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Sunday, April 4, 2010

How to Try Out a College Campus

Taking the time to personally visit a College or University Campus is an indication of a sincere interest on your part - there's also nothing like visiting your potential new school in person!

You're sure you've found the perfect college. You've considered all the crucial factors: guy-to-girl ratio, pizza delivery options and proximity to the beach. Yes, Southwest Madagascar Bible College is all that and a bag of pork rinds.

Not so fast. If you haven't made a campus visit to Southwest Madagascar Bible College, you're missing out on one of the most important college choice considerations

As helpful as brochures and online tours are, they do have limitations. They won't tell you whether your professors can lecture a hyperactive Chihuahua to sleep. They won't mention that the campus is wedged between a sewer treatment plant and a cattle farm. And you probably won't hear anything about the campus cuisine. All of this—and much more—can only be discovered by actually setting foot on college ground.

How much more? Glad you asked.

Tour de Campus
Even in this age of virtual tours on school websites or DVDs, a formal campus tour during your visit is a must. Aside from the obvious benefits of seeing the entire campus up close and personal, the campus tour is an ideal time to ask questions. Asking questions to a DVD or computer monitor isn't helpful. And since tour guides are often students, they're usually bursting with knowledge about the school.
So you'll want to come equipped with an arsenal of questions: What is the spiritual climate like on campus? Why are the garbage dumpsters overflowing with empty Pop Tart boxes? What are this school's strengths and weaknesses? Are there curfews or dating regulations? What pizza place delivers the fastest? The list could go on, but the point is this: Don't be afraid to ask anything.

Class Action
Try to schedule a campus visit while school is in session. This will help you know how the school feels with students and professors roaming the halls and sidewalks. Plus, you'll get to sit in on a class or two.

Before you actually take your trip, call the admissions office to secure your spot in a class that interests you. (You should also arrange meetings, lodging and meals.)

Once on campus, get a map of the college. This will keep you from meandering into the wrong classroom where you could inadvertently join students in a nine-part essay test. Keep in mind, however, that even when you do manage to find the right classroom, you'll probably be jumping into a course at mid-semester. If you don't understand everything that's going on, no big deal.

I remember visiting a class with my cousin when I was considering schools. My cousin was a youth ministries major at a West Coast school, and I joined him for his New Testament Greek class. Turns out the students had a short quiz to take that day. So for kicks, I took it too and filled in the blanks with such scholarly answers as, "That's Greek to me!"

For some reason, I didn't learn a lot of Greek that day. But through observation, I did learn a thing or two about the format of the class and the way students and professors interact. 

Taste and See
In my experience, virtually all cafeteria food is an acquired taste, so you might as well start acquiring early. When you visit a campus, take advantage of this unique opportunity. Don't just ask people what they think of the food. They might exaggerate, or they may have different tastes than you. You've just gotta stand in that cafeteria line yourself.

At the school I attended, many people got along fine with the food. Others found creative ways to enjoy meals. 

For example, my friend Frank was an expert at long-distance casserole launchings. Like a veteran quarterback, he could fling food items directly into my mouth from any distance with deft precision. For me, catching as much casserole as possible was a good way to get enough to eat when the food wasn't altogether appetizing.

Not everyone does so well with cafeteria food. Another friend of mine, Steve, eventually became so fed up with eating food he didn't enjoy that he lived on cereal. By graduation we were tempted to call him "Cap'n Crunch."

So, it's a bright idea to snag a meal at the cafeteria. Just make sure you could eat there every day. Is there a wide variety of food offered? After all, four years without regular home-cooked meals is hard enough. Four years without a meal you enjoy would be plain ugly.

A Dose of the Dorm
A big, big benefit of the campus visit is the opportunity to spend the night in the dorm. The aforementioned Frank roomed with me during my sophomore year. At the time, he was also in charge of making sure all prospective students had places to stay during their visits. This means we would occasionally house several students at a time in our miniscule room.

This wouldn't have been so bad if Frank hadn't put our bunks on lofts to save space. Essentially, I slept with my nose touching the ceiling and Frank's mattress was located approximately six inches beneath mine. This meant that before we would get in bed at night, we had to decide whether we wanted to sleep on our backs or our bellies. In the groggy morning moments following the blare of our alarm clocks, Frank and I would freefall from insane heights, forgetting that our landing pad was cluttered with prospective students.

OK, so it wasn't exactly the Hilton. But believe it or not, there is nothing quite like the fun and fellowship of dorm living. It is unlike anything else. Staying a night or two will give you the best taste of a school's dorm environment. And that could play a pretty big part in determining if that college is the right place for you. Just watch out for falling sophomores.

