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Example of a Parent Welcome Letter

Do you have a letter template written to send to parents this Fall? The Counselors at Normal Community High School have created a template that they use that you may be able to craft for your needs. They shared their letter in the High School Counselors Group on FB. Here is the template:

Dear Parents,

Welcome to (School Name)! We are looking forward to working with you and your student during their high school career! As your school counselors, we have a lot of great things planned for families and students. We are here to help your student gain success in high school and beyond!

(School Name) has 6 professional school counselors and 1 College and Career Counselor.

Our Duties: School counselors take on many different roles within a school. Our duties include classroom guidance lessons (during homerooms), small group and individual counseling, as well as consultation with parents, teachers, and administrators. While counselors do not discipline students, we can assist with positive behavior strategies. Our goal is for each student to develop socially, emotionally, and academically, and we strive to create a safe and positive environment in which each child can accomplish this.

School counselors work with students for a variety of reasons, including: academic concerns, college/post-secondary planning, career preparation, personal struggles, mental health concerns, and peer issues. We can also assist our families in times of hardship, as we have access to many community resources. As counselors, we are dedicated to helping each child succeed in school and life.

Please contact us if we can ever be of assistance. Please visit our website to learn more and to connect with us on social media. (URL link here) We are active on Twitter, Facebook, and Remind text messaging.

We look forward to serving you and your student(s)!

(Counselor Names, Phone Numbers and E-mail addresses listed here)

Sincerely, NCHS Counselors

Here is a link to their actual letter if you want to see an example: file:///C:/Users/JASONB~1/AppData/Local/Temp/parent%20welcome%20letter%20on%20letterhead.pdf

Have you considered earning extra money with a side hustle?

Many people, Counselors included have started freelancing to earn a little extra money, enjoy their side passions and to even create a side business that can eventually turn into a full time gig. It is estimated that 36% of all American workers have some type of freelance gig.

Thimble published a list of 19 sites that you can use to promote your freelance skills. Here are the sites and quick summary of each:

1. Freelancer

Freelancer is an online network where anyone can post a project of any duration. Freelancers have a chance to bid proposals which will include a brief description of themselves, their profile and skill set, previous ratings, a project rate quote and timeline. A rating system keeps freelancers and clients accountable and increases the potential for future work.

Who it’s for: Freelancers in technical, professional and creative fields. 

2. Upwork

As an Upwork freelancer you’ll create a profile with your relevant skills and experience. Its algorithm will suggest jobs based on your profile to connect you with relevant opportunities, which are regularly updated. 

Upwork works best for freelancers who use the platform often — the more successful jobs you complete, the more visible you’ll be to those hiring (and the lower your service fees will be). 

Who it’s for: Any freelancer with talent for tasks that can be done on the computer.

3. Fiverr

Fiverr get’s its name by offering services that start as low as $5. As a freelancer, you’ll create a profile with the custom services you offer. Similar to Upwork, the more jobs you complete, the higher your rating potential and ability to charge more and land more gigs. 

Who it’s for: Freelancers who sell digital services.

4. Toptal

Toptal has made a name for itself in the freelance job site market by rigorously screening its candidates through an application process. It boasts the top 3% of all freelance talent by evaluating thousands of applicants every month and selecting the best candidates. Those selected have the opportunity to work with huge brand names like Airbnb, HP and Gucci. 

Who it’s for: Front and back-end developers, quality assurance, designers, finance experts, project managers and product managers.

5. SimplyHired

This job search engine functions by allowing job seekers to search by keyword, category, title or company. For example, use the search bar and type “freelance + [insert your skillset]” to find the best results on both contract and freelance gigs for your specific industry. What makes SimplyHired different from other freelance job sites is that it provides a salary calculator, in addition to local job opportunities. Freelancers can use this tool to see how their rates stack up to other freelancers in the area/industry. 

Who it’s for: Jobs vary by availability and location, anyone can apply.

6. 99Designs

There are two ways to win business as a freelancer on 99Designs: through contests or per project work. Freelancers can browse existing contests and create a mockup to submit to the client. The client then chooses their favorites. The finalists will get feedback and have the opportunity to submit a final design. If your design is selected, you’ll receive a percentage of the contest fee. 

Alternatively, you can work more traditionally with a client in a one-on-one capacity. Once you’ve negotiated a price, you’ll be paid per project. 

Who it’s for: Graphic designers.

