Scholarship Friday: 10 Scholarship Tips for Parents


scholarship tips for parentsNo. You won’t be applying for the scholarships. But you will (and should) be an integral part of the scholarship search and application process. If you want your student to be successful (translation: more money for college), you need to get involved. Be the cheerleader cheering them on to success. Be the taskmaster assuring they stay on task. And be the errand boy (or girl) by helping out when needed.

Here are 10 scholarship tips for parents:

  1. Discuss the importance of scholarships—Your college bound teen should know that scholarships will not only help you, but they will help him by not having student loan debt when he graduates. The more money you win, the less you have to worry about college costs.
  2. Encourage the extracurriculars—Outside activities are critical when applying for most scholarships. If they aren’t required, it’s an added bonus to the application and paints a positive picture for the scholarship judges.
  3. Start early—It’s never too early to begin the search. Keep your eyes and ears open to scholarship opportunities and pass them along to your student. There are indeed scholarships for all ages.
  4. Check with your employers—Many companies have employee sponsored scholarship programs for the employees and their dependents.
  5. Block off time for the search—Set aside at 30 minutes a day to search for scholarships, and more if it’s possible. Searching for scholarships is just like job hunting: you have to put in the work to reap the rewards.
  6. Encourage your child to create accounts on free scholarship search sites—Check out these posts for some sites to bookmark: How to Find Scholarships Online, 7 Great Scholarship Search Sites, 56 College Info Websites, 50 More College Prep Websites.
  7. Proofread your child’s scholarship application and essay—Check for errors and omissions. These few things can make the difference between an award and ending up in the reject pile.
  8. Pay attention to deadlines—Late applications will not be considered. Find a filing and organizing method that works best for you and your child to stay on top of deadlines.
  9. Check with the high school guidance counselor—Encourage your child to meet with his guidance counselor and express interest in scholarships.
  10. Encourage persistence—Don’t stop searching. The more your student applies, the more chances he has to win.

Educational Trip Ideas for the Whole Family


Although many of us enjoy family vacations when our children are young, traveling with teenagers is notoriously difficult, with many people assuming it’s impossible to find a way of doing it that will be interesting to all involved. More often than not, that’s simply because they’re going about it the wrong way. Taking teenagers traveling isn’t about keeping them entertained – it’s about talking in advance about their interests and planning trips that will give them the opportunity to learn and grow. Let them take the lead and you might be surprised by how much you learn.

Real life learning

No matter how much time has been spent on study, there’s nothing like learning in real life. It’s particularly useful right before young people go away to college – giving them the chance to take the lead in organizing some parts of the trip will enhance the life skills they need to get by on their own and will show them that they are respected as capable individuals. Giving them the chance to see famous monuments and historic buildings with their own eyes will make the things these places represent much more real to them and help them to understand how they fit into the world.

Washington D.C.

To cultivate an understanding of American history, nothing is more valuable than a trip to Washington, D.C. – a chance to see (and perhaps tour) the White House, visit the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, and explore the Capitol Building and Library of Congress. The city has some magnificent museums, including the National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum – great places to explore for someone about to commence a college career. Key historical documents can be found in the National Archives, and if there’s time left over, you can soak up some culture at the National Gallery of Art.


Once the capital of the United States, Philadelphia is the place where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed, and you can still visit Independence Hall where it all happened. Just opposite, there’s the Liberty Bell Center, and the architecture you will see in the city’s older streets tells its own story about the early days of American history. The Philadelphia Museum of Art has far more to offer than just the cool set of steps where Rocky Balboa trained; hidden treasures like the Eastern State Penitentiary speak to the beginnings of a distinctively American value system, and when you want some downtime you can go check out the Philadelphia Flyers.

New Orleans

Perhaps the single most important site for French cultural influence in the early United States, New Orleans has a rich culture also influenced by the Spanish and by survivors of the slave trade. Despite the damage done by Hurricane Katrina, it still has many beautiful old examples of European-style architecture, and its old inhabitants are remembered in spectacular tombs. It has a wealth of museums to explore, from the Voodoo Museum to the Backstreet Cultural Museum, and it’s the site of Chalmette Battlefield, where you can learn about the Battle of New Orleans.

