Scholarship Friday: Use Social Media to Your Advantage


social mediaYou have buried your head in the sand if you don’t know the impact that social media has on your reputation. Just watch the news, and celebrities put their feet in their mouths daily on Twitter. The whole world is monitoring what they say. But who is watching what your teen says? Just about everyone these days: colleges, scholarship judges and committees, and future employers.

It’s not enough for your teen to bridle their keystrokes on Twitter or set their Facebook page to private. It stands to reason that if these entities are looking at social media, you should use it to your advantage and create a positive impression. Social media is a great place for scholarship applicants to document their volunteer activities.

Be authentic. Create a blog and write about your experiences. Post pictures on Instagram. Comment on Twitter and Facebook about what you are learning while volunteering. Use social media to showcase your interests, your activities and your learning experiences.

For some excellent tips on how to use social media to your advantage, read:

Scholarship Applicants: Use Social Media to Your Advantage

Your teen may not be a celebrity, but he is being watched by people who are interested in knowing more about him. Don’t let your teen have one of those “uh-oh” moments like Gilbert Gottfried did a few years ago:

bad tweets


Cost of Learning Releases Research Findings on Net Price Calculators


net price, the website providing transparency into the true cost of college via its universal net price calculator, released research findings assessing the accuracy of more than 100 well-known public and private college net price calculators. Published on the Cost of Learning blog, the analysis details which colleges under-estimate and over-estimate their true cost of college.

For this research, Cost of Learning used the net pricing data the universities submit to the Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (“IPEDS”) and compared that to the data found on each college’s net price calculator.

“This is the first time anyone has merged these two data sources and the results are surprising,” said Jimmy Becker, CEO and Founder of Cost of Learning. “Unfortunately, some of these calculators aren’t providing accurate information.”

The findings show state universities seem biased in favor of being conservative and over-estimating the net price of college while private colleges seem biased in favor of under-estimating prices. In some cases, these private colleges are under-estimating their pricing by thousands of dollars compared to the actual reported IPEDS data. (Editorial note: please see the blog for a full list of universities and the data.)

“Families depend on the college net price calculators to make decisions about which schools they can afford. Schools that over-estimate may discourage low-income families from applying to outstanding schools,” added Becker. “For the colleges that under-estimate, the risk is that families may have an unpleasant surprise when they receive the acceptance and award letter.”

To find out which schools over-estimate and which schools under-estimate costs, readers can read the blog or visit where they can also compare net pricing for more than 1,500 colleges and universities.



Based in Boston, MA, Cost of Learning’s mission is to enable families to make well-informed financial decisions about the true cost of college. With, the company is bringing actionable, clear, and simple information to what is currently a challenging and stressful process for many families. College is too expensive and the financial aid system is too complex for most of families to easily navigate. is making it easy for families to determine their true net cost of college and compare those prices across a range of colleges. With this information, families can make better choices determining which college is best suited and most affordable for them.


Wednesday’s Parent: Cultivate the Counselor Relationship


counselorYou would be surprised at the amount of material that comes across your high school counselor’s desk: from scholarship opportunities, to college admissions counselor recommendation requests, to leadership positions, to volunteer opportunities. Making friends with your counselor may well be the most important and valuable relationship your teen cultivates during high school.

My daughter and son attended a rather large high school. At the time, being uninformed and unaware, we did not understand the value of this relationship. When senior year came along she missed several scholarship opportunities because the counselor did not even know she was applying to several of the colleges. When recommendation letter time came along the counselor refused to complete her recommendation stating that she did not know my daughter well enough to write a letter for her. My daughter had to explain to several admission committees why she was not able to obtain a counselor recommendation.

She would have spared herself that necessity if she had known the importance of utilizing the resources that were available in the counselor’s office and had known how important it was to cultivate that relationship. Counselor recommendations are considered an important part of most college applications.

The counselor relationship

It’s no surprise to parents that high school counselors are busy. They juggle regular counseling duties, paperwork and college prep. Most have too many students to advise and most are required to spend so much time on paperwork that it’s impossible to speak with every student. Research shows that the average counselor to student ratio is 470-1 and that they spend less than 20 minutes a year with each student.

A recent article in Time, “The High School Guidance Counselor”, explains the problem:

In addition to huge caseloads, budget cuts have forced to counselors to increasingly contend with duties unrelated to their traditional roles, such as monitoring the school cafeteria or proctoring exams, says Eric Sparks, the ASCA’s assistant director. And few get more than scant training before taking on the job, says Alexandria Walton Radford, a former U.S. Department of Education official who has studied the issue. Many degree programs for school counselors don’t offer coursework on helping students make the best college choices, or getting financial aid, according to a national survey of counselors.

