Why Should You Fill Out the FAFSA?

November 18, 2020

Many families do not realize that it is time to apply for financial aid and scholarships. Most students are relieved to be finishing with their college applications and the thought of filling out more forms is the last thing on their minds. Families will not receive financial aid if they 
do not ask for it. Some families may not have financial need, but circumstances can change.The FAFSA is the first step to ask for financial aid. And if you have no already applied, it is the time to do it.

FAFSA, which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is an online form which determines which students are eligible for federal financial assistance. No one should be intimidated by the FAFSA form and everyone who feels that might qualify for federal, state, or institutional grants or loans should definitely apply.

Applying for financial aid is not as overwhelming as it used to be, but it does require time and accurate answers to allow the government to determine what your Expected Family Contribution toward college will be. This is known as your EFC. The FAFSA form is filled out by the parents of prospective and continuing students on an annual basis. Read the instructions carefully. The name on your Social Security card is the same name you should use on the FAFSA. Make all of your corrections online. If an answer applies to you, it should not be left blank.

Since financial aid is often given out on a first come, first served basis, it is important to fill as the FAFSA form as soon as you can. The form for the 2021-22 school year is now available online.. The amount of financial aid a student receives is based on your previous year’s tax return. Every state and college or university has a specific deadline for the FAFSA form to be submitted. The federal deadline is June 30, but the state and school deadlines can be as early as February 15. Most college websites list the deadline for their schools.

Paying for college is one of the biggest concerns parents have today. Last year more than 80% of the parents who had students applying or returning to college filled out the FAFSA form. You have nothing to lose by filling out the free form and some families are pleasantly surprised that they actually qualify for at least some financial assistance. Every little bit helps.

The College Essay-What Do Colleges Look For?

November 2, 2020

The personal statement or college essay is your opportunity to discuss anything that is not reflected in another part of your college application. Are there questions that college admission officers might want to ask you after reading your application? Universities like to see examples and evidence of what you have done in your life and how you will contribute to their college community.

The personal statement gives you the chance to write about yourself. Writing about yourself can be tough, but once you get a grasp on how to write a good personal statement, you will have no problem. College admissions officers want to know about your goals and values and what you have learned from your experiences. They are looking for students who are mature, honest, sincere and self-motivated.

Students frequently look at the college essay prompts and cannot imagine where to begin. The important thing is to put down some ideas and brainstorm what you could say about each of them. When answering the personal statement questions, it is important to show, not tell. Find stories from your experiences that will illustrate these ideas. This provides you a chance to reveal your personality, insight, and commitment. The danger is that it is open-ended, so you need to focus

College admissions officers may have hundreds of college essays to shift through, so making yours unique gives them something fresh to read and a renewed interest in finding out more about you. It is always a good idea to mention a few statements about the school you are applying to and why you are interested in attending.

If they ask a specific question, make sure you adequately answer that question. If they list a specific length requirement, make sure you are within its limits. The questions may be similar, but the intent behind them could be completely different. Give a sincere effort and find out what the college is looking for with their questions and answer them all as if it is the only school you are applying to.

Composing a college essay can be intimidating, so I encourage you to begin well before the deadline in order to take pressure off yourself and improve the quality of the final draft. Read the application instructions carefully. Have someone else read the personal statement for clarity and grammar. Have someone who does not know you well read the essay for content and interest. Most importantly, draft and revise until you are satisfied.

Finally, remember that a personal statement is about you. It should not be a laundry list of your accomplishments, but more events that have shaped your interests, attitudes, and academic focus. This is your opportunity to sell yourself and improve your chances for college admissions.

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Is Your High School Junior on Track with College Planning?

October 24, 2020

College admissions has changed dramatically this past eight months due to Covid-19. It is important that high school juniors get on track with their college planning in order to be prepared for the college application and admission process.

Although many colleges are test-optional for the class of 2021, that does not mean that colleges are test-blind. Most will still accept test scores from the SAT or ACT and consider them as part of the college application if they are submitted. Many colleges will also consider SAT and ACT scores for merit scholarships. For students who choose not to submit test scores, essays will carry more weight than ever before because they allow a school to determine how a student will contribute to theIr college community.

