Monthly E-Newsletters

Click here to sign up for the College Advising and Planning Services monthly e-newsletter.

June 2013 E-Newsletter

posted May 19, 2013, 3:53 PM by Glenda Durano

Do Majors Matter?

It’s a seemingly simple question that strikes fear into the heart of every high school student: “What are you going to study in college?”  Some students have an answer, polished and practiced—although in reality, the response is probably more of a defense mechanism designed to placate their adult interrogators while others who don’t have such a reply risk placing themselves in the midst of a discussion about what they should be doing with their lives for the next half-century. 

I’ve always been a person who believes that God does have a purpose for each life, and I believe that the seeds of that purpose are planted before we ever take a breath, however, our purpose and our career are two different things. 

Unfortunately, because of our career-oriented society, students feel a lot of pressure these days to study a major that will offer a high “return on investment.”  For some students, this makes complete sense—students who are gifted in figuring things out and creating devices should consider being engineers; students who love helping others and have shown an affinity towards science should consider healthcare; students who find great joy in crunching numbers should look at the wonderful world of accounting.  However, not every student’s field of study is going to be geared so directly towards a profession.  Parents, don’t panic.  God has a way of making sure your student will be prepared for his Ultimate Purpose

 Preparing a student for a career is only one of the purposes of college.  While some students will earn a degree geared specifically towards a profession, other students will gain a “tool belt” of thinking, writing, and communication skills that will be useful and usable in any number of careers.  In fact, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, more and more CEO’s are looking at students who have a broad base of knowledge—who are able to communicate and think critically and logically—as their top picks in leadership.  In other words, they are choosing students with backgrounds in history, English, and international studies to help move their companies forward.

 I’m not saying career-directed majors are right or wrong anymore than a more general liberal arts degree is.  What I’m saying is that every student has strengths, and one of our jobs as parents is to help our student develop those strengths while he is still in high school by providing appropriate growth opportunities.  By the time a high school student is a senior, he may not know exactly what he wants to study in college, but he should be aware of his strengths and passions as well as his weaknesses.  Bear in mind also that strengths are not merely academic.  Scientists tell us that there are a variety of intelligences that people can utilize including interpersonal intelligence, musical intelligence, and spatial intelligence.  That’s the way God made us, but sometimes we may not know we have a certain intelligence because we’ve never tapped into it.  For this reason, parents need to seek out a variety of opportunities for students while they are in middle and high school because we discover our passions most clearly through experience.

 College is a transition into adulthood, and while I thoroughly believe that students should NOT wait until college to begin exploring their passions—it’s very doable and highly advisable to do in high school—we need to realize that the average student changes his major 5 times!  While that’s not a sin, it can certainly be costly.  This is why I work through career, personality, learning, and interest assessments when I first start working with a student—in order to gain some possible directions.  Yes, college is a place to explore, but a balance must be found since college is also a financial investment.  It’s simply too expensive for parents to pay for additional semesters while a student goes through the initial exploration process when he could have surveyed his interests in high school.

 Therefore, parents, help your student explore two or three areas of commitment while in high school that could turn into possible professions.  Urge him to go beyond the superficial level of exploration—simply doing something he enjoys (e.g., sports, theatre, music) and allow him to demonstrate the full range of his potential through leadership, service, shadowing, or part time employment in that field.

 “But he’s just a kid,” you may be saying. “Aren’t we rushing this a bit?” When I talk about a student demonstrating his potential, I’m asking a student to explore a vehicle for his God-given purpose.  I’m not asking him to decide what he’s going to do for the next 45 years.  I’m asking him to seek God in a tangible way by exploring his interests.  If God has planted the seed, it is our responsibility as parents to nurture that seed (which often appears as an interest or an ability), and give it the opportunity to grow, while at the same time, not being overbearing or too restrictive in the exploration process. 

 Only God knows your student’s purpose—and God is big enough to communicate that purpose to anyone who sincerely seeks Him.  As Romans 11:29 promises, “God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable.” Our prayer is that God would make His calling clear to our students; that we, as parents, would provide a nurturing and dynamic environment in which a student can explore his purpose; that families would be open to God’s creative use of our strengths; and that students would be sensitive to God’s direction.

 So, back to the question, “Do majors matter?”  Yes, I think so.  Majors give students the opportunity to develop skills that will facilitate their passions.  While some students’ majors may be more career-directed, others’ majors will be grounded in liberal arts.  Either path works as long as it is the path to purpose. 

If you have a student who is in high school and needs one-on-one guidance, please contact College Advising and Planning Services at 505-918-7669 or write to glendadurano@gmail.com.  Our comprehensive program includes career assessments, activity advising, financial aid information, creation of a college list, tips on school visits, application assistance, essay editing, and much more! 

As always, please forward this newsletter to other friends who might be interested in college planning information.  Do remember to check out the “upcoming deadlines” section of the website for a calendar of what you should be doing this month to stay on track with the college planning process.

Additionally, you can “like” our FACEBOOK page (College Advising and Planning) where I post interesting articles and videos about college planning.