Working for the U.S. Government


One of the best jobs you can get today is a job with the government, especially with the U.S. Department of Commerce. The benefits are unbeatable, the pay is excellent and you get some of the best experience possible in your field of endeavor. There’s just one problem: Government jobs aren’t easy to get. Sure, some of the lower-paying ones might be attainable, but the best jobs out there require extensive training and a comprehensive education.

Main Misconceptions

You are probably thinking that you’ll have to move to Washington, D.C., to find a federal job, but that’s not true. According to, you can find a government job in all 50 states, as well as overseas, with the 84 percent of them of them located outside of the nation’s capital.

Even though the government has a federal deficit and is cutting out some jobs, your chances of getting hired are high, with over 2.3 million federal civilian employees out there. At least one quarter of these workers are eligible to retire, so the government is always seeking qualified people to fill those vacancies.

Basic Requirements

To get a job with the U.S. Department of Commerce, you’ll probably need at least a bachelor’s degree in economics or a related field. You’ll also need to have three years of specialized trade promotion experience. You must also be a U.S. citizen, between the ages of 21 and 59. In addition, you must be available to work in a worldwide setting, and you must be able to move around the world, if needed.

You may be required to relocate every three to four years. You must also be able to obtain medical and Top Secret Clearances and pass a drug test. It might seem like a lot, but you probably already qualify if you’re not a convicted felon and you live a responsible, healthy lifestyle.

The Application Process

There are plenty of jobs available with the government, but only the most advanced credentials will secure you a job in this marketplace. The application process for working with the U.S. government is exhaustive. You must complete a competitive oral and written exam. You must also be willing to wait. The U.S. government often takes six months or longer to fill some jobs.

After you complete the exam, they may call you in to complete a one-day oral assessment before they make a final decision. If you pass the assessment, they place you on a waiting list, called the Rank Order Register. This list is valid for a period of two years. From here, you wait.

The U.S. government fills jobs when vacancies open up. You also need to pass Top Secret security clearance, a medical clearance and a drug screening, too.

Limited Appointments

You can work for the government in a more limited capacity through limited appointments. Limited, non-career, Foreign Service officers are members of the general public that the government hires as foreign commercial service officers for a specific job, duty station or tour of duty, based on a specialized skill or experience. These job assignments are typically limited to two years for the first assignment.

You can’t work for the U.S. Commercial Service for more than five consecutive years, and there are no promises that your contract will extend beyond the two years. In fact, there’s no promise that you will be assigned for the full two years on your first assignment.

Taking the Civil Service Exam

Taking a civil service exam is standard part of the application process. Even if you have your heart set on working for the U.S. Department of Commerce, there are many other jobs available within other areas of the government. These jobs are listed at the government web portal,, through the Office of Personnel Management. You can search their website for the type of job you are looking for, the specific department you want to work in, your skills, or even your location.

Although the process may seem laborious and complicated, obtaining a job in the U.S. government can provide many excellent opportunities like training, for example. The salaries federal workers receive are highly competitive with the private sector. For example, middle management jobs can pay over $100,000 per year. In addition, the federal health insurance and retirement benefits are often superior to the programs corporations offer.


Lisa Mills is an independent labor researcher with a love for education and career opportunities. She enjoys blogging about the options and benefits of a variety of fields.

Wednesday’s Parent: Will You Write a Recommendation Letter?


recommendation letterRecommendation letters. Every student needs them. Almost every teacher dreads having to write them (see #2 and #9 below). Every parent nags about them at some point. It’s a part of the college application process and it should be taken seriously. No last minute panicking on this task—it requires some thoughtful planning.

