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#CollegeChat Transcript: Tips on the Common Application

College Planning Expert Discusses What High School Students Need to Know About the Common Application on #CollegeChat August 16

UCLA Powell Library
Creative Commons License photo credit: saturnism

Jeannie Borin, M.Ed, a college admissions expert and president of  College Connections will provide Twitter attendees, including high school seniors and parents, with tips on applying for college with the Common Application during #CollegeChat August 16, 2011 at 9 p.m. EDT.

The college application season is now well underway and as rising high school seniors head back to school one of the ways they can get ahead in applying for colleges is to make sure they are prepared to fill out application forms intelligently and effectively. With more than 450 colleges now using the online Common Application, also known as the Common App, Borin will address with attendees:

  • How to find out which colleges use the Common App
  • How to use the form  to apply to colleges
  • Tips on how to approach the essay section
  • How to set up a schedule to ensure students are applying on time

Borin is the founder and CEO of College Connections, a college and educational consulting service with college admissions consultants located across the country. Her extensive educational background includes school administrator, counselor, admissions director, teacher and curriculum supervisor in both the public and private sectors. Jeannie received her Masters Degree in Counseling and Education and Bachelor of Science Degree in Sociology/Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. She mentored graduate students through the UCLA counselor-training program and is state certified. Borin has been awarded Professional Membership with the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), is also a Professional Member of the National and Western Association of College Admissions Counselors as well as the Higher Educational Consultants Association.

About #CollegeChat

#CollegeChat is a live bi-monthly conversation intended for teens, college students, parents, and higher education experts on Twitter. #CollegeChat takes place on the first and third Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m. PDT/ 9 p.m. EDT. Questions for each #CollegeChat edition can be sent to Theresa Smith, the moderator of #CollegeChat via http://Twitter.com/collegechat , by entering questions online on the CollegeChat Facebook page at http://ht.ly/1XIqV , or by email. More detailed information about signing up for Twitter and participating in #Collegechat  can be found at http://pathwaypr.com/how-to-participate-in-a-twitter-chat . CollegeChat can also be found on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/collegechat .

Parents Countdown to College Coach to Detail What High School Juniors and Sophomores Need to Do Now for College Admission Success

Suzanne Shaffer, founder of Parents Countdown to College Coach, (http://www.parentscountdowntocollegecoach.com/) a web site dedicated to helping parents navigate the college maze by providing the right tools for organization and success, will provide parents and teens with a list of strategies they need to deploy to help ensure success with college admissions on #CollegeChat on Twitter on September 21, 2010 at 6 pm Pacific/ 9 pm Eastern, Theresa Smith, principal of Pathway Communications (http://pathwaypr.com)  and moderator of #CollegeChat announced today.

According to Shaffer, author of “Parents Countdown to College Toolkit”, by planning early college bound teens can get a leg up on the college process. During the upcoming live #TwitterChat, Shaffer ( http://twitter.com/SuzanneShaffer)  will address and help prioritize high school junior and sophomore’s action items including:

  • Tips for how teens can stay organized with college information
  • How to ensure teens are taking the right college preparatory classes
  • When should students start building a resume and why is it important
  • When should students first take the SAT or ACT
  • What tests should sophomores take
  • How long should students study for test
  • Should students take AP courses
  • When should students start visiting colleges
  • How early should students be looking into scholarships; what resources are available

For over ten years Shaffer has been coaching parents on the college journey and how to find the funds to finance that education. She has counseled parents in admissions, scholarships, financial aid, and the importance of early college preparation. Having been successful in guiding her children and many others to fulfill their dreams of college educations, she is committed to equipping other parents with the right tools necessary for them to become their own “parent coach”. With these tools they will be confident and prepared to guide their college-bound teen in the pursuit of their college dreams. Shaffer is the founder of the highly regarded site Parents Countdown to College Coach.

New to Twitter?

In order to participate in the chat, attendees will need to have a Twitter account.  To sign up for a Twitter account, go to http:// twitter.com. The easiest way to follow the chat is to use TweetChat (http://tweetchat.com). Simply log in to TweetChat with your Twitter information (email or username followed by password) and then enter in CollegeChat without the “#” and you will be placed into the chat room with only those participating in #CollegeChat. More detailed information about signing up for Twitter and using TweetChat can be found at http://pathwaypr.com/how-to-participate-in-a-twitter-chat .

