Custom College Rankings


For seniors, the college search is almost over. On May 1st, they will make their final college choice and look toward graduation and the fall when they become a college student.

For sophomores and juniors, the search has just begun. We’ve been learning about choosing a college over the last several weeks, with posts like: How to Choose a College, 7 College Search Apps for Parents and Students, and The Student Role in the College Visit. Students and parents are looking for tools that will help them as they begin that college list.

custom college rankingsWhat is Custom College Rankings?

Custom College Rankings is an amazing site created to help you view all the college statistics on a spreadsheet and change the criteria of the spreadsheet as you view it. There are over 2900 colleges and universities with statistics for each gathered from the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education.

How does it work?

According to the site, you can use the spreadsheet in three ways:

  1. To find colleges by using as many filters as you like on the spreadsheet.
  2. To compare colleges by checking the boxes on the spreadsheet of the colleges you want to compare.
  3. To look up the statistics for a specific college.

Why create another college search site?

It’s creator, Susie Sadowsky holds a B.A. in accounting from Michigan State University and an M.S. in computer science from San Diego State University. After helping her two teenagers through the college admissions process, she created CUSTOM COLLEGE RANKINGS to give others what she wishes had been available to her.

Her motivation is to help parents with the college search process and save them some of the frustration that I encountered when helping my children through this process. After reading how US News ranks colleges she realized that she didn’t care about several of the criteria they were using. Thus she wanted to create her own rankings. She wanted to combine the search for colleges and data gathering into one central area. The best way to do this she determined was on a spreadsheet

Ms. Sadowsky explains what’s different about her rankings:

  1. My spreadsheet combines searching for colleges with comparing data of colleges all in one spreadsheet. Many websites are good at helping you narrow down your college list but the data for your list of colleges can only be found on separate pages for each college.
  2. Fine tuning of filters when searching for a college. One thing that frustrated me when I was using other college search websites is when it came to specifying your desired size the choices were limited.
  3. Other websites do not include the crime statistics.
  4. My website ranks all colleges together. Other websites like US News rank Small Liberal Arts Colleges, Large National Universities and Regional Universities separately.

Take it for a test drive and let me know what you think. Custom College Rankings is just another tool parents can add to their arsenal of college prep.



Wednesday’s Parent: Stress During College Prep


teen stressStress. It’s a killer. Parents and teens deal with stress on a daily basis; and when the college prep season arrives, the stress intensifies. Do you know what to expect and how to deal with it? Just as with any family situation, anticipating problems that can or might arise should help you respond properly and deal with stress during college prep.

Imagine these scenarios

  • Your teen announces he’s going to die if he doesn’t get into his first choice college.
  • You hear other parents talking about their student to his headed to the Ivies.
  • Your teen says she can’t possibly go to college because her boyfriend isn’t going there.
  • After multiple tries on the SAT, your teen announces that she’s never going to get into any college.
  • It’s been months since your teen started his essay and all he’s written is–”My life-changing moment is . . .”
  • On a college visit, your teen says, “I’m just not feeling it.”
  • Your son is sitting in the middle of his bedroom floor surrounded by college catalogs with a lost puppy dog look on his face.
  • Your daughter has a tentative lists of colleges that are completely out of your price range and she starts crying when you point that out.

What’s your first reaction?

First you walk outside and scream. How could you have possibly given birth to this person and who has taken over the body of your once agreeable child. Then you take a deep breath, and respond. Never, and I mean never, let your teen see you stressed and frustrated. Your attitude will rub off on them. Their stress will increase with your stress. So stay calm and remember that this too shall pass.

Where do you turn when you need help dealing with stress?

As luck would have it (or perfect foresight), tonight’s #CampusChat at 9PM ET will help you answer all your questions about teen stress, especially around the college prep process. On Twitter chat #CampusChat Wednesday, April 23 at 9pm ET/6pm PT, hosted by Wednesday’s Parent, guest Fern Weis of YOUR FAMILY MATTERS, LLC provides her tips and suggestions for dealing with stress during the college process. Later, check out Smart College Visit for a recap of the chat.

Read this to learn how to join the chat.

Read Wendy’s blog: Stressing Out the College Process

Apps for College Visits


college visit appsParents and students are using apps for all stages within the college prep process. Imagine being able to be guided on a tour with your smartphone. Or being able to plan college visits before you go on them. Or being able to organize all your visits to search and find the schools by uploading photos to serve as a reminder of your visit.

These apps for college visits can enhance your campus visits:


Quad2Quad’s mobile App takes the hassle out of college visit planning. Quad2Quad is a virtual travel assistant, curating and assembling the most important college data for the user. Quad2Quad enables families to plan college visits without spending hours combing multiple college websites.

