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5 Do’s and 5 Don’ts for Parents about helping your kids Apply to College
I saw the post below and I thought I would add to it.  I have my own Do’s and Don’t about helping your kids apply to college. Do’s Start early – From the day they are born you need to think about college.  You need to start early from a financial perspective and from a […]

Added By: GA6th Staff

September 17, 2014

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I saw the post below and I thought I would add to it.  I have my own Do’s and Don’t about helping your kids apply to college.


  1. Start early – From the day they are born you need to think about college.  You need to start early from a financial perspective and from a guidance perspective
  2. Help them in anyway you can.
  3. Be honest with them about your own college experiences
  4. Visit as many colleges as you can
  5. Give them the power to make their decisions


  1. Don’t plan on Scholarship money
  2. Don’t plan on Student loans
  3. Don’t ignore time off between high school and college
  4. Don’t think there is only one path forward
  5. Don’t make it about you

I will write more about this as time permits.


8 Mistakes Parents Make When They Help Kids Apply To College

Ann Brenoff

The 2015 college application season has officially opened. But in our desire to help our kids navigate this land-mine-fraught road, we might actually be doing some things that harm them. Lynn O’Shaughnessy, a nationally recognized college expert, author of “The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price, and blogger at The College Solution, helped us develop this list of 8 mistakes parents frequently make when attempting to help their kids apply to colleges:

Ignoring schools you never heard of.
If you limit your search to the same 200 schools where everyone else is also applying, you are shortchanging your student, said O’Shaunghnessy. One of the realities is that when so many people apply to the same places, those schools become highly selective in who they pick and far less generous with financial aid. O’Shaughnessy suggests adding some smaller, lesser-known schools to the list. Colleges That Change Lives , a consortium of smaller liberal arts schools, is a good place to start, she said.

Smaller colleges also provide a more intimate learning experience, she said. Students get to know their professors, can find role models and mentors to help shape their future, and in general, don’t get lost in the masses. You are more than just one of the bodies warming a seat in a big lecture hall taught by a TA who never really wanted to be a teacher in the first place, she said. “Even dance classes at big universities are taught ‘lecture style’,” she said.

But don’t those big brand-name schools mean a happier college experience and a higher jobs placement rate after graduation? Au contraire, O’Shaughnnessy said. It turns out that your future happiness at work and at home has more to do with what you do at college than where you went to school, according to a recent poll by Gallup and Purdue University. College is what you make of it, O’Shaughnessy, whose own daughter when to a school you likely never heard of and can’t spell and propelled herself into semesters abroad, launched a business while an undergraduate, and is now the head of marketing for a toy company.

Not knowing what you can actually afford ahead of time.
Amazingly, she said, many parents get sucked into this quicksand trap. Their kids start the college application season without knowing how much money they have to spend. This is the educational equivalent of looking at $2 million homes at open houses when you can realistically afford to buy a $300,000 condo. And we all know what happens after we do that: Those $300,000 condos just look so darn uninviting afterward.

Why let your student apply to schools that you can’t afford? asks O’Shaughnessy. Affordability is a conversation to have with your kids before they apply, not after they get accepted to a “dream” school and have no viable means to pay for it.

O’Shaunghnessy says everyone should run their numbers through the Expected Family Contribution calculator to learn what colleges and universities are likely going to say about what your contribution should be.
To get your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) number, you can use the EFC calculator on the College Board site.

“You need to obtain your EFC to get an idea of what any college will cost you at a minimum,” said O’Shaughnessy. But, she notes, usually you will have to pay more than that. When you know what your EFC is, you start looking for schools that would be a reasonably good match financially.

If you have a lower EFC (you are low/middle income), look for schools that are very generous with financial aid. If you have a high EFC (you are wealthy) and don’t want to pay full price, look for schools that give merit scholarships to rich kids.

Then there is the Net Price Calculator, which provides a personal estimate of what aparticular school will cost your family. Here’s where it can get a little dicey: About half of the schools’ calculators are bad because they used the federal template that doesn’t ask enough questions.

