Skip to content

Our Blog

Avoiding Unemployment After Graduation

  • Our Blog

“How To Link College Studies to Actual JOBS – Avoiding Unemployment After Graduation

One of the biggest challenges facing many college and university students today is not necessarily the substantial work of higher education itself – but the fear of what comes after graduation! This is especially worrisome in a current economic climate which has large numbers of college students facing unemployment (or, equally as concerning, UNDER-employment) after the completion of their university studies. After all, one of the main points of higher education is to prepare a young person for a brighter professional future. Nobody – neither parent nor college student – really wants to finish a hard-earned degree and be forced back into living with parents or working at a dead-end job.

With that in mind, this month’s newsletter is focused on practical suggestions for your student that will affect both his or her future college career, as well as parlaying that educational experience into gainful employment once the degree is completed. Entering college with this type of thought process in mind – even if a student does not know what to major in at the outset – can make all the difference for developing professional options after graduation.

It is important to remember that the undergraduate years of college or university last, ideally, four years – which is the same amount of time that a student spends in high school! Just as parents often have to marvel at how quickly the years of high school pass, there really is no slow-down once the years of higher education begin. In fact, in our experience, they can even seem to speed up a little! This is, of course, all the more reason to be prepared for the important steps that come afterward.

This month’s newsletter will offer some things to consider – and equally as importantly, some things to avoid – when it comes to making the most long-term use of a college education. We definitely see and understand the big picture when it comes to higher education, including the conceptual and social importance, as well as the practical elements that lead to a fulfilling and successful career afterward. College is a big step, and it is important to be prepared for it – as well as all of the steps that come thereafter.

Interests And Course Selection

In the past, we discussed majors and minors in some depth, but the topic is also extremely important in this regard. Yes, there are traditionally “marketable” majors that tend to have good hiring prospects after graduation – but that does not mean that all students should be pigeon-holed into an accounting program (as an example) just to make sure they get a job. For some students that would be a terrific option, if they have an appropriate skill set and interests in that field. For others, however, that major and career field would be sheer drudgery, and there are much better options. There are also, of course, majors that have significantly fewer (traditional) jobs on offer, so it is important to be aware of this.

This can be one area in which a double-major can serve a student well. People who are gifted (and passionate about) a field with some less-promising job prospects can often piggy-back that interest with another field. Combining unrelated fields (such as a foreign language and pre-professional studies, or music and sciences, or arts and business/marketing) can not only lead to more job options later, but also can increase the quality and breadth of undergraduate education. There is definitely a market for people who create interesting academic backgrounds and skill sets, and there is no reason not to pursue them!

Students who begin college without a major in mind, and that is a LOT of them, can still make wise decisions about their major selection by determining where their interests lie. That is the most important thing, because it is vital for students to know what they are truly passionate about, and how they would choose to spend their working years in the future. Once those things are known, then a foundation can be put into place for developing the beginnings of a career plan that will function during the years of undergraduate study.

Of course, the best thing is to have some of those decisions made during the high school years. Not everyone will do so, naturally, but college-bound students who leave high school with some of these types of answers will often find themselves in a better situation for career planning in the early stages of college or university.

Graduate and Professional Studies

Obtaining a graduate degree can be a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it can definitely lead to job prospects and a rewarding career if managed correctly. On the other hand, if pursued as a stop-gap measure to avoid unemployment, graduate school can also simply increase student loans and delay the inevitable. It is vitally important for graduate degrees to be pursued with a firm plan in mind!

There is also a semantic difference between graduate school and professional school, but it can go well beyond the definitions. Graduate school is traditionally a program leading to a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Sciences (MS) degree, or a doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree. The job market for these types of degrees varies wildly according to industry and academic fluctuations. Professional schools are usually specialized degree programs such law school (JD), business school (MBA), or medical school (MD or DO).

While it has long been traditionally accepted that professional schools offer the most post-graduate career options, which are expected to be more lucrative than graduate school, this is NOT always the case. The modern world provides a broad mix of exciting careers, and it is up to the student to determine which resonate most keenly with his or her interests and skills – and to determine whether the additional expense of graduate school or professional school will be worthwhile down the road.

Summer (and Mid-Year) Internships

One absolutely great way for students to determine what makes the most sense for their post-college careers is to seek out internships with college affiliated (or even non-affiliated) companies. These can be managed over a summer, or even in some cases during the school year. (Interested students should always ask whether or not they can receive credit for an internship, as well!)

Some internships are paid, and others are not, but in our opinion that element should never be used as the determining factor for the selection of an internship. The experience gleaned from a well-placed internship can be absolutely vital for determining whether or not a field truly appeals to your student. Far too often students make a decision that affects their future without first-hand information about what that chosen career looks like in reality. Having some actual experience can make all the difference in that regard.

Not only is the information from these experiences valuable, of course, but students who perform well during internships are often placed first in line for hiring programs after graduation at the companies who already know them well. All in all, it can definitely be worthwhile to look for internships that fit with a student’s interests and career goals… whether they come through the college or university, or whether the student finds the internship individually, the value can be striking.

Whatever You Do: Begin With The End In Mind

The earlier students begin considering their interests, their passions, their goals, and their options, the better off they will be. As college funding and admissions experts, we are pleased to offer a number of programs and tools to assist college-bound students in that regard. It is truly that important. Young men and women who arrive on college campuses with these vital bits of information – even if they are not entirely complete and/or ready to decide on a pathway for their education on Day One – will truly be miles ahead of their classmates in the long run.

The mindset taken toward the college or university experience will be one thing that will make a huge difference. Far too many students view college itself as the goal, and forget that there will be a whole lot of life thereafter! If the process of higher education is truly seen as an opportunity to develop interests and skills, and to create an enjoyable career post-graduation, then students will tend to excel both in school and in their post-college end. Whatever the ultimate decision about future careers might be, of course, parents have another sizable pile of responsibilities.


A Hitch in Financial Aid


There’s a hitch in the financial aid process this year, to be honest, it is a bit of a mess. The Department of Education is updating the process. The change started a few years ago and it is taking a bit longer than anticipated to complete. As of today, the FAFSA will be available sometime in December. The new design will be streamlined. We have asked our clients to get us the necessary information by October 15.

