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Suzanne Shaffer has been a member since April 8th 2011, and has created 875 posts from scratch.

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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 Writing.com (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!