A Parent’s Guide to Controlling College Costs


controlling college costs

This past week, regular decisions began rolling out from colleges and universities around the country. With them, financial aid packages. With both those important decisions, parents are beginning to look ahead to the fall and how they will pay for this expensive education.

In addition to tuition, room and board, there will be travel expenses, clothing, dorm supplies, textbooks and entertainment. Each year, these expenses will increase. How can parents put a vice grip on their wallets by controlling college costs apart from all the incidental expenses?

Four tactics

I gave my best advice to Collegiate Parent recently in the form of four simple tactics:

  1. Take advantage of scholarships.
  2. Apply for financial aid.
  3. Borrow wisely.
  4. Graduate on time.

To find out just exactly how these tactics work, read the article. But these four tactics alone can save you thousands of dollars over the next four years of college.

Other savings tips

In addition to saving money on basic college costs, parents can save even more on tuition, room and board and incidentals by taking advantage of these five cost-saving tactics:

  • Get credit for AP or IB courses in high school
  • Become an RA after freshman year
  • Use the bare minimum student meal plan
  • Take advantage of student discounts
  • Rent, buy used, or exchange textbooks
  • Spread out your tuition payments

Get creative. Save on dorm accessories by sharing with roommates. Book hotels and travel in advance of parent’s weekend before the rates skyrocket. Teach your student to budget wisely before leaving for college. Encourage your student to work part-time during college to contribute to the college expenses. Studies show that students who work manage their time wisely and study more.

Every little bit helps when it comes to paying for college. By using these simple cost-cutting techniques, you can protect your savings and help your student control costs.


Are You Considering an Independent College Advisor?



With all the ins and outs of college prep, it’s becoming more and more common for parents to hire and independent college advisor to help with the process. But how do you shop for someone you can trust? Are all advisors the same? What type of questions should you ask?

This decision can be a costly one–on both of the financial spectrums. Hiring one can be an expense you and your family weren’t counting on when planning for college. Not hiring one can cost you thousands of dollars of financial aid because they help with college choices and financial planning. Before settling on one advisor, it’s important to ask the right questions:

  1. Do you provide a preliminary assessment when you begin the process?
  2. How do you choose the colleges you recommend?
  3. How can I be sure I’m getting the best fit for the best price?
  4. Will you help with college essays?
  5. How do you help a student with college prep in a way that is unique from other counselors?
  6. When advising a student, what do you consider when making recommendations for specific schools?
  7. Can you help with financial aid and scholarship advice?

These are basic questions and should give you a place to start. For additional explanation about each question, visit the original article I wrote for TeenLife Media: 7 Questions to Ask an Independent College Advisor.

One of my favorite advisors, Paul Hemphill, gives good advice: “Finding the right college advisor with the right perspective and with lots of experience can easily start an engaging relationship – all without fancy plans or complications – all with the benefit of reducing your stress.”

For more information on how to choose the best advisor for your needs, read his article: College Advisor: How to Find a Good One.

As with any financial purchase shop around. Not all advisors are created equal.


You’re a Parent of a Teenager: April Fools


april fools

Teenagers have to be the biggest April Fools joke of all. You are handed this sweet, bundle of joy and 13 years later it turns into a hormonal nightmare–complete with fits of anger, slamming doors, shouts of “I hate you”, mood swings and silent treatments.

This intensifies during the college prep process as stress levels rise and both parents and teenagers morph into monsters at times. But when and why does this happen?

Testing time is stressful. Parents nag students about studying. Students stress about the fact they feel their entire future depends on scoring well on this test. Just know it will happen and be prepared for tears and outbursts (on both your parts).

During college visits students have one idea and parents have another. For the student, it’s an emotional process. For the parents, it’s a fact gathering mission. Stay calm and don’t expect your student to have the same response you do at the end.

Writing the essay is nail-biting 101 for both parents and students. It’s best to step back, pray, and trust that it will get done. Do not–I repeat–do not give in and write the essay for them. If need be, seek professional essay writing help.

Discussing the money with your student who thinks you’re an ATM can be torture. They may not understand but you have to put your foot down on what you are willing to spend. Don’t give in to tears and emotional pleas. Be firm–you’re the parent.

Waiting for college decisions put every member of the family on edge. Checking the mailbox or email account on a daily basis becomes a part of your life for a few weeks (or even months). Be prepared for the highs and lows that accompany this time honored tradition.

