Category Archives: College costs

College Admissions Simplified: A Guide for the College-Bound.

“The college process today is marked by dramatically lower acceptance rates, obscure bases for those getting in over others with similar records, and tuition that rivals the cost of the average American home,” writes Mark Sklarow, Chief Executive Officer of the Independent Educational Consultants Association, in the Forward of my new book, “College Admissions Simplified: A Guide for the College-Bound.”

It really does bother me that today’s students and parents have such angst over college admissions. Independent Educational Consultants like me, also called college consultants, can provide invaluable knowledge and experience in guiding students through admissions (although students must always own the process and do the actual work). But let’s face it – not everyone chooses to or can afford those services.

That’s why I wrote this book – to provide a step-by-step roadmap to walk students through every aspect of college admissions. I also provide important tips to help parents support their teens, but without taking over. It’s crucial that the whole process, from high school classes to grades, testing, researching and visiting colleges, filling out college applications, writing essays, and getting letters of recommendation, belongs to the STUDENTS.

My book also helps students think about aspects of today’s overall admissions process that are very important, but which that they may not be familiar with, such as creating a cohesive application so colleges will see them as a well-rounded person. Another purpose of the book is to help students realize that there is a college that’s a good fit for everyone, and that success means succeeding and thriving wherever you go. College is not about trophy-hunting. It’s about you, the student, and meeting your goals for this life-changing experience.

Here’s what “College Admissions Simplified” will teach you:

• How to Begin – Explore your goals, your character, your strengths, what kind of future life you want and more.

• Affording College – In-depth information on FAFSA and the FAFSA Simplification Act of 2020 and how it affects your situation. Plus, lots of information and resources on scholarships, grants, student loans and figuring out what your family can actually afford.

• Your Academic Record – an in-depth look at how college admissions officers look at your courses, your grades, your ranking and more. That process is a lot more complicated than you might think!

• Extracurricular Activities – It used to be the more the better. That’s no longer true; colleges are looking for more depth and activities that reflect who you are as a person.

• Your Personal Preferences – there are many subjective, non-academic factors that affect which colleges fit you best. These include geographic location, campus setting, student body size and profile, extracurricular opportunities, average class size, faculty involvement and much more.

• Campus Visits – a successful college visit requires planning, so this chapter gives you a guide to make your visits much more beneficial. By consistently following this guide, you’ll be better able to compare colleges, apples-to-apples.

• Your College List – the previous chapters cover topics that are fundamental to building your College List. Given this foundation, this chapter will teach you how to create a three-tiered College List of about 15 colleges that best fit you.

• Your Application—Strategy – because admission is competitive, most colleges have adopted a holistic approach to analyzing applicants. Admissions decisions rely not only on your academic record but on non-quantifiable factors as well. These may include interviews, essays, letters of recommendation, and extracurricular activities, among others. this chapter guides you in developing an effective admissions strategy to present your best possible self to colleges.

• Your Application—Theme and Hooks – the way you communicate your strategy to colleges is through your theme. This is a brief statement of the reasons why you’ll make an outstanding addition to a college’s freshman class. To make it more effective, your story should be subtly woven into your essays, college interviews and letters of recommendation. Ideally, an admissions officer will like your application so much that s/he will use it to advocate for you in committee!

Hooks are when you have a truly outstanding talent, aptitude, or skill. A strong hook may help you get admitted to colleges that might otherwise be just out of reach; it may also result in scholarship offers from colleges that highly value what you have to offer.

• Your Application—Letters of Recommendation – these present firsthand information about you that’s not available elsewhere in your application. They will have a positive effect on admissions if you treat them seriously rather than just items to be checked off your list of things to do. This book shows you how.

• Special Populations – This chapter is a guide for applicants who qualify for special considerations in selecting and applying to colleges, such as minority students, those with disabilities, LGBTQ+ students and more.

• Resources for Your Research – this final chapter gives you comprehensive and accurate information about colleges and universities.

A final note from Dr. Klaar:

If I’ve introduced some concepts in this books that you’re unfamiliar with, such as themes and hooks, this whole college admissions process may sound intimidating. But rest easy! The reason I named my book College Admissions Simplified: A Guide for the College-Bound,” is that I break it all down for you in digestible-sized chunks that you can actually follow. Get it here today, and start your journey!

Read About Why Every Year in H.S. Counts!

Here are excerpts from an interesting and interactive conversation I had  with Jennifer Plym and Cheryl Taylor of Charlotte Smarty Pants about preparing for college admissions while yourCharlotte Smarty Pants logo student(s) is in high school:

We discussed when families should start thinking about college.  I advised that parents start thinking about college – or some other form of post-high school education – when their students are in middle school.  They should think about how they’re going to pay for college, and create a college mindset for their student.

Have a plan for every year

By high school, have a plan and let your child stretch academically.  If a student is talented in math, let her take an AP math class.  If it doesn’t work out, then she can step back.

Our conversation emphasized that every year in high school it important.  College Admissions officers are looking for trends.  They want to see that a kid is improving each year, and that they are challenging themselves with increasingly difficult courses.

