Wednesday’s Parent: Is Community College Right for Your Student?


community collegeHigher education is a complicated issue for many students and parents today. College education is a necessity for finding success and prosperity in many career paths, but rising concerns about student loan debt and graduate unemployment are making the process of pursuing education more stressful and uncertain than ever before. Community colleges are becoming increasingly popular options for students everywhere, as a means of securing foundation credits before transferring to a university. Is community college a path that your teen should consider?

Community college gets a bad rap

Community colleges are often viewed as being stigmatized in many academic circles. Students and parents alike disdain the idea of a community college education because they believe that more prestigious institutions will look down upon them. Worries about how an employer will view community college education on a resume are disconcerting as well. However, you shouldn’t be concerned about such fallacies. Your teen can study at a community college before transferring to another school, and still have access to all the same opportunities as every other student.

Consider the costs

With college costs soaring, community college remains one of the most affordable options—in fact, it can save you a bundle.

•Community college tuition is significantly lower than that of traditional colleges and universities as well as public institutions.

•While attending a local community college, students can often remain living at home saving on room and board which on average is close to $10,000 a year.

•If your child is employed while in high school, they can keep their job by staying local throughout their college years. This income can often go a long way towards helping pay for transportation and college costs.

•If low grades are preventing your child from getting a scholarship at a college or university, attending a community college to earn an associate’s degree can be an affordable stepping-stone.

While you can likely finance an expensive private college or university with federal student loans or private loans—consider too that your child will be one-step ahead financially if they can enter the workforce debt-free.

Getting an education with potential

Gone are the days when masses of young people went to college for a general liberal arts degree with no specific career focus in mind. With the sagging job market, students have their eye on promising careers with upward mobility and lucrative salaries. For students looking to enter rapidly growing job markets, community college can be a viable option.

Many in-demand, well-paying, jobs require only an associate’s degree. More and more educational programs are offering these career-focused degrees. Careers such as electricians, plumbers, and mechanics are financially lucrative and graduates who can work in these fields are in high demand.

Many graduating seniors have decided to take the community college path before heading off to a 4-year university. They will tell you that they’ve made that choice for several reasons: cost, academic preparation, and the freedom to stay at home for the first few years. Community colleges aren’t just training grounds for technical careers, they are also the first stop for about 4 in 10 of college-bound high school graduates.

Community college might not be for everyone. But, it might be a perfect fit for your teen. And, if your teen is planning on making it the start of a 4-year degree plan, do some research and verify that the classes will transfer to the university they plan to attend.

Read Wendy’s blog: 3 Surprising Reasons to Consider Community College


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.


Work for College Students While Studying Abroad in Australia


studying abroadWork for students studying abroad in Australia can be easy or hard to find. Most international students get jobs after spending some time learning English a bit better. Students, who already know how to speak English well, obviously have more opportunities. There are cases where in three weeks the person is already employed, but other cases can reach 8 months of waiting, and there are even those who have never gotten any work.

The three most frequently asked questions about work for students in Australia are:

  1. Will I get a job easily?
  2. How much will I be paid?
  3. Can I keep this work while studying abroad?

There is no simple answer. Everything depends on many factors. One thing is certain; it is very hard for someone to get a part time job as a student and save a lot of money to take back to their country. Only immigrants get full time jobs. The math is simple: the hours students are allowed to work are 20 hours a week, and the average fee is 15 AUSD, this can make a total of 350 AUSD. However, if you account for all the expenses it means it is impossible. As you can see, the permission of the Government of Australia to allow students to work 20 hours a week is for financed studies, as it does not provide enough to survive financially depending on other resources.

Many people coming to study in Australia have the illusion that they will earn more money than this. This can happen, but usually only for a few people. The numbers are real and students must be prepared for this reality.

The most common jobs for international students are in the tourism and hospitality industry such as restaurants and hotels. Working hours for qualified students are the same as hours of study, or work hours are the same as those of courses. This is the reason why many engineers, systems analysts etc., work as cleaners or waiters. The most common jobs offered in the hospitality sector are: dishwasher, kitchen help, waiters and general cleaning. There are some opportunities in shops such as a seller and Pizza delivery but you may need your own vehicle. Of course you can get other work, but these are the easiest to find. For those students eager to work on farms during school holidays, there are magazines with lists of places in every state of Australia.