One change in the process is the required verification for FSA usernames. Previously usernames could be created as the form was being submitted, now there is a verification period of at least 3 days. Until we see the actual forms and calculations we will not know the full impact of the changes. It has been suggested that businesses and farms may be affected. The most significant change may affect divorced/separated parents. Previously the form was filled out based on where the majority of time was spent, it has been proposed that it will take in account the parent who provided more financial support.

There are a number of schools that require a CSS-Profile. Please note, those schools are typically more selective. The CSS-Profile is available through the college board website and requires information from both the custodial and noncustodial parents. The form is a deep dive into the financials of the family. Along with the CSS-Profile, there is often a request for additional verification or information that comes via the IDOC. The IDOC is also managed by the college board website. There is a fee for the submission of the CSS-Profile report of $25 for first and an additional $16 for each additional school.

With regards to deadlines, schools are making slight adjustments in deadlines. FAFSA may be due by January 15 but the CSS Profile may have a November deadline. We are asking our families to turn in their school list by October 15 so we can meet deadlines. Our senior families will be receiving an email and mailer later this week to clarify next steps.

Pick me! College Admissions Success

“How To Get Colleges To Fight Over YOUR Student

For Their Incoming Freshman Class

Setting up your child for college admissions success starts now. The Common App opened on August 1, with over 1,000 colleges participating. We work with families to determine the schools and application type that will be the best. While they might or might not be admitted to every single school to which they apply, these students find themselves in the enviable position of having multiple schools from which to choose. In the best circumstances they may also find the schools sweetening their offers to compete for their attendance! Here are a four specific tips to consider to help your student become a pursued candidate when the time comes for college application.

Strategy 1: Academics Matter

It should come as no surprise that schools are going to want to see academic performance when it comes time to apply. Kids who have been working hard on their schoolwork in high school – and have earned the grades to show for it – will often move up significantly in the admissions cycle of colleges and universities.

The bottom line is that students in high school need to take their high school transcript seriously. If they do, it will serve them well in the future. If there is anything that we can do to assist in making this foundation of your child’s college application as solid as possible, please let us know.

Strategy 2: Find (AND Develop) Talents

The most important thing is for students to actively seek the things that they can do well, and find their talents. This can come through school, through extra-curricular activities, through community activities, or even through their own reading and/or research. Granted, sometimes finding these talents comes quite easily. Other times it can turn into a bit of a longer search. Because of this, it is important to start early and identify some of these areas of emphasis as soon as possible.

Strategy 3: Do Your Best To Nail Those Admissions Tests

During the pandemic more schools chose to go ‘test-optional’ however these days schools are requiring a test. Please check the admission requirements and if tests are required, be sure to send in before your application is due. For underclassman, please sign up for the tests multiple times.

Strategy 4: Start Correspondence With Schools… Early

As soon as a high school student has come up with a preliminary list of colleges and universities that interest him/her, it is a good idea to request information from the institutions directly. It can also be helpful to contact specific departments at these colleges or universities, especially if there are areas of academic interest that the student might wish to pursue after high school.

These early contacts can definitely pay dividends later, especially since a student can become a “known entity” by the time the college application period rolls around. Departments may have scholarship opportunities, and may also have some input that can be of value for admissions committees.

Midwest College Planning is here to help with turning these plans into a reality – and when the time comes we are ready and experienced in working with applications, admissions questions, and all elements of financial awareness regarding the college and university years. We are here to help navigate the college admissions process for your student’s success.



Searching for the Right College or University?

“How To Find The Right College Or University

For Your Child…And His/Her Interests”

Dear Parent,

We are pleased in this month’s newsletter to focus on something that counts among the most exciting parts of the college preparation process. Yes, it is actually true – not ALL of the preparation for college is stressful! In fact, if you work with a good college funding advisor it can become an exciting and inspiring time, indeed.

With this in mind, we are pleased to provide you this month with some of our most valuable and helpful tips for selecting the optimal college or university for your child’s higher education experience. We have seen, through years of experience in the college application and funding processes, that many families seem to get a bit bogged down in what can become a highly competitive process, in a number ways.

It can be very easy for some students (and their parents) to focus in on such things as college rankings by news magazines, or the most competitive institutions, or even the old (and resoundingly ridiculous) debate regarding the inherent value of public and private schools. We are here to urge parents and high school students to make their college application decisions based on the things that truly matter… and also to be prepared both academically and financially, so that the best options available for a rising college freshman do not exceed the college budget!

There are some things that are undeniably important for the selection of a future alma mater – and then there are some other things that might seem important at the outset, but really matter very little in the long run. In addition, some of the things that might seem to influence a college decision in the early stages can actually turn out to lead a student away from his or her ideal program of study.

With that in mind, please review these important topics both now and as the time comes to decide on a college. They are important, and we see this each and every year in our work as college funding professionals – and remember that the selection of an application list (not to mention where your son or daughter actually attends school) are among the most important part of your family’s college preparation experience.


Selecting The Right Kind of College

Finding the right college can seem overwhelming at first, but breaking down the criteria according to your child’s interests and strengths can make the task completely doable. One of the first criteria to consider is the type of college. Along with thousands of colleges and universities, there are also currently around 1,500 junior/community colleges in the United States, so there is certainly not a lack of options! A lot of the options will be determined, of course, by how well your child performed in high school, on entrance exams like the SAT or ACT, and other variables. Colleges and universities have the cachet and offer excellent training, but there are some instances where a good junior or community college can work out well for a student – while allowing him/her to complete core credits that will transfer to many 4-year institutions later.

At the 4-year school level, there are also decisions between liberal arts schools, specialized institutes, full universities, arts conservatories, and technological institutions. With that in mind, some vital questions to consider will be:

1. Does my child want to go to a four-year or a two-year college?
Now, if your child wants to only go to a 2-year college or community college, or begin there and continue at a 4-year school afterward, then they should understand that they will receive an associate’s (2-year) degree. At a four-year college, they will receive a bachelor’s (4-year) degree. Depending on what their plans are for after college, they should consider what will be most useful and marketable when they plan to enter the workforce. In general, of course, graduates with well-planned out careers will make more with a higher degree.

