Spring Rites of Passage for the College Bound

April 22nd, 2015

Many high school seniors have heard back from some of the colleges to which they applied. The most competitive colleges will be sending out their letters no later than April 1. All students (and parents) will then have thirty days to make their final college decision.  

If you are a client be sure to FAX both your acceptance letters and subsequent financial aid letters to us as they come in. We will then help you make your decisions based on both academic and financial criteria.  If you have done a “Dry Run” earlier in the process, we will update the numbers.

Unfortunately, every year I hear about families who experienced something like this family did. There are many uncertainties in our world, but this does not have to be one of them. If you have college aspirations, take time to discuss the options in paying for college as a family unit. In fact, call us to learn how thousands of families are paying for college from income alone, and not borrowing a nickel.  

Attention juniors and sophomores. Two other spring rites are for you. If you have a list of possible colleges (and you should) try to do some college visits while classes are still in session. If some of the colleges on your list are too far away, they may be coming to you!

March, April and May is ‘College Fair’ time. Check the National Association of College Admission Counselor site here for the date, time and location near you! There are several college fairs coming up in many states.  For instance, Anaheim, CA is on April 26.    

Some of the so-called Elite colleges do not participate in such marketing efforts but check each college website for their travel plans. In addition, you should also check out the location for the group of 40 colleges that have been identified by the late Loren Pope in his popular tome, Colleges That Change Lives

The second spring rite is actually a four-season ritual. Yes, I am referring to the ubiquitous standardized tests. There is a plethora of ways to prepare including no preparation at all. But if you are looking at possible merit scholarships or very competitive colleges, then you should prepare. Would you compete in your favorite sport without practicing? 

But if you want to practice with unequivocally the best test prep yet, we can help. Take the demo here with 30 practice questions. For the PSAT, SAT, ACT and Math II tests, I believe there is NO better way to prepare outside of an individual tutor like Kris Fox.

If you have any questions, I look forward to answering them for you.

Best wishes for college success…and beyond.


Are You a Procrastinator?

April 20th, 2015

If you are, you may put off reading this. That would be your first mistake. To all you college bound students, you will soon be taking a milestone step in your life journey. Hopefully it will be the college of your dreams. Even if it is not, if you have done your research properly, all will work out fine. Thousands of college graduates have learned, in hindsight, that it was meant to be and it wasn’t bad after all.

They quickly learned in the first month of college that a professor’s expectations and assignments given would be nothing like those from teachers in high school, even those AP classes they took that were supposed to prepare them for college level work. Those that got through in four years quickly learned how to get organized and stay focused.

If you were a last minute kind of student in high school, that may have worked. But college is a different world. If it is not, then you may be at the wrong college. Because if you are not challenged, you will not grow intellectually, spiritually or socially. But I digress.

The phrase, “I’ll do it later” is probably the biggest killer of college success. Chances are, you will not get it done later. If you do “wing it” later, it will be sloppy and not your best effort. This causes stress and sets you up for the kind of anxiety that leads to dropping out of college because of low grades and/or illness.

The day planner that your proud grandmother gives you at high school graduation won’t do you any good if you are constantly putting things off. Sometimes students (and adults) put things off because they are intimidated by them. It manifests in the subconscious. You are afraid of failure so you set yourself up for failure. The solution is to simply get started. Break the task into manageable chunks and schedule time for each task.

Maybe it is long blocks of time that you find intimidating or tedious. No problem. You can do anything for 25 minutes. Am I right? Work with NO distractions. Put the electronic gizmos away and out of sight and sound. That includes the ear buds. No, you don’t work better when you listen to “music”. :-)

Buy a timer and set it for 25 minutes. Focus on the task seriously for that period. As you  begin to see something accomplished, whether it is a writing or reading assignment, you will begin to feel better about it. Dare I say, even inspired to do more. You also will soon realize that by tacking homework when it is assigned is soooo much easier than waiting until the 11th hour.

