Top ten things parents can do to stay sane

1. Take "we" out of it.  "We" are not applying to college, your child is.  Admissions officers see this as a sign that you are a "helicopter parent."

2. Designate college free nights.  Your child is surrounded by college talk, college worries, and college plans.  You can greatly reduce their stress by having a few evenings a week where you talk about other things.

3. Focus on realistic expectations.  One of the greatest fears that kids have is not living up to their parents' expectations.  So don't point out every Harvard sticker on the back window of a car or focus time and energy wondering how that kid down the road got into Tufts.  

4. Hold up your end of the bargain.  Set aside time to visit colleges.  Fill out all of the high school guidance department paperwork in a timely manner.  File your FAFSA and CSS PROFILE on time.  

5. Have the "what we can afford" discussion now.  Don't let your child apply to college, get in, and then decide that you cannot afford it!

6. Bring up the rear.  On a campus tour, let your child walk up front and ask the questions.  The same goes at college fairs, interviews, and when talking with coaches, musical directors, or faculty.

7. Offer your help.  Most kids need help with this process.  Arranging trips, mailing thank you notes, sending SAT/ACT scores, etc. "I am here to help; you tell me what you need," is a great message to send.

8. Speak second.  After each college visit, ask for their impressions before you offer your two cents.

9. Help them discover their greatness.  Remember, all students have unique and wonderful attributes.  Focus on the positive and on what will get them into college, not what might keep them out.

10. Call us.  If all of the above are getting you nowhere... call us.  We can help!




A recent Harvard study cites that 22% of all freshmen at four-year private colleges used an Educational Consultant in their college search and application process.

Top ten mistakes students make on their applications

1. Not proofreading!  Spell chick doesn't catch everything! (A second set of eyes would certainly pick up that typo.)

2. Trying to be someone you aren't.  Your application should reflect who you are... if you are funny, be funny; if you are contemplative, be deep.

3. Letting someone else have too much say in your essay.  The highest praise you can receive for your essay - "Your voice really comes through in this."  Much better than, "This essay sounds like it was written by a 45-year-old English teacher."

4. Not choosing the right teachers to write recommendations.  Choose teachers that can write about you as a person and as a learner, not necessarily those that gave you the highest grades.

5. The "why us" question.  Be specific!  They really want to know what you will bring to their campus. If you are finding one schools name and replacing it with another, it is not specific enough.

6. Forgetting activities.  As early as your freshman year in high school, keep a list of what you are involved in and what awards you have won.  You will forget!

7. Not meeting deadlines.  Many colleges have priority deadlines to be considered for merit scholarships, honors programs, alumni interviews, and dual degree programs.  Be ready to go early!

8. Not visiting.  Gone are the days when you could apply and then go take a look.  Many colleges use demonstrated interest to gauge your enthusiasm for the college.  So visit!

9. Bragging too much or too little.  Be proud of what you have done and don't be afraid to tell them.  But also realize that you are most likely not the only student with similar experiences, so don't make a huge deal of something small.

10. Cute, but no intellectual firepower.  Writing a good essay is like painting a self-portrait... it takes time.  You need to brainstorm, play around with different angles, pay attention to the background as well as the subject, and you need to step back often and evaluate.  Many essays tell a good story, but remember, that they also need to show the admissions committee both how you write and how you think.

Did you know?

Only about 2% of all high school athletes can expect to be awarded any money to play sports in college. 

Top ten things to consider when researching colleges

1. Be a consumer. Most of what you get in the mail and on the college's own website is marketing.  Look elsewhere!

2. Listen to the students.  Two great websites for student reviews are College Niche and Unigo.  But remember - most of the students that contribute to sites such as these are blissfully happy or really angry.  Look for the common threads.

3. Visit.  Nothing replaces an actual college visit.  And the colleges know this as well.  They want to know that you were there.

4. Read the newspaper.  Most college newspapers are online or scattered around campus.  If you want to know what is really happening on campus, check out the paper!