Parenting college-bound teenagers might have some correlation to the origin of April Fools.

According to “What is April Fools Day and Why Do We Celebrate It”, some say the French Revolution played a part in the long-standing tradition. April 1 is the anniversary of the event…you may ask why is this linked to comedy?

Historians say back on April 1, 1789, after the French people deposed King Louis XVI, King George III of England made a joke which has continued the tradition until today. He pretended to step down. The peasants took to the streets to celebrate their new freedom..and then were arrested and imprisoned.

Before you take to the streets and celebrate your newfound freedom, be prepared for the labor pains and those late night panic calls, those “I need help” calls, and those empty nest feelings. Raising happy, healthy, successful teenagers might be the greatest April Fools joke of all.

Scholarships with April Deadlines


april deadlines
It’s the last day of March and #MarchMadness is coming to a close. Is your student’s college or your college in the final four?

March comes to a close and it’s time to look ahead to April. What will you do with the next month?

Help your student apply for these scholarships with April deadlines.

My absolute favorite source for monthly scholarship deadlines is JLV Consulting. Every month she posts a lists of current scholarships. While you are there, check out all her scholarship lists.

April scholarships

Scholarships.com is a great resource for scholarship searching. You can search by date, name, criteria, and more. Check out their list of scholarships with April deadlines.

Scholarships with deadlines in April

Unigo has some great scholarship opportunities that break the mold. Each one is unique in format and purpose. While you are there, check out all their scholarship listings.

Unigo scholarships with deadlines in April

Wonder how you can help? Check out Monica Matthews advice here AND grab an affordable copy of her How to Win College Scholarships Guide.

Getting Ready for College? Here’s a Checklist to Close Out Senior Year


The team at Diploma Frames have kindly shared their insights into how best to prepare for College, enjoy!

senior year

If you’re close to finishing your senior year, all sorts of questions will be running through your mind right now. One might be: ‘have I really made the most of my last year?’, while another could be: ‘have I put the right steps in place to be successful at college?’

Whatever your concerns, we have them wrapped up here in our blog. It’s important you enjoy your senior year and all the exciting times it might bring with it, but it’s also a time of realization: realization that you’re no longer a child and you must therefore step tentatively into adulthood. Are you ready for it? With our checklist, you will be…

Put Plans in Place

So you’ve planned what to wear on your graduation day, but have you thought even further ahead? What could you be doing now, for example, that will help you when college finishes and it’s time to get a job? Put some steps in place now; seek out a good mentor and discover what it takes to get your foot in the door regarding an exciting new internship. Alternatively, speak to the people who are doing the job you want. That way, you’ll have a clear plan of action in mind when college finishes and real life begins.

Order Your Essential Graduation Kit 

Graduation day takes a lot of planning, too; don’t leave it to the last minute. Have you ordered your cap and gown? And what about thank you cards and other essentials for the day? Maybe you’re thinking of throwing a post-graduation party? Get organized and buy everything you need now – you’ll give yourself a pat on the back later. Graduation’s one of the biggest days of your life, so allow for a little sentimentality to seep into the day itself. Have you thought about a fun way you can preserve your memories of the event, for example? Diploma frames are a great idea and can be cherished forever.

Don’t Forget Thank-Yous

Alongside ordering your cap and gown, have you considered what you might need later down the line? It might be a nice idea to thank tutors and course mentors or those who wrote recommendations with a nice card or gesture for their help getting you through the course. At the very least you’ll be ensuring they have a good day (everyone enjoys a little bit of praise), but who knows how it may help in the long-run; they may be able to connect you with a future employer, for example.

Work On Your Resume

You may already have put hours into perfecting your high school resume, but be aware that it’ll need tweaking when you apply for a new job or internship. A list of academics and accomplishments aren’t standard content on an employment resume. Instead, look at the job description carefully and consider what your prospective employer is looking for and tweak your resume to meet the requirements.

Clean Up Your Social Media Profiles

Did you know that most employers check candidates’ social media profiles before – or maybe even after – the interview process? One of the best things you can do before you close out your senior year, then, is take a good look through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+ and remove anything that’s not going to give the right impression to any company you hope to work for or apply for an internship. If you don’t want to do that, make your profile private – and keep it that way. It’s surprising how what you deemed were fairly harmless photos or status updates can actually hinder you in your job search. 

Do you have any tips of your own for ensuring your senior year is successful?

