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The Benefit of Earning College Credit Before Graduating High School

Not everyone has heard of CLEP, but the 50-year-old program is gaining traction with high school students.

The College Level Examination Program (CLEP), offered by The College Board, is a series of 30+ credit-bearing exams which test learners of all ages on college freshman-level subjects; passing scores on the exams are accepted for credit by more than 2,900 colleges and universities. High school administrators and teachers are advising their juniors and seniors to get a head start on college by earning credit via CLEP exams. Passing eight CLEP exams equals an entire freshman years’ worth of college credit – saving learners and their families thousands of dollars on tuition and an entire year of college.

There are various resources available to students interested in taking CLEP exams, including Modern States’ “Freshman Year for Free” program. Modern States, a nonprofit dedicated to making a college degree more affordable and accessible, offers a catalog of tuition-free, self-paced CLEP courses taught by college professors. Students can take one course or many, and the philanthropy pays the $89 test fee and reimburses proctoring fees – making any credit earned from passing a CLEP exam completely free.

Students across the country are looking for ways to save on college costs, especially since many high schools and colleges moved their classes online. “The more credits our students can earn now exponentially increases their chances of earning a degree,” said Eric T. Jones, superintendent of a West Tennessee school system. “We will do anything to help stack the odds in their favor and help minimize the amount of debt they take on.”

Despite challenges brought on by COVID-19, education remains a priority. By empowering high school juniors and seniors to prepare for and pass CLEP exams, schools are providing them a critical opportunity to get a head start on college.

David Vise, executive director of Modern States.

How can your students get feedback about potential Colleges they may want to attend?

How do they get to know a college from afar when most colleges have suspended all on-campus visits through the fall semester? How do students, families, and college counselors get a better feel, vibe or insight into campus life directly from the current student community? Typically, when you choose a book or movie to read or watch, respectively, who do you ask for a recommendation? YOUR peers! You ask your friends, family, neighbors and read articles from people you trust and follow. Currently, everyone is gathering information about colleges and their surrounding communities from Google, admissions representatives, college websites, and their individual networks. It takes a lot of time, energy and resources to collect the data. The end result, there is too much data and not enough information.

This is the busy season for educational consultants who are working with their students to fine tune their applications, essays, and their college lists. Finding a fit on paper is one thing, but finding a fit from all other aspects of college life is another. And now, it is even more difficult. The art of finding the right fit is pinpointing where the student will thrive socially, mentally, physically, and academically.  This is a place they will live, learn and grow for the next 4 years. This is a place they will call home. What do they want it to look like? What is the real vibe and feel of the college and community? Are these the students you want to be friends with, study with, live with and laugh with? How can you connect with the current community from afar?

What if the following questions could be answered for your students? What was the deciding factor in choosing your college? What do you wish you knew at freshman orientation? If you could give three tips to a high school junior or senior, what would they be? What is the social scene like? If students do not join greek life is there still an opportunity to go to parties and have a social life on campus? How easy is it to make friends? What would you recommend in terms of hitting the ground running? 

College Scoops has worked diligently and tirelessly to reach out to its student and parent ambassador community to ask for their help. They have created timely, informative and creative videos highlighting  students’ burning questions about campus life. They have developed  Student Q&A videos  to help your students get a more informed feel of the campus from afar. Their student ambassadors want to help as they were in the prospective students’ shoes not too long ago. They know it must be so hard to make decisions about a particular school without actually walking the grounds of the campus, participating in a tour or information session, engaging with students during a visit in the cafeteria or on the quad, auditing a class or staying overnight for a visit.

Have students that aren’t quite sure where they want to go to College yet? Check out College Scoops or e-mail Moira McCullough at for more information.

Nearly 40% of Parents Who Didn’t Plan to Apply for Federal Aid Now Say They Will as a Result of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The cost of College has continued to rise in recent years as many parents know. With the COVID-19 pandemic hitting, we may have hit a tipping point and many parents are realizing they don’t have the funds necessary to fully fund their children’s education. A recent study by Discover Student Loans bears this out as nearly 40% of parents that didn’t plan to apply for Federal Aid now say they plan to as a result of COVID-19.

