Menu Sidebar

Ten books that can help you students get through the college admissions process

Amazon lists 6,533 results for “college admission books.” That includes test guides, college guides, “Teen & Young Adult SAT Study Aids,” how to write the college application essay, education workbooks, higher & continuing education and more. So there’s plenty to choose from when starting the college process.

Willard Dix, who covers the college admissions process for Forbes reviewed many of those books and came up with a list of ten top ones that are great and can really help your students navigate the admissions process. Here is his list and a summary of each book:

1. Are You Smart Enough? How Colleges’ Obsession With Smartness Shortchanges Studentsby Alexander W. Astin. Prof. Astin is founding director of UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, so he knows whereof he speaks. The real issue isn’t about being “smart,” as measured by GPAs and test scores, but about the very narrow definition of “smartness” that colleges and universities depend on in admission. He believes (as do I) that professors are often looking for graduate students who have already made their marks instead of curious students who arrive at college ready to learn.

2. Beyond College for All by James Rosenbaum. Rosenbaum looks at how high school and post-high school are and aren’t connected, relating that to the connections students need to make once they’re in the job market. A sociologist at Northwestern, he offers theories about how and why the connections work or don’t work. His perspective on the links from high school to college to work are eye opening.

3. Campus Life by Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz. If you think “kids today” have abandoned the sober and studious life of the mind that their predecessors took seriously, you’ll be surprised by Horowitz’s revelations. And you’ll be glad today’s students only complain about grades to their professors instead of beating them up. Entertaining and highly readable.

4. College Admissions Together: It Takes a Family by Steven Roy Goodman and Andrea Leiman. This one is about how to go through the college admission process, but it’s also a thoughtful and humane look at how to work together as a family. A lot of my own perspective on the dynamic there comes from this book.

5. Ebony & Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of American Universities by Craig Steven Wilder. We tend to idealize higher education institutions as beacons of enlightenment, but their histories are more complex than that. Prof. Wilder’s look at the intersection of higher education, race and slavery provides plenty of thought-provoking moments. It’s not an indictment, per se; it’s a sobering and balanced look at the realities that accompanied the founding of many of our most revered institutions.

6. The Thinking Student’s Guide to College: 75 Tips for Getting a Better Education by Andrew Roberts. There are plenty of silly books about “surviving” and “thriving” in college that attempt to reach students by adopting the hip language of the moment, but they usually come off as parents trying to look “cool” as they brutally embarrass their children in front of their friends. This book doesn’t insult anyone’s intelligence and spends plenty of time on the real reason students should be in college, not just about social and personal issues.

7. Standardized Minds: The High Price of America’s Testing Culture and What We Can Do to Change It by Peter SacksA good analysis of how testing has deformed education. Sacks is a good researcher and storyteller.

8. Taking Time Off  by Ron Lieber & Colin Hall. Ron writes a financial advice column for the New York Times and is a fellow Amherst alum. If going right from high school to college seems too overpowering for your student, this book might be the one to read.

9. The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy by Nicholas Lemann. A fascinating look at the origins and rise of the SAT. Intertwined with early 20th century ideas about IQ and racial differences, it also began its life in college admission as a way to discover and admit boys (always boys way back when) out of the usual orbits of Harvard and Yale. Now, of course, it’s become just the opposite: A way to weed out applicants.

10. The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager by Thomas Hine. It’s hard to believe, but at one time there was no such thing as a “teenager.” You were a kid, then you went to school for a while, then you were an adult. Hine illustrates the evolution of the term and the forces (particularly marketing) that shaped our understanding of it. More recently, we have “tweens,” another variant. Entertaining and well-observed.

Here is a link to his post:

You can check out his blog about the college admissions process here:

5 Ways to Make College More Affordable

As college costs continue to rise students and their parents should continue to search for ways to make it more affordable and cut their costs. USA Today put out a list of 5 things that your students can do to make it more affordable:

  1. Budget for the tuition over the next four years – How much is tuition expected to increase year over year? Did you know that the average college tuition increased 12 percent over the past four years? Will yours do the same? Investigate whether your college will “freeze” this rate for all four years.
  2. Read between the lines (and the numbers) – Don’t just look at the top line fees. There are a bevy of costs beyond tuition, room and board, and some colleges are finding new ways to reduce them. Take a look at costs of textbooks (does the school offer textbook-cost waivers or other assistance programs?), meal plans (do you need to pay for a dining-hall pass, or is there a kitchen in the dorm you can cook in?) and other day-to-day necessities.
  3. What happens to your tuition if you take four years or longer to finish? – National studies show fewer than 50 percent of students attending a four-year college or university actually graduate within four years. Does your school have a contingency plan if you are within that group?
  4. Don’t automatically rule out private institutions – Depending on the scholarships, work-study programs, guarantees, etc., for which a student qualifies, you might be surprised at how well private-school tuition compares to a state school. Your college, for instance, might offer full-time, in-state student rates that match the state university’s tuition.
  5. Is it too late to try elsewhere? – If you’ve just learned about a program that’s a perfect fit it may not be too late to apply. Many colleges offer rolling admissions, so rather than ”settling,” look for a school that meets all your goals — educational, career, and financial. Then, you’ll be on your way to the next important chapter of your life, knowing that you’ve done all you can to make your college investment as affordable as possible.