The result is an overtaxed system in which many students either never go to college, go to institutions that are the wrong for them, or never learn about financial aid for which they may qualify. According to Radford’s research, low-income, ethnic minority valedictorians and first-generation college applicants shy away from elite schools, unaware of scholarship opportunities; freshmen over-rely on friends and relatives for advice about college.

What should parents do?

A counselor from Pikesville High School in Baltimore, Maryland had this this suggestion, in a recent article I wrote about the high school counselor conundrum:

I appreciate that you care about SCHOOL counselors’ lack of training in college planning, but I disagree about your recommendations. There are more productive and proactive ways than becoming the squeaky wheel…Like asking district and state leadership for smaller caseloads and more professional development for SCHOOL counselors.” Good advice. Get involved in your school community and ask for changes.

The bottom line

Get involved. Ask questions like these: 5 Must-Ask Questions for your Child’s Guidance Counselor. Start early by making contact with the counselor and building a relationship. They may be busy, but most counselors are eager to help if asked.

Read Wendy’s post: School Counselors and the Parent-Student Team


Wendy and I will be joined by Shelley Krause (@butwait), a high school counselor, on Wednesday’s Parent night (the fourth Wednesday of each month) on #CampusChat, Wednesday, August 27, 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will talk about how to establish a relationship with your high school counselor and how they can help with 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!

Academic Writing Tools


recommendation letterMany people view academia as “pretend” – as something separate from the real world. While there are many things about school that don’t translate well into real life, there are many things that do. The process used for writing a dissertation, and in fact writing anything, can be a good foundation for how to approach any real-life problem.

Formulate An Idea

This is probably the hardest part of writing. You need something to write about. There are a lot of ways to come up with ideas, but one of the best is to think about what you’re most passionate about, what needs further research in your field of study, and then find the crossover point.

Poll your professors, other students, and alumni for answers. You can also hire a company like Ivory Research to get the wheels turning. Companies like these are professional research companies that help with the research and writing process. But, they’re not just good for a dissertation. They can help you write practically anything.

Start With Brainstorming

A good brainstorming session begins with a clear, yet focused, mind. You must clear your thoughts of all distractions. A good way to do this would be to do some meditation before you write, or go for a walk in the woods – somewhere where you can find peace and tranquillity. When you’re ready to write, get rid of all distractions.

You should silence your phone, shut off access to the Internet, and close and lock your door for privacy. Then, start writing. Don’t think too hard about what you’re writing – this is a mistake most students make. This is not a time for editing anything. This is a time to write from your subconscious.

Your first draft should look almost like a stream of consciousness. You might veer off onto tangents. That’s fine. You’ll go back and edit it later. Eventually, your drafting process will become cleaner so that extensive editing won’t be necessary. However, and especially if you’re not an experienced writer, your first draft will be quite ugly.

Do not edit anything. Resist the urge to edit as you type. This not only slows you down, but it can kill the creative writing process, which is necessary to make your dissertation, or research paper interesting as well as informative.

When you’re out of college, this technique is useful for just about any problem-solving you will do. You can whip out a sheet of paper and start writing down questions and problems you’re facing – even if they initially don’t make sense. Then, you can go back and analyse them.

Analyse The Draft

There’s a lot that won’t make it into the final draft. The editing process is where you decide which takes priority. This is the time when you can be objective about your writing. Before, it was purely subjective. You were tapping your subconscious for ideas – powerful, emotionally-driven ideas. Now, it’s time to justify those ideas with logic and reason.

Think about the process itself and uncover patterns you might have developed subconsciously.

Think About The Process

The writing process itself is a learning experience. Thinking about your process consciously and objectively can teach you about how your subconscious reacts to certain situations, ideas, and how you feel about things.

Naturally, this carries over in real life. When you’re feeling distressed about something, or happy, you can use writing to write out all of your emotions, questions, and ideas. Then you can think about the processes going on inside your head. Why did you think or feel a certain way?

This can help you uncover hidden motivations in your writing, patterns that limit your writing, and even processes that strengthen your writing.


Jenny Wescott has been an online tutor for some time now. She likes to share her insights to help others research and write better. You can find her blog posts mainly on education, research and writing websites. 