 

 

 

September 2012-E-Newsletter

posted Sep 17, 2012, 12:23 AM by Glenda Durano   [ updated Sep 17, 2012, 1:07 AM ]

College Research: Up Close and Personal

         In today’s world of Google-mania, most high school students are able to successfully navigate those notoriously circuitous university websites.  The problem with researching a college by simply exploring its own website, however, is that the student is basing his decision on highly biased information.  Although a college website can be chocked full of facts and figures, at its heart, the website is nothing more than a fancy PR tool.  Certainly, a student should look at the school’s statistics—student/teacher ratio, graduation rates, financial aid availability, incoming student profile, etc. as well as considerations such as distance from home, location, and average cost of attendance. (Note:  Average actual cost of attendance is DIFFERENT from the stated “price tag.”) He should research what types of opportunities and facilities the school provides, particularly in his potential major, and any criteria that he has developed should be carefully scrutinized, not only individually to see if a school “has it,” but also comparatively with the other schools on his list. (Note:  Before a student ever begins his college search, he should be able to articulate his college criteria based on his academic, social, financial, spiritual, and personal needs.  If he cannot do that, he needs to stop and back up.  Otherwise, he has no basis for weeding through schools. )

        When perusing a college website, do your best to ignore the smiling students sitting under 100-year-old oak trees or people painted purple at a football game.  Sure, you’ll have time for all that, but that’s not what college is about.  And let’s face it—no college is going to tell you, “Our science department really isn’t that strong.  If you want to study biology, you should check out School XYZ” or “Our campus is dead on the weekends.”   Take the information you garner from a college website with a grain of salt.

        I usually advise that my students use the school website as one of the final steps of the college research process. The first thing I recommend (after a student has developed his initial list of 15-20 schools) is to evaluate the college through a third-party website such as collegeboard.org or a compilation like The Fiske Guide. 

        The best method by far, however, of researching schools is what I call “the personal touch.”  When a student researches a school, he should develop questions regarding his personal criteria and the school’s ability to fulfill them.  These questions should be insightful, and not easily answered by the website.  The student should contact his admissions counselor for each school ideally by phone (way out of the comfort zone for most teenagers) or email and discuss his questions.  “Demonstrated interest,” e.g., a student taking initiative to contact the school, is one of the top ten things that admissions officers seek in potential students.  Not only does this contact introduce the student to one of the people who will ultimately be deciding whether or not he is a good “fit” for the school, but it will also give the student more information about the university.

        If at all possible, the student should also visit the school (See “The Value of Visits” newsletter for tips.) and meet face to face with admissions officer.  If a visit is impossible due to financial or time constraints, the student should at least try to meet the college representative at the local college fair. 

        Utilizing “the personal touch” in researching schools shows admissions officers that the student is truly interested in a school and is willing to take initiative in order to discover what he needs to know.  That’s a characteristic that colleges find highly desirable in potential students.  And even in college admissions, as is true so often in life, “who you know” (the admissions officer) can be more important than “what you know” (test scores and GPA).  That’s because grades and scores are taught, but initiative and responsibility are part of a person’s character.

        If you have a student who is in high school and needs one-on-one guidance, please contact College Advising and Planning Services at 505-918-7669 or write to glendadurano@gmail.com.  Our comprehensive program includes career assessments, activity advising, financial aid information, creation of a college list, tips on school visits, application assistance, essay editing, and much more!

Remember our free “College Knowledge” workshop at Cherry Hills Library on Monday, September 24th at 6:30 pm:  “How to Build a College List."

As always, please forward this newsletter to other friends who might be interested in college planning information.  Do remember to check out the “upcoming deadlines” section of the website for a monthly calendar of what you should be doing this month to stay on track with the college planning process.

Additionally, you can “like” our FACEBOOK page (College Advising and Planning) where I post interesting articles and videos about college planning.

August 2012 E-Newsletter

posted Aug 1, 2012, 7:09 PM by Glenda Durano   [ updated Aug 9, 2012, 9:39 PM ]

GOT MERIT AID?

            Almost every student (and certainly every parent) that I speak to is interested in obtaining some sort of financial aid in order to help cut the out-of-pocket cost of college.  Most believe that they will not qualify for need-based aid (often mistakenly, I might add, when it comes to institutional need-based aid. Therefore, they look for merit-based aid.  Competition for merit-based aid is fierce in today’s economy. Some students think that the key to obtaining college scholarships is a great standardized test score; others believe that merit aid hinges on the perfect GPA.  (Nearly 60% of students who apply to college, by the way, have a 4.0 weighted GPA or above!)  The truth is, however, there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to institutional merit-based aid.  (By "institutional," I mean  "the aid comes from the university itself"—not an outside corporation or the government.)

Colleges base merit aid awards on any number of things—some merit awards are based on “academic merit,” but many awards are simply a result of wanting to attract a particular “kind of student” to that university through a practice called enrollment management.  Let’s say, for example, that a university wants to raise the GPA of its incoming freshman profile.  It might offer $50 or every “A” that a student has on his transcript in order to entice those straight A students.  Perhaps a particular college craves bragging rights that it has “a student from all 50 states.”  It might give $5000 to a student from a nationally under-represented area (such as New Mexico.)  Maybe the school has a marching band that desperately needs a tuba player.  Cha-ching! Add another $2,000 or $3,000.  The same is true if a school is looking for a great addition to its rugby team.  If a school were trying to “grow” its anthropology department, it might offer additional aid to freshmen who declare anthropology as a possible major, in an effort to attract those students.  Now, do you see why it can literally “pay off” to “target” your applications to schools that value you for who you are?!

Don’t misunderstand. Certainly, GPA’s and test scores are critical in merit aid.  In fact, some schools use a “chart” to determine how much merit aid a student will receive based on his GPA and test scores.  Many times, however, this is simply a starting point.  Depending on how “attractive” a student is to a university (meaning how good of a “match” the university believes the student is to its student body), a college can offer a student thousands of dollars in financial aid, but rather than calling it a “bribe,” it calls it “merit aid.”  The reality is, however, most families don’t really care “why” they are being offered money; they are just delighted to accept it.