These are some great tips and your students and their parents shouldn’t relax just because they have been accepted to the college of their dreams. Here is a link to the original article –


Articles your fellow Counselors said they would like to see in LINK for Counselors

Would you like to share some of your knowledge with your fellow Counselors around the country? We recently had Paramount Research conduct a study on the Counselors throughout the country and more than 800 participated. One of the questions we asked is what topics/articles would you like to see in future issues of LINK for Counselors. Here were some of the topics:

  • Articles about how to stay on trend with admissions, how to get administration to approve college visits
  • Counselors role in Mental Health counseling
  • Grief counseling
  • Helping students choose a college major
  • Benefits of starting at a community college
  • Helping undocumented students navigate college admissions
  • How counselors prepare students for non-college destinations (apprenticeships, the military, tech schools, trade schools etc).
  • How to deal with the impact of sexting and social media on children
  • Personal stories on counselors and struggles they may face such as ethical issues, parental problems or student issues
  • Services for students with disabilities at colleges (accommodations, procedures, etc.)
  • Side-by-side comparison of software like Naviance, SCIOR, etc. to help counselors choose which is right for their school.
  • Tips for student interviews with Colleges
  • Crafting a solid college counseling program

If you are an expert on any of the above topics we would love to hear from you at


Transfer students start getting more of the credits they have already earned

The cost of a college education continues to rise so many of your students will consider attending a junior/community college for a year or two before transferring to a four-year school. One of the issues with this is that some of the credits invariably don’t transfer so the time and money spent taking those particular classes in wasted. In the past, it has been difficult to determine which credits will transfer.

According to a recent report from The Hechinger Report this may be changing due to lower enrollment and political pressure. After decades of demands that this be fixed, a new report from the Government Accountability Office finds that students who transfer among colleges and universities still lose more than 40 percent of the credits they’ve already earned and paid for. Even some of the credits that are accepted don’t apply toward students’ majors.

This increases the amount of time it takes to get degrees, compounding costs and debt. Many students simply drop out. And instead of narrowing, the scale of the problem has widened. Thirty-seven percent of students today transfer at least once in their college careers, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which tracks this; of those, nearly half change schools more than once.

Now there are signs that colleges and universities are slowly lowering the barriers for transfer students, as much from their own self interest as the students’.

An enrollment slump is forcing private institutions to reconsider transfer students as a way to fill seats. So is new competition from community colleges in some states and regions that have been made tuition-free; those schools are seen as sources of potential transfer candidates for bachelor’s degrees.

More than two-thirds of four-year university and college admissions officers said in a survey by the National Association for College Admission Counseling that transfer students had become “significantly important” in meeting enrollment goals.

Meanwhile, fed up with waiting, growing numbers of governors and legislators have ordered public colleges and universities to do a better job of helping transfer students, in some cases threatening their budgets if they don’t.

Connecticut lawmakers, for example, have imposed a requirement that public universities and colleges disclose in advance which transfer credits they will and won’t accept; this followed a finding that community college students who transferred to the University of Connecticut were losing a quarter of their credits.

The Texas legislature also has ordered improvements in the transfer process; two out of five students in Texas lose all their credits when they transfer, wasting $58 million a year on top of $57 million Texas taxpayers spend on excess credits, according to the Greater Texas Foundation.

And Minnesota’s legislature has ordered that the transfer process be made more efficient for the nearly 20,000 students who move among that state’s community colleges and public universities.

In all, about three-quarters of states have adopted some sort of policy to make transfer easier among community colleges and public universities, with varying success, the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University, found.

Still, those policies apply only within states or systems, while nearly one in five community-college and a quarter of public university students who transfer move across state lines, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

That complication has given rise to something called the Interstate Passport, which lets students who have mastered agreed-upon “learning outcomes” transfer among participating institutions in nine states — Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Idaho, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming — without having to re-take general-education courses.

Community college students are a huge potential market for bachelor’s degree-granting institutions struggling for applicants. Eighty-one percent of them say, when they begin school, that they hope to ultimately earn at least a bachelor’s degree, the U.S. Department of Education found. But only 13 percent do, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Among the reasons is what the Campaign for College Opportunity calls the “transfer maze” that forces community college students to waste time and money earning credits they can’t use. The advocacy group estimates that a California student starting at a community college who does manage to transfer to a four-year university and get a bachelor’s degree pays $38,000 more for it than a student who starts as a freshman at the four-year school, forced to take the same courses again and again.

