Mother’s New Little (College Application) Helper


Today’s guest post is from Lisa Sloan of Portland, Oregon who is currently going through the admissions process with her son.


I am a master juggler. I don’t flip fire torches or bean bags, but as a parent, I am constantly keeping all of the balls in the air––meals, carpool, school project supplies, orthodontist appointments, etc. If you’re a parent, I’m sure you know I could add a hundred more things to the list.  At the time of maximum juggling, it’s time for my son to apply to college! Yay, more balls…

I was absolutely thrilled to learn about apply101. My son was able to select the schools he is interested in, and his calendar populated with all of the tasks and timelines he needed. I am able to monitor his progress through the app without having to constantly ask him if he’s done something, and having the timeline laid out for him makes it easier for him to stay on track. It’s not unlike keeping on top of homework or other assignments. I also appreciate that I can add as task that he will see without having to remember to talk to him about it. These days, those face-to-face opportunities can be hard to find, and then I have to remember what it was I needed to tell him when I do see him. Not always easy with everything else on my mind; apply101 to the rescue!


This past weekend is a great example. We had discussed letters of recommendation while we were in the car.  He was looking at university websites on his phone, and of course, each school wants things differently. One school wants the letters mailed to them, which means my son needs to address and stamp envelopes to give to the teachers he asks for recommendations. Another wants them submitted online, so that means emailing the teacher with the link. A third wants it through Naviance. While I drove, my son noted each task (and address) in apply101 so he didn’t have to waste time later figuring it out again. We also brainstormed about who he would ask for the recommendations, and he noted that too. When we got home, I gave him envelopes and stamps and I left the rest up to him.

At first I thought that since his high school uses Naviance that we didn’t need apply101, but then I learned that Naviance is a vehicle to request transcripts and sometimes, letters of recommendation, and although it has great college search tools, it doesn’t provide the calendaring of timelines and deadlines that apply101 does, so it’s not redundant. They work really well together.

I think it is important that the college process be something my son owns, not something that I drive. I honestly believe that his engagement at this point is indicative of his commitment, and it foreshadows how well he will on his own in college when I am not checking in on him all the time. I also know that senior year is crazy-busy for kids, so they need someone to have their back to make sure their balls stay in the air. That’s why I like apply101. It keeps him organized and lets me peek without hovering.


Online Resources to Craft a Great Scholarship Essay



scholarship essay

Writing an essay is always a challenge. You need to come up with a great idea, organize your thoughts into a concise, easy to follow structure, find supporting resources, and find the right words to make it all make sense. When you are writing an essay for a scholarship, it can be even trickier. There’s more on the line. These online resources will help you write a thoughtful scholarship essay to give you the best chance of success.

Essay Punch

Essay Punch is an interactive tutorial that takes students through all parts of the academic essay writing process. You will work with writing prompts to practice the organizing, writing, editing, and publishing stages of the process.

Thesis Builder

Your thesis is arguably the most important part of your essay. Without a strong thesis, the rest of the paper cannot take shape. And if your thesis isn’t well supported, your paper will likely fall flat. So, it’s very important that you construct a strong, easy to defend thesis. Thesis Builder will take your topic and help you come up with a great thesis.

Ask Petersen

Julie Petersen is an ESL tutor with an awesome website to help writers at all stages of the writing process. The website features educational articles, sample essays, study guides, and tools to help you succeed. There’s also a blog that offers writing tips and student life hacks. So, once your essay gets you into college, you can continue to flourish.


PlagTracker will make sure your scholarship essay is completely free of plagiarism. If you used any sources as references, even if they were re-written in your own words, it’s possible that the similarities will still be strong and show up as plagiarism. PlagTracker eliminates these sentences and replaces them with original content so your essay is 100% you own.

Step By Step Essay Writing Guide

Imagine that you’re stressed, extremely busy, and panicking because your essay is due tomorrow and you haven’t started yet! If this is the case, head over to EssayMama blog, and read their step-by-step guide to composing an essay in a pinch.