Still stuck? Another technique you can apply is to blatantly lie to yourself. Tell yourself that you don’t have to do the entire thing. You are just going to read a couple of paragraphs or just draft an outline. What will happen is that you will get some momentum going and realize that you can do more than you first thought.

Reading a few paragraphs becomes finishing the whole chapter. Outlining the paper becomes drafting the first paragraph and so on.

You are not alone, the majority of humans find a reason to put things off that we either don’t deem important or don’t like even if we know it is important. Even administrators at the most selective colleges like Princeton University realize that procrastination needs to be addressed. Look here to see what they have done to help their undergraduates.

Spring Surprises

March 25th, 2015

 cropped-college-pinwheel.jpg The Class of 2015 has seen a year of stiff competition similar to recent years. Once again, the elite colleges rejected 95% of their applicants. They all knew the 7% acceptance rates going in but it is still tough to take rejection. And to hear that “everything happens for a reason” is not any consolation for those applicants who were Valedictorians with 2400 SAT scores. In any case, where ever you go, keep college a four year or less experience. The fact is that only 38% of those who enter college this fall will have earned a diploma after four years.

The 60 or so “elite” colleges have over 90% graduation rates in four years. Yes, it can be that (or less) with most other colleges if you have done (and continue to do) your due diligence. Take responsibility for your education and the advising at your college.

But here are some reasons why that percentage is so shockingly low.

  1. ALL four-year colleges are considered. Both public and private from the non-competitive to the most competitive. Often large state universities and less competitive private institutions have weaker or overwhelmed advising staffs.
  2. Students may fall behind on credits earned in their major.
  3. They change majors more than twice; credits are not transferable.
  4. Students drop out for academic or affordability reasons.
  5. Some classes are over enrolled, limited or cutback and students are not able to take the prerequisite courses in their majors in a timely fashion.

When researching each college using the AAA method a student will be better prepared to avoid most of the above scenarios. This includes understanding the data the colleges are required to report on the Common Data Set. If you do not find the CDS on the college website or via the search box, ask admissions for it.

In any case, if the Class of 2014 thought it was competitive getting into college, they will need to consider this. Job prospects for new college graduates are at historic lows, partly caused by financial misfeasance and malfeasance on a global scale. If a recent graduate has some internship or cooperative work experience to show on his or her resume, that will help. But with the economy what it is, the challenges still remain.

The average student loan debt for graduating seniors in 2011 was $23,186. This year, I dare say the average will be at clip_image002least $27,000. Since the 1970’s student loans have increased the cost of college. In fact that is the primary reason college costs are inordinately high! Need proof? Here it is! We are facing a “student and parent loan bubble” that will dwarf the mortgage and derivative frauds above.

If loans are a burden, parents and students should not hesitate to call us now. We have a sure-fire plan to show you how to become debt free sooner than you think. It makes no sense in starting off with a job that does not give you the ability to pay basic necessities, provide the comforts and lifestyle you want to have and still meet monthly debt obligations.

In the meantime, for newly minted college graduates… get ready for the toughest job you will have. Start by reading this timely New York Times article ~ How to market yourself.

Making Your Final Decision

March 24th, 2015

               Countdown to National Deposit Day!


     At this time of year many high school seniors have heard from the colleges to which they applied. The most competitive colleges and universities are almost finished reviewing applications from all of the country and the world. For many of them, April 1 is the date they will send out letters to anxiously awaiting seniors.

There will be just one month from then until “National Deposit Day”. May 1 is the day by which all college bound seniors must decide where to enroll in the fall of 2015. Making the final decision may not be easy unless you have done certain things in the year or two prior to spring of this year. In any case, most students are usually presented with at least two positive alternatives from which to choose.

So how does one go about making an effective decision ~ a decision that allows the entire family to win? The following steps are what we advise our students. Think about these even if you will not be facing such a decision for a few years.