Here are 10 steps to help you help your student complete this necessary task and secure a top-notch recommendation letter:

  1. Start thinking about who you will ask to recommend you during your junior year.
  2. Ask people who know you—not teachers or counselors who only know your name. This is a good reason to establish those relationships freshman year.
  3. Ask for the letters the first few weeks of school during senior year, giving the person time to craft a good letter.
  4. Provide a resume with the request. Teachers love it when students do this—it helps them recall facts about the student and gives them information to add in the letter.
  5. Ask people who know you well and can rave about your intellectual and academic skills.
  6. Provide them with the deadline dates and any additional forms they need to complete.
  7. Waive your right of access to the letter. This enables the person to write honest and accurate recommendations without having to worry about how you will respond. (Another reason to choose wisely).
  8. Talk to them about why college is important to you.
  9. Don’t wait until the last minute. The answer will either be “no” or you’ll get a form letter with little or no personal recommendation.
  10. Take these letters seriously. They are a crucial part of your college admissions application.

To avoid the inevitable nagging and constant badgering, start these 10 steps early and devise a plan that both you and your student can work with. Calendar and text message reminders work better than constant nagging, especially with stressed out teenagers.

Read Wendy’s post: You want ME to recommend YOU!?!


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Wendy and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Wendy and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound.

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from parentscountdowntocollegecoach to and vice versa.

App Tuesday: 8 Writing and Research Apps


research appsWhat high school student doesn’t need to know how to properly annotate a reference source, find a synonym for simple words to spice up their essays, or do some research for term papers? Today’s App Tuesday, 8 Writing and Research Apps, should help with these tasks.

Apple and Android (free)

We’ve all turned to the dictionary over the course of a marathon paper-writing session. Whether it’s to find the definition of a word in a source, or to find a synonym for a desired word, having a dictionary that is easy to reference would be a tremendous asset. has made its vast compendium of resources, including its medical, science and rhyming dictionaries. The app is available for easy reference, even in the absence of an Internet connection. (Scroll down the home page for the app links).


Apple and Android (free)

Imagine Easy Solutions has found one way to simplify the sometimes tedious process of citing the works referenced in your paper. Questions over how to treat a later edition of a book, which authors’ names are needed, or where to place colons and commas are now answered. Their EasyBib allows works to be cited in MLA, APA or Chicago formats by scanning the barcode of a book or typing its name. References or works cited pages come together with ease, though you still will have to make in-text citations on your own. (Scroll down the home page for the app links).

 Wolfram Alpha 
Apple, Android, Kindle Fire, Nook ($2.99)

Anyone interested in science should download this app immediately. It’s a math machine, an interactive physics textbook and a science computer all in one. You can convert units and currencies, track unemployment figures, explore DNA or even compare dinosaurs in a flash. It’s arguably the single best reference smartphone app available, and I find some reason to use it almost every day.

Thesaurus Rex
Apple and Android ($2.99)

Loaded with more than half a million synonyms and antonyms, this app insures that you’ll never be stuck for a word again. Its word-recommendation system is clear and surprisingly intelligent, and there are also detailed definitions and explanations of words’ origins and histories. A $1.99 upgrade even provides rhymes.

Google Translate

Apple and Android (free)

The speech recognition feature is very, very impressive. Choose the language you speak and speak what you want it to translate. The translated text appears on the screen. Almost every language is included.


Apple (free)

Wikibot – A Wikipedia Articles Reader is a beautiful app that makes researching a truly pleasurable experience. It has bookmarking features, the ability to look up highlighted words for more details on whatever subject you’re interested in, and more. Wikibot will sync with iCloud, and you can change the font to your liking or put an image in gallery mode to see a larger view. This app is universal, supports 36 different languages, and allows you to share what you are reading via Facebook or Twitter.

Encyclopedia Britannica 
Apple iPhone or iPad ($1.99 per month), Windows ($4.99 per year)

Wikipedia is great for everyday references, but when you need expertly written and thoroughly checked articles, Britannica remains the gold standard. The subscription-based iPad app is particularly attractive, because it offers more real estate to view the photos, graphs and illustrations. The better value, though, is the Windows Phone version, which gives you all 80,000 articles for a low annual fee.


Apple, Android (free)

This beautifully designed app breaks down into easily digested chunks local data as diverse as demographics, home values, weather trends, household income, political donations, popular restaurants and tourist sights.

