Why Your Student Should Take Advantage of Free SAT Prep


This post is sponsored and written in partnership with the College Board.

free test prep

Before your student ever enters college, there are college-related expenses. Test registration fees, college application fees, AP test fees, college visit expenses and more. For the average middle-class family, budgeting for these expenses can be difficult. Add to these the cost of paying for a test prep tutor and your family budget will explode.

Why pay for test prep when the College Board and Khan Academy have partnered to provide free test prep for every student willing to study for the SAT? Save your hard-earned money for college tuition instead.

Why choose free test prep?

Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy is the best way to prepare for the test. It was created by the makers of the test and offers all students free customized practice. Students can link their PSAT/NMSQT results to Khan Academy or take diagnostic quizzes to get personalized practice exercises to improve their score. Their personalized study plan will show them the areas where they need the most work and turn those weaknesses into strengths. There are also 8 practice tests on Official SAT Practice, so students have plenty of opportunities to prep for the test and improve their skills.

What are the benefits of this free test prep?

A recent study shows that students who practice for 20 hours on Khan Academy gained an average of 115 points from the PSAT/NMSQT to SAT compared to those students who did not use Official SAT Practice. More than 16,000 students in the class of 2017 who used Official SAT Practice saw score gains of 200 points or more.

Not to mention—it’s FREE! Great test prep from the makers of the test.

How does this free test prep work?

Your student gets a personalized practice plan using Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy. Khan Academy uses her PSAT scores and diagnostic quizzes to pinpoint the skills she needs to study and improve her score. The Official SAT Practice will guide her through the personalized lessons with video lessons that explain problems and quizzes to test her progress along the way. Your student can move at her own pace and have plenty of time to master each skill.

What are the benefits of prepping for the SAT?

Students who take the time to prep for the SAT will certainly reap the rewards. Preparing for any test certainly produces a better outcome. They will know what to expect on test day. Building confidence is key. Good test scores give your student a leg up in the application process. Colleges also may use these scores as a factor when awarding merit aid.

There is certainly time before the March SAT test for your student to begin test prep. Have your student go online now and register for the test and while she is there, start taking advantage of the College Board’s free prep through Khan Academy.

Stressed About the SAT? Relax!

This post is sponsored and written in partnership with the College Board.

Parents of college-bound teenagers love to compare notes. They discuss college choice, essay frustration and of course, test prep. Has your son taken the SAT yet? Did he do well? Is he happy with his score? How many times is he taking it? Are you and he stressed about the test?

It’s only natural for parents to ask these questions. SAT test-related anxiety is very real. Students are stressed because they feel their entire future is riding on how well they do on the exam. Parents are stressed because their students are stressed and want them to succeed. Both parents and students often feel the anxiety is simply part of the process and there is nothing they can do to relieve it. This is not true.

With the right knowledge and preparation, anxiety can easily become a non-issue for you and your student. Three factors can help remove the stress surrounding the test and help prepare your student for the March SAT.


Let’s face it—test scores are an important part of the college application; but the key word here is “part”. Colleges use the SAT score as a tool to evaluate the student’s readiness to attend college. However, they also use your student’s GPA, his or her essay, the quality of their academic performance, extra-curriculars and other factors. They look at the whole student—not just a test score. Keeping this top of mind should remove some of the stress and pressure.

If you want your student to feel relaxed and confident, remind him that you’re proud of the work he is doing and you have every confidence that he will succeed and get an amazing education. He is, of course, more than a test score!


Students know that taking any test without studying or preparing can be recipe for disaster. The same rings true for  taking the SAT. The more time your student spends studying and preparing, the less anxiety he will feel on test day. Fortunately, there is  free Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy available online for every student. Your student should take advantage of these resources and allocate the time to study and prepare. It’s important to remember: preparation prevents panic and it leads to confidence and score growth!


Familiarity breeds confidence. Once you are familiar with a task, it’s easier to tackle it the second time. Practice tests are available for a reason: they help students become familiar with the test. Start the SAT prep process early and encourage your student to take the timed, realistic practice tests. When test day arrives, he can take the test with confidence.