College Visits

With the Welcome to College CollegeVisits iPhone App, you can organize your college visits. Use the App to search and find schools to add to your list, rate your college visits, keep personal notes on each visit, share your feedback with others, and upload photos to remember your time on each campus.

Student Bridge

StudentBridge is an augmented reality app that allows students to access information during a campus tour or while roaming campus alone. Someone might be looking at a residence hall, but may not be able to get in to see what life is like. If they click a video that’s overlaid on top of that building, they can then see some content that’s produced by the university that gives a good sense of what happens in that building.

College Specific Apps

Colleges are now creating their own apps to help students navigate around campus. Two such apps were created by Smart College Visit: Visit Virginia Tech and Explore UNH. These apps offer an electronic map, driving directions, a walking tour, admissions information, restaurant and hotel information, historical sights, and more. Visit the college’s website to find out if that college offers an app to its students.


The Best of Mom-Approved Tips


best of mom-approved tipsThis week, I thought it would be great to gather my all-time favorite posts of the best of Mom-Approved Tips. In case you missed some of them, here they are, gathered together in one place.

Practice Tough Love

Parenting is easy if you give into your child’s every whim, never be consistent with discipline, or simply don’t pay attention. Parenting children who strive for excellence in everything requires some tough love. And tough love is not easy; especially when it comes to the raising a motivated, educated, and successful student.

How do you, as a parent, raise a child that’s motivated to strive for excellence where their education is concerned?

Don’t Fear the Gap Year

Don’t fear the gap year. Not every student is ready for college after high school. Some simply aren’t mature enough, and others simply don’t know where they want to go or what they want to study. And if this is the case, would you want to spend thousands of dollars on college if it meant they dropped out their first semester? Of course you wouldn’t want to do that.

Teach Your Kids the Value of Money

When your kids are away at college they are going to be responsible for their own spending (and saving). There will be offers galore from credit card companies because college students are their biggest target market. If they hook them while in college it usually means they have them for the rest of their lives.

A Different Take on Helicopter Parenting

It’s no surprise that parents have become so involved in their kids’ lives that school administrators have begun to label us; helicopter parent, snow plow parent, and bulldozer parent. But it can’t all be bad; after all, parents are actually involved. Is this a bad thing? As with anything there are extremes. And it’s possible that a few bad parenting experiences have shed a negative light on all of us.

Top 10 Tips for Parents

On Monday’s I dispense my parent advice and this week I shared some of my past “Top 10 Tips for Parents”. Some might be reality checks, some will provide you with new information, and some are just for fun.

Inside the Mind of a College-Bound Teen

The stress of the college admissions season weighs heavy on your college-bound teen. I read an old article today from a NY Times blog and I felt it was worth sharing to help you go inside the mind of a college-bound teen and see just exactly what they are feeling.

Getting a Degree Using Distance Learning


distance learningHere’s the simple truth for you and your child – moving away to attend a university is an expensive prospect, and, in the current economic climate, makes it increasingly difficult to pay room and board.

A college education is expensive– for everything from accommodation, course textbooks, tuition fees, and food – and many parents find it hard to cover those costs without skyrocketing debts. It could be time to look into how you can stop your child suffering financial hardship.

One option is a distance learning degree, as supplied by numerous top-quality providers. While your student will miss out on the social aspects of the campus lifestyle, they also won’t be struck down with more debt than they can handle in student loans. More than this, the world of distance learning has become more of an option than it used to be. Now, with the handy tool of the internet, research is just a button press away, and tutors can be easily contacted via messaging services such as Skype or email.

High-quality research and education

Sites like JSTOR, Google Books and Google Scholar are fantastic wells of information, and are a world away from questionable sources such as Wikipedia. Indeed, the web has evolved so much that numerous students at brick-and-mortar universities probably use it more than their campus library.

In educational terms distance learning is on par with a university, and surpassing it in terms of convenience and cost. However, it’s important not to mistake an online degree for a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).

For those of you not savvy to MOOCs, they are essentially free, unaccredited university modules that allow you to dip into certain courses and pick up an education along the way. Despite being created with the best of intentions, they can’t hold a candle to a university sanctioned distance learning degree, and you won’t complete a MOOC and gain any official qualification.
The main issue is whether or not you can afford college. As tuition fees rise and wages freeze, you might not be able to give your teen the campus lifestyle they desire. But you can still give them a top-quality education in a non-traditional way. Give distance learning a look to see what your options are.