I also gave advice on PSAT tests – they should be a guide for students to identify areas where they need more help and work.  Although about 2,000 colleges are test-optional (including Wake Forest), students should take both the ACT and SAT tests.  Some students do better on one or the other, and that’s the one they should submit.

We also discussed finding a college that’s a good fit, and how kids views of college size, how far they want to be from home, etc. change as they go through high school.

If you have questions, contact me at [email protected]

Little-Known Secrets for Paying for College Recording

Worried about how you’re going to pay for college?  Listen to this recording of a recent webinar with Klaar College Consulting and the College Funding Coach.  The actual recording starts at minute eight, so please move the bar up to that point to begin listening.

Some of the financial topics covered include:

  • Using student loans to manage cash flow.
  • If you refinance your home to cover college costs, have a plan to pay it off.college consultant SC
  • How to tap into other people’s money, such as with private scholarships.
  • Understanding the family’s Expected Financial Contribution.
  • What is need-based financial aid.
  • How the 529 Plan works in S. Carolina.

Additionally, I talk about how parents should get together with their students at the beginning of their freshman year to put together a four-year plan leading up to applying for and getting admission to a college that’s a good fit and match (see below). For example, the student could start out with a few honors classes and then take AP courses.  Colleges want students who have challenged themselves with a rigorous curriculum.

There’s nothing worse than graduating with a 4.0 but no challenging classes.  Colleges ask “Where was the rigor, the intellectual curiosity?” Colleges also want students who have tried different things and are well-rounded.

Although college costs are soaring, a state college is not necessarily less expensive than a private college.  Private colleges have endowments, and if your student is someone they really want, they will offer grants that may make college far more affordable.

The importance of Fit and Match:

  • Will the student like other students there?
  • Will he like the campus and surroundings? Is your student more comfortable in a contained campus with lots of open spaces, or one that’s large and crowded in a city? Close to the beach or the mountains?
  •  How about activities outside the classroom?  This includes more than sports – there’s drama, debate, Model U.N., Beta Club Community service, and more.
  • Also consider the weather.  A northern campus that’s pleasant in summer may be freezing cold in winter!

A good fit and match mean your student is much more likely to graduate in four years, and not transfer to another college and lose precious credits.  My students almost all graduate in four years, but the average graduation time is a pricey six years!

Little-Known Secrets of Paying for College

I am excited to announce that Klaar College Consulting will be co-hosting two free webinars with The College Funding Coach® on July 15th, 2021 at 12 noon and 6:30 p.m. This virtual event on “Little-Known Secrets for Paying for College” is for any family wanting to learn how to pay for college (designed for families with students in grades K – 12). 

The College Funding Coach® was founded in 2002 to help families better understand the  complexities of paying for college and how to make higher education more affordable. They have established an approach that helps parents understand the college funding process, reduce their out-of-pocket expenses, and balance the challenge of saving for college and retirement simultaneously.

July 15 Zoom webinars:

12:00 – 1:30 PM Session – CLICK HERE
6:30 – 8 PM Session – CLICK HERE

Specific financial topics include:

  • Using student loans to manage cash flow.
  • If you refinance your home to cover college costs, have a plan to pay it off.
  • How to tap into other people’s money, such as with private scholarships.
  • Understanding the family’s Expected Financial Contribution.
  • What is need-based financial aid.
  • How the 529 Plan works in S. Carolina.

Additionally, I’ll be talking about  how parents should get together with their students at the beginning of their freshman year to put together a four-year plan leading up to applying for and getting admission to a college that’s a good fit and match (see below). For example, the student could start out with a few honors classes and then take AP courses.  Colleges want students who have challenged themselves with a rigorous curriculum.

There’s nothing worse than graduating with a 4.0 but no challenging classes.  Colleges ask “Where was the rigor, the intellectual curiosity?” Colleges also want students who have tried different things and are well-rounded.

Although college costs are soaring, a state college is not necessarily less expensive than a private college.  Private colleges have endowments, and if your student is someone they really want, they will offer grants that may make college far more affordable.

Another topic I talk about is  the importance of Fit and Match:

  • Will the student like other students there?
  • Will he like the campus and surroundings? Is your student more comfortable in a containedSummer college prep campus with lots of open spaces, or one that’s large and crowded in a city? Close to the beach or the mountains?
  •  How about activities outside the classroom?  This includes more than sports – there’s drama, debate, Model U.N., Beta Club Community service, and more.
  • Also consider the weather.  A northern campus that’s pleasant in summer may be freezing cold in winter!

A good fit and match means your student is much more likely to graduate in four years, and not transfer to another college and loose precious credits.  My students almost all graduate in four years, but the average graduation time is a pricey six years!

This is a free educational event. Please register by clicking below. For questions, contact me at [email protected]

July 15 Zoom webinars:

12:00 PM Session – CLICK HERE
6:30 PM Session – CLICK HERE

Insightful Podcasts About Getting into and Choosing the Right College for You!

I’ve started podcasting! This article contains important information on college admissions planning in high school from interviews with the Podcast Business News Network’s Jill Nicolini. Read on or skip to the podcasts at the bottom.