Other notable findings include from the survey include:

  • More parents are planning to take advantage of federal aid given their shifting financial situations
    • 48% of parents lost income as a result of the pandemic, and 44% said they can’t afford to pay for as much of their child’s education as they had originally planned.
    • Of parents worried about paying for college, 53% are concerned their child is not receiving enough financial aid – up 9% from the pre-pandemic survey.
    • 26% of families said they would appeal their student’s financial aid package given COVID-19.
  • Despite a greater focus on financial aid, there’s confusion about when the FAFSA application becomes available
    • Discover Student Loans’ published an earlier survey in March that revealed (50%) believed the FAFSA was available year-round.
    • That survey also revealed just 25% of parents correctly identified the FAFSA application becomes available in October.

If any of your parents are having trouble filling out the FAFSA Discover has a nice primer – FAFSA 101: Your Financial Aid FAQ’s answered

Two-Thirds of all U.S. Colleges are now Test Optional

More than two-thirds of 4-year colleges and universities in the U.S. will not require applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores for fall 2021 admission. The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), which maintains a free, online master list, reports that more than 1,570 schools are now test-optional. The federal government counts 2,330 bachelor-degree granting institutions.

“An overwhelming majority of admissions offices will assess applications from high school seniors without requiring ACT or SAT scores,” explained FairTest interim Executive Director Bob Schaeffer. “It is important for students, their families, and counselors to understand that ‘test-optional means optional.’ In other words, students who do not submit results from standardized exams will neither be advantaged nor disadvantaged. Many of these schools will remain ACT/SAT optional for admissions cycles after fall 2021.”

The test-optional list now includes nearly all of the nation’s most selective universities and liberal arts colleges. More than 800 institutions ranked in the top tiers of their respective categories by U.S. News & World Report do not require ACT or SAT scores.

FairTest has led the test-optional movement since the late 1980s. At that time, all but a handful of schools required the ACT or SAT. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 1,070 colleges and universities did not require standardized scores. About 500 additional schools waived test scores in the last six months, many permanently or for multiple years.

FairTest’s frequently updated directory of test-optional, 4-year schools is available online at — sort geographically by clicking on “State”

Cabin Fever: Camp-In – Opportunity for your students to experience the joys of camping virtually and to learn about STEAM careers

Gateway to the Great Outdoors (GGO) is hosting a livestreamed real-time global camping event on October 24! “Cabin Fever: The Great GGO Camp-In” kicks off at 3:00pm. And continues through 9:30 with a live concert from the rock band The Disestablishment.

Registration is free, and all are welcome to participate! This virtual event will allow campers of all ages to join GGO for an evening filled with everything that makes camping great. “Cabin Fever: The Great GGO Camp-In” gives your students the opportunity to have an engaging camping experience in their own home, and to celebrate GGO’s mission of providing all children access to extensive environmental, outdoor, and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) education.

From Camp Manitowa Cedar Point, GGO staff will lead real-time, livestreamed and some pre-taped interactive camping activities, campfire sing-alongs, camping lessons, and much more. GGO’s unique brand of STEAM curriculum will be interwoven throughout the event making it a truly one of a kind experience. Participants are encouraged to create their own “campsites” in their living room or backyard, popping up a tent in the family room or a pillow fort on the balcony.

There is no charge for students to attend Cabin Fever, GGO will be accepting donations and is offering sponsorship opportunities from corporate and individual donors. All donations and sponsorship dollars will directly benefit programming for GGO’s new Go & Grow initiative, their flagship program for distance learning. Go & Grow kits include materials for STEAM learning activities and experiments that students can do in their own homes. Kits cost approximately $5 to assemble and are distributed directly to the students when lunches are picked up. GGO works to ensure equitable access to nature, STEAM learning, and mentorship to schools in St. Louis and Chicago that are 95% on the free and reduced lunch program. Lessons range from: The Green Belt Movement and Great Environmental Scientists, learning about the rock-cycle with chocolate, community mapping, and learning about water pollution by testing samples from local streams. GGO provides children a comprehensive understanding of the environment and communities they live in, while also providing nature-based adventures.