Colleges will be more flexible with who writes the recommendations, because they too will help a school get a picture of a student’s character, which is a big thing this year. Whether getting into college will be more difficult or easier for 2021or 2022 high school graduates remains to be seen. However, students need to write the best college applications and essays in order to be competitive. The more planning that high school juniors do, the more successful their college admissions oportunities will be as a high school senior.

Susie Watts is a college consultant with 30 years experience. She begins working with high school juniors once they are into their first semester. You can contact Susie at 303-692-1918 or susie@collegedirection.org with questions.Love

YOUR SENIOR MAY NEED TO APPLY TO MORE COLLEGES THIS YEAR DUE TO COVID-19

October 17, 2020

Parents of seniors are worried how Covid-19 will affect their child’s chances of admission to college. This is my advice. Make sure that you know what is and what is not within your student’s control. Building and honing a college list is within every student’s control. Every school that is on that list, whether it is a safety or reach, should be a school that your child would be happy to attend. It important to have options. With Covid-19, college admissions could be dramatically different than it has been in years past. To save you child from disappointment, check and double check that list and make whatever changes might be necessary. Many application deadlines have been extended and other good schools are on rolling admissions.

Free Webinar: My College Direction, a New, Innovative College Planning Program

June 20, 2020

My College Direction is a new, innovative college counseling program that is for families who want the best advice and most up-to-date information for their student.

Susie Watts is a college consultant in Denver who has 30 years experience helping students create a college list and assist them as they go through the college application and admissions process.

She has felt for a long time that college counseling should be more available to many students who need the guidance, but found it unaffordable. As a result, she has started My College Direction.

Students often do not receive the assistance they need from high school counselors, not because counselors would not like to provide it, but they simply have too many students to work with and too many other responsibilities.

Susie always felt that she enjoyed and was more effective when she worked with students individually in her office. It wasn’t until the Coronavirus struck that she began to move some of her college counseling and test prep online. Much to her surprise, it has worked out quite well, and her students love the fact that they don’t need to travel to an office, but still get the same kind of college planning help they need.

My College Direction will be very similar to the comprehensive college planning program that Susie has offered for the last 30 years. The only difference will be that it is online. Some sessions will be for a group of 20 students (maximum) and others will be individual. The main benefit to you as a family is the cost.

Susie will be doing a free webinar to provide details on the My College Direction program which she has just launched. It will be on Tuesday, June 30 at 7:00 MDT. You can register on the link below.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/free-webinar-my-college-direction-an-new-approach-to-college-planning-tickets-110359883382?utm-medium=discovery&utm-campaign=social&utm-content=attendeeshare&utm-source=strongmail&utm-term=listing

 

Coronavirus and College Planning

April 17, 2020

Coronavirus is creating a tremendous time of unrest. Some days we are encouraged that the world will return to normal, and others we wonder if things will ever be the same. For this year’s high school graduates, the disappointments are many: Graduations, proms and other senior activities have pretty much disappeared.

Yet, we can not just give up, but more importantly, we need to turn our attention to current high school juniors. As the world of college admissions and SAT and ACT testing has been turned upside down, it is the current class of high school juniors we need to focus on. More than any other year in my 30 years of college counseling, college planning is going to be absolutely critical.

High school counselors are overwhelmed with all of the changes that the Coronavirus has caused and college planning will not be on the top of their lists. Using  a college consultant will assure your family and student that they are making the best decisions as they go through the college admissions process. I want to encourage parents of the high school class of 2021 who are considering hiring a college consultant to help simplify the college search and application process, now is the time. College Direction limits the number of students with whom we work each year in order to provide the individual attention that every student deserves.

Susie Watts offers a free information session to all prospective students and parents. Call 303-692-1918 or susie@collegedirection.org.

Is Your High School Graduate Ready to Transition to College?

May 23, 2019

Soon after students graduate from high school, it is important to begin the “transition to college” conversations with your teens to help them better acclimate to this new experience. It is not just the academic changes they will encounter, but more importantly an opportunity to discuss what they will need to do in order to have a successful transition.

As a college admissions consultant, I make an appointment with each student to discuss time management, financial matters and getting off on the right start. I know that many students are academically prepared, but the college schedule is usually dramatically different from what they are used to in high school. They need to learn where and when to study and understand the expectations of their college professors. They also need to know where to go if they need academic help.