I suggest that parents of ninth-graders get together with their students at the beginning of their freshman year to put together a four-year plan leading up to applying for and getting admission to a college that’s a good fit and match (see below). For example, the student could start out with a few honors classes and then take AP courses.  Colleges want students who have challenged themselves with a rigorous curriculum.

There’s nothing worse than graduating with a 4.0 but no challenging classes.  Colleges ask “Where was the rigor, the intellectual curiosity?” Colleges also want students who have tried different things and are well-rounded.  Let your kids explore, that’s how they learn.

At the same time, admissions officers are looking for in-depth experiences.  Showing commitment to a cause or organization is important. They’re also looking for volunteer service.  If a student only does the minimum required number of hours, the college will assume you just wanted to graduate!

Another topic I talk about in my interviews are  the importance of Fit and Match:

  • Will the student like other students there?
  • Will he like the campus and surroundings? Is your student more comfortable in a containedSummer college prep campus with lots of open spaces, or one that’s large and crowded in a city? Close to the beach or the mountains?
  •  How about activities outside the classroom?  This includes more than sports – there’s drama, debate, Model U.N., Beta Club Community service, and more.
  • Also consider the weather.  A northern campus that’s pleasant in summer may be freezing cold in winter!

Also, have a frank discussion about what your family can afford.  There’s nothing worse than discovering after the first year that you really can’t afford your student’s dream college!

Another important consideration – if your student has exceptional talent, private schools who really want him or her have the dollars to provide financial aid. Public schools, while less expensive on the surface, do not have the same amount of financial aid! 

Here’s my May 27 interview.

Here’s my June 3 interview.

 

Yes, You Get What You Pay For

With independent educational consultants, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for!

If you were searching for an eye surgeon, would you go with the cheapest one you could find? Probably not. After all, these are your EYES!

You would likely ask for recommendations, research the professional background of the surgeon, find out how many surgeries he or she had performed, etc.

The same holds true for selecting an independent educational consultant or college planner.

Some private colleges can cost a family more than $250,000 over four years. In-state public colleges may be less expensive, but they may also not have the level of scholarships available and may not end up costing less than a private college who really wants your student.  For example, Loyola University Maryland offered one of my 2021 students a $30,000 scholarship, whereas the University of South Carolina-Columbia (a public school) only offered a third as much.

When you’re making a substantial investment in your student, you want to make sure you weigh all options and find the absolute best fit.

As a member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association, I have an extensive knowledge of colleges, can broaden your student’s potential choices, and provide vital help in weighing factors such as your student’s passions, costs, location, and curriculum.

Here’s an example:

One student I worked with was Gabe, an intelligent young man with learning differences.

He had been attending a music preparatory program at a respected college in his home town.  The college wanted him as an undergraduate student, and he wanted to go there to be close to home.  He was concerned about moving out of his comfort zone. However, his parents wanted him to think bigger and grow musically.  I showed him other music programs and explained that they didn’t need to be too far away.

 “He didn’t want a large school or to be too far from home, she helped direct him to the right program. He ended up at Catholic University of America.  It wasn’t his first choice, but when he did the first piano audition, they called him, and got him scholarships,” said his Mom.

How did that work out for him?

college decisions

“Gabe graduated last year and is doing his Masters in Piano Performance, also at CUA, so she (Dr. Klaar) really helped him make the best choice for him (perfect school size, location, great piano teachers…). He felt comfortable enough to not apply for any support and found his own way of studying and made it through college successfully (Cum Laude and Dean’s list seven semesters out of eight!)” Gabe’s Mom later reported.

Hearing that brought tears to my eyes.  That’s why I’m passionate about what I do. I understand the importance of taking the time to get to know students and their families well enough to create a college career path for each student’s unique goals and strengths.

I use a friendly but no-nonsense, no-excuses style to work with students to help make the college search, application and essay process a delightful adventure of self-discovery and growth. Along the way, I help students learn to make more informed decisions and to own the process.

That’s why students trust me, respect my knowledge and experience, and work hard to meet their assignments and deadlines.

That knowledge and experience is hard-earned; I belong to all the top College Consultant professional organizations, and was the third college consultant to be honored with the Prestigious Steven R. Antonoff Award for Professional Achievement by the Independent Educational Consultants Association.

Before you make the important decision to select an independent college consultant for your family, ask these questions:

  1. Do you guarantee admission to a school, one of my top choices, or a certain minimum dollar value in scholarships? (Do NOT trust any offer of guarantees.)
  2. How do you keep up with new trends, academic changes, and evolving campus cultures? How often do you get out and visit college, school, and program campuses and meet with admissions representatives? (The ONLY way to know about the best matches for you is to be out visiting schools regularly – post pandemic, of course.)
  3. Do you belong to any professional associations?  (The National Association for College Admission Counseling and the Higher Education Consultants Association along with the IECA are the primary associations for independent educational consultants with established and rigorous standards for membership.)
  4. Do you attend professional conferences or training workshops on a regular basis to keep up with regional and national trends and changes in the law? (This is a must!)
  5. Do you ever accept any form of compensation from a school, program, or company in exchange for placement or a referral? (They absolutely should not!)
  6. Are all fees involved stated in writing, up front, indicating exactly what services I will receive for those fees? (Absolutely mandatory.)
  7. Will you complete the application for admission, re-write my essays, or fill out the financial aid forms on my behalf? (No, they should NOT; it is essential that the student be in charge of the process and all materials should be a product of the student’s own, best work.)
  8. How long have you been in business as an independent educational consultant (IEC)?  (A long tenure with documented professional accomplishments buys you expertise.)