These days, a full tuition merit scholarship is difficult to obtain.  A student must not only have stellar grades and test scores, he must also show several areas in which has been passionate in his high school activities—and not necessarily in sports. (Approximately 30% of high schoolers consider themselves “athletes,” so simply playing on an award-winning football team isn’t going to make you a standout student.  You have to be exceptional!) Ultimately, a student may end up better financially in terms of school aid, if, instead of spending 20 hours a week practicing soccer, he demonstrates his ability in a potential interest area because this shows that he is focused and committed, two traits that colleges find very attractive. This does however, depend on both the student and the school.  There are very few hard and fast rules when it comes to merit-based aid. Overall, most universities would much rather offer two half-scholarships, rather than one full-scholarship because this way, they fill two beds, and they still get some form of payment.  If a student really needs merit aid, he needs to look in the right place!

Large amounts of merit aid are most prevalent at private universities, who routinely discount their tuition by half through merit-based aid.  These schools are well-endowed financially, and they know they are competing with less expensive state schools.  Many times, through merit aid, a private university may actually cost less in the long run than a public school.   Unfortunately, however, families frequently don’t even consider these smaller private schools because of the price tag of the university.  Families aren’t aware of the enormous price slashing that goes on at these schools. 

Public universities also offer merit aid, but usually it is a much smaller amount because, of course, the price tag is also less at most public schools (unless we’re talking the California system)!  One of the most interesting trends in merit aid is the fact that much in-state merit aid is being offered to wealthy in-state students because schools know that wealthy students have a greater chance of developing into wealthy alumni who may ultimately have the ability to contribute to the school’s annual fundraising campaign.  This enrollment management technique often results, however, in out-of-state students garnering very little merit aid. 

Another point of confusion rests in the fact that top-tier schools (and I do mean TOP) offer less merit aid than excellent, second-tier schools.  Why?  Because EVERYONE who attends a school like Harvard, Brown, or Amherst is meritorious.  While Ivy League schools don’t offer merit aid, students need not despair.  They are extremely generous with need-based aid, and frequently families with incomes of over $100,000 receive financial aid.  

Merit aid is a fascinating subject, but it also differs across the board.  Last year, the University of Rochester disclosed their unique “formula” for merit aid.  Students were offered specific amounts of money if they fulfilled certain criteria:

$3,000-For contacting an admissions counselor (This shows “demonstrated interest.”)

$2,000-For living out of state

$62-For every “A” on a student’s transcript

$400-For every “rigorous” high school course that the student has taken

$1,800-For an excellent letter of recommendation

$115-For every 10 point increase in the SAT above the “average” student’s score

$425-For every 1 point increase in the ACT above the “average” student’s score

$400-For completing the application on time

$1700-The average amount that a student received in merit money if his parent filled out the FAFSA

$2500-The average amount that a student received if his parent submitted both the FAFSA and the CSS Profile (a form utilized by some private universities).

As you can see, it does add up!  As you can also see, I hope, the advice that I offer students regarding contacting colleges, preparing for tests, taking a rigorous curriculum, etc. really does pay off.  In a very real way, the potential that a student demonstrates throughout all four years of high school determines how much merit-based aid he will receive. 

If you have a student who is in high school and needs one-on-one guidance, please contact College Advising and Planning Services at 505-918-7669 or write to glendadurano@gmail.com.  Our comprehensive program includes career assessments, activity advising, financial aid information, creation of a college list, tips on school visits, application assistance, essay editing, and much more!

Remember our free “College Knowledge” workshop at Cherry Hills Library on Monday, August 27th at 6:30 pm:  “The M&M's of College Admissions: Methods, Mistakes, Myths, and Money."

As always, please forward this newsletter to other friends who might be interested in college planning information.  Do remember to check out the “upcoming deadlines” section of the website for a monthly calendar of what you should be doing this month to stay on track with the college planning process.

Additionally, you can “like” our FACEBOOK page (College Advising and Planning) where I post interesting articles and videos about college planning.

 

Special Summer Edition

posted Jul 14, 2012, 6:59 PM by Glenda Durano

LEAVING THE NEST

Every fall, millions of students “leave the nest,” embarking on the transition to adulthood by attending college.  The path to university life involves much more than packing clothes and school supplies.  It’s an emotional journey as well as a physical one—for both parents and students—and today, we’ll examine both aspects.  First—the practical side; then the more impalpable one.

You might have thought that all the decision-making was finished when your student finally made his college choice.  Think again!  That was only the beginning.  Now’s the time for you and your emerging adult to tackle some tough topics.  However, because this summer is already a significant stressor, my suggestion is to take your student to lunch, and discuss the following items in a relaxed, enjoyable atmosphere. Consider the following:

  • ·      Is a car necessary for college?  Who pays for the parking permit, gas, insurance and the inevitable tickets?  Is public transit convenient or offered at a discount rate for students?  What will your student do if he needs to make a Walmart run? (Hint: Find a friend!) Is his car privilege tied to his grades?
  • ·      Does your student need to purchase or upgrade his computer?  Does the school supply free printing?  Should he take his own printer?
  • ·      Will your student (or you) purchase university health insurance or is he fully insured?  If he is insured, how will he find a health care provider?  Does the college clinic provide everything he needs?  What about a pharmacy?
  • ·      Has he registered for classes and will he attend orientation?  (If he hasn’t signed up yet for a freshman orientation, PLEASE reconsider.  It’s a HIGHLY BENEFICIAL process, and well worth any additional cost.)
  • ·      Has he outlined a way to take all necessary classes for majors, minors, and special programs within four years?  Granted, this may change (especially if, like most students, he changes his major), but if he has a plan, at least he has some idea of what’s required.  This is especially important if he intends to study abroad.  I realize this is not a “fun” exercise, but it is incredibly beneficial.  Sure, he’ll probably have an advisor who can help him, but now that he’s a big boy, he needs to take responsibility for his future!
  • ·      Has your student taken a look at the clubs and leadership positions available at school?  Is he eligible for and does he want to sign up for an honors track?  (If at all possible, I HIGHLY recommend it! “Honors” in college-speak means “smaller, more personal classes.”)
  • ·      Does he want to take any CLEP tests this summer and how will those transfer?
  • ·      What are the pros and cons of working on or off campus during the school year?
  • ·      Does your student have the “life skills” necessary for independence?  Can he balance a checkbook? Do his laundry? Manage his time? Make healthy and wise choices?
  • ·      How will your student find a church as well as a support group of like-minded students on campus?  He needs to be intentional in his relationships.