Ready to Visit?
Perhaps by now you're saying, "Josh, your convincing argument laced with humor has won me over! I now agree I should visit Southwestern Madagascar Bible College. When should I make the trek?"
That's an excellent question and one that deserves an excellent answer. I don't have it but the college you intend to visit may. Most schools have special preview sessions where you can join other prospective students in their first visit. Surrounded by dozens of other people going through the same thing you are, you'll find it easier to fit in. It's also great to have people to share impressions with. If you do end up attending the school, preview sessions are also a great time to meet a potential roommate.

If you can't make an official visit day, I'd suggest scheduling a Friday visit. This enables you to visit a class, take a tour, and talk to professors, but it also allows you to see how the campus looks on a weekend. Is it fun? Are there volunteering opportunities? What do people do outside of class? Besides that, college students are far more eager to hang out with prospective students when they don't have to study or complete homework for the following day.

Clearly, a campus visit is a rewarding experience. Don't let the chance pass to see the sights of your prospective schools in person, even if your atlas has already shown you that Madagascar has beaches on four sides.

Steve Wagasky, College Funding Consultant
College Planning Professionals

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Technology and its Transformation of the Teacher

A Is for App: How Smartphones, Handheld Computers Sparked an Educational Revolution

BY: ANYA KAMENETZApril 1, 2010
Kids, education, applications, technology
From Left: Angel Taylor, 6, Jose Becerra, 7, and Julissa Munoz, 6. | Photograph by Danielle Levitt
As smartphones and handheld computers move into classrooms worldwide, we may be witnessing the start of an educational revolution. How technology could unleash childhood creativity -- and transform the role of the teacher.  -> Click here to read entire article <-

Steve Wagasky, College Funding Consultant
College Planning Professionals

Monday, March 22, 2010

Misinformed Parents of College-Bound Children Lose Tens of Thousands Each Year

Despite daily, gloomy stories about public university budget cuts and the student loan crisis, a local authority on college funding shows parents how to save tens of thousands of dollars off college costs, even if they’ve been told that they make too much money for financial aid.

“One of the most pervasive myths is that parents making six-figure incomes should not bother applying for financial aid,” says Kevin Campbell, of College Planning Authority in Fort Worth.

“Unfortunately, about 53% of eligible families never even bother applying for financial aid! And there’s a ton of aid to be had – about $137 Billion. And much of that is grants and scholarships - free money that never has to be paid back!”

Another surprise – it can be cheaper to attend an “expensive,” prestigious, private college compared to the “cheaper,” local public university. “The reason is that the private schools have more money to give by way of their endowments. We show this to parents on a daily basis,” said Campbell.

“Given what’s happening in Texas's universities, out of state private colleges are becoming an increasingly attractive option for parents concerned about giving their children the best education possible.  The trick is to understand which colleges award the best aid packages, how to position your finances to receive the maximum amount of aid you’re eligible for and how to get into these colleges!”
(Article Source:

If you are in the Michigan area - find out more about College Planning Professionals services and free workshops by visiting their website at

Families of college-bound freshmen, sophomores and juniors are able to pre-register for workshops on the website or by calling 616.935.0740.

Steve Wagasky, College Funding Consultant
College Planning Professionals

Friday, March 19, 2010

Professional College Counseling Pays Off In The End

Q. My daughter is a sophomore in high school. A couple of her friends are working with college counselors, not in the high school, but rather, private counselors. Why would a family pay for college counseling? Is it worth the price?

College Planning Professionals
A. We often hear from parents about how great their student's high school is. We hear how much they love the student's experience, curriculum, clubs and extracurricular events. What we seldom hear, however, is how great the college advising is. (You might think this is limited to public high schools, but surprisingly, this comes from some private high school patrons as well.)

With the average student-to-adviser ratio in our local (CUSD) public school district somewhere between 750:1 and 1,000:1, is it any wonder? While these dedicated servants love, guide and advise their students – often with a passion – the fact is, they are woefully outnumbered, and with the horrific budget issues facing our state, it doesn't appear to be getting better anytime soon.

While the guidance advisers are aware of the high cost of college and that the college-planning process has become increasingly complex and confusing, there is little they can do to effectively counsel their students. There is no time or funding to seek professional growth.

A report recently published by Public Agenda/Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ( reveals the reality of the guidance received by high school graduates who are college-bound. It doesn't reflect well on our state of affairs at the national level, but it does shed some light on the fact that students need help. More students are dropping out of college than are graduating. And this can be avoided.

