Our Blog

The Admissions Wish List

What Admissions REALLY Are Looking For In Their Incoming Freshman Classes

The first term of the school year is in full swing, and students (along with their parents, in many cases) are likely looking forward to the holidays for a bit of a break. However, we college funding advisors are remaining diligently focused on preparing students and their families for all aspects of their college futures, from academics to college finances, and we are pleased to keep you updated on our findings. This is truly what we do best, after all is said and done.

One important area of focus – and something that is misunderstood by a significant number of college bound students as well as their parents – is an accurate understanding of the things that are MOST important when it comes to gaining admission to a desired college or university. Now, obviously, there can be some differences depending on which schools and institutions are being talked about, but there are also several key aspects that are almost universally important, no matter which schools are being considered.

The sooner a student is able to obtain a general understanding of these key factors, the sooner he or she will be able to implement them as a part of his or her high school education, meaning that it can pay dividends as soon as the time comes to start applying to colleges and universities for their impending step upward into higher education.

Some of these points are fairly reasonable and make good, common sense. Others might be less well-known, but they are still extremely important. Still others are simply ignored by far too many students these days, and absolutely warrant a timely reminder so that your student is not missing out on something vital for his or her college application process!

Remember, we keep our finger on the pulse of these kinds of things specifically because we are serious about being the experts in our field – we have gleaned much valuable experience in watching college students and their parents maneuver through the college application process each and every year. Upon completing your perusal of this newsletter, please do let us know if you have questions or specific worries about your family’s unique situation. We will be pleased to assist you in providing reliable information for your family’s college preparation activities at all levels for the higher education of your child.

The Obvious: Strong GPA and Class Ranking

It should go without saying that grades count. They don’t count for everything, but they count. If your child has a high GPA, this will only help to separate your child from the rest of the applicants. Overall GPA is important, but some schools will also take note of how your child did in his/her individual classes. Some high schools offer class ranking. If this is the case for your child’s high school, the college will want to take a look at this so see how s/he ranked among his/her peers.

Advanced Placement (AP) and/or Honors Classes

Taking difficult classes such as Advanced Placement or Honors classes can give a very good impression to admissions officers. However, it is actually doing well in these classes that shows the college that your child is serious about his/her academics. This demonstrates discipline and dedication, which are attributes that will help a child excel in college. International Baccalaureate or IB programs are also highly regarded, if available.

Engaging in Extracurricular Activities

It is not sufficient to merely have good grades in one’s classes. Colleges are looking for students who have passion, interest and drive. Taking extra curricular activities demonstrates that the students have interests that extend outside the classroom. The types of activities chosen will show what the students find compelling and interesting. Developing talents and skills outside of the regular school day is something that helps to develop a well-rounded student. Remember, though, that the better schools want to see a real level of commitment and achievement in these activities – not just something that has been done to “fill in a box.”

Volunteerism

Taking time outside of high school life to volunteer one’s time is a special thing. If your child has done projects outside of school for any charities or did any sort of volunteer work at all, these things should be noted on the application. These are traits to demonstrate a strong character and these are the types of student’s college admissions officers would like to admit into college. Some students have been able to work these activities into the school year, while others make them a part of their vacation time. Either way, it should be something that resonates with your child, so that it can be presented with honest enthusiasm.

Gathering Work Experience

Does your child have a part-time job during high school? Does s/he work during the summers? These qualities show independence, in some cases, as well as leadership and commitment. List any employment work that is applicable for your child. If your child had any leadership responsibilities such as managing a project, be sure to include those, as well. Any special recognitions or if there were promotions during your child’s tenure at the job, do not forget to include those. Remember, however, to discuss these activities with your College Funding Advisor, as these jobs can sometimes affect eligibility for student aid!

Standardized Testing (SAT/ACT)

There was a time that schools weighed the SAT and ACT quite heavily, and many still do, but not every school gives them the same weight these days. Regardless, however, it is advisable for your child to work hard and prepare to do as well as possible on these tests. They are still a valuable benchmark for colleges to use, and admissions officers can review these tests and compare with other test results (such as AP tests). Your College Funding Advisors can help you research the specific schools to which your child would like to apply, and determine whether they regard the SAT/ACT highly, and which tests might be required for admission.

Strong Recommendation Letters

While a good recommendation letter can go a long way, a meaningful recommendation letter can go even further. For this reason, your child should try to secure recommendation letters from people s/he knows quite well. Most colleges will ask for at least two so it would be useful to probably have three letters on hand, just in case – and some letters might be particularly helpful at certain institutions.

These recommendations need to speak to the overall character of your child, beyond a simple listing of accomplishments. The writer could be a teacher in a particular class, an extra-curricular teacher or instructor, an ecclesiastical authority, a coach, a mentor, and so forth. These letters should obviously cast your child in the best light and will be able to tell a story about your child which grades and activities – on their own – cannot.

Tailor The Admissions Essay

While it is true that a well-written essay may take some time to craft, it is well worth the effort. This is another chance that admissions officers will get to see a side of your child that grades, activities and recommendation letters can’t show, and an opportunity our child to connect with the reader on the admissions committee. Every child is unique and this is the chance for your child to show what is unique about him or her… so the essay should be reviewed for both content and for grammar well before it is ever sent out. It should also be tailored a bit to appropriately match the application to each different school on his/her list.

Demonstrate Passion And Drive

We can readily report that too many kids are pushed into a plethora of activities without ever having a chance to develop a skill or talent in a particular area. Colleges are most interested in seeing drive, interest, and passion for the activities in which an applicant is engaged. They certainly do not prefer seeing a student listing a page full of different activities with no demonstrated meaning, and without time invested to grow in those disciplines.

How can an applicant show the meaning in their activities? There are many ways. For example, if your child took band and excelled at playing the trumpet, make sure that fact (along with any special awards or engagements) is prominently displayed on the application. Or, did your child have a passion for building and was always staying late in shop class? Maybe you have a budding engineer on your hands. Be sure to let admissions officers see that your child has a solid and well-developed interest in areas that truly matter to your future college student.

Growth Potential?