Mom-Approved Tips: Surviving Move-In Day


college move in day

Photo courtesy of University Parent

Originally published in the University Parent Guide to Supporting Your Student’s Freshman Year


Emotions run high on college move-in day. Parents anticipate letting go of the child they’ve spent 18 years protecting; students are excited but also nervous and self-conscious. All these emotions — yours and theirs — require patience on your part. As move-in day approaches, knowing what to expect should help you and your student survive with minimal fall-out.

Arrive prepared
Arrive early (get a good parking spot!) and prepared for the day. Bring the necessary equipment: dollies for heavy items, cleaning supplies, and comfortable shoes and clothing (it’s going to be a long day). Label boxes when packing to facilitate unpacking. Be prepared to navigate steps and carry heavy objects. Don’t count on elevators being available — everyone else will be using them, too.

Do your research before you arrive on campus, and make a list of required tasks: a trip to the bookstore, a stop at the Financial Aid or Student Accounting Office, a visit to a bank to open an account. Leave time for shopping but don’t overdo it — your student won’t need every single dorm furnishing item the first day or even week of school.

Take a step back
Allow your student to take the lead. When checking into the dorm, let her do the talking while you stand by to help if necessary. The sooner your student takes ownership of even mundane aspects of the college experience, the better. Let it start from the moment you arrive on campus.

To read the rest of my article, follow this link to University Parent’s website: Surviving College Move-In Day

And to snag yourself (or a friend) a copy of the University Parent Guide to Supporting your Student’s Freshman Year, use this coupon code at checkout (2DISCFRD) for a “Friends and Family Discount” — 60% off the regular price dropping it to $7.22. The code expires September 1st.

Helping Your Child Choose the Right Degree



Image by Kevin Dooley,

It’s an important time when your child is just about to finish high school and is working out where he or she would like to go next. You want to let him or her make their own decisions and follow their heart, but you also want to ensure he or she is making the best decisions for future life and career. For example, when looking at degrees to study, maybe you want her to choose the chemical engineering degree, but she wants to complete an arts degree. It’s a real minefield: deciding whether to interfere or to let her make her own decisions unaided to choose the right degree.

You Know Your Child

You’ve seen him or her grow up, you’ve watched them play with other children and develop into the young adult they are today. You know them inside out, probably better than they know themselves. Children do value their parents’ opinions, even if they won’t show it. You’re allowed to help.

 Find Resources

You can give your child the resources they need to think through their own decision making. Send them links to quizzes online which ask them about their interests and suggests routes for them based on their answers. Find websites aimed at school leavers which outline career paths and which courses are needed to get to where they want to go. And then let them soak up the information themselves.

Go With Them

Take your child to university open days, trial study days, and guided tours. You can walk around with them, let them soak up the atmosphere and imagine what attending these places might be like. There will be talks about courses so your child can learn what their chosen course will be like, along with taster sessions.

Help Them Find Opportunities

If your child still isn’t certain, take a top-down approach: find out what career areas interest them, and then work out how they can get there. There are many work experience and internship opportunities available: even a couple of weeks in a role will give them a taste for whether they would enjoy a career in a certain sector. Do you have any friends who could offer them work experience or shadowing opportunities for a couple of weeks over the summer?

Ask Them Questions

Sometimes it’s helpful just to sit down with your child and talk. Ask them what makes them tick, what gets them excited about life, and where they see themselves in ten or twenty years? Bring along a pen and paper and make notes or draw a mind map: this is a great opportunity to be supportive and help them find a direction without forcing them where you think they shouldgo.

Support Them

It might be that your child wants to study a subject, and you don’t agree that this is the best decision for them. It’s okay to tell them how you feel, but ensure you’re thinking of their best interests: it is as important for them to study a subject about which they feel passionate, as it is important for them to study a subject with excellent career prospects.

Most of all: good luck to your child on their future career. With some guidance, they will make a decision which suits them and brings them to the place they want to go, wherever that is.



Wednesday’s Parent: Top 5 Essay Posts for Parents


essayThe essay. Believe it or not, it’s a topic covered in teen angst shows—and when it’s covered, the parents end up writing the essays for their students. Why? Because the students are usually dreading, dreading, dreading writing the essay. And on top of that, they have no idea what to write or how to write it.