The overall goal, I believe, is to integrate the admissions decision with financial considerations. That is particularly important when there is more than one college bound child in the household.

First … Make an objective evaluation of each financial aid award. Determine how much aid the college is awarding in the form of grants, scholarships and loans. Most colleges do not include adequate amounts in the cost of attendance (COA) to include personal expenses. These are books, supplies, personal sundries and transportation. If you have done a “Dry Run” with us prior to your student’s application you will see that we often add $4,500 to the direct expenses. The direct expenses are the fixed billable costs, tuition, fees and room and board. You should too.

Keep in mind that college work-study is not a direct credit toward billable costs. Do not include that in your calculations. If there is a loan offer in the award (other than a Stafford or Perkins), do not include that either. Subtract all the other awards from your COA and you will close to knowing what the “real out of pocket cost” is for that college. Do this for each college and make an objective comparison.

Read the rest of this entry »

How to Show You Are Interested

March 3rd, 2015


When I was looking at colleges “DI” stood for drill instructor, not demonstrated interest. The DI was someone many kids in my generation had very little interest in knowing. In the myriad of acronyms and abbreviations surrounding the college process today, “DI” refers to the level of interest the applicant demonstrated in a particular college.

The question is how much importance does the college admissions committee (adcom) place on demonstrated interest. The answer is, not much…some…and very much. In other words, it depends on the college. Emory and American, for instance will admit it takes the applicant’s level of interest into consideration. Others, like Stanford and MIT, may say it does not matter how much interest you show, they look at all applicants equally. But I suspect they say that to ward off students who want to game the system, as you will learn here. 

Regardless of what a school may say, I recommend that all students make an effort to show demonstrated interest and learn as much about their prospective colleges as possible. It all starts with research using the AAA method. Once that is accomplished the student should have a good idea of the appropriateness of each college on his or her list.    Is it a good fit intellectually, compatible with ones values and, based on the common data set, is it a reach, a 50/50, a safety or in the “snowballs chance in ____” category? Not to mention are they affordable?If such due diligence still leaves the college on the list then further inquiries need to be made.

Such inquiries may be described as showing “demonstrated interest” and that is fine.  For instance, prospective students should know about the depth and nature of academic internship and career advising. Other good conversation starters are:

  1. Is the faculty 100% invested in the teaching of undergrads and if teaching assistants are used what are their responsibilities? (Universities primarily)
  2. What has been the four-year graduation rate over the last four years, and does it vary with major?
  3. Are certain programs offered in the (your intended major) department going to be expanded or cut back?
  4. I am a student at a high school that does not give grades. Are you familiar with the ________ Schools curriculum? How do you compare my application with someone from a more traditional high school?
  5. What will be the merit scholarship criteria for the “_______ Scholarship next year?”

Do this more to learn more about the school’s attitude toward students than with the intent of “buttering up” the regional admissions counselor. Colleges can spot the disingenuous inquiry. Thoughtfully think about the questions before you call (or email) them. Of course, be sure you are not asking questions that are already answered in the “fast facts’ or FAQ sections on the college website.

By the way, too many students are taking their safety schools for granted. Applicants should have some good reasons why they would be fine at their safety too. Carefully research and show interest in them as well. Such fall back colleges have been known to wait-list or reject students whom the adcom has determined would not attend if accepted. No college markets itself as the # 1 “favorite safety school”, so buyers beware. Even state colleges are hard pressed to accept the students they once could because of the over flow of applicants. States are cutting back faculty, programs and other costly expenditures once taken for granted. In many cases, a top student may be able to go to a private college at much less than a state supported public.

If you are in the Class of 2016, now is the time to review your college list and make plans for the summer. Some of you will take Subject tests and the ACT this semester, but at the end of June you will be starting the college application and essay writing process, give us a call or email today. We will soon be announcing our college essay-writing program for students throughout the country.