The procedure for obtaining the Working Visa is, after starting the course in Australia; go to DIMIA (Department of Immigration) in your city, have with you a school letter attesting to your enrolment and attendance over the passport and you get the seal that allows you to work 20 hours a week.

7 Positive Things That Can Look Bad on a College Application


Today’s guest post is from Ryan Hickey, Managing Editor of Petersons & EssayEdge.


college applicationIn my experience helping students with literally thousands of college application essays, it has become second nature for me to immediately recognize what works and what falls flat. However, I can see why it’s not easy for the layperson to understand what might be inappropriate for an entrance essay. That road paved with good intentions can easily lead a young college applicant right off a cliff.

Here are seven potential essay topics that may seem great on the surface but are actually big mistakes.

  1. Bragging about good grades.

Many well-meaning essayists list their favorite classes and then the perfect scores they received. It’s a complete waste of words. The adjudicator has a school transcript in hand. The essay is a chance to give the committee a glimpse into something they can’t already see.

  1. Taking an overly creative approach.

While it is a wonderful idea to create a unique narrative, the story needs to have some connection to qualifications, a school, and why a student wants to go there. This is not a place to write a Ray Carver-like short story, no matter how impressive it may be.

  1. Talking about the volunteer trip that changed your life.

The story of volunteering to teach English to people in a small village in Ecuador seems like a no-brainer.

“I went to Quito and from there braved the jungle and you know what…? I thought I was going to teach others English, but instead found that it was I who had the learning experience.”

It’s a beautiful story of commitment, and it’s also the number one story not to tell. The reason? Admissions counselors get this one ALL the time. ALL the time. If you must share this volunteer experience, the story should be truly unique and specific. What exactly was learned in the wilds of Ecuador? How does this tie into a desire for higher education?

  1. Celebrating a privileged background.

Some essayists feel it’s a great plan to write about how they feel so lucky to have come from such wonderful circumstances (from such loving parents, of course). The last thing an adjudicator would like to read about is how a student feels he or she has led a charmed life. It says nothing about what they can actually bring to the school.

  1. Battling adversity.

Overcoming obstacles is a good thing, but stories about death, dying, or trauma can easily come off as way too heavy in this format. These are not only distressing, but they are probably not as compelling or persuasive as one might think. Ultimately, they may end up distracting the reader.

  1. Obsessing over the sporting life.

I threw the winning pass to lead the team to the state champi… zzzzz… Just stay far away from stories of athletic triumph. There are way too many of these.

  1. I was bad… but now I’m all good!

I don’t know why students think it’s a great idea to talk about how they started out in high school as a slacker, but they’re much better now and deserve praise for getting their life together. The big takeaway I get as a reader is “possible recidivist slacker.”

They say you have to know the rules to break the rules, and with all this in mind, it is absolutely possible to write about every one of these topics IF a story is personal, specific, and truly portrays why a student and their ideal school are a perfect match. That being said, try to convince your young college applicant to avoid any topics that will make them blend in with the crowd rather than stand out.


About the Author

Ryan Hickey is the Managing Editor of Peterson’s & EssayEdge and is an expert in many aspects of college, graduate, and professional admissions. A graduate of Yale University, Ryan has worked in various admissions capacities for nearly a decade, including writing test-prep material for the SAT, AP exams, and TOEFL, editing essays and personal statements, and consulting directly with applicants.


The Scoop on Test Optional Colleges


I was having a discussion on Twitter last night with a mom about the SAT, ACT and test optional options. I am of the opinion that not taking the test is a bad idea, even if you are applying to test optional colleges. And I’m not the only one. Paul Hemphill of Planning for College and Lauren Gaggioli of Higher Scores Test Prep agree with me (or I agree with them).

test optional colleges

Here’s a podcast Paul did with Lauren about the ramifications of not taking the standardized test. It’s worth a listen. Lauren says, ” It is worth hearing all of the facts before you make the testing decision for your student and this is the side of the argument that tends to get lost in the conversation.”