Apart from writing the essay yourself (you know you’re tempted—but resist with everything that is in you) here are some essay tips you can pass along to discreetly and subtly to your college-bound teen.

Answering the Common App Essay Prompts

The big idea here is that the story you want to tell matters a lot more than the prompt you attach to it. Most stories are about more than one thing, so yours might be about identity and failure, or about contentment and coming of age. So write the story first, and then figure out how to pitch it to an admissions committee. Having said that, it’s still useful to understand the questions.

5 Topics to Avoid in the College Application Essay

There’s a reason why schools require students to include essays, and it’s not just to see a sample of their writing ability. With thousands of applicants sporting similar qualifications and too few spots to accommodate them, something has to tip the scales, and it just might be the essay section. Picking the wrong one could mean getting a rejection letter. So here are just a few topics that students may want to steer clear of,

10 Tips for Writing More Competitive College Application Essays

With college admissions season in full swing, students nationwide are beginning to prepare their applications. While many of the academic elements like GPA, class rank and SAT score are set, one part of the application that students still exercise control over are the essays. To help students write competitive essays that will help get them noticed by admissions officers, Veritas Prep, the largest global provider of test prep and admissions consulting services, teamed up with Application Boot Camp®, America’s top college consulting firm, to offer ten tips students should follow as they draft their college application essays,

The College Essay Demystified

College essays go through many lives.  You will write, re-write, and re-write again, over a period of weeks or even months.  Inspiration can hit at any time.You want to have lots of time for your essays to percolate, to have those magic light bulb moments, or maybe even to wake up in the middle of the night from a dream and write a brilliantly creative essay (this really does happen!).

12 Essay Experts on Twitter

These twitter accounts are essay coaches—they help you write your OWN college essay by providing encouragement, guidance and support throughout the essay writing process. Follow them for tips about the essay and connect with them if your student needs help.

Read Wendy’s Post: Best Questions for Parents to Ask to Help with the College Essay


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Wendy and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Wendy and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound.

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from parentscountdowntocollegecoach to and vice versa.


App Tuesday: Apps for Learning Disabled Students


learning disabled studentsWhen you have a learning disabled student there is a whole other level of study, learning and social education. Today’s App Tuesday provides parents of the learning disabled some tools to make their job easier and help keep their student on the path toward higher education.

Inov8 Educational Consulting has compiled a list of apps with screenshots and links for parents to use. Here are just a few of the types of apps for learning disabled students they showcased:

Mind Mapping Apps

Apps for mind mapping are generally developed for a mass market and not specifically for educational use or for students with special needs. With so many apps on the market, we developed some basic criteria that we used to target the needs of a student with learning disabilities, and these apps meet the that criteria:

•Simple to use for middle and high school students

•Uncluttered interface

•Ability to manipulate “nodes” or ideas on the screen easily for those with fine motor difficulties

•Ability to use graphics instead of text, if needed

•Multiple options to use varying colors and shapes to differentiate ideas and to provide increased meaning and structure for the student.

•Ability to export the map into different formats, so that the student can manipulate the map afterwards for the writing process.

Apps to improve organizational skills

Learning disabled students struggle with organizational skills. These apps should help them improve those skills which in turn improves their study skills as well.

And here’s a follow up post with 9 more apps:

Apps to create social stories

Social stories can be used for behavioural support, for describing and teaching social interactions, to ease transitions, and to teach new adaptive skills (among many other uses!). According to Inov8, “we wanted to share some of the apps that we’re using, since there are so many more possibilities now than even last year.  Now we’re even using tools that were not originally designed for creating social stories. These content creation apps have allowed us to customize and individualize stories to our student or child’s needs-one of the many benefits of new transformative technologies!”

Apps that develop independence and autonomy

One of the key benefits of assistive technology is helping individuals to become more independent in their lives. In the case of the learning disabled student, the use of specific apps is supporting students to develop the skills essential to becoming self-determined. Whether these apps are used in the classroom, at home, or on the job, these students are using apps to develop independent work habits, feel comfortable socially, and to make autonomous decisions. They are also increasingly confident in their own abilities.