Here is a link to the Hechinger Reports comprehensive story:


Resources for your students that are considering a business degree

Business is one of the most popular degrees for students to pursue. Between 2014 and 2015, nearly 358,000 jobs requiring a business management degree were posted in the United States. Of that number, 85 percent required at least a bachelor’s degree. The Community for Accredited Online Schools has published a guide that was created to help savvy business students, regardless of their educational level, access resources to help them excel in school and flourish in the business world. A special section catering to a wide range of student populations is also included, with individualized resources for varied demographics.

Sections include:

Resources for Special Interest Business Students:

  • International Students:

Aside from the typical pressures of academia, international business students also contend with new teaching and learning styles in an unfamiliar place. These resources are designed to alleviate some of that stress.

  • Communication WorkshopsOpen to both domestic and international students, resources like the one offered at Stanford help students build their confidence in communicating – be it oral, visual or written. Professionals leading these classes also help students polish their skills and avoid common misusages from using English as a second language.
  • iVoice Translator ProInternational business students have enough to worry about without language barriers. iVoice is a voice translation application that can listen to and identify 33 languages and produce a text version in the student’s native tongue. This app is perfect for students to use when following along with a professor’s lecture in class.
  • International Student OfficesWhile often providing general services, these offices often work with other departments on campus, including the business school and career services. International students may be able to work with their international student office to get business-specific assistance and career advice when needed.
  • International Student AmbassadorsPrograms such as NYU’s Stern School of Business offer profiles of their international student advisors. These pages offer insider information about what it’s like to be an international student with in the business department while also answering common questions about transition and different teaching styles.
  • Students with Disabilities:

Many students with disabilities elect to pursue business degrees, and there are many resources out there to help them succeed in whatever path they choose to pursue. The resources listed below represent a range of assistance available.

  • Business Plan ScholarshipFit Small Business created this $1,000 cash scholarship specifically for students with disabilities pursuing business. Those eligible must be enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program and have written a business plan. To apply, students should submit a 500 to 1,000 word essay about what they learned from completing the plan.
  • Internships for Students with DisabilitiesThe Viscardi Center created the Emerging Leaders Internship Program for students with disabilities looking to gain experience in a business environment. They must be currently enrolled in college and have some type of disability. The project is funded by UPS and overseen by the National Business & Disability Council.
  • Job ResourcesNortheastern University’s Career Development office provides a comprehensive listing of national websites that post jobs specifically for students with disabilities. Some of the websites posted are specific to a company or industry, while others aggregate listings from across the country.
  • People with disabilities starting a businessThe Small Business Association has compiled a list of helpful resources for students or graduates with disabilities who aspire to start and run their own business. Aside from questions to consider, the resource also offers online seminars specific to this population and links to other helpful services.
  • LGBTQ Students:

Resources and organizations aimed at LGBTQ college students can support those students during their undergraduate or graduate business educations. Some of the best organizations serving LGBTQ college students and their allies are listed below:

  • Reaching OutReaching Out MBA was created specifically to empower and support LGBTQ students pursuing Master’s in Business Administration. The organization educates students about the challenges and opportunities of being an LGBTQ MBA student, inspires them to be leaders, and builds connections among other LGBTQ MBA students.
  • LGBT Business School StatisticsProspective business students who want to know how many LGBTQ students are pursuing an MBA at one of the 38 schools of business listed can use this helpful research to ascertain if the school is a good fit for them. This research is updated often, and currently shows that approximately three percent of MBA students identify as LGBTQ.
  • Out for BusinessThis LGBTQ student club at the University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business serves as an excellent example of a LGBTQ resource. In addition to advocacy measures, the organization also hosts regular events, such as MBgAY, their annual charity drag show for LGBTQ business students.
  • Out for Undergrad This volunteer-based organization works to ensure all undergraduate LGBTQ students reach their full academic and professional potential by hosting conferences throughout the country. In addition to engineering, marketing and tech conferences, the group also hosts an annual business event.
  • Women In Business:

The National Women’s Business Council reports women currently own 36.3 percent of all American businesses, an increase of nearly eight percent since 2007. The resources listed below have been curated to help female business students succeed.