2. Does my child have special talents or interests influencing his/her college selection?
As seen above in the listing of different types of 4-year schools, there are options for kids who are gifted in a variety of fields, from the sciences to the arts and almost everywhere in between. Because of this, it is important to see where your child sees his/her future career, and to determine the best possible location for him/her to pursue a higher education to achieve these goals.

3. Does my child want to go to a private or a public college?
As we have noted above, this is often a moot point, even though the private college or public college decision is a difficult choice for many. Many parents and students rule private colleges out immediately out of hand because they believe them to be far more expensive than public colleges. However, this is not always the case. Many private colleges actually provide a great deal more aid than public ones due to their private funding and support from generous alumni, etc.

For this reason, it is important to do your homework and not necessarily exclude private colleges simply because of ‘sticker shock.’ Private colleges have the reputation of being more selective, as well. This is also not the case across the board. It really depends on the school and one shouldn’t limit their possibilities based on faulty assumptions. For this reason, it is important to look at the education being offered, and get a full story on the actual cost of attendance for each school – whether public or private. Remember also that your college funding advisor can help you get a complete breakdown of these actual costs.

Do NOT Underestimate The Location!

Location is a major consideration for many incoming students – and for their parents, as well. In fact, many students and their families may find that it is one of their main considerations. If this is the case, it does offer an easy way to narrow down options for colleges.

There are several things to consider when choosing a college location:

1. Does my child like an urban setting?
An urban setting can be a wonderful college experience for many reasons. If your child has an interest in culture, urban colleges offer a variety of cultural opportunities. There are many museums, theatres, orchestras, and galleries that can offer inspiration to any budding artist. Most colleges set in cities are spread out throughout the city so often the city is the campus. This can be exciting to students who like to experience the busy pace and offerings only found in a city environment.

2. Does my child prefer a suburban setting?
A suburban setting can be nearly ideal. It is usually close to a major metropolitan city, but not directly in it. There is access to outdoor activities and also opportunities to get to the city for other events. These colleges are usually self-contained which is nice for students who prefer to have a feeling of community within the college.

3. Does my child like to stay in a rural environment?
Rural colleges can provide a terrific college life for the incoming student. These campuses are often self-contained so one really gets a ‘feel’ of what the community and college feel like. If your child has an interest in agriculture, a rural college may be just the place for him or her. Outdoor activities are plentiful in rural colleges so if your child has a passion for the outdoors then a rural setting may be a good choice.

Choosing What to Study

Choosing a major is very important because it determines what your child’s primary educational focus will be. The nice thing to know is that there is (usually) no immediate rush to choose a major. Many incoming students believe that they need to have their major chosen prior to entering college. It’s simply not true! One can even change his or her major midstream if the need arises, although this can add to the length of study in many cases.

However, if your child needs some guidance to get started on thinking of his or her major, here are some questions to consider:

1. What are your child’s favorite subjects in school?
Does your child have a blast in math class? Does physics come easily to him or her? These are just some questions to mull over while your child is deciding on what major(s) to choose college. The classes where they show the most aptitude may also be ones they might want to pursue in college. If their aptitude and enthusiasm for the subject are aligned then moving in that direction for a major seems absolutely the right choice.

2. Does your child have an interest in different subjects?
The nice thing about college is that one does not have to focus entirely on one area. One can double major or do a major and a minor in two different areas. This is a great option for those students who have strong interests in different fields.

Bearing these topics in mind as the high school years pass, and as your student begins to consider and research different colleges and universities, can help to make the process significantly less stressful. Looking at the things that really matter, and focusing on how to prepare your child to succeed at the next level, will also help to keep a lot of the background noise to a minimum. If you ever find that you are in need of insights or assistance along these lines, please remember that we as college funding and application experts not only will have proper answers, but we are always willing to help!

Want to stay up to date on college admissions and planning? Follow us on Facebook.
Until next month,

Extracurriculars & College Success

Organized, Extracurricular College Prep Activities:

What Are The Options?

For this month’s newsletter, we are pleased to present some of the extracurricular college prep options that could be worth considering for your child. They are, after all, EXTRA-curricular. Nothing is mandatory in this regard, but some of them could be helpful. Costs will vary from almost nothing to rather significant, so consider all of the options available! Remember also, if you have questions about these activities – or any others that you might come across – please feel free to give us a call. Our years of experience in this field can offer information that is not always available to parents, and it is a pleasure for us to share insights about college preparation activities and college funding details.

College Preparation Camps

One of the most enjoyable ways for some students to prepare for college is by heading to a college prep camp. These types of college camps are plentiful, can have a variety of areas of interest, and they are a wonderful opportunity for kids to gather together with other like-minded future college students and learn all about getting into college. Some kids go once, some go more than once, and of course some never go at all.

Many of these camps offer classes around personal statement writing, SAT/ACT prep, and finding the right college. These camps are often located in beautiful and scenic areas. While there are classes offered, there are still many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and have fun. The students get to work hard and play hard.

There are also pre-college enrichment camps. These camps are focused on giving high school students the ‘college experience.’ These camps are located on various college campuses. The camps give students a chance to see what it will like to live on a college campus. This can make the transition from home life to college life a lot easier.

In addition to getting a ‘feel’ for a college, students can discover what different cities are like. These type of enrichment camps are provided by colleges large and small and all over the country. Your child would get to know what it was like to manage a big city or see what a smaller town might have to offer.

Another advantage is that students can meet other students from all over the world.