7. Skyword

Skyword is a platform for individual content creators and full-service production teams. As a freelancer, you create a profile and an editor will select you from a database based on keywords and skills listed. If the database doesn’t have a contributor with the skills needed for the project, Skyword editors will custom-recruit. 

Each writer is vetted individually through the platform and the client has the final say on hiring. Payments are processed via PayPal instead of an invoice system.

Who it’s for: Freelancing needs are primarily for writers but the platform also hires graphic designers, videographers, photographers and other creatives.

8. DesignHill

This freelance job site gives design professionals the opportunity to score work in six different ways. Freelancers can enter design contests, take on one-to-one projects, sell designs in the ready-made logo store or print shop, be hired to create custom logos, or other graphic design services. 

For contests, Designhill offers an onboarding process that clients can submit a brief to. From there, designers submit their work and the client assesses it using star ratings. Once a winner is selected, the designer has two weeks to submit all of the required file formats to receive the prize money.

Who it’s for: Graphic, web, and other types of design professionals.

9. SolidGigs

SolidGigs is a freelance job site that requires a monthly membership fee to outsource the task of getting clients. This platform includes different courses and tools members can access. The differentiator SolidGigs claims is the ability to handpick the top 1% of leads and send them to you in a neat little package a few times a week. It boasts that it saves you time searching for clients so you have more time for billable gigs.

Who it’s for: Any type of freelancer.

10. PeoplePerHour

The PeoplePerHour online platform consists of freelancer profiles and client projects. Once a project is created, the platform uses an AI program to analyze the details and match the client with relevant freelancers. As a freelancer, you can submit proposals to projects that fit your skillset. When a client accepts, the money is transferred to escrow until the project is complete. 

Who it’s for: Experts in anything.

11. Aquent

Instead of creating proposals and finding clients yourself, Aquent recruits temporary creative talent for legitimate employers. This freelance recruitment service appeals to clients for its previously vetted candidates. As a freelancer, you’ll take proprietary tests and other assessments to connect you with relevant jobs. 

Who it’s for: Freelancers and gig workers of all types.

12. Nexxt

Nexxt is a career network that connects freelancers and contingent workers to companies and recruitment agencies. Freelancing is free through the platform, while corporations pay a fee to list their positions. Submit your resume and apply to the available jobs directly on the site. The platform is not involved after you submit your resume, and the contract is the responsibility of the freelancer and employer beyond the application. 

Who it’s for: All job seekers.

13. FreeUp

FreeUp is a mobile app and online platform that allows freelancers to offer their services at an hourly or fixed rate. The service costs a monthly fee to participate and freelancers must be approved through an application process that includes an interview to talk about past experiences and skills. Once a contract has been accepted, it’s up to the company and freelancer to decide the work specs. After the project is completed, payment is released by the platform which acts as an escrow account.

Who it’s for: Freelancers can offer any number of 85 skills listed on the platform.

14. The Creative Group

The Creative Group is part of the larger full-service recruiting agency, Robert Half. TCG recruiters offer guidance on resumes, cover letters and portfolios, along with training for interviews. Additionally, freelancers have access to online training and on-the-job support. Oftentimes, the short-term opportunities lead to longer-term opportunities. 

Who it’s for: Creative pros seeking a job.

15. WriterAccess

There are no fees to apply to jobs on WriterAccess. Initially, you’ll create a profile with your experience, writing samples and a test score. Writers are assigned a star rating between three and six, determined by their qualifications. Opportunities are either pay-per-word or pay-per-order. Freelancers are typically urged to complete at least one client revision and once accepted, payment is released.

Who it’s for: Freelance writers.

16. FlexJobs

FlexJobs is advertised as a job search service for freelancers and flexible job seekers via a subscription. All openings are screened and verified for quality prior to posting. Similar to a recruiting service, the platform offers career advice, resume reviews and skill tests. Unlike a recruiting service, the platform does not place job seekers into their positions. 

Who it’s for: Freelancers, telecommuters, part-timers and remoters of any skill set. 

17. TaskRabbit

The TaskRabbit platform is a task-based platform that pays “taskers” an hourly rate. Taskers set up a profile with skills, pay rates and level of experience. The application then connects local freelancers to everyday people who need help with odd jobs. When a hirer posts a gig, taskers can respond with a quick pitch prior to selection. 