Scholarship Friday: How to Find Scholarships Online


scholarships onlineThe full title of this book is Get a College Degree Without Drowning In Debt: How to Find Scholarships Online. This is NOT your average scholarship book. While many scholarship books list the names and details of the scholarships, this book takes a different approach by providing you with the search sites and ranking them. With so many scholarship search engines available this will save your college-bound teen valuable time and energy.

What makes How to Find Scholarships Online unique is:

  • The internal links that send you directly to the search sites.
  • The scholarship search engine ratings.
  • The extensive list of scholarship search engines.
  • The step-by-step guide on how to begin your search.
  • The list of online resources related to scholarships: blogs, podcasts and videos.
  • Demographic search links (i.e. military scholarships, minority scholarships, etc.)

Authors Gyan Devi and Myrriah Lavin explain their detailed reasoning behind spending time on scholarships with facts and figures, ending with this statement:

. . .  spending 450 hours applying for and winning scholarships takes substantially less time to pay off your student debt than the 2,940 hours at a part-time undergraduate job, or the 1,470 hours working full time after graduation. The choice is yours. Wouldn’t you rather work for 450 hours at a job where you set your own schedule and the better you are at your job, the more you’re paid?

Scholarship research and writing is a part-time job that pays you handsomely and allows you to work from home, in your jammies, on your own schedule. But, more importantly, it gives you financial freedom upon graduation to live debt-free and make decisions about your life that aren’t driven by monthly student loan payments for the next 20 years!

In a world of so much information and very little time to assimilate it, Gyan does all the leg work for you. She has followed these steps herself to pay for her own education and has proven her technique personally. The great thing about an ebook is that it provides you with an online copy, allowing you to go directly to the links provided.

Interested? If you are (and you should be) today is your lucky day! Gyan is providing my readers with a coupon code good until May 31st to download the book for FREE. That’s right: FREE. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain! Just follow the link below:

Get a College Degree Without Drowning in Debt: How to Find Scholarships Online

USE COUPON CODE: SL92E at checkout


How Do You Choose a College?


choose a collegeTeenagers. They have such a simplistic view of life. When you ask many of them about college, they reply, “All I need is a degree”. They don’t know where they want to attend or how to choose a college. Many haven’t even thought about it until senior year.

How DO you choose a college? Do you choose it with your heart and not your head? Partially. Is it all in a name? Not necessarily. Is about going to a college close to home? Possibly. Is it about finding a college with Greek life? Could be. All these factors could play into your student’s college choice, but before you randomly choose a college that is famous; or that your student’s friend is attending; or is affordable, you need to do your research.

Here are some key factors you should consider before you make that college list.

The cost

The cost of the college is certainly a consideration. However, it should not be the only one. Most college sticker prices are not the cost you will pay. Expensive colleges aren’t necessarily the best fit for your student. Before you make that college list, however, discuss with your student what you will be willing to pay and add colleges that fall close to or below that figure. Applying to a college that is beyond your family’s reach financially will only cause heartache if your student is accepted and you can’t afford to pay.

Financial aid

If financial aid is a concern, you should search for colleges that offer high percentages of financial aid, such as Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina, offering financial aid to 84% of undergraduates, with the average financial aid package around $20,090.1 Facts and figures like this can narrow down the choices. Colleges that offer very little financial aid might not be a good fit for your student who needs help with college costs.

College majors offered

Your student may be interested in studying Asian History (like my son did); but is that a major that will be employable after graduation? For my son, it was not. Some may say that a degree is a degree, and on some levels many companies are simply looking for that diploma. But why spend four years studying something you won’t be able to use when you pursue a career?

In the current issue of U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges 2014, you will find “11 Hot Majors That Can Lead to a Great Job.”2 If your student leans in any of these directions look for a college that has degrees in these fields:

  1. Biomedical Engineering
  2. Biometrics
  3. Forensic Science
  4. Computer Game Design
  5. Cybersecurity
  6. Data Science
  7. Business Analytics
  8. Petroleum Engineering
  9. Public Health
  10. Robotics
  11. Sustainability

Exploring the ROI (Return on Investment) of various careers is an important part of choosing a college.

Professor to student ratio

If your student has trouble focusing in class, is intimidated by large crowds, and needs more personal instruction to be academically successful, a large state university might need to be ruled out. There are plenty of small liberal arts colleges with great academic records and majors that would be a better fit for your student. When my daughter was choosing a college, our decision was highly dependent on this factor alone. Once we had found colleges that had low professor to student ratios, we were able to look at other key factors in making the decision.