Counting on your brilliant student to get a full merit scholarship ride.
Yes, Abe Lincoln rose from poverty and became President. Sure it can happen, but it’s hardly the norm. If one of the pillars of your college planning includes having a miracle occur — which would be the definition of a full-ride merit scholarship — chances are your student is going to be disappointed. Here’s the reality: The kids who get the full ride with merit scholarships are a tiny minority; they are generally kids with great potential and no money. Everybody else? Get your checkbooks out.

O’Shaughnessy tells the story of a two parents — both doctors — with a daughter with a 4.7 GPA bolstered by about a dozen AP classes, nearly perfect test scores and major notable extra-curricular accomplishments. She was admitted to the top schools in the country — and not one offered a penny in merit scholarships. Her mother bemoaned how unfair it was that a “less meritorious” student whose parents hadn’t scrimped and saved the way her own family had would get financial aid and her daughter would not. Foul, she cried.

O’Shaughnessy says that elite schools receive an overabundance of high-income applicants so they can turn away teenagers whose parents balk at paying full price. “These schools do tend to provide excellent financial aid to students who need it, but these institutions are largely dedicated to educating the nation’s most privileged teenagers.” Another reason to maybe steer away from those schools?

Believing that your student-athlete will win a scholarship.
This is a dream you share with every other soccer, basketball, baseball, tennis, cross country and football parent. Many are called; few are chosen. Only Divisions I and II schools offer athletic scholarships; Division III teams do not.

Division I students are essentially employees of the school and the best chance for a full-ride athletic scholarship is to compete in one of Division I’s six head-count sports — which your student will either get a full-ride or nothing. For men’s basketball, there are a grand total of 13 scholarships. How’s that for sobering?

In other sports, known as equivalency sports, there are lower scholarship amounts available; some of these could only cover books.

Excluding the glamour sports of football and basketball, the average NCAA athletic scholarship is about $8,700 — nowhere near a full ride. For track or baseball, it’s generally about $2,000. College expenses at NCAA schools range from $20,000 to $50,000 a year. So the idea that your left-handed relief pitcher can write his own ticket to any school is pretty much a myth.

As for scholarships in general, thinking local tends to yield more money. Better to try your local civic organizations where there is less competition for money. Remember, it takes a village.

Believing that student loans will be your salvation.
Student loans are the work of the devil, believes Zac Bissonnette, author of “Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents.”

Bissonnette says “Student loans are one of the top three things teenagers can do to ruin their lives. The others are heroin and pregnancy.” O’Shaughnessy thinks that parents who go into massive debt — or allow their children to — are misguided at best.

College — and retirement — are things that require planning. You don’t just arrive at the doorstep of college penniless and think it’s all going to work out “somehow.” And should you be among those who do precisely that, maybe consider a gap year where your student works and saves some money. Community colleges, where you can take your general ed classes and then transfer to a four-year school for an advanced degree, is another option. But loans? You need to really consider what you are getting yourself into — years of debt that will strap you and hinder your ability to live on what you can earn once you get that expensive college degree.

Worrying that your home equity matters.

Many people are house-rich and cash-poor, meaning they have their life savings tied up in the equity of their homes and would rather not sell their house in order to get at the money to pay for college.

The good news is that at most state and private colleges and universities, the equity in your primary home is a non-issue, said O’Shaughnessy. That’s because most schools only require families to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) when applying for financial aid and the FAFSA doesn’t even ask about home equity. What you just heard was a collective sigh of relief coming from California and other states where home prices have long been inflated and there are many “paper millionaires.”

There are, however, roughly 260 schools, nearly all private, that are quite interested in the value of your house and how these schools treat home equity varies dramatically, O’Shaughnessy said. The schools in this category include the nation’s most prestigious institutions. These colleges use an additional financial aid form called the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE.

Depending on how schools treat your home equity, your chances of getting financial aid could blow up while at other institutions your money in your house won’t be jeopardized even if you are living in an exclusive zip code, notes O’Shaughnessy.

One big drag, she said, is that while you can technically appeal any financial aid decision, you are at a disadvantage time-wise — you only get a couple of weeks to let the college know if you accept its offer — and you don’t actually know what the school considered when factoring what aid to give you. So did they count your home equity or not?