  • American Business Women’s AssociationThis professional body brings together businesswomen from across the country to network and empower each other in their career pursuits. Some of the benefits include access to an annual conference and a career connections portion of the website. Recent graduates are encouraged to join.
  • The National Association of Professional WomenAs the largest professional networking association for professional women, the NAPW offers myriad career services to their members. The group offers professional networking opportunities, networking events, career assistance resources, and educational tools to help women continue building their business knowledge and skills.
  • Women in Business ScholarshipZonta International provides 12 scholarships of up to $7,000 internationally and 32 district/region scholarships of up to $1,00 each year to women undertaking business degrees. The Jane M. Klausman scholarship is available to any woman, regardless of age who is undertaking a degree related to business.
  • Women’s Student AssociationLocated at the Harvard Business School, this type student-driven group exists at many different college campuses throughout the country. The version at Harvard includes weekly meetings, a conference drawing together dynamic women in business, and a series of talks throughout the academic year.
  • Homeless and Low-Income Students:

More than 58,000 students marked that they were homeless on the 2013 FAFSA form, and approximately 11,600 of those were students majoring in business or a related field. The resources below help students focus on their education rather than worrying about a bed.

  • CARE CentersKennesaw State University provides an exceptional example of institutions providing assistance to students who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. Some of their services include year-round dormitories, food assistance, scholarships, and access to basic personal care items and bed linens.
  • National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and YouthNAEHCY provides a comprehensive resource for students experiencing homelessness called the “College Access and Success Toolkit.” This handbook answers many of the common questions students may have about attending school while dealing with homelessness and highlights numerous helpful resources.
  • National Center for Homeless EducationThis nonprofit organization works with homeless youth and students to help them find housing and other necessities – including food and clothing – while in school. While this is a national group, students can research their area to see if a similar regional resource exists.
  • Scholarships for Homeless StudentsThe Chicago Coalition for the Homeless offers a variety of scholarships to homeless students who are able to excel academically against the odds. While the majority of these are based in Illinois, students seeking this type of funding can research their area to see if a similar program exists.
  • Veteran Students:

After returning from military service, veterans have been out of a classroom setting and may wish to find likeminded individuals who are experiencing the same transition. Or they may wonder about financial assistance available to them. These resources provide help for those topics and more.

  • Application Fee RefundDid you know that some schools offer an application fee refund for individuals applying who have previously served in the military? NYU’s Stern School of Business highlights this growing trend within college admissions. Be sure to check if your prospective school offers this discount.
  • Student Veterans of AmericaThis professional organization has chapters all over the country for students with prior military service seeking a governing body. The group also provides scholarships, a national conference, and helpful transition guides for students entering academia after active service.
  • Yellow Ribbon ProgramAlso known as the Post-9/11 GI Bill, this service provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs covers tuition and fees for a public school in which the veteran is a resident. If the student wants to go to a private institution, the bill can help lower those costs dramatically.
  • Veterans in Business AssociationGroups like the one at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business are designed provide support and guidance to veterans enrolled in a business program while also helping them to build knowledge and learn transferable skills that will serve them well in the business world after graduation.
  • General Business Student Resources:
Academic ResourcesAcademic institutions provide invaluable resources to help students succeed, both while in school and once they enter the workforce. These resources are important because they are included in the cost of tuition and are often difficult to access once outside academia. The following resources highlight offerings that all students should take advantage of while in school.

Communication CentersAs seen in the offerings of Western Michigan University, communication centers help business students of all academic levels strengthen and perfect their communication skills, be they spoken, visual or written. Professionals in these offices may help students improve their resumes or practice for an upcoming job interview.

Professional Development OpportunitiesBusiness students at Central Washington University are provided access to professional development services ranging from business case studies and guest speakers to the CWU business club and a campus-based Shark Tank initiative. Many schools offer similar opportunities, so students should do their research.

Academic and Career Planning OfficesOffices such as the one on Penn State’s campus assist business students in preparing for their future, helping them select classes suited to their aspirations and offering career advice. Some of the services available may include help setting up a LinkedIn profile or finding an academic advisor that is well-suited to the student’s area of interest within business.

Global InitiativesThe University of Colorado at Boulder offers business students of varying degree levels the opportunity to gain experience in the global market through a number of enriching experiences. Whether lasting a few weeks of an entire academic year, programs such as these encourage international networks and transferable skillsets while still in school.

Financial Aid ResourcesStudents already working at a business may be able to take advantage of a tuition reimbursement program to have some – or even all – of their academic costs covered. Deloitte is an excellent example of a graduate school assistance program. The Washington Post also highlighted the top companies for this form of financial assistance.

Programmatic ScholarshipsMany Schools, including the University of Colorado at Denver, offer scholarships exclusively for students enrolled in business degrees. These are often specific to both undergraduate and graduate students, and are typically based on merit. Because they are internal to the school, competition is less fierce than those offered nationally.

Veteran’s Educational Assistance ProgramThe U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers the VEAP program for military veterans. The VA matches contributions from the veteran on a two for one basis, and funding can be used for a variety of different educational offerings and degree levels.

External Business ScholarshipsThe scholarships offered by the Government Finance Officers Association are but a few examples of the myriad opportunities for outside funding available to business students. Whether available as a general scholarship or pertaining to specific topics within business – such as finance, marketing, human resources, or entrepreneurship – this type of funding is widely available.