College Rejection Meltdown


college rejection

We’ve all been there. We don’t want our children to be rejected. When someone rejects them, it cuts us to the core. How could anyone reject my sweet little girl? How dare that college turn their admission request down!

But some parents take it too far. They call. They write. They beg and plead. They offer bribes and more. In the hopes of changing the college’s mind about their admission decision.

It’s understandable. You feel your child’s pain. You don’t want them to be hurt. You want to fix it. You’ll do anything to remove the feeling of disappointment. Unfortunately, you only make matters worse. You are helping more than hurting.

Rejection and disappointment are a part of life. Your child must learn this before moving on into adulthood. Sometimes we lose. Sometimes we don’t get what we want. Being a parent isn’t synonymous with being a fixer. We should be helping our children face disappointment, deal with consequences, and learn to adjust life’s path if it takes you in a different direction.

The next few months in a college bound teenager’s life are going to be filled with excitement, drama, and often disappointment. Many will get into their first choice college. Some won’t. Some will have to readjust their plans and consider a 2nd or even 3rd choice college. Some will be rejected and won’t be able to take the college path at all. But it’s not which college your child attends that defines them. What defines them is how they respond to each of them–as an adult or as a spoiled child.

More important, how will you respond? Will you rant and complain to the college? Will you blame the college (or your child) for any rejections? Will you make your child feel insignificant or unsuccessful because they didn’t live up to your expectations?

Here’s a satire piece that’s funny, but a tad scary. You see, I’ve watched these parents in action. They plow and bulldoze their way through every difficult situation, not giving their child the opportunity to face it and overcome. Take the time to read this. Chew on it for awhile. Pass it along to other parents.

Let’s not be that type of parent–you know the one. The one who gripes, complains, threatens and harasses anyone that keeps you and your child from getting your way. Teach your child to self-advocate and face life’s disappointments with dignity. Don’t be like this parent:

Satire–A College Rejection Meltdown in 5 Emails

It starts out like this:

Dear Mrs. Williams:

While I certainly understand how disappointing it can be to receive undesirable news, I did want to follow up on your most recent email to reassure you that there was not “some kind of mix-up” in Elite University’s decision to decline your daughter’s admission. We truly regret that this decision has resulted in the unfortunate return of your gastrointestinal condition, in addition to your severe and persistent rheumatoid arthritis in your big toe.

While Ingrid is undoubtedly a very bright and talented young woman, please understand that we simply have more qualified candidates than we can admit. All admissions decisions are final, and we cannot accept requests for reconsideration.

Celeste McDaniels
Dean of Admission, Elite University ‘83

Read more . . .

A New Approach to College Funding to Pay for College

With the season of acceptance letters upon us, it’s nerve-racking enough wondering where students are going to be spending the next several years of their lives. Worrying about how to pay for college shouldn’t have to be a part of it. This is where TakesaVillage.com steps in. As a new and innovative college funding website, TakesaVillage provides a platform where students can securely crowdfund for their education, ensuring both students and donors alike that the money will go directly to pay for tuition.

Founded by the guidance of the African proverb that “It takes a village to educate a child,” students can utilize the platform to build a virtual village and connect with friends, family, organizations, and anybody who is interested in the student’s education via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

TakesaVillage’s tool is different from other various crowd funding websites. Instead of funds being used at the discretion of the fundraiser, TakesaVillage sends the money to the student’s college and deposits it into the school account. The company only takes 4% commission, which is paid by the donor, and not subtracted from the student’s total value raised. Additionally, at the end of each quarter, if TakesaVillage makes a profit, one lucky student will be randomly selected and awarded a part of that profit.

Listen to the story here:

Setting up a campaign only takes a few simple steps:

  • Sign up on the website with your email or Facebook

  • Login and build your profile and campaign page

  • Share the campaign with your village and watch donations come in

TakesaVillage believes that together we can go a long way in supporting students through college and that students should graduate without debt. Students will graduate, they will remember their village, and pour back into the lives of future students to come.”

Beyond Brilliance: The Secrets To Better Learning


beyond brilliance

I am so excited to introduce Beyond Brilliance, a new book by four UC Berkeley students about how we learn and how we can do it better. You can get the ebook free or purchase a hard copy and receive a full refund if you read it and write an honest review proving you read the book. That’s a win/win for all students. Parents will love the book too! 

I sat down with Lucas Miller, the ambitious author behind the project, to learn more. Here’s a short excerpt from our conversation.

