Common Application RollOver

Nearly 700 colleges accept the Common Application. Students can now rollover their Common Application information, which helps rising juniors and seniors plan ahead and save time later.

Here's a list of the sections that will roll over:

  • Profile 
  • Family 
  • Education 
  • Testing 
  • Activities 
  • Writing 

 Some things won't roll over though:

  • FERPA Release Authorization 
  • Recommender Invitations 
  • Forms submitted by recommenders 
  • Answers to college specific questions
When the Common App launches August 1, rising seniors and transfer students can log in using the same email and password to rollover their account. They can then complete the FERPA authorization, recommender invitations and specific college questions before double-checking and then submitting. 

Talking to College Kids About Money

There have been some recent news articles warning parents that by paying their child's college costs the student may in-turn have a lower GPA. In an article submitted to the American Sociological Review, researcher Laura T. Hamilton considered what effect financial parental investments have on student GPA and degree completion. Her findings showed that if parents paid for colleges, grades tended to decrease.

Rather than focus on the "whys" of this finding, this is a great
opportunity to talk to your current or prospective college student about the financial investment of a higher education. If parents simply "write the checks", they are missing an important learning moment. Money is mostly invisible to today's generation that deals in gift cards, digital wallets and plastic. The realization that cash is our form of currency is truly an after-thought. Here are some tips for getting that financial conversation going:

  • be up front about the cost of tuition and room and board. Compare it to something tangible. For example, "The amount of money we will be paying for your first year of college is nearly equal to the cost of both of our cars. After we re-buy both the cars this year, we have to do it again three more times so you can graduate from college."
  • talk about what, and how much, you are willing to pay for this education. Be up-front about any costs they are expected to pay. For example, some students are responsible to cover the cost of textbooks. This is a great incentive for students to seek out bargains at places like CheggAmazon or
  • discuss the covert costs of college with your student so they are aware that tuition and room and board are only part of their education investment.
  • if your student will be responsible for paying back any loans, consider putting that in writing to give them the chance to sign a contract and to feel the obligations of that contract.
  • be clear about spending money. Are you giving your student an "allowance"? If so, are there any strings attached, such as "this money may not be used to take your girlfriend to a fancy restaurant"? If parents expect students to earn their own spending money, give them plenty of notice.
  • make sure your student is aware of the many credit card offers they are about to receive. Share your credit card statement with them to point out the box that shows how much you will pay if you only pay the minimum each month. College is expensive enough without racking up credit card debt.
  • besides credit card chats, engage in talks about budgeting and bank account fees.
Many high schools had courses on basic finances for students. Few schools offer them anymore (due in part to, well, finances) so it's up to parents to be the teacher. If you're not a good money manager, seek out someone who is, or consult a book like, The Complete Guide to Personal Finance for Teens and College Students by Tamsen Butler.

Learning about money is just another part of your child's education. Don't miss out on this chance.

College Drop Out Rate

Many high school seniors are in the midst of making that all important decision, "Where am I sending my deposit check before May 1?"

As we work with students in this decision-making process over the next few weeks, it's disheartening to know that as many as one in three college freshmen don't return to school for their sophomore year.

Yup, nearly 33% of these excited college freshmen-to-be will drop out of college before their second year and nearly 50% of them won't finish college and get their degree...How can this be?

Students have lots of reasons. Dr. Robert Pitcher of the Educational Development Center at the University of Alabama offers ten reasons- ranging from poor high school preparation to selection of the wrong college to psychological problems (which includes homesickness and a difficulty fitting in).

Public Insight Network conducted a large study to try to figure out why students start a college degree, but don't finish it. Many former students say they went to college because it was expected of them, not because they wanted to go (maybe American students should embrace the idea of a gap year in the way that students in Europe do). Other former students cited an inability to afford college or a realization that what they wanted to do didn't require a college degree.

So, what's a parent to do?
  • Talk to your kids. Tell them the statistics of staying in school.
  • Balance your comments about college. Don't only talk about all the fun. Talk about the tough stuff too- the hard class work, the homesickness, the challenges of living with a bunch of people you don't know.
  • Make sure your students are aware of the support at college- resident assistants, resident directors, the counseling resources. Tell them that everyone at the college wants each student to find success and that many people are available to help as needed. Make sure they know that you are open to outside help if the student believes the college resources are unable to meet needs.
  • Keep the lines of communication open. Don't minimize your student's feelings. Going to college is a time of transition and won't be a straight upward arc. There will be set-backs and some upset during the transition. Keep talking.

There are many safety nets in place for students as they begin college. Convincing students to use those nets may be the tougher battle.

When to Start College Planning

I recently read that parents spend 300+ hours helping their teens through the college admissions process. I suspect that number may be higher when you factor in the number of hours parents spend searching through resources trying to get answers to their questions. 

The admission process is quite fluid and frequently changes. No one heard the term "demonstrated interest" just a few years ago and now it is a mainstream phrase in the search and application process. Options such as gap year and a pre-college year are becoming more accepted now.  Planning testing schedules, organizing college visits and researching college majors can suck up a lot of time and energy. Since families generally cram all college planning into the spring of junior year through the fall of senior year, there isn't much time to spare. 

So what's a parent to do?

Start Early- The summer before junior year is the ideal time to plan out SAT or ACT testing. This
gives students time for prepping for the tests before school even begins. The early high school years are not too early to visit some colleges and talking about college should begin in the late middle school years to maximize summer program opportunities and plan out coursework.

Get Educated- I hear parents say all of the time, "I don't know what I don't know". It's true that college planning can feel overwhelming and it's difficult to know where to start. Talk to others who have gone through this recently with their own children. Talk to knowledgeable college counselors. Read reputable resource books and websites about college planning.

Don't Panic- We want our teens to enjoy their high school years and putting pressure on them may backfire in a host of ways. Identify your stressors about the process and create a plan. There is help available so don't hesitate to reach out to your high school college counselor or an independent college counselor for assistance.They can save you a great deal of time and stress so you can focus on enjoying your teenager and these fun months.

Tools for Planning College Visits

Map of Colleges

Spring means college visit season for many students. Open houses, admissions sessions and student-led tours are great ways for high schoolers to get a feel for a campus. As you plan your visits, here are some tools for your "College Visit Toolbox":

  • Hedberg Map's Professor Pathfinder series or Wintergreen Orchard's spiral bound College Atlas and Planner offer printed maps for those who prefer to use a highlighter to map out their own route.
  • Many colleges offer their own mobile apps to enhance your visit. Check out each college website or call the admissions office to ask about apps. 
  • If you're undecided about whether to visit a particular college, try a virtual tour first. Sites like YOUniversity and GoSeeCampus offer an overview right from the comfort of your sofa. Check out a virtual tour before visiting a college to help you get "the lay of the land" before stepping foot on campus.
  • For people looking to let someone else do their college visit planning, full service companies such as Off2CollegeTours and CollegeCampusTrips will custom design an itinerary based on individual needs.
It's important to visit colleges before making the decision of where to apply. Seeing the lay-out of the campus in person, visiting the buildings and talking to students, staff and faculty are the best ways for students to determine if a particular college is a right-fit.

Have fun!

*My College Helper is not responsible for and has no control over the above listed sites and products and their mention should not be taken as a recommendation or endorsement.*

What to do at a College Fair

Attending college fairs can be a great way to check out a bunch of schools at one time. NACAC maintains a list of national college fairs.  You can find local college fairs through your high school guidance office or by searching online with "college fairs" followed by your zip code.

Walking into a gym filled with rows of tables can feel overwhelming though, so make sure you have a plan. Here's a three minute video that explains what you can expect at a college fair and here are a few tips so you can make the most of the event:

  • find out in advance which colleges will be attending. Target those colleges you want to know more about first, and then do a walk-through to learn about colleges that might not yet be on your radar screen.
  • Organize some questions in advance. You may want to ask the representative about the academic and social atmosphere, which types of students do best at the college and if any new programs are being added in the next few years.
  • Remember your manners. Shake hands, make eye contact, say please and thank you. This may be the very person who will hold your application in a few months. Don't make an unfavorable impression.
  • If you have continued interest in any of the colleges, follow up with a brief email to the admissions counselor you met.
    A simple "it was nice to meet you" and perhaps a follow-up question or two, will show your interest in the college.
Take advantage of college fairs as a way to jump-start your search or to narrow down your choices. This is time well invested in your search for a right-fit college. 

What to do if You are Deferred at Your Top College

You've been eagerly waiting to hear from your top choice college. Admit or deny were possibilities, but what is this thing called "deferred"? Being deferred means that your application file will be re-considered in the regular decision pool. This typically shows that you weren't strong enough for the early application pool, but there is still enough there for the admissions committee to re-read your application along with all the others they receive in the regular decision pool. 
They are not willing to let go of you yet!

If you are deferred, there are a few things you can do:
  • send your first semester grades as soon as they become available.
  • send any new SAT, ACT or SAT Subject test scores.
  • ask a senior year teacher if they would write a letter of recommendation for you.
  • ask your school counselor if they are willing to send a letter or make a phone call on your behalf.
  • send updates of any new significant activities or achievements (recent National Honor Society inductee, elected officer for a club, etc.)
  • send a letter from you re-affirming your interest. 
In the meantime, keep up with your other colleges to make sure they have everything they need from you to make a decision. Don't despair- you will be at the best college for you next fall!