Not knowing how to evaluate an offer.
O’Shaughnessy says financial aid offers are intentionally designed to confuse families. The one thing parents really want to know is “what is my EFC (Expected Family Contribution?”) And sometimes, that answer is convoluted. Does it include room and board, all fees, or just tuition?

Sometimes, schools don’t identify loans as loans but insist on calling it “financial aid.”O’Shaughnessy recommends the website College Abacus to compare offers.

Thinking Community College is a great fallback.
For some, it may be. But let’s take a reality check on community colleges. They are inexpensive and allow students to go to school part time and work. The problem is that overwhelmingly when they do that, they don’t finish. Many are eligible for Pell Grants — which would give them the money they need to live while they study — but don’t apply. Yes, some motivated kids who do graduate two-year schools do go on to four-year universities — but many more never get to that stage. Placement tests are required at four-year schools and students don’t know they need to prepare –practice — for those tests, said O’Shaughnessy.

If your student wasn’t motivated in high school to get good grades, why do you think he or she will be motivated in junior college to get the grades for a four-year college?



  • Salem Spitz · Top Commenter · UCLA

    The article dismisses Community Colleges, allegedly because the students don’t transfer to University to complete their Bachelor’s. NONSENSE! Those students who want a University degree will transfer and those who didn’t care won’t. CC is the BEST approach for middle income families to insure their student will be able to afford University, especially in those states where CC’s have guaranteed transfer agreements with the Universities.

    My daughter didn’t feel comfortable about entering University as a freshman from a relatively small high school. She joined a guaranteed transfer program (3.5GPA) at Long Beach City College, transferred to UCLA and graduated summa cum laude (and was admitted to Phi Beta Kappa) for about half the cost of the full program at UCLA.

    I don’t know if this transfer program still exists, but if it does it makes no sense to not take advantage of it — assuming the intent of the student is to get an education instead of a “vacation”.

    • Ruth Callahan · Top Commenter

      Salem, I agree about the community college. It is a good step for students who are not sure of the direction they want to pursue or if they would even make it in a larger school. I went back to school in my mid-40s but was afraid I could not handle the classwork. Community college gave me the ability to try it without a lot of extra cost. It was well worth it. I found I was actually a very good student and after 1 1/2 years, having gotten most of my core work out of the way and my study skills refined, I was able to transfer to a 4-year with little problem.
    • Caryn Banker · Top Commenter · Yale University

      Yeah, I don’t see that as a trap or a problem, more like a ‘self-weeding-out’. It’s actually a plus for people who don’t actually want an expensive 4 year college degree. Inexpensively, it can show them what the 4 year is going to be like and do you really want to go into debt to down this path? CA, as I recall, has one of the best CC systems in the US. You’re right there is no reason not to take advantage of it, if you can and if you fall into the financial categories mentioned in the article.

      Congrats to your daughter, well done!

    • Bluemington Boutique

      Even at the University of Michigan, I had a number of friends who took various gen-ed courses at their local community colleges over the summers in order to save money and get electives out of the way. Not only were the courses less stressful, but in many cases, they developed close relationships with the professors, who could later write recommendations for the students (not so easy to do in a large lecture hall-type course). I wasn’t in a degree program that lent itself well to this, but had I been required to take math and science courses, in particular, I probably would have gone this route.
  • Bill Brown · Villanova University

    Regarding Community Colleges – if the student obtains an actual Associates Degree, rather than just takes classes, that degree satisfies all the “core” classes at many colleges, meaning when the student does transfer – depending on the major – they can finish in 2 to 2.5 years, and at a very reduced price.
  • Amber Buske

    “If your student wasn’t motivated in high school to get good grades, why do you think he or she will be motivated in junior college to get the grades for a four-year college?”

    That statement says it all about many community college students. They wake up after h.s. graduation and don’t know what to do (work is often not even considered), so they head to the local CC.

    It’s week four of the semester now, and many students have already stopped attending classes. Most college classes are not glamorous or fun – they require intensive reading, writing and study to pass, requiring skills that many students did not have to use much in high school (many brag about not reading a book while in high school). They find out that college is not non-stop frat parties as shown in the movies. Once they realize it’s still school, some just stop attending as they really don’t want to be students. This is why CC transfer rates are low. When you have an open door policy, you will have a higher drop-out rates.