Q. Can you briefly explain the premise of Beyond Brilliance?

Lucas: Sure, the basic idea is that we were all lied to in school. We were taught harmful myths about intelligence and how our brains work that limit many of us from accessing our full potential. We were taught what to learn, but never how. The truth is, getting top grades and becoming an efficient learner is a skill that anyone can cultivate. You don’t need to be naturally “brilliant”, or pull all-nighters, or sacrifice your social life, or even give up the gym to do well in school. What you really need to do is learn how learning actually works. Then, you can use that skill to get better at anything you like.

Q. There are so many books out there. Why should someone read yours?

Lucas: Most books for students give you the same old advice: work hard, take detailed notes, use a planner, yadda yadda. Beyond Brilliance takes a brand-new approach. Chapters are 1-3 pages, illustrated, and filled with clear takeaways backed by neuroscience. In a weekend, you’ll be able to glean the main insights from about fifty books and even more papers and distill them into a body of knowledge that will change how you learn forever.

Q. Who do you want reading it?

Lucas: Engineering majors at MIT, C students, victims of tracking and standardized testing, graduate students who don’t want to starve anymore, workers taking online classes on the side, and parents whose children are either falling behind or trying to skyrocket to the top of the class. Really anyone who likes learning and wants to get better at it.

Q. What are five things students can do to immediately become better learners?


  1. Ditch rereading in favor of self-testing (familiarity with the material is not the same as actual understanding)
  2. Study concepts by explaining them out loud
  3. Learn throughout the semester, not just when exams hit (spacing out your review builds a much stronger foundation)
  4. Exercise a little every day (this is massively underemphasized)
  5. Get nine hours of sleep (all the magic happens at night)

Q. What is the biggest difference you see between excellent learners and average ones?

Lucas: The best students stick to their word. When they say they are going to study, they actually study. When they show up to do a problem set, they actually do the problem set. And when they sit down with a cup of coffee to write, they actually write. No email, no Buzzfeed, just work. And then when they’re done, they’re done.

Q. What are some tools you recommend for studying and scheduling?

Lucas: Evernote for taking and storing notes. Google Docs for team projects. Google Calendar and Trello for planning appointments and tasks. The Pomodoro technique for building rewards into your study schedule.


Lucas Miller is a Phi Beta Kappa, Leadership Scholar, and senior in the top 1.5% of students at the University of California, Berkeley. After spending three semesters in engineering, he now studies cognitive science and entrepreneurship and has served as a mentor for multiple undergraduate courses. He also conducts research in memory and performance psychology. Learning, teaching, and sharing ideas are by far his greatest passions. Check out the Beyond Brilliance website here.

How Technology Hurts (and Helps) Our Students


If you’re a parent, you might be behind the curve when it comes to using technology. My three year old grandson knows more about apps than I do. My six year old grandson is constantly saying things like, “Let’s google it”, or when I get lost, he asks, “Why didn’t you use Waze?”. There’s no question that technology is woven throughout the fabric of our lives.

I can’t even imagine what my grandchildren’s lives will be like in high school and college as technology becomes more and more available and user-friendly as a tool for education. But at what price? Adults growing up in a non-technology world notice a few key elements in education that might be missing with the introduction of technology:

  • The written word on paper is becoming extinct. Perhaps this is an out of date method of communication but the computer has replaced hand-written papers and essays. What does this mean? If a student can’t read cursive, how will she be able to read historical documents? Since everything is stored online or in the cloud, what happens to history when these things are compromised or crashed?
  • No need to learn or remember simple math skills. Most children today have no idea how to solve problems without a calculator. They can’t count change without the cash register telling them how to do it. Basic math skills and techniques aren’t being absorbed by students because they have the fallback of technology.
  • It negates real social interaction and communication. Just observe a group of students. Every one of them is on a smartphone or some sort of electronic device. They even text one another in the group. Eye contact is not met. There is no real-life social interaction or communication. Take away the device and they don’t know how to communicate.
  • It discourages problem solving. Every answer to every question can be found online. There’s no need to find a creative way to solve a problem. Someone else has done it and posted it on YouTube.
  • It causes distractions. Technology can be distracting. For instance, you are working on your homework, doing a Google search and something catches your eye. It takes you down a rabbit hole and 30 minutes later you still haven’t completed your homework.