The very best colleges and universities often go far beyond SAT scores and essays (which should be a given at the top levels). They want to determine whether your child is the type of person who learns and grows, and truly enjoys the process of learning and growing. They want to see how your child stretches him/herself. They want to know how your child sees him/herself as a human. They also want to see how your child wants to contribute to the world – as a potential alumnus or alumna of their institution. Show them!Until next month,

College Skills You Can Master Now

  • Our Blog

       

 

“Proven Skills For College Success To Master NOWWhile Still In High School

Dear Parents,

Focusing as we do on preparing young people (and their families) for the realities of college education, we find that it is always important to begin preparations as early as possible.  Naturally, that plays an enormous role when it comes to financial preparation, and we do everything we can to assist parents in being prepared in that area.  However, no matter how well prepared a family is financially, it is truly all for naught if the student him/herself is not prepared for success at the college level!  Whether a student realizes it or not, the skills that get one INTO a great college or university do not always guarantee success once one arrives on campus for the infamous freshman year.

Because of this fact, we find it extremely important to help students understand what kinds of skills and abilities are most likely to help them succeed in their academic and personal efforts at the next level.  There is usually a significant amount of adaptation required when making the jump from high school to college, even in the best of circumstances, but it definitely can be accomplished!

The truth is that almost any student can master the skills that lead to outstanding performance and success in college, but we see year after year that many young people simply are not optimally prepared for the beginning of their college experience, and this can have challenging personal – as well as academically distressing – consequences.  Learning these kinds of things “on the fly” during the beginning of university studies can involve a lot more stress than actually having the majority of his or her college skills already in place and just waiting to be implemented at the next level!

In order to help students prevent a rough start at the next level, this month we are focusing our newsletter on a few of the most important skills that students should learn BEFORE ARRIVING at their college or university.  Bear in mind that some of these may come naturally, and others might be more challenging, but they are all important.  Remember also that, depending on the high school experience of an individual student, it may be a bit of a stretch to develop some of them within a certain framework of classes.  This is when it can be important to seek activities outside of the high school experience to help a young person begin to develop these skills as effectively as possible.

Time Management

Once children head off to college, they no longer are operating under their parents’ direct influence (such as it is) regarding the activities that fill their time each day. No longer do they have parents who can assist with getting them awake in the morning and out the door to an early class or other activity.  The parents are also not there to remind a college student about soccer practice or an upcoming quiz or to make sure they are making progress on a term paper. This can be a big adjustment for young people if they have not started learning the skills of time management while they are still in high school.

This is a good thing, as it is part of growing up and learning individual responsibility.

However, mastering the skills of time management will make life a lot easier and much more organized, and they will almost invariably lead to better performance at the college level, as well as a LOT less stress at the same time!  Time management skills will help your child to prioritize their time and responsibilities, which is critical when your child is suddenly the one responsible for classes, homework, activities, and commitments.

One way to manage time is to simply get into the habit of writing everything down. This can be managed with a smart phone, or even a planner or a small notebook, the main thing is to DO it!  We definitely live in a digital era, but there have been numerous studies done which detail the benefit of writing things down… on paper. Writing things down has been shown to process deeper into the brain. Of course, there are also now programs that will allow “writing” in a digital device – we do not care so much which time management tool is used by a high school and college student… what we care about is how well they implement it into their busy lives!

Frankly, it’s not even necessary to go out and spend loads of money on a device or a fancy, leather-bound planner system.  These days, many people of all ages are choosing to create their own planners that precisely meet their needs. This also allows them to be creative and this furthers deepens the processing of what they need to get done.  The main thing is to get organized and learn to use time wisely – and to start doing so NOW.  If a student thinks that he or she is busy in high school?  Just wait until college starts…

Prioritization

Prioritizing is a skill that will be very useful while in college and throughout life. Prioritizing tasks in order of importance is something that will help to maintain your child’s ability to cope with stress while in college.  It is also something that takes time to learn.

Early on, young people sometimes will tend to believe that almost any activity is productivity, but that idea will meet a quick end when managing a full-time student’s series of classes at a college or university!  The fact is that at any given moment there are things that are more important, and things that are less important, given a set of desired outcomes.  Students who have learned to prioritize their time well will be able to meet all of their deadlines with relative ease, simply because they do the most important things first.

Learning this is a process, which is one reason that it is vital to get started during high school.  It is often simply an offshoot on time management discussed above, when a student learns to recognize the most important or pressing items, manage them first, and then go on from there. Whatever is left over from the day before will go on the new list for the next day and become prioritized accordingly.

Budgeting

The dreaded “Budget” word has come back to haunt many a freshman (and parents) by destroying the college fund for an entire semester – or even a school year in some cases – and this is often due simply to the fact that most high school students are not managing their own money during high school experience… which is not a bad thing, as they are usually still with the family!

However, young people need to learn to manage money, because for almost everyone it rapidly becomes a limited resource in college.  The sooner a young person learns how to plan finances by the week and the month (not to mention the semester and the year), AND has the discipline to follow that plan, the better of his or her future will become.  That is true not just during the high school and college years, of course, but it will pay dividends throughout a lifetime after graduation and right into his or her career.

Balance: School Time vs. Play Time

After a student has learned to manage his or her time, prioritize his or her course work and other tasks, plan out (and stick with) expenses and income, and done all that needs to be done to stay on top of the academic side of college life… then we simply must mention that there should also be some time to have fun in college!

Making time for relaxation and fun is essential to having success while in college. We all know the saying about ‘all work and no play’ and what that does to Jack (and/or Jill). Well, the same thing can be said for your child, especially in the college environment. It is important for students to have “down time” and to let one’s body relax and recharge. Young people’s brains and bodies need to have time away from constantly processing and digesting new information, so it is vital to make time to do things that have nothing to do with homework or test preparation.  The thing that matters is finding the balance that allows for success in academic work, as well as a valuable and uplifting college experience.

The simple fact is that when a student is balanced it is easier (and more effective) for him or her to fully engage in the classroom… and social activities are more enjoyed and appreciated when a student knows that things are going smoothly on the academic front, as well.  Start with your high school student now so that he or she knows how to fully engage in both academic work and other activities of interest!

 

 

 

Targeting College Search to Career

Creating a Targeted Higher

Education Experience – and Career –

for your Child

Dear Parent,

As a new school year begins we must admit that we take a good (and deserved) measure of pride as we are able to observe the results of the preparations of many of the parents and high school students with whom we have worked.  As these young people are entering their years of higher education they are tackling this next endeavor in different ways, with different goals, and with their own unique set of skills and talents.  However, a strong work ethic and good skills are often not quite enough on their own.