These are only a few of the practical things that parents and students should discuss.  For a more complete list, check the last lesson in the senior edition of my book The Christian’s Guide to College Admissions.

Finding solutions to concerns such as those listed above can be fairly easy; it just takes time and forethought.  Overcoming the emotional issues of the college transition process, however, can be much more difficult.

Throughout a student’s junior and senior years, the typical family endures a huge amount of stress.  Depending on the help and guidance they have received, some families’ financial and emotional health may be rather fragile.  As parents, we want our children to “live happily ever after” on campus, but we are somewhat concerned about their future.  We’ve tried our best, but now our time is up!  As our children embark on this exciting journey, suddenly the apron strings are severed, and our hearts bleed with anxiety.

Parents’ worries, however, are nothing compared to our students’ angst!  I’ll never forget when I took my last child to campus.  We’d always had an excellent relationship, but at student and parent orientation, suddenly she acted as if I didn’t exist. She walked 10 steps in front of me, and barely spoke a word to me the entire weekend. Because of the energy I’d spent with her in her college search, I was hurt and confused…and I let her know it.  She apologized, but continued her strange behavior.  During one orientation session, when the parents and students were separated, the adult leader of the “first year experience” at my daughter’s university spoke.  She began by asking, “How many of your students are acting really strange these days?”  Every parent in the room—bar none—raised her or his hand.  “That’s because,” the dean continued, “your student has only one question on his or her mind.  That question is ‘Will I be okay?’”  The dean went on to explain about the root and intensity of freshman anxiety, when to expect homesickness (mid-October), and things that we, as parents, could do to tangibly support our students.  She entreated us to “be the adults,” take the high road, and love our kids unconditionally—despite their bizarre conduct .  I followed her advice, and shortly, just as the dean had promised, my daughter’s strange behavior disappeared.

The first-year college experience is definitely “an experience.”  Allow your student to blossom and become the person that God intended her to be.  Encourage your student to find someone to keep him accountable, especially if he is attending a large institution.  Ask your student how YOU can help her grow and flourish in this exciting time of transition. Maintain frequent, loving contact and offer support through prayer and practice, enabling him to become both an independent young adult and a fully dependent child of God.  The journey isn’t over; it’s just begun!  Enjoy the time and remember:  You didn’t’ raise your child to stay at home.  You raised her to make a difference in the world. Parents can give their children two things—roots and wings.  It’s time for them to fly!

If you have a student who is in high school and needs one-on-one guidance, please contact College Advising and Planning Services at 505-918-7669 or write to glendadurano@gmail.com.  Our comprehensive program includes career assessments, activity advising, financial aid information, creation of a college list, tips on school visits, application assistance, essay editing, and much more! Discounts are available to all students who sign up prior to August 1st. 

Remember our free “College Knowledge” workshop at Cherry Hills Library on Monday, August 27th at 6:30 pm:  “College Admissions:  What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You.”

As always, please forward this newsletter to other friends who might be interested in college planning information.  Do remember to check out the “upcoming deadlines” section of the website for a monthly calendar of what you should be doing this month to stay on track with the college planning process.

Additionally, you can “like” our FACEBOOK page (College Advising and Planning) where I post interesting articles and videos about college planning.

 

July 2012 E-Newsletter

posted Jul 2, 2012, 9:29 AM by Glenda Durano   [ updated Jul 2, 2012, 9:34 AM ]

WHAT MAKES "U" SPECIAL?

            After you’ve visited five or six universities, your mind starts to turn to mush.  (Can you imagine how I feel visiting twenty to forty schools every year?!)  They all start to look a like—bragging about their blue light security system, all-you-can-eat swipes, free sporting events, campus cash, and state-of-the-art gymnasiums.  The best way to discover whether or not a “YOU”niversity is right for “U” is to know what you are looking for.  And that’s exactly where most students fail!  Today, I’m going to address ONE “major” aspect of college—academics—and some things you might want to consider when determining if a school is right for “U.”  Remember, however, as any college student will tell you, college is about A LOT MORE than academics!

Ideally, a student should have an idea of what he wants to study prior to college, although some statistics state that the average coed changes majors four times!  (Hence, our sluggish national four-year public university graduation rate of just over 32% and our barely better four-year private university graduation statistic of 54%.)    If you do have an idea of what you want to study, you should check out the opportunities and the quality of education within that specific department as well as the school itself.  How do you do that?  Not by reading the PR on the website or thumbing through the glossy brochures—that’s for sure!  The best way to determine the quality and “fit” of a school is to visit it! Certainly, a college road trip costs, but spending $1000 on a road trip is a worthwhile investment when you consider that 53% of incoming college freshmen either drop out or transfer to another university.  Think of the road trip as “insurance.”  Moreover, a college road trip gives you the chance to “try on” the school.  Yes, the school will put its best foot forward during your visit, but always take some time to just hang out in the student union, and if at all possible, sit in on a class.  Interview a professor.  Spend the night in a dorm.  Get an authentic feel for the campus.  If visiting your dream school is cost prohibitive, visit a school similar to the one you are considering (in size and focus) closer to home.  Remember, every campus has it’s own personality.

But what do you do if you don’t know what you want to study?  Many students enter college as “undeclared” majors. If that’s the case, remember that college is NOT 13th grade!  College is an option—a wonderful place where students can explore their passions and transition into adulthood. However, if you have no clue at all what you want to do, you might be more successful taking a gap year or working while you try to figure that out.  One of the most unfortunate things about New Mexico’s Lottery Scholarship is that, in order to receive that $6,000 annual reward, students MUST enroll in college immediately after high school. (And, by the way, in state students still have to pay a bare minimum of $10,000 in fees, books, room, board, transportation, and miscellaneous costs at a New Mexico state school—less about $5,000 if the student lives at home.) What students don’t know is that MANY out of state schools  (especially private ones) will give them much more than $6,000 if they demonstrate their passion within high school…or even the year after…so a student really shouldn’t feel pressured to go immediately into college. Of course, out of state schools’ price tags may be higher than New Mexico schools so that also has to be considered, but some universities offer tremendous discounts for out of state students who have demonstrated depth of commitment in one or two areas.

How do you evaluate whether a college or a particular department is “good?”  Look at the facilities and inquire about future improvements.  Ask about first-year seminars, core curriculum, and hands-on opportunities.  Evaluate the size of classes in light of how you learn.  Consider capstone projects, experiential learning, and internships. Ask about professors and research.  On that topic, if a professor is known for his research, realize that he probably won’t be teaching!  Likewise, if an undergraduate student thinks that he is going to work in the lab with a Nobel-prize winning scientist, he might want to think again.  Sure, it’s possible…but not probable, especially if the university has a high number of graduate students.

And that brings us to another concern about academic quality…graduate students versus undergraduates.  How much of the school’s resources support undergraduate opportunities? If a school has an abundance of grad students, chances for undergraduate research may be limited.  And speaking of ratios, watch out for those unrealistically low student to faculty ratios.  Those numbers can be twisted when schools include part time and adjunct professors, teaching assistants, researchers and staff in their “faculty” and negate students who are studying abroad or are part time.  A better number to consider is the average class size—in core classes and in majors.

Finally, how can a student evaluate the rigor of university-level classes?  How can he determine whether or not a college is “too difficult” for that particular student?  Are some schools harder than others?  Within every university there is a huge diversity of professors, teaching styles, and grading curves.  That being said, a student can get an idea of the academic intensity by asking two things:  “What’s the average GPA at the end of the freshman year?” and “What’s the average GPA (and test score) of the incoming freshman class?”  Or…you might want to consider attending an unstructured post-secondary institution that offers narrative evaluations instead of grades…and yes, there are some!

Before I encourage a student to apply to any school, I evaluate that student’s GPA and test scores in light of the previous year’s applicant pool.  I advise my students, whenever possible, to apply to schools in which they are in the top of the applicant pool academically—not only so they will be able to “do well” in school, but also so they won’t have to study significantly more than their classmates.  As I said before, college is about a lot more than school. However, college is primarily an ACADEMIC endeavor that prepares students for adulthood and careers (or at least it should be).  The quality and style of a school’s academic offerings should be foremost in any student’s mind.

If you have a student who is seeking guidance as to what field to study or which school to choose, please contact College Advising and Planning Services.  Discounts are available to all students who sign up prior to August 1st.  Rising seniors, it’s not too late to gain objective, professional guidance.  Rising juniors, save yourself some stress by starting now with College Advising and Planning Services. Comprehensive packages cost about the same or less that private music lessons, and you’ll receive a minimum of 50 hours of research and customized guidance!

For professional, customized college planning assistance, contact College Advising and Planning Services at (505) 918-7669.  We’ll be happy to arrange a free, 20-minute meeting or phone consultation to see if we can meet your needs. Services are not limited to the Albuquerque area!

As always, please forward this newsletter to other friends who might be interested in college planning information.  Do remember to check out the “upcoming deadlines” section of the website for a monthly calendar of what you should be doing this month to stay on track with the college planning process.

Additionally, you can “like” our FACEBOOK page (College Advising and Planning) where I post interesting articles and videos about college planning.

 

 

June 2012 E-Newsletter

posted Jun 4, 2012, 2:49 PM by Glenda Durano   [ updated Jun 4, 2012, 6:58 PM ]

THE ABC'S OF APPLICATIONS

    As seniors begin filling out their college applications in August (yes, August…that’s not a typo), they will begin to run across several types of applications:  common, school, electronic, paper and snap.  Sometimes students ask, “Does it matter which type of application I use?”  The answer: yes, it does. The type of application you submit to a university can demonstrate your interest level, and for some schools, that’s important.  Legally, schools can’t discriminate based on the type of application you submit, however, each application has its own “hidden meaning.”

    The common application is an electronic application that is accepted at 456 schools throughout the nation.  A student fills out one basic application, activities résumé, and essay, then submits the application to multiple schools with a click of the mouse.  Voila!  College application process…finished.  (Ha! In your dreams…) Before you start doing the happy dance, you need to know several things about the common application.  First, most schools also have a supplemental application as part of the “common app” that includes at least one (and frequently, more) essays. Second, because the general essay is submitted to multiple schools, a student cannot target his essay towards a particular university.  Third, if you utilize the common app, you will also request letters of recommendation electronically through that website…and the common application recommendation process has been known to have many glitches. Finally, some schools only accept the common application, but many schools accept the common application as well as their own application.  This is important to know because…

    If a school has it’s own application, but also accepts the common application, and a student takes the time to fill out the school’s specific application, it speaks volumes.  It says, “This school isn’t just one in a list.”  It says, “This school is important to me.”  Yes, filling out an individual school application is more time-consuming, but generally speaking, the essay can be adapted more specifically and the activities résumé may be tailored towards that school. Schools are more likely to offer a place (and frequently, financial aid) to a student who has shown demonstrated interest.  If a student takes the time to fill out an individual application, this qualifies as “demonstrated interest,” which, by the way, is one of the top ten things college admissions officers say they are seeking in a top applicant.

    If a student has a choice between submitting the common application or the school application, the student needs to prioritize.  Certainly the common application is much more convenient, and if a school is not on a student’s “short list,” it’s perfectly acceptable to submit the common app.  If a school is among a student’s top three choices, however, I suggest that the student do everything in his power to demonstrate his interest in that school, which includes submitting a school-specific application.

    If a student chooses to fill out a school’s individual application, he may have to decide between an electronic application and a paper application, although paper applications are sometimes not available.  Generally speaking, schools prefer electronic applications because ultimately, every application will be stored electronically.  However, even if a student does choose to submit his application electronically, he should definitely keep a hard copy for himself.  Applications can be lost in cyber space.  There are a few exceptions to this rule.  Occasionally, a student may prefer to submit a supplement, especially if the student is home educated.  In this case, the student must choose between submitting part of the application electronically and part of it as a hard copy or the entire application (and supplement) as a hard copy. 

    Finally, many students will receive “snap apps” from universities in the fall.  These applications usually require no essay (and many times, no fee) and state that the student has already been accepted based on his test scores.  The problem I have with snap apps is that the school is choosing the student instead of the student choosing the school.  That goes against my college planning philosophy that says that the student needs to choose whether or not the school is a good “fit.”  Granted, this school might end up being a good fit, but beware of taking the easy way out.  More than anything, a snap app is a marketing ploy.

    When it comes to college applications, EVERYTHING counts…the résumé, the essay, the recommendations, the grades, the test scores….and yes, even the type of application. 

    For professional, customized college planning assistance, contact College Advising and Planning Services at (505) 918-7669.  We’ll be happy to arrange a free, 20-minute meeting to see if we can meet your needs.

    As always, please forward this newsletter to other friends who might be interested in college planning information.  Do remember to check out the “upcoming deadlines” section of the website for a monthly calendar of what you should be doing this month to stay on track with the college planning process.

    Additionally, you can “like” our FACEBOOK page (College Advising and Planning) where I post interesting articles and videos about college planning.

April 2012 E-Newsletter

posted Apr 9, 2012, 2:04 PM by Glenda Durano   [ updated Apr 9, 2012, 2:07 PM ]

THE VALUE OF VISITS 

    Have you ever purchased something online only to discover, after it was delivered, that it wasn’t exactly what you thought it would be?  It’s the same way with schools.

    A college education can be one of the most significant investments a family makes, so it’s best to discover, before it’s “delivered,” whether or not that school really fits.

    Investigating a school online through both its own website and third-party websites is definitely the first step.  Bear in mind, however, that not everything can be determined by or described on a website and that the school’s own website is primarily a PR tool.  When you initially research a school, one of the main questions you should be asking is, “Do I like this school enough to visit it?” 

    When you’ve chosen several schools to visit, plan “the great college road trip.”  It’s always less expensive to see several schools in one trip, plus it gives you an immediate level of comparison.  Ideally, your college list will have a variety of schools—public, private, small, and large.  Visit them all, and evaluate them individually and comparatively.

     With today’s technology, planning a college road trip is fairly easy.  While the parent can and should assist in the logistics, the student should take ownership of the experience by communicating with the schools.  Most of the time, a college will have a website page where you can sign up for an information session and campus tour.  I usually advise students, however, if they are serious about the school, to also schedule a one-on-one admissions interview (not every school will do this) and perhaps arrange to sit in on a class or meet with a professor.  Some schools even allow students to spend the night in the dorm with prior notice.

     Prior to the visit, I suggest that students and parents thoroughly research the school, determine their most important criteria, and, once they are on campus, that they evaluate each of those criteria. Of particular importance are the opportunities that the student will be given, both in and outside his major. I also tell students to prepare a list of questions to ask the admissions officer as well as the student tour guide. Additionally, students should prepare for an admissions interview (if one is scheduled) by thinking about what questions might be asked of them, particularly why they want to attend that school or study that major as well as how they would answer, “Tell me a little about yourself.” 

     In addition to exploring the campus itself, a family should investigate the university’s surrounding area—cultural or outdoor activities, cost of living, and safety.  During the campus visit, families should take copious notes because the schools will start to “mesh” in their minds. 

     While parents do have a vested interest in the school their student attends, I recommend that parents give the student a little time to write down his own impressions before discussing the school.  In that way, the student can evaluate the school from his perspective, then incorporate the parents’ feedback, which they should definitely discuss. 

     Ideally, students should visit college when school is in session, but if this is impossible, a family can visit in the summer.  Just realize that a campus will be somewhat different during an academic session. 

     Visiting colleges is valuable, and ideally, it should be done before the student applies (in case the student wants to eliminate the school from his list).  Seeing a university “up close and personal” versus reading about it online is like the difference between buying something from a catalogue and purchasing something at the mall.  Returning a piece of clothing to the store will only cost you a little time and money, but returning a college choice could be quite a mistake.  Invest your time and money in a visit and “try it on for size.”

    As always, please forward this newsletter to other friends who might be interested in college planning information.  Do remember to check out the “upcoming deadlines” section of the website for a monthly calendar of what you should be doing this month to stay on track with the college planning process.

    Additionally, you can “like” our FACEBOOK page (College Advising and Planning) where I post interesting articles and videos about college planning.