Now to the point of this week's column – while the report referenced above reveals why college-bound students need help from independent college counselors, it doesn't say how to find that help. The higher the student's academic and personal performance, the more the family needs expert guidance, especially with the competitive climate of today's college admissions. Sadly, many high schools take the position that there is no need to seek professional guidance.

So for a plan of action, let's start with what not to do. Be wary of seeking advice from friends. Just as you wouldn't seek tax advice from a teacher or legal advice from your hairdresser, seeking advice from those who are not experts college planning will cost you in the long run.

Finally, here are three tips to assist you in assessing the competence of an independent college counselor:

• Interview the counselor, focusing on his or her experience in college-funding strategies, a thorough understanding of EFC, student positioning and academic/career placement, and what the counselor's ideal student client "looks like."

• Realizing that the No. 1 reason students don't complete college is "financial hardship," make sure your independent college counselor understands the complexities of financial aid – both need-based and merit-based. And confirm his or her willingness and competence in working with your existing financial adviser and accountant. If you don't have such a team of financial professionals, your independent college counselor should have a network of experts to refer you to who know the implications of income, assets, trusts, investments, etc., relative to financial-aid eligibility.

• With over 2,300 four-year colleges, make sure your independent college counselor has the tools to find the college with the right fit. Keep in mind that affordability must come first, followed equally by academic, social, cultural and spiritual fit.

If a counselor can assist your student in graduating in four years from the college he or she enters as a freshman in an affordable fashion for the student and the parents, it's hard to put a monetary value on such an accomplishment.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Report shows that overwhelmed high school guidance counselors are unable to provide adequate college guidance

Area guidance counselors don't agree with national survey's 'poor' score

High school guidance counselors are disappointed in the results of a new national survey that gives counselors low marks when it comes to helping prepare students for college.

"It's very important to ask why this is so," said Michelle Kayat, a counselor at Pleasant Grove High School in Elk Grove. "When a school district and when a school supports a dedicated counselor to college admission, you will find better service to the students."

One of the main factors is the student to counselor ratio. Pleasant Grove high has 6 counselors for 2,300 students.

"On the day-to-day operation level, we easily see over 100 students a day, ranging from personal to social counseling, crises and college planning academic counseling," counselor Todd Hirsch said.

Pleasant Grove freshman Annie Nevis said her counselors are important to her.

"I need something to guide me through so I can go to college, something to be accountable for, something where I have a check-in because I don't have the greatest grades right now. I'm getting them up because of seeing her," Nevis said.

According to the survey, sixty percent of young adults who pursued college say the advice they got from high school counselors was poor or fair at best.

The survey does not directly address the relationship between counseling and college performance. But findings underscore concerns raised last year by a study of public higher education suggesting inadequate counseling in high school may play a role in whether a student graduates college in six years.

The report, based on a survey of 614 adults ages 22-30 who completed at least some college, found that students who said they were badly counseled were less likely to get financial aid and more likely to delay college.

"This is really a fault line in the transition from high school to college that needs a closer look," says Jean Johnson of Public Agenda, which released the report today. The system "is simply not giving most students the help and attention they deserve."

The image of the uninspiring counselor is a mainstay of popular culture - the report invokes a 1991 Simpsons episode showing Homer's poor high school counseling to make its point.

But many counselors say multiple duties, large student loads and insufficient training make it hard to provide college guidance. The average student-counselor ratio in 2009 was 265-to-1 and grew as high as 618-to-1 in large schools, says the National Association for College Admission Counseling. (A ratio of 100-to-1 is considered optimal.)

The findings are "absolutely troubling" but likely won't surprise counselors, says UCLA education professor Patricia McDonough, whose research focuses on college counselors. They are "extremely frustrated by the situation."

Steve Wagasky, College Funding Consultant
College Planning Professionals

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Is your child at risk of becoming some institution's next new sale?

With drastic funding cuts significantly increasing the competition level between higher education institutions, today's pre-college teen has become the sought after target of college and university marketing.

Now more than ever, the additional guidance of Professional College Planning is an essential tool in order to ensure that one of the biggest decisions of your child's entire life is not based upon emotional factors triggered by advertising mediums.

Source Link
Editor’s Note: We are honored to welcome guest columnist Don Harrold from  This article is the second in his three-part series exploring college planning. The first column, published in January, is “Rethinking the College Model.”
The experience of choosing a college is very different when you’ve got a teenager and are looking at it from the other side of the divide.  What’s struck me – like a two-by-four – is the extent to which the kids are marketed by the multiple institutions and the technological savvy that is employed in their pursuit.  Some things – the traditional high school college night – haven’t changed, but some are wholly new and tailored to the techno-savvy teens.

