we can do to ease the transition for our students. Below are some valuable resources for students of all ages. 

When you get orders (or decide on your retirement hometown), head to the city (or county) school system webpage for information.  There you will find information regarding curriculum, graduation requirements etc. You will be able to compare what your child has already taken with new requirements and see how the old and new can be meshed together. 

Schedule an appointment with the school guidance counselor, this is a good idea at any age, but a must for middle and high school. Look at classes completed, standardized scores etc. to place your student in the best classes for him/her A student should be placed at the same level as their old system, until additional testing can be done at the new school to evaluate a new student. The Interstate Compact On Education for Military Children can help provide guidance. 

A great tutoring resource, Tutor.com  provides free tutoring for all dependent military students, including SAT/ACT prep.   Professional tutors are available 24/7 for help in 16 subjects as well as proofreading. This can be especially helpful in upper grades when parents no longer remember or perhaps never learned the complicated subject matters of chemistry or physics. They also provide assistance for college classes. Khan Academy is another free tutoring resource.

Finally, don't forget the School Liaison Officers (SLO's).  They act as intermediaries for families and their new schools.  Contacting them before you arrive in a new school district can be especially helpful as they may let you know about some common deviations between military dense areas and give you a heads up regarding important areas to discuss with the school's guidance counselor. 

We all know that as parents of military children we have many unique challenges, but armed with the right information, we can make educational transitions faster and hopefully easier. 

 

Testing, testing 123

August 16, 2016

The SAT has changed its testing format. It is now back to the 1600 score your parents are more familiar with but it is not the same test from 20 years ago. The “verbal” part (800 points) is made up of a reading test and a writing and language test (this doesn’t include writing an essay).  The math test (800 points) has changed in content.  There is an optional essay test that many colleges will require, but it is a different test and must be registered for separately, but can be taken on the same day as the other sections.   To get a preview of what the test will look like and how to best prepare for it, visit https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/inside-the-test.  It's free and has great information about the test along with sample questions. Also check out https://www.khanacademy.org/sat for SAT practice and skills.

Almost every college requires standardize testing, either the SAT or ACT. If you are looking to take the test one more time before submitting your college application, time is running out, especially if you are applying early action/decision. Click on this link for upcoming test and registration dates. http://sat.collegeboard.org/home  or http://www.actstudent.org/regist/dates.html  Remember it takes a few weeks for scores to be reported to the college so if you are on a November deadline, be sure to sign up for the October test (regular registration ends Sept. 1st).

SAT II - Subject Tests

SAT II are subject area tests that you can choose to take in areas which you can demonstrate knowledge and achievement (ie. World History, Foreign Language, Biology) .  There are 20 subject tests to choose from and several opportunities throughout the year to take them. However, SAT subject tests are not offered on all SAT test dates, and only a maximum of 6 times per year (please be aware that some tests are given only a few times per year).  You cannot take subject tests the same day as the standard SAT.

So why do you need these tests?  Many colleges and universities require them as part of the admission process. Other schools recommend them and some just add them to your admissions package.  The difficulty is knowing which colleges require them as part of the admission process. Since tests must be completed prior to January of senior year (to meet admission deadlines), plan on taking these tests spring of junior year or fall of senior year. If you are a junior, take the tests even if you are not sure if you need them, better to be safe than sorry. If you are a senior, you probably have narrowed down your choices and already know if your prospective college requires these tests. Don’t miss out on the college of your dreams because you failed to plan for the SAT subject tests. For more information and to register click -http://sat.collegeboard.org/register/sat-subject-test-dates

Attention College Students - The following Tuesday Tips will be for you!

College Move-in Day

August 9, 2016

Moving day is almost here. Below are some valuable tips and information for a smooth moving day.

Find out what’s there. Will your college provide a microwave and/or mini-fridge, or do you need to supply them (do you buy it outright or can you rent them from the school)? Find out if there are cable hookups, or if you’ll need to stream to your TV (remember the right cords). Finding out what’s available before you move in will help you conserve space when you start packing.