Four more important questions…

While anyone can hang out a shingle and claim to be an independent educational consultant or college counselor, it pays to go beyond price and ask the important questions.

If you’d like to learn more, contact me at [email protected] or call 1-803-487-9777.

The new FAFSA will be available online on October 1, 2022

There is an affordability crisis in college tuition.  After a half century of bloated tuition increases, circumstances reached a critical mass, as has been revealed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Demand for bachelor’s degrees has been declining, yet tuition continues to rise. The U.S. is tenth in the world in the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds who have earned a bachelor’s degree, but first in the amount paid in tuition for those degrees.

A positive step toward solving the affordability crisis was the recent enactment of the FAFSA Simplification Act of 2020, a law designed to simplify the student financial aid process and make it more equitable. Under the law, far more than the current 60% of high school students are expected to submit a FAFSA to obtain their fair share of the $120 billion in financial aid disbursed every year by the Federal government. The more students who receive financial aid, the more of them will be able to afford college. Enrollment will increase accordingly.

The FAFSA Simplification Act of 2020

The FAFSA Simplification Act of 2020 is a 167-page insert to the 5,593-page Omnibus Act for 2021 that was signed into law on December 27, 2020. The primary purpose of the Act is to make it easier to complete the FAFSA so that a larger percentage of students will submit it to obtain the Federal financial aid to which they’re entitled.

Revising the FAFSA is a complex undertaking. It will take time to establish new rules and modify administrative processes, so the changes in the Act won’t go into effect until July 1, 2023, the first day of the 2023-24 academic year. The new FAFSA will be available online on October 1, 2022, so the college Class of 2028 — will be the first to use it.

Here’s What the FAFSA Simplification Act of 2020 Does:

1. Increases the Income Protection Allowance (IPA) for dependent students from the current $6,970 to $9,410, a 35% increase. Since student income in excess of the IPA is assessed as an asset at 50% of its value under the FAFSA methodology.  This IPA increase will reduce the existing disincentive for students to seek part-time and summer employment.

2.  Increases the independent unmarried student IPA from the current $10,840 to $14,630, an increase of 35%.

3.  Eliminates the term Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and replaces it with Student Aid Index (SAI). Many parents mistakenly believe that the EFC is the amount they will have to pay for college, but the real figure is often much higher. However, clarifying the terminology won’t help the main problem that parents experience. They still won’t know the actual cost to attend a college until their child has applied to and been accepted by that college.

4.  Expands eligibility for Pell Grants to include incarcerated students.

5.  Changes to the SAI will make it easier to identify the neediest students.

6.  Re-defines Cost of Attendance (COA). COA will include tuition and fees, housing and meals (previously Room and Board), books and other course materials, transportation, personal expenses, Federal loan fees, and any costs associated with obtaining professional licenses, certifications, or credentials. The Act stipulates that the itemized COA must be disclosed on every college’s website.

7.  Increases the amount of the parent IPA that is shielded from the SAI. For a 3-person family, the IPA increases by 20% to $29,040.

8.  Changes the law regarding divorced or separated parents by eliminating the current standard, which is “The parent you lived with more during the past 12 months”. Under the new law, the parent who provides more financial support will be the parent required to report income and assets on the FAFSA. This will close a loophole that has been abused by some divorced and separated parents.

9.  Eliminates the question, “Other untaxed income not reported.” Such income as worker’s compensation and veteran’s educational benefits will no longer need to be reported as untaxed student income.

10.  Eliminates the question, “Money received or paid on your behalf.” No longer will a distribution from a grandparent-owned 529 account or a cash gift from relatives be reportable as untaxed student income.

11.  Renames the term Simplified Needs Test to the Applicants Exempt from Asset Reporting. Makes qualification easier by raising the Adjusted Gross Income cutoff from $50,000 to $60,000.

12.  Prohibits colleges and financial aid administrators from establishing a policy that doesn’t allow appeals of financial aid decisions.

13.  Expands the authority of financial aid administrators to exercise professional judgement. It allows them to consider a broader range of special circumstances including natural disasters, national emergencies, recession or economic downturn, and substantial losses in business, investments, and real estate.

14.  Reduces obstacles for homeless and foster youth in accessing Federal aid.

15.  Expands the definition of “independent student” to include students who are unable to contact their parent as well as students for whom contact with their parent would place them at risk.

16.  Removes the suspension of Federal student aid eligibility for individuals convicted of drug-related offenses.

17.  No longer divides the SAI by the number of family members in college. This change will substantially reduce financial aid eligibility for those families with multiple members in college simultaneously.