Why?  Because the institutions are desperately trying to gain enough paying students to offset the significant funding cuts that are taking hold.  State colleges and universities are losing government monies while private colleges are further seeing their endowments whacked.  The intent is to enroll students and keep the cash flowing as long as possible while they work to stop the hemorrhage.  Faculty and programs are being cut and construction projects are being either reevaluated for necessity or shelved.

Given the stark circumstances, how has student recruitment changed from then to now?

Mailing Lists

The practice of trolling for possible students from mailing lists isn’t new.  For years, colleges gained the names from the rosters of students from the College Board’s PSAT/SAT lists and American College Testing ‘s PLAN/ACT exams.  This continues today but the net has widened considerably.

If you remember the thick books with the names, addresses and criteria for various scholarships, you’ll be pleased to know that these are now online and infinitely easier to use.  Examples of such sites are, and .  You – and/or your teen – can register and complete a surprisingly detailed questionnaire; when I first saw it, I was relieved that my daughter would be using it lest it ask for a sperm count.

Questions not only pertain to your kid, but also you and the mother and relevant past history.  Did any parents or grandparents serve in the military?  Do you belong to any civic or professional organizations?  Are there unfortunate family circumstances?  Let’s face it, your infirmity puts your child ahead in the financing race.  My going blind and dying in the course of saving whales would be the scholarship Powerball for my kids.  The end result of the questions would be to match them against keywords for each of the thousands of  available scholarships in the database and advise which would have some potential for application.

Mailings can also emanate from specific interest sites that your kid has visited in pursuit of their interests.   Our eldest has also received targeted mail from an institution that knew of her specific interests.  In one case, a women’s college with a writer’s program contacted her about their curriculum.  Eldest is a published teen poet/writer and out of curiosity, I contacted their admissions department to find how they obtained her name.  The admissions counselor acknowledged that her name had been on a purchased mailing list, but was unable to state where that mailing list originated.  Since she’s submitted articles and poetry via various online sites, my best conclusion is that these sites are compiling the personal data onto mailing lists and selling them.

College eHarmony Sites

There are collegiate eHarmony sites such as and  I refer to them that way since their principal reason for existence is to match students with any number of institutions that meet their criteria – which might or might not change over the course of the next week.  Again, their system uses the responses from an online questionnaire to match against multiple colleges that have offerings which would be of interest to the potential student.

What’s interesting about a site like however, is the way in which they’ve developed a social networking component akin to Facebook.  Students can also upload photos of themselves and complete a profile and then tag it to the various colleges which are of interest; they can then see who else is considering that particular college.  Students with similar interests can tag others and thus refer to them as their “dweebs”.  Wanna see a college dat’s da choice 4 teens with frizzy hair and tongue bolts?  Heer’s da place for U!  Wassamatta U! 

If you remember your teen years, you might recall wondering who in the hell would ever be interested in an acne-riddled, geeky, spastic hulk like yourself.  The colleges play to that adolescent insecurity by also noting their interests with “loves” that they send to students on the site.  Hey!  We know that you’re there and we think that you’re special!  If you wanna talk to one of our own students, we’ve got some who’ll answer your questions – replete with photos of smiling, handsome kids who give some hope to the teens that they, too, might survive their teenage years.  For the benefit of parents who lurk the site, all of the college student photos show them as sober and fully clothed.

Some college websites also present testimonials of students that demonstrate the physical and intellectual attractiveness of the student body.  These videos indicate that the students will more closely resemble Gregory Marmalard and Douglas C. Neidermyer than Kent Dorfman.
But that’s just my take.

Summer Scholar Programs
While they do serve a legitimate purpose, some institutions also use their campuses in the summer to hold “summer scholar” programs for high school students.  The college offers courses for high-achieving students for a several week period in the summer; there is a several thousand dollar fee and the kid has the opportunity to see what college life is like.  Again, my observation has been that these offers have come from colleges who’ve already targeted my kid with other correspondence about their existence.

Understand that with more than 4100 accredited colleges and universities in this country, the competition will be intense for new students.  Since most teens are technologically ahead of the folks and colleges are loaded with teens, the methods might escape our notice.  A study by Most fathers – and mothers – tend to step back from the technologically savvy teen, but a little awareness of what they’re seeing can help you guide them in a direction that’s not ruled impacted solely by emotion.