Get to know your roommate. Call, email or text and coordinate who is bringing what. You don’t need 2 coffee makers, 2 printers etc.; you just won’t have the room for all of it. Divide and conquer the supply list which will save both space and money. 

Get there early. Yes, this means that you might not get to sleep in, but it will be worth it to get the closest parking spot to the dorm. Not only will you save time unloading your things, you’ll be able to pick out which side of the room will be best for you. If possible bring a hand cart to move boxes.  Even great parking spots may be several yards away. You may also have to trek through courtyards and corridors.  Wheeling is easier than carrying.

Stick to the schedule. Most colleges go to great lengths to make sure moving day is organized. So make moving to college easy for yourself by following the schedule they give you. Talk to your resident life director to figure out the day’s plans. If new student orientation starts at 2 p.m., try and finish by then. Go to the events because it’s a great way to make new friends.

Stay hydrated. Water should be your best friend on move in day. The last thing you want is to be sick from not staying hydrated while unloading and unpacking. It will be hot and a bottle of cold water will make all the difference!

Keep it clean. Make a cleaning supply box and be sure it is one of the first items out of the car.  Give your room a good cleaning before bringing in your things.  A Swiffer will do double duty as a dry/wet mop. Make sure you get the bathroom, too.

Remember your key. Bring a lanyard for your key/keycard, and put it around your neck immediately. Many college dorms lock automatically, and you don’t want to be on the wrong side without your key.   

Bring a fan. Remember, you’ll likely be moving in the last part of the summer, so it will be hot. And sometimes, dorm rooms won’t be cooled down enough.

Pack a power strip. You’ll have lots of things to plug in (your computer, fridge, microwave, etc.) and most dorm rooms aren’t supplied with tons of wall outlets. Bring a power strip so you can get everything working properly.

Put function first. Before you start unloading your personal items, make sure that you and your roommate have the furniture just the way you want it.

The mattress dilemma. If you don’t like the idea of sleeping on the same mattress as someone else, bring your own mattress pad/topper. It will also make your bed more comfortable. Ask if you’ll have a Twin or Twin-XL mattress to make sure you get the correct size!

Use a moving checklist. Check your university’s website for a packing list.  It will have a complete list of do’s and don’ts (like NO candles).

Watch your stuff. Many times dorm managers will ask students to unload near the dorm, park the car somewhere else, then take your stuff in the dorm. If this happens, make sure you ask someone with you or someone you trust to watch your stuff while you park the car. Remember to watch your things while you’re in your dorm room, too, as doors are constantly open.  Label it. Label your boxes etc. with your name and dorm room.  Many colleges have volunteers to help you move your things inside and if your items get mixed up in the elevator with someone else, everyone knows where they boxes belong.

The breakable stuff. If something is breakable, you need to carry it in yourself. Don’t trust it to the students helping everyone carry things in. They’re trying to do things fast, and that can equal a disaster with your breakables.

Take notes. Along with cleaning, take a look at the dorm room before you move anything in. The Resident Assistant (RA) should give you a paper to list any damages or things that are missing. This way, you will not be responsible for those things when you move out of the dorm room. Look at the walls, furniture, and floor for stains and damages. Take pictures for verification.

Elevator vs. Stairs. If your dorm has an elevator, it will help you to move in quickly. However, sometimes the elevator can get busy, so using the stairs might be your best bet anyway. If your dorm doesn’t have an elevator, pack strategically for carrying things up the stairs.

Grab the toolbox. Bring some tools with you like a hammer, utility knife, pliers, wrench, screw drivers, nails, a tape measure, power drill, level, and duct tape. You never know if something might need a little fixing before you can use it. Beds that loft will need tools to be adjusted. However, some schools prohibit tools coming into the dorm b/c they don’t want any major construction going on.  Check the website for rules.

When it rains, it pours. If it’s raining on your move in day, bring a tarp to cover your items that are waiting to be taken into the dorm. Also, bring plastic bags to cover items as you carry them inside. If it has just recently rained, you may want to bring a tarp to set your things on as you unload them.