University Tours/Visits

College prep is certainly not all studying for SATs and essay writing. One of the most exciting aspects of preparing for college is getting to visit the campuses of prospective colleges and universities. This is the ideal opportunity to learn first-hand what the university your child may attend is really like. Here are some tips to make the most of a university or college campus visit:

  • Don’t wait to discuss it – College may seem like it is a long-away goal for many, but it comes much more quickly than we think. The high school years are busy, full of activities and studying. Schedules fill up fast. Begin to discuss early on where your child might like to go to college. It can begin as early as elementary school.
  • Make it a two for one – Taking time out to visit colleges can be costly and time-consuming. If you are planning a family vacation, maybe schedule in a road trip that could cover visiting several colleges at the same time. This would allow you to have some relaxing downtime, but would also provide the opportunity to visit some campuses that are on your child’s list.
  • Leverage the internet – It may not be physically and financially possible to visit all the campuses in which your child may have interest. That’s ok! You can do virtual tours of many colleges. While it’s not as good as the real thing, it’s a very valuable tool to get a look at what campuses look like and what they have to offer.
  • Chat it up with other students – While on a campus visit, find a student who would be willing to sit down and answer questions about the college or university. Students currently attending a school are an extremely valuable resource. It may also be worth your while to speak to several different students. As we are all individual, one person’s experience may not fully reflect what the university or college is all about it. It would be a good idea to gather several different perspectives.
  • Reach out to different departments – Your child may already know what s/he would like to study while in college. This is a great opportunity to get a closer look at the school or department in which s/he will be spending most of his/her time. You could even ask if it would be all right to sit in on a lecture. Many professors would have no problem at all with it.
  • Check out student life – The student center and cafeteria may be place where your child will spend a good amount of time. It’s a good idea to check out both places to see what they offer and if it’s a place where your child would be comfortable.
  • Security – Campus safety is an issue on every college or university campus. You can ask to find out what campus safety measures are in place. It is imperative that students feel safe, so it is a good idea to learn whether or not campus safety is given the full attention it deserves.
  • Visit the financial aid office – Ask to make an appointment with a financial aid officer. You could also go in with a list of prepared questions. Each school offers different types of aid so it’s worth your while to sit down with a financial aid advisor to find out what sorts of options would be available to your child.
  • Check out the campus paper – Each college has a campus paper. This is a fun and easy way to get to know a college better. You will get to know what issues are currently being discussed on campus and what areas are most important to the students.
  • Take a lot of pictures – You may want to put your amateur photographer skills to the test when visiting a college campus. There are so many things to see and it’s nearly impossible to remember them all. Taking a lot of pictures will give you the visual reminders of what you liked about that particular college or university.


Once your child is in school, s/he will have to take a lot of classes towards a degree that will put them on the path of their career. However, if your child already knows (or has a pretty good idea) what s/he would like to do right now, an internship can be an excellent way to discover the ins and outs of an industry first hand. It can also be a great leg up when applying for specialized college or university programs later.

There are different types of internships, as well. Some are paid and some are not. It really depends on the industry and the particular company or organization. Getting an up close and personal perspective on how certain businesses are run will be extremely valuable to your child as s/he decides which career path best suits him or her.

Internships can also add a lot of weight to a college application. Acquiring and completing an internship shows prospective colleges that your child is motivated and disciplined. These are seen as valuable characteristics to any college admissions officer.

While many internships are available to college students, high school students can still find opportunities. A quick internet search can provide resources to different industries and areas where your child might find a position.


When looking at the above options – and many others targeted toward college-bound high school kids – it is important to look at all of the individual variables before making a decision as to what it right for your child. We operate the same way. We make college financial and application services the foundation of our work, and help families prepare for the best college options based on all of the important academic, personal, and financial details. This requires us to make personalized education the core of our activities.

Until next month,
marc signature

Financial Skills to Develop Now

“Financial Skills That Your Future College Student (&parent) Should Be Developing Now”

As college funding professionals it is absolutely imperative that we understand the college preparation experience from two specific perspectives. The first is the academic admissions process itself, so that we can help students optimize their experience in higher education for the brightest future possible. The second is the financial side of the process – without which the higher education experience is impossible to begin with!

However, we have seen time and time again that, in order for things to work optimally during the college years, the financial side of things CANNOT be left only to the parents. It is absolutely crucial that young people gain a respect for and understanding of money, of the costs inherent to college, and of the importance of their personal role in keeping the financial ship afloat during their college years.

It is no secret that college or university in America is an expensive proposition, and it does not appear to be getting cheaper any time soon. For this reason, the most successful students at the next level are going to be those who are able to excel academically, yes, but also those who are develop and implement good financial skills and decision-making throughout their college experiences.

We are aware that there are adults who have not learned some of these skills for themselves, or some who learned them later than others. This reality does not change the importance of young people learning these skills and responsibilities as early as possible, so that there are not additional financial hurdles that could cause a student to be unable to finish his or her college degree due to poor money choices. (Yes, sadly enough this does happen, and in most cases it can be avoided with some preventive work!)

Our main focus is on helping families and student to achieve their goals – this process becomes infinitely easier when the following skill set is understood and implemented early in a young person’s life. Should there be any additional questions about the points listed in this month’s newsletter, please feel free to contact us directly. We have many years of experience in helping families to make these processes work for themselves both in the home environment and away at school, and it is our pleasure to assist in making them work for you and for your college bound student!

1) Plan a Monthly Budget

Caring for one’s resources is an extremely vital skill. This skill can actually be learned from an early age and carried on throughout life, but it can also be learned later on if needed. Regardless, understanding and managing one’s finances is something that will become vitally necessary while in college. The immediate level of management will depend, at least somewhat, on where your child will be living. If your child is on campus and will be participating in a meal plan at the cafeteria then budgeting for food will be less complicated, for example. However, if your child plans to live (or eventually move) off-campus then budgeting will become even more important.

No matter where s/he lives, you and your child can decide together which things s/he will be responsible for purchasing. For example, your child may want to have money set aside for entertainment or travel while you, as the parent, may want to cover all books completely. Communication and planning are the key, here. Once you’ve decided who is responsible for what then you can move forward.

There are three things that should be considered when setting up a budget:

  1. Big Picture: What are your goals? What do you plan to do with the money you have each term or semester?
  2. The How: What will you use to manage your money? What tools or strategies work for you?
  3. The Gory Details: What are your spending habits? Do you need to adjust some habits to align with personal financial goals?

Answering these questions first will help while setting up a monthly budget.