Who it’s for: Freelancers who prefer odd jobs like moving, cleaning and handiwork.

18. Guru

Guru is a free, membership-based freelancing site that pays workers hourly rates. The more jobs you successfully complete on the platform, the higher your chance to charge a higher rate. The platform charges a service fee on the lower end of its competitors, at 8.95%. Similar to other freelance job sites, Guru has an escrow model called SafePay where clients submit payment prior to the project start date that is not released to the freelancer until project completion. 

Who it’s for: Freelancers with web-based talents like programming and development, writing, design, administration, marketing and finance.

19. Hireable

Hireable is an online job posting site that’s free for job seekers to use. Its platform functions with a keyword-driven search bar that freelancers can search for jobs with. The main differentiator is the ability for job seekers to set alerts for specific companies and positions they are interested in and get alerts when availability arises.

Who it’s for: Freelancers and full-time job seekers.


Scholarships Available to Your Students is offering a series of scholarships for your students. The deadline for each scholarship is April 1st. Here are the details on each with links:

Scholarship for African Americans – $500

Scholarship for Hispanics – $500

CLEP Scholarship for Military Members – $500

Scholarship for Military Spouses – $500

Women in Engineering Scholarship – $500

Women in Science Scholarship – $500

Women in STEM Study – $500

Have your students apply for any that might be a good fit for them.

Using Zoom? These are the 3 biggest mistakes people are still making

The pandemic is hopefully in our rear view mirror some time in the near future, but zoom meetings are here to stay. So it is important that you are reasonably good at it and understand what you should and shouldn’t do.

Recently, Briar Goldberg, TED’s Director of Speaker Coaching outlined the 3 most common mistakes people are making when speaking over video.

  1. Looking at the audience, not the camera:

This is pretty easy to fix. Your eyes tend to look at the other people on the call but should be focused directly on the video monitor camera as you are speaking.

2. You either read it or wing it:

Honor your audiences time by practicing in advance. Reading from a paper or your phone as you speak can easily become monitone and trying to wing it while stumbling with, “um” and “ah” doesn’t cut it either.

3. You let everyone turn their video off:

Can looking at everyone staring at your be distracting and stress inducing? Of course, it can. However, if you let everyone turn off their video monitor you will have no idea how your presentation is being received. It is perfectly fine to ask everyone in attendance to turn on their monitors.

Here is a link to her complete post with 4 other tips as well:

Where do you get advice on the college essay?

There’s a lot of advice out there when it comes to the college essay.

We know all about it. We read it. We hear it.

  • Some share templates for writing stand-out college essays. (Email templates are useful; essay templates don’t work!)
  • Others promise that if your students answer a bunch of specific questions, they’ll be guaranteed great essays. (Nope!)
  • AND there are countless books on the market filled with sample college essays that apparently got students admitted into the nation’s most selective schools. (This type of claim is out of context. Even the most amazing essay never got a student into college on its own!)
  • There’s more…. some people might even tell you that there are only a few types of college admission essays; if your students master those, they’ll be golden. (C’mon…. really?)

Trust me, there’s only one type of college essay admissions officers want to read. And that’s your student’s story written in their own words and in their own voice.

Many of you have watched our student webinars, read our book, joined us at a conference session or attended our free monthly Pro Chats.  If so, you know we understand a lot about the college essay and like to share our knowledge with friends and colleagues (like you!)

At Wow, we operate on three principles: process, plan and schedule – follow a process; plan ahead; and keep to a schedule. Is that sexy? Not really. But it works. Every time.

So, as you plan for the class of 2022, beware of the gimmicks and promises surrounding the college essay. We hope you’ll ignore them.

Because there really are no college essay shortcuts.

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.  

We’ll be talking about gimmicks, willingness and ability and ways to streamline college essay coaching a lot this year. If you’re curious, join us for our next free webinar!   MONTHLY FREE WEBINARS FOR STUDENTS AND PROS

Pro Chats: Every month we record a new College Essay Pro Chat. Check out the last recording, or sign up for next month’s webinar. Wow CEO Susan Knoppow will answer your 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.

Athletic Recruitment 101

Hey Hollywood, how about a new television show called “So You Think You Can Be A Professional Athlete?”  The stats aren’t encouraging.

According to  there are a few million high school athletes, more than 460,000 NCAA student-athletes, and fewer than two percent of them will go pro in their sports. The probability of competing beyond high school is daunting. A chart on the site demonstrates just how challenging it is for high school athletes to become members of the NCAA and the percentage who then move onto professional sports.