New college students need to understand how to handle their finances and learn the basics of financial literacy so that their credit remains good and they do not get into problems involving money. Most importantly, students need to be responsible with credit cards and realize how easy it is to go into debt by charging items and not paying off the balance. Too many credit companies prey on college students.

As a independent college consultant, I like to pay special attention to safety on a college campus and helping students do everything they can to use the necessary precautions. I think every student needs to understand how drinking and drugs can be the road to disaster. I emphasize, especially with the young women, that they come together and leave together when attending a party or event, watch their drinks and never leave them unattended, and be very cautious when walking on a campus at night.

Since mental health is such a big issue on college campuses, I emphasize to every student how important it is to get help if they feel anxious, depressed or suicidal. Students should know where to go on the college campus to get the assistance they need and not wait and hope things will get better. They also need to tell their parents how they are feeling so that their parents can intervene if necessary.

These are just a few of the “transition to college” talks to have with your student. They need not be long, but they do need to be discussed. I think if parents begin these conversations during the summer, students will feel more confident as they begin their college experience.

College Direction meets with high school graduates and their parents to have the “transition to college” conversation. Call 303-692-1918 if you are interested. Sometimes students respond better to a college consultant because I am not their parent.

accomplishment ceremony education graduation

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Who Cares about College Rankings?

November 8, 2018

Quite frankly, I am sick of college rankings. If it isn’t U.S. News, it’s Forbes, Money or endless other publications ranking what they consider the best colleges and universities.  The college rankings can tell us anything from the most connected schools to the best value universities. These college rankings measure different attributes that may or may not be important to a family when they are considering schools for their child. Often they are more confusing than helpful.

Many college rankings are oversimplified and downright unfair. They can be the result of professors, students, or even the universities themselves answering questionnaires that have been sent to them by a magazine or newspaper.  Many times college administrators are asked to evaluate colleges with which they have no knowledge, not just their own school.

Rankings often lead to misleading conclusions. Some colleges will spend money to improve something that will help their ranking, but may not benefit the students at all. Many use college rankings in their marketing materials.  These rankings often ignore factors that are of concern to prospective students.  Too frequently, they contain the same schools over and over.

As a private college counselor, I pay very little attention to these rankings because I want my students to consider colleges that are right for them. The highest ranked schools may not be the best fit or a college where they will have a successful academic and social experience. That to me is what is far more important than any ranking.

 

What Can A College Admissions Consultant Do For You?

April 24, 2018

Most families would agree that the college application and admissions process is both stressful and overwhelming. There are so many questions parents and students face when trying to find the right colleges. They can be equally confused with the different applications, deadlines and required information for financial aid and scholarships. Unfortunately, most high school counselors do not have the time to devote to these matters. Some families think that a college admission consultant is out of their budget, but many don’t realize that in the end, they usually save money because they have received the guidance and correct information to make the right decisions. This is what a college admissions consultant can do for your student and family.

1.   Individual help most students do not receive in high school

2.   Availability for your child and family when you need it

3.   Expertise in the college admission process 

4.   Decreased family stress and more peace of mind. Try to eliminate parental nagging about college applications.

5.   Specific knowledge of colleges, their admission requirements and SAT and ACT testing updates

6.   Get help from an objective third party to brainstorm and read applications and college essays

7.   Gain a competitive edge in the college admission process

8.   College visits that provide first-hand knowledge of schools and their suitability for different students

9.   Save money ​by helping your child enroll in one college, stay there, and graduate in four years.

10. Increased financial aid and scholarship opportunities

Look for the College Fit, Not the Ranking

April 4, 2018

For many high school juniors, college planning has begun. This, of course, includes the college search. College Direction suggests that students put rankings at the bottom of their considerations and concentrate on researching schools that are a good fit for them. This fit should includes academic, financial and social as well. Rankings just add to the hype surrounding college admissions and rarely have little to do with the educational experience a student will receive. When College Direction is researching schools for a student, we are much more concerned with the undergraduate experience and the four-year graduation rates at different schools. To find colleges with the best fit, students should do some self-reflection and write down a list of qualities they consider important when choosing a school. The colleges they choose to explore more completely should have as many of these qualities as possible.