18.  Prohibits a college admissions consultant or financial aid counselor from charging a fee to help a family with the FAFSA. This means that families will be able to obtain FAFSA assistance only from volunteers.

19.  Makes it easier for the Department of Education and the Internal Revenue Service to share tax data so student aid applications can be processed faster.

20.  Forgives $1.3 billion in Federal loans that were made to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) for repairs, renovations, and construction.

Changes to the FAFSA Are an Improvement, But…

The new FAFSA is an improvement over the current one in most respects. However, it introduces two changes that run counter to the interests of most families. These are Change 17, below, which removes the accommodation for families with more than one student attending college at the same time, and Change 18, which prevents consultants from charging a fee to assist families with the FAFSA. A summary of the major changes is provided below.

The Omnibus Act for 2021

This act included emergency spending to help colleges and students cope with the impact of COVID-19. It also took foundational steps toward fundamental reforms in post-secondary education. The American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act, enacted on March 12, 2021, provided additional funds to colleges and students to cover pandemic-related expenses. It too included provisions that lead to reforms.

saving on college costsEven these two helpful acts of legislation, as welcome as they are, can’t cure what ails college education in America the most — excessively high tuition. No action has been taken on reforms such as debt-free college, the $1.5 trillion in outstanding student debt, the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, and the unaffordability of most colleges for the average American family. Further work needs to be done in these areas.

Things Can Go Very Wrong no Matter Where You Live!

There are students who, in normal times, see benefits to living on campus for all four undergraduate years. On campus, they feel like they’re at the center of all things important to them. On the other hand, there are many students, especially upperclassmen, who prefer the independence from administrative influence that comes with living off-campus.

This dichotomy has long existed on campuses across the country. At any college, the ratio of students in the two camps is determined by factors such as a college’s policies, the cost of room and board, the local cost of living, the availability of rentals, and the ease of finding part time jobs in the area.

We have seen recently that things can go very wrong no matter where you live at college. Consider the unpleasantness that both on-campus and off-campus residents experienced earlier this year due to the coronavirus — an unforeseen crisis. Colleges closed dormitories abruptly, with all residents, including international students unable to return home, ordered to leave ASAP. Many on-campus residents never received refunds for the fees they paid for the semester. Most off-campus students were locked into contracts for rentals even though their purpose for living in them ended when classes did.

Like so many other things, the pandemic has affected college housing choices. If you’re a high school senior planning to attend a residential college in the fall of 2021, you should keep apprised of what’s happening on campuses this fall.

To Open or Not To Open

There are two main factors working at cross-purposes in a college’s decision to open their residence and dining halls. The first is money. Both public and private institutions have invested heavily to upgrade on-campus residential life in order to remain competitive. To earn a return on these investments, colleges have increased their residential fees by 9% annually over the last ten years, which is much more than the rate of inflation and also exceeds the rate that tuition has risen.

In a recent year, colleges collectively realized $15.5 billion in revenue for room and board and spent $14.9 billion to provide it, generating a surplus of $600 million. But if they’re empty, residence facilities chew up overhead while generating no revenue, causing substantial losses. This scenario incentivizes college administrators to open dormitories and dining halls.

The second factor, health, pulls in the opposite direction. Colleges long ago shed the burden of acting in loco parentis for their students, but they’re still ethically obligated to protect their student’s health. This is their duty regardless of how severe the financial impact may be on the college.

The tension between these two forces is being played out in real time as administrators waffle between alternatives. The choices are clear. They may open their campuses to business as usual, keep their campuses closed and conduct virtual classes, or offer a hybrid approach.

Thus far, the plans of administrators have proven ephemeral and subject to sudden change. Examples include UNC – Chapel Hill and Notre Dame, where students returned in August for one week before the rate of infection caused the campuses to close again. Imagine how many lives were disrupted by just these two quick policy reversals.

Certain administrators feel compelled to fill their dormitories to capacity this fall. Some are under contract with private corporations that operate the college’s residential facilities. Any policy that limits revenue makes the college subject to a lawsuit. The University System of Georgia is one of the largest institutions in this predicament. Other colleges are opening but with long lists of safety precautions that they’re undertaking to curtail the spread of the virus. Unfortunately, the efficacy of these measures will only be knowable in retrospect. It’s a roll of the dice.

What’s shocking is that decisions of such major consequence are being left to you — the student. Administrators seem reluctant to make tough decisions and stick with them. That’s why the current operations of so many colleges are subject to the day-to-day vicissitudes of a viral disease. The quality of administrative leadership of America’s colleges has been spotty, to say the least. Perhaps we can take comfort that from this experience, improvements in preparedness for future crises are bound to evolve.

 

Every Year of H.S. Matters in College Admissions!

Most experts consider junior year to be the most consequential in college admissions, and this may well be true. But senior year is nearly as important since it’s the year that you finalize and submit your applications. In both years, you face many choices that have ramifications beyond college and into your career.

It’s not just your years as an upperclassman that count. All four years of high school contribute to your ultimate success. The more you accomplish in the first two years, the less your burden will be in the last two years. The stress can be intense coming down the stretch, so we advise that you plan for each year of your high school career so that, at its culmination, you’re confident and looking forward to what’s ahead.