Say goodbye to your parents. If mom and dad are with you on moving day, it’s likely that they’ll be attending events geared just for them after you move into the dorm. When the time finally comes to say goodbye, be sure to give them a big hug, a load of thanks, and then have something to do immediately after they drive away so that you won’t feel lonely or sad.

Good Luck!

 

Don't Leave Home Without It!

August 2, 2016

There are several major discussions you need to have with your new college student before rolling onto campus.  Two that we will focus on is health and money.

Most students go along blissfully in life with their parents managing doctors and dentist appointments, taking care of prescriptions and refills.  In college that may all change.  First, do you need to buy the student health insurance from the college or can you use your insurance while there? This is a very important question which needs to be answered before arriving on campus.  If you can use your insurance, what services can your student get while on campus? Some schools give complete reciprocity with fully insured students, while others give them limited access. Can they go to the clinic for just a routine cold, sure, but if they need blood work will they be sent out in town and if so, where do they go, how will they get there?  You may think this would never happen to your very healthy child, but colleges breed all kinds of problems; mono, meningitis, STD’s – how will your child get treated?

Once they find treatment, either on campus or off, do they know the information necessary to fill out a basic questionnaire- starting with the insurance number, then moving onto personal and family history etc.?  When did I have my tonsils out, when did grandpa have his heart attack, what medicine am I taking for my acne?  These are questions they need to know and be able to provide even when they are not at their best.  Accidents happen off campus too, so can they show up at an emergency room and give the proper information? You may want to do a test scenario before they leave the nest.

If they do wind up getting sick, needing prescriptions or treatment beyond your insurance plan how will they pay for them.  This leads us to topic number two – money. Debit card, credit card, cash only – what’s the best way to handle it?  Money is the one thing we avoid talking about at all costs, “It’s not polite to talk about money, dear”.  But you need to. Will you make a deposit into their banking account each month or send them a check to cash on campus.  What about emergencies? Debit cards with a credit card option are fairly safe (you can only spend what is in the account) and can help students learn how to manage money. It is difficult for anyone under 21 to get a credit card, and still difficult even after 21. Using a debit card freshman year will give your student practice in money management (and you monitor at home).  Then maybe sophomore or junior year you can move to credit card, but that’s a topic for another time.

How to get everything to your college

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Each summer thousands of students pack up the family mini-van and head off to college. But what if you don't have a big car, or are flying to college, how do you get all of those dorm supplies to your new school? Enter Bed Bath and Beyond's Pack and Hold program. This ingenious program let's you shop at your home store and then pick up your items at the store closest to your school. No shoving comforters and microwaves into the back seat.

Here's how it works- Take your dorm list to the store, go to the registry department and get a scanner.  Then scan all of the items you wish to add to your list.  When done, the list is sent to the store closest to your school and you provide a pick up date.  Upon picking up the items, they are boxed and ready to go for you. No need to go up and down the aisles.  The nice thing is you can shop early while the selection is greatest, and get what you want because they box up your items as soon as you submit your registry.  The other bonus is, if you change your mind, just take the item out of the box.  You only pay for items once you have decided what you want to truly keep. Plus you can use all those handy 20% off coupons at check out.

Another idea is Wayfair.com.  With free shipping and excellent customer service, you can order items a few days in advance and they will be at school when needed.  Many schools have a mail service that will hold bulky items for pick up. Other stores like Target have many items that you can buy online and then have shipped to the closest store to the college, but items can only be held for 4 days, so you have to wait until almost the last minute and your selection may be limited. 

While we are not endorsing Bed Bath and Beyond, Wayfair or Target for your purchases, their programs can be a great resource for college bounds students.

Timeline for Senior Year (August)
July 19, 2016

You may have seen the first "back to school" commercials and thought - ugh -not yet! But back to school is right around the corner and for rising seniors, it is already here. While you may be doing summer assignments and starting the think about balancing school, extra-curriculars and keeping that summer job, there is something else lurking on the horizon - COLLEGE!