2) Start A (GOOD!) Credit History

Getting started on a credit card for a newly minted college student can be a precarious venture for many young people. The fact of the matter is, that a college student WILL be beginning his or her credit history with the first year of higher education… for better or for worse. However, if the college freshman is responsible it can be an ideal time to start his or her positive credit history.

If your child is ready for a credit card then this might be just the time to get his or her credit history started. Getting this history started now will help your child down the road. When they are ready to rent an apartment or buy a car, a credit history will be generated and the longer it is with a clean record will make it easier for them to negotiate and find the best possible deals. There are many cards that have a very low credit limit, say $500, or so. This way your child can begin to work with the responsibility of paying a bill or two with the credit card and then pay it off each month to build positive credit history.

Guiding them to understand that the card is really a tool and not free money, this is the key! If they understand that it is to be used in a responsible way then this will help them stay on the right path. You can also assist by helping them set up online reminders to pay their bills so they are never late on a payment.

3) Learn to Cook at Home

If your child plans on living off campus then this will give them a taste of ‘real life’ right away. One of the great things about living on your own is the chance to cook for yourself. If your child learned cooking skills at home already then living on his or her own should be a snap. Cooking from home has so many benefits. It is healthier and saves a lot of money. There are many online tools that can help with meal prep, shopping guides, etc. There are also many videos that can give cooking basics if s/he is unsure how to get started.

Meal planning (and sharing with like-minded roommates, if possible) can also make a hectic schedule go a lot more smoothly. Between classes and studying, it can be difficult to set aside a lot of time to cook a fresh meal. If meal plans are done in advance then your child can meal prep and in just a few hours can have meals planned and ready in the fridge for a whole week. A little bit of planning goes a long way!

4) Track Expenses

Tracking expenses can be really tedious, but it’s also important. It gives your child a bird’s eye view of exactly what his or her spending habits are. There are several ways that you can track expenses. The good old-fashioned way is holding onto receipts and sorting through them at the end of the month. This is time consuming but helpful. There are also numerous apps that can link to your checking account that will file the purchases according to the names you’ve given them such as: rent, entertainment, car payment, etc.

Tracking expenses is a great way to see exactly where your child is spending his or her money. It is difficult to make adjustments and changes if s/he is unsure of where the money is going every month. This way, s/he has a clear idea of which areas are working really well and which areas could use some improvement.

5) “Do I Really Need This?”

This can be difficult for young adults and regular adults alike. Being on your own requires a lot of discipline and that is not always the easiest thing when someone is out of the house for the first time and are no longer under the direct guidance of a parent or guardian. It is important, however, to begin to develop the habits of self-discipline and self control.

There are many things in life that may look like a need (especially if we are to listen to marketers and advertisers!) but in reality they are actually a want. Delaying gratification and living without for a while can develop character in a young person. One question your child can ask whenever s/he is about to make a purchase is, “Is this a need or a want?” If it’s a want then it is important to have the maturity to be able to re-think the purchase again.

6) Keep the Future in View

There are so many changes happening when your child begins college. S/he is likely away from home for the first time. S/he is in a new place. S/he will have to make decisions about her life on her own. These are huge things! That is why it is so important to begin early, ideally before college, to encourage your child to begin with the end in mind.

Encourage them to have their own financial goals. It could be to save for a game or event or something smaller than that, but give them the incentive to see beyond the current moment. If they understand that their choices today impact their tomorrow then they may be more thoughtful and mindful in the decisions that they make.


Some of these tasks might seem more challenging than others for some people, but we have seen the efficacy of them in making the college experience work financially for young people and their families year after year. There is no question that they are an important part of the process of becoming an independent young person and setting the foundation for a bright future after the college years have ended.

Until next month,

Financial Aid Eligibility and Family Finances

“Important Money Decisions That
Can Dramatically Affect Both
Aid Eligibility And Family Finances”

As the academic year drags on it can seem unending to students who find themselves in a seemingly endless cycle of tests and quizzes and papers and projects. The purpose of all this work, at least for those forward-thinking students who have an eye firmly fixed toward attending college or university after graduation, is naturally to continue the educational experience at the next level. However, there is a lot more knowledge that is needed to optimize this opportunity than just the class work they are completing in high school.

As college funding professionals, when it comes to fully preparing for a child’s higher education – starting with applications and admissions processes, all the way down to the details of financial preparation for the college years – we are duty-bound to remind families of the best ways to focus on both ends of this process.

Honing in on the financial aspect of college preparation involved a significant amount of different types of planning. Families who fail to do so, whether it is because they are unfamiliar with the process, or because they simply did not get around to it, will usually end up costing themselves a significant amount of money and stress in the long run. Because of this, we take our work extremely seriously.

Because the completion of a degree is a vital springboard to a young person’s success, we deem it important to help families understand the overall consequences of their financial decisions in the years leading up to high school graduation and college. You see, there are a lot of potential mistakes that families can make during the high school years that would not seem like a problem at all – UNTIL they are viewed through the lens of college financial aid and preparation! Then, suddenly, a seemingly benign financial decision can have some quite significant consequences, indeed.

With this in mind, we are using this month’s newsletter to focus on some of the more important financial decisions that can have an effect on college aid eligibility and family finances throughout the years of higher education. Remember that circumstances can vary somewhat from family to family, based on income, family size, and other considerations, so the best thing to do when reviewing money decisions in the high school years can often be to discuss them with an expert on college funding.

1. FAFSA Filing and Income Tax Return

Many people assume that one cannot file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) without having first completed their income tax form. This is not the case. One is able to estimate their taxes so they are able to compete and file the FAFSA. It is actually very important to file the form as soon as possible because aid eligibility is determined on a first come, first served basis. One has the opportunity to update the tax details on the application as soon as the tax return has been fully completed.

2. Remarrying and Its Consequences on Aid

Single parents who plan on having their son or daughter having a high eligibility for aid for school may be in for a big surprise if they marry shortly before their child applies for college. The income for the new spouse will now be taken into consideration even if the plan was that the new spouse would not assume any financial responsibility for the child.