1. Start Strong Your Freshman Year

 A study by the Brookings Institute found that 9th grade is the most critical year in the College just aheadformation of a student’s potential. Your academic performance as a freshman sets the tone for the rest of your education.

A. Start Out with a High GPA

 Freshman year counts toward your cumulative GPA and has an impact on your final class rank. It’s great for your GPA to be an rising trajectory in junior year, but it’s even better if your record has been so excellent since 9th grade that a rise isn’t even needed.. A high GPA  that doesn’t need to be raised in junior year avoids much of the stress that can burden you as a junior.

B.  Meet with Your Guidance Counselor

 Guidance counselors play an essential role in your college admissions campaign. They’re busy people, so the responsibility is on you to schedule meetings with them. As a freshman, you can start a discussion about your admissions plan.  At this point, getting to know the counselor and giving them the opportunity to know you is your main objective. You’ll be in contact with them often in the coming years.

C. Make the Honor Roll

Making the honor roll in 8th grade will give you the opportunity to take honors courses in 9th and 10th grades. Success in honors courses is likely to enable you to take AP courses as a sophomore and upperclassman. The more AP classes that you successfully complete with a grade of 4 or 5 on the exam, the more likely that you’ll be accepted by the colleges that you target. You may also earn college credits at a number of schools.

D.  Begin Study in a Foreign Language

 Most selective schools require applicants to have two to four years of a single foreign language. Freshman year is the time to commit to the language that you’ll study through high school.

E. Experiment with Extracurricular Activities

 Immerse yourself in several activities that appeal to your interests. Join clubs, organizations, and intramural teams as you see fit. You’ll need time to identify those activities that truly interest you and for which you may also have an aptitude.

F. Use Summer to Your Advantage

The summer after your freshman year is a great time to find a job. If you’re still too young, you can volunteer for a non-profit that appeals to you.  A productive activity is to prepare for the PSAT exam. You may wish to begin to research into which types of colleges represent “best-fit” schools for you.

2.  Take Tests Your Sophomore Year

In your sophomore year, we recommend that you select honors classes in your strongest subjects. You should also assess your extracurricular activities and drop those in which you’re not too interested. Try new ones if necessary. Refine your admissions plan to focus on real choices that you’ll need to make as an upperclassman.

A.  Take the PSAT

 Taking the PSAT prepares you for the SAT in junior year and helps you identify your weak areas so that you can work to improve in them. If you release your name, address, and email to colleges, you’ll receive marketing communications from them.

B.  Practice for the ACT

 Pursue the PLAN Assessment Program offered by American College Testing if you plan to take the ACT exam instead of the SAT. This program assesses the efficacy  your study habits, your academic progress to date, and the intensity of your interests. It also prepares you for the ACT exam itself.

C.  Learn About College Admissions

 Become familiar with college entrance requirements, especially at schools you may feel are potential best-fits. The sooner you know this the better prepared you’ll be. Your guidance counselor’s office will have information about admission requirements, as will libraries, college websites, magazine rankings, and articles in the mainstream media.

 D.  Proceed on Your Academic Path

 Work with your guidance counselor to make sure that you’re enrolled in the courses that best suit your educational goals. You’ll also want to be sure that you’ll have all of your graduation requirements, except senior English,  completed by the end of junior year.

E.  Use Summer to Add to Your Admissions Credentials

 The summer after sophomore year is a good time to find a job. Stead employment every summer appeals to colleges. Use your spare time to prepare for the SAT or ACT exam. You may want to take an elective summer course at your high school or at a local college in the field that you’re considering as a major. Admissions officials will look positively on this as an indication of your desire to learn and work hard.

3.  Steps to Take in Junior Year

Your junior year is the most important in your admissions campaign because it’s the last full year of high school that colleges will see complete data when you apply. It represents you as a more mature student. Colleges use it as source data in their predictive models to project how well you’ll perform as a college student.

A.  Start on Your College List

College Made SimpleEstablish a set of criteria to guide you in building the list of schools to which you’ll apply. Your criteria can include factors such as the size of the student body, faculty-to-student ratio, total annual expenses, core curriculum, majors, degrees granted, geographic location, the nature of the local community, campus setting, campus amenities, work-study programs, and any other factors that you may consider important. By the end of junior year, you’ll narrow the list down to a predetermined number of schools. You should  plan to visit as many of them as possible over the next year.

B.  Plan for Exams

 You’ll be taking the SAT or the ACT and you’ll probably be taking AP exams. Register and mark the dates. Juniors should take the SAT or ACT the in spring so you can take them again in the fall of their senior year if you need to improve your scores. Don’t take them too early to “get it over with.”

C. Hone Your Abilities in Extracurricular Activities

 By now, you should know which activities you’ll list on your applications. Colleges look for commitment and depth, so just one activity is all you need if it fits that description. If you can attain a leadership role or garner an award in your activity, so much the better. Your talent or skill can serve you well, especially if it’s in a niche that colleges seek to fill.

