Menu Sidebar

Local Scholarship Committee Suggestions

Numerous organizations raise funds to provide high school seniors with scholarship money. A lot of hard work, dedication, and a sincere desire to support the students is involved. Students are encouraged to keep a list of potential scholarships, apply on time, follow all directions, and make sure all required documents are submitted. This is taking place at the same time as students are applying to college and completing senior year coursework.

As a financial aid administrator, I have thousands of pages of federal rules and regulations to rely upon to keep things moving along in a systematic manner. If a question or extenuating circumstance comes up as a student’s application is being evaluated, years of experience managing and overseeing million of dollars in federal and state government funds and best practices guidance are available as a reference point to make a decision. 

This eliminates starting a discussion from scratch about looking at the way to make a final decision related to awarding a student funding. Below are some suggestions related to how a local scholarship committee can design their application, and additional things to consider when making award decisions.

Role of the Grade Point Average (GPA) – Students with a percent 4.0 Grade Point Average (GPA) or higher depending upon how honors, dual enrollment, etc. classes are calculated, deserve recognition for all of their hard work. At the same time, if a scholarship award is going to come down to who has the highest GPA, this should be clear from the application materials. No need is in place to expand the GPA range from a minimum of 3.0 being required. Students with a 3.0 to 3.5 GPA can spend their time applying for awards they do not solely or mainly come down to the highest GPA among the applicant pool.

Group Participation Impact – Parents and their students have to decide which outside of school activities would mostly benefit them. If you have a college preparation or mentoring group, please be clear if being in the program is required to apply for scholarship funding or if the entire local community will also be eligible to apply for your funding. When this is not clear it can lead to false expectations and misunderstandings. For example, if an after-school college prep group meets with teachers once a month on the weekend, and scholarships with the group’s name are awarded to ten students who are not in the group it’s a potential public relations situation with students and their families.

Community Service versus Career Exploration – Community service is important and a long-standing scholarship application question. At the same time dual enrollment and career and technical education programs have been expanded. Two examples could involve a future nurse and auto mechanic who both want to earn a college degree. Numerous hours of free labor for the community can be involved in repairing cars for free, as part of the auto class at school, and training hours for students in health care high school classes. Since these hours are during the school day, they would not typically be seen as community service. Your scholarship committee might want to consider a way to give these students equal consideration as those also doing great and traditional volunteer work for local charities and faith organizations.

Financial Need Definition and Weight – Some organizations define financial need based upon if the student’s family qualifies for a Federal Pell Grant, the overall income for the family determined by their tax return, if the family will have more than one student in college at the same time and other criteria they have in mind. With the rising cost of college, even a student with a maximum Federal Pell Grant can be short of having all expenses covered. College costs also impact middle class families paying for all the costs of a public university, not just private college expenses. Applicants need to know if non-Federal Grant applicants will be given full consideration for funding or if they should spend time applying for other potential awards.

Unwritten Evaluation Criteria – What questions are you regularly having when trying to make final scholarship decisions? Talking to a financial aid administrator that works for a college or university might be helpful for some input. Three good questions to consider asking are:

  1. What are some best practices when making traditional need-based scholarship awards?
  2. What are some best practices when making non need based awards?
  3. If we are trying to make both need based and non-need-based awards, what suggestions would you recommend?

Your local scholarship committee is doing a great job serving the community and continuing the history of private citizens supporting others. The funding you provide goes along with government monies to help students. Please see the below statement, from the late President Johnson when signing the Higher Education Act of 1965, who agreed that this approach would help more students afford a college education.

Higher Education Act of 1965 – Some of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Comments

“This bill, which we will shortly make into law, will provide scholarships and loans and work opportunities to 1 million of that 1.3 million that did not get to go on to college. And when you, the first year, with the first bill, take care of 1 million of that 1.3 million through this legislation, we are hopeful that the State and the local governments, and the local employers and the local loan funds, can somehow take care of the other 300,000. It means that a high school senior anywhere in this great land of ours can apply to any college or any university in any of the 50 States and not be turned away because his family is poor.  And in my judgment, this Nation can never make a wiser or a more profitable investment anywhere.”

