About Suzanne Shaffer

Suzanne Shaffer has been a member since April 8th 2011, and has created 621 posts from scratch.

Suzanne Shaffer's Bio

Suzanne Shaffer's Websites

This Author's Website is

Suzanne Shaffer's Recent Articles

Top 5 FREE Language Apps


If your student is heading for college, they may also be studying abroad. Once you’re in a country that doesn’t speak English, it’s so much easier if you are fluent in the language there. Even if you’ve studied that language in high school, living among the culture and speaking fluently is another story.

These five language apps should help:


Duolingo language appThis app is extremely well structured for a free language-learning program. The program has you drill through exercises, which are part of larger lessons, to learn basic words, phrases, and grammar. Then you practice what you’ve learned by working on translations of real-world content from blogs and websites. Other Duolingo users then rate these translations, a practice that has been shown in some studies to actually work (Duolingo was originally conceived at Carnegie Mellon University).

Languages: English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish.

Byki Mobile

byki language appByki is a flashcard program that you can use to learn new words in any one of dozens of languages. It’s the free component to the much more rigorous and Transparent Language program, and you’ll find a few prods to upgrade or buy the larger software package occasionally (but not too much).

Languages: Afrikaans, Albanian, Altai, Arabic, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Bashkir, Belorussian, Bengali, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Buriat, Chechen, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dari, Dutch, Estonian, Farsi, Finnish, French, Georgian, German, Greek, Haitian Creole, Hausa, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Kazakh, Korean, Latin, Latvian, Lithuanian, Luxembourgish, Macedonian, Malay, Mirandese, Mongolian, Norwegian, Pashto, Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian or European), Romanian, Russian, Scottish, Serbian, Slovak, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Tagalog, Tajiki, Thai, Turkish, Turkmen, Tuvan, Ukrainian, Urdu, Uzbek, Vietnamese, Zulu.


memrise language appMemrise is a language learning program that extends beyond vocabulary and language to things like history and science, but at its core it’s a flashcard-style program that’s augmented with memory tricks, images, and other useful tools to make learning a new language easier. Its focus is largely on memorization, but it’s also designed to help you have fun learning the language you’re trying to pick up. Memrise gamifies the process a bit, awarding you points and reputation as you learn, and the opportunity to compete against other users while you learn and complete activities. If you’re interested in seeing what you can learn before you sign up, you can browse some of their courses before you give it a try.


linqapp language appAsk a question on Linqapp via text, photo or audio recording and a push notification goes out to all users who are fluent in your target language. A points-based reward system encourages people to provide quick and accurate answers. Linqapp works very well, especially for the most popular languages on the platform, which are currently English, Chinese, Spanish and Japanese.

To use Linqapp, you can sign up with a Facebook account or email. Once you log onto the app, you are prompted to select your native language, the languages you are fluent in and the ones you are seeking answers about. Text questions can be asked for free, while queries with photos or audio recordings require Linqapp points (each user starts with free bonus points, and more can acquired by answering other people’s questions). Once you post your question, a push notification is sent to fluent speakers and a timer is set for 15-minutes so people who respond within the timeframe are eligible for points. You decide which answers are helpful and how many points you want to reward to the user. Each person has the option of filling out a profile and contacting other users (for example, I can envision using the app to eventually find other people in Taipei who enjoy U.S. cult films or “Breaking Bad,” based on the questions they ask and answer). Linqapp’s community is the most important aspect of the app.


busuu language appNew to the App scene but not new on the web is busuu. Practice speaking with native speakers and apply what you have learned. Use the listening, reading, writing and speaking task to improve your language skills, take on interactive learning exercises and quizzes and stay motivated with regular feedback. The community has over 35 million native speakers, so there are plenty of help to practice speaking the lingo.

Languages: English, Spanish, German, Italian, French, Japanese, Polish, Russian, Turkish, Chinese, Portuguese

Mom-Approved Tips: Talking to Your Student About Drinking in College


If you have a college-bound teen, you are more than likely concerned about drinking in college. Today’s guest post is from Susan Jones of Quad2Quad, the award-winning mobile app for college visits. For more than three decades, she was a psychotherapist in Washington D.C. specializing in substance abuse, and she spent ten years with Dunbar Educational Consultants counseling students and families on the college admission process. Most importantly, Susan is the mother of two grown sons who successfully navigated the college alcohol culture and had enjoyable and productive experiences, emerging as solid citizens with no regrets.


drinking in collegeAs parents, we can and should play a key role in helping our sons and daughters create a healthy, thoughtful relationship with alcohol in college. This important responsibility can’t be outsourced. Our students cannot count on their peers, who are also living in a culture where moderation is not valued, for perspective.

