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Two new scholarships for your students

We have recently been made aware of a couple of new scholarships available for your students. Here are the details on both:

  1. Digital Monk is offering your students the opportunity to exercise their writing skills and compete for a $500 scholarship award.

They would like to hear your students thoughts on ONE of the following topics:

– What is the Future of Online Learning?
– Comparison of Online Learning and Traditional Learning
– Should Online Learning Be Encouraged?

The article must be written in the English language and can’t surpass 500 words. Only one application is permitted per person (that is, they should select only one topic and send one article).

Eligibility Requirements:

To be accepted for participation, your student(s) must meet the general entry terms:

– Graduate, postgraduate, and undergraduate students of an accredited college or university of the United States.

– High-school students enrolled in an accredited US college or university in the Fall 2021 semester.

– An eligible applicant must be a citizen or a legal resident of the United States.

– Must provide your written essay by the deadline of November 1, 2021.

All essay submissions should be sent to: scholarship@digitalmonk.org

2. The Kaplan Group’s annual $1,000 scholarship is available to any undergraduate or graduate student pursuing a business or law-oriented degree program with a GPA of 2.5 or higher.

Applications for the scholarship are due August 15, 2021

Full details of the scholarship can be seen here:

Changes to FAFSA that make completing it a whole lot easier for families

There are five major changes coming to FAFSA. Here’s what they are: 

  1. The FAFSA is getting shorter: The number of questions on the FAFSA form will be capped at 36. This is a significant reduction from the current 108 questions. Some tax information – like tax returns – will also be automatically imported going forward, which will simplify the process for federal aid applications.
  2. The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is being replaced: Currently, each student is assigned an EFC based on factors such as family income and number of household members. This will be replaced by the Student Aid Index (SAI) to make more clear to students that this number is used to decide on an appropriate amount of aid, rather than requiring their families pay a specific amount of money. The SAI can also be negative for low-income students most in need of aid, which isn’t the case for the EFC, which can only go as low as $0.
  3. More people will soon be eligible for Pell Grants: Pell Grant eligibility will no longer be based on EFC, but instead on gross income and family size. Students currently excluded from eligibility for drug-related convictions as well as incarcerated students in prison education programs will also become eligible for Pell Grants, as will people who qualified for student loan cancellations in the past.
  4. The time limit for Direct Subsidized Loans eligibility is changing: The current federal student aid rules limit eligibility for Direct Subsidized Loans to 150% of the time a school says it will take to complete an academic program. This will no longer be the case, and students will be able to get aid for as long as their schooling actually takes. This doesn’t mean Direct Subsidized Loans are unlimited, though. You can still max out your loan eligibility.
  5. Financial aid administrators will have more opportunity to offer aid during national emergencies: More flexibility will be provided to offer additional aid by taking into account prolonged periods of unemployment during a disaster.

What this means for students and parents

Because these changes make the FAFSA easier to complete, it may mean more future college students and their families fill out the forms and become eligible for federal financial aid. The EFC rules change that makes it easier for schools to identify students with substantial financial need may also open up the door for more people to get an affordable college education.

This information was provided by Credible. They offer a listing of private loans here.

The School Counselor’s Guide to Surviving the First Year

A great book is available for Counselors written by Heather Couch, a Counselor at Batavia Middle School in Ohio. This practical guide includes topics from internship to professional development from an intimate perspective within the context of real-life scenarios. Drawing from personal experiences, journal articles, textbooks, and excerpts by numerous professional school counselors, it fuses what a school counseling trainee learns in their graduate program and the field experience they get into one unique guide. Emphasizing hands-on approaches, this volume offers personal as well as professional steps toward success in the ins and outs of counseling.

The Publisher, Rutledge, Taylor & Francis Group is now offering a 20% discount to any Counselor interested in purchasing the book. Here is a link and enter discount code FLR40 to get the discount – https://www.routledge.com/The-School-Counselors-Guide-to-Surviving-the-First-Year-Internship-through/Couch/p/book/9781138364325

The book is also available on Amazon. Here is that direct link – https://www.amazon.com/School-Counselors-Guide-Surviving-First-ebook/dp/B082MRT2RS/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

2021-2022 Common App Essay Prompts

The common app essay is the main personal statement students submit to colleges that 1:Use the Common Application and 2:Require the essay. Your personal statement gives you the chance to delve deeper into your experiences, interests, passions and strengths.