February 2012-E-NEWSLETTER

posted Feb 4, 2012, 8:59 PM by Glenda Durano   [ updated Feb 4, 2012, 9:01 PM ]

CRUNCH TIME

About this time of year, students start to sweat.  Parents begin to panic.  Can we really afford college? Did he apply to enough schools?  Did he apply to the right schools? Is everything going to be okay?  Stop…and find your balance.

If you are a senior, remember, you can ultimately only attend one university.  Applying to 15 schools is crazy—generally, it’s a result of poor planning, superficial investigation, and a lack of confidence.  As long as a student has done his research and found several colleges that will satisfy his needs and facilitate his passions…and where he is in the top 25% of the applicant pool, there’s no need to worry.  On the other hand, if a student has been unrealistic about his expectations or carelessly rushed through his college planning process, and if he is still submitting applications at this late date, he needs to stop for a moment and evaluate exactly why he took so long to apply to college.  Is he afraid?  Is he poorly organized?  Too busy?  Does he lack purpose?  Or does he simply not know the mechanics of the college application process? These are all “valid” reasons to still be working on applications at this point, but it is important the student takes a close look at exactly “why” he delayed the college application process.  Does he really want to go to college, or is he enrolling simply out of obligation?

Every year, more than a third of incoming freshmen drop out of school because they are ill-prepared.  Many students leave college because it’s “not what they thought it would be—like high school all over again.” Others are unable to prioritize or manage time, so they fail academically.  If a student has found a good match, however, these things won’t happen.  Students desperately need to feel parental support during the college planning and college application process.  I’m not just talking in terms of finances, here either. Think about how you are feeling emotionally as a parent and multiply that times 10.  That’s how a graduating senior feels—regardless of how he behaves. If your senior is still struggling with where to apply to school, he needs objective guidance.  Perhaps he should take a gap year or maybe he shouldn’t even attend college at all!

And what if he’s a junior?  Plenty of time, right?  Wrong!  In order to alleviate stress and confusion later on, a junior should be well into his college search by this time.  He should have developed his initial list of schools in the fall, and should be narrowing down his “top choices” right now and planning to visit them during spring break.  Proper research ensures that a student will find a good match, so it’s critical that he spends adequate time exploring universities.  Ideally, by the end of his junior year, a student should have narrowed down his college list to fewer than ten schools AND ideally, he should have visited them.  “What’s the rush?” you ask?  The college planning process operates on a very specific timeline and the sooner you adjust your life to that timeline, the better off you’ll be.  Generally speaking, students want to begin writing college essays in the summer between their junior and senior years, and they want to submit their applications by November 1st of their senior year.  When you backtrack from that date, it’s easy to see why I suggest that all students finish both standardized testing and college planning during their junior year. 

Freshmen and sophomores should be concentrating on academic excellence and exploring interests through various activities.  By the time a student becomes a junior, he should demonstrate focus and depth of commitment. 

Too often, college “sneaks up” on families.  Don’t let that happen to you.  Plan ahead.  High school counselors are a wealth of information, and libraries are full of  “how-to” books. (Use The Christian’s Guide to College Admissions for a unique what-to-do-when approach.)  For professional, customized college planning assistance, contact College Advising and Planning Services at (505) 918-7669.  We’ll be happy to arrange a free, face-to-face, 25-minute meeting to see if we can meet your needs.

As always, please forward this newsletter to other friends who might be interested in college planning information.  Do remember to check out the “upcoming deadlines” section of the website for a monthly calendar of what you should be doing this month to stay on track with the college planning process.

Additionally, you can “like” our FACEBOOK page (College Advising and Planning) where I post interesting articles and videos about college planning.

January 2012 E-NEWSLETTER

posted Jan 6, 2012, 11:44 PM by Glenda Durano   [ updated Jan 6, 2012, 11:46 PM ]

WHICH TEST IS BEST?

            SAT or ACT—which is best?  If you can’t readily find the mistake in that first sentence, you might be better suited for the SAT.  That’s because the mistake in that first sentence is grammatical.  The sentence should read:  SAT or ACT—which is better?  (When comparing two items, nothing can be “best.”  When comparing two items, something can only be “better.” Its a question of superlative versus comparative adjectives.)  Likewise, if you easily recognized the mistake in that last sentence (Hint:  look at the punctuation.), you may do better on the ACT than the SAT. (Answer:  “Its” should be “It’s.”) 

This first paragraph represents only one of the many differences among standardized tests.  (Did you catch the mistake in the previous sentence?  When comparing two things, you should use “between”—not “among.”  When comparing three or more things, use “among.”) 

Okay—enough of the trick questions.  I’m just trying to make a point.  Regarding the writing component of standardized testing, the SAT focuses more on vocabulary; the ACT emphasizes grammar and punctuation. 

While the writing (English) sections of both tests include critical reading and identifying errors (the same types of questions), the strategy a student should use for the writing section of the ACT is vastly different from the strategy of the SAT..  Purchasing a practice book and studying appropriate test-taking techniques or using a personal coach can help a student know which time-saving strategy to use when. 

On the other hand, even if a student is familiar with which strategies to use when, if he doesn’t know which math or English concepts will be covered on the test, he will also be at a disadvantage.  Again, investing in a practice book or getting personal coaching can help alleviate this issue.

ACT includes not only geometry and algebra 1 & 2 questions on its test, but also a few basic trigonometry problems; SAT limits its math questions to geometry and algebra.  While taking the SAT requires approximately 25 minutes more than taking the ACT with writing, the SAT is broken into ten sections ranging from ten minutes to 30 minutes.  The ACT consists of four 45-minute sections plus an optional (but highly recommended) 30-minute writing section. 