About #CollegeChat

#CollegeChat is a live bi-monthly conversation intended for teens, college students, parents, and higher education experts on Twitter. Questions for each #CollegeChat edition can be sent to Theresa Smith, the moderator of #CollegeChat via http://Twitter.com/collegechat , by entering questions online on the CollegeChat Facebook page at http://ht.ly/1XIqV , or by email. CollegeChat can also be found on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/collegechat .

College Admissions Expert Provides High School Seniors with 8 Action Items to Help Ease the College Admissions Process

With Labor Day marking the un-official end to summer,  high school seniors are now back in school gearing up for what many students consider the grueling and stressful college admissions process. But according to Mark Montgomery, PhD, a college admissions expert and president of Montgomery Educational Consulting (http://greatcollegeadvice.com/), the college admissions process doesn’t need to be so stressful. On the last #CollegeChat, a live bi- monthly conversation intended for teens, college students, parents, and higher education experts on Twitter, Montgomery shared his tips on what students can do to prepare for college admissions.

“Even if high school seniors are busy, it’s not too late to get started. There is plenty of time to get everything done. Seniors just need to get organized,” said Montgomery.

Montgomery recommends the following tips to ease the college admission process.

Decide if you are going to take any more standardized tests. High school seniors need to quickly determine if they want or need to take the SAT, ACT, or SAT II subject tests. Both the SAT and ACT have only two test dates left to register for in 2010. More information about test dates can be found http://sat.collegeboard.com/register and http://www.actstudent.org/regist/dates.html.

In addition, Montgomery recommends that students not take any of these tests more than three times. “I usually say three times and you’re out. For some students I tell them once is enough.” According to Akil Bello, (http://twitter.com/akilbello) the vice president of Educational Development for Bell Curves, “Kids who do it right take four to eight practice tests and one to two real tests.”

Students also should assess whether the SAT or ACT is best for them. Bello commented that the best way to choose between the SAT and ACT is to take a free practice test of each. For students that don’t test well no need to panic. Sharon McLaughlin (http://twitter.com/shashmc) , founder of McLaughlin Education  Consulting, pointed out that an increasing number of colleges are  test optional. A list of these schools can be found at http://www.fairtest.org/university/optional.

Don’t drop your challenging course work and keep up your grades. Senior year matters and students need to be careful about both keeping their grades up as well as not pulling any senior pranks that might negate their college acceptance letters.  “Seniors need to keep going all the way to the finish line. Don’t let up senior year and beware of senioritis. It can be detrimental to your future,” advised Montgomery.

Many colleges review the first semester of senior year transcripts before making their admission decision.  In addition, McLaughlin said, “Colleges will ask for the final high school transcript and have been known to revoke offer if student’s grades slipped.”

Matt Impink (http://twitter.com/goal2025) of the Lumina Foundation for Education,  remarked that keeping up challenging course work senior year is very important because “it’s about preparing for the rigor of college.”

Determine your EFC. EFC is expected family contribution. It is what the government says a family and student should pay based on family income and assets. The EFC is determined by the information a family reports on the FAFSA application http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/index.htm. FAFSA stands for free application for federal student aid. In order to be considered for any financial aid—even institution based scholarships—families must fill out this form.

There are two ways of calculating EFC: the government’s way via the FAFSA and the “institutional” way. According to Montgomery, the institutional way is basically how colleges tell students their price. No two institutions are exactly the same. “Colleges use the EFC as a starting point , then they decide how much they want you by lowering the price,” explained Montgomery.

“I think every family, once their child is in high school should obtain their preliminary EFC,” said Lynn O’Shaughnessy (http://twitter.com/collegeblogs), award winning college author and blogger.

CollegeBoard.com offers a free online EFC calculator at http://apps.collegeboard.com/fincalc/efc_welcome.jsp?noload=Y and FinAid.com provides both a federal and instiutitonal calculator at http://www.finaid.org/calculators/finaidestimate.phtml.

“It’s important to understand that EFC is only a starting point for schools. They can give money to whom they want,” said Russell Golowin, (http://twitter.com/Russell_Golowin), estate planning lawyer and financial aid adviser.

