*POCSmom’s Insight: College as a Life-Changer

Cliché: By choice.    
POCS Reality: College provides choices; students make selections.      

How college can shape your life:

  • Career path
  • Communication improvement
  • Increased knowledge
  • New friends, contacts
  • New opportunities

Classes can be fun and this one about communicating better with humor is free:


 Take the time to watch the “RELATED VIDEO” for how one student found a career in another class.  

POCSmom’s Insight: Which life road will you choose? College can give you the knowledge and the opportunity to pursue your choices.

*POCS: Parent Of a College Student

*POCSmom’s Insight: College Night

Cliché: A gold mine of information.    
POCS Reality: The college-bound can attend College Nights and College Fairs to aid in their college search.      


High schools, colleges, professional organizations, government, and local businesses may sponsor College Nights to provide info for college-bound students and their families. Experts may speak about the college admission and financial aid processes and colleges may be invited to send representatives.

Some event sponsors may offer the opportunity to register to win up to thousands of dollars in scholarships:


POCSmom’s Insight: Well attended college nights can be overwhelming and exciting. The stakes are high because the college process is costly and complicated.

Always consider the source and quality of the info and it’s “freshness” date.

  • Source: Colleges want students to apply for admission. Independent college counsellors/advisors want students to sign-up as clients. What and how material is presented may reflect the mission of the speaker.
  • Quality: Statistics may be useful, interesting, or misleading. For example, class size is an often quoted stat but is not very helpful when comparing the quality of a college education. The availability of classes (prerequisites necessary, how frequently offered, difficulty of registration/getting into the course), who teaches (college prof, teaching assistant), workload (homework, tests, papers, projects) matter more than a number generated from mixing general basic classes attended by most students and high level seminar and special interest classes attended by few.   
  • Freshness: The college process is not static and changes may come at any time. Beware of outdated info and look for current facts and figures. For example, the 2011-12 federal financial aid programs and formulas are not the same as either the prior year (2010-11) or the future year (2012-13).

To make the best informed decisions, the college-bound need up-to-date information from independent, reliable, and expert sources.

The college-bound can bring a brief list of questions and ask college reps for a contact number/email address for additional info. To make your own college fair survival kit watch:


*POCS: Parent Of a College Student

*POCSmom’s Insight: College Tours

Cliché: Go on tour.    
POCS Reality: Colleges want the college-bound to experience the campus and enjoy their visit.     

Want to take a college tour? There’s an app for that.

If you are college-bound and are trying to figure out if a college is a right choice for you, go see for yourself. And don’t be surprised if your tour guide is your own smartphone:

According to the The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Starting in a few weeks, Dartmouth will offer self-guided tours using SCVNGR, a mobile application that allows organizations to design game-based outings across campus. Admissions officials hope that offering tours on visitors’ phones will keep them on campus longer and improve their experience.


Read more: A College Visit Collegecation

POCSmom’s Insight: College visits are all about trying to get the college-bound to fall in love with the college, so they will apply for admission. College brochures, real/virtual tours, and scavenger/geocache games highlight what the college believes are its strengths.

The college-bound can use the college visit opportunity to:

  • Speak with college staff and students to get their insider tips beyond brochure info.
  • Look around for what you want to know, not just what the college is marketing.
  • Take a collegecation (college visit + family vacay) and learn about the college and surrounding area while enjoying free and low cost activities on or near campus.

The goal for the college-bound is to discover how good the fit really is and whether or not it stays on the college list to apply for admission.

*POCS: Parent Of a College Student

*POCSmom’s Insight: College Application & Early Decision

Cliché: Apply oneself.    
POCS Reality: There are different college application programs that impact chances for admission and financial aid, differently.          


How nice it would be to apply early, increase chances for admission, get accepted early, and have the whole college application process completed by January of the student’s senior year in high school. That’s the upside of many Early Decision programs. But what is the downside?

Early Decision (ED) is a binding admission program through which students apply early (often by November of the senior high school year) to only one school, their first choice college, and if accepted, agree to attend if the school offers adequate financial aid. Upon acceptance, any other applications, such as those submitted through regular or early action admission programs, must be withdrawn.

 Here are the downsides:

  •  Money: If colleges are only required to offer adequate financial aid under ED, and they know their school is the student’s #1 choice, they have no incentive to maximize financial aid offers to students. Worse, since all other applications are withdrawn, students do not have an opportunity to compare financial aid offers from other colleges offering admission and to ask their first choice school to match a greater award from its competitor.
  •  Admission Chances: Although the acceptance rate for ED applicants is higher at many colleges, at other schools the reverse is true. For those schools, ED applicants have an admission disadvantage:


  • No updates: When great things continue to happen in late fall and winter, students may want to share the news with colleges. ED applicants lose their chance to update their application with info about their further senior year accomplishments.
  • No options: What 17-year-olds want at the beginning of their senior year, may not be what their 18-year-old selves want as they near high school graduation. Whether it is a change of the student’s heart or mind, doesn’t matter. ED takes away college choices. So when other students are deciding in April after attending Admitted Student Days hosted by different colleges, the ED student is left holding his November basket-the one containing his only college egg.

 POCSmom’s Insight: Carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of various admission programs and your ability to pay for college. If applying early appeals to you, think about Early Action programs that are not binding and usually give students until spring to make their decision, if accepted.

*POCS: Parent Of a College Student

*POCSmom’s Insight: College Clubs

Cliché: Join the club.    
POCS Reality: College clubs cover many diverse interests.   


Are you a college student with a hobby or an interest? There’s a club for that and if there isn’t, students can create one. Here are some examples:


At the beginning of a new school year, many colleges have a “College Club Day” for clubs to display their purpose and seek new members.

Joining a college club provides a great opportunity for students to maximize their higher educational experience beyond classroom academics.

You can share an interest, participate in activities, have fun, make friends, and make connections/network for future business and social opportunities. Whether for personal or altruistic reasons, joining a club can expand your college horizons.

POCSmom’s Insight: Before biting off more than you can chew by signing up for everything in sight, strategize like you would at a buffet table.

Scan the selections then go back to the items that are most appealing. Sample your favorites by talking to members manning the club booth. Ask about what they do, how often they do it, and how many attend. Think about how you would fit in and if you have the time to make the commitment as an active contributing member. Depending on your class schedule, pick 1-3 of your favorites. Sign up and go for it!

What clubs are you joining?

*POCS: Parent Of a College Student

*POCSmom’s Insight: Who is the Typical College Student?

Cliché: On average.    
POCS Reality: There are many college statistics.     


How would you describe the typical college student? According to The Chronicle of Higher Education it’s not a part-time student at a community college planning on attending grad school but their stats come close:


POCSmom’s Insight: Statistics are fun to read but the most important number is one-you. Where do you want to go to college and what are your career plans?

*POCS: Parent Of a College Student

*POCSmom’s Insight: Outside College Scholarships

Cliché: Win the day.    
POCS Reality: Students can win scholarships to help pay for college.     


Every dollar won from outside college scholarships is a dollar the family does not have to pay for college.

Outside scholarships are often contests sponsored by schools, fraternal organizations, businesses, groups, and individuals. The free money amounts vary from less than $100 to a free college ride of thousands. Outside scholarships are a form of financial aid that students do not have to pay back.

 Then why don’t all students apply?

 Here are the 3 main excuses:

  1. I didn’t know where to begin.
  2. I didn’t think I would win so I didn’t bother.
  3. I tried but gave up because the application process was too much work.

 Where to begin

A good place to start your internet scholarship search is on the free federal government websites:

  • www.studentaid.ed.gov  (FSA-Scholarship Wizard)
  • www.students.gov  (Pay for your education…Scholarships & grants)
  • www.college.gov  (How to pay-Learn what’s available-scholarships, grants, loans and more, continue to Scholarships: earn to learn, for each state’s programs)

Local resources include high school guidance departments, PTAs, local businesses, employers, and local organizations.

 Go for it

If you don’t try, you can’t win. The stakes are high-college is expensive and costs are rising fast. It makes sense for students to exercise some self-help and apply for multiple scholarships to increase chances for winning. Winnings add up so a few small scholarships can easily approach one large one.

Don’t give up

Scholarships applications are as varied as their sponsors. Sometimes only biographical info is requested; other times students must submit an essay or complete a project. The sponsor determines the requirements. Bonus: If the scholarship requires a volunteer project, you help others, too.

Writing is a skill that can improve with each draft. The more you write, the better you write. Good writing skills will help you get into college (many colleges require an essay) and do well in college (think essay tests and papers). Bonus: Unlike in your school classes, you may be able to use the same essay with a little tweaking for more than one scholarship application.

You can increase your chances of winning outside scholarships by following all the scholarships rules. Submit a neat, complete, and error-free application before any deadlines. Proof-reading is a must.

Scholarship Expert Monica Matthews encourages students to apply for college scholarships and provides tips for parents to help:


POCSmom’s Insight: Be a smart consumer. Do not give out bank account, credit card, PINs and Social Security Numbers. Never pay a fee to win free scholarships. Have fun with your projects, develop your writing skills, and Good luck!!!

Stay tuned for POCSmom’s Insights on other forms of financial aid-from federal and state governments, and from college endowment funds.

*POCS: Parent Of a College Student

*POCSmom’s Insight: A Successful College List-The Strategy (Part 2 of 3)

Cliché: Choose wisely.  
POCS Reality: A successful college list is the foundation of the college process.     

  College Admission Requirements, Student Qualifications, and the Affordability Factor

Is the foundation to your home crumbling? If it is, you better fix it or move on. The same is true for a college list.

A college list is the foundation of the entire college process because the student will likely attend one of the schools on his list. If the schools listed are not the best ones for student success, your college process is on shaky footings, and you’re in danger of academic and financial failure. Here’s how to fix it and move forward on the path to college success.

College List Review

Go over your college list to make sure all schools are your college PALs containing the Programs, Activities, and Location for a best college fit. (See A Successful College List: The Plan (Part 1 of 3): Finding Your College PAL)

College Admission Requirements and Student Qualifications

Then group the schools into categories according to college admission requirements and student qualifications:

  • Safety schools: student qualifications exceed college admission requirements (best chance of admission)
  • Target/Match schools: student qualifications match college admission requirements (student has what college says they want)
  • Reach schools: student qualifications do not quite reach college admission requirements (although not having all required credentials, student really wants to attend)

A successful college list contains 2-3 colleges in each category.

Affordability Factor

Make sure each category has colleges the family can afford either with or without financial aid. Check the school’s record of meeting student financial need. This is not a personal guarantee but it will help you plan. Also check which financial aid forms are required and submit before deadlines. Note which colleges review financial aid forms before awarding merit aid (aid not based on financial need but based on student talent-academic, athletic, artistic, musical, leadership abilities) and which admit without considering financial need.

POCSmom’s Insight:

Decide where to attend after comparing financial aid awards from schools offering admission. Do not plan to borrow to pay for college without first figuring out how much you can afford to finance. Loans have borrowing costs such as origination fees and interest charges. College should help not hinder your financial future.

Stay tuned for A Successful College List Part: The Choice (Part 3 of 3): Choosing Your Right Fit College

*POCS: Parent Of a College Student

*POCSmom’s Insight: College Full, