The Big Picture on College Admissions

At this point in the fall, many high school seniors are well underway—in some fashion or another—on the college admissions process. As a group, they tend to want to push their parents to the sidelines as they gradually assume ownership of their lives and this major decision.

Parents worry, legitimately, that their daughters and sons are not really talking enough with their guidance counselors, or spending time on Naviance (many Berks County high schools make this college admission software available) to research choices carefully, or taking time to visit campuses.

As an independent educational consultant, I see some basic areas in which parents can be influential and helpful to their children, well in advance of the hectic and pressurized senior fall:

  • Visit colleges early, even in the freshman or sophomore year. Take the official campus tours, and encourage your child to think ahead, well before the pressure is on.
  • Many colleges have an area of their websites where students can request to be on the mailing/email lists. Again, this gets good information moving directly at students well before the senior year
  • Summer programs are a great way for a young high school student to experience campus life well in advance. From sports programs to academic enrichment and SAT/ACT prep, these experiences foster independence and expand horizons simultaneously.
  • Parents can purchase hard copies of the “Fiske Guide To Colleges” or “The Insiders’ Guide To Colleges” to be left casually in shared spaces in the house, encouraging grazing of information.
  • Focus on school performance and attitude is essential. Any drop in high school grades should be treated as a serious matter. The GPA is the essential vital sign for college admission officers. A high GPA and average SAT/ACTs are the earmarks of an industrious student, while a modest GPA and high scores signal a slacker. Those rare students with high GPAs and scores are likely to have excellent college choices.
  • Besides schoolwork, nothing better prepares students for college than reading. Reading for pleasure is a habit parents can absolutely pass on, by being avid readers themselves and keeping tv and social media out of their children’s bedrooms.

As the costs of even public universities is climbing, how best should parents prepare for college costs?

Since colleges base financial aid awards on the Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) as calculated by the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), parents who file the form just after the new October 1 deadline will get an early read on what they can expect.  Income from student employment is part of the equation. Aid awards will include student loans, and parents should look carefully at those allocations.  Too heavy a debt burden leaves young college graduates struggling to buy a car or even rent an apartment.

Naviance also provides information on merit scholarships offered at various colleges.  Savvy parents know that if they are willing to have their child “drop down” a level in terms of college selectivity, they enhance the possibility of a generous merit award.  Of course, varsity athletes are often treated generously in award designations.

I deeply believe that a “best fit” college makes an important difference in a young person’s life, providing challenge, support, inspiration, real knowledge, career preparation and mentoring.  The quality and seriousness of the student body has direct impact on your son or daughter’s education.  It’s hard to be a scholar at a party school, and it’s not easy to be a lightweight among a culture of scholars.

Plan ahead.  Pick carefully.

Sarah C. Reese –  Informed Educational Solutions


Posted in Academic Consultant, ACT, ACT, Applications, Best Fit School, College Admissions, College Majors, College Rankings, Common Application, Educational Consultant, FAFSA, Financial Aid, Financing College, Gap Year, public universities, Reading, Sarah C. Reese, SAT, Selecting a College, Standardized Tests, Uncategorized, University Strenghths | Leave a comment

Does A College’s Student Body Political Leaning Matter to You?


As you are researching colleges, you will hear comments about how one campus is “very liberal” or another is “extremely conservative”, or another is “middle of the road”.: These are references to the political leanings of a college campus. Is it red, blue or somewhere in between?  Are all students of the same persuasion?

How do you find out? Here are some tips for exploring the political atmosphere on a college campus:

  1. Check out the list of college clubs? What kinds of clubs are available?
  2. Look at the campus newspaper or online news? What are the issues? Are the issues balanced, or slanted more toward a liberal or conservative viewpoint?
  3. Review the mission statement.  Does the college have core beliefs that favor one political perspective than another?
  4. Check the school’s social media.  What is the twitter and facebook chatter covering?
  5. What kind of events are popular on campus?  Where do students like to gather?

Many colleges encourage a balanced political dialogue. After researching the school, do you feel you would fit in?  Would it meet your needs to find a “liberal”, “conservative” or “middle of the road” school?

From:  GuidedPath Weekly Guru 6/7/16- Posted by Sarah Reese-

Posted in 12th Grade, Best Fit School, Campus Politics, Colleges in the News, Education, Informed Educational Solutions, Selecting a College, Self-Assessment, Senior Year, social fit, specialized interests, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Basic College Money Planning For Students


Before you leave for college, you need to learn how to handle money.  Here are 6 tips for you to consider as you prepare to go off to college in the fall.