Steve Wagasky, College Funding Consultant
College Planning Professionals

Friday, February 26, 2010

Six College Admission Tips for Homeschoolers

 6 Ways Homeschoolers Can Help Their Admissions Odds
Whether it’s for religious reasons, practical concerns, or simply because it’s tough to find a school that seems like a good fit, a growing percentage of teenagers are being homeschooled by a parent or tutor. There are a lot of advantages to this approach: parents can directly oversee their children’s education, there’s no need to worry about crime or bad influences at school, and you have the flexibility of taking vacation time whenever you like. But there’s one concern that most families have a hard time escaping: once you finish your high school education at home, will any competitive college be willing to take a chance on you?

Because you have no formal GPA, you may feel like you’re putting yourself at risk of being rejected from top schools. But in fact, just the opposite could be true: Stanford University, in particular, is very enthusiastic about homeschooled students, and has accepted a far higher percentage of them than they have of the general student body. The admissions officers believe that homeschooled students who pursue unique independent learning paths have something that many other students lack: intellectual vitality.

Still, if you feel like homeschooling may be holding you back from a great college, here are some tips to help you get ahead.

Prepare well for the SATs, and take as many subject tests as possible. If colleges can’t evaluate your course performance by their usual criteria, test performance becomes even more important. Make sure to prepare well for the SATs, and take the exams several times if necessary to achieve impressive scores. Though SAT subject tests are generally considered to be optional, you’ll want to take as many as possible, since they can serve as stand-ins for formal grades.

Get recommendations from people besides your parents. Let’s face it: Mom isn’t exactly the most unbiased judge of character. Even if she teaches all your classes, schools will want to hear from others, too. If you’re involved in community service activities or are taking community college courses, get recommendations from the people guiding those activities.

Check out colleges’ homeschoolers’ admissions policies. As applications from homeschooled students become more common, more colleges and universities are publishing standardized policies about how they evaluate the applicants. This page has a listing of many homeschool admissions policies, but if a college you’re interested in isn’t listed, contact the school directly and ask if they have any guidelines.

Use the personal essay to talk about your homeschool experience. Unlike most students, you’re likely to have an education that’s heavily based on taking part in new experiences, rather than simply learning from books. Impress the admissions officers by showing them how your unique education has shaped your life and helped you to grow as a person—one who would surely be in demand at any top university.

Take part in campus interviews and college fairs. Because many people have the (often false) impression that homeschooled students aren’t well socialized, take every chance you can to prove them wrong. If you’re interested in a particular college, try to arrange a one-on-one interview with an admissions officer, so that you can impress him with your intelligence and unique outlook on education. Attending college fairs offers another opportunity to network with college officials, and can give you an opportunity to find out more about how you will be considered as a homeschooled student.

Make sure your transcript passes muster. In many states, you have a lot of leeway as to the focus of your home education. You’re free to spend time beekeeping as a science project, or take trips to the ocean to study marine biology. However, whatever you’re doing, colleges want to make sure you’re actually learning—so, along with standardized tests, you’ll want to make sure your academic transcript presents an impressive overview of what you’ve accomplished in your studies. Your family may consider hiring an admissions consultant (typically a former admissions officer) to look over your transcript and offer an honest appraisal.

Steve Wagasky, College Funding Consultant
College Planning Professionals

Majority Of College Students Who Fail Had Little Planning Or Guidance

In a 2009 study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the group Public Agenda surveyed college students who did and did not graduate. Part of this study looked at the level of prior guidance and planning that students had before attending college.

They study found that the majority of students, especially those who did not graduate, had little planning and guidance for college. 2/3 of students who did not graduate based their college decisions not on academics, but on convenience (e.g., what was close, cheap, or “easy”).

Both graduates and non-graduates were asked to rate their high school guidance counselors on how well they helped them explore careers, decide upon a school, and in helping them with the application process. 2/3 of both graduates and non-graduates rated their guidance counselors “fair to poor,” with only 13% rating them “excellent” on these criteria.

Of these same students who gave their pre-college guidance low marks, 71% of graduates and 68% of non-graduates said that having good guidance about different college majors and programs is a key issue for college decision-making.

Article Link

Steve Wagasky, College Funding Consultant
College Planning Professionals

Are you ready to make college decisions?

Does College Require “Financial Risk Management?” Yes, It Does. 
The word “risk” in financial terms generally refers to the odds of incurring monetary losses from a given endeavor.  Businesses think of risk in terms of losses due to theft or liability, and investors research their decisions to ensure that their assets appreciate, rather than reduce in value.  Research, planning, and using preventive measures are all part of an effective “risk management” strategy in both business and investing.