Because binge drinking is common in college — though it is not the norm — students assume it must be okay and safe for them as well. They expect to pass through this portal unharmed. That will absolutely not be the case for many students. Parents need to help students figure out if they are “vulnerable current or potential problem drinkers“(VPDs) and advise them accordingly. Be prepared for the discovery that your student may not be able to drink in college. The combination of youth along with a student’s unique genetic response to alcohol may make the college alcohol environment too dangerous. Alcoholism is a progressive disease. The earlier problem drinking begins, the greater the likelihood of future addiction.

The 1st critical conversation to have before your student leaves for college:

Be sure your student understands that alcohol affects everyone differently. If she wants to emerge from college ever able to drink normally, she needs to be alert to signs of problem drinking in college. Because “everyone else is doing it” does not mean it will be safe for her.  If at any point she becomes worried about her relationship with alcohol, tell her to let you know and you will help her figure out how to get advice and support, or she can go directly to student health services.

The 2nd critical conversation for parents to have with students after first semester and throughout college as needed:

Ask your student very directly: What kind of effect does alcohol have on you? Are you feeling comfortable about your alcohol use? Have you gotten into any compromising situations because of it that you regret?

How do I know if my student is a “Vulnerable Problem Drinker” (VPD)?

Here are some risk factors:

  • A family history of alcoholism
  • Acquiring a taste for alcohol early (high school or before)
  • Being impulsive or capable of poor judgment in social or academic situations independent of alcohol; may be a disinterested or struggling student
  • Having a high capacity for drinking large amounts of alcohol without adverse physical reactions, triggering a taste for large amounts of alcohol
  • Or being very reactive to alcohol and prone to sickness, blackouts or irresponsible behavior after even one or two drinks
  • Being disinterested in drinking in moderation.

 What should I do if I believe my student is a VPD?

  • Don’t assume the problem will get better by itself, or imagine it’s “just a phase” your student will outgrow.
  • In a similar vein, do not allow your student to take blackouts or risky sexual behavior lightly. These behaviors are not healthy or acceptable. Refer your student to a mental health professional at school.
  • Make sure she gets actively involved with the alcohol recovery community on campus. Be extremely encouraging about this. When she’s home for vacations, steer her towards a local recovery group.
  • Greek membership is not to blame for the misbehavior of its members, but your student’s housing and social affiliations are going to play a big role in how much and how safely she drinks. Discourage membership in a fraternity or sorority unless your student can investigate the alcohol culture to see if there is ample opportunity for participating in divergent drinking styles.
  • If your student continues to exhibit problem behavior, it may be time to consider a semester off along with outpatient or inpatient rehab.

Scholarship Friday: The Scholarship Essay


scholarship essayParents love scholarships. They love the idea of a scholarship. They love it when their kids apply for scholarships. Who wouldn’t? Scholarships are free money. But scholarships require just as much effort as the college application, if not more. You have to create a resume, gather information and often write a scholarship essay. It requires drive, perseverance, and a desire to achieve success.

The scholarship essay

For those scholarships that require an essay, the essay is usually the focus. It’s imperative that your student craft an excellent essay; one the addresses the subject matter and follows the requirements. Look online at past winners to help you craft the essay.

The multi-use scholarship essay

Scholarship essays often overlap in the required subject matter, giving you and opportunity to use one essay over and over again. If you can enter with multiple scholarships with one essay, it will save you time. Just be certain when applying that any scholarship specific information is removed for the next one. The worst mistake you can make is apply for a Target scholarship with a WalMart heading.

Don’t forget to follow the guidelines

A simple way to make sure your essay is read and considered is to follow the guidelines. Pay special attention to word count, character count, font size, and subject matter. Any of these oversights will cause your essay and your scholarship application to be tossed.

Make your essay stand out

The essay is your best chance to stand out from other candidates and communicate why you should receive the scholarship. U.S. News and Education provides us with 4 ways to make your scholarship essay stand out:

  1. Know your audience
  2. Plan far in advance
  3. Make it personal and passionate
  4. Find an editor

It’s a no-brainer that finding and competing for scholarships takes time. But the time will be well spent when those awards start arriving. Follow the rules and but forth your best impression. Scholarship committees are looking for the best candidate to receive their scholarship award. Be that candidate, and the award checks will come flying in.


