How to Calculate the Cost of College

It's not uncommon for a teen to have an offer to attend a college the family can afford, only to have the teen pining over their "dream school." Having this conversation long before the college list is made can prevent a lot of heartache, tears, and parents from hocking their investments so that little Suzie can get what she wants. (Yes, there's definitely sarcasm here.)

I don't subscribe to the dream school concept. I believe it's a made-up marketing gimmick by pricey colleges. There is no evidence that having a degree from an expensive college equates to more success or more income. Unfortunately, "dream school" and "top school" have come to mean the same thing. Money. It's gonna cost you. The question is "how much?" So how do you figure that out, and how do you know if it's worth it?

It's all in the numbers so grab a spreadsheet and let's start doing a little math.

In my example, Alice had an offer to attend a very reputable college with a scholarship, and her mom could...

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Does Your Kid Have Writer’s Block for College Essays?

Kid got writers block?

Here’s the thing… the entire college application is filled with
-Grades, GPA, Test scores (stats)
-Lists of activities, community service, employment, maybe some leadership roles.

BUT

What’s missing is WHO you are and what’s important to you.

There is no such thing as “a topic” they haven’t heard before. None. They’ve heard it all. I promise!

What you are looking for is what is missing from your application that says more than what is there.

YOU/(your teen)-are more than a GPA/test scores/list of activities.

Who are you?

What are your character traits and WHAT stories show that?

What are your values and WHAT shows that?

Have you ever noticed an object or a scent repeatedly reminds you of someone important in your life?-why is that person important-but remember the essay is not about the other person it’s about the student. How they think, or what THING may have occurred that changed his perspective/thoughts...

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Colleges that offer FREE tuition. Is it real?

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Let's talk about colleges that offer "free" tuition. (Notice, I have "Free" in quotations. Nothing in life is free. It's costing someone something. But that's not my point today.)
I've noticed an occasional media article touting XYZ college offering "Free Tuition", "Needs Met", or a "No Student Loan" policy.
First, the odds are this is only true for a segment of the population-usually very low income. It usually doesn't cover fees, room, board, or books.
 Also, a "Needs Met" or Meets Need school usually means you will have to come up with the FAFSA EFC but no more than that. (Most families will tell you they'd have to sell their house to have a chance of covering their EFC for 4 years for one child.)
Every time you read headlines like this PROCEED WITH CAUTION. It's more likely to be media hype than anything you can use.
I don't mean to bust anyone's bubble here, but taking a realistic approach as early as possible will save you time, money, disappointment, and tears.
...
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Did Your Junior Miss the PSAT exam?

It’s more common for homeschoolers to miss the PSAT exam than it is for traditionally schooled kids but it can and does happen (kid gets sick OR your school doesn’t offer it at all!)

Why do I push the PSAT? Because there’s huge money at stake!! 15,000 finalists, 8000 scholars. 
there are colleges that offer 1/2 tuition all the way through a full ride  this is one you don’t want to miss as your kid is only competing with his own state. (Also, both of my homeschooled kids won $$$$ from this scholarship.)

So what to do next?

It must be in junior year.

There are alternate PSAT test dates this month. One is tomorrow. The other in a couple of weeks. You register your child through the school that is offering it. You’ll call the school and ask for the counselor about the PSAT exam. So they would (a) have to say yes your kid can come and test with us and (b) have an extra test to offer. (The cost is about $30).

You would have to go to the college...

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Is the College Net Price Calculator Accurate?

The Net Price Calculator (NPC) is required on every college website. (It’s much like an online mortgage calculator. )

Here’s the thing. The NPC, like many other areas of the website, are not necessarily constantly updated by a paid on staff web designer. Unlike simply changing the dollar amounts of tuition and room costs, the calculator is a little more complicated and requires actual programming “behind” the page.

That said, many NPC’s can be as much as 2 years old. However, the results it spits out shouldn’t be more than a few thousand off (in the college’s favor) from the actual financial aid offer. I always ask my parents to take a screenshot of their input data and the final output (with the college URL at the top.) That way, if there is a huge difference in what is offered you at least have something to discuss in the appeal.