In the example below the first number represents the number of high school athletes by sport, followed by the percentage who are able to play at the college level, then the percentage that move to professional sports teams and finally a summary of the percentage who move from high school to professional sports:

Football: 1,086,627; 6.5 percent; 1.6 percent; .08 percent

Men’s basketball: 538,676; 3.3 percent, 1.2 percent; .03 percent

Women’s basketball: 433,120; 3.7 percent; .9 percent; .03 percent

Men’s soccer: 410,982; 5.7 percent,  1.9 percent; .09 percent

I’m not trying to burst everyone’s bubbles, but, if you’re still interested in pursuing playing a sport in college here’s what you need to know. Your first order of business is to spend some time doing your homework on the following websites: – The official web site of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Read the NCAA guide for prospective collegiate athletes. – The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, another governing body of college sports. – the place where student athletes need to go to register and begin the recruitment process.  The site helps students and families determine academic eligibility and amateur athlete eligibility status. Prospective student-athletes must register with the “Eligibility Center” to be considered for scholarships and financial aid.

Here are some things you’ll need to think about as you consider entering the athletic recruitment process:

  • Think about the concept of “fit” – make sure the school is solid academic fit for you as well as sports/social fit. You want to make sure you will be able to graduate in four years with a solid major and a strong transcript.
  • Talk with your coach to help determine at what level you are able to play (DI,DII,DIII).
  • Be responsible in the process and don’t forget to return questionnaires, send film if requested, take standardized test, send transcripts etc.
  • Visit as many schools as possible (unofficial). Spend some serious quality time with the coach(es) and other players and ask how they are treated, how well they’re doing in their classes and what their life is like.
  • Be honest throughout the process and follow the rules diligently. Be straight with the coaches recruiting you and look for those being honest with you.

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

Webinar: Student Debt Impact

A webinar on Financing Education & Economic Opportunity will take place virtually on February 25th on 12:30 PM EST. Student Debt Impact explores how unprecedented borrowing disproportionately burdens BIPOC students and their families, how it exacerbates the racial wealth gap, and how to create models of higher education financing that provide pathways to economic opportunity.

The webinar will be hosted by Helaine Owen, Opinion Writer for the Washington Post and the panelists will include Naomi Zewde, Associate Professor of Public Policy, CUNY & Ashwini (Asha) Srikantiah, VP of Product, Head of Student Debt Program, Fidelity Investments.

Here is a link to register for the free webinar:

The Monday Blues

It is estimated that more than 17 million people will call in sick today after watching the Super Bowl yesterday. So there is no better time than today to discuss the Monday Blues. If you feel depressed, annoyed, overwhelmed, sluggish, and tense at the beginning of a working week, you are probably dealing with a case of the Monday blues.

Here are 5 Ways You can Overcome Your Monday Blues

Although it may require some time, effort, or changes to your habitual lifestyle, these problems can be resolved. The next five points provide a comprehensive solution to the Monday blues to ensure enjoyable mornings throughout the working week.

All in all, Monday is just another day. You are the one who makes it enjoyable or daunting. Spend 15 minutes every Monday morning thinking about your overarching goals and writing down where you are at accomplishing them. You will get a bird’ s-eye view of your life. It is a highly motivating practice, especially at the beginning of the week, when we feel that we have six more days in reserve.

6 Tips to Help Your Students Make a Better College List

If you want to make a better college list, don’t limit your potential list of colleges to just schools you have heard of. There are over 1,600 four-year US colleges-there is no reason to start off with a short list of five institutions. Having a larger list of colleges opens up opportunities you haven’t even considered at prices you didn’t think possible.

You need to think about having two college lists. The first is the list you start with. The second is the list of colleges you end up with and actually apply to. Your start list should contain at least 20 schools, more if you have the time to research them. When you’re just starting, your college list should include colleges that you haven’t considered or heard of before you started creating the list.

So how do you find colleges you have never heard of?