Good News for the Undergraduate

March 2nd, 2015

     For 20 years I have been encouraging college students to take full advantage of their college’s advising services. This includes teacher mentoring, internships and the Career Planning Services office. One does not have to look very far to learn that many college graduates are leaving college with student loans and little job prospects much less any related to their chosen major.

     Yes, on the surface it does not bode well for the current undergrad. However, there are steps that both the student and the college can take to brighten that outcome. I was very encouraged recently when I saw the attention given to sophomores at some colleges during the annual ritual of newly minted college freshman saying “good bye” to parents.     

     It is encouraging to see more and more colleges taking their role as advisors more proactively. For instance look at Lafayette College’s website.They are not hesitating to open their books to prospective students with information as to what past graduates have been able to accomplish.

     If you are a recent graduate or parent, and considering to do something new, here are two resources I can confidently recommend. They can work with you wherever you call home. :)

    1. Kim Meninger, MBA, a very intuitive Executive Coach and Career Strategist. Take your first step here.

    2. Joanne Meehl Career Services offers terrific tips on her Blog and one on one counseling.

         If you are a college student, how much research into the advising and internship options have you done? If little, start to familiarize yourself with the career services office, even if you are a freshman. By the way, one student who took the matter of interning VERY seriously has turned her experience into a business. Meet Lauren Berger, the InternQueen.

     Once the freshman year has been successfully navigated and you know what is expected academically, it is now time to really get serious and think about why you are in college.

     The passing of Steve Jobs reminded me of his 2005 graduation talk to Stanford graduates. It is without a doubt, one of the finest commencement speeches ever delivered in history! Here is the transcript and video of his life changing message. Think about what he said. For me, it was one of the most insightful and spiritually aware statements of purpose I have ever heard. Let me know what you think?

     Speaking of “insightful” if you have done the self-assessment called “Do What You Are” with us, do not forget that is a rich resource of career descriptions and academic concentrations that are matched up to your individual natural strengths and innate characteristics that will comprise your personality for your lifetime on this planet we call Earth!

     It is literally at your finger tips for years to come. Take advantage of that. If you have not “book marked” the link, I will send you the link. In addition, if you have any questions regarding your choice of major, send me an email ~ help@SmartCollegePlanning.org

     Finally, all undergrads (or grads) that complete a survey by April 30, 2015, (in celebration of our 22st  Anniversary) my gift to you will be the book Getting From College to Career. Now is the time to think beyond the “now”.

Spring Into Action

March 20th, 2014


We are told that March 20th is the first day of spring. Can you smell the flowers yet?  Our students in California, particularly the ones who have never experienced snow beyond Big Bear or Yosemite may not understand why we live in New England. For myself, I love the history of the region and the beauty each season offers. Experiencing the changing seasons is like living in four places without moving. There is always something to look forward to and seeing things with a fresh perspective.

Speaking of looking forward, many highs school seniors are waiting to hear from the colleges to which they applied. If they have followed the steps we have laid out for them, they will hopefully get the news they are hoping for and will decide by May 1 which college they will attend. But if they are put on the dreaded waitlist at their first choice colleges they will need to adjust and consider their options.

Meanwhile, current juniors and sophomores should be looking at the steps they need to be taking if they too have college aspirations. One is to take advantage of college visits while students are still on campus and attending college fairs that will be at cities around the country starting in May and continuing through the fall of the year.   Yale Campus in Springtime

If you are a client with whom we have not had a winter/spring review as of yet, call us today to arrange a good time for your update review. If you are just beginning the process of preparing a realistic college list and would like some suggestions. Call us for a “get acquainted” no obligation consultation; plan on 75’ for that conversation. It does not matter where you live. We are presently working with students in Shanghai, China and Stuttgart, Germany.





February 20th, 2014

beloit prof imagesFifteen years ago two professors at Beloit College in Wisconsin published a list of observations they determined to be characteristic of the entering freshman that would be graduating in 2002.  It went viral soon after that and became a greatly anticipated annual event in certain academic circles. It is funny, it is eye-opening and it is scary!