Is Military College Right for Your Student?


military college

Texas A&M Corps of Cadets

I recently had a discussion with an admissions officer regarding military colleges. The conversation arose because he had read my blog post “Motivating an Unmotivated Student”. In it I discussed my son’s college journey from high school, to the Marines, to college. He expressed his concern that many students are choosing the military as an option after high school when students who aspire to college can get the best of both worlds—a military college.

Twenty years ago, my son was in NJROTC and I was well acquainted with the service academies, but no information was given to him or to us about military colleges. The recruiters, however, were a constant presence in the unit. They have the cadets take the ASVAB test and use the test to draw them into military service. For some students, the military is an excellence choice. For others, a military college might be a better option.

What is a military college?

According to The Association of Military Colleges and Schools, “Military schools have a unique culture that is built on tradition and proven practices.  Students wear uniforms and participate in ceremonies that develop self-discipline and foster pride. Most are boarding (residential) schools where the students live together and are part of a student-lead organization that helps each student develop competencies as a follower, team member, and leader. Students learn the importance of self-discipline, time management, and to work together with others as part of a team.”

What types of colleges are available?

There are Senior Military Colleges (4 year), colleges that offer ROTC programs, and Military Junior Colleges (2 year). Cadets have formation, physical training and wear their uniforms. For more information about the specific programs, you can check out these sites:

What is the military service obligation?

Two-year colleges, colleges and universities all offer programs leading to commissioning that include a service obligation. However, none of these programs are mandatory and many students participate in the school’s Corps of Cadets without incurring an obligation. The decisions whether to accept a commission is normally made at the beginning of the junior year.

Where can I get help or ask questions about military colleges?

As with any college information, going to the source is the best practice. Contact the admissions offices of each individual college for information, schedule a visit, and speak with an admissions officer.

Another excellent source for information is the Service Academy Forums. You can browse the FAQs, view the questions and answers already posted, and even post a question. Often these forums provide parents with answers to all of their questions.

The military can be an excellent choice for anyone desiring to serve their country. But you might want to consider a military college, giving students the military experience along with a strong education.


Wednesday’s Parent: Illogical College Choices–Part 1


college choicescollege choicesIn March, Wendy and I discussed how to make a good college list (Part 1). Today, we’re revisiting that advice and adding some additional tips on helping them make those college choices.

Summer vacation is halfway gone and families have most likely been making some preliminary college visits. It’s only natural for students to begin formulating a lists of “wants” when they begin to see themselves in college. However, the difference between what they “want” and what they “need” can be miles apart. It’s your job to rein them in.

You student may list the following illogical things as his must-haves. Next week, I’ll discuss how to steer him in a different direction.

  • Going to the same school a boyfriend or girlfriend is going to—The danger here is obvious. High school romances rarely last and once the romance ends, so does the love for the college.
  • Only look at the colleges your best friend is viewing—Friendships, while many last a lifetime, are no reason to make a college choice. Friends oftentimes have different educational goals and career paths. Even if they line up, evaluate the true reasons for choosing the college and be sure it’s not for friendship. Besides, I saw many college friend explosions over the years when my kids were in school. It taints your view of the environment.
  • Choose a college because you love their football team—Being a Texas Aggie fan or a Texas Longhorn fan or a Notre Dame fan is no reason to attend their college. Investigate their academic programs and choose it if it gives you the best education for your needs and for your dollar.
  • Choose a college based on its “party” ranking—You would be surprised how many students choose schools that are ranked high as a party school. They convince their parents it’s for the academics, but truthfully it is not. My son did this after the Marine Corps. It was the worst decision he ever made. Too much partying equals academic failure. Besides, even the most stringent academic institutions have parties.
  • Limiting location—Don’t just look at colleges close to home. Check out some schools that are a little further away. It will increase your options.
  • Let the choice just happen—Many teens just slide in to the most comfortable place: they got an email from someone; their friend suggests it; their parents went there. Neither of these are good reasons to attend college.
  • Pick a college to impress someone—This is not a reason to choose a college. Keeping up with the Jones’ or trying to impress your friends will only result in your teen being unhappy at school.
  • Believe that the harder a college is to get into, the better it must be—The best colleges are sometimes the ones that have a high rate of acceptance. Research is the key to finding out the benefits of these schools.
  • Assume that all colleges are the same—All colleges offer an education, but not all colleges are the same. Programs, athletics, campus life, and even teaching styles vary. All of these can affect the overall college experience.
  • Rely on someone else’s opinion—Never assume anything about a particular college until you investigate and gather information. Opinions vary and at any given time you will always find someone that loves or hates a particular school.

Now read Wendy’s post: 2 Phases, 3 Points for Forming a College List


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 pocsmom.com and vice versa.