Far too many parents view the college experience as a one-size-fits-all endeavor in which the only thing that matters is getting to the liberal arts school with “the best name” (whatever that means).  This is absolutely incorrect, and we have no qualms about saying so.  Our goal is to help students and their parents to prepare for the BEST educational (and future professional) experience possible, and this can entail looking at a significant number of different variables.

When we look at tailoring the higher education to the child (and not vice versa) we must be very aware of the ultimate goals of the student, his or her interests, and his or her strengths and weaknesses.  All of these details, and many others, will go into determining which institutions will offer the best fit for a graduating high school student.

Not all colleges and universities are the same, and not all are focused on the same end results, so we need to help families to understand what types of institutions match up best with what types of students – and what types of careers they can lead to.  With these topics in mind, we have decided to focus this month’s newsletter on looking at some of the different types of institutions that are available for students at the next level.

Please note that because we are serious about higher education, all of these options lead to the completion of a bachelor’s (or graduate, or professional) degree during the years of higher education – while some students may opt to attend different sorts of training or trade school programs, and this can be a path for a subset of each graduating class, our emphasis remains firmly on the best options in pursuing higher education.  Remember, while the liberal arts institutions are definitely an option (and a fine one) for many students, it is always worthwhile to examine all of the options available and see what matches best with your kid.

Strategy 1: Technological Universities and Institutes

Some people might read this heading and think that we are referring to local “XYZ Technical School” – not at all!  Rather, we are targeting high-profile, technical institutions throughout the country that are specifically focused on technology and the sciences.  There are many of them, and some are among the best (and sometimes that most competitive) schools in the world.

Most science-oriented students will be well aware of the virtues of such places as Cal Tech, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (the famed “MIT”), or Georgia Tech, or Carnegie Mellon.  Parents should be aware that these are truly outstanding schools, and they can be found in many different places.  Students who have an interest in chasing technological pursuits will find a specialized technical institution to be a great fit for their interests – and they often are also relieved to find that their interests are shared by other bright young people, as well.

For the best of the best schools, like those listed above, the admissions requirements are extremely high, but they are always worth understanding and working towards.  There are also similar schools that can lead to the same types of careers throughout the nation, and they can make a truly wonderful match for young people whose minds are intrigued by the right kinds of scientific and technological questions that forge our world and our collective future.

Strategy 2: “Special Focus” Institutions

This is an important option because there are young people who have skill sets and talents that might not always fit into the standard liberal arts curriculum.  The artists, for example, or the gifted musicians, or the designers also have their own outstanding corners of the higher education world.

Gifted musicians, for example, may target musical conservatories (the famed Juilliard, New England Conservatory, Manhattan School of Music, etc.) as well as the prestigious music schools at some famous universities (Indiana University, Oberlin, etc.) to receive world-class training for a career in music.  And yes, people still do have professional careers in music – these kinds of training opportunities are not a guarantee, but they offer the some of the best pathways forward.

Other types of artists or designers can attend outstanding art or design programs at institutions (Savannah College of Art and Design, Pratt Institute, Rhode Island School of Design, etc.) that are literally tailored to getting the most out of their talents and finding the best ways to utilize them in the world.  As is the case with gifted scientific students at technological schools, artistic students can find it very freeing to pursue their educations alongside other like-minded people to challenge and inspire them forward

Granted, there are certainly a number of talented students will be more comfortable with just seeking out a minor in their artistic endeavors at a liberal arts school, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that at all.  However, for those who are fully committed to developing their talents, design schools and conservatories can be an outstanding option for their educational and professional development.

Strategy 3: Academies – Not Just For Military Types!

The most obvious schools in this category are quite prestigious and are known to most people already… The Navy and Marine Corps have Naval Academy, at Annapolis, Maryland… The Army has the US Military Academy at West Point, New York… The Air Force has the Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs, Colorado.  All of these schools will usually require the recommendation of a politician and some extremely strong applications – not to mention an interest and aptitude for leadership in a military setting – in order to gain admission.

Government academies not affiliated with the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines are also an option – the US Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, and the Merchant Marine Academy in King’s Point, New York, also offer outstanding academic programs with career options in the public service.  Like the military service academies, admission to these Coast Guard and Merchant Marine programs offers a scholarship for the four years of study, with truly outstanding training and academics.

However, there are also other academies that are NOT directly related with the military, and they often have extremely intriguing options that can lead to outstanding careers both within the military and in the civilian sector.  First of all there are private military-style academies (such as The Citadel in South Carolina, or Norwich University in Vermont) where students are undergo a strict, military-styled education – and graduates may choose to pursue a commission as a military officer after graduation.

There are also a number of state-affiliated maritime academies offering training in engineering and other related fields – Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Maine Maritime Academy, SUNY Maritime College, etc. – along with practical experience en route to a bachelor’s (or even graduate) degree.

These are certainly options for someone with an interest in service in the military, yes, but as you can see there are also professional options away from the military, as well.  The educational aspects are top-notch and the job market after graduation can be excellent, as well.

Strategy 4: Combined Degree Programs

Remember also that, even within the liberal arts structure, there can be special programs that offer specialized training and options for people who have interests and talents leading them in a certain professional direction.  Many students do not have any idea what they want to do professionally after college, and that is not a big problem in most cases.  However, students who already know that they want to attend medical school, or law school, or business school (or other professional programs) can apply to enroll in combined degree programs.

These are organized programs that lead directly to a bachelor’s degree and straight into the professional training afterward, assuming a pre-set grade point average and standardized admissions test scores.  This saves time, money, and stress along the way, and can also guarantee the school a motivated student both at the undergraduate and the graduate level.

Sometimes the undergraduate degree and the professional degree will come from the same university, but there are also a number of affiliate programs where the undergraduate degree will be completed at a smaller college (usually in the local area) and the successful students then matriculate automatically at the graduate level at a larger university.  Either way, these programs are a terrific pathway into the competitive careers of law, medicine, business, etc.

Until next month,

Financial Realities of College-how much do you share?

     

 “The Financial Realities Of College:

How Much Should YOUR Child Know Before Starting?