Also, read these posts as well:

The Financial Risks of Not Taking the SAT

Why the ACT May Be a Smarter Choice for ADHD Students

The Race to Nowhere: Are We Pushing Our Children Too Much?


race to nowhere

With all the talk and the hype about college prep, we should ask the question: Are we pushing our children too much? I believe in preparing for college. I don’t believe in pushing so hard and preparing so much that your student becomes stressed, over-anxious, and burned out. Recognizing that there’s a real problem, Vicki Abeles, a concerned parent, directed a documentary about the pressures our students face. The result was a documentary called, “The Race to Nowhere”.

“Race to Nowhere” is a film that calls us to challenge current thinking about how we prepare our children for success. Named by as one of “10 Education Documentaries You Don’t Want to Miss”, “Race to Nowhere” brings communities together to spark dialogue and galvanize change in America’s schools.
Featuring the heartbreaking stories of students across the country who have been pushed to the brink by over-scheduling, over-testing and the relentless pressure to achieve, “Race to Nowhere” points to a silent epidemic in our schools. Through the testimony of educators, parents and education experts, it reveals an education system in which cheating has become commonplace; students have become disengaged; stress-related illness, depression and burnout are rampant; and young people arrive at college and the workplace unprepared and uninspired.
Shown nationwide and internationally in more than 7,000 schools, universities, cinemas, hospitals, corporations and community centers, “Race to Nowhere” has become the centerpiece of a nationwide, grassroots movement for the transformation of education.

Do yourself and your kids a favor and watch the trailer for this film and encourage your student’s school to set up a screening for parents. It might change the way your family views college prep and relieve the stress around the process.

Wednesday’s Parent: “We Won’t Qualify for Financial Aid”


fafsaIf I had a dollar for every time parents said this to me, I would be rich. Surprisingly, most parents believe this fallacy. Believing this, they don’t complete the FAFSA and miss out on all kinds of aid. Just because they were misinformed and unaware of how financial aid works.

Why should you complete the FAFSA?

College is expensive and it’s a chance for you to grab yourself a piece of the financial aid pie.

Why should you complete it by February 1st?

The early bird gets the worm when it comes to financial aid. If you want your piece of the pie, you have to be the first in line. Once financial aid packages are disbursed, the money is gone and that means your student’s financial aid package will be composed of student loans only. If your form is filed and completed once the decision for admission is made it puts your student in a good position to receive some of those funds.

What can the FAFSA do for you and your college-bound teen?

There could be federal, state and college funds available. If you don’t complete the FAFSA, you won’t be able to get any of them. Even if your family income is high and you might not qualify for federal aid in the form of grants, your student might be eligible for state scholarships and merit-aid awards from the college. Additionally, any federally subsidized loans, including parent loans, require you to complete the FAFSA.

What should you do if you haven’t filed your taxes before FAFSA filing?

It’s simple. Use last year’s tax figures and update once you file. Don’t wait to file the FAFSA until after you file your taxes.

Why do some people tell you that you won’t qualify for financial aid?

The easy answer is they are misinformed. Remember there are all kinds of financial aid. While not everyone will qualify for federal grants, most students receive some form of financial aid. If you don’t apply your student will not be one of them.

Read Wendy’s post: 4 Strings Attached to Free Financial Aid


This month Wendy and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT on Wednesday, January 21. Our guest will be financial aid expert Jodi Okun. She is the founder of College Financial Aid Advisors, an Expert, Paying for College, and the @Discover Student Loans Brand Ambassador. Jodi has worked for over 10 years in the financial aid industry and helped thousands of families navigate the financial aid process. Don’t miss a chance to get her tips and ask questions.

Read Wednesday’s Parent Night on #CampusChat for some simple instructions to join a Twitter chat.

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.