President Johnson made these comments at the signing ceremony on November 8, 1965, at Southwest Texas State College.

Kenneth McGhee is a financial aid and enrollment management consultant.


Stories abound of students and even teachers sharing inappropriate items on social media. You would think students who are about to apply to colleges and be evaluated by admissions officers would know better. The truth is that obviously, the vast majority of high school students are very responsible about their social media presence but we only hear about the foolish ones whose mistakes live on as lessons for others.

The big question most parents ask me is whether or not colleges are fishing in the social media waters. Are colleges and universities proactively seeking out information on prospective applicants or not? Do they research the social media accounts of their applicants? Are the results factored into the evaluation of applicants, i.e., how bad does it need to be before it negatively impacts a student’s chance of being accepted? What’s harmless and what’s harmful?

I worked with a family whose high school senior son was visiting a neighborhood friend who was a freshman at college. They went to a party and someone took several pictures of the student drinking and then posted them on FaceBook and Instagram. Someone at his private school tipped off the administration and many of the colleges to which he was applying. The student was expelled from his school and his college acceptances were severely impacted.

Recent research from Kaplan Test Prep, whose survey of nearly 400 admissions officers, demonstrates that “the percentage of admissions officers who visit applicants’ social media pages to learn more about them has hit a record high of 40% — quadruple the percentage who did so in 2008,” when Kaplan first explored this issue. Further research also identified that only 11 percent of admissions officers do it “often.” Googling an applicant to learn more about them has remained relatively stable over the past two years, at 29 percent.

Why are colleges looking?

It’s interesting to note that what triggers admissions officers to look beyond the traditional elements of the application (GPA, standardized test scores, extracurriculars) and turn to Google, Instagram and Facebook are both positive and negative factors.

  • Special talents -Students who are musicians, writers, models, or poets will often invite admissions officers to view their social media presence in their applications. According to Kaplan’s research, 42 percent of admissions officers reported an increase in such invitations compared to two years ago.
  • Award verification – There is no formal “fact-checking” process when students submit their applications. Colleges generally take at face value whatever honors students list and the time commitments and leadership roles students state in their extracurricular activities and work experiences. However, a mention of a particularly distinguished award will sometimes trigger a search.
  • Negative stuff – Some admissions officers say that if an applicant mentions they have a criminal background or a record of disciplinary action, they will do some online digging to get more details.
  • Scholarship applications – Students applying for special scholarships can come under greater scrutiny, as schools want to ensure those receiving the scholarships are fully deserving; extra due diligence can come in the form of online checking.

The worst reason a student’s social media presence may be viewed is referred to as “Admissions Sabotage.” The ugly truth is that college admissions officers are occasionally anonymously alerted to social media postings by students or parents who are trying to sabotage another student’s chance of being accepted; presumably with the hope that they will instead be accepted. Admissions officers will typically follow up to verify any accusations.

Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to:; 

10 Key Tips to Transfer Colleges

Transferring colleges can be an exciting yet challenging experience. Many of your students will begin their college careers at one school and then transfer to another school where they will ultimately graduate. Whether they are seeking better academic programs, a change of environment, or new opportunities, it’s important to navigate the transfer process strategically. To help them make a smooth transition, we’ve compiled ten key tips you can share with them that will empower them to transfer colleges successfully.

Research your options: Take the time to thoroughly research potential transfer institutions. Consider factors such as academic reputation, program offerings, location, campus culture, and financial aid opportunities. Make a list of your top choices and gather all the necessary information to compare and contrast them effectively.

Understand transfer requirements: Each college has its own transfer admission requirements, including minimum GPA, prerequisite courses, and specific application procedures. Review these requirements early on to ensure you meet all the criteria. If you have any doubts or questions, reach out to the admissions office for clarification.

Plan your coursework strategically: Before transferring, ensure that the courses you’re taking align with the curriculum requirements of your prospective colleges. Review the transfer credit policies to understand how your previous coursework will be evaluated and accepted. Seek guidance from academic advisors at both your current and prospective colleges to create a viable academic plan.