As summer is in full swing it may become more and more challenging for families to think about preparing for college.  We mentioned last month, planning for college is about having conversations.  Be sure to include the reality of college expense.   Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, these financial details are often ignored… and both parents and students can be guilty in this regard.  This can definitely have a detrimental  effect on their levels of financial, academic, and personal stress during the college experience.

We understand fully that preparing for college or university studies can be stressful, in many ways.  Perhaps because of this reality, there can be a tendency for people to want to ignore some of the more challenging topics related to the transition to the next level of education.  However, ignoring these topics does not make them disappear.  By the same token, if only the parents (or, more rarely, only the students) are involved in these preparations, then it is not a team effort and there can be miscommunications and problems further down the road.  Our experience has been that it is absolutely vital for parents and students to have a mutual understanding of how things are proceeding for college preparation.

For this month’s newsletter, then, we want to explain a few of the most important elements that new college students (and high school students) should understand when it comes to starting their experience in higher education.  Yes, there will be a lot of students in their peer group – far too many, in our experience – who have no idea about these things.  However, rest assured that this lack of knowledge will more than likely become something that will come back to haunt them in the end.

As college funding professionals – and people who deal with these things on a daily basis – we want to help you and your family to experience a smooth transition into and through college or university studies.  We have a special skill set and will be happy to assist in any way possible with your family’s plans in this regard.

 Be Clear From the Beginning
Culturally, we tend to have many “taboo” subjects in the US. Depending on the individual, they may range from religion to sex to money. The subject of money, in particular when it comes to higher education, can get families into deep water if not dealt with from the very beginning with honesty and clarity.
How to pay for college should be a family discussion. This is a subject that should take center stage when getting ready to choose a school. It will have a lot to do with the choices your child will be able to make about where to go. It can also have a big impact on the family for the future.
If your child has his or her heart set on a ‘dream’ school then it is important to have the discussion and have the plans in place to cover the costs of such a school. This can all be done strategically and carefully, as well, with a thorough college funding expert. No parent wants to be saddled with massive amounts of debt when looking to cover costs at a prestigious school, nor do children want to feel that they have become a burden that the family has to bear in order for them to attend school.
Communication and (early!) preparation are really the keys, here. Will the parents be covering the entire costs of college? Will it be a combination of loans for the child plus what the family is able to contribute, or can this be avoided with proper planning?  (Note: it often can.) Having clear goals from the beginning and discussing those goals openly as a family will only bode well for the future college student. Tackling those goals with an expert will make it possible to move forward with those plans smoothly and successfully.

Focusing on the “Why” of College
Unfortunately, we see that students may not fully grasp the concept of ‘why.’ In fact, many visit colleges and make decisions on whether to attend or not based on a ‘vibe’ they get at the school, or where all of their friends are planning to go. It is important to make the most informed decision possible when going to college. This starts with the ‘why’ of going to college and then extends all the way through to the ‘where’ of going to college!
Some of the things that should be discussed and explored before beginning a college search include finding out what your child’s academic motivations are. Once these are laid out, it can be easier to look at options at that point. Clarifying interests and academic goals and motivations will make choosing the right college easier and it will mostly likely be a much better return on the investment. Not every child is clear on his or her ambitions in the teen years, however. This does not mean that all is lost. If they are not sure exactly where their academic focus is you are still able to make informed decisions. If they are able to narrow their interests down to a few different areas then you can search for colleges that have strong programs in the areas where their interests lie.  All of these discussions, when completed early on, can go a long way toward making the transition to college more manageable.

How (Or How Much) To Contribute
Many parents feel guilty if they determine that their ability to completely pay for their child’s education is not possible. It is easy to find parents who have gone into massive debt in order to make their child’s dreams of a college education possible even when it puts their own financial stability in jeopardy. This is one instance where having a solid college planning expert will help to ensure that these types of dire situations can be avoided.
Parents taking stock of what is realistic and what their child’s goals are will be very important in the part of the planning process. Do the parents want their child to attend a specific school?  Even more importantly, is that school a good fit for the student?  If so, is it currently possible to send them there, considering academic and financial realities?  What other options are available?  Once these questions are asked then the parents can move forward and see what will be required in terms of their contribution.
It is also important for parents to understand that where their child goes to college is not a reflection of their parenting skills or who they are as people. Keeping their child financially secure is a major requirement for parents and placing them in a school that they cannot afford and/or will place an undue burden on their child by way of student loans is not a great way for a child to be starting out in life. Planning ahead and making prudent choices based upon real financial circumstances and careful planning with an advisor will ensure the best choice possible is made that will benefit all parties over the long run.

Managing Parental Contribution/Retirement
There is no question that paying for a child’s college education can be a big sacrifice for parents. Parents who have an average annual income of $100,000, for example, can find that college expenses for just one child run $100,000 (and that is being moderate)… which can mean that they should expect to work an extra 10+ years in order to recoup those costs. That could mean delaying retirement in most cases – or, as mentioned above, saddling kids with significant student debt.
Because of these realities, this is another area where careful and early planning can make all the difference. The right adjustments and placing money in the proper strategic places may help to prevent some of the drastic measures to which many people succumb. These are definitely things that can and should be discussed with the college planning advisor – and the earlier that happens, the better! 

Probably the most important element of this part of college preparation can be boiled down to “communication!”  When people do not know exactly what is expected of them (financially, or in any other facet of life) then they are much more likely to make significant mistakes.  This is even more apparent when it comes to young people who are just starting out on their own – at college, or anywhere else… the more things can be clarified and communicated, the more likely they are to be able to manage these expectations successfully.

Until next month,

Conversations on College

Conversations on College

Conversations on College

Are you ready to have a conversation about college?  Talking about college with other parents or friends is simple, it is talking to your kids or spouse that may be tough.  This month, we want to break down those conversations on college into more manageable bits.  Students and parents (and hopefully, advisors) participate in the conversations. Let’s divide the conversations by audience.

Adults

For parents, the conversation started when that little bundle of joy arrived.  We all had the smartest baby, the one destined for greatness.  We dreamt of seeing that little one graduate from medical school, hit a home run in the World Series, and win a Nobel Peace Prize.  However after a few rounds of colic and teething, our goal became simple,  we wanted a healthy child and perhaps a good night’s sleep once in awhile.  Now that little one is in high school, it is time to start having realistic conversations on college.  