Career/Professional ResourcesAlthough professional bodies and career services are valuable throughout the lifespan of a career, these resources can be especially beneficial for helping recent graduates build their network and launch their professional lives. As a bonus, many also offer discounted student memberships.

American Accounting AssociationIn operation for a century, AAA represents the largest number of accountants working in academic. For students looking to connect with bona fide leaders in the field, AAA offers an area where members can interact. They also provide helpful advice on students considering higher levels of business degrees, including accounting.

American Finance AssociationThe AFA was created in 1939 and serves as the authoritative academic organization for the study of financial economics. In addition to providing the Journal of Finance, the association also hosts an annual meeting and has a career board available. There are also a number of student initiatives available.

National Association of Business Management ProfessionalsNABMP works to bring together professionals in the business management industry to strengthen networking opportunities and ethics within the field. In addition to standard membership benefits, the association also offers a professional certification program and training modules. They also send a newsletter with updates about the business management field.

Business Professionals of AmericaWith a specific focus on students aspiring to careers in business management, office administration, and information technology, BPA offers a range of services to help current students and recent graduates reach their potential in the business world. Career services, competitions, job postings, and leadership training are just some of the resources available.

Business News ResourcessIt is important for business students to stay abreast of news and events that impact the economy, financial markets and daily business operations. These resources provide details about the latest headlines, conferences, and training programs relevant to business students and professionals.

The Wall Street JournalThe Wall Street Journal can help students maximize their education by providing stories about the events and people shaping the worlds of business, finance, politics and technology. The Journal offers up to a 75 percent discount off its print and online subscription plans for students. Find out more about student subscriptions at

The EconomistThis online and print publication provides authoritative commentary on business and financial topics, along with articles about other worldwide events in areas of news, politics, technology, and science. Students have access to a special discount and a starting price of $1 per week for a print and online subscription. More details can be found here.

CNN MoneyAn offshoot of CNN, this digital news resource covers a variety of business and financial topics, ranging from stock markets and personal finances to small businesses and general business topics. An added bonus to cash-strapped students, all content on CNN Money is accessible free of charge.

Entrepreneur MagazineOffered in both print and digital formats, Entrepreneur Magazine is a great resource for students considering starting their own business. The publication covers the latest trends in areas of online businesses, franchising, starting and growing a business, helpful technologies, and marketing strategies. Students can save 80 percent off the cover price here.

Undergraduate ResourcesThough it’s easy to immediately think of an MBA when someone mentions business school, students studying business accounted for more than 20 percent of the total undergraduate population as of the 2011-2012 academic year. Use the resources below to make the most of this beneficial academic path.

Business ClubsWhether a student is interested in marketing, financial literacy, accounting or operations, many institutions – such as UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School – have a variety of organizations and clubs to help students find their niche. Oftentimes, these will also include demographic-specific opportunities, such as women in business or aspiring minority business leaders.

Grant Writing Undergraduate Opportunities The American Grant Writers’ Association offers undergraduate student memberships for those who are looking to work as grant writers and/or administrators. This membership gives students entry to all of the same benefits as professional members – including access to professionals already working in the grant writing field.

Mentor ProgramsPrograms such as those offered at Portland State University connect undergraduates with professionals currently working in business. Students not only gain a professional connection; they also can pick their brains on what they’ve learned since being out of college. Whether discussing a recent item in business news or asking about different career paths, mentor programs are a great resource.

Undergraduate Business Council Providing the opportunity to develop professional skills while in school, Business Councils such as the one available at the University of Texas help students learn about business proceedings and responsibility. Those interested must complete an application process; once approved to join, they must attend weekly meetings, complete office hours, and attend events.

For your students considering going to Graduate School after getting their undergraduate degree those resources are covered in the full guide here:

  • Advice from the Expert: Taking Advantage of Resources
How can students go about finding resources tailored to business and business programs that will help them succeed in the real world?

Like making any informed decision, it is imperative that you get a variety of opinions about each and every business program. Do you read only one review before buying a car? Probably not. My recommendation is to start with a search engine and to get creative with what you’re looking for. Do you require information about a specific concept? If you have questions about it, you can be sure thousands of others have had questions before. Moreover, there are significant amounts of resources and publications that are specifically tailored for people in the business world – think about Bloomberg, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and so on. Business students will be in that world soon enough. Why not let it help you with your studies? Tapping into these established resources is a perfect way to start studying “reality” while still in a classroom setting.

What resources did you take advantage of while in school?