Maintain a competitive GPA: One of the most critical factors in transfer admissions is your academic performance. Aim to maintain a strong GPA throughout your college years, as it will greatly impact your chances of acceptance into your desired institution. Put in the necessary effort to excel academically, and seek additional resources if needed, such as tutoring or study groups.

Craft a compelling application: When preparing your transfer application, pay close attention to your personal statement or essay. Highlight your reasons for transferring, your academic and extracurricular achievements, and how the new college aligns with your future goals. Be authentic, concise, and showcase your passion for learning.

Request strong recommendation letters: Reach out to professors, advisors, or mentors who can provide you with strong recommendation letters. Choose individuals who can speak to your academic abilities, work ethic, and potential for success. Provide them with relevant information about your transfer goals and aspirations to help them write a personalized and compelling recommendation.

Attend transfer information sessions or events: Many colleges offer transfer-specific information sessions or events to help prospective transfer students. Attend these sessions to gather important insights, connect with admissions representatives, and learn more about the college’s transfer process. These events can provide valuable opportunities to ask questions and network with current students or other prospective transfers.

Visit campuses: Whenever possible, visit the campuses of your prospective colleges. Campus visits allow you to experience the college environment firsthand, get a sense of the culture, and envision yourself as a student there. Attend campus tours, sit in on classes if permitted, and engage with current students to gather valuable insights.

Stay organized and meet deadlines: Transferring colleges involves managing various deadlines and requirements. Create a timeline or checklist to stay organized throughout the process. Be mindful of application deadlines, transcript requests, and financial aid applications. Meeting deadlines demonstrates your commitment and professionalism.

Seek support and guidance: Transferring colleges can be a complex process, and it’s essential to seek support from your current college’s transfer advisors and resources. They can guide you through the transfer process, provide information about scholarships or grants, and help you navigate any challenges that may arise. Additionally, reach out to friends, family, and mentors for emotional support during this transition.

Transferring colleges opens doors to new academic opportunities and personal growth. By following these ten key tips, you’ll be well-prepared to navigate the transfer process successfully. Remember to conduct thorough research, maintain strong academics, carefully craft your application materials, and seek guidance from advisors.

These Colleges are Still Accepting Students for Fall 2023

Have any students that are having trouble finding a school to attend next Fall because they didn’t get accepted to their dream school? NACAC has just released its College Openings Update which is a list of Colleges & Universities who are still accepting students for the Fall 2023 semester.

Search criteria includes State, Country, Type of Students (Freshman or Transfer), Financial Aid and Housing. Here is a link you can share with your students and their parents:

Sample Essays – What to Consider

During a recent interview about college essays with College and Career Clarity podcast host Lisa Marker-Robbins, the topic of sample essays came up.

We don’t like sample essays, even though a lot of people use them when coaching students on the college essay.

To be clear, it’s not that the sample essays can’t be good examples. It’s that the samples are out of context, and students don’t know what to do with them.

Students, like all of us, are pattern-makers. And when we’re given a sample, our tendency is to try to imitate it, whether we want to or not. Imitating someone else’s topic or format won’t reliably help readers learn something meaningful about the applicant.

As pros, if we explain the essay-writing task, help students understand the prompt, and help them pick an effective topic that has a theme, they will write an essay that works. We can do all that without showing them sample essays they will want to imitate.

The way I see it, if you’re going to share samples with your students, then you should give them a sketch of the entire application. That way, they can understand how the essay they are reading supported the application.

Lisa and I talked about many other essay-related topics too. You can listen to the full interview here. And while you’re at it, consider subscribing to her podcast. Lisa has great guests and lots of terrific info for professionals and families. Share the link!

Kim Lifton, is the President of Wow Writing Workshop. Her articles on the college essay appear regularly in print and on the web, and her work has been featured in a variety of newspapers, magazines, and online publications. Kim is a former newspaper reporter and corporate communications manager with a BA in Journalism from Michigan State University. You can email Kim anytime about the college essay; she will always respond.

Selectivity: Acceptance Rates at 4-Year Colleges

NACAC recently published information for their State of College Admission Report. They found that in the Fall of 2021, four-year, not-for-profit colleges accepted 73 percent of applications from first-year students, on average. The average acceptance rate was higher for public colleges (78 percent) compared to private colleges (70 percent).

