Where to Start?

If you are new to the college application and merit scholarship "game", being on social media or searching the internet can be more than confusing. ‍ The truth is, a lot of "information" is just wrong. At the very least it's outdated and useless.

Where to start depends a little on what grade level your kids are in, and what your family’s goals are. I have families on my email list whose oldest kids are age 8, whose kids are high school freshmen, and those who are seniors and up. But here’s the overall how to get started if merit scholarships are the goal.

(1) Decide how much you as the parent will/won’t or can/can’t contribute financially for college. Include what you are willing to cosign for.

Have that conversation with your teen as early as high school freshman year, so they understand fully that the responsibility of getting the grades and test scores for college acceptance and scholarships is up to them.

(2) There are thousands of colleges...

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Wait! Scholarships may be taxable income?!

It's not something we tend to think about while our teens apply for and win scholarships. But it is something you should at least be aware of. When your teen has college scholarships, then in January of your teen's college years they will receive a 1098-T from their college. (It may not be mailed to your kid. It might only be found in the school's tax documents section of their college financial portal. So be sure to look.) 

It's not a complicated thing. But here's the gist of it. (READ THE REST HERE.)

(NOTE: This information is for educational purposes only. Consult with your financial advisor or CPA for how you should handle your specific circumstances.)

Usually, scholarships that cover "qualified educational costs" are not taxable. But your opinion and that of the federal government of what qualifies may be different. Generally only course-related expenses such as tuition and fees, but it can include other items such as books, and equipment needed. 

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Scholarship taken away?

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 Yep. Scholarships can be taken away. And it happens more often than people know. There are several reasons this can happen.:

*.  The one you are likely familiar with is when your teen doesn't live up to their end of the bargain. There are always "strings attached" to the merit scholarship offered by the college, especially when it is recurring for 8 semesters, such as maintaining a minimum GPA and passing a minimum number of credit hours each semester. So read the details carefully when that award letter arrives. But also know the "what if" scenario. (I'll save that for another note.)

But THAT is the easy one. You know it. (Or should.) And hopefully, you will see it coming before the hammer falls, maybe even in time to do something about it.

HOWEVER,

There are other reasons why your teen can lose scholarships, and many come before they step foot in their first college class.

Several possible scenarios can trigger the possible loss of scholarship...

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College Essays Don't Have to Be Scary! (But Most of them Suck.)

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Writing the college or scholarship essay doesn’t have to be scary.

(For parents of seniors who have not hit the “submit” button yet, and parents of sophomores and juniors who don’t want to screw this up 365 days from now.)

Writing the personal essay for college apps, or a scholarship, doesn’t have to be scary. Your teen is writing about themselves. The topic is true to your teen, an experience they have had.

I don’t usually review essays that are not from my Cracking the Code to Free College (CCFC) clients. (My CCFC clients have training on winning essays and they know what a winning essay reads like.) But I’ve done a few reviews for non-clients this year, and unfortunately, it was not pretty.

This is hard to say but, for the vast majority, what was initially submitted to me, sucked.

As a parent, it’s difficult to help your teen with this aspect of the application process because what they choose to write about should be personal to...

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How to compare colleges?

How to compare colleges? 

A mom asked how to get organized when comparing colleges? 

Literally just use  an Excel/Numbers spreadsheet that is free on your computer.

I list in the first column, the things that are important to our family (location, cost of attendance, does it have the activity my teen wants, whatever else).

The other columns are the names of the schools and then you check the boxes down in each column for each school.

I also used it to add

Deadlines

date my kid applied,

Date of response,

Other things that needed to get sent either by us or but he high school,

Scholarship or financial aid offered

Etc.

-Once my teen had the list narrowed down to the “few”, the others were deleted from the page.

-Then once the ONE was decided on, that was the only college on the page and

The new columns are added for each semester of that college,

The rows (now instead of location and if they offered the college major) now we’re “amount of...

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Free Application Week 2023

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College applications can be pricey when you add it all up.
Here is a list of states that offer free college applications during a certain week. 