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their applications would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like any of your students they can share their story.

The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Students should recount a time when they faced a challenge, setback or failure. How did it affect them and what did they learn from the experience?

Reflect on a time when they questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted their thinking? What was the outcome?

Reflect on something that someone has done for them that has made them happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated them?

Discuss an accomplishment, event or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of themselves or others.

Describe a topic, idea or concept they found engaging that makes them lose track of time. Why does it captivate them? What or who to they turn to when they want to learn more?

Share an essay on any topic of their choice. It can be one they have already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of their own design.

  • COVID-19 has affected students in drastically different ways. If they need to, the COVID-19 and natural disaster question in the Additional information sections of different application programs are a place for them to describe the impact of these events. The question is not intended to be an extra essay. There is also no need to describe how their school responded to these events. Instead, consider how these events may have impacted them, their family, and their learning environment.

Examples might include:

  • Illness or loss within their family or support network
  • Food insecurity
  • Employment or housing disruptions within their family
  • Toll on mental and emotional health
  • Access to a safe and quiet study place
  • A new director for their major or career interests
  • New obligations such as part time work or care for siblings or family members
  • Availability of computer or internet access required to continue their studies

This information is from a document created by Irving, Texas High School Counselor JB Jones and posted to the HS Counselor Group on FB

Students need to save money – Car insurance is one of their biggest expenses

Lets face it, most students are strapped for money. College continues to get more expensive and saving every dollar they can is very important. Car insurance is one of the most expensive costs they will have as teens/students have some of the highest insurance rates. College students typically pay thousands of dollars more than any other group.

Taking the time to search out the best car insurance deals can be worthwhile and can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars over the course of a students college career. Some of the best car insurance student discounts include:

  • Good Student Discount: Maintain a 3.0 GPA and your insurance company will likely give you a discount because teenagers with good grades are statistically more likely to be safer drivers than students with lower GPA’s.
  • Driver’s Education/Defensive Driving Discount: Further your driver’s education and most companies will reward you with savings. Double check with your state’s requirements, but many teenage drivers can qualify for this discount by taking a course online. 
  • Military Discount: Serve your country and reap the awards. People who join the military often qualify for savings with their insurance provider. Plus, they qualify for USAA insurance, which is one of the best insurance providers in the country. 
  • Distant College Student Discount: If you’re away from your car and not driving that much while at a school, many insurance providers offer savings to reflect the amount of time you’re actually driving. 

Should Your Student Take Their Car to College?

If they take their car to college, they won’t be stuck limiting their grocery shopping to what they can carry back home. Plus, having a car makes it easier to get a job off campus. 

But there are a few reasons not to take their car to college, including:

  • Parking may be extremely difficult
  • They may have to pay extra for a parking pass
  • Many colleges discourage students from taking a car, and some even make it against the rules.
  • Many campuses are walkable

And then there’s insurance to consider. If they leave your car at home, their insurance provider will likely offer extra savings. Often called “Student away at school,” this discount still allows them to drive their car when they are home, but it expects them to leave it there when they go back to school.  

Can They Stay on Their Parents Insurance?

Sometimes it makes sense to stay on their parent’s insurance, especially if it saves them money. If they are getting a lot of discounts for them, such as a good student discount, it might make sense for everyone if they stay. 

Another reason to stay is for their insurance history. Insurance companies don’t like to see large gaps between coverage. Even though they may have a solid reason for not needing a policy, it may behoove them in the long run just to stay put. 

However, it’s better to get their own insurance policy if:

  • They get married/ no longer plan to live at home: Though there’s no age limit on when they have to get their own policy, if they no longer live at home, most insurance companies require them to be taken off of their parents’ policy.
  • They buy a car in their name: If they own their own car, they need to get their own insurance policy.
  • Their parents have a bad driving record: It might be financially advantageous for them to have their own policy if their parents have a bad driving record. 