GGO is a non-profit organization, dedicated to providing at-risk youth access to environmental education and nature-based outdoor experiences. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic GGO continues to fulfill their mission by designating 100% of all proceeds raised from Cabin Fever to programming. By doing this GGO will be able to continue to provide STEAM education kits to the students. Please join us on October 24th to help support GGO’s commitment to the kids we serve.

For more information of this event, visit Gateway to the Great Outdoors on Facebook or contact Daryl Huitt at 314-313-8182 or

Best Time Management Strategies for Students

Helping students figure out how to manage their time can be tough, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem. What works for someone else may not work for them — and that’s one of the reasons finding a time management strategy that works for each student is so difficult.

Someone who is a rocket scientist likely has a different time management strategy than a college student trying to figure out their major, so it doesn’t make sense to expect the same time management technique would work for both of them. No matter where they are in your education process, understanding your time management style based on their personality type is key to succeed long-term. 

For example, more outgoing students might benefit from the Eat That Frog technique, in which you do the tasks you like the least first thing. That way, you can get the things you are dreading out of the way to focus on tasks you enjoy more. 

More introverted students could benefit from the Einsenhower principle, in which you divide your tasks for the day into 4 sections: urgent, not urgent, important, and not important. This helps students segment their days to learn how to prioritize better and feel prepared to tackle the tasks ahead of them. 

Another great technique is the time-blocking technique, which works well for observant and analytical types. With the time-blocking method, you create a list of higher and lower level priority items and set aside a certain amount of time for each. This can help your students learn to multitask without getting overwhelmed, and is a great way to split up their days into more manageable tasks. At first, your students should build buffer time into each of the sections and once they are more comfortable, they will then have a better idea of how long each task will take. 

For students filling out college applications, time management is more important than ever. Learning to juggle multiple applications (while keeping track of deadlines, stages of applications, and more) can be difficult for teenagers, but with your help, they can learn the skills they need to thrive in college. 

No matter if a student would consider themselves traditionally “good at time management” or not, it’s important to support them in their journey to find a time management tactic that works for them. Time management can be a trial and error process, but teaching students how to manage their time early on can lead to years of success down the line. As they say: give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, but teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime. 

The process of teaching time management to students can be exhausting — it’s no easy feat on either side of it. However, being patient and supporting your students is key to helping guide them to success. 

The Self-Defeating Metaphor that Corrupts the College Search

Google the phrase “assembly line education” and you’ll see that, for decades, folks have likened our education system to an assembly line in a factory. In some ways, this is a very useful metaphor. It highlights the regimented way that we expect students to develop, setting up a fair critique of our education system as overly industrial, automated, and lacking a human touch. This metaphor also highlights the way that our current system encourages students to disengage and treat their education as something that is stamped on then by the all-powerful factory machines.

The assembly line education metaphor might also help to explain why students and families are so obsessed with attending the “best” college, and why so much of the college search literature emphasizes the concept of “fit.” Ken Robinson’s famous TED talk uses the assembly line metaphor to explain the way that creativity and individuality are pounded out of students. An assembly line manufacturing process values conformity and is assessed by the degree to which it can most efficiently produce the same product over and over. Students in this metaphor are the raw materials and are expected to allow the machinery to cut, twist, attach, shape, and mold them at will. In fact, the best raw material doesn’t do anything except whatever the machinery wants it to do. Individual agency isn’t just irrelevant; it’s detrimental because students (the raw materials) with agency are likely to take things into their own hands. All this does is gum up the works.

So what happens if these students, conditioned to believe that the assembly line does all the work, are given the opportunity to choose the factory that will complete the final stage of their production? It seems reasonable to expect these students to want to get into the best possible factory, assuming that if the best factory completes their assembly, then they will be the best and most successful product. Widen the gap between “successful” and “not successful” and getting into the best factory will seem even more and more important.