5. Don't listen to your friends.  The very same reason that they hated a school could be its selling point for you.  Think for yourself.

6. Look beyond the numbers.  Statistics are easily manipulated and can be deceiving... a good reason to be trepidatious with rankings as well.  

7. What matters to you?  You need to have a priority list of the criteria that matters to you and keep going back to it in your research, otherwise researching becomes overwhelming.  

8. Use the online search tools.  Peterson's is perfect for specific criteria, and Princeton Review works for a general search.  

9. Know your learning style.  Although climbing walls, a great football team, and nationally-ranked food services are great bells and whistles, you need to make sure that the colleges that you select will meet your needs academically and that you will be successful there.

10. Think outside the box.  Most high school students research and apply to the same compilation of schools as their classmates.  There are over 3,600 four-year colleges in the United States.  Find your school.

Did you know?

Last year, undergraduate students borrowed, on average, $37,175 from all sources, up from $19,000 a decade earlier.

Top ten things to know about financial aid

1. Start early!  There are many, many scholarship opportunities for students as young as 9th grade.  

Register with scholarships.com or fastweb.com to find some.

2. Estimate what you can afford.  Most families put this last in the sequence of the process.  At College Matters, we put it first.

3. Research the financial aid policy for each school you are considering—they vary widely.  Do they meet 100% of demonstrated need? What type of methodology do they use—federal or institutional? How do they allocate outside scholarships?

4. Beware of scams.  You should never have to pay to apply for a scholarship or for someone to file your FAFSA for you.  

5. Research merit awards.  Some colleges will automatically consider you for a merit scholarship when you apply, but others have separate applications.

6. Create a FSA ID. In order to file your FAFSA electronically, both the student and the parent need one.  And save it —you will need it to file in subsequent years.

7. Know all of the deadlines.  Many colleges have very early deadlines for priority consideration.  You do not need to wait for your taxes to be filed.  Estimate!

8. Know which forms to file.  All colleges require the FAFSA to be submitted, but some also require the CSS/Profile or their own forms.

9. Appeal.  If you truly can't afford what the institution is offering, appeal. The worst thing that they can say is no.

10. Compare and contrast awards.  Understand the cost of attendance, how much debt you will incur over your four years, and whether or not the components of your package are renewable. 

Did you know?

Columbia University’s Havemeyer Hall, room 309, has been the setting for over a dozen movie classrooms, including in all three Spiderman movies.

college application resources

Additional Resources

We asked the expertsour seniorsfor the resources they use the most!

1. The College Matters portal.  "I'm on it at least three times a week. It has my to do's, my test plan, my college list, my deadlines, and my essays. My portal keeps me organized."

2. Application sites.  The Common Application, the Coalition Application, and the Universal Application, among others.  

3. College.edu.  "While they sometimes drive me nuts with all the marketing, they are the best place to get information on majors, faculty, student activities, and campus tour options." Also on a school’s website, look for student blogs, a calendar of events, professor's home pages, and any other links that are of interest to you.

4. Testing, testing.  College Board for the SAT and subject tests, or the ACT. Khan Academy for practice problems and exams. Not a great test taker? Check out which colleges are test optional

5. College newspapers.  A great way to cut through the marketing and to find out what life on campus is really like is to take a look at the college newspaper.  Most can be found online. 

6. A book of lists. Best colleges for the free spirit? The politically engaged? The student who has had a rocky road? The College Finder has it all - and Betsy Morgan was a contributor to the latest edition! 

7. Virtual tours.  On your student portal, you will find many under the tag “Search College Videos.”  Many college websites also have this feature. 

8. Blogs.  Many college admission offices have very helpful blogs that share information on the application process, essays, and so much more. And don't forget to subscribe to our blog as well!

9. Social media.  "I've gotten some of my best information from friends and acquaintances who have attended or are attending the colleges that I'm considering." "I follow my colleges on Twitter and Instagram. Lots of great info."

10. You guys!  "I love that you are always there to answer my questions."

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