What is Covered By Car Insurance

  • Bodily injury: If you injure someone else in an accident, your insurance provider will cover their medical costs up to your policy limit.
  • Property damage: Damage another car or person’s property, and your insurance provider will pay for repairs up to your policy limit.
  • Personal injury protection: Should you get into an accident, this coverage option covers you and your passengers’ medical costs up to your policy limit.
  • Uninsured/ underinsured motorist protection: This protects you in the event you get into an accident with a person who has little to no insurance protection.
  • Collision: No matter who is considered at fault, collision protection will pay for your car’s repair or replacement up to your policy limit. 
  • Comprehensive: If your car is damaged while you’re not driving it, this coverage option will pay for its repair/replacement up to your policy limit. 

What is not covered by Car Insurance

  • Any amount that exceeds your policy limit: If you get into an accident that does more damage than your policy accepts, you will be responsible for the remaining amount. 
  • High performance cars: If you have a highly valuable car, it’s likely that a regular insurance policy won’t cover it. You will need a specialized type of insurance to make sure it is protected. 
  • Gradual wear and tear: Your insurance provider will not help you replace parts damaged from normal wear and tear, like your tires or brakes. Anything that is considered a loss due to normal usage is not covered.  
  • Ridesharing: Drive for Uber or Lyft, and you will need a specialized type of car insurance called ride sharing. This is because your car has gone from being a personal use car to a business car. 

Where can you start to research what is available? Reviews.com recently did some of the heavy lifting for you and compared auto insurance rates for students at many different companies. Here is a link to their blog which outlines some of the best options you may want to have your students check out: https://www.reviews.com/insurance/car/best-for-students/

Senior College Seminar – Free for Counselors

It’s one of the great mysteries of education.

If applying to college is so important, why do schools expect most students to do it at home, after school, where there’s no help available for them?

Thinking it might be time to try something different, College is Yours will be rolling out The Senior College Seminar this August 1. (SCS) is a comprehensive curriculum designed to help students investigate colleges, build a college list, apply for admission, financial aid, and scholarships, and begin the transition to college during the school day, in their senior year.  Designed around the feedback of school counselors, the SCS curriculum works around each school’s schedule and calendar, offering comprehensive lesson plans that can be taught in any order, at any time.

Best of all, SCS is free to all counselors wishing to use it.

Counselors are already talking about using SCS in a separate college counseling class, while others are talking about building into existing classes, like a career class or study hall.  Still others are planning on using it as an after school activity, and some are going to use the lessons to supplement the work already in place in their college counseling curriculum.

SCS has been spearheaded by veteran college counselor Patrick O’Connor, a past president of NACAC and author of the college application handbook College is Yours 3, as well as the counselor textbook College Counseling for School Counselors.  He hopes SCS—which can be taught as is, or with any modifications counselors might see as helpful—will inspire schools to find a way to help students apply to college during the school day, easing their college stress, and improving the quality of their applications.

“It’s time for class time to go to college” says O’Connor.

More information on SCS is at www.collegeisyours.com/about-the-classes.html

What Should Your Students do this Summer to Prepare?

This summer is a great time for your students to organize and prepare for their Senior Years. Here are some Summer Checklist tips courtesy of Sandy Ubriaco, Counselor at Queen’s Grant High School:

  • Get your FSA ID so you’re ready to fill out the FAFSA in October
  • Work on your College Essay- common app prompts are online
  • Prep for the ACT and or SAT
  • Build your student resume
  • Letters of recommendation decisions
  • Build your experiences
  • Job shadow someone in your desired field
  • Work on your college search
  • Show interest by signing up on mailing lists of colleges you are interested in
  • CLEAN UP YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNT(S)-yes,colleges look at these!
  • Start applying for scholarships

Scheduling Team Secrets for Counselors Revealed!

Ashley Rose recently posted a very nice Google Slides Presentation on Scheduling Team Secrets in the High School Counselor Resources Group on Facebook. The presentation includes information on the pre-scheduling phase as well as the 8 scheduling phases.

Here is a link to the entire slide presentation: Scheduling Slide Presentation

She also includes a link to a Google Doc (template) that can be used to have discussions with your department around any sorts of requests that the master scheduling team would need to know about; items like room sharing, collaborative planning groupings, strategic course placement, etc.  When filling out, please do so in a group discussion format.  Where possible, please link your request to either a District Stretegic Plan item, or one of our SIT Goals.  As always, reach out if there are questions. Here is the link to that doc: Scheduling Doc

How edtech helps students with disabilities better access Higher Education

Covid-19 has undoubtedly transformed education across the globe, and the shift to online learning has not been an easy transition. While schools and universities are carefully reopening their gates, both students and teachers know that educational technologies will continue to be part of the new normal.