Maybe this helps to explain why so many students and parents spend countless hours and millions of dollars on test prep, college applications, essay writing tutors, and all the other resources that might give them a leg up in getting into the most elite college or university. After all, if the educational assembly line makes the student, then getting into the best factory matters a lot. By perpetuating a system that is grounded in conformity, we aren’t just telling students that agency doesn’t matter. We are telling them that it actually could be a bad thing.

Yet, it turns out that agency is fundamentally important to success during and after college.  Four decades of research tells us that success after college and learning in college is a function of what you do in college, not the school you attend. In other words, there is no best college. At most, there might be a long list of colleges and universities that are an equally reasonable fit.

Don’t get me wrong – colleges and universities can vary substantially in the quality of their educational design. Some schools make it easy to make the most of your education. Others make it insanely difficult. Often, variation in design quality can even exist between departments within an institution. In other words, the life you encounter in college will be a lot like what you encounter in your professional life, your social life, and your personal life. There will be good and bad and a lot in the middle. You can certainly make choices that increase the likelihood of good and minimize the likelihood of bad, but there will still be a lot in the middle. And what you do with the circumstances you encounter will make the difference.

In other words, find a college that is good enough and won’t cost you too much, then learn everything you can about how to make the experience meaningful. We spend far too much energy in our culture framing the college search as a high stakes hunger game in which the best you can do is hope to avoid the bad and get lucky sneaking into the good. In end, all this approach gets you is a deep sense of helplessness and an utter lack of agency. But if you start the college search knowing that you can make almost any institution work for you . . . then you are in charge throughout.

Turns out, that is the way to succeed in life.  Might as well tackle college in the same way.  If nothing else, it will be good practice.

Mark Salisbury, Ph.D., spent 25 years in higher education as a coach, admissions counselor, instructor, and academic dean.  His research on college students and organizational design has been featured on NPR and WNYC and has been published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed.  Dr. Salisbury launched TuitionFit ( in 2018 to empower the public to create college price transparency through crowdsourcing and sharing information.

Steps Your Students Can Use to Pick a Major

Choosing a major is the complex process that involves considering not only personal preferences and already obtained skills but also financial and career expectations along with the major’s relevance in a long-term perspective. While it may appear to be a tough decision accompanied by the fear of making the wrong choice, every student must realize that while the possibility to change the major is always available, it is more beneficial to pay a lot of attention to the initial choice as it will save much time and effort in future.

Steps Your Students Should Follow While Planning for their Future

  1. Consider their personality. It is extremely important to choose the professional path that they might follow throughout their entire life based on their own interests and abilities. One could not achieve success in the chosen field while hating a job or lacking the necessary skills to cope with responsibilities. Choose the sphere of occupation where they can be the best.
  2. Think about perspectives. Will their chosen major be useful for humanity in the near future? What about a distant future? It is hard to predict all turns of events but if they dedicate some time and think about these things, they will make a more justified choice. The usefulness of a profession is an important factor as it predicts employability and, consequently, their safe and wealthy future.
  3. Choose educational institution wisely. If there is a possibility to apply to any of the Ivy League universities, go for it. Do not be afraid of difficulties or any other possible downsides since employers and other influential people do notice the issuer of their diploma. It is always a good decision to have some additional benefits. However, do not make elite schools their only focus as the other ones may be much more efficient in the specific field of study they choose. For example, the University of California, Berkeley, could be a much better choice for young people who want to earn a degree in General Architecture based on the recent data on quality of education.
  4. Ask for help. While the choice of their future is entirely their own responsibility, a fresh perspective and objective estimation of all present factors made by a school advisor or counselor, teachers, parents, or other important people might show new horizons for them. There is no need to accept everything these advisors say but it is good for them to hear different opinions and perspectives. They should listen to what other people want to say, synthesize all viewpoints, and come up with their own decision.
  5. Don’t be afraid to change their mind. Remember, they are not obliged to stick to the chosen career for their whole life. The modern world is changing so rapidly that the ability to change becomes vital. It is perfectly normal to change a major, even during the last year of study if they think that it will be the right decision for their long term future.