Start with your “dream school”. What characteristics are you looking for? Big/small school, public/private, based in a city or rural location, specific programs to study, etc. Once you come up with that list look at these 6 things:

  1. Ignore Geography: By this I mean both location, such as state, and place, such as rural. There are a lot of preconceived notions about colleges based on geography alone. Ultimately, geography may be an important consideration for narrowing your list of colleges. But by keeping geography out of the equation to begin with, you may discover other factors that more than make up for being in a place you had thought was less than desirable.
  2. Don’t use rankings to keep colleges off your list: Rankings are arbitrary, one person’s top ten may not make it to another person’s top 50. If and when you do use rankings to narrow your college list, be sure to understand the basis for the rankings. Most rankings are based on inputs, including what the students bring to the college. Ideally, families should be evaluating colleges based on what they will do for students.
  3. Look up similar Colleges: Use sites such as If you know of a school that you really like, look it up to see 25 other schools that considers similar. As when using the rankings, it is a good idea to see how they determine similar colleges. However, it’s a fast and easy way to expand your horizons.
  4. Look at net cost rather than tuition.: Few people pay full price. You can get an even better idea of net price by income level by using the College Navigator. Make sure you have already calculated an estimated EFC and use the colleges net price college calculators. Be careful about using the information on the highest income category. Data is only available for those that receive some form of federal aid, including student loans. Note we also include net price college calculator links for many colleges on here.
  5. Instead of acceptance rates, look at the 75th percentile test scores: For example, there are 97 institutions where the 75th percentile ACT scores is between 30 and 31. The acceptance rates range from 15% to 95%. There are 68 colleges with acceptance rates between 30 and 40 percent and the 75th percentile ACT scores range from 16 to 33. Admission rates often reflect a lot of self-selection not to mention rankings popularity so try a different approach.
  6. Don’t use college size in making your preliminary list: This is another area where many students have assumptions that they haven’t really tested. Make sure students visit colleges of all kinds of sizes before setting any size requirements. Ultimately, it’s simply a matter of numbers since there are just a lot more smaller colleges than bigger ones. Begin by looking at the percentage of classes by class size or the number or type of classes available for specific majors.

This information was provided by DIY College Rankings. Information on geography, size, graduation rates, acceptance rates, test scores, majors, and more are available in the DIY College Rankings College Search Spreadsheet.

Advantages of Taking a Gap Year

Taking a year off after high school or a “gap year”  has become an increasingly popular and accepted decision here in the United States. In Europe, Australia and New Zealand, gap year experiences have long been considered one of many traditional options.

I was unsuccessful in my efforts to convince my own children of the benefits of a taking a gap year. I wanted them to “want” to go to college for the right reasons, rather than just following everyone else lock-step. Some parents are afraid that if their child doesn’t head off to college immediately after high school that they may never go. They fear they’ll lose the momentum and are worried they won’t find a satisfying career.

Research on gap year experiences has actually shown that not to be true. A recent study found that over 90 percent of gap year students do in fact head to college within 12 months. Other research has repeatedly demonstrated that “gappers” earn higher grades than their traditional counterparts. Gap students are often quick to share that they grew up a lot during their gap year and that they headed off to college a year later feeling refreshed,  reinvigorated, more mature and more intellectually curious. According to the American Gap Association, “students who take a gap year and go on to college are 75 percent more likely to describe being happy or extremely satisfied with their careers after they complete their universities studies.”

Gappers enter college life ready to study; they’ve outgrown much of the freshman antics that can prove so damaging to a student’s GPA. Colleges and universities have come to appreciate the contributions that gap year students bring to the campus and many are now encouraging students to take a year off. UNC Chapel Hill ( has been a pioneer in the supporting students interested in taking a gap year with its “Global Gap Year Fellowship which allows students the opportunity to plan their own gap year experience. Princeton ( has created a tuition-free “Bridge Year Program” where selected students participate in a nine-month service program at one of five international sites. Tufts University (  has recently designed a “1+4 Bridge Year Service Learning Program” where students complete a year of service before they enter the classroom.

What do students do on a gap year?

When I’m working with a student who is considering taking a gap year, I suggest they think about creating a patchwork quilt of different life experiences. Some of these might include travel, foreign language immersion, internships/job shadowing, gainful employment and community service and very often there is a combination of international travel with community service or a career focus. Students and families can provide as much structure as they want; basically there are no rules to follow. If a student has a defined career interest in something like medicine or architecture; there are plenty of opportunities to gain exposure and experience both domestically and internationally.

Gap Year Resources

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

Note from the Publisher – If you liked this blog and have students interested in taking a Gap Year look for an article on Gap Year’s in our Spring 2021 issue which will be release next month

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