D.  Learn Your Options for Financial Aid

Review the financial resources that will be available to you with your family.  Learn about saving on college costsfinancial aid from public sources, individual colleges, and corporations. High-school sponsored financial aid nights, independent financial aid counselors, and the media will be helpful in your research.

E.  Register for the Optimal Curriculum for Senior Year

 Meet with your guidance counselor to select classes for your senior year. Make sure that you’ll graduate with all the courses that you’ll need for admission to specific schools on your list. Colleges consider the rigor of the curriculum of seniors as well as their grades when they’re available.

F.  Reach Out to Letter of Recommendation Writers

Most requests for letters of recommendation are directed to guidance counselors and a small subset of teachers. These individuals receive an enormous number of requests. If you wish to obtain a letter from one of them, ask them as a junior so that they’ll have notice before the fall semester crush. Be sure that they’ll have only positive comments and that you won’t be “Damned by faint praise.”  You can also elicit a letter from a coach, the leader of one of your organizations, or an employer, as long as they know you well.

G. Visit Colleges

Campus visits require planning, especially if you wish to arrange for an admissions interview. Contact the admissions office to set up an interview, a guided tour, and a meeting with a faculty college visitsmember and a student in the department of your planned major. There will be opportunities later to visit campuses, but it’s a good idea to start as a junior, especially with schools where you may want to apply through an Early Admissions program.

H. Make the Best of your Junior Summer

 Admissions officials are impressed by applicants who have worked within their planned field of study as interns or employees. If you have an opportunity to secure such a position, then by all means do so. It’s also time to start working on your essays and personal statements.

If possible, take a summer college course in your planned major to demonstrate your commitment to your planned field of study and to prove that you’re capable of college work.

4.  How to Master Your Senior Year!

Seniors who plan to attend college are very busy people! What has seemed far in the future is now upon you — crunch time to prepare applications that will secure your admission to your best-fit schools.

A.  Finalize Your College List

 For most students, the final list should be pared down to a predetermined number of schools. With too few schools on the list, you won’t be spreading your risk sufficiently. With too many schools, you’ll dissipate your focus and effort. A good number to reach for is 8 to 10 colleges that are a good Fit and Match for you.

B. Paying for It

 When finalizing your college list, ask a very important question — can you handle it Paying for collegefinancially? October 1 is the first day that a student applying for financial aid can access, complete, and submit the FAFSA and CSS/PROFILE forms. These forms require a great deal of effort by you and your parents. The deadlines vary by college, but a head start is helpful.

C. Write Your Essays

 Allow plenty of time to brainstorm topics, outline, draft, and polish your essays and personal statements. This is crucial, especially if you are applying to schools that require supplemental essays. Essay questions are broad, which can make it difficult to know how to relate the topic to your life. Obtain input from others on your topics and approach. Be wary of having too many adult editors.

 D. Complete and Submit your Application 

 Work hard on your applications. If you’re applying for Early Admission to any schools, the usual  deadline is November 1. For Regular Decision, the deadline is usually January 2.

You may be able to choose which application platform to use. If possible, use only one. The Common App is accepted by nearly 900 colleges and many schools that accept other apps also accept the Common App.

E. Submit Senior Fall Semester Grades

 As soon they’re available, send your fall semester grades to the schools to which you’ve applied. This will be after you’ve submitted the application, but admissions officers want to be able to incorporate the data into their decision.

F.  The Decisions of Your Colleges

 Acceptance, rejection and waitlist letters arrive between late February and  early April. You college decisionsusually have until April 30 to accept an offer of admission. Don’t put too much faith in waitlists. Among the colleges that use them, only a small percentage of waitlisted students ever receive an acceptance letter.

G.  Make Your Decision

 If you’re accepted to more than one school, weigh all options. Talk with parents, other family members, teachers, mentors, and friends. Examine available financial aid and the total expenses at each school. If possible, visit the campuses of your two finalists to compare them closely.

H.  Final Steps

Colleges have a deposit deadline of May 1st. Once senior year is over, send your final high school transcript to the college you’ll be attending. These grades may help you secure a scholarship or qualify for a competitive academic program. If you took AP classes during senior year and have passed the national exams with a score of 4 or 5, you may be able to earn college credits and skip a required course.

Conclusion

Seeing the number of steps above, you, as a student or parent, might think that this is more than enough to do to prepare for admission to college. In fact, this is a partial list consisting of major tasks. Lesser tasks requiring little time have been omitted. But, just because they’re minor doesn’t mean these small tasks can be omitted.

The best way to accomplish all tasks that will lead to acceptance at your best-fit colleges is to hire Klaar College Consulting. Dr. Charlotte Klaar takes a no-nonsense, no-excuses approach as she works with students to make the entire college admissions process, including college search, application completion, and essay-writing, a delightful adventure of self-discovery and personal growth. Along the way, she helps students learn to make more informed decisions and to own the results.

Benefits of Hiring an Independent Educational Consultant

Navigating the high seas of college admissions can be intimidating and stressful for busy families. Because it can overwhelm, many students don’t fully explore their options, an approach that often culminates in attending a college that isn’t right for them. Finding and College admissionsbeing  accepted by a college that is right can be the difference between success and failure in  achieving a student’s educational goals.