But in spite of all of these negative factors, technology is here to stay. It’s a part of our lives and is working its way into the classroom. Educators are looking for ways to integrate technology with education. In a recent article on Studypool, experts, including myself, weighed in on Technology in the Classroom:

“Technology and education don’t have to be at odds with one another. In fact, technology can enhance lessons and classroom experiences, engaging students with the materials and instilling a passion for learning that will carry through long after they have moved on to the next stage in their lives. That doesn’t have to mean integrating every single “new and improved” tool that crosses your path, but it does mean that educators need to be students themselves, always learning more about the tools being introduced so thoughtful, meaningful technological tools that enhance today’s experience can be used appropriately at every grade level.”

The Unspoken Word Among Students: Plagiarism



We always use the word “ethical” if we want to describe something what is right, made or done according to rules and involves some moral values. Why then should we refer plagiarism to ethical issues too? Let us specify what plagiarism is. There are several activities that are referred to the notion: substantial copy-paste, intentional paraphrasing, use of one’s ideas representing them as your own ones, avoidance of crediting the source etc. All these actions are immoral and can be considered to be a violation of widely accepted ethical rules, consequently, plagiarism is one of the main ethical issues nowadays. At the same time, there are such cases that can’t be called unethical. Think only about self-plagiarism or accidental one: these issues can be hardly called intentional, so plagiarism remains a rather controversial term.

Gray areas or inability to give a definite answer

Is it always possible to answer the question: is it plagiarized? Despite the number of various software like Noplag.com Plagiarism Checker, for example, it is always difficult to give the only right answer to this question. The standards of plagiarism depend on many different points: this might be a genre of writing, the field of writing (lawyers are allowed to copy some pieces into their speeches, while politicians are not), a person, who has written the text (a school graduate or an experienced philologist) etc. Many people will admit that some of these cases can’t be called unethical, but in reality, everything must be decided only in the court. And if the situation is recognized to be a fraud or even a crime, the punishment will be rather severe. On the other side, plagiarism does not belong to the list of crimes and copyright does not cover all the misdeeds that are regarded to be this illegal activity. That is why it is extremely important to draw a line between what plagiarism is and where its ethical boundaries are located. Let us look at the gray areas of this notion that despite being extremely controversial are not considered to be plagiarized:


  • Self-plagiarism: a situation, when a writer uses his thought or statement, which has already been published in the different source, in his next text. It is impossible to convict the writer as it is his own idea, but it is always advisable to recycle the content.
  • Patchwriting: composing a text of passages from various sources. It can be called a unique style of writing, though it can’t be called an original piece of writing.
  • Paraphrasing: rewriting some piece using your own words. Though this point has some connection with stealing ideas or viewpoints, all of us are taught to paraphrase at schools, so consequently, it might be called a criminal activity.
  • Allusion: offering another source as an example is a very tricky thing, but it is also a good way to clear off the accusations of plagiarism.
  • Ghostwriting: the process of creating some content under the another author’s name can’t be called plagiarism too as you still create something new even calling yourself a different person.
  • Collaborative writing: if a book or article has several authors, it does not mean that all of them are credited the same and each of these representatives can pull a suitable part from other works.


All these issues can’t be evaluated only as completely right or completely wrong ones, so our relation to them is the only right answer for us personally.

How to spot plagiarizing

There are several indicators to help you to recognize a plagiarist:


  • Intentional omission of citations and references;
  • Figures of a completely different style than previous ones;
  • Very old researches and information according to which there have been no other ones conducted recently;
  • Sentences are not connected by content;


At the same time, the best thing that may help you to spot plagiarizing is a free online checker such as Noplag.com, for example. It will show you all the parts that were copied from other writers or intentionally paraphrased. By checking each your text your moral state will be always perfect and you will never suffer from self-reproach.

Plagiarism: ethics of stealing

In any case, if you make intentional efforts to use one’s work, idea or statement and avoid citing it, this action can be considered a literary theft. You commit an immoral illegal crime, which is known to everyone as a theft. Each original work is protected by copyright laws and violating intellectual property you commit a crime. As a result, if to speak about ethics, you must realize that plagiarism is the ethics of stealing and it may result in not very good consequences both for a plagiarist and the author of the original text.


Today’s guest post is from Lesia Kovtun. Lesia is an ex English teacher who helps parents/students and organizations with educational planning. I am a tech savvy, who loves education and technology, that makes studying process more convenient and collaborative. Currently working with Noplag.com team as a consultant.