But, does risk and financial “risk management” pertain to college?  At many levels, yes, it does, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia seems to agree.  First, consider the state of college in the United States:  Out of 29 developed nations, the U.S. currently ranks 15th in college graduation rates. On average, only 36% of U.S. students finish a bachelor’s degree in four years, with 58% of students taking six years to complete a four-year degree.  That is, if they aren’t among the estimated 42% or more that drop out nationwide.  College planning in the U.S. traditionally has focused on getting in to college, when in light of the realities, families and students should be focused on graduating from college.

The concept of “college failure risk” was underscored in late 2009 by a working paper from the research department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, who recognized that U.S. college failure rates are significant, perhaps even enough to require students to take out “failure insurance” to help offset losses.  In their report, they pointed out that 47% of former students who have student loan debt have little to show for it, since they did not earn a two- or four-year credential.  The insurance scheme examined by the Reserve Banks, however, may be cold comfort to those students, since the premiums would represent approximately 3% to 12% or more of the total college cost, and pay off only 10% to 40% of the debt.

In light of the apparent financial risks, how might families increase the odds of college success

Effective risk management strategies against college failure would include:

1.  Data-Driven Planning
A 2009 study sponsored by the Gates Foundation found that the majority of college students spend little time planning for college, especially those that don’t graduate.  Parents and students need to “qualify” themselves to make good college decisions by both understanding the breadth of college in the U.S., and then individual schools in that context.  Key questions to answer are:  What are the most common degrees chosen by students, and their respective job outlooks?  What types of schools have the highest and lowest graduation rates?  What are the most common reasons for student success and failure?  If parents and students can’t answer these key questions, they’re not ready to make college decisions.

2.  Student Factors
The Reserve Bank aptly pointed out the importance of “student characteristics,” although in their quantitative-theoretical model, the issue was oversimplified.  Student factors aren’t limited to just GPA and SAT scores, and using these solely to gauge future performance has limitations.  Levels of independence, engagement in their own learning, social abilities, and many more factors will play in to a student’s ability to succeed.

We also live in an age where many students have special needs, which are often overlooked.  Transitional planning for a student with Attention Deficit Disorder, anxiety problems, or other issues is a highly specialized area, and will take more skill than traditional college planning can offer.  Working with a professional who understands in-school student failure is the best way to identify and control risk factors prior to college, and to develop preventative measures far before the student begins classes.

3.  In-College Support
In addition to the strategies of data- and student-driven planning is ongoing support while in college.  Problems that can affect student performance typically occur while the student is enrolled and actively taking classes.  There is an assumption by colleges that if the student is having problems, they will seek help, but multiple studies from 2007-09 show that this is not the case.  On average, only 1 in 5 students say that they would seek help.  Having regular, ongoing support during college is often a way for problems to be caught early and for parents to be informed of them.  But the most effective types of support typically aren’t through the college, but private services, since schools don’t typically seek out students that aren’t doing well.  Even if a student does get help at school, federal privacy standards may preclude the college from contacting parents without the student’s consent.

With the trends toward increasing college costs, longer graduation times, and high levels of students who don’t finish, college attendance carries with it financial “risk,” and the need to manage that risk. 

In order to reduce the risk and maximize the benefits of college attendance, data-driven, comprehensive planning and ongoing support is needed to increase the likelihood of success and to help to mitigate the risk of college failure.

Steven Wagasky is a College Funding Consultant at College Planning Professionals, a college planning and support program based in Grand Haven, Mi.  For more information, please visit him at or at his College Strategy Blog.

Steve Wagasky, College Funding Consultant
College Planning Professionals

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Interested in attending a Free College Planning Seminar?

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Steve Wagasky, College Funding Consultant
College Planning Professionals

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Grand Haven, MI 49417

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

For many families, the really scary thing about college is the price tag

Students face tuition sticker shock 

Forget worries about moving away from home and the Freshman 15. For many families, the really scary thing about college is the price tag.

“A lot of kids are nervous,” said Twiana Collier, coordinator of student financial aid for the Aldine Independent School District. “The cost of tuition is skyrocketing.”

She and other experts say financial assistance is available, in the form of grants, scholarships and subsidized student loans. That's true even for middle-class families, who often don't apply because they assume they won't qualify.

But you have to start early.

The first step is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, available online at Do it now, even if the student hasn't received an acceptance notice.

“Submitting it doesn't guarantee you will get aid, but not submitting it guarantees you won't,” said Kristen Campbell, director of college prep programs at Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions.

Nationally, tuition and fees cost an average of $7,020 this year, not including room and board. It will be higher next fall.

Texas' public universities haven't set tuition rates for 2010-11, but most say they will keep increases below 4 percent, as suggested by the Legislature. Some other states will raise it far more, including Florida, where a 15 percent jump has been proposed, and California, where tuition will increase more than 30 percent.