Keep all these points in mind and you and your student will be more relaxed and confident on test day. Anxiety and stress are real, but they don’t have to be a problem when you follow these guidelines.

Don’t forget to register by February 9th for the March SAT to avoid late registration penalties.


A College To-Do List for Your High School Junior


high school junior

The fall semester is coming to a close. By now, your high school junior should be concentrating on college choice, preparing for the SAT or ACT, and working on the college essay. I’m sure it’s already starting to become a little overwhelming: so many tasks, so little time. But the winter break is a great time to play a little catchup if you’re lagging behind.

Juniors who aspire to college have much on their mind. Making a college list can seem insurmountable. There are so many choices; how do you know which ones are a good fit? If money is a factor, how do you even know what kind of financial aid you can expect to receive if you apply? What are the colleges looking for in an applicant and do you even meet those qualifications? The list of unknowns can cause a good amount of stress for both parents and students.

Take a few minutes to go over this simple to-do list with your high school junior. Discuss what you can help him with and what he should be focusing on over the break. Breaking these down into small tasks should help, doing the ones that need to be completed first and following with the rest.

Are you tackling these items yet?

  1. Thinking about basic college criteria.
  2. Figuring out how to organize everything.
  3. Setting aside time to visit the colleges.
  4. Figuring out a test strategy.
  5. Keeping focused on academics.
  6. Working on the college essay.
  7. Getting serious about scholarships.
  8. Scheduling regular checkups to evaluate progress.


For the details on how to complete these tasks, you can read the original article at TeenLife Magazine: Share This College To-Do List With Your High School Junior.

Using Statistics to Find Your College Fit



You might be surprised to know that in addition to all the factors students use to choose a college, there is one they might overlook: statistics. While location, major, campus appeal, and others are certainly important statistics will help you and your student make a more informed college choice.

Why statistics? Statistics will help you determine some of the key factors involved in choosing a college. With statistics you increase the odds of your student being accepted, receiving more financial aid, and graduating on time. You can also determine the class sizes, the freshman retention rate and the odds of finding a job after graduation.

Two good sources for college statistics are College Navigator and College Data. These two resources will help you make an informed college choice. Numbers aren’t everything, but consider these eight important stats when you and your student are looking at schools:

  1. Rankings (simply as a baseline for comparison)
  2. Financial aid percentages
  3. Acceptance rates
  4. Student-to-professor ratios
  5. Freshman retention rates
  6. Graduation rates
  7. Student indebtedness
  8. Percentage of student who are employed after graduation

For an in-depth review of each statistic and what they mean, read my original article at TeenLife Magazine: 8 College Stats That Will Help You Find the Right School.

Dealing with Senioritis (The College Dream Killer)



Senioritis. Yes. It’s a word (and a disease). It hits most seniors the last semester of high school. It usually strikes after all their college applications are completed and submitted, and grabs total hold after they have received offers of admission. Senioritis says, “The year is almost over. I’ve been accepted to college. It’s time to take it easy and P-A-R-T-Y!” It is no respecter of persons and hits almost every senior at some point after they return from winter break.

What should you look for?

When senioritis begins, you might not notice the symptoms. It could be an unusually low grade on a test. Or you might notice she is studying less and less, with a complete lack of motivation. More severe symptoms include skipping class, a major drop in grades, and often accompanied by an “I don’t care” attitude. More so than your typical teenage defiance and resistance.

Why is it “deadly”?

Senioritis can “kill” your student’s dream of college. The colleges that offer admission are closely watching your student to see if she continues to excel until the end of her senior year. A drop in grades or even disciplinary action can be a red flag, signaling to colleges that your student isn’t ready to be on their own and handle the rigors of a college education. If she can’t commit and stay the course with all the adult supervision around her, how will she stay the course in college without anything except self-motivation?