Let’s face it. Everyone wants to go to Harvard. It’s the oldest and most prestigious university in the country and it is #2 in U.S. News rankings. Its name is instantly recognizable and equated with excellence. Unfortunately, Harvard is highly selective. The college offered admission to 5.9% of applicants this year. If your student doesn’t have all A’s and perfect SAT scores, Harvard is not for him.

However, there are many fine colleges that give credence to hard work and commitment. W. Kent Barnds, vice president of enrollment at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, where the average GPA was 3.17, makes the point:3

I think really, to be quite honest, most colleges and universities are delighted to work with the student who has a good work ethic and has taken difficult classes and has earned that B average.

College truly is for everyone. If your student is an average student, don’t despair. Look for the colleges that will recognize his potential and see him as a viable applicant. Better yet, look for the colleges that he would be a top applicant in the applicant pool. This translates into more merit aid in the financial aid package.

What else should you consider?

In addition to these key factors, you might also want to consider location, student services, graduation rates, alumni network, study abroad programs, and available internships.

There is the emotional factor as well that responds to the college surroundings. Rebecca Ridings, class of 2013 says, “I followed my sister to John Brown University and was struck by the beauty of the campus’s blooming dogwoods and its peacefulness”. Yet another current college student, Isha Pandya, class of 2016, notes when speaking of Bryn Mawr College, “The school’s beautiful 19th-century stone buildings, green lawns and cherry blossom trees help to create a welcoming environment.”4

Even with all the right information in place and gathering facts and figures, choosing a college is more than just a college on paper. Most students will tell you that they just “knew” when they set foot on a college campus that it was right for them.

For my readers—if you’re interested in purchasing a copy of U.S. News and World Reports Best Colleges 2014, use the coupon code: SCHOOL25.


Best Colleges 20141. Excerpted from “Directory of Colleges and Universities”: in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges 2014. Available at Copyright © 2013 U.S. News & World Report, L.P.; 2 Excerpted from “11 Hot Majors That Can Lead to a Great Job” (which provides additional information, including leading colleges that offer majors in these fields); 3. Excerpted from “What If You Don’t Have All A’s?”; 4. Excerpted from “Why I Picked . . .” All quotes Used by permission of U.S. News & World Report, L.P. All rights reserved. U.S. News allows republication of this excerpt without specific written permission or payment of royalties, provided that the excerpt is republished in its entirety without any modifications and includes this notice. Please contact with any questions.

This is a paid sponsored post.


Wednesday’s Parent: With Freedom Comes Responsibility


responsibilitySince I was a child, my parents have reminded me that freedom has a price. To secure our freedom, many men and women have lost their lives–a possibility for any serviceman when they enlist. But do your teens understand the concept? Have you taught them when granted freedom, they are responsible for following the rules and behaving appropriately. With the freedom to choose, comes the responsibility for your choices and your actions.

Bad scenarios

One of the first things we learn growing up is that all of our actions have consequences. If we pull a glass of water off the table, it will spill all over us. If we touch a hot burner on the stove, it will burn. If we pick up a knife on the blade, it will cut us.

Unfortunately, many teenagers don’t carry that knowledge into adulthood as they begin to make choices that are life changing and life altering. They become consumed with their newfound freedom. They don’t rationalize that sleeping with someone they just met in a bar can have consequences: sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, pregnancy, rape and even at the very worst murder. They don’t think that cheating on a test in school, even if they don’t get caught, robs them of an education and learning. They don’t comprehend that having 20 credit cards that are maxed out will put them so deep into debt that for some the only solution is suicide. And they don’t think that marrying the wrong guy could put them at the bottom of San Francisco bay like it did Laci Peterson.

Functioning in the present

When you’re young and your whole life is ahead of you, you tend to function in the present. Twenty or thirty years from now seems like an eternity to someone in their teens and twenties. But time has a way of catching up with us and every choice we make when we are young has both good and bad consequences. The trick is to know when those consequences aren’t worth the risk. And the other trick is to pause long enough before taking those risks to weigh both the good and the bad.

A free choice with negative consequences

During my son’s senior year of high school, he wanted to join the military. As his parents, and with an underage teenager, we met with the recruiters prior to him signing up. They assured us that he could attend college while serving in the Corps, that he could be assigned to his choice of duty stations, and that he could pick his specialty because of his high test scores on the entrance exam. However, we were skeptical about the promises they were making. But once he turned 18, he would be free to make the choice, so we gave our permission.

Upon arrival at boot camp after high school graduation, he quickly discovered that all the promises were just ploys to get him to sign on the dotted line. Needless to say, he learned a very difficult lesson: every decision has consequences. He served his time in the military, traveled, and made some great friends. But his dream to be a lifetime soldier was affected by his distaste for the unfair treatment he received in the Marine Corps. His decision altered his future goals and sent him on a very different path than he had originally planned.