  1. How much have you saved?
  2. How much is college?
  3. Where do we even start?

At Midwest College Planning, we love having these conversations.  From the workshops to the free consultations, we talk college.  We work with parents on budgets.   We address your savings and if you need to up those savings, we have suggestions.  When it comes to the price of school, be prepared for sticker shock.  Annual pricing for public schools are coming in at around 25K while an Ivy League is over 75K.   Now, multiply those numbers by the number of children in your family.   Do you need oxygen? That’s where we come in to help.

Students

For students, the idea of college may have started back in first grade when they dreamt of becoming a teacher or perhaps it came along gradually based on course selection or interest.  Our goal is to work with kids to help them navigate the process.  Ideally we begin working with students early in high school, but we do work with rising seniors and in some cases those seniors who procrastinated and are panicked in September.  With students we stress the importance of grades, test scores and research.  Our conversations on college start with the basics:

  1. What are your grades?  
  2. What are your thoughts on location of college?  Distance and Environment
  3. What do you want to do?  
  4. What do you do for fun?

 Midwest College Planning has been helping families for over ten years. there’s not much we haven’t heard.  We find ourselves playing mediator between the students and parents.  Whether it is reminding a student to send in an application or reminding parents of their budget.    

Everyone

The news is full of stories about scholarships and ‘free rides’.  There are many schools that offer great scholarships to the top students.  The scholarships are often awarded to kids with what we call a ‘wild card.’

  1. Academics
  2. Athleticism
  3. Creative Talent
  4. Leadership
  5. Community Service

We will be honest with you, those free rides are few and far between.  Competition is tough at top schools, admission rates may be in the single digits.   Our goal is to have your family succeed.  We work with students on applying to schools that fit them academically, environmentally and socially.  We evaluate the financial aid packages and help students and parents find the school that works financially. 

This month, we are asking you to have those conversations and to remind you we do offer a free workshop where you can learn more about how we help families.  

We’re Moving!

Midwest College Planning is excited to move to our own offices! We are trading our shared space for a sweet suite of our own. We started out in 2009 in a shared office space and while it has been fun, we are looking forward to a larger space, bigger offices and dare we say windows. We are located in a small business park backing up to a metro park. Here’s our top 10 list of things to look forward to:

  1. Trees, we are tucked away in a lovely area
  2. No more elevators–we were on the second floor but due to security we couldn’t walk up stairs.
  3. Birds, you might hear if you catch us sitting outside enjoying the fresh air.
  4. Control of the thermostat, some say that thermostat control tops remote control anytime.
  5. Windows, we can see the outside world and open for fresh air.
  6. Less traffic, no longer surrounded by multi-floor office buildings   
  7. Peace and Quiet, the serene space will be quite nice
  8. New City–we are moving to Westerville, OH
  9. Easier commute, less congested area of town
  10. Skylights!

We have been fully vaccinated for a few months, if you are as well, we would love to see you at our new location.  
Please give us a little time since we need to buy chairs, desks, tables, and everything else….we have never moved so it’s an adventure.  

Our new address:  5022-A Pine Creek Dr
                                 Westerville, OH 43081

Our new phone number:  614.230.1208

Use High School to Prepare for College

It can be a tough job for both parents and college-bound high school students when it comes to preparing optimally for future academic endeavors. As college funding professionals with detailed knowledge into the admissions process, we recognize that all elements of the subject can be stressful and challenging from beginning to end!  However, the challenges related to college preparation can be effectively managed with some planning and insights in advance – and there is not doubt that it increases if college details are ignored throughout the high school years.  This is why we are here to help!

We find that one of the best things that parents and high school students can do to make their eventual transition into the college years as smooth as possible is to manage their high school experience in a specific way.  Students who try to view the high school years as an actual “college-prep” period will find that there are a lot of helpful parts to their high school experience, if they are willing to take advantage of them.  By the same token, parents will also find that the high school years are their own absolute best opportunity to prepare for college financial and asset management.  Working together, the high school experience can be more than just a chance for the student to get a diploma – it can be a perfect opportunity for the entire family to be optimally prepared for the college years.

The good news is that it generally does not require a lot of extra effort to turn the normal high school experience into a terrific college preparation period.  It does require some planning, and students cannot necessarily run on auto-pilot as much… and parents need to be actively engaged in the process to make the financial end work properly.  But the challenge is definitely doable, and we are the experts in helping families to make this kind of an invaluable high school experience a reality.

For this month’s newsletter, we are dedicating these pages to help you understand why these preparations are important, and how to make them happen.  Remember, if you have any questions about these important college preparation subjects, we urge you to give us a call.  College funding and application professionals are experienced and knowledgeable in these areas and can offer tailor-made explanations, planning, and information when it comes to these important college preparation efforts.

  1. Investigate Early College Credit Options

One great way for students to get a head start on their college experience is to look for opportunities to earn college credits while still attending high school.  There can be a variety of options, and they are all worth looking into.  Some schools will offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses than can actually count for future credit at many colleges and universities.  Of course, these courses presuppose that the student has demonstrated some strong aptitude in the subject matter, and are not available to every single student who expresses interest – but if the chance is there, and the student has the interest and the academic chops to handle it, then it can be a terrific alternative to the rank and file coursework.

Another possibility for some students, depending on locality and arrangements, is the completion of individual college courses during high school.  This is sometimes on a special agreement with a local community college or public university, but it can be a great way for students to get their feet wet early on, and even get a jump on completing some of their core curriculum classes at the next level before they have ever officially matriculated as a college freshman!

These options can make sense academically, putting the student ahead of the curve and building confidence early on… but it can also make a lot of sense financially.  You see, courses that a student completes before setting foot on campus are courses that will not show up on the college tuition bill later, and on that front every little bit helps!  If a student can shave off as much as a term or semester from the eventual course of their undergraduate degree, then the amount of tuition saved can be pretty darned significant.

     2. Seek Out Academic and Extracurricular Experiences

            High school is a great time in a young person’s life, but there are many instances where students will feel pressure (whether external or internal) to follow the proverbial “path of least resistance.”  Advance Placement courses are not the only way for students to excel, and can sometimes be the wrong choice for a student due to academic interest, motivation, or other considerations.