Some students avoid the ACT altogether due to their fear of the dreaded science section.  What most students don’t know is that the ACT science section is more about graph-reading than science.  If you feel more confident about your basic core knowledge (ACT) than your critical thinking skills (SAT), try the ACT.

One of the most significant differences between the SAT and ACT is the way the tests are scored.  No points are deducted for wrong answers on the ACT; ¼ point is subtracted for each incorrect answer on the SAT.  This fact is important to know when trying to decide whether or not to make an “educated guess” on a question. 

What’s the bottom line on choosing which standardized test to take?  Unless a student is extremely short on time (e.g., a spring senior who has taken neither test), I recommend that, initially, every student take both the ACT and the SAT. After a student has taken both tests, the student should evaluate (through a comparative chart) which score is actually better. (Only 30% of students do equally well on both.) He should then focus his preparation on the test on which he did better and take it a second time.  Ideally, all standardized testing should be finished by the end of the junior year. 

A myriad of disparities exist between the ACT and SAT, therefore, copious rumination and cogitation are extremely portentous in the test preparation process.  (If you “enjoyed” that vocabulary word-laden sentence, you will probably do better on the SAT than the ACT.)  In other words:  There are many differences between ACT & SAT, and because standardized test scores play a critical role in both college admission and merit aid, a student should carefully consider the differences between the two tests, and thoroughly prepare for both.

As always, please forward this newsletter to friends who might be interested in college planning information.  Do remember to check out the “upcoming deadlines” section of the website for a monthly calendar of what you should be doing this month to stay on track with the college planning process.  The link to our newsletter is: www.collegeadvisingandplanning.com.

 You can also  “like” my FACEBOOK page (College Advising and Planning) where I post interesting articles and videos about college planning.

Finally, a free college planning seminar on “Standardized Test Strategies:  Questions and Answers” will be offered Monday evening, February 6th at 6:30 p.m. at Cherry Hills Library. Additionally, on Friday, January 27th, I will be speaking on “The Advantages and Disadvantages of Home Education in College Admissions” at 9:30 a.m. at the Educational Resource Center in Albuquerque. 

For more information about either of these free presentations or to inquire about our individual college planning services (including one-on-one TEST PREPARATION) please check out our website or call us at (505) 918-7669. 

December 2011 E-NEWSLETTER

posted Dec 10, 2011, 4:31 PM by Glenda Durano   [ updated Dec 10, 2011, 4:33 PM ]

CALM DOWN

    The college application process is a normally a time of stress.  In my view, however, it should be a time of positive stress related to excitement and expectation rather than negative stress related to fear and frenzy.  Certainly, trusting the Lord and knowing that He is working on your behalf is absolutely the best way to accomplish a stress-reduced college planning process.  Strangely, however, many Christians find this to be very difficult.  Why do I say “strangely?”  Because Christians trust God for eternity, yet we have a hard time trusting Him with our immediate future.  It just doesn’t make sense.  However, we all know that when we are under stress, nothing makes sense.  We tend to be guided by our emotions when we are under stress rather than what we know to be true.  With that in mind, here are some “practical tips” for navigating the college planning process a little more easily and hopefully, in a little more relaxed manner. 

1.     Have a positive perspective.  Every time you feel like thinking or saying, “I’m so overwhelmed,” instead, say, “This is so exciting.  I’m glad I know God has a plan for me!” (Go ahead and say it aloud!)

2.     Get organized.  A huge part of college planning is staying organized.  Utilize calendars and forms.  Keep a separate folder for each college. 

3.     Practice time management and get started early.  Take small bites—a little at a time.  It’s better to spend an hour a week intermittently throughout your junior year than to be spending 15 hours a week during your senior year selecting and applying for college.

4.     Finish your standardized testing by the end of your junior year.  Period.

5.     Eliminate colleges.  The college search is a comparative process.  Certainly, initially evaluate each school on its own merits, but remember, you can only attend one.  If you find something in the profile of a school that doesn’t meet your needs, eliminate it from your list.  You have 3500 schools from which to choose.  If you are diligent in your search, you will find several “good fits” where you can apply.

6.     Don’t talk a lot about your college search to people other than your family and your counselor.  Everyone has an opinion.  The only opinions that really count are God’s, the student’s, and the parents’.  It’s important not to “muddy the water” with too many opinions.

7.     The most competitive school is not always the best choice.  Just because a school is highly ranked or “great,” doesn’t mean it’s the right school for you.  Choose your school based on a “good fit.”  Does it meet your needs?

8.     On the other hand, don’t be afraid to reach for the stars.  You never know what will happen if you never try.  At the same time, however, never apply to a school just to “see if you can get in.”  That is a waste of time and money. 

9.     Parents, remember, “we” are not going to school.  Your student is.  Let him be proactive in the search.  Your job is to offer wise counsel and support.

10. If your student is having a problem with fear, procrastination, confusion, or stress in the college planning process, hire an independent education consultant.  Sure, this is a blatant plug for utilizing my services, but if you can spend under $2000, save well over 200 hours (the minimum time that a well-done college search takes), get expert advice, possibly save thousands in tuition through an excellent and targeted application, and help your student succeed, it’s money well spent.  

    The college planning process should not be a time of stress and anxiety.   By following these tips, hopefully you and your student will enjoy the process a little more, looking forward to the future instead of dreading it.

    As always, please forward this newsletter to other friends who might be interested in college planning information.  Do remember to check out the “upcoming deadlines” section of the website for a monthly calendar of what you should be doing this month to stay on track with the college planning process. 

    Additionally, you can “like” my FACEBOOK page (College Advising and Planning) where I post interesting articles and videos about college planning.

    For more information about College Advising and Planning Services or to inquire about our individual college planning services, please check out our website or call us at (505) 918-7669. 

1-10 of 28