Go after schools where you are in the top quarter academically. If cost in an important factor “students should choose ones where you are at the top of the academic heap,” said Montgomery. “A reach college is rarely the best financial choice unless it’s one of the most wealthy and selective colleges.” Reach schools are schools that are probably out of reach for a student to be accepted to based on SAT scores and a student’s high school resume including their GPA and course work.

Janson Woodlee,( http://twitter.com/IvyEyesEditing) founder of  Ivy Eyes Editing, a writing and admissions consultancy,  added that  “Collegeresults.org is a great place to start by comparing graduation rates and other good data.” Students can also gather good information about colleges at http://www.collegeboard.com/.  At CollegeBoard.com students can search for colleges based on a number of factors including cost, location, and majors.

“I like to tell my students to think like Cinderella, let the suitors bring you gifts to attract you to their kingdoms,” said Montgomery.  And the most effective way of attracting colleges, is to be in the top quarter of admitted students reported SAT  and ACT scores as well as GPA. This information is readily available on college websites.

In an online post  “Ten College Planning Tips for Tough Economic Times” http://greatcollegeadvice.com/ten-college-planning-tips-for-tough-economic-times/ Montgomery wrote, “So if  Elmer Fudd College reports the middle 50% ACT range of 22 to 26, this means 25% of students scored lower than 22, and another 25% scored 27 or higher.   An applicant to Elmer Fudd College with an ACT of 29 has a much better chance of receiving a solid financial aid package than the applicant with a 22.”

Fine tune your college wish list and don’t eliminate schools with a high sticker price. Don’t eliminate expensive colleges from your list. Montgomery recommended that students keep in mind that the price of college is “like airline fares. Everyone is going the same place, but everyone on the plane is paying a different price.

O’Shaughnessy  recommends students use the Federal College Navigator website http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/ and research a college’s Common Data Set to research the real price of a school. Recently, O’Shaughnessy wrote about how to research Common Data Set at http://thecollegesolutionblog.com/2010/09/02/common-data-set-101/. She also recommends Collegeboard.com for some quick stats such as average financial aid package and the ratio of loans to grants.

Understand what makes up financial aid.  Talk to your family about the college fund. Financial  aid includes grants, scholarships, loans and work study. “But I can’t really think of loans as financial aid. Loans are really just you paying the same amount later,” said Montgomery. “Colleges will brag about how much money they offer in “aid” but a big chunk of that “aid” is really loans.”  Obviously the most desirable forms of financial aid are grants, scholarships, discounts and work study—aid that does not need to be paid back.

In the event a student is not happy with their financial aid package it is possible to try to have it reviewed. However, Montgomery said, “Renegotiating aid can work, but only in some circumstances. The college has to really want you.”  O’Shaughnessy agreed, “Colleges will negotiate for the kids they want bad.  Those who barely got in will not get more generous aid.  And most elite colleges often don’t negotiate because their financial aid packages are generous to being with.”

However, in the event a family’s situation has changed financially due to a job loss or other reasons, a student should appeal to the financial aid office for a review recommended McLaughlin.

Montgomery also stresses the importance of a family sitting down and talking about how much money is in the family budget for college. “In tough economic times, students and parents need to think about their financial future.”

Make sure you understand the difference between Early Action versus Early Decision. If you apply to a college early decision it means if accepted you are “bound” to attend that college provided that the college provides an “adequate” financial aid package. A student can only apply to one college “early action” but may apply to other colleges through the regular admission process. If the student is accepted “early decision” all other college applications must be withdrawn. This means that a high school may only send the final transcript to the “early decision” school.

Montgomery explained that early decision means, “If you accept me, I promise to attend. The problem with early decision for financial aid is that it’s harder to get the lowest price when you promise to get married if he asks.”

Early action plans, while similar to early decision, are not binding. Students can also apply to more than one school early action. “Consider early decision or early action if you really don’t worry about financial aid and if you are positively in love with that school,” said Montgomery.

Finish by Halloween. Last but not least, Montgomery recommends to the students he advises to finish all their college applications by Halloween. Then, in order to meet this deadline, they just back up the timetable to accommodate this deadline. That means if you haven’t started your college essays and applications  you need to get started now.  Hopefully, you have already asked for your teacher recommendations. If not, politely request them now. After all, it’s six weeks to Halloween.