What is selectivity?

The term “selectivity” is another way to refer to a college or university’s acceptance rate—the percentage of applicants that are offered admission to the institution. A more selective institution is one with a lower acceptance rate. Acceptance rates vary from the single digits to near 100 percent, and institutions with very low acceptance rates represent only a small fraction of higher education institutions.

How does Fall 2021 compare to recent years?

Fall 2021 was the first full admission cycle that was disrupted by the COVID 19 pandemic. In Fall 2020, the average acceptance rate was 70 percent, and in Fall 2019, it was 68 percent. The national data suggest that colleges accepted more applicants, on average, to accommodate the increased uncertainty about how prospective students would respond. However, for the past 20 years, the average acceptance rate for four-year colleges has not dropped below 63 percent.

NACAC members have access to the complete report. You can visit to join if you aren’t currently a member and would like to.

All New Fundamentals of College Advising Textbook – Call for Proposal to Write Chapters

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) is excited to announce a comprehensive revision to the Fundamentals of College Admission Counseling: A Textbook for Graduate Students and Practicing Counselors, led by co-editors Christopher W. Tremblay, Ed.D. and Beth H. Gilfillan, Ph.D

After extensive outreach to faculty, students, and practitioners, NACAC has decided to streamline and refocus the book to improve value for graduate programs and practitioners alike. As a result, all of the existing content will be realigned into fewer, more focused, and shorter chapters. Each chapter will also be a mix of the empirical/theoretical foundations and real-world application. You can find the proposed list of chapters here.

Author Selection Process: Are you interested in participating as an author? For a list of proposed chapters, click here.  Here are a few additional details about the selection process. 

Timeline Highlights:

  • May 30: Call for proposals deadline – Click here to express interest
  • June 19: Selected authors are notified
  • July 21: Chapter outline and preliminary reference list due
  • September 30: Final chapter due

Chapter Requirements:

  • Total word count (excludes references)
    • Core Chapters (5,000 – 7,500)
    • Specific population mini-chapters (1,500 – 2,400)
  • Content must include both empirical/theoretical foundations and real-world application.
  • Course materials for instructors will accompany each chapter including a chapter summary, learning objectives, 250 word case study, discussion questions and knowledge check questions (excluded from word count).
  • Strict adherence to APA 7.0 style and copyright requirements.


  • A small honorarium will be offered to authors for on-time submissions.
    • Core Chapters – lead or single authors will receive $700. Co-authors will receive $300 per author with a maximum of three total authors per chapter.
    • Specific population mini-chapter authors will receive $400. Single authors preferred.

Other ways to support the project:.

  • Share this blog post with colleagues you think would be a good fit for this project.

Careers to Consider: Business

High school is a really important time of a young adult’s life, not because it is any more important than other years, but that the timing of the choice made then has massive impacts on the trajectory of a student’s life for decades to come. A helpful counselor will have the ability not just of how to listen and guide a young mind and heart toward the proper resources to develop as a student, but will also have the knowledge of how different majors in college point to different career paths.

While there are any number of factors to consider when assisting students in choosing a college, narrowing down what majors are most in line with their abilities and aspirations is key.

For as many majors are available to study in college, business, health, and social sciences are the most popular. Those four make up nearly 40% of all majors combined in 2019-2020. Each has topped the list of the most popular degrees since 2010. Of those three, however, business is the most common degree by quite a margin: Social science degrees came in around 7.9% of the student population, while health majors at 12.6%, but business degrees held a solid 19.0%.

There are multiple factors that contribute to the popularity of business degrees, but the vast range of specialization, adaptability to different industries, the number of colleges offering the programs, and the fact that business knowledge is applicable in nearly every life situation are some good reasons to start.

Another is the appeal and growing demographic diversity around the world. All genders, races, ethnicities, and people of different religious backgrounds can find a place and a job with business acumen. On top of all this are some of the benefits of becoming a business major.