Studying Abroad: The Pros and Cons


Many college students jump at the chance to study abroad. For some, doing a semester abroad in a foreign country is as traditional a college experience as living in dorms or making long-life friends. While there are many exciting cultural and social benefits to studying abroad, there are also a few potential drawbacks. If you’re a student or parent looking into study abroad programs, here are some things to consider before planning the trip:

studying abroad

photo courtesy of Merrimack College

The Advantages to Studying Abroad 

The main attraction to studying abroad is getting to visit another country. For many young adults, study abroad programs offer them their first chance to travel internationally. Experiencing another culture first hand is a fantastic educational opportunity, which serves to advance a young student’s intellect and widen their perspective.

Studying abroad gives students the chance to learn outside of the confines of lecture halls or limitations of textbooks. Getting to immerse yourself in something you’ve only previously read or heard about adds a deeper dimension to your understanding of it. When a theater major watches a Shakespeare play at the historic Globe Theatre in London or a fine art student looks up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, they are experiencing something that will have a major influence on their craft.

For those looking to sharpen their foreign language skills or better comprehend world history, studying abroad can be a great asset to their education. Whether it’s studying Spanish in a Latin American country or learning about China’s industrialization in Beijing, studying abroad can have a profound effect on their knowledge.

In addition to sightseeing and receiving an enhanced educational experience, students who do a semester or yearlong study abroad program can gain vital social skills. The challenges of interacting with a different cultural group and meeting new people on a daily basis has the potential to make students more adept at public speaking and networking, as well as making them more tolerant of others.

studying abroad

photo courtesy of Merrimack College

The Disadvantages to Studying Abroad 

Despite all its positive potential, studying abroad comes with potential problems, too. Some study abroad arrangements work more like vacations than they do as learning programs. If a program lacks strong leadership from its educators/professors or doesn’t enforce a study schedule, then students are likely to fall behind on their scholarly work or indulge in non-educational activities.

While it’s beneficial for students to experience unconventional educational experiences, young students still require discipline and direction. Outside of their college environment and routine, students may take advantage of their new freedom and foreign setting in ways that are detrimental. Some students spend too much time sightseeing or fraternizing with others in their program rather than trying to learn new concepts. Instead of spending a semester expanding their intellect, students may just act as if they are on an extended break.

Besides falling behind on their studies due to excessive partying, many students studying abroad run the risk of becoming victims of crime or even breaking the law themselves. Like tourists, students visiting foreign countries are easy targets for criminals looking to steal money or abuse others. It’s hard to guarantee a safe housing situation when signing up for a study abroad program. Regardless of the program, students who are ignorant about a country’s customs or laws may get themselves into trouble with law enforcement or the locals.

The overall educational quality and advantages of studying abroad depend on both the individual student and the structure of the program. An immature or disrespectful student is likely to lose out on the intellectual and cultural potential of a good study abroad program, just as a bad program is likely to fail an eager and hardworking student. Either way, it’s up to every individual college student to consider what they want out of their time abroad and to find the right program for themselves. Talking to former study abroad students and to an academic advisor are good places to start when planning for studying abroad.


Javaher Nooryani is a writer and editor based in Denver, CO. She has a BA in American Literature & Culture from UCLA and a Masters in English & American Literature from NYU. As a former private tutor and college prep advisor, Javaher is passionate about higher education and is happy to share her knowledge on CollegeFocus, a website that helps students deal with the challenges of college. 


Wednesday’s Parent: College Prep Peer Pressure


college prep peer pressureLast month, I was speaking with an interviewer about college prep peer pressure in the context of how it relates to the stress factor. Parents need to factor in peer pressure when they think about how your student will react to it, how it will affect his college choice, and how the stress surrounding it can affect his emotional health.

How do students react to peer pressure about college?

Students react to peer pressure in different ways. There is positive peer pressure—the kind that causes your student to excel to compete with other students. There is negative peer pressure—the kind that causes your student to make poor choices based on other people’s choices or example.

How does peer pressure affect your student’s college choice?