Colleges have been known to withdraw offers of admission if a student exhibits any of these signs during the final months of high school. Hence, senioritis can KILL you student’s dream of college.

What is the cure?

A reality check. If you see signs of senioritis setting in, it’s time for a cold, hard conversation. Lay it all out on the table. Explain that colleges are watching. She won’t get a second chance. Once the offer is pulled, it’s pulled, for someone else who is committed. It’s a harsh reality check for most students, but one that needs to be made clear. The final months of senior year are just as important as the previous ones. Your student needs to keep her eye on the prize and realize once she walks across that stage with her diploma in hand, she can take a deep sigh of relief and spend the entire summer relaxing. Not until then, and only then, can she rest on her laurels.

Is Your Student Interested in Pursuing a Skilled Trade?


skilled trade

Is your student looking for a hands-on career that pays well but isn’t on your traditional college major radar? With an estimated 31 million skilled trade vacancies by 2020 and a potential oversaturation of IT employees, the following jobs are smart choice for young adults.

HVAC technician. HVAC techs don’t just provide tune-ups to residential heating and cooling systems. Many HVAC professionals work on industrial refrigeration equipment, boilers, heat pumps, and air handling systems. The Advanced Technology Institute reports that HVAC jobs will grow by more than 20% through 2022 and claims the top professionals in the field earn more than $68,900 annually.

Machinist. Creative minds that lean toward problem solving might like a career as a machinist. A machinist repairs or creates large machines and often makes their own tools to get the job done. A high-school diploma and some manufacturing experience can help a budding industrial machinist take home $42,000 each year.

Electrician. Electricians are the men and women who work to ensure that buildings, vehicles, and ships are wired correctly and that that wiring is safe. Earning more than $25 per hour in the early years, an electrician can charge $75 per hour or more as an independent contractor or business owner in less than a decade.

Plumber. Plumbers are the people you call when your toilet, drains, or hot water heater fail to function. But they are also important in construction as these professionals are knowledgeable in everything from drainage to pipefitting and how a building’s design might affect its plumbing system. Plumbers help create blueprints and may work alone or with a team on large projects. With an expected $50,620 salary and 12% job growth through 2024, it’s a career that isn’t going down the drain any time soon.

Brick mason. A brick mason gets to build things with their hands, from mailboxes to courthouses to chimneys. It’s a job that requires heavy lifting, a keen eye for detail, and the ability to follow detailed instructions. There is little room for errors in this job, as a brick mason’s handiwork is literally set in stone.  Although many in the industry work as an apprentice instead of undergoing formal education, there are a number of college programs that offer certification in masonry. Brick masons that work for local governmental agencies can earn more than $93,000; the median salary in the private sector is $46,650.

Civil engineer. A civil engineer works on a large scale to create infrastructure plans in towns, at airports, seaports, and along the highways and byways. There are virtually no areas where civil engineers don’t touch. These construction and architectural experts are the ones responsible for keeping tragedy at bay and must understand natural disasters, such as flooding and tornadoes, in order to minimize their impact on the community. Civil engineers can earn up to $100,000 or more depending on location and expertise.

Industrial engineer. An industrial engineer works to increase operational efficiency. This job offers the best of both worlds: the ability to work on-site as well as time in the office. Industrial engineering jobs are expected to grow at a rate of 10% through 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And with a median salary of $84,310, it’s a high-paying career with growth opportunities.

Construction and manufacturing industry experts hope to fill these and other open positions with new workers in the coming years. And each of these industries is adding jobs quickly as Baby Boomers begin to age out of the employment pool. This is good news for young adults is that job growth has a positive impact on the economy today and builds the foundation for tomorrow’s homebuyer. More jobs leads to higher wages, which leads to more people buying homes, which ultimately leads to lower interest rates and more favorable loan terms across the board. Getting in the door to these fast-growing careers now is one sure way to pave the way for a bright financial future.