For instance, if you were born post 1995, having a chat seldom involved talking. Java has never been just a cup of coffee; the US has always imposed economic sanctions against Iran; you never attended a concert in a smoke filled arena and rights of passage had more to do with when you got your own cell phone or Skype account than getting a drivers license or car.millennials 2

The list that will characterize the high school Class of 2014 (that will graduate college in 2018) has not been released yet, but if it will be as terrifying as last years ….YIKES!

What an interesting sociological study of the ever changing generational changes.

As a student of a certain era, I look back and reminisce from time to time. It is fun to do that isn’t it? I know that social scientists have put labels on various populations since the twenties.

In what year were you born? How well do you fit within that period of that time?

  1. 1928 to 1945 ~ The Silent Generation (Some might say the greatest.)
  2. 1946 to 1964 ~ The Baby Boom Generation
  3. 1965 to 1980 ~ Generation X
  4. 1981 to 2002 ~ The Millennial Generation

Now, it may be easy to place yourself into one of those chronologically but if you want to know how you truly fit in a particular generation, I suggest you take the 14 question POP quiz below. :)

I took it and found it uncannily accurate. Find out for yourself here.

Presently, all of our students are part of the Millennial Generation and most (but not all) of their parents are Generation X. Holy coffin nails Batman! None of them were alive when JFK was killed. Do they even know what JFK was planning on doing as President? How much have they learned about history in AP History?  I hope more than I think based on the annual survey below.

Are you ready for this?  Of course you are. Let me know what you think you could add to the list.


Crossing the Gap ~ Preparing for the transition

January 20th, 2014

Bridging the GapIn the post WW II era of the early 50’s there were approximately 3 million college students; now there are 20 million. A college degree which used to be seen as a luxury, something which would, in a lifetime, enrich and enlighten….is now seen as a ticket to a bigger paycheck. Colleges, supported by the College Board and politicians in the District of Columbia, continue to say that a Bachelor degree is worth over 1.3 million dollars more in earnings than a high school diploma. Look at the report published by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Work Force.

Students walking in winter  But now we hear that the undergraduate degree is not enough and that an increasing number of graduates are unemployed or underemployed. If that is true, why is it true? 

  1. Are employers raising the proverbial bar for advancement or even entry level jobs within the organization?
  2. Is it because colleges are graduating students with little more knowledge or critical thinking skills than they had in high school ?
  3. Or is it because college graduates are not prepared to enter the work force because they have had little or no substantive work experience while they were college students?

Many would blame the “economy”.  Yes, we hear a lot in the news about jobs being scarce because of the “great recession”. But we are not told why. I suggest it is because our Keynesian economic system, based on fiat currency and debt, has been subtlety used to manipulate trends of “booms and bust” in the economy since 1913 and was accelerated in 1971 when the dollar was taken off the gold standard. Currently, there is statistical evidence that the graduating college and high school class of 2013 continue to face dim job prospects. It is one of the symptoms of the excess borrowing and inflationary spending.

Despite that reality check, there is good news for the undergraduates here. :)

Internship opps Newly minted college graduates (and parents) have made significant down payments on their futures in terms of both time and money, and they typically have a considerable burden of debt right out of the gate. If that graduate did not investigate the career services department beginning in the freshman year (preferably when they were still in high school) he or she may have missed getting the internship or co-op experience needed to optimize employment prospects.

If you are an undergraduate now or thinking about going to college, look around your community. Is there something you see that is being done (legally) :) by someone that not only looks interesting but enjoyable and …dare I say fun? Though you may not be able to tell at first, are they earning an income that supports their life style?

Take an honest assessment of your natural strengths and innate characteristics. (If you have done that work with me already, return to the computer where you have made it a favorite.) Research that work that looks like fun and learn what it will take to do it. By the way, did you know that the best definition of “work” is NOT in the dictionary? Here it is.