Tuition became a political issue in Texas after the Legislature gave schools the power to set their own rates in 2003.

The recession, and especially, higher unemployment, have heightened the concern.

A recent survey of college freshmen conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles found that two-thirds were worried about their ability to pay for their education. And 45 percent said the financial aid offer was “very important” in deciding which college they will attend.

Policy makers are listening. President Barack Obama's proposed budget includes more money for Pell Grants, the main financial aid program for low-income students, as well as for research, much of which is awarded to universities.

He also proposed a $10,000 higher-education tax credit and a plan to limit how much students have to repay in student loans.

During boom times, universities increased financial aid to attract the best students, but it's not clear how much aid will be available next fall.

Endowments are down, as are donations, both of which could affect how much schools can offer.

Houston Baptist University began notifying prospective students of financial aid awards this month, earlier than usual.

“We know students are more price sensitive,” said James Steen, vice president for enrollment management.

Applications for next year are up about 15 percent, he said, but he expects a smaller percentage of those who are accepted to actually enroll as families struggle with the cost of a private school. Tuition at HBU will be $21,970 next year.

The school also will increase financial aid. Some schools have dropped merit-based financial aid to focus on the neediest students, but Steen said that HBU considers both.

“Obviously, the higher the test score, the higher their GPA and class rank, the more we give them in the form of a scholarship or a grant,” he said.

Most schools saw big jumps this year in the number of students asking for financial aid.

The University of Houston-Downtown offered more than $100 million in financial aid for 2009-10, although not everyone who received an offer ultimately enrolled, said Rob Sheridan, executive director for special projects and financial aid.

“I would suspect those numbers will only increase,” he said.

But families who wait too long might be out of luck.

Each university sets a priority date for requesting aid. Applications received after that move to the end of the line.

“Once that priority deadline is hit, it will be gone,” Sheridan said.

People shouldn't be scared off by worries that they won't qualify or that the online application is too complicated, he said.

Help is available

Debora Cervantes is proof that persistence pays off.

Cervantes, 23, will graduate from UH-Downtown in May with a degree in accounting.

Her family couldn't afford to help, so she helped herself.

She was born in Austin but grew up in Monterrey, Mexico, and persuaded her family to return to the United States so she could attend college.

“I was new to the country and the system of education,” she said. “I went to the financial aid office and asked a lot of questions.”

She applied for grants and cobbled together scholarships to cover other costs.

Cervantes will graduate without any debt. “Just keep a clear goal of what you're trying to accomplish,” she said. “You want to be in school and keep up your grades.”

Steve Wagasky, College Funding Consultant
College Planning Professionals

Monday, February 8, 2010

Professionally Planning for College Now Leads to Peace of Mind Ahead

I recently ran across the following news article of which I wanted to share with all of you as well. 

Planning for College can be an incredibly stressful event for the entire family causing this momentous life event to potentially become at times something to dread rather than, as it should be, excitedly anticipate and look forward to.

Our mission at College Planning Professionals is to ease the burdens, stress and all other negative factors associated with College Planning.  Being able to create an atmosphere of excitement for the future college student and peace of mind for the parents throughout the process is our area of expertise and not to mention what we love to do ...

Double Take: Teens, parents need early talk on college planning

College choices. Where to go? In or out of state? JUCO or four-year? Private or public? Lay out a year or head to campus in the fall? What about tech schools, beauty schools, etc.? It’s a lot to place on the shoulders of newly minted adults rolling through their final semester in high school. But now is the time for final decisions.

I’ve never seen late teens and young adults so interested in the age-old question: What do I really want to be when I grow up? That’s a great way to start deciding what to do in the fall. Kids don’t have to have it all figured out just yet, but spending some time on the issue right now can save a lot of wasted time later. Parents need to be careful with their opinions on career and college choice. Many a teen has gone along with a parent’s wishes, signed up for engineering or architecture or education, only to realize by junior year how much they really hate that kind of work. On the other hand, parents have good reason to urge teens toward degrees that can generate some revenue down the road. I strongly recommend high school seniors take a look at the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics occupational outlook handbook ( It lists literally everything you could imagine about every career you can imagine, especially employment predictions.

Families are also cautious about finance this year. For many, budget may be everything, especially if there are two or three teens coming up the ranks. So families need to plan for about six or eight fallback strategies.

In making final selections from a (hopefully long) list of possibilities, teens and families should emphasize the fit between student and school. I recommend Loren Pope’s “Colleges that Change Lives.” Even if you don’t choose one of her 40 top picks, the book helps kids start thinking about this issue.