Without expert guidance, students tend not to plan and prepare adequately for college admissions, which increases the chances of a negative outcome. That’s why it’s beneficial to retain a private college admissions consultant such as Dr. Charlotte Klaar of Klaar College Consulting. In this post, we’ll examine the value an Independent Educational Consultant (IEC) brings to students and families.

High schools employ guidance counselors, but few of these professionals can provide significant time in one-on-one college counseling with each student. With an average ratio of 800 students to each counselor, public high schools simply can’t be expected to provide the level of service that a private IEC offers. Nor does the 40-1 ratio of private high schools allow for adequate individualized attention.

IEC’s provide one-on-one expertise

In contrast, your IEC is able to devote the time necessary for a one-on-one cooperative effort. This gives you greater insight into the variety and complexity of the available choices. Your IEC’s advice is based on he or she learning about your GPA, test scores, strengths, weaknesses, passions, interests, talents, skills, experiences, available finances, and educational goals.  The IEC then creates a profile of you for use going forward.  Among other things, this enables the IEC to offer valuable advice on your selection of a set of target schools that best fit your profile where you’ll focus your admissions campaign.

Any campaign needs a strategy, and your college admissions campaign is no exception. Colleges seek diversified student populations. To satisfy a college’s desired student profile, you should, with the assistance of your IEC, develop an effective way to position yourself for acceptance. Your unique character and overarching interests will be melded into a positive image that impresses admissions officers.

This image will be reflected in each of the components of your admissions package; essays, interviews, letters of recommendation, and the application itself, so that your core message is strong and consistent. If you have a viable “hook” that will increase your chances of acceptance at your targeted schools, your IEC will help you to develop and use it to your maximum advantage.

Many factors go into acceptance criteria

The acceptance criteria of colleges include much more than your academic record. Your essays, personal statements, interviews, extracurricular activities, volunteer efforts, personal interests, skills, talents, and legacy status are among the non-academic factors taken into account. Your IEC assists you in communicating the core message that drives your case for admission in each component. The message is succinct and thematically coherent.

Two crucial elements of your admissions package are interviews and essays. They’re your best opportunities to communicate your core message, and in so doing to reveal the unique individual you are. Your IEC will coach you on the right responses to the typical questions posed by college interviewers seeking to learn more about you. IEC’s also advise on how to conduct yourself. You’ll enter each interview with confidence, which will help your case immensely.

Since not all colleges weigh feedback from interviews, essays (and personal statements) are the most important part of your application after your academic record. Essays can truly be the difference between whether or not you’re admitted to a college. Your IEC is an expert at helping you select topics and craft excellent essays that will convey your core message and raise your profile above your peers.

Finances are another critical factor

Another critical factor considered by your IEC is the amount that your family can afford to spend on your education. The average cost of a college education is now $29,400 per year for a 4-year public institution and $48, 510 per year for a 4-year private institution. For those families saving on college coststhat don’t qualify for need-based financial assistance, there are three alternatives: win a merit-based scholarship; pay the ongoing costs annually: or go into debt with student loans. Whatever approach or combination of approaches that a family chooses, financing a college education is nearly always stressful.

IEC’s help families understand the financial aid process. Each scholarship, grant, or loan program has its own set of requirements and deadlines. Navigating financing programs and completing the forms required is, in itself, as complex as gaining admission. We’ll consider the contributions that your IEC can make regarding financial aid more closely in a future post.

There is a clear advantage to be gained by getting an early start on your admissions campaign. If your family has wisely retained an IEC for you when you’re still an underclassman, you’ll receive advice in selecting the courses that will best advance your plans. He or she will guide you on the appropriate AP courses to take in light of your educational goals, keeping in mind that you shouldn’t let AP courses result in a decline in your GPA.

As an underclassman, your IEC will advise you in selecting extracurricular activities and summer internships that will further your case for admission to your targeted schools. Your IEC’s recommendations will be designed to provide evidence of the value that you’ll bring to a college’s student body and community. You’ll also be guided on standardized test selection, preparation, and scheduling. Your IEC will advise you on the scores that you should strive to achieve.

Colleges aren’t commodities. Just as you’re unique, each college is unique. The extent of the differentiation between seemingly similar colleges can be subtle but substantial. IEC’s frequently visit college campuses and interact with admissions officials. A major advantage to retaining the services of an IEC is that they can apply their first-hand knowledge of the unique characteristics and priorities of most of the colleges that interest you.

IEC’s stay current on new admissions consulting techniques, methods, and case histories through participation in a variety of professional associations. These include the three largest: National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC),  Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), and Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA). In addition to events, publications, and member services, the associations provide training and certification in consulting specialties such as AICEP’s Certified Educational Planner and International Specialist Designation.  A number of top-tier universities offer online and classroom courses to IECs and award degrees and certificates in admissions-related fields.

Your admissions campaign requires developing several components that are presented through different media. Careful planning is a necessity. From your positioning strategy to the components of your application, an expert IEC will provide sound solutions tailored to your specific issues. Attaining admission to your chosen colleges is best assured through a committed, cooperative effort by you and your professional IEC.