Peer pressure can have a strong effect on where your student wants to apply to college. It can make him feel like he needs to apply to an Ivy just because his fellow students are applying. It can cause him to want to apply to a college because a friend or boyfriend is applying. Peer pressure can have a profound effect on your student’s college choices if you don’t guide him to be self-serving and wise when making those choices. And not only are the students pressured by their peers, but parents feel pressure as well from other parents who brag about their students college choices. Additionally, parents often apply pressure toward a particular college during the selection process. This puts added stress on the student and can often cause the student to choose a college that he is not interested in just to please his parents.

How will the stress surrounding peer pressure affect your student’s emotional health?

Every parent knows the affect peer pressure can have on your student. Students feel less successful than others who are applying to prestigious colleges. Students can feel depressed about their own college choices when they stack them up against other students. The battle intensifies once college decisions begin rolling in and other students start talking about where they will be attending.

The bottom line: Beware of the college prep peer pressure and do your best to negate it. Encourage your student to be an individual and follow his own path.

Read Wendy’s post: Peer Pressure Sabotages College Prep


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.

The Parents’ Role in College Prep (The College Checklist Podcast)


college checklist podcast

About a month ago I was happy to be a guest on a podcast with Lauren Gaggioli of Higher Scores Test Prep. The topic of the conversation: What is the parents’ role in college prep? For 30 minutes I shared my own family’s college prep experience and why I became a Parent College Coach.

I answered the following questions:

  • What do you see as the parent’s role in college admissions?
  • Where is the Goldilocks zone? That “just right” amount of involvement in the process?
  • What can parents do to reduce the family’s stress around the cost of college and make sure there is clarity regarding tuition responsibilities?
  • How can parent further help to reduce stress around college admissions?

If you’ve ever asked these questions or would like to hear about my college prep journey, you can listen to the podcast here:

Or download the podcast to your smartphone and listen at your own convenience.

Subscribe to The College Checklist Podcast on iTunes
Subscribe to The College Checklist Podcast on Stitcher Radio

What is a podcast: a podcast is an on-demand radio​ show that you can access online through your smartphone. They’re like a blog post or news article you can listen to at the gym, on the road, or while making dinner.


Mom-Approved Tips: Other College Blogs I Love


1383208_93464262It’s easy to get college information overload online. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and others are shouting “Read Me! Read Me!”. But let’s face it, we only have so much time to assimilate college information and even less time trying to decide what to read. And that’s where I come in. I know who has the best college related blog posts and where to find them.

Apart from mine (shameless plug), these are the other college blogs I love. Sign up for their mailing lists, follow their blogs and soak up all the relevant information they provide. Because who wants to read every single post from every single college expert? And . . . who has the time?

Planning for College-The Ugly Blog

Paul Hemphill, an independent college counselor is famous for his “no bull” advice to parents. He doesn’t mince words and tells it like it is. He’s on the parents’ side, always and exposes some unknown truths about colleges and how they handle admissions.

The College Solutions Blog

Lynn O’Shaughnessy blogs about everything related to college prep and admissions. She is an expert in the area of college admissions, has written books on the topic and also a course to parents called, “Cutting the Cost of College”. You will find accurate and up-to-date information on her blog.

College Financial Aid Advisors Blog

Jodi Okun blogs about financial aid. She’s an expert with the FAFSA and advises parents on all areas related to financing college. As an added bonus, Jodi hosts a weekly chat on Twitter (#CollegeCash at 5PM PT).

College Prep Examiner Blog

Wendy David-Gaines (POCSMom) blogs at about college prep and the latest college news. Her advice is directed towards parents and you will find all topics on her blog: admissions, financial aid, scholarships and college news.

TeenLife Blog

Sponsored by TeenLife Magazine, this blog offers college news, parenting tips, information about summer programs and gap years, along with all sorts of information about college prep.

Smart College Visit Blog

This blog is jam-packed with all sorts of tips and advice for parents and students involved in the college prep process. It offers scholarship tips and parent tips along with advice for all aspects of the admissions process.

More Than a Test Score Blog

This blog from Zinch/Chegg offers student advice, parent advice, scholarship information and tips for winning scholarships.