App Tuesday: A New Ethics App


I recently received an email from The Big Q (@thebigqethics), an online project of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University. She told me about an app they created to help students with decisions using a step-by-step approach to ethical questions. Today’s App Tuesday post is a guest post explaining the ethics app and its uses.

ethics appWhile most universities offer ethics classes, the focus of these courses is often on questions that can seem distant to most students, like euthanasia or capital punishment.  But college students face ethical dilemmas every day: What do I do if I see someone cheating on a test? Should I take a study drug?  What is my responsibility to a roommate who is depressed?

An app created by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University provides a step-by-step approach to ethical questions both big and small: Ethical Decision Making: A Practical Tool for Thinking Through Tough Choices.  The app takes users through a process that begins with getting the facts and identifying the stakeholders in the situation.  Then they’re introduced to five classic ethical approaches—Utility, Rights, Justice, Common Good, and Virtue—posing questions such as “Does this action produce the most good and do the least harm for all who are affected?” and “Does this action treat people equally or proportionally?”

Finally, users weight the different approaches and get a score that indicates whether their thinking is on the right track or whether they should evaluate another option.  The app does not give a “yes” or “no” answer, but the score helps users decide if they wish to move forward with the decision.

Santa Clara is using the app this year with all incoming students during its orientation sessions on academic integrity and cheating.  The app has been downloaded 4,900 from the Apple App store and viewed almost 8,000 times online.

The app draws on the Ethics Center’s popular “Framework for Ethical Decision Making,” which has been online for almost 20 years and viewed over a million times. “The Center has always believed that we need a deliberate method to make good ethical decisions,” said Center Executive Director Kirk O. Hanson.   “We’ve used the Framework for many years, and we’re delighted to offer it in a new medium that may be particularly attractive to a new generation.”


Back to School Special: 60% Off Parents Crash Course


In the spirit of Back to School and in my desire to help parents prepare their teens for college, I’m offering a special. 60% off my regular price–$59! That’s right–60% off. It’s a bargain; and who doesn’t like bargains?

Here’s what you will be getting:



With competition for college becoming more intense and the college admissions officers looking at each application and analyzing its merits, it makes sense to give your college-bound teen every opportunity available.


I created the Parents Countdown to College Crash Course because:

  • College admissions is becoming increasingly competitive.
  • By college’s own admission, the process is entirely subjective.
  • If you wait until senior year, you will be in panic mode.
  • Your teen is just one in thousands of college applicants.
  • Without help, you will get lost in the college maze.
  • School counselors simply don’t have the time to advise every student.

What you can expect from my Parents Countdown to College Crash Course:


  • A step by step guide through the college admissions process—walking you through the process in a way that every parent can understand.
  • Supportive templates and worksheets to help you stay organized and on top of college deadlines.
  • Directions on where to go to find the experts in every facet of the college admissions process—and how to get their help for FREE!
  • How to help your teen choose the right college—the college that fits him/her perfectly.
  • Tips on how to make your college-bound teen appealing to their top choice college.
  • Everything you ever need to know to understand financial aid and how to leverage that knowledge to your advantage.
That’s great you say; but at what cost?


Here’s an excerpt from a recent New York Times article:

No test or licensing is required to offer such services, and there is no way to evaluate the counselors’ often extravagant claims of success or experience. And Ms. Duff’s asking price, though higher than many, is eclipsed by those of competitors who may charge upwards of $40,000 —more than a year’s tuition at many colleges.

Believe me, I couldn’t afford that kind of money when I was helping my kids with the college process, and I’m sure you can’t either.

BUT, if I had found someone that offered everything I needed in one CRASH COURSE for a FRACTION of the cost of those high-priced counselors, I would have JUMPED at the BARGAIN!

For ONE all-inclusive price you will receive:


  1. An EbookParent College Coaching 101 (guiding you through the step by step process of college admissions).
  2. A workbookwith Templates and Worksheets to compliment the instructions in the Ebook.
  3. Expert Link Listclickable links to EVERY expert in the field of college admissions.
  4. WhitepapersA compilation of my articles and blog posts (categorized) specifically addressing college admission issues.
  5. My Top Website picksThese are sites that are PACKED with FREE information and tips about the college admissions process.

Don’t make the mistake of being unprepared and scrambling around senior year trying to help your college-bound teen apply to colleges. Be a smart parent and prepare in advance. The best time to start with the college prep process is the 8th grade. But if you’re running behind, my Crash Course will help you catch up!

Snag this discounted price before the sale ends

It’s a BARGAIN at $59 (60% off my regular price)!

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.