  1. Open a bank account NOW and get an ATM card (if you don’t already have one). Make it a joint account (you and a parent.) That way you can get money quickly if you need it when away from home (in college).
  2. Learn how to check your bank balance from your phone. It is a good practice to check your bank balance before you get gas or stop by Starbucks, to be sure you have money in the bank for your purchase.
  3. Learn how to deposit checks.  New technology allows you to deposit checks right from your phone.  Great for those graduation checks you will receive.
  4. Create a budget. It is essential to have a spending plan.  Know how much money you will have each month from your financial aid or from parents. With your parents, create a realistic monthly budget.  Then, your biggest task will be to stick to your budget.
  5. Learn how to schedule & pay bills from your account.  You might have phone bills or other bills you are responsible for.  Learn how to pay on time and keep within a budget.
  6. Open a credit card account BEFORE leaving for college. Don’t be tempted by the credit card offers that you will see when you get there!  Use this card as a “backup” only, and to help establish good credit.

Start developing good money management skills this summer, and you will have a great start to your freshman year in the fall.

From GuidedPath Weekly Guru 6/1/16       –        Sarah Reese

Posted in 12th Grade, Academic Consultant, Best Fit School, College, Financial Aid, Financing College, Merit Aid, Senior Year, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

CommonApp Announces New “Rollover” Feature:


Last fall, The Common Application announced that applicant accounts created in 2015-2016 would roll over to 2016-2017. Now, we have more information to share with counselors as they begin to work with their students.

What is Account Rollover?

Account Rollover will let anyone with a Common App account maintain that account from one year to the next. It is intended to be a learning tool, not a means of completing college applications prior to senior year.

To help students take full advantage of the benefits of Account Rollover, we have created Common App Ready, a series of packaged presentations and accompanying scripts that cover every aspect of the application, from account registration through submission. Common App Ready is designed to be a powerful, flexible advising tool to be used by counselors in a way that meets their needs, on their timeline, in a manner that makes sense for their school communities. Later this spring, we will update Common App Ready to reflect any coming application changes for 2016-2017.

Who can use Account Rollover?

Anyone who has a Common App account can take advantage of Account Rollover. This resource is designed to help everyone who is a part of the college process – from students and parents to teachers and counselors – explore and understand the Common Application. On the registration page, we ask you to identify your role, but everyone has the same application experience, regardless of how they identify themselves.

How will Account Rollover work?

After the 2016-2017 Common App launches on August 1, you’ll be able to sign in using the same credentials as your 2015-2016 Common App. Upon that first sign in, we’ll ask if you would like to roll over your account from 2015-2016. If you answer yes, we’ll take you through a few quick steps to confirm the following:

* Your role (current applicant, other student, counselor, parent, etc.)

* Your current high school

* Your communication opt-in selection

* Your acceptance of our Privacy Policy

* Your previous My Colleges list

Once we have that information, we will migrate responses from your 2015-2016 account into your 2016-2017 Common App, and you’ll be ready to get started on your application.

What information will carry over from one year to the next?

We will preserve the answers you provided to any questions that appear in the six sections of the “Common App” tab: Profile, Family, Education, Testing, Activities, and Writing.

Is there any information that will not carry over?

Yes. The following information will not carry over:

* Any information you may have entered for college-specific Questions and Writing Supplements

* Your Release Authorization and FERPA selection

* Any Recommender invitations, assignments, and forms

* PDFs of Common Applications and Writing Supplements submitted the prior year

* Responses to any questions that have been removed since the prior year

* Responses to any questions that may have a different format or different response options from the prior year (For 2016-2017, this will include the Testing section given changes in score reporting. We’ll provide more information on this topic later in the spring.)

From website; posted by Sarah C. Reese, Informed Educational Solutions

Posted in 11th Grade, 12th Grade, ACT, Applications, Best Fit School, Class Rank, College, College Admission Statistics, College Admissions, College Applications, College Essay, Common App, Common Application, Informed Educational Solutions, Junior Year, Selecting a College, Senior Year, State of College Admission, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Juniors: Organize Your Testing!