Teen Ink

This online magazine features articles and essays written by students. You can find fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Use the site for inspiration for your own essay ideas or become a contributor.

Hemingway Editor

When you are writing a scholarship essay, it might be tempting to write long, eloquent sentences to show off your intelligence. This can easily backfire and can actually make it hard for your readers to understand your writing. Hemingway Editor will scan your document to make it readable. It will find any confusing or long sentences so you can re-write them. It will also point out instances of passive voice so you can change them to a more assertive active voice.

Citation Machine

When you’re writing an academic essay, you need to include references to show your research. But creating the references page is time-consuming and tedious work. Citation Machine can easily build your reference page for you. All you need to do is choose your citations style and medium and enter the data in the pre-determined fields.

Become a member of (for free!) and you’ll be able to make an online writing profile, get writing tips, and receive feedback on your writing from other members. There are also contests and writing activities to keep you motivated and help improve your writing.

Do you feel better prepared to go out and write that killer scholarship essay? I hope so! Don’t expect the process to be easy. There will be bumps along the way. You’ll get frustrated and want to quit. But remember that there are tools, tutors, and other students to help you through the process and keep you focused. Visit one or more of these sites for inspiration, organization, advice, samples essays, and even one-on-one help. So, go out there and get started. What are you waiting for?

A Parents Predicament: Balancing College and Affordability


It’s every parents predicament: balancing college and affordability. How to do pick a best value college? This infographic from Money Magazine should help.

balancing college and affordability


Words of Advice for Parents of College Bound Teens


encourage your child

Image by Flickr

It can be a nervous time for any parent who is sending their child off to college. I know, I have done it all before myself. However, it is easy to get consumed by your own nerves that you forget to really encourage your child.

Going to college is a huge step, and if you are nervous, imagine how your child feels. As a parent, the best way you can be there for your child is to show them support. Here are some of the best ways to encourage your child throughout their college years.

Give them space

You might be dying to hear about all their activities, but your child is out to enjoy their time! Don’t pester them by constantly phoning and texting. With the occasional message you will show you are always there. Your child will then get in touch at the times when he or she needs you the most. The best thing you can do as a parent is to give them space but be there for them when they need you most.

Learn more about their course

There are so many college courses to choose from and it is hard to keep up with them all. Even if your child is studying a more traditional subject like English or History, take the time to understand their course. Find out what they are reading. Get to know what essay topics they have to write about. This way you will be able to hold an educated conversation with them about something that matters to them. You can also use this knowledge to be able to discuss their academic goals. Help them plan out the things they want to achieve during their college years and think about what sorts of grades they want.

Get to know their friends

When your child leaves home you will no longer have any control over who they hang out with. However, you can take the initiative to get to know your child’s friends. This way you understand what sort of personalities they are attracted to and what people they tend to like. Every time you visit, have a chat with their roommate. Maybe you could even take a few of their friends out for a meal or coffee. This is great too because when your child phones you to let you know what has been happening lately, you will be able to put a face to a name.

Encourage all opportunities

At college, your child is likely to be faced with an abundance of amazing opportunities. Just because you want them to stay nearby, doesn’t mean you should discourage them. Your child has to live their life in the way they want to. One of the options that may present itself could be the chance to study overseas. Many parents feel worried about sending their child off to a foreign place. But studying abroad is one of the best opportunities you can have. Your child will discover a new culture and possibly even a new language. They will find a new independence and have friends all across the globe.

Don’t voice your fears

If you are nervous about your child leaving home, don’t let it show. You might scare them more than you want to by letting your fears rub off on them. Be supportive and enthusiastic talking about all the great experiences they will find when they are away.

Teach them about money

If your child has never lived away from home, they will more than likely not have had to fend much for themselves. However, as a student you need to be able to manage a budget and know how to control your finances. Teach them how to do this. Let them understand the value of money. If you have any tips on how to save, make sure you let them know. If you help them with this, they will be able to avoid debt after graduation.