Schools offer these resources and nobody seems to use them. When I was in school, I took advantage of every single resource available. I regularly spoke with teachers. I exchanged class notes. I read significantly detailed books about a wide variety of topics, just to get a better understand of how the business world works. I tutored those younger than me to re-sharpen my skills. I socialized with my colleagues. Now, I do business with some of them. I went to see an academic advisor at least 15 times, to refine the career path I wanted to take. I asked for a coffee meeting with a ton of highly-respected people, just to get an opportunity to pick their brain.

With your knowledge of the business world, how would you suggest for students to combine resources and improve their overall business education?

Think of it as a three-dimensional spider net. One topic is interrelated to numerous other ones. There are both higher and underlying layers. You might learn a concept on one layer – but have no experience in another. You might be an expert with financial statements, but have never negotiated a contract. You might know how to find and hire a great employee, but you don’t know how to manage an ERP. The key is to combine both your theoretical and practical knowledge with a sense of curiosity. Ask as many questions as you can, and gain as much exposure and experience as you can. You can never stop learning.

4 Downsides of 529 College Savings Plans

As your students embark on their college paths after high school many of their parents will be stressing how to pay for that education. 529 College Savings plans are one savings option they should be considering for those students and any younger siblings they may have.

There are some downsides though that they should be made aware of. Bankrate has published 4 downsides of 529 College Savings Plans that they should be aware of:

  1. They may not like the choices in the 529 plan:

With a 529 plan, you put in after-tax dollars, your contributions are invested, and the money can be withdrawn tax-free when it’s used for tuition or other college-related expenses.

States generally sponsor their own plans, and more than 30 offer some kind of deduction on state taxes for 529 plan contributions.

But note that you are limited to the investment options that your plan makes available. So, you could be stuck with a poor selection of investments and high administrative fees and other costs.

2. The investing window might be tight:

Many plans offer an all-in-one fund that’s similar to a target-date fund. It’s designed to own more stocks when your child is young, and more bonds and cash equivalents, like money market mutual funds, when he or she nears college.

If you get a late start, you could find yourself stuck in a tight investing time frame. Since many of your students will be juniors or seniors any family that hasn’t started investing in the earlier years won’t have much time to watch those investment dollars grow. However, it is never too late to start saving.

3. You might too easily trigger a penalty:

Some would-be savers may be turned off by the requirement that 529 funds must be used for education. Take money out for any other purpose and you could incur a 10 percent penalty as well as an income tax bill.

That’s an unappealing risk for middle-class parents who are struggling to put enough emergency savings aside for an unexpected $500 expense and have woefully underfunded their own retirement.

Families who are somewhat more comfortable would do just as well saving in a normal, taxable investment account than in a 529 plan. That’s because households in the 15 percent income tax bracket don’t pay long-term capital gains taxes.

In other words, parents earning nearly $105,000 wouldn’t owe Uncle Sam a dime when selling part of their portfolio to pay for tuition for their children.

4. A Roth IRA might be a better option:

Another alternative to consider is a Roth IRA. You’d contribute money after-tax and invest it through mutual funds, as with a 529.

But you’d be able to choose a brokerage, rather than settle for a state plan administrator.

You could withdraw your contributions without penalty, and older parents wouldn’t pay taxes at all after turning age 59 1/2.

Another positive: You could start saving much earlier. You have to wait to open a 529 plan until your kid has a Social Security number. But you could open and start to fund a Roth IRA in the year or two before you and your spouse start to think about children.

Higher earners wouldn’t qualify for a Roth IRA and would get more benefit from 529 tax savings.

Publisher’s note: One other often overlooked problem with 529 plans is that if your kid decides to go to school out of state the 529 plan dollars might not be available. Usually the principal is returned without penalty but any interest earned is lost if not used for an education in that particular state. It is important to check the rules in your specific state before investing.

What should you do?

So which is it: 529? Roth IRA?

The answer might just be: Yes.

Just as you diversify your assets, you also should diversify how you save for college, to give yourself some cover.

Use a 529 plan to guarantee some tax-free withdrawals, just in case your earnings might increase and push you into a higher tax bracket. But also fund a Roth IRA to hedge against your kid needing less money for college, and to be able to take more risk with your portfolio.

By spreading your savings around, you’ll give yourself the most financial flexibility for that day when your kid becomes a university freshman.

Here is a link to the original article on

The Secret to Nailing the College Essay: Help Students Understand the Prompt

A few years ago, a father, Alan, saw the effect the college essay can have on a high school student during his daughter’s junior year. Katie came home from school one day, flustered over a seemingly simple English class assignment: Write a personal statement for college.

He had never seen this side of his daughter. She could always manage her schoolwork on her own. Not this time. The teacher sent students home to write the essay with no instructions. Katie, not knowing where to start or what to do, was fixated on a topic — ice-skating. And why not? She was a competitive skater. It was integral to her life. Would that topic help her stand out, she asked her father?