According to the Higher Education Act that came into effect in 1965, parents who have remarried must include the income of their newly married spouse and that income will be factored into the aid eligibility of the child. Not being aware of this law if a parent is counting on receiving a lot of aid may come as a shock. This is important to know and may help when making decisions about timing for big events.

3. NOT Applying For Aid (Because You Think You Won’t Be Eligible)

If you are one of the fortunate folks who are financially stable and secure, that is wonderful! The thing that you might not be aware of, however, is that your child may still be eligible for financial aid during the college years. This may only be an unsubsidized Stafford loan but this can make much more financial sense than any private loan, most of which are often loaded with more risk and higher interest rates.

4. NOT Listing Extenuating Circumstances

Life is nothing if not unpredictable, and the unforeseen can happen at any time. Someone in the family could have an accident. Or you could experience the death of a loved one. The loss of a job could be both emotionally and financially devastating. Many families who are hit by difficult circumstances feel embarrassed or unwilling to share details with their child’s future university. The important thing to know is that colleges are not staffed with insensitive robots who do not have any feelings or consideration for others.

If there have been extenuating circumstances that have occurred in your family, it is important to strongly consider sharing them with the college financial aid officer. In light of the new information, the school may want to reconsider or adjust your child’s aid package – after all, they are also vested in having their student body attend and graduate. Should you need assistance with the best way to manage this communication with an institution, a college funding advisor will certainly be able to help.

5. Buying a Vacation Home

If you are planning on buying a vacation home or other similar property, you may want to consider waiting just a few years until after college. This is because making such a purchase at the wrong time could adversely impact your child’s financial aid eligibility. Colleges will frequently look at recent purchases, like an additional vacation home, as “extra liquid assets.” This could severely affect the amount of money that your child could be eligible to receive, so it is important to make these kinds of major purchases on the proper timeline.

6. Taking Out an Equity Loan

Taking out an equity loan may seem like the right choice in the short term, but this could have a deleterious effect on your child’s ability to receive funds. Regardless of where the money comes from, these extra funds will appear to the financial aid officers as if there’s a substantial amount of cash ‘lying around’ and your child could be penalized for it as a result. This happens if the funds are taken out in a lump sum and added to the checking account. If you want to take out an equity loan, you could consider an equity line of credit – which is more akin to a credit card.

7. Managing Grandma’s Loan/Gift

Grandmas and Grandpas are wonderful. They have been known to do special and meaningful things for their grandchildren, such as providing sums of cash to help assist with college expenses. These gifts of cash, however, can have a detrimental effect on loan eligibility – especially if given at the wrong time. Unfortunately, depending on the circumstances, gifts from family members can make it substantially more difficult to receive aid.

However, if the grandparent decides to loan funds for college, they can usually do so without creating difficulties. They cannot, however, simply ‘call’ it a loan. It must be an official loan and they will need to charge current market interest rates on the loan. These funds, also, must be spent prior to the signing of the loan application. Failing to do so would result in the funds being included as an asset belonging to the student. This can be a complicated circumstance, and a college funding advisor can be extremely helpful in determining how to proceed with the generosity of relatives!

8. Including Retirement Assets

The FAFSA form will ask for the net worth of investments. They do not need to know about the assets in IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts), 401(k), 403(b) or other pension plans. Parents who list these assets not understanding that this information is not required could seriously damage their child’s chances for receiving ‘need-’based’ financial aid funds.

9. Including Home Equity

The home equity on your primary residence is not a requirement on the FAFSA as a declaration of assets. If parents do include this information on the form this could seriously affect the ability of a student to receive needed aid. However, there are some schools (around 200) – mainly private institutions – that will ask for such information on their institutional aid forms. For this reason, it is best to do the research on the particular schools that your child will be applying to and then you can decide how to move forward. Once again, a college funding advisor can be a godsend in these kinds of circumstances.

As you can see, there are a number of considerations that can play a role in properly preparing for the college years with regard to family finances. If you would like some personal assistance in that regard, especially with consideration of your individual circumstances, we would be happy to help however we can.

Happy Spring!
Until next month,

Higher education does count, if you do it right

One of the trends that we have noticed in the past few years is a growing uncertainty among some with regard to the idea of higher education in general. There are a number of folks who seem to have “fallen out of love” with the very idea of college or university studies for their children, and even the parents of some highly motivated and intelligent high school youngsters have begun to ask themselves some hard questions about the inherent value of an expensive undergraduate degree.

Well, as proud professionals when it comes to all of the details surrounding the preparations for higher education, we are able to view this issue from an inside perspective. We see the entire college experience beginning years before admission and the freshman year even begin for a student, and we follow them through each semester leading right up to the day of their graduation – further, we also track the post-college efforts of our clientele as they begin their careers or head off to graduate or professional schools. We are proud of their accomplishments and learn from the experiences of each individual.

So, with all of this insight gained, we are able to confidently reassure parents and high school students that graduating from college or university remains one of THE most important springboards to success for young people today. (Note that we used the term “graduating” and not simply “attending.” Finishing the process matters, as does how one goes about the process of getting there!)

Yes, college is expensive – and getting more expensive. Yes, it is an investment of time – and we never have enough of that. Yes, there are schools that would be a poor fit for some students – even prestigious schools can be a terrible place for some kids to study. Yes, there are kids who have rough experiences at college – and the news media breathlessly report on a litany of other unseemly situations that can arise during the college years, as well.

We are keenly aware of all of these challenges, as they affect us directly. Yet there is absolutely no question that a family and a student who are well prepared, who select the right school for the right reasons, and manage the processes of application, study, and graduation intelligently will be setting their child up for a bright future. In this month’s newsletter we are pleased to report on just a few of the many reasons that obtaining a college degree remains important.

With that said, we are aware that not every high school student will go on to attend college – over 30% of American high school graduates will not immediately enroll, and that number may actually be trending upward. Further, however, we also track the statistics regarding students who begin college ill-prepared and end up dropping out or having trouble, and we make it our business to help families and college students to avoid suffering these types of unfortunate circumstances altogether.