National Scholarship Month: Kicks off with a $5000 Scholarship from Sallie Mae


To celebrate National Scholarship Month, Sallie Mae is offering student’s the chance to win $5000 toward the cost of college. All you have to do to be entered is to register for their scholarship search engine.

Here’s a short video on how it works:

Don’t pass up the chance to win FREE money for college!

Strategizing Paying for College


paying for collegePaying for college is an uphill battle filled with mindboggling FAFSA paperwork and a steady stream of education bills. Stress due to how individuals will pay for college, housing, textbooks, and extra fees can be a continual buzz at the back of the mind. In order to avoid thousands upon thousands of dollars in student loans, college students and their families can strategically make financial and professional decisions that will maximize the amount of federal and company student aid they will receive.

Employer-Provided Educational Assistance

Students, prospective students, and parents can decrease the out of pocket cost of college by pursuing a job at a company that has educational assistance or scholarship programs. Many smaller companies have a long history of providing scholarships for their employees and their employee’s children.

On April sixth of this year, Starbucks led the employer educational program charge by offering to pay for the tuition for all part and full-time employees. Employees can choose any one of the 49 undergraduate programs at Arizona State University online program. Beyond Starbucks, there are dozens of employers who have educational benefits programs. The majority of the programs offer anywhere from $1,000 to $5,250 in educational aid per year.

Students should also look into deducting their education from their taxes as a work-related fringe benefit. Educational fringe benefits help professionals seek the education required when they meet one of the following requirements:

  • They are required to receive the education by their employer or the law to keep their salary, status, or job.
  • The education will help improve or maintain a skills needed for your job.

They also cannot:

  • Allow you the possibility of entering a new field.
  • Allow you to receive minimum educational requirements for your field.

Does it sound like you might qualify? What individuals can deduct is just as expensive. You can dive further into the topic here.

Extended Family Contributions

Your grandma or grandpa planning on helping you pay for college? Before they write you a check, you can strategize how and when the grandparents help you pay for college to minimize what they pay in taxes and maximize how much financial aid you receive.

First off, grandparents can maximize the financial benefits of aiding their grandchildren by sending the tuition money directly to the college. Paying the tuition directly qualifies the educational contribution as a gift tax exclusion. What does this mean? The grandparents will not need to report the contribution to the IRS.

It should be noted that only tuition is considered a gift tax exclusion. If family members want to help students with other educational expenses, the money qualifies as a gift tax expense. The family member should tally the amount given to the student. If the amount is less than $14,000, the amount given does not need to be reported. Anything over the $14,000 must be reported by the individual who gave the gift. No taxes will need to be paid on the gift until the individual has given more than $5.34 million.

Don’t rush off to tell your grandparents the good news yet. Here’s the bad news: If they help you pay for college this year, it will decrease the amount you will receive in financial aid next year. Unfortunately the people at FAFSA assume if they help you this year, they’ll continue to offer the same amount of aid the following year. You can prevent this fatal mistake by advising your grandma or grandpa to wait until the last year or two of college before helping out.

Paying for college can be expensive, but it can be manageable by developing a game plan. Business educational assistance and familial educational gifts utilized at the right time can be the beginning to a successful financial strategy to pay for college.


Today’s guest blogger, Samantha Stauf, was a first generation college student. Since Samantha graduated two years ago, she’s spent her free time writing articles meant to help current students succeed. You can find her on Twitter at the hashtag @samstauf.

Wednesday’s Parent: Dual Enrollment Pays Double


dual enrollment

In my book, anything that saves you money on college is a good investment of your student’s time and your financial resources. Dual enrollment can not only prepare your student for college level courses, but can save you money on college. These courses are offered in conjunction with local colleges and students can take both high school courses and college courses at the same time.

According to Wendy David-Gaines, the Long Island College Prep Examiner and POCSMom, dual enrollment courses offer huge benefits:

10 Tips for Parents of the College Bound


10 tips for parents

Parenting a college-bound teen is a challenge. How much should you push? How much should you help? Where do you draw the line? How involved should you be? How do you help your student fulfill his college dreams?