Samantha: I’d like to start off my column this week by running the risk of being shunned by most of the city of Lawrence. I’m here to make the case that my peers should think twice about going to KU. Many go there because they think they can’t afford to go elsewhere. But let’s take a look at the numbers. According to the Web sites of Harvard University and the College Board:

One year KU tuition + room and board = $15,000 (Average debt at graduation is $20,000)

• One year Harvard tuition + room and board if your income is less than $60,000 = free (No debt at graduation)

• One year Harvard tuition + room and board if your income is $60,000-$180,000 = no more than 10 percent of income (Average debt at graduation is $11,000)

• I know what you’re thinking; not all students can attend Harvard. But there are more than 700 private colleges in the U.S. Public schools are making huge cuts, and that means less money to give out in financial aid. It also can mean that classes are eliminated, making it harder to complete a major and graduate in just four years. (Add another $15,000 to the bill.) Many private schools, on the other hand, are still receiving generous donations from alumni. It’s not impossible to send your teen out of state and stay on budget.

Private school or not, I’d like parents to rethink sending their children right up the hill to KU. Sure, it is a good college at a decent price. But there’s more to college than the academics. College is about developing beliefs and attitudes that extend beyond the influence of parents. How can teens grow into adults when they’re still bringing home heaping piles of laundry for Mom to take care of every weekend? Or when Dad is always just a 20-minute drive away from rescuing them?

Even the students who don’t come “home” for the weekend are still living in their hometown. They will automatically feel most comfortable with their high school friends and may limit opportunities to meet new friends and try new things. College is a great time to start understanding the diversity of people and situations we’ll all face later in life. Stepping out of one’s comfort zone is important for learning these lessons.

College Planning Professionals

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Free College Planning Workshop, Rockford, Michigan

Presented by Steve Wagasky of College Planning Professionals

Don't miss out on this extremely popular FREE workshop series ... If you are the parent of a Sophomore, Junior or Senior, come learn the "insiders‟ secrets and strategies ...

"Learn strategies that will help you get the best deal on a college education for your child."

Time: 7:00PM Thursday, February 11th
Location: Rockford High School

Are you eligible to receive financial aid?

How to pick colleges that will give you the best financial aid packages.

How to attend a private school for less than a state school.

What assets are taken into consideration to calculate your EFC.

How to get ahead by developing a customized plan to meet all the college costs you will incur as a family.

How to lower your "out-of-pocket" costs and get the maximum amount of money from each school.

Steve Wagasky, College Funding Consultant
College Planning Professionals

Saturday, February 6, 2010

University Admissions Office will be significantly more selective this year

GW received a record-breaking 20,475 undergraduate applications this year, representing an increase of 3 percent from last year and making admission to the University this year more competitive than ever, University administrators said this week.

“I’m pleased to report that applications are up from last year,” Napper said in an e-mail. “We have received the most ever applications in University history.”

Napper noted said the only other time the University received more than 20,000 applications was for the fall of 2004 when it had 20,100 applicants.

Following last year’s 2-percent-yield increase, Senior Vice President for Student and Academic Support Services Robert Chernak said the admissions office will be significantly more selective this year.

“It is more likely this year that we will accept a smaller percentage of applicants than last year and establish a slightly larger wait list,” Chernak said.

Our mission at College Planning Professionals is to ease the financial burden on families who seek to send their children to college.  We further aim to broaden the options available to families - with respect to the choice of institution and mode of payment - by using our vast recources and knowledge of the process to remove barriers inherent in the system.

College Planning Professionals
229 Washington, Suite B Grand Haven, MI 49417
Phone 616-935-0740 Fax 616-935-0744

Free College Financial Aid Workshop in Holland, Michigan

Tuesday, February 9 at Holland High School's Media Center from 7pm to 8pm ... Register online now via our Website or on our Facebook Events Page

All Parents of High School Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors are invited to attend this FREE College Financial Aid Workshop.

As a member of the College Planning Network, the nation’s largest and most reputable college financial aid servicing network, College Planning Professionals offers a wide range of services to help families with college-bound students achieve their goals.  Whether it’s cash flow planning, arranging your financial affairs to qualify for the greatest amount of college funding possible, showing you how to pay for college on a tax-favored basis, ensuring that your financial aid forms are filled out correctly and consistently, or utilizing our state-of-the-art positioning tools to help your student score as high as possible on college entrance tests, get your student successfully admitted, ensure that they are equipped to make the best possible decisions about their future, and get in and out of college in four years, we will guide you every step of the way.