    The few students that are attending CC to save some money and then transfer to a university do just fine. If they were good students in h.s. or they have matured and realize the importance of education if they are older, they have the self-motivation needed to succeed and move on.

    • Mark Tulk · Top Commenter · Freelance Photog + Photo Studio Assistant atPhotographer/Photo Assistant

      Good observation, Amber. I haven’t seen any discussion of the good 2-year programs – Asssoc., Certification, etc., that can qualify a good, diligent student for a good job – Nursing (beginning, LPN – RN), or mechanic (auto, truck, aviation), Law Enforcement, Fire-fighter (Academies), or other Health- related ( EMT/Paramedic, Pharmacist-Tech., Cert. Athletic Trainer, etc.) At any school, your comment is at the foundation… Will the student study, and have the discipline to completion ?? Thanks…
  • John LaVoy · Top Commenter · Northern Michigan University

    The article gives short shrift to community colleges. While it is true that the majority of CC student never complete, that is because most CC students are either not seeking a degree or have never really been very interested students. The flood of students into four year schools pretty much meant that talented students rarely if ever went to a community college. If that trend changes, so will the success numbers.

    The one thing she does not mention is the single best tactic parents can employ. Do NOT let kids go to college right out of high school. Get a kid out into the work force for a year. Let them experience life at minimum wage drudgery. When they decide to go back to school, they will go back with some energy and commitment. They may even have saved some money.

  • Pam W Coughlan · Works at MotherReader

    Merit scholarships ARE available for stellar students if you look down a tier or two from the Ivies – many if not all of which don’t offer merit scholarships. However, universities who are looking to attract good students to their rosters do offer impressive scholarships. Instead of looking at merit scholarships as a “prize” for being a stellar student, look at it from the perspective of the universities where they are providing a financial incentive for the student to consider a school with a bit less prestige. (Though yes, the education can be just as good!)
  • Leah Selman · Top Commenter

    if your going to bother with it at all, make sure the school offers “PAID INTERNSHIP PROGAMS” otherwise don’t give em the time of day
    • Mark Tulk · Top Commenter · Freelance Photog + Photo Studio Assistant atPhotographer/Photo Assistant

      Ms. Selman, You should refrain from making comment, when know NOTHING about the subject. Internships, and the more-rare “paid internship”, are usually proffered by companies, “non-profits” (Red Cross, Medical Research, Homeless Shelters, etc.), Media, or political (etc.) Internships are an entire article (or book) unto themselves. Colleges should offer “WORK-STUDY” programs, for those in-need, or to fill a needed role. “Work-Study” can be a requirement of some Financial Aid programs. “Internships” are usually an employer-College co-operative. As stated, you don’t know what the Hail you’re writing-about. – Mark T., Michigan, USA ; 15 SEPT 14 .
  • Mark Tulk · Top Commenter · Freelance Photog + Photo Studio Assistant atPhotographer/Photo Assistant

    There is a very disturbing, un-stated, assumption that underlies this entire article, and is an indicator of U.S. society, as a whole. A few, short decades ago, we college or University students were ADULTS. This article, however, is closer to : “Finding a Good Day-Care, Pre-School, for Your KID…” When GI’s returned from WWII, Korea, or Viet-Nam, and took advantage of the “G.I.Bill”, were they college “Kids”, making-good of well-deserved education benefits ?? I developed mechanical skills, as well as academic and athletic, when I was in High School, and could make enough money as a welder-ironworker, to “work my way through college” ( or work & school, both part-time). As stated, this article & discussion has “Mommie & Daddy”, holding their kid’s hand, while they go through the college booklets & websites… Yes, I know t See More
  • Bluemington Boutique