And believe it or not, there are scholarships available to help you pay for this type of training:

2017 Technicians in Residential Plumbing, HVAC or Electrical Scholarship & 2017 Troops to Trades Training Grants and Scholarships

2017 Skilled Labor Shortage Scholarship

Women in Skilled Trades Scholarship Program

National Housing Endowment Student Scholarships

World Plumbing Council Scholarship Program

American Society of Heating, Refrigerating & Air-Conditioning Engineers Scholarships

Capture High School Memories Before College with a T-shirt Quilt

t-shirt quilt

We’ve been talking about it for years–doing something with my daughter’s old t-shirts. Too many memories to just toss them and storing them was becoming an issue. We wanted to use them and make a blanket, but we didn’t have the sewing skills to accomplish it. We researched options but they all seemed so expensive. Until we found Project Repat.

This Christmas I was able to give my daughter a gift of memories. When she opened the box, her face lit up. There on a quilt were her favorite t-shirts from high school and college days. A shirt we purchased on a family vacation. A memory of her 18th birthday trip to Six Flags. One she purchased during her study abroad in London and Paris. Another her brother purchased for her while he was in the Marines. Her sorority and college shirts reminding her of some of the best memories of her life.

When your college-bound teen signs that letter of acceptance from his or her dream college, she will be leaving home in the fall. Homesickness almost always sets in. It would be great for your teen to have a little bit of home with her every day. She can choose the shirts that hold her favorite memories from childhood and high school to take with her to college. The t-shirt quilt will remind her of happier times and comfort her during those moments when she misses home.

Click on the text below for a chance to win a FREE QUILT and a DISCOUNT COUPON CODE from Project Repat.

Yes. I want to order a t-shirt quilt for my college-bound teen.

These Mistakes Could Cost You That College Scholarship


Applying for scholarships requires a commitment of time and a dedication to persevere. It is a job in the truest sense of the word. You will most likely spend hours upon hours applying for scholarships hoping the time will be rewarded with money to pay for college. But the payoff won’t come unless you take the time to apply for scholarships or if you make these five scholarship application mistakes.

1. Not following directions.

Scholarship judges look for students who know how to follow directions. If the student can’t follow the directions, the application will be immediately placed in the reject pile. If the directions ask for only three recommendations, and no more, don’t send five. If it requires students provide a transcript, don’t forget to include it. If the essay word count is specific, (i.e. no more than 500 words) stick to the word count guidelines.

Along with following the directions, always check spelling and grammar on the application itself and any essay submissions. Since many scholarships have thousands of qualified applicants, this one simple mistake can cause you to lose the scholarship.

2. Applying to the wrong scholarships.

Read the scholarship qualifications carefully. If you don’t qualify, don’t apply. Guidelines such as GPAs, specific areas of interest, specific heritage and gender require applicants who meet the criteria. Applying for these scholarships when you don’t match the qualifications is a waste of time.

3. Not personalizing your application.

Just about every scholarship asks for details related to academics, activities and future plans. But personalizing the application will make you stand out. Also, find some time to learn about the organization presenting the scholarship and find a way to include this knowledge in the application or the essay and why it might relate to you.

Research previous winners and find out what the scholarship judges found valuable in these winners. Make sure the application explains why you are the perfect applicant for this award. Be careful when copying and pasting information from previous applications. Make sure the information you provide is unique to each scholarship.

Read the original article at TeenLife Magazine: 5 Mistakes That Could Cost You That Scholarship

Borrowing Wisely for Students



There are plenty of options available when the time comes for you to pick a loan. If you are a student and you need a student loan you will need to have a loan with a very low-interest rate. There are student loans that cover this and it is repayable over time, or even when you start working. The problem is if you need a loan for something else, such as for a car, or to fund a course then you may not feel as though there are many options available. You may even face charges if you are late making the payment, and this can make you feel incredibly trapped, especially if you are on a budget and trying to save money at the moment.