Alan knew about the essay. He had been doing some research on college admissions so he would be prepared to guide her. Alan had already participated in one of the free online chats Wow hosts monthly (one for parents and another for professionals) to answer questions and provide tips to help college applicants.

Katie was too far ahead of herself in the process, and Alan knew it. She was thinking about a topic before she understood the prompt. The topic, he told Katie, was not as significant as the subject. In other words, the essay needed to be about Katie (the subject of the essay), not ice-skating (the topic).

Katie was about to make one of the most common mistakes high school counselors and colleges see in application essays. She was prepared to write about an experience, rather than what she learned from it or what that experience demonstrated about her. Katie was so focused on finding a good topic that she paid little attention to the prompt, one her teacher selected from the Common Application: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

The key word here is “meaningful.” Katie needed to reflect on her experience.

Fortunately, Alan was able to guide her. Similarly, you can help your students reflect so they can respond effectively to any college essay prompt. Alan asked his daughter the one question we use repeatedly with all of our students to help them slow down before choosing an essay topic: What do you want colleges to know about you beyond your grades, test scores and extracurricular activities? This is the question you can ask every student who comes into your office to talk about college application essay topics. If they cannot answer it, they are not ready to write. The answer should be a characteristic or trait, not an accomplishment or experience.

The single question about what’s important to Katie worked for Alan. It will work you’re your students, too. After a 30-minute conversation with Katie, she said she wanted colleges to know she was compassionate. She felt confident she could demonstrate that trait in her personal statement.

Alan did an excellent job encouraging his daughter to reflect upon who she is. Ultimately, she did find a topic through her experience on the ice. And, in her essay, Katie showed colleges she was compassionate in a focused story about a time she taught a young child how to skate. That experience could have happened at a library, teaching a child to read, or on a nearby sidewalk, teaching a child how to ride a bike. The setting did not matter because it showed introspection into Katie’s character in a way that could help colleges get to know her better.

How do you approach the college essay? We’d love to hear how you talk to your students when they panic, and what your biggest college essay challenges are. Feel free to email me


Our Gift: A Free Book for You

To show you how much we appreciate the work you do, we’d like to give you a free electronic copy of our book: How to Write an Effective College Application Essay: The Inside Scoop for Parents. Find out how to get free books for every parent in your school, too.


Kim Lifton is President of Wow Writing Workshop, a strategic communication and writing services company that is a leading expert on the college application essay. Kim, a former journalist, speaks with senior admissions officers from the nation’s most selective colleges all

Tips for those students that want to start their own business after college

Do any of your students plan to start their own business after college? Do they dream of being their own boss? After college I worked for a company for 12 years and then decided to go out on my own. 17 years later and I wouldn’t change a thing. The Community for Accredited Online Schools has put together a guide that can answer some of your students questions about starting their own business after college (or even high school if they decide to go that route like Bill Gates and others). It is called From Student to Entrepreneur: A Guide to Starting Your Own Business Right after College.

To summarize what it is included:

  • It reviews the types of businesses available
  • It discusses choosing the right business structure (my first few years I was a sole proprietorship and then I converted to a C Corporation after several years.). There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of structure.
  • Then it discusses each step of launching a business right after college (creating a business plan, doing proper due diligence, understanding the target audience, securing financial backing and building out your team).
  • Starting a non-employer business right after college: Discusses steps that need to be taken, legal matters, financing, focusing on clients and setting realistic monthly income goals.
  • What do do while in school to be better prepared to launch the business after graduation.
  • A summary of the benefits and realities of starting a business right after college
  • Advice from a new grad turned Entrepreneuer
  • Resources available for new Entrepreneurs

This is some great info to share with those students that are considering being their own boss after college


How Having a Mentor Can Help Your Students

The concept of mentoring is nothing new. A one-on-one relationship with someone who is a teacher, tutor and coach is an idea that has been key to intellectual development for thousands of years.

Think of Socrates and Plato, or Plato and Aristotle. These one-on-one mentorships produced the most significant advancements in Ancient Greek philosophy.

Your students might be looking for something a little simpler. But if mentors have been an effective method for intellectual development since the time of the Ancient Greeks, and if they have proven to be effective for college students and working professionals, then shouldn’t high school students seek them out?

Why high school students should seek one-on-one mentors

Subject mastery, or mastery learning, is a distinct advantage of one-on-one engagement with qualified mentors. This kind of teaching allows a student to work on a concept (or type of problem, or chapter, or theory, for example) until it is understood completely or “mastered.” Mastery learning tends to be an unfamiliar notion for the majority of high school students because the traditional classroom model has catered to the average and has to maintain a pace while progressing through a curriculum.

On the other hand, a mentor can work at the student’s personal pace and employ certain teaching and learning tactics that appeal best to the student’s prevalent learning styles. Mastery learning is attainable through dedicated one-on-one mentoring.

