Confused About the Actual Cost of Attending Your #1 College?

Confused by the financial aid award letters that you kids are receiving from the colleges?  You’re not alone.  30% of colleges do not give parents the correct net price to attend – leaving out the costs of textbooks or other costly expenses.

Colleges are supposed to provide a “Net-Price Calculator” so you can determine what your actual costs will be to attend each college.  But, these calculators are often buried on the college websites. Many colleges don’t include the full costs of attendance – making parents take out additional loans to bridge the gap. 

If you can’t find the Net-Price Calculator on your college’s website, go to  Simply enter the college name and click on “Show Results.” You’ll see the actual costs to attend the college.  Learn more by checking out this short video:

And if you’re still confused, call the financial aid department to ask questions.  That way, you’ll be able to choose the perfect college that you can afford!

60% of Students Graduate College Within 8 Years

For students at either community colleges or 4-year universities, a new study reports that 60% graduate within 8 years. This is just appalling. First of all, when people go to college, their lives are on hold because it’s difficult to hold a full-time job, start a family, or save money. So spreading a 4-year bachelor’s degree to 8 years is a waste of time, which results in 40% drop out rate.

The problem is that these students don’t have a plan when they start.  College counselors help them select their courses for just one term (quarter or semester) but they don’t help layout a 4-year plan to make sure they’re on the right path.

After surviving 12 years of elementary, middle and high school with specific tracks for college prep, college students often flounder once they start college.  Some dabble in the general education courses required for graduation and take a few lower-division courses for their possible majors. When students are weak in math or English, they may have to take several courses just to get into a college-level course that is required for graduation.  Without seeing the big picture and understanding why they are taking each of their courses, these students can lose sight of their goal: to get that coveted bachelor’s degree.

When students lay out their 4-year college plan BEFORE they start college, they understand the importance of taking specific prerequisites and they know how to find courses that satisfy multiple requirements.  This saves both time and money. These students work harder to complete their courses and they take extra steps to get into courses with waiting lists because they understand the consequences of not getting in.

The students I work with who organize their 4-year plans, graduate in 4 years. Besides ensuring that they will in fact get their degrees, they learn how to work with the system to do it more efficiently so they save between $12,000 - $75,000. These students also take advantage of the many unique programs that their colleges offer by adding internships, research, and study abroad programs before they leave home!


Teen Who Survived Homelessness Gets Into 17 Colleges

Amidst the college scandal debacle, it’s refreshing to hear that a young teen who was in and out of homelessness has been accepted to 17 colleges! He will be the first person in his family to go to college. Using the application fee waivers, he applied to 20 colleges.

Love to see this type of determination from a bright young man and the support from a mother who encouraged him to study and to position himself to break the poverty cycle. Kudos to the mom, too!


What's A Bulldozer Mom?

A bulldozer mom forges ahead of her child, clearing all obstacles to ensure success. While this may seem like a dedicated mother whose sole purpose is to protect her child, she ultimately sets her child up to be psychologically frail and afraid to fail.

A bulldozer mom might pay thousands of dollars to get her child into a selective college (Lori Loughlin), or hire a hit man to murder her daughter’s rival so she could get on a cheerleading team (Wanda Holloway). This is ultimately more about the mother’s insecurities than their children’s.  It’s the mother’s ego that needs to boast that her child got in or made the team.  The children are victims of their mothers’ personal ambitions.

As a result, bulldozer children don’t learn coping and problem-solving strategies. These children often grow up to be adults who can’t navigate their careers to reach their goals. In the case of the Loughlin daughter, she didn’t want to advance her career, her goal was to go to college to party.

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UC Bound? Here are Your Next Steps!

Congratulations on your acceptances to the UC! As May 1st quickly approaches, there are a few things you’ll need to do.  Get your planners (or GCals) and set time aside for the following:

1) File your Statement of Intent (SIR) by May 1st for freshman, and June 1st for transfers.

2) Pay your SIR deposit to ONE college. If you are waitlisted at a different college, pay your SIR to a college that you have been admitted to, not the waitlisted college. Unfortunately, the SIR deposits are nonrefundable and non-transferable.

3) Sign up for Orientation to learn more about college life and protocol. (Not all UCs offer Orientation)

4) International students may need to submit a Statement of Legal Residence (SLR).

5) If you’ve been offered a position on a waitlist, you must opt-in to the waitlist for all of the campuses that you’re considering.

6) If you change your mind and withdraw your SIR for a UC campus, you’ll lose the SIR deposit, and you’ll need to file a new SIR and pay a new SIR deposit at the college you choose to go to.

7) The Analytical Writing Placement Exam (AWPE) will take place on May 11th if you haven’t met the Entry Level Writing Requirement (ELWR) by April 1st.

8) If you took college-level courses through a dual-enrollment program, you’ll need to provide a final transcript from your college (even though the course may have been offered on your high school campus) after high school graduation.

Mark your calendars to make sure you don’t forget any steps!

How to Get More Financial Aid From Your College

Are you worried by the high cost of attending college – no matter what your income bracket – and feel pressure to “find” money to cover your child’s college tuition? You’re not alone. It’s difficult to tell your hard-working child that you can’t afford to send them to their #1 college.

Here are some tips to get more financial aid from your college:

  1. Tell them if your income (or ability to pay) has changed from the time you submitted your FAFSA. Consider situations like losing a job, having special needs children, or changes in marital status.
  2. If your child received a better financial aid package from another comparable college, some colleges like Cornell will consider matching a competing financial aid offer.
  3. Check for errors on your FAFSA and if you find one, resubmit it and alert the college so they can recalculate your ability to pay. Make sure you didn’t report retirement accounts (401(k) or IRAs as an asset, and make sure you include stepchildren in your household size.