Graduates from undergraduate business schools tend to have higher chances of employment after graduation. Business school graduates have a job placement rate of around 80% within the first year. Median wages are also very solid. While the national starting salary average is around $50,000 annually, the range of what some of those positions can make is very appealing, easily crossing into the six -figure range after years of experience.

It is not uncommon to see business majors making $115,000 after some time in the industry. With these things in mind, counselors are certainly going to have more than a few conversations with students about the specifics of a business major. Here is a list of different business degrees and their career outcomes.

Different Business Majors

Business Management

Managers are needed everywhere, in every industry, every day, therefore, the need will not only always be there, but the number of options in varying industries will be great. A business management degree will be a well-rounded perspective and training in the tools and knowledge which is generally transferable.

Topics like sales, accounting, marketing, economics, finance, business leadership, and real estate practices are just a few. The broader dive into the swath of information that is needed to understand business concepts will likely be a great place to start for a student that does not really know what industry they want to be in.

The ability to sample many different concepts and industry tactics, will not only be transferable, but it will also give the student space and time to consider next steps for specializations in the career field or graduate programs after finishing their bachelors.

International Business

The business world has been a global operation for some time now, so the need and desire for internationally astute business associates is growing. Whether a student has an interest in travel or is perhaps already a dual citizen and multilingual, an international business major opens up entirely different doors for someone of those inclinations.

These majors focus on things like global banking policies, international management techniques, import/export legalities, and international policy. Coursework for this program will differ significantly in the upper-level courses so a student who is a bit more curious and knowledgeable of what they want to pursue as a five year plan may be more suited to this type of program. An additional benefit? Internship opportunities are abundant.


Economics is a very broad term because it needs to encompass the mass of information that flows and determines the financial and social health of nations everywhere. The complexities of economics deal with far more than just financial figures however, because those statistics are influenced greatly by psychology, sociology, anthropology, and technology just to name a few things.

While the forces that push and pull-on economies are vast, the knowledge base needed to relate to this field tends to lean towards mathematical and data analysis. In that case a student with more comfortability with numbers may be a better fit.

Healthcare Management

As was previously mentioned in this article, healthcare is a very popular and consistently growing field. In that respect, a student with this kind of major will likely not have much problem finding a job.

Healthcare managers have general oversight of healthcare facilities both large and small, maintaining the structure and policies of different departments as they align with board member goals, state and federal legalities, and employee welfare. Obviously, any student with an interest in both business and healthcare will be well suited to this major.

Graduation: The Positive Changes I’ve seen over the past five years!

It’s a warm sunny Saturday in May. I’m at Landmark College in Putney Vermont for the Spring Commencement. As I listen to the graduates one after the other, I am struck by the change in outlook over these past few years. Landmark started as a college for dyslexic students and evolved into a more general special needs college. Over the past decade Landmark has made a paradigm shift to a neurodiversity school; the only one of its kind in the country.

Here’s how I mark that change:

Five years ago, students stood up and announced their pride in overcoming disability to get to this point. No more. Today, students are standing up and telling us they are proud to graduate as neurodivergent people. That is indeed a paradigm shift.

None of today’s graduates “overcame disability.”

What a huge step! They are not graduating despite an impediment. They are graduating as neurodivergent people. “As” something, not “despite” it. One after another, they are telling the audience they found their tribe, their community, at this school.

One student summed it up like this: “I’ve come to see my own disability awareness as knowledge of things I can’t to. Yet.” What an empowered and hopeful perspective!

It’s telling that the graduates don’t speak of the specific programs they studied. We’ve got students of English, Computer Science, and many other disciplines accepting diplomas. But that’s not the thing the students focus on – to them, it’s about community found here and mutual support.

That speaks to what’s really most important in life. Inner strength, community, and acceptance will take most of us farther than any specific academic program. Academics are important, to be sure, but community and acceptance are necessary foundational components, and these students found those things here. In the words of several of them – for the first time in their lives.

I am very proud to be a part of this time, and this transition.

John Elder Robison is a visiting lecturer and advisor to the Landmark College Center for Neurodiversity.

Older Posts

Link for Counselors

Current Publication

View Current Publication


LINK Newsletter for Counselors

Sign up to receive our bi-weekly e-newsletter.