Work (wurk) n ‘something you do when you would rather be doing something else’

Is that a Utopian ideal? Not necessarily.

       If you are a whiz in math or science that does not mean you should be an engineer, mathematician or doctor. Your peers, relatives and teachers may say so, and they may be right. But I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the number of adults I know who are now self-employed with time freedom to spend doing things they never dreamed they could do and spend time with their families all while writing their own paycheck. The work they are doing may even be unrelated to what their college major was. Learn from the learning curve of adults and college students like these who have walked the path ahead of you and changed their destinies…by focusing on doing, not wishing.

     If you cannot find your dream job why not create one! As a matter of fact, forget about a job for a moment. After all, did you know that  JOB is an acronym for “Just Over Broke”. Jim Rohn, the late great business philosopher  and mentor for millions of successful entrepreneurs said, “Formal education can help make you a living, but self-education will make you a fortune.”  

       He was a master with words and ‘walked the talk’ by doing. We ALL have the ability to change, but as Jim Rohn said in another memorable quote, If you really want to do something, you will find a way; if you don’t you will find an excuse.”   If you would like some help or simply assurance that you are on the right track, give us a call. No more excuses. :)

Eric Goodhart ~ (978) 820-1295


Early College Decisions

December 30th, 2013

deferredAt the end of December, many students who applied to college Early Decision or Early Action are finding that they’ve been neither accepted nor rejected, but deferred. If you find yourself in this limbo, here are some guidelines for how to proceed.

1. Don’t Panic ~ Most likely, if you’ve been deferred your credentials are in the ballpark for getting accepted. If they weren’t, you’d be rejected. However, your application wasn’t so far above average that the college wanted to give up a spot in the entering class until they could compare you to the full applicant pool. The percentages vary from college to college, but many students do get accepted after being deferred.

     2. Find Out Why You Were Deferred ~  Unless the college asks you not to do so, give the admissions office a call and try to find out why you were deferred. Be polite and positive when making this call. Try to convey your enthusiasm for the college, and see if there were particular weaknesses in your application that you might be able to address. Some early applicants are deferred because they did not show enough interest in the college prior to submitting the application. Could this be you?

3. Update Your Information ~ Chances are the college will ask for your midyear grades. If you were deferred because of a marginal GPA, the college will want to see that your grades are on an upward trend. Also, think about other information that might be worth sending:

  • New and improved SAT or ACT scores
  • A new leadership position in a group or team
  • A new honor or award

4waitlist_FAQ. Send a New Letter of Recommendation ~ Is there someone who knows you well who can really promote you effectively? If so, an additional letter of recommendation might be a good idea. However, make sure the college allows extra letters. Ideally, this letter should talk about the specific personal qualities that make you an ideal match for the particular college that has deferred you. A generic letter won’t be nearly as effective as a letter that explains why you are a good match for your first-choice college.

5. Send Supplemental Materials ~ Many applications, including the Common Application, provide the opportunity for sending in supplemental materials. You don’t want to overwhelm the admissions office, but you should feel free to send in writing or other materials that will show the full breadth of what you can contribute to the campus community.

6. Be Polite ~ As you try to get out of deferral limbo, you’re likely to correspond with the admissions office several times. Try to keep your frustration, disappointment and anger in check. Be polite. Be positive. Admissions officers are remarkably busy this time of year, and their time is limited. Thank them for any time they give you. Also, make sure your correspondence doesn’t become pesky or harassing.

7. Have a Back-Up ~ While many deferred students do get accepted during regular admissions, many do not. You should do all you can to get into your top choice school, but you should also be realistic. Make sure you have applied to a range of reach, match and safety colleges so that you will have other options should you get a rejection letter from your first choice.

If you have been deferred but have new information to present to the college, you’ll want to write a letter presenting the updates.