If you find something that may change your status, write an appeal letter that summarizes your basis for the appeal. Include documents (layoff notice, medical bills, bank statements). It can also be helpful to have a doctor, social worker or others to write a letter stating your financial situation to support your claims.


Seniors Have Many Choices

It’s not just ADMIT or DENY.

As seniors receive their final admit or deny letters from their colleges, many feel stressed and anxious.  Not all students get into their #1 college, and as they hear classmates gloating about choosing between 2 Ivy League choices, they sink into depression. Here are some tips to help seniors who face some difficult decisions:

- If they didn’t get into their #1 college, they can take a gap year to build their portfolios and be more competitive next year.

- Check the majors and programs at the colleges they were accepted to – they might find that other colleges offer exactly what they want.

- Apply to other colleges.  There are over 450 colleges that are still accepting applications!

Students have many options and they shouldn’t feel pressured to make decisions about college until they find the best fit.

Student Loans (and Contracts) are Good for Grades

Amidst the chatter about how student loans create a financial burden for student after graduation, a new study finds that students with student loans do BETTER in classes than those students without loans. They earned more credits and received a higher GPA. And, community college students with loans are 11% more likely to transfer to 4-year colleges.

When students are motivated to complete their degrees in a shorter period of time because they are paying for the courses, they will finish quicker and they’ll study harder than students whose parents are footing the bill.  When parents whip out their checkbooks to pay tuition, room and board, and living expenses, why would their children rush to leave such a sweet deal? Four years of partying with no parents in sight! Hmm.

I’ve created a 4-Year Plan and Contract for my students to make sure that both students and parents benefit from the college experience.  We lay out all of the student’s major, electives, and general education requirements so the student understands what they’ll be taking and why.  Then they sign a contract indicating what the parents will pay for based on course completion and grades.  If the student’s grades drop or they withdraw from classes, the student is responsible for a portion of the tuition and room and board.  It’s a great way to make sure that college students understand that their parents are making a huge sacrifice to send them to college and this gives them incentive to do well and graduate on time.

The Legacy Loophole is Legal Discrimination

Children of alumni (aka legacies) are more likely to get into elite colleges than students with equal qualifications without the legacy card. Remember that a hundred years ago, elite colleges were predominantly white, male, and wealthy.  So if the legacy tradition has been in place for decades, these elite institutions have been discriminating against women and people of color simply by reserving the right to admit children of alumni. 
At the start of the 20th century, these legacy policies were a deliberate strategy to keep Jewish students out of elite colleges. When children of alumni’s GPA and SAT scores were lower than Jewish students, these elite colleges needed to give their legacy students an advantage. This was blatant discrimination. 
One of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, rejected the system of hereditary privilege of the English monarchy. He hoped America could be a natural aristocracy based on virtue and talent. And today in 2019, I’d like to see the end of the legacy loophole.

Don't Pay For Essays

Think you can pay tutors to write your child’s college app essays? Not if you want them to get into college and do well once they get there!

When a tutor gets paid to edit dozens of essays, it’s in the tutor’s best interest to completely rewrite them as quickly as possible. But just because the essay is excellent, doesn’t mean that the student will get into a top college. Actually, perfect essays will probably do the opposite! Yup! Remember college admissions officers read thousands of essays and they can quickly spot an essay that isn’t written by the student.  They review each student’s entire application so they see the student’s GPA and SAT/ACT scores, quality of the school, caliber of courses taken, and extracurriculars. That means that if this tutor wrote an excellent essay from a college graduate’s refined perspective and writing style, it might not match up with what the admissions officer would expect to read from an average high school student.  In other words, the essay probably won’t pass the sniff test. 

In the unlikely chance that this student got into their dream college by submitting an essay that a tutor wrote for him, he’ll likely fail out. I see this happening every year.  How can parents expect their child to do well in college when the entire class of incoming students have far superior critical thinking and writing skills than their child? This unfortunate child will harbor feelings of incompetence as he struggles to pass courses. His parents will need to pay tutors to write his essays for classes just to graduate.  This student couldn’t possibly go on to graduate school because his college GPA will not be competitive, and forget him passing the GRE or other grad school exams. 

So if your child is not a prolific writer, don’t pay someone to write their essays.  Instead, hire a tutor who will teach him how to write these essays.  It might take 15-20 drafts but with each draft, your child’s writing skills will improve. First they should start with carefully reading the essay prompts.  20% of my students write essays that don’t address the prompt – a big no-no in the eyes of college admissions officers.  Then they’ll need to brainstorm about experiences they’ve had that address the prompts.  If they’ve done a project, that will be the focus for all of their applications. Next, they’ll write an outline, and then a rough draft.  In the following 3-4 drafts, they’ll add more content and details, and then they’ll start editing grammar and word usage.  In the final drafts, they’ll be polishing the essay and checking its tone and clarity. If the student reads it and it doesn’t sound like they’re telling the story, then they will continue to work on it until it does. When they’re done, the student will be proud of the essay and ready to start the next one.  Each essay will get easier to write and when they’re done with all of their applications, your child will be ready to tackle college-level essays and head off to college with success.

Do your child a favor by not paying someone to write his essays.  Stay away from companies that give you package deals because they’ll be motivated to do heavy editing or rewrite essays that your child could never write. All of my college advisory specialists are trained and dedicated to helping students write excellent essays and retain each student’s individual voice. They don’t rush through the process because the student’s writing won’t improve. Sure, you want your child to get into a top college or university, but you want them to get in on their own merits and you want them to have the skills to hold their head up high and enjoy their college experience. 



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