Borrowing on a Low Credit Rating

There is a huge difference between having poor credit and having no credit. They both however, make it difficult for you to secure a loan with a low rate. If you have no credit history then you may struggle to get a loan at all, and if you have poor credit then you may have a note against your name or you may have missed payments and this can make you difficult for a loan company to invest in. If you are young and you need to take out a loan then lenders such as Lendkey are ideal for this and they can provide you with the rate that is suitable for your situation.

Improving your Credit Rating

There are a lot of different ways for you to improve your credit rating. One of them is making sure that you are registered on the electoral roll or the corresponding register in your own country. If you are not then there is a high chance that you will not secure any credit at all. It also helps to space out any credit applications that you have. This will leave a footprint on your file and if you do happen to get rejected from one then this will make it less likely for the next lender to give you a loan. The cycle is going to carry on like this until you get accepted, which is rather unfortunate. The best way for you to get around this would be for you to apply and wait to see if you get accepted, and leave quite a bit of time between each application. You also need to make sure that you take the time and research each application properly.

Your History

If you are struggling to get your credit rating up then one idea would be for you to apply for a high-interest credit card. This is not ideal because if you are on a budget then it means that you are paying more than you should be for your interest, but it does mean that you can slowly build up your rating until you can eventually find a card that has the interest rate you’re looking for. This may take time, but that is just how things work and there aren’t many other options available for you to take advantage of.

8 College Books to Fill Those Christmas Stockings


college books

It’s that time of year when everyone is searching online and in stores for that perfect holiday gift. Reading is one way to improve your college-bound teen’s vocabulary and the best way for you to educate yourself about the college admissions process. The holidays are a perfect time to grab some books for stocking stuffers or for a friend who has a student heading off to college in the future.

Following are my “affordable” recommendations for college books to fill those stockings or be a perfect “secret” Santa!

Getting In! College Admissions and Financial Aid in the Digital Age

Zinch (a student-focused admissions site) approaches college admissions in the digital age, addressing the issues of today’s technology and how it affects the student.

Higher Education: How Colleges are Wasting our Money and Failing our Kids–and what we can do about it!

This book by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus is a MUST read for every parent and student. It presents some alternative colleges that many may not have heard about and proposes some controversial change in higher education. You can follow their blog too!

The Naked Roommate: For Parents Only

This book is the definitive companion for every parent of a student either heading to college or already in college. Harlan Cohen speaks clearly to parents in their language, making it not only an informative read but an easy-to-read resource for parents.

College Bound and Gagged

Nancy Berk takes on the lighter side of college admissions from a parent’s perspective. In order to survive the process, you need to add a little bit of humor to the mix and Nancy does just that.

Why You’re Already a Leader 

Author Paul Hemphill shows the reader how you can be a leader even without having what some might think are traditional leadership qualities. Colleges are looking for leadership qualities in their applicants and Paul shows you how to tap into that natural ability.

Getting Wasted

No parent wants to think that their student will head off to college and spend their time partying; but the sad facts indicate that the college culture encourages it. This book shows that college itself encourages these drinking patterns and is one more example of the dark side of campus life. Parents and students should read this book.

Debt-Free U

Armed with his personal knowledge, the latest data, and smart analysis, Zac Bissonnette takes on the sacred cows of the higher education establishment. He reveals why a lot of the conventional wisdom about choosing and financing college is not only wrong but hazardous to you and your child’s financial future.

Secrets of a Financial Aid Pro

With insight and humor, Jodi Okun takes you inside the often murky world of paying for college. Learn how to find and apply for every type of financial aid, including FAFSA, grants, scholarships, and loans. Find out how to give your student the financial skills they’ll need for life–it all starts in college by helping them manage expenses and money.

An Essay Push for Winter Break


essayIt’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on

Some parents out there might be feeling this song right about now. Like Joni Mitchell, they “wish they had a river to skate away on.” Regular decision deadlines are approaching, and your student still hasn’t finished her essay. She is stumped, and you don’t know how to help.