Lessons learned

If you get anything from this bit of advice, let it be this: teach your teenagers to take time to think before they act. Weigh the good and the bad consequences. Then once they decide, make the best of their decision and swallow the good with the bad. Every path they will take in their life has the potential for greatness. Help them see before they head off to college that freedom brings responsibility –responsibility for their actions and the consequences of those actions.

Read Wendy’s post: Passing the Responsibility Torch


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 Suzanne 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.

5 Free Apps for College-Prep Organization


College-bound students have so many tasks to complete and remember during the college-prep process. Luckily, there are apps for college-prep organization. This is great news because teens live and die with their smartphones. Having these tools at their disposal should help.

Here are five apps that will help your college-bound teen stay organized during those labor-intensive college-prep years.

1. Evernote

college prep organization

Free online tools like Evernote can also help your student keep things organized. This downloadable tool can be easily accessed, so you can access and edit your college application notes whenever you need to. Soon-to-be college students can use Evernote to create virtual notebooks for each school, organize important deadlines and track key documents such as transcripts, test stores and recommendations.Sound complicated? Don’t let its complexity turn you off. Mashable created a beginner’s guide to using the app.

2. GoogleDrive

organization app

GoogleDrive gives students the tools to get things done. Create new documents, spreadsheets, and presentations on your own or share and collaborate with others in real time. You can access your documents anytime, making them always available. All your changes are saved automatically in Drive. There isn’t even a save button. Connect with others by chatting right inside Docs, Sheets, and Slides, or leave comments on files and images. Add a + in front of an email address in a comment and Drive will send them an email so they know to follow up.

3. Naviance

college prep organizationStudents can now take Naviance on the go with the Naviance Student mobile App. Improve collaboration and help students stay organized with an easy-to-use college research tool. Students can also see upcoming deadlines and set reminders to stay on track. Naviance Student is fully synced with the Family Connection so students will have all of their most important information wherever they may be—at school, at home, or on their phone.

4. Remember the Milk

college prep organizationTake your to-do list anywhere with this feature-packed app; never forget the milk (or anything else) again. Remember The Milk (RTM) for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad connects with the popular online service of the same name. With millions of users worldwide, Remember The Milk is everywhere you are: from mobile to the web to apps including Outlook, iCal, Gmail, Google Calendar, Twitter, and more. Key features allow you to add and complete tasks; sync with your online account; organize the way you want to with priorities, due dates, time estimates, repeating, lists, tags and more; get reminded via email, SMS, and instant messenger.

5. inClass

college prep organizationinClass is here to help you survive school. No matter how complex your school schedule is, inClass will help you keep track of all your courses. Not only that, but it will help you keep track of your tasks by reminding you that one is due soon. On top of everything inClass will help you take notes way more efficiently than ever before. Video notes, audio notes, photo notes! You name it! Just take out your iPhone or iPod Touch and start taking notes. inClass will even know which class you are in!

Mom-Approved Tips: Know When to Hold’em; Know When to Fold’em


making college decisionsIt’s coming down to the wire for making college decisions and you and your teen have to decide on a college by the May 1st deadline. For some families, it’s easy. For others, it’s emotional and gut wrenching. If your student got into their dream college and the money is there, congratulations. If your student was waitlisted, or there’s a financial issue, or they didn’t get an offer of admission to their first choice college it’s time to examine the deck. By doing this, you can help your teen make the best decision.

The wait list card

If your teen gets waitlisted, it’s time to fold. Even though some students do get off the waitlist, it’s too much of a gamble to take; especially if other colleges are offering admission. The risk you take is not worth the reward. Toss in the card and move on to the next hand.

The rejection card

Nobody likes this card. It’s a deal-breaker and you have no choice but to fold and move on. It’s disappointing but there is a better card in the deck.

The admission card

This is the payoff. With these cards you have a full house. Hold on to them and treat them as they are—winners. There are no losers with admission cards and even if they weren’t the cards you wanted they will reward you in the end. It’s from these cards that your teen will pick the college they attend. Evaluate their worth and look deeper into their face value. Your teen might discover a wild card in the bunch that trumps all the other cards in their hand.

The financial aid card

This is the high card, or the ace, because it improves your hand and increases your winnings. When colleges send this card to accepted students, the amount on the card is a direct indication of how much a college wants you to accept their offer of admission.

When your student mailed off their college applications, it was a gamble. They were all in and now it’s time to claim the winnings. The right college for the right price is a jackpot.