Apps for college/university students

Students with learning disabilities represent the largest group of students with disabilities in higher education settings. The number of students with learning disabilities in post-secondary education has increased over the past ten years. Some stats: one US study from the University of Washington concluded that 6% of the population in higher education has a disability. Of this number, 45% of individuals report a learning disability. Organizational strategies for students with LDs  in college or university is key to success. With a course load, research papers, collaborative assignments and a social life to juggle, college life can often be overwhelming. Effective note-taking, organization and research skills are extremely important. These 10 apps that will help in the area of productivity and organization.

In addition to the apps recommended by Inov8, the National Center for Learning Disabilities offers these recommendations:

Apps for Students with LD: Organization and Study

Apps to Help Students with Dysgraphia and Writing Difficulties


Mom-Approved Tips: Teaching Your Kids to Respect Themselves Online


respectToday, teaching your teens to respect themselves online is just as important as any other life lesson and when college is on the horizon, it is more essential than ever. Gone are the simple nuggets of advice which our parents put so much weight on; now it takes a steadfast determination to somehow get across what many teens think they already know.

Teaching the potential pitfalls of social media communication requires determination, cleverness, reverse psychology, and, if need be, tough love.

Watch the Traps

Social media strips away the ability to tune into someone’s social clues. Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair, a clinical psychologist and author of The Big Disconnect comments,

“In a way, texting and online communicating puts everybody in a nonverbal disabled context, where body language, facial expression, and even the smallest kinds of vocal reactions are rendered invisible.”

Because of this, there are many possible pitfalls your teen can fall into without them even knowing it. These pitfalls can manifest into adversely affecting their self-esteem, confidence, and overall self-respect. Some of these to watch for and discuss include:

  • Impostor Syndrome – Because image is so important to teens, it isn’t uncommon for them to create faux and/or multiple online personas. Talk with them about true identity and online identity, being sure to make them think about the difference between the two.
  • Stalking - It’s easy to annoy people online, but not only can it rapidly degenerate one’s reputation it can, in extreme cases, like cyber bullying, turn illegal. In addition, the hyper connection that kids have been living with could turn them into a recluse during college. Practice digital breaks and discuss how digitally harassing someone only creates unnecessary anxiety for both parties.
  • The Record – Sexting, private pictures/videos, and dangerous language are only a few of the traps that teens can slip into, especially once on their own at school. If your child doesn’t already know that every single thing they do on their computer is recorded, they should be told. Nothing can be deleted without a professional IT swipe and if something is emailed or texted, it is out there forever. A bad online decision, for any reason, can throw a teen into such a depressing funk that gaining back their self-respect may be a real uphill battle.

Helpful Apps

Thankfully, the digital universe is not all that bad and when it comes to teaching your teens to respect themselves online, a variety of available apps may help. Before they head to college, offer to buy or download apps that address:

  • Fitness- The “freshman fifteen” is a common term tossed around college campuses, but it needn’t apply to your child. There are great apps to track daily fitness and help your child maintain their weight and inevitably their self-respect.
  • Affirmations – A daily pop up quoting a positive affirmation may be just what your teen needs during the trials and tribulations of college life.
  • Life Coach- Yes, there are digital life coach apps that can assist your child with life problems they may not want to discuss with you.
  • Books – They’re still around, just not the tangible kind. Send them off with a downloaded book or two that you feel may help them keep their chin up.

Stay Connected

Stay connected, not with a device but with your heart. As cliché as that may sound, the Child Mind Institute describes some good habits to boost your teens digital self-respect,

“Establish technology-free zones in the house and technology-free hours when no one uses the phone, including mom and dad.”

Dr. Steiner-Adair advises,

“Give them your full attention until they’re out the door. And neither of you should be using phones in the car to or from school because that’s an important time to talk.”

Keep teaching your teens to respect themselves online and once they start college they’ll hopefully have a good foundation to beth them through unscathed.


Today’s guest post is from Tara Heath, a journalist in Southern California. As a mom of two teens, college is on the horizon and she is constantly looking for ways to teach her kids the importance of using the internet and social media wisely.