The pandemic has presented an opportunity to rethink the conventional education system, making it more inclusive and accessible for a wider range of students. For example, using virtual learning platforms for delivering online or hybrid education enables teachers to reach students from across the country.

For students with special educational needs and disabilities, who struggle more with traditional classroom methods, virtual learning has enabled many to access education and engage at a deeper level with learning content tailored to their specific needs. The shift to using edtech to deliver lessons and the self-paced asynchronous classes have enabled many such students to thrive.

As an educator and Executive Director at the Inclusive Higher Education Certificate Program (IHECP), I have witnessed this first-hand. Even before the pandemic, my students were familiar with various edtech tools, as I have been a promoter of accessible online education for years. Therefore, the step towards a completely remote learning environment was not a huge and inconvenient one. On the contrary, they adapted quite easily!

With the help of our virtual learning platform, teachers can structure their lessons in a format suited to the students’ needs while still enabling them to engage and expand their knowledge to realize their full potential. This includes using a more graphical interface and text-to-speech software for students who struggle with reading and language and integrating more quizzes, lesson recaps, and self-monitoring to help them enjoy an engaging and meaningful learning experience.

What’s more, the online learning environment provides plenty of opportunities for targeted and continuous feedback. It’s easy to identify when a student encounters a hurdle in a specific part of a lesson so that the teacher can provide the needed support. Not only that, but the way in which the feedback is delivered can be adapted as well: written, spoken, or in video format. My students love submitting a video or audio recording and getting my response in the same format.

Last but not least, a virtual learning platform offers the possibility to evaluate progress using a mix of formative and summative assessments and address various skills. Teachers can identify prior knowledge about a subject, verify if each student is on the right track throughout their learning journeys, and evaluate their ability to use the newly learned concepts or skills independently after the lesson is over.

The global pandemic shook Higher Education to its core. It’s high time things change for the better. Accessible learning design benefits all students, and that’s why I believe that every educator, whether they teach students with disabilities or not, should get to know their learning platform like the back of their hands. That is a key success factor in providing personalized and accessible education for HE students of all abilities.


Cathi Allen is the founder and Executive Director of the Inclusive Higher Education Certificate Program (IHECP), in partnership with the Metropolitan State University of Denver School of Education, located on the downtown Denver, Colorado Auraria Campus. The IHECP creates and administers higher education programming and supports students with learning, intellectual, and developmental disabilities who wish to continue their education beyond secondary school.

Advising for Future-Ready Careers

Advising for Future-Ready Careers is a monthly webinar series, hosted by NCWIT Counselors for Computing (C4C), providing information and resources to help counselors join the front line of the computing conversation. This webinar series is free and open to the public, ages 16 and up – geared toward School Counselors, Educators, graduate students, and those in school advising roles.

Advising for Future-Ready Careers is funded by the Department of Defense STEM (DoD STEM) seeking to attract, inspire, and develop exceptional STEM talent across the educational continuum.

How does a self-driving car decide which direction to veer with the conundrum of hitting a mailbox versus hitting a pedestrian? Does facial recognition identify all types of facial features and skin colors? Can a crime algorithm predict whether a first-time offender will break the law again? ALL careers are changing as a result of advances in technology that we use daily.


Join NCWIT Counselors for Computing as we discuss the ever-growing field of Ethics in Computing with Jess Smith, a machine learning and AI ethics PhD Student at the University of Colorado.


Wednesday, June 16 with three opportunities to join one of the one-hour webinars!

Here is the link to register for free: https://ncwit.org/advising-for-future-ready-careers/


*The first 150 counselors, grad students, and others in an educational advisory role to register are eligible to receive a $50 gift card and C4C Resource Kit after attending and completing a short survey. YOU MUST USE A SCHOOL-BASED EMAIL ADDRESS TO RECEIVE THE GIFT CARD. ALL participants receive a FREE resource kit.

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