We can think of mentoring in the context of sports. Imagine basketball is your education. Team practice is the traditional classroom and one-on-one time spent with a coach – a specialized shooting coach, for example – is time with a mentor. While team practice is a vital aspect of your success as a basketball player, it’s one-on-one time with a coach who understands you as a person and a player that will allow you to really sharpen – or master – a particular element of your game.

So, how much of a difference can mastery learning through mentorship make when it comes to academic achievement? According to educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom, students accessing one-on-one mentorship for mastery learning perform “an average of 98 percent better than their peers.” Yes, 98 percent.

How high school students can use technology to connect with mentors

At the time of Bloom’s research in the 1980s, the fact that some students were performing so much better than their peers was actually viewed as troublesome. This was because only students with the time, money and access to mentors or high school tutors could take advantage of one-on-one learning. Bloom theorized that this played a central role in creating the achievement gap between top-performing students and their peers.

But 30 years later, the education landscape looks significantly different. Contemporary education-technology innovations have streamlined the process for students – especially high school students – to connect with qualified mentors. And unlike before, there are no longer large time and financial commitments, and absolutely no geographic requirements.

Mentors and tutors are now available online. But it’s important to note that not all online tutors are meant to be mentors. While the majority are able to help students academically, only some are willing and able to go the extra mile to provide genuine one-on-one mentorship.

First and foremost, it’s crucial to remember that for the student to achieve mastery, the mentor must be available to spend however much time it takes. And to be a real mentor, the tutor must pave the way for the student’s success.

For example, Wyatt is a student who came to us at Skooli in search of a tutor and found a mentor as well. He was seeking one-on-one math homework help in our online classroom. He began his journey as an unconfident and reserved low-C math student. It took a couple of sessions for him to adjust to both the online learning environment and the one-on-one dynamic but the mentor-mentee relationship grew. And that’s where the barriers began to break down. Whereas he used to be a quiet student tip-toeing on the edges of class discussions, Wyatt is now an active participant in class. His math grades jumped from low-C to high-B average. He even mastered a particular chapter so completely that he scored 100 percent on a math test for his first time ever.

Of course, Wyatt’s experience with online tutoring is not easily duplicated. Finding an academic support professional who can also be a mentor is very hard to find, especially online. But, there are some things that, as a student, you can do to develop a mentoring relationship in an online classroom.

How to develop a mentorship with an online tutor

  • Share why you’re seeking tutoring. Almost always, students seeking tutoring and/or mentors are looking for higher grades. But very rarely do they expand on this. Why do you need or want these grades? Will an A in your math class help you with college admissions? Whatever the case, communicate it with your potential mentor.
  • Share your goals. What are your academic goals? How about your career goals? Short term? Long term? The answers to these questions will give your tutor a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish and what will help you, immediately and over time.
  • Ask questions that require information from beyond your current lesson. If you’re learning math with an online tutor, you might ask about how a concept would apply in the real world. In cases where you’re learning with a tutor who took a career or life path akin to what you have in mind for yourself, ask for advice.
  • Schedule regular tutoring. If you want to build a meaningful relationship with your potential mentor, you’ll need to be meeting online on a regular basis. Start with weekly tutoring sessions and increase to two or three sessions per week depending on the demand of your current course load. If you need to miss a regularly scheduled session, be sure to keep communication channels tight by letting your tutor know in advance and confirming your attendance at future sessions.
  • Be patient. Your tutor will not become your mentor after a single lesson.
  • Don’t be afraid to use the word “mentor” with your potential mentor. You may even want to ask your tutor to mentor you if you have a particular project, assignment, undertaking, goal, or idea you’d like continued expert help with.
  • Let your tutor know how you’re performing in school. Have discussions with your tutor about your academic performance. Remember grades are important, but so is your level of engagement, in-class participation, and confidence with the material. Don’t hesitate to talk about your experience with school as a whole, including in subjects that your tutor might not even be directly helping you with.
  • Enable your camera and mic. Take advantage of the technology you have at your disposal. Without enabling your camera and microphone, you won’t be able to have a genuine face-to-face conversation online, dramatically limiting the possibility for mentorship.

Brett Montrose is an ed-tech enthusiast and writer with Skooli. He’s passionate about startups, hockey, politics, and outer space. He published this piece for Teen Life’s blog.  Check them out as they have some other great content for Counselors and students.




Video: College Admissions Q&A with Admissions Officers

U.S. News & World Report put out a nice video where they interviewed Admissions Officers from several Universities including the University of Oregon, Xavier University of Louisiana, the University of Rochester and the University of Alabama at a recent college fair.

Many important subjects were covered including researching schools, writing application essays, and filling out financial aid forms.

It has some great information that could be of interest to students and their parents and is a quick watch. Here is the link to the video:


Older Posts

Link for Counselors