Essays are possibly the most stressful part of the college application. The essay is the “window into your soul” for the admissions officer. There’s a reason why colleges ask for essays and it’s not just to see a writing sample. With thousands of applicants possessing similar qualifications, something must tip the scales toward a positive decision and the essay could be the tipping point.

While content is certainly important, the tone and focus of the essay are equally important. If your student is stumped and can’t seem to move past the first paragraph, this list of 10 “don’ts” might help her move forward toward completion.

  1. DON’T write about controversial subjects.

The essays are not the place to take a stand on a personal issue, unless that issue has shaped who you are. It can be tempting to discuss attention-grabbing hot topics, but doing so can have consequences. Controversial topics are contentious for a reason. And while some on a review board may applaud such a choice of essay, others might not find it appropriate for students entering their institution, even if it catches their attention.

  1. DON’T focus on what you want to do, but on what you have already done.

How have you gone above and beyond? What is your scholarly niche? What have you done that can show admissions officers who you are and why you have accomplished your goals. The best topics for college essays allow you to tout an accomplishment.

  1. DON’T be a generalist, make it personal.

Colleges and universities aren’t looking for well-rounded students, they are looking for a well- rounded student body. Show them where you stand out and how you complement the mix they are going for. Talk about what you love and find a way to distinguish yourself from other applicants. Admissions officers want to know who you are and what you can contribute to their college student body.

  1. DON’T use “SAT words.”

Admissions officers are unimpressed by those trying to show off their vocabulary, they much prefer clear, concise essays.

  1. DON’T use clichés.

Clichés are the quickest way to come across as inauthentic and unexceptional. What is a cliche? Phrases like “time will tell” and “alls well that ends well” are cliches.

For the last 5 don’t’s, read the original article I wrote for TeenLife Media: Don’t Make These 10 College Essay Mistakes.

Get a College Education Without the Dreaded Debt



The thought that crosses every students mind is the dreaded debt they will inevitably find themselves in years and years down the line. It seems that students are now facing an uphill battle when it comes to their student loan debt. You will struggle to get a credible job without the relevant qualifications, which means at some point you’re going to need to go and study at college. Unfortunately, college fees do not come cheap. Many people have to boycott college altogether because they simply can’t afford it. It’s such a shame that many youngsters have to miss out on getting the best education because money is short. If you are lucky enough to get into your chosen subject of education, here are a few pointers which will help you to avoid the dreaded debt.

Social Butterfly Without the Burden

You’ve gotten into the college of your dreams and you can’t wait to make new friends and memories, but you’re a little worried about your budget. You are not alone. Every single person is worried. Socializing at college doesn’t have to be super expensive. There are several ways in which you can save money and still have a great time. Join loyalty schemes and get to know which bars and restaurant your campus is associated with. The chances are you will be able to get discounts all year round, which means cheap drinks and food whenever you and your friends go out. Change up how you socialize with your friends too. Spend more time around people’s places instead of going out and hold movie nights instead of taking a trip out to see the latest blockbuster.

Room and Board Can Cost A Little

Room and board costs can stump a lot of students. Seriously, how can it cost so much to live in a pitiful little room with no bathroom? If you haven’t already thought about it, maybe you could consider online education to save yourself a lot of money. Partaking in an online bsw, for example, would allow you to stay at home and would cut your student debt almost completely. By opting to be educated virtually you wouldn’t be overburdened with outrageous costs, but keep in mind you need to be super motivated in order to get a degree from an online format.

Save, Save, Save

Before your further education suddenly hits you like a brick wall you should consider saving up some cash so you have got a head start. The summer before you’re due to head off to college you should definitely consider getting a job. It will not only give you a boost to buy all of the things you’ll need when you’re first moving away, but it will also motivate you to earn some money whilst you’re getting your education. Many students find it useful to take on a part-time job whilst they’re studying. It will ease the burden much more in the future.

So take these points into consideration if you’re due to start your higher education. Maybe you have a younger sibling who is ready to go to college and you want them to learn from your mistakes. Let’s start imparting our wisdom on others and stop the vicious cycle of student debt!