There are lots of tests and testing dates to keep track of. Knowing what tests are offered when, and the deadlines is important for scheduling.

Test Date Test Type Register Month Registration Location
June 4 SAT & SAT Subjects May
Sept. 12 ACT August
Oct. 1 SAT September
Oct. 19 PSAT (MNSQT) September Your high school
Oct.24 ACT September
Nov. 5 SAT & SAT Subjects October
Dec. 3 SAT & SAT Subjects November
Dec. 12 ACT November
Jan 21 SAT & SAT Subjects December

1. Plan your test schedule for taking the ACT, PSAT, SAT and SAT Subjects.

2. Schedule tests with time in between to get your scores back, so you know what to study for.

3. Register early for your test.

4. Allow 45-60 minutes to register. There are lots of questions!

5. Upload a picture for your ACT or SAT / SAT Subject Test Registration.

6. Take the personality survey in the ACT registration.

Sarah C. Reese – Informed Educational Solutions- May 26,2016

Posted in 10th Grade, 11th Grade, 12th Grade, ACT, ACT, College Admission Statistics, College Admissions, Early Action, Early Decision, Education, Informed Educational Solutions, Ivy League, Junior Year, Merit Aid, parenting, Sarah C. Reese, SAT, SAT, Scholarships, Senior Year, Standardized Tests, State of College Admission, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Same Essay Prompts On CommonApp For 2016-16


Among the more than 800,000 unique applicants who have submitted a Common App so far during the 2015-2016 application cycle, 47 percent have chosen to write about their background, identity, interest, or talent – making it the most frequently selected prompt; 22 percent have chosen to write about an accomplishment, 17 percent about a lesson or failure, 10 percent about a problem solved, and four percent about an idea challenged.

With the release of the essay prompts and the announcement that student accounts created now will roll over to 2016-2017, counselors can introduce their juniors to the Common App now, or whenever they are ready.

2016-2017 Essay Prompts

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
2. The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

From The Common Application– Posted by Informed Educational Solutions, May 8, 2016


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Best Use of Your Summer!

From Sarah C. Reese, Informed Educational Solutions Summertime!  Dreaming of sleeping in, hanging out with friends and producing YouTube videos?  Time is precious!  Plan now to use your summer time…

Source: Best Use of Your Summer!

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Best Use of Your Summer!

SummerFrom Sarah C. Reese, Informed Educational Solutions

Summertime!  Dreaming of sleeping in, hanging out with friends and producing YouTube videos?  Time is precious!  Plan now to use your summer time to explore careers, build upon your extra-curricular experiences, learn new skills or have new experiences. By using the summer productively, you are giving your college admissions situation a big boost. Here are some summertime ideas:

  • Take up a new form of exercise (swimming, biking, running, etc.).
  • Volunteer to help in a political campaign.
  • Take a college class.
  • Do a job shadow.
  • Explore your creative side through a class or project.
  • Take a first aid class.
  • Volunteer at a children’s summer camp.
  • Take a class at the local arts center or theater group.
  • Volunteer to coach or be an assistant coach for a sport.
  • Do an internship.
  • Take a study skills class.
  • Take a speed reading class.
  • Learn how to take notes.
  • Take a computer skills or keyboarding class.
  • Do a summer exchange program.
  • Start a business.
  • Participate in a simulation program like Mock Trial or Model United Nations.
  • Do a language immersion program.
  • Do a trek.
  • Teach a new skill to children or senior citizens.
  • Organize a family reunion.
  • Volunteer at a community event.
  • Write articles for your local newspaper.
  • Volunteer for the city or other parks in your community.
  • Write a family history.
  • Create and publish a photo book.
  • Organize and create a mural in your community.
  • Organize a local youth event.
  • Write and produce a video to support local conservation.
  • Start a blog on a topic you care about.
Posted in Junior Year, Summer Enrichment, Summer Reading, summer slide, Teen Self-Confidence, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

What You Need To Know: 2017-18 FAFSA

College Students and Parents: What You Need to Know About the 2017–18 FAFSA® What’s changing for 2017–18? Starting with the 2017–18 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), these changes …

Source: What You Need To Know: 2017-18 FAFSA

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What You Need To Know: 2017-18 FAFSA

College Students and Parents: What You Need to Know About the 2017–18 FAFSA® What’s changing for 2017–18?