Our main focus is not on the overall statistics, however. No, our professional focus remains where it should be – squarely on the families who rely on us to help them optimally prepare for their child’s success at the next level of education. Here are just a few of the reasons that this next level of training is of the utmost importance for the development and growth of a successful future for today’s young people.

Reason 1: Critical Thinking and Responsibility

One of the most important reasons that attending college can make a huge difference in the life of a young person is their development of critical thinking skills. The amount of reading and study, if taken seriously, can expand these skills and assist a young person in obtaining a better understanding of the world around them.

Critical thinking, however, is more than just exposure to ideas and thoughts. Students who actually learn to think critically – especially in an academic environment – will be able to develop a voice for themselves, and be able to specifically determine and define why they accept or reject certain ideas, ranging from politics to social structures to artistic endeavors.

Furthermore, college allows young people to learn how to develop these skills and take responsibility for their actions. This is a vital skill that can only help them in their future careers at all levels.

Reason 2: College Life Can Be Amazing!

The college experience can be one of the most thrilling and exciting times in a young person’s life, intellectually, developmentally, interpersonally, and in many other ways. To miss out on this learning experience – or perhaps even worse, to start the process and have it fizzle out – is really unfortunate. There are other ways for people to learn, certainly, but very few offer the experiences of a first-rate college education that has been planned for success from the very beginning.

Some families have generations who have attended the same university, creating a legacy that is meaningful to them. Others have proud high school graduates who are the first in their family to be able to attend college. Regardless of the circumstance, young people are right to look to their college years with enthusiasm and excitement.

Reason 3: College as a Prerequisite

Any American high school student who is interested in pursuing a career in medicine, law, dentistry, or other prestigious professions will absolutely be required to attend college before beginning with their next level of specialized studies. In fact, in order to even have a chance at admission, they will need to perform at a high level academically, as well as prepare to take admissions exams specific to their area of interest. (No, we are sorry to report that when it comes to these types of professions, taking the SAT and/or ACT did not signal the end of standardized testing for your child!)

These challenging and specialized tests, such as the MCAT for medical school, the DAT for dental school, and the LSAT for law school, serve to examine higher level academic preparation that are accomplished during the undergraduate years of pre-professional studies. The initial level of preparation for these tests comes through completion of the academic prerequisite courses. There really is no other track to training in these careers in the United States, and it is a highly competitive process.

With that in mind, the earlier a student is able to determine his or her interest in one of these professions, the more streamlined the process becomes. Deciding on a professional academic track later on during college does not close the door, so to speak, but there is no question that it does often add some additional academic hoops to jump through – depending on the courses already taken earlier.

The bottom line here is that in order to become a doctor, a lawyer, a dentist, etc. – a student is going to have to plan on multiple years of post-high school education at a very high level. There is no other pathway available! Even “combined degree” programs (such as BA/JD, BS/MD, etc.), which are offered to exceptionally motivated high school students, will include the completion of a bachelor’s degree as part of the academic package – the degrees are just completed over a shorter period of time.

Reason 4: Proper Preparation Avoids Disappointment

Many of the criticisms that are currently aimed at higher education point to the large numbers of students who either drop out of college, or those who actually muddle through to complete a degree and then have no idea what to do with it (and often no job to go along with it, either!).

Well, we certainly agree that these are outcomes that should be avoided – however, the good news is that they CAN be avoided, and we are pleased help families along a trek through higher education that shows them specifically how to skirt these types of pitfalls along the way. It is not even close to enough for a young person to work hard in high school, gain admission to a great college, and then just think that things will somehow “work themselves out” from there… but often, that appears to be the mindset of many people.

In order to get through the process optimally, and without enormous amounts of student debt, the process needs to be planned in advance as much as possible. Now, this planning process can still leave substantial “wiggle-room” for students who are not yet sure what they want to do career-wise, but it is absolutely imperative that the college years be prepared for in a way that will set families and students up for success and not for twisting in the wind.

In order to avoid disappointment in the college experience, it needs to be fully understood at the outset. We are here to assist with that process as early as a family is willing to begin thinking about it… and quite honestly, it is almost never too early!

We are pleased to assist families in helping their high school kids prepare for their time in college, and we really do work with both the parents (on the financial side of things) and the students (on the preparation, academics, and application process) to make things run smoothly as possible.

In addition to our monthly newsletters, we have a strong focus on helping the parents of college-bound students to better understand the financial aspects of college preparation. One of our best tools – and one of the most popular – would have to be our College Funding Workshops. These workshops offer live, in-person interaction with some of the finest college funding professionals around. They also offer vital information for parents who specific and up-to-date information about the financial implications of their student’s upcoming experiences in higher education.

These workshops are available without any tuition or cost to attendees, but because of space requirements we insist on advance reservations for attendance. This also helps us to keep an effective learning environment for each group. For more information about future College Funding Workshops in your town, simply reach out to our workshop staff 614-934-1515. They will have more details about locations, topics covered, specific time and dates, or other details. Of course, they are also able to assist with making reservations, for those who wish to attend soon.

You may also be interested in reading our published report, which was written specifically for parents seeking strategies and insights with regard to future college expenses. We have titled this report “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College.” Just like the workshops, we send this report to parents by request and it is always completely free of any cost or obligation. If you wish to peruse your own copy of “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College,” simply call our team at 614-934-1515 and they will be happy to place one in the mail for you immediately.

Until next month,

Just for seniors

  • Our Blog

If you are a senior or parent of a senior, this blog is for you. The fall is all about admissions and financial aid. It seems as though we hurry up and wait (and wait). We advise you to touch base as a family once a week–talk about the acceptances and in some cases financial aid. For clients we ask you send us all the information they receive including acceptance letters, deferrals and financial aid offers. Once we receive the information from each school we will put together an apples to apples comparison.

Seniors the important thing is you need to make a choice by May 1. You’ll be overwhelmed by notices about enrollment fees, reserving space in a dorm, deposits, visits and so much more. We are here to help you sort through these things.

Senioritis is real, don’t let it derail your future plans. Sometimes scholarships are based on your GPA so keep up those grades. Each year there are news reports about students who made a poor decision and lost not only a scholarship but in some cases admission is revoked so stay focused.