Here are 10 tips for parents that should answer your questions:

10 Tips for Parents of High School Students

1. Don’t overparent

Much has been written lately about the damages overparenting does to students. Step aside and let your student take the wheel.

2. Make a visit to your teen’s counselor

Let the counselor know that you intend to be an involved parent and establish a relationship at the start. The counselor is an important source of information and of course guidance regarding your teen’s college pursuit.

3. Establish relationships with teachers and staff

Since most parents tend to drop out when their teen reaches high school, it’s crucial that you make it clear to the educators that you will be a partner in educating your child. Show up at PTA meetings and parent information sessions.

4. Read all school information

This means reading the school handbook, teacher handouts, letters to parents, guidance department newsletters, any rules and policies, and homework and attendance rules.

5. Stress the importance of good attendance

Attendance is key in high school. Missing even one class can put the student behind. Schedule appointments, when possible, before and after school. If there is an absence, make sure your teen does the make up work in a timely manner.

6. Encourage strong study habits

These habits will follow your teen to college. Set aside a regularly scheduled study time. Studying needs to be a priority before any added activities.

7. Stress regular contact with teachers and counselors

This contact will play an important role when your teen needs recommendation letters. It will also establish in the minds of these educators that he or she means business.

8. Be the organization coach

If you know where everything is, have a schedule and a plan, you won’t get stressed and frustrated. It’s your job as their parent coach to help them start and maintain good organization for their date planners, notebooks, folders, files and college related materials.

9. Stay informed and involved

This does not mean camp out at the school every day and follow your teen around. It means monitoring quizzes, grades, daily homework assignments and long-term projects.

10. Be proactive when you encounter problems

All types of problems arise in high school: academic, behavioral and even social. There is a logical solution for all of them, but the key is to be aware when they arise and address them quickly.

10 Tips for Parents of Seniors

1. Do the prep work

Get ready for the mounds of catalogs, test prep booklets, flyers and email reminders. Start your filing system now, create a landing zone for all college-related materials, start adding tasks on a calendar.

2. Do your best to control your emotions

It’s going to be an emotional time for both you and your student. Angry words will be spoken if you don’t make a conscious effort to bite your tongue.

3. Prepare for rejection

The upcoming year will most likely mean that your student (and you) will have to deal with rejection. It’s not personal, but you will feel like it is.

4. Decide what role you will take

Please. I beg you. Do NOT be the parent that shoves, manipulates, and actually does the work for their student. Be the parent who encourages, supports and offers help and advice when needed.

5. Prepare for emotional outbursts

This is one of the most stressful times in your family. There will be emotional outbursts as the stress intensifies. Your student will say things she does not mean. You will lose your temper and wish you didn’t.

6. Discuss the money

If you want to avoid disappointment when offers of admission arrive, have the “money talk” before your student applies to colleges. Decide what you can afford, what you will be willing to contribute toward the costs, and what you expect your student to contribute.

7. Accept there will be consequences to actions

Your student will most likely fail or mess up at some point during senior year. Rescuing your kids all the time only makes them into dependent adults and colleges aren’t impressed with those type of students or the parents that come with them.

8. Be open to all possibilities

Be open to any college choices your student might make. You will not be the one attending the college and it’s not up to you to choose for her.

9. Don’t push-it simply won’t help

If your student is unmotivated, it’s not going to help to nag her and push her to do the college prep work. If there is one thing I learned with both of my kids (and clients), if your student is not invested in the college process she won’t be invested in college.

10. Enjoy the journey

This is an exciting time in the life of your teenager. She has worked hard and will be planning her future. Enjoy the next year, even when you feel stressed and overwhelmed.

Scholarship Friday: Creepy Halloween Scholarships


Although these scholarships have been deemed “creepy and freaky”, any scholarship that gets you FREE money for college is anything but creepy and freaky. In honor of Halloween, here are two of the creepiest.