Alabama Oct. 17–21

Colorado Oct. 17–19

Delaware hosts a variety of College Application Month events

In Idaho, contact your student's high school to see if they have a "Next Steps" Month event planned.

In Illinois, contact your student's high school to see if they have a College Changes Everything Month event planned

Indiana's College Application Week took place Sept. 26–30, but some Indiana schools offer free applications to in-state students year-round, and free FAFSA virtual workshops will be held throughout the fall. Visit Learn More Indiana.

Maryland's virtual College Application Campaign runs from Oct. 1–Nov. 12.

The Minnesota State system of colleges and universities is hosting special visits (including virtual) in October, and students can apply for free at any time during October.

The University...

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Why Can’t Millennials Seem to Get Out of Debt?

A recent Newsweek article said millennials are in record-setting levels of debt. The question now is why? What keeps them in debt?

-More than anything else it’s a lack of financial knowledge.

-For many their initial financial troubles began with student loan debt when the bulk of it could have been avoided. For example, attending a college with a $260,000 price tag for a degree whose entry-level salary is $35,000 was a bad financial decision. A local regional college, while living at home, would have been much more economical. Unfortunately, neither their parents nor their high school counselor understood the math well enough to counsel them beforehand. That was their first error.

-Secondary to student loan debt is the idea that someone else will eventually pay for it, rather than taking responsibility for the contract they signed. There are plenty of opportunities to legitimately pay their debt down and get it off of their backs, but that requires dedication to getting out of...

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“Please don’t let those kids get stupid degrees.”~What my Aunt said when she learned what I do.

Seriously, that’s exactly what my Aunt said. No pause. No holding back. Being in your 80’s gives you the right to speak your mind. You’ve seen more of life than most people and the consequences that go along with it. She talks with people all of the time. Neighbors, relatives, the person at the grocery store checkout, the barista at the local coffee shop. She has seen the result of “stupid degrees” for decades.

So this is my effort to honor that request.

(Although for my clients, that doesn’t seem to be a problem.  I tend to attract families whose kids are high achievers headed for engineering or business, and such.)

Three decades ago, only 30% of the population attended college. Today that statistic has flipped. 70% attend college.  

The following is my opinion. You don’t have to agree with it.

The statistic flopped because society was told, “You must have a college degree to be successful in life.” (Which we know is...

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Looking for GIANT scholarships?

"I've told my kids to not bother applying for scholarships that are under $10,000."

Really? $500 is more than you had in the bank yesterday!

A lot of families are looking for high-dollar scholarships. I understand. It seems like a waste of time to apply for $500 or $1000 scholarships when there are $20,000 to $100,000 or more $ available. And as cute as that sounds, it's a very poor scholarship strategy.

I hear it often enough though so I thought I should at least address it.

Jenn asked:

"Outside of Gates/Posse/Questbridge/Bryan Cambell/Jackie Robinson Scholarship are there any more scholarships that offer meaty scholarships like these to students at any school? (Looking for non-school-specific scholarships that can cover any major.)"

There are some REALLY big scholarship opportunities, some that almost anyone can apply for.:

The Dr Pepper Tuition Giveaway
Ronal McDonald House Charities Scholarship
Burger King Scholars
Davidson Fellow Scholarship
Elks National Foundation...

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Love what you do.

This should go without saying, and the quote doesn’t end there. But let’s talk about how this quote applies to your teens.

It applies in several ways.

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”~Steve Jobs

This is the key to college acceptance and winning scholarships. I talk about it in more
Detail at homeschool and financial conferences.

Career choice.
Although the many teens feel they “know” their college major and career path, statistically they don’t. This one misstep costs them their future happiness. You CAN get it right the first time! I have a team of experts who can direct your teen to their perfect career for them. (DM me “career life coaches for teens for my contacts.)

College acceptance-Where do you fit into the campus community? Who are you?
Colleges are Not looking for the Jack of all trades. They’re looking for “focus”, what light you up? What you love to do that is integral to who you are....

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