Starting with the 2017–18 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), these changes will be in effect:

You’ll be able to submit your FAFSA® earlier. You can file your 2017–18 FAFSA as early as Oct. 1, 2016, rather than beginning on Jan. 1, 2017. The earlier submission date will be a permanent change, enabling you to complete and submit a FAFSA as early as October 1 every year.

You’ll use earlier income and tax information. Beginning with the 2017–18 FAFSA, students will be required to report income and tax information from an earlier tax year. For example, on the 2017–18 FAFSA, you—and your parent(s), as appropriate—will report your 2015 income and tax information, rather than your 2016 income and tax information. The following table provides a summary of key dates as we transition to using the early FAFSA submission timeframe and earlier tax information. When a Student Is Attending College (School Year) When a Student Can Submit a FAFSA Which Year’s Income and Tax Information Is Required July 1, 2015–June 30, 2016 January 1, 2015–June 30, 2016 2014 July 1, 2016–June 30, 2017 January 1, 2016–June 30, 2017 2015 July 1, 2017–June 30, 2018 October 1, 2016–June 30, 2018 2015 July 1, 2018–June 30, 2019 October 1, 2017–June 30, 2019 2016

How will the changes benefit me? We expect that you’ll benefit in these ways:

• Because the FAFSA will ask for older income and tax information, you will already have done your taxes by the time you fill out your FAFSA, and you won’t need to estimate your tax information and then go back into the FAFSA later to update it.

• Because you’ll already have done your taxes by the time you fill out your FAFSA, you may be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) to automatically import your tax information into your FAFSA. (Learn about the IRS DRT at

• Because the FAFSA is available earlier, you may feel less pressure due to having more time to explore and understand your financial aid options and apply for aid before your state’s and school’s deadlines.

Will FAFSA deadlines be earlier since the application is launching earlier?

We expect that most state and school deadlines will remain approximately the same as in 2016–17. However, several states that offer first come, first served financial aid will change their deadlines from “as soon as Page 1 of 2 possible after January 1” to “as soon as possible after October 1.” So, as always, it’s important that you check your state and school deadlines so that you don’t miss out on any aid. State deadlines are on; school deadlines are on schools’ websites.

Since the 2017–18 FAFSA asks for the same tax and income information as the 2016–17 FAFSA, will my 2016–17 FAFSA information automatically be carried over into my 2017–18 renewal FAFSA?

No; too much could have changed since you filed your last FAFSA, and there’s no way to predict what might be different, so you’ll need to enter the information again. However, keep in mind that many people are eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to automatically import their tax information into the FAFSA, making the process of reporting tax information quick and easy.

Can I choose to report 2016 information if my family’s financial situation has changed since our 2015 taxes were filed?

You must report the information the FAFSA asks for. If your family’s income has changed substantially since the 2015 tax year, talk to the financial aid office at your school about the family’s situation. Note: The FAFSA asks for marital status as of the day you fill it out. So if you’re married now but weren’t in 2015 (and therefore didn’t file taxes as married), you’ll need to add your spouse’s income to your FAFSA. Similarly, if you filed your 2015 taxes as married but you’re no longer married when you fill out the FAFSA, you’ll need to subtract your spouse’s income.

Will I receive aid offers earlier if I apply earlier?

Not necessarily; some schools will make offers earlier while others won’t. If you’re thinking of transferring to another school, you might want to look at the College Scorecard at to compare costs at different schools while you wait for your aid offers to arrive.

Note: You should be aware that the maximum Federal Pell Grant for 2017–18 won’t be known until early 2017, so keep in mind that even if you do receive an aid offer early, it could change due to various factors.

How will I know what schools to list on the FAFSA if I haven’t decided which schools I’ll be applying to?

List any schools you’re considering applying to, and we’ll send your FAFSA information to them. Later, if you decide to apply to additional schools that you didn’t list on the FAFSA, you can log back in at and add those schools.

Where can I get more information about—and help with—the FAFSA?

Visit; and remember, as you fill out your FAFSA at, you can refer to help text for every question and (during certain times of day) chat online with a customer service representative.

Federal Student Aid brochure, April 2016- Reported by Informed Educational Solutions


Posted in Early Action, Early Decision, FAFSA, Financial Aid, Financial Considerations in Educational Choics, Financing College, Grants, Merit Aid, Plus Loans, Scholarships, Student Loans, Uncategorized, work-study | 1 Comment