Just remember that colleges that offer few merit scholarships may not include that possibility in the NPC and...

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Less Stress for Success: Self-Care & Study Tips for College Students

Self-Care & Study Tips for College Students

Don’t jump from studying one subject directly into studying another. Students should take breaks between study sessions. The concept of studying in increments is nothing new. The Pomodoro Technique, as it is called, is a time management technique where the student studies for 30-45 minutes and then takes a 10-15 minute break. Even if you need to study or work on one project for a specific class for 2 hours, the Pomodoro study shows it’s still best to break that 2 hours into 3 or 4 segments.

But what should you do with that 10-15 minutes between?

What you should not do is fret over the work that is yet to be done. Worry and anxiety will not help you.

When taking a break, even if it’s just for 10 minutes do something that brings you joy and takes your mind off of your studies. But set a timer and stick to it! Here are a few ideas.:

Have a cup of hot tea. A study conducted by Dr Malcolm Cross and Rita Michaels,...

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Practice and Prep for the ACT

Prepping for the ACT exam doesn't have to be difficult especially if you start early. But all "prep" is not created equal. There are many test prep books available on Amazon and in bookstores. You may even find some at used book sales. But use caution. Both the ACT and SAT (College Board) spent a ton of money getting those test questions just right. There are a lot of copycat test prep books that may not be substantial enough to be used for your prep work. 

Official practice tests are the best way to go. ACT and SAT both retire several exams each year. Those exams are usually placed in their official test prep books and are available for purchase each year. 

ACT offers an official practice test that you can print out and take with a pencil and paper. I highly recommend doing this since your real exam will also be using pencil and paper.  Fo any practice test you'll want to mimic an actual testing situation as closely as possible. with timing, and no distractions,...

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Don’t Skip the ACT!

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Don't buy into the "schools are test-optional" mantra and end up missing out on tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships.

#1 Less than 50% of colleges were test-optional for admissions. (Most still want them for scholarships. or for special groups.) 

#2 Within 3 years 90% will return to test-required. 

Will your teen be late to the party?

These exams are tied to BIG scholarships. My 2 kids won more than $50,000 in college and state scholarships where the ACT scores were a deciding factor. That's REAL money.

Taking the exams can also help your teen place out of introductory college classes in English and Math. That also saves money and time.

If you want comprehensive details on preparing for the ACT exam. Click here!

To Your Success,
Denise

P.S. Waiting until the middle of junior year to take these exams is one of the most ridiculous, self-serving pieces of advice that high school counselors give. If you want to why it’s a bad idea to wait, email me!...

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Should My College Kid Get an Allowance?

This topic came up when one parent wanted to fund $1000 per month into their college kid's account.

What is an allowance? An allowance is an amount of money given on a regular basis. It may have rules or stipulations on under what circumstances it is received (for young children it may be for doing certain chores) or "just because we can" with no rules in place for how it must be spent.

Let's start with, Your college kid should not have time to fiddle around (even if it's in NYC) to spend that kind of cash every month. Unless they are getting an Underwater Basketweaving degree, they should be studying. Being a theater arts major shouldn't require attending expensive shows every month either.

If and how much to give your teen will depend on your circumstances. If all of your teen's bills are paid for, then an allowance might cover a tank of gas each month, car expenses such as oil changes and registration, and one decent meal at a restaurant. 

Eventually,...

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My Kid is Average. How to Stand Out in College and Scholarship Essays

I hear it often. Parents and teens believe they have to have something extraordinary to gain college acceptance or to win private scholarships.

We live in a small town.”

”Nothing significant has ever happened for a “story” that is good or bad.”

” I have read my teen’s essays and they seem good but nothing like the students that have life changing events.”

They don’t have anything special. They didn’t start a non profit foundation. They’re average. Couldn’t be farther from the truth. (Most of the time)

"My kid's essays don't stand out! What can I do?"

First, chill. Not everyone is going to have some earth-shattering global impact project or has survived a deadly disease. Yet a large percentage of teens get accepted to colleges and win scholarships every year .

Colleges and scholarship committees aren’t looking for spectacular. They’re looking for the “real you.” (Your teen).

What are...

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