Are you fascinated with paranormal activity?

The New York-based Parapsychology Foundation offers young ghost hunters and those with interest in the paranormal several scholarships. There are 5 annual awards with varying deadlines

  • The Annual Charles T. and Judith A. Tart Research Grant of $500
  • The Annual Robert R. Coly Prize of $1000
  • The Annual Eileen J. Garrett Scholarship of $3000
  • The Annual Frances P. Bolton Fellowship of $3000
  • The D. Scott Rogo Award for Parapsychological Literature of $3000

You can open the PDF file attached to the link for the foundation to get all the details of each and the deadlines.

Are you a Walking Dead fan?

The Zombie Scholarship Committee from Scholarship Experts wants to know your plan to avoid the zombies, where you would hide (or maybe you don’t need to), and the top five things you would bring to stay alive.

The 2014 Zombie Apocalypse Scholarship is underway, and they are giving one successful “survivor” $2,000 towards his or her college education. Do you think you have what it takes to make the cut? But you better act fast—today is the deadline for this year’s scholarship. For those of you who are making a list for the future. Put this one on you calendar!

The Top 3 Mistakes Students Make on the Common App


common appWe are in the midst of the application season, probably one of the most stressful, scary, and overwhelming times for most teenagers and their parents. I want to share with you the top three mistakes students make on the Common Application and how you can make sure your children don’t make them and get into the colleges of their dreams. 

1. Not Telling Their Unique, Compelling Story

Schools are looking for well-rounded student bodies NOT well-rounded students. The admissions committee and anyone else should be able to read through your child’s application and get a sense of exactly who they are and what they care about. This doesn’t happen if your child is president of every club, plays every sport, and volunteers at 20 different organizations.  Your child’s application should focus on depth not breadth, quality over quantity. Don’t just take my word for it. This is what Harvard has to say about your child’s activities:

We are much more interested in the quality of students’ activities than their quantity so do not feel you need to fill in the entire grid! Contributions students make to the well-being of their secondary schools, communities and families are of great interest to us.

Everything from the activities to honors to courses to essays should come together and tell your child’s unique, compelling story. Getting an outsider’s look at your child’s complete application can really help with this.

2. Underselling Their Activities

I’ve seen students do it over and over again. The activities are seen as an afterthought, and students give very little attention to them. They also tend to underestimate the time spent on their activities. This is where your child sets themselves apart from all the other high test score, high GPA students. This is where they become “that girl” or “that guy” – the socially responsible athlete, the engineer who cares about social justice, the piano player who wants to help autistic kids. 

Students are only allowed 150 characters to describe each activity, so the descriptions need to be compelling and concise. All of the tips that apply to resumes apply to this activity list. Your child needs to focus on numbers, like the number of new members they brought into the club, the amount of money they earned/got donated/managed, the number of participants at their events. Make sure they put numbers in every description. If the honors they listed previously were associated with an activity, be sure they tie that back in. The activities should sound as impressive as possible. One tip I absolutely love for this section is to include a website for the activity if there is one.

3. Rushing Through the Supplements

Each college has questions and many of them require writing supplements. These are just as important as the Common Application itself. Students often leave this until the end and struggle with it. Make sure your child spends as much time on and with their supplements as they do with the rest of their application.

Many writing supplements ask “Why School X?”. One tip I give all the students I work with is to mention specific activities, programs, and professors at the school that they’re excited to work with and be involved in. Remember, what the supplements are really asking is why your child should be admitted to that particular college. Make sure their application and supplements describe how they will contribute to the school and its legacy. 

Now that you know the top three mistakes students make on their Common Apps, you can help your child avoid them and get into their dream college. Get my Ultimate Guide to the Common App plus worksheets and tools to help your child create their best application and my favorite college admissions resources and websites. All totally FREE!


Today’s guest post is from Jessica Yeager, a grad of Harvard and MIT, and a tutor and college coach for high-achieving students and their parents at Impress the Ivies. You can get her Ultimate Guide to the Common App for free.