Here's what you need to do this month (August) to get started so you stay ahead of the curve and sane during your senior year:

AUGUST

  • Register for your last SAT or ACT test (if needed). If you are applying early action or early decision you are going to need to take the October test to have scores reported in time.
  • Call or email your guidance counselor and schedule a meeting now!  Your counselor may or may not know who you are and even if they do, probably don't know about all of your accomplishments.  Bring a resume (I'm not kidding) so they can write or speak intelligently about you. This is also a good time to ask about the transcript request process, lead time etc.  You don't want to wait to find out it is a 10 day turn around for transcripts. Tell them what schools your applying to and if they have any good advice.  Most of them have shepherded hundreds of students through the process, they may have some helpful information.
  • Schedule campus visits.  While August isn't the ideal time to visit (few students on campus), it may be the only time you have.  Many colleges shut down scheduled visits for a few weeks at the beginning of the Fall semester, so check now to see when tours are available and get on the list.
  • Start an application. The common app is open and most college applications will be available August 1st.  Wouldn't it be nice to have all the personal information already filled in while you are still relaxing and have extra time in the summer.  You may even be inspired to start your essay, which is great.  You'll have plenty of time for rewrites and to share with your English teacher (or other professionals). You have time, they have time, seize the moment, once school starts everyone is involved in a flurry of activity.
  • Ask for your letter of recommendation.  While most teachers are still enjoying their summer breaks, they do still check email, especially as the start of the school year approaches.  Asking them for a recommendation now gives them time to write a meaningful letter, not a form letter with "insert name here".  That often happens as application deadlines get closer.  Some teachers even say, I'll only write 20 letters, be first on the list, don't wait and get shut out. The worst a teacher can say is no, but probably they'll be impressed with your planning and time management and that's one more thing for them to extol about you in their letter.

 


Let the Search Begin
July 12, 2016

It's mid-July and maybe you're enjoying some time on the beach or at the pool.  Maybe you're working at a summer job or working hard on summer assignments. All that is great, but now is the perfect time to begin your scholarship search. Why? You have some down time, senior year will stat fast and furious and you'll be knee deep in assignments and college applications, you'll have a hard time completing scholarship applications, let alone have time to find them. Use this time to get ahead of the curve.

Some great places to begin are college and scholarship search engines (you can do it through your web browser, but that might take a bit longer).  Begin with schoolquest.org cappex.com  bigfurture.collegeboard.org or fastweb.com, Don't forget to create a college specific email (john.smith2017@gmail.com)  when creating accounts on these pages since you will get dozens of emails weekly.  Once you are done with your college process (end of senior year), you can let that email just fade into the sunset. The best thing about the first two sites is that you can save your search and revisit it as time allows to review opportunities.

Once you start looking, there could be hundreds of scholarship for which you are “eligible”.  It is time to start narrowing them down.  Look at the selection criteria and be sure that you have strong credentials in each of the areas. If they ask for a GPA of 3.75 and SAT scores of 1200 and you miss both by a lot (3.0 and 1050), move on.   National scholarships may have huge awards, but they also have tens of thousands of applications, will yours be strong enough to compete?  If yes, then go for it.   Big scholarships like Coca-cola and Gates Millennial  require several steps and need to be started early, deadlines begin in the fall. However, if this is not your kind of competition, concentrate your time and energy on scholarships that can be won. 

Start close to home; look at schools, churches and civic groups in your area. Find scholarships that have something in common with your life. Ask friends and teammates who have already graduated what scholarships they've won.  If you have similar backgrounds/talents etc. you may be a strong contender this year.  Look to see if your employer (or your parents’ employers) give scholarships. The idea is to go after scholarships with the highest applicant:winner ratio - 20 applicants and 2 winners - great; 200 applicants and 2 winners, not so great.

Create a spreadsheet (similar to the one here) to keep track of deadlines and scholarship application components.  If you can reuse letters of recommendation or essays from one to another, you're ahead of the game. Just be sure to send exactly what it is required.   Some "scholarships" only require sending in a postcard and they draw a winner every month.  It's that easy. Start with the simple ones and then work your way up to more complicated applications.  

Finally, search early and search often.  Websites are constantly being updated and a scholarship posted next week, won't show up on a search today.  Click on our links page for more than 50 military related scholarships. Then check back next month, you never know what will be added.

 

 

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