This post was from a blog that EduBirdie submitted which also includes information about some hot careers and a summary of some of them with expected salary information. Here is a link to their post:

What Do You Do if a Student Misses a College App Deadline?

Are your students forgetting things? Missing deadlines?
That’s not uncommon. We see this every year. On the college essay.
And we can’t blame COVID. Kids are kids. They need reminders during normal times, too.
To address this issue, we give our students a schedule before we start working together. It helps keep them on track, so they don’t lose momentum. It also helps us manage them – and our business – because we know what to expect when.
You’d better believe we stick to that schedule, especially at the start.
Here’s a story to illustrate what I mean.
Ari was enthusiastic about applying to college. He had a schedule, and so did his mom. Still, he missed his first real deadline: setting up a brainstorm appointment.

No big deal, right? The appointment wouldn’t take place till the next week.
In the larger scheme of things, it was a big deal, because I needed him to understand that the schedule mattered. We intentionally start with a low-stakes task, so if a student misses that deadline, we won’t be thrown completely off kilter.
Monday morning, I emailed Ari:
I was expecting you to set up your brainstorm appointment, but I don’t see one on my calendar. Please schedule it today. Just take a look at the email I sent earlier with the instructions to start writing your college essay, and you’ll see the dates that are available for brainstorm appointments. Thanks. I am looking forward to working together.
I copied his mom on the email too. And guess what? Ari set up that meeting. That day. Best of all, he never missed another deadline.
When a student misses a deadline, what do you do?
If you set everything up at the beginning of the process, create a schedule, and give it to your students before you start, you won’t have to chase them after the fact. 

Here’s a sample schedule from the Wow Method, so you can see how we do it.

Kim Lifton is President and Co-founder of Wow Writing Workshop a premier college application essay coaching and professional training company, offering private, virtual writing coaching services to professionals and students throughout the world.  Since 2009, Wow has been leading the college admissions industry with our unique approach to communicating messages effectively through application essays, including personal statements, activity and short answer essays and supplements.  Kim leads a team of writers and teachers who understand the writing process inside and out. Kim blogs regularly about the college essay’s role in the admission process for multiple industry publications and websites. In 2019, she was named a LinkedIn Top Voice in Education.

Questions? We’ve got answers.


Pro Chats: Every month we record a new College Essay Pro Chat. Check out the recording, or sign up for next month’s webinar. Wow CEO Susan Knoppow answers questions live for 30 minutes.

Free Student Classes: If you’re a school counselor who wants to help students with the basics, encourage them to sign up for my next free student class, or listen to the recording. You are welcome to sign up, too.

Jobs of the future – 10 fastest growing occupations your students should know about

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently updated its list of the 10 fastest growing careers. BLS’ top-10 list of fastest-growing American occupations between 2019 and 2029 is comprised of six health care-related jobs and three tech/green energy-related jobs, though projections do not include the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, BLS said.

The top 10 jobs are:

-Wind turbine technicians (median pay of $52,910 per year)

-Nurse practitioners ($109,820)

-Solar photovoltaic installers ($44,890)

-Occupational therapy assistants ($61,510)

-Statisticians ($91,160)

-Home health and personal care aides ($25,280)

-Physical therapist assistants ($58,790)

-Medical and health services managers ($100,980)

-Physician assistants ($112,260)

-Information security analysts ($99,730)

“Factors that are expected to contribute to the large increase [in the health care sector] include increased demand to care for the aging baby-boom population, longer life expectancies, and continued growth in the number of patients with chronic conditions,” a press release from the Bureau reads.

All baby boomers are expected to reach age 65 by 2029.

So if your students are looking to you to recommend possible in-demand career paths these are some of the careers you might want to discuss with them.

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