            It is vital for students to seek out opportunities to truly discover what their interests are, what experiences inspire them the most, and to begin to develop an understanding of what they want out of life.  Of course, those answers will often not come completely during the high school years, while there will be other students who may have known since they were five years old that they wanted to become a pilot, or an architect, or a doctor. 

            The point of high school is not to pigeonhole a student into a specific academic track prematurely, but rather to offer a chance for learning and growth, as well as an opportunity to demonstrate abilities, talents, and interests.  This can only really happen if the high school experience is treated appropriately, and not viewed as sheer drudgery to be endured only until graduation springs a student onward to the thrills of university life. 

Yes, we all know that high school can be rough at times, and we all have memories of certain classes that were… well, yes, probably sheer drudgery… but we are convinced that it is important to seek out whatever intriguing and inspiring options can be found in the high school experience.  Some semesters this may be more challenging than others, due to different teachers or social pressures or family challenges, whatever the case my be, but it is well worth the effort to seek out the best things that a high school has to offer.  This includes academic offerings, clubs, sports, theater, community involvement – really, anything that interests and inspires your child to a higher level.

     3. Communicate With Counselors Regularly

            There can certainly be a benefit derived from keeping the lines of communication open with high school and college counselors.  While the individual value can depend a lot on the counselor himself or herself, there are basic college preparatory courses and requirements with which most counselors are quite well-versed.  It is important for college-bound kids to be familiar with these tidbits, even if some guidance counselors do not have a lot to offer beyond that (which is sadly sometimes the case).  Maintaining a respectful and cordial relationship with these counselors can only help later when it comes time for letters of recommendation or paperwork for college application, regardless of how much or how little a specific counselor has to offer.

            With this in mind, as College Funding and Admissions Professionals, we also view ourselves as counselors in this arena, and we know that we bring the most up-to-date and actionable information for both college-bound students and their parents.  We have access to the information about the schools that interest your child, no matter where in the country they might be located.  We are the most reliable experts in managing the college funding challenges.  We really are here to help with all aspects of the college preparation experience.

            As you know, higher education financial planning and college application services stand at the very foundation of our work as college funding professionals.  This leads us to an ultimate goal of assisting parents in seeking the very best strategies for the management of their financial circumstances, as well as the proper utilization of assets to create the best situation possible with regard to the college options for the academic future.  This entire process works best, very simply put, if the parents are well-prepared ahead of time, with a clear set of guidelines to help along the way to preparation for their student’s future college and university years… as well as the attending college and university expenses!

 

 

 

Creating that perfect match between student & school

        

We know that the parents of a college-bound student can sometimes worry a little bit about the college selection process, and as time goes on it can also become a little bit (or more than a little bit!) stressful for high school students, themselves.  How can one be sure that he or she is applying to the “right” schools, let alone choosing one once the acceptances have rolled in?!  Is it really all about the rankings in some news magazine, or how can a family feel comfortable with the choices made about college or university education?

One thing that we want to mention right from the get-go, however, is that “national rankings” are utterly arbitrary and should play a very tiny role in the decision-making process (if any at all, actually).  The simple fact is that a “number one” ranked school in some magazine could actually be the worst possible location for a student to end up, even if he or she is fully academically qualified for admission there!  On the other hand, it could also work out great, which is why it is vitally important to match up students with the schools that will work best for them.

This is not to disparage the colleges and universities that are traditional academic powerhouses, of course.  Everyone knows about the Ivy League schools, for instance, and the Stanfords, Cal Techs, University of Chicagos are not hurting for applicants because they are world-class institutions.  They have a lot to offer the right students.  Other schools (also excellent in their own rights) may be better, or worse fits, depending on the individual.  As professionals in this field, we are happy to provide some tips on how to decide what constitutes a good fit.

 

How Does Your Child Learn Best?

Learning style is really important when determining what kind of college or university a student should attend. It is important from the outset to understand that everyone learns differently. Some people may prefer to learn by reading. Others like to learn aurally. Some students thrive in a large classroom setting, while the thought of a packed auditorium class could make others cringe. It is a very personal thing.

One learning style is not necessarily better than another. They are simply different, and generally people learn in various ways.  Granted, the more flexible your child can be in adapting to learning environments, the easier the transition will be at the next level.  However, understanding how teaching is conducted within the universities and colleges you and your child are researching is an important piece of information when determining whether or not that school will be a good match over the long term.

It is a good idea to have your child determine his or her learning style early on, so that the retention of information while in high school, and later in college, will be at an optimal level. You may discover that your child learns well with a mixture of styles, while some students may have one style dominating the others.

Having this vital information will help your child when choosing a college or university and also when tailoring his or her class schedule. Certain departments or teachers may teach in a particular way that may be just right for the way your child learns.

Location, Location, Location!

In the real estate business, they often say that “location is everything.” Well, the fact of the matter is that it means a lot when choosing a college, as well. The location of the college can be just as important as which college it is. For example, if your child was born and raised in southern Florida but has his sights on a college in Michigan, he may be in for a big surprise once the weather turns in December and January.  That is not to say that it cannot be overcome.  Students are, of course, often quite adaptable, but if this shock in temperature and culture may be too much for your son to handle then it’s best to look for a college in a different location.

The type of campus is also something very important to consider. For instance, would your child prefer a rural, urban or suburban campus. They all have their advantages and disadvantages, and it really depends on what your child is looking for and in which environment would s/he be the most comfortable.

Rural campuses are located in a country setting. They are peaceful and have a lot of experiences to offer being surrounded by natural beauty. Most rural campuses are self-contained and this means that most students live on campus. This can create a sense of belonging and community for your child if that is important to him or her. Many rural campuses have ready access to the outdoors and this may be of particular importance if your child has an interest in agriculture or the environmental sciences.

Urban campuses are also very appealing for the right kind of student. They are located in cities and have all the social and cultural advantages that cities have to offer. This can mean ready access to cultural sites, museums, and of course businesses. Urban campuses can often tend to be spread throughout a city and may not be completely self-contained like rural campuses. Students often live either in dorms or in apartments near campus. Students also usually need to use public transportation.