    One nearly foolproof way to get at least a couple of full-ride merit scholarships (including stipends) is to do well enough on the PSAT to qualify as a National Merit Semifinalist. I don’t believe you even need to get to the National Merit Finalist stage to qualify for this (so you need not take the SAT if you were not planning to do so for other reasons). I was offered two of these to fairly respectable schools, and the reason I did not take them was because my parents agreed to pay if I attended their in-state alma mater (a much better school and a bargain due to our location). Both schools that offered me the full rides were large state schools, but not in my state.
    • Susan Marsten · Top Commenter · Works at Retired

      National Merit semi finalists are the top 1% of students taking the test from each state. I was one 50 years ago. I did get recruiting letters from a variety of colleges and universities which certainly added to the fun of my senior year, but they were not top tier schools which do not need to recruit top students. Counting on paying for college through one of these scholarships is about the same as expecting a sports scholarship to pay for a full ride. Someone who can test in to that top 1% has a pretty good chance of getting a merit scholarship somewhere, but the other 99% are still on their own.
    • Megan Cellucci · Top Commenter · Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

      My son was a finalist – the only schools offering him a full ride were huge national universities more known for their football programs than anything else. NOT what he was looking for. The schools he really dreamed of going to offered him something, but nothing close to a full ride. It was a disappointing realization that he could work hard, graduate 5th in his class with athletic and musical extracurriculars, and end up attending his “back up” school because it made the most sense financially. Of course, he’s very happy there now – as the article mentions, what you do with your time once you are there is more important than where you go.
    • Bluemington Boutique

      Susan Marsten , with some effort and preparation, more than 1% of students could achieve highly on the PSAT, I’m certain. The problem is that the PSAT often comes up so suddenly (and many don’t even take it) that nobody bothers to prepare for it. I took a one-day prep class that I found rather useless ultimately, but had I put a little more effort in, I probably could have broken 1500 on both (which I didn’t, but I scored enough to make National Merit Finals. I wasn’t declared a winner, but I also live in an area with steep academic competition from the children of Tiger Parents)
  • Kathi Gervais Kokesh · Assistant,Accounting at Kbi Construction

    I agree with the statement that the local scholarships are they way to go. My son had a complete full ride to our state university his first year due to all the little $500-$2000 scholarships he received. Luckily, some of them extended into 2nd year. One was even a 4 year award. He just has to keep his grades up and send transcripts every year.
    He has just started his 3rd year without needing to take any loans offered as “financial aid”. Yay!
  • Peggy O’Neill · Top Commenter

    This article is not being completely fair to “Community Colleges”. They say it’s less expensive, and students rarely go on to 4 year schools, but what they failed to mention are those students who enter a 4 year college and fail, now that year’s tuition has been wasted. Yes, there are students who come home after one or two years at the top universities to find themselves going to a Community College, until they are mature enough and wise enough to realize this is and should not be all about partying. Parents who know their child, are wise enough to know this.
    • Ruth Callahan · Top Commenter

      I work at a local 4-year university and have seen a portion of our students who really shouldn’t be at university. They are just not ready for the type of study skills required to keep up their grades. Those are the ones who wind up back at CC to finish the core courses with the hope of returning later on. I sometimes think that most high school students should work for a couple of years and gain some experience before they continue with their studies.
    • Peggy O’Neill · Top Commenter

      Ruth Callahan , I blame your university for allowing them to get in without the “proper study skill”. Most colleges use the “proper testing” to get in, but whether they have that skill or not, when young Straight A Student leave home, things can change, and it has a lot to do with maturity and responsibility, the need to party. Parents who can view this immaturity in their child, will guide them to wait, before venturing off to the wild wild world, where they can be convinced to put that assignment down and let’s party.
    • Julie Sahlin · John A. Logan College

      Peggy O’Neill after living in and near a college town for most of my adult life,INCLUDING being a student- this is an untrue accusation. I live in a rural area where a ‘large’ graduating class is 150 students. When these kids( even straight A students) go from literally one on one (small high school) to classes of 30 plus , NOT counting lecture halls ( try 50 people and up) — you CANT blame the university. Universities cant/wont/dont follow people for their ‘study skills’. And kids with scholarships…most of those are ‘use it or lose it’ situations.. Would YOU make YOUR child ‘wait’ if they got a great offer??? Or are you willing to shell out the tens of thousands of dollars for will have to pay because you decided to wait?