Enjoy the last few months of high school.

College & Organization

  • Our Blog

Dear Parent,

We would like to wish a Happy New Year to you and your family… we hope that this coming year of 2023 is one of great success and happiness, and that there are many opportunities for you to take great strides toward accomplishing the academic dreams of your college-bound high school student.

Of course, each new year brings your child closer and closer to the day when he or she will graduate from high school and head off to an exciting new life as a college or university freshman… and time certainly does not seem to be slowing down at this stage of the process! If anything, as we work with tomorrow’s college students, it seems that things are speeding up exponentially as we do so.

One of the things that we have noticed over our years in this field of college preparation is that the students and families that tend to see the most success are often the students and families who grasp the importance of organization as they approach high school performance, college application, college financial preparation, and nearly every other element of the higher education process.

Now, rest assured, we are fully aware that some people just seem to have an “organizational gene” and they thrive on having everything “just so…” and other people are more challenged in that regard. Honestly, it is our experience that this sort of predisposition can be a benefit, but in the long run it really does not matter – as long as students and families can follow instructions and have a desire to make the right steps, organizational skills CAN be taught… and learned! We see it each and every year.

Along those lines, we have a series of tools in place to help with the organizational elements of college preparation and application, and we are definitely the experts in helping families with the management of these important tasks as well as preparing financially for the college years. But why do we bother?

We bother because it matters to us. The future success of your college-bound student, as well as the ability of your family to be able to make these dreams happen financially, are precisely the things that make the difference in everything that we do as college funding advisors. It is what we do.

Bearing that in mind, this month’s newsletter will focus specifically on the importance of organization in college preparation at all levels, both academic and with applications, as well as introducing some of the things that we make available to help families of all types to be optimally prepared for the coming realities of college application and college financial preparation. We hope that this will be a key in either cementing your resolve to organize the process, or to spark your interest in making it a reality for your family and your student.

1. Organizational Skills In High School

Ideally, tomorrow’s college students should start developing some excellent organizational skills during the high school years. Now, we know that some parents (OK… many parents) will take a look at the state of their child’s bedroom and shrink away in despair at that idea, but let us remind you that it is a PROCESS, and developing these organizational skills takes some time for many young people. The most important thing is that it happens, and this can be a huge benefit academically and in their future college career.

For most students, seeing a modicum of increased success by planning a project well helps to instill a desire to continue in that vein… even if it is not always consistent at the outset. A series of rewards and assistance in the process can make a big difference early on, and the results will begin to speak for themselves. Once a college-bound student – who is usually interested in his or her Grade Point Average – can see what organizing a project does for the end result, it can serve as a huge motivating factor.

There is no one correct way to organize high school academics. Some people swear by technology and smart phones. Others prefer to use a more old-school method of writing in a notebook or planner. It really does not matter which way works best for your child, as long as the process is in place. Regardless, the main thing is that the overall process gets started, and that the positive results instill a desire for increased organization.

Remember that most students who can slide by with decent (or even very good) grades in high school while procrastinating often find that such actions have a rather dire effect on their academic performance at the next level of their education… so help your student to start now, the earlier the better.

2. Organizing The College Application Process

This is an organizational effort that far too many families do not think about until they are knee deep in the process, and trying to dig themselves out of a confusing mess! Going into the college application season without an organizational plan can be frustrating, yes, but it can also actually be disastrous.

All it takes is one missed deadline at a dream school to actually submarine a student’s acceptance or financial aid offer, and we are sorry to report that this literally happens each and every year. Imagine a student working so hard and diligently for four years of high school, and then having a dream crash and burn because of something as silly as a missed deadline! For this reason, as well as several others, we seriously recommend having a separate application calendar for the management of the entire college application process – and it should be one of those large-sized wall calendars, ideally.

It is also important for students to have an organized application strategy, so that he or she is applying to the best schools for his or her interests, background, goals, and personality. All of these types of details are available to students, but they can only be optimally managed in advance when you work with an expert who knows the process, the specifics about each school that interests your child, and their admissions statistics. Obviously, as professionals in this area, we are uniquely well-equipped in this regard and are happy to assist with the organizational elements of college application.

Having a well-managed application process can actually lead to more acceptances, and it can help families to obtain the very best financial aid offers, as well. It really does make a difference.

3. Successfully Managing The Money Side Of Things

The bulk of the financial preparation for higher education naturally usually falls to the parents, since very few high school kids are able to fund a college education on their own and most forward-thinking parents want to help their children to stay out of student debt as much as possible. With this reality in mind, it is absolutely vital for parents to start their organization of finances with an eye toward college costs as early as possible.

Some parents (or grandparents, for that matter) will start a college funding account for a child at a very young age, and some families even manage to save some money in that account over the years leading up to high school. Many, alas, do not. But regardless, this is NOT the kind of organization that we are talking about when we discuss college funding organization. The subject is far too detailed and multi-faceted (not to mention, too expensive) to be effectively managed with a simple savings account!

We keep our fingers on the pulse of the ever-changing college funding scene and are uniquely qualified to help families manage their fiscal decisions in the years leading up to college to optimize their efforts. And yes, ideally, we mean in the years (plural) leading up to college. While we are able to help families from almost any circumstance, even later in the game, our hands are definitely somewhat tied when parents do not decide to plan until the last year of high school. By that point, many of the tried-and-true options available to families are no longer available. So yes, in this case, the early bird gets the worm… or at least, access to more worms.

With that in mind, we can detail the best options available to parents, and help them to organize these efforts to maximum effect as the college years approach. An organized and knowledgeable strategy is the most effective way for a family to prepare for the college years, and we are able to detail each step of the process so that there is no need to feel overwhelmed. Simply contact us at your convenience and we can show you how.

If parents and students are willing to take the steps necessary to organize themselves in preparation for the future college and university experience, they will often find that they are much more successful in their endeavors than those people who did not do so. As students approach their application process, we have a number of services available to help them select schools for which they are ideally suited, as well as assisting them in organizing and managing the entire process from application to admission letter.



Until next month,