Suburban campuses are usually located in smaller cities or larger towns that are close to bigger cities. The nice thing about suburban campuses is that they offer a mixture of both urban and rural features. They have more access to the outdoors than would be found in an urban setting. They are often self-contained so students can have a real sense of that campus community. And, depending on how large the city or town is, it may have a good public transportation system.  The real question is… which type of institution is going to be the best fit for your child’s interests?

What to Study?

What your child wants to study has a lot to do with where they will want to go to school. A liberal arts college is a great choice, but if they don’t have a strong program in the area in which your child has an interest – or if your child is interested in a very specific type of program that is only offered in a few locations – then a liberal arts school may not be the right fit.

If your child has an interest in engineering then choosing a school with a stellar fine arts program but less than stellar engineering program wouldn’t make sense. Finding out where a student’s interests lie can take a little time, and there is no guarantee that a young person will know what he or she wants to study before matriculating, so sometimes it is important to view this decision a bit more flexibly.

Taking some steps to find out what stimulates and excites them will make it easier to find a school and program that is a great fit.  A few of the general questions to be answered might be along these lines:

  • What does your child love to do?
  • What is your child especially good at?
  • Which areas or fields are they interested in?

Some tips could be that your child shadows a person who has a job that he or she is interested in.  Or, a young person can sometimes complete an internship at a several places to get a closer idea regarding a field that may be of interest. Narrowing interests will make it a lot easier when choosing a college.

In the end, however, it’s not a deal breaker. If your child is not sure before attending college, things can still turn out just fine. Finding an excellent liberal arts college or university with good overall programs will serve them well as they decide along their college journey.  Remember also that for many professional programs (law, medicine, etc.), the specialized training takes place in the years after undergraduate training – the main point for kids interested in these fields is to be performing at a high academic level so that he or she can gain admission, if that turns out to be the direction for a future career!

Until next month,

~Marc Ziegler

When it comes to college who will help?

  • Our Blog

February, 2021

“The Six Opinions That Actually MATTER While Your Child

Prepares For The College Years”

Preparing for college or university studies is a competitive process, in many ways. The simple fact is that the admissions process for better institutions and programs is a competitive one, because there are almost always more applicants than available positions for desirable schools. Because of this, we find that the preparation and application process can often take on a sometimes-unpleasant “edge” that really need not be there. Of course, the simple fact that we don’t like the tone of the process does not mean that it will go away, but it also means that there is no shortage of opinions, judgments, and comments surrounding the lengthy and involved process of preparing for and applying to colleges and universities.

Because there is no shortage of opinions and input, one of the most important things that parents and college-bound students can do is to determine exactly whose opinions and input matter the most… and focus their attention and efforts exclusively on those. If a family can hone in on the voices that will truly help them to find and access the best higher education options for their situation, and essentially ignore the cacophony.

For this month’s newsletter, we are focusing these pages on the “short list” of people and groups whose thoughts on the college application process actually matter, to some degree or other. Yes, and individual student might have an additional couple of people whose opinions matter to them, and that is as it should be, but let us assure you – there is no need to take advice from the peanut gallery. As always (and as will be discussed below), if you are interested in some more personalized suggestions, please do feel free to give us a call. Because we are college funding professionals – and quite literally college application experts – we are uniquely qualified to assist with planning, and can provide the most pertinent information for your family’s college preparation efforts.

Probably the most important advice for parents from the outset is first of all, to use common sense, and secondly, to ignore the aforementioned “peanut gallery.” While the outcomes may be rather public, the college application process is a personal one, and it is important to realize that the opinions of other parents or students will be of negligible value in the long run. Always remember to focus on that long run, and not on trying to impress the people whose opinions ultimately do not matter! Some of the people whose opinions will matter, to some degree or other, include:

1) The Teachers

This can be, of course, a double-edged sword, depending on the teacher. High school teachers are in charge of the grades that determine grade point average, of course, so their opinions need to be taken into consideration. College application recommendations also tend, at least in part, to come from high school teachers. Excellent teachers, providing excellent and purposeful letters of recommendation, are an absolute godsend to any college-bound student’s applications. On the other hand, unprofessional teachers can tend to make the process significantly more challenging than it needs to be.

Regardless, the best advice for students who are preparing for higher education is to seek out the best teachers during their high school years… and to maintain cordial, appropriate relationships in all of their classes, no matter who the teacher might be. Students who can manage this will generally be able to tell which teachers have their best interests at heart, and seek out appropriate advice from them.

2) The Advisors

You will find a number of different people during the high school years that function as advisors in some capacity. There are guidance counselors and academic advisors on the classroom side of things, and then club advisors, sports coaches, artistic directors, and others involved with extracurricular activities. And of course, that partial list ignores a host of other potential advisors through such organizations as service clubs, scouting troops, church groups, and other activities that are based outside of the high school umbrella.

It is usually best to select just a couple of particular advisors to assist with the actual college admissions process itself – many schools will have the guidance counselor automatically involved in the process, but a few advisors from extracurricular activities can be helpful in offering input and support along the pathway to the college years.

3) The Student 

The interests, goals, and overall desires of the student him/herself are sometimes, sadly, completely overlooked in parental enthusiasm for the college application process. It is important to remember that a student will have the best opportunities to succeed if s/he is in a situation where s/he is excited and motivated to study.

While input from the parents is key, and certainly important, the opinions of the student need to be respected. The application process is usually a team effort, to be sure, but over the long-term the student will be the one studying and working towards his/her long-term goals. We urge parents to always keep this fact in mind.

4) The Mentor(s)

It sometimes does not seem very easy for students to find mentors in the field(s) that are of major interest – especially if they are in an area that might not dovetail with the professional work of a parent or relative. However, it is our experience that students who are willing to put their best foot forward, and perhaps even do some volunteer or internship work in some capacity, will often be able to find supportive mentors for their academic and career goals.

These opportunities might be listed online, in newspapers, or through school offices and clubs… but sometimes it is as simple as calling or emailing a business, hospital, or other institutions and asking. Many young people have been able to meet and work with influential mentors in all sorts of fields by having the gumption to ask.

5) The Admissions Officials

When it comes right down to it, the people who have the most pull in the college and university admissions process are the admissions officials at each school. They are the ones whose opinions of an application will matter the most. Take their published and posted information (areas of emphasis, deadlines, rules) seriously. Understand that different colleges have different admissions officials with different requirements or areas of focus. And certainly, should you ever interact with them, treat them with friendliness and respect – which is pretty good advice for most personal interactions, actually!

6) The College Funding/Admissions Advisors

Naturally, we cannot allow a list like this one to head off to the parents of college-bound high school students without reminding you about what we do, and how we can help in this process. The families and students we work with in the college funding and admissions processes certainly find themselves in a very enviable situation, because we are wholly invested in their success. We are professionals and we have nothing else in mind aside from helping students gain admission to the best college or university for their future interests, and helping parents to manage the financial aspects of making that a reality.

Notice how we steered clear of what we call the ‘peanut  gallery’?  That’s because, you can probably name a few right off the bat from the neighbor who means well to the know-it-all at the gym.  As you move through the college planning process, you’ll soon develop an ear for the experts and the rest.

Until next month,

 

                                                                          

Start Planning for College Today

  • Our Blog

“Turning The High School Years Into

Effective College Preparation Time

Dear Parent,

It can be a tough job for both parents and college-bound high school students when it comes to preparing optimally for future academic endeavors… as college funding professionals with detailed knowledge into the admissions process, we recognize that all elements of the subject can be stressful and challenging from beginning to end!  However, the challenges related to college preparation can be effectively managed with some planning and insights in advance – and there is not doubt that it increases if college details are ignored throughout the high school years.

This is why we are here to help!

For this month’s newsletter, we are dedicating these pages to help you understand why the preparations are important, and how to make them happen.  Remember, if you have any questions about these important college preparation subjects, we urge you to give us a call.  College funding and application professionals are experienced and knowledgeable in these areas and can offer tailor-made explanations, planning, and information when it comes to these important college preparation efforts.

Investigate Early College Credit Options

One great way for students to get a head start on their college experience is to look for opportunities to earn college credits while still attending high school.  There can be a variety of options, and they are all worth looking into.  Some schools will offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses than can actually count for future credit at many colleges and universities.  Of course, these courses presuppose that the student has demonstrated some strong aptitude in the subject matter, and are not available to every single student who expresses interest – but if the chance is there, and the student has the interest and the academic chops to handle it, then it can be a terrific alternative to the rank and file coursework.

Another possibility for some students, depending on locality and arrangements, is the completion of individual college courses during high school.  This is sometimes on a special agreement with a local community college or public university, but it can be a great way for students to get their feet wet early on, and even get a jump on completing some of their core curriculum classes at the next level before they have ever officially matriculated as a college freshman!

These options can make sense academically, putting the student ahead of the curve and building confidence early on… but it can also make a lot of sense financially.  You see, courses that a student completes before setting foot on campus are courses that will not show up on the college tuition bill later, and on that front every little bit helps!  If a student can shave off as much as a term or semester from the eventual course of their undergraduate degree, then the amount of tuition saved can be pretty darned significant.

Seek Out Academic and Extracurricular Experiences

High school is a great time in a young person’s life, but there are many instances where students will feel pressure (whether external or internal) to follow the proverbial “path of least resistance.”  Advance Placement courses are not the only way for students to excel, and can sometimes be the wrong choice for a student due to academic interest, motivation, or other considerations.

It is vital for students to seek out opportunities to truly discover what their interests are, what experiences inspire them the most, and to begin to develop an understanding of what they want out of life.  Of course, those answers will often not come completely during the high school years, while there will be other students who may have known since they were five years old that they wanted to become a pilot, or an architect, or a doctor.

The point of high school is not to pigeonhole a student into a specific academic track prematurely, but rather to offer a chance for learning and growth, as well as an opportunity to demonstrate abilities, talents, and interests.  This can only really happen if the high school experience is treated appropriately, and not viewed as sheer drudgery to be endured only until graduation springs a student onward to the thrills of university life.

Yes, we all know that high school can be rough at times, and we all have memories of certain classes that were… well, yes, probably sheer drudgery… but we are convinced that it is important to seek out whatever intriguing and inspiring options can be found in the high school experience.  Some semesters this may be more challenging than others, due to different teachers or social pressures or family challenges, whatever the case my be, but it is well worth the effort to seek out the best things that a high school has to offer.  This includes academic offerings, clubs, sports, theater, community involvement – really, anything that interests and inspires your child to a higher level.

Doing so will help the high school experience to serve as a springboard to bigger and better things at the college or university level, and hopefully help to convey and nurture a love of learning and growth that will last a lifetime, as well as providing a financially viable and fulfilling professional future.

Communicate With Counselors Regularly

There can certainly be a benefit derived from keeping the lines of communication open with high school and college counselors.  While the individual value can depend a lot on the counselor himself or herself, there are basic college preparatory courses and requirements with which most counselors are quite well-versed.  It is important for college-bound kids to be familiar with these tidbits, even if some guidance counselors do not have a lot to offer beyond that (which is sadly sometimes the case).  Maintaining a respectful and cordial relationship with these counselors can only help later when it comes time for letters of recommendation or paperwork for college application, regardless of how much or how little a specific counselor has to offer.

We also recommend good communication with the colleges and universities that are of the highest interest to your student, as well as obtaining a firm understanding of the requirements for specific programs to which they wish to apply.  Remember, especially for private schools or institutions in other parts of the nation, local high schools simply may not have access to the information about the programs that your child desires!  Even within the same major or area of academic emphasis, there can be differences between the requirements of different colleges and universities, so these things need to be carefully investigated beforehand.

With this in mind, as College Funding and Admissions Professionals, we also view ourselves as counselors in this arena, and we know that we bring the most up-to-date and actionable information for both college-bound students and their parents.  We have access to the information about the schools that interest your child, no matter where in the country they might be located.  We are the most reliable experts in managing the college funding challenges.  We really are here to help with all aspects of the college preparation experience.

As you know, higher education financial planning and college application services stand at the very foundation of our work as college funding professionals.  This leads us to an ultimate goal of assisting parents in seeking the very best strategies for the management of their financial circumstances, as well as the proper utilization of assets to create the best situation possible with regard to the college options for the academic future.  This entire process works best, very simply put, if the parents are well-prepared ahead of time, with a clear set of guidelines to help along the way to preparation for their student’s future college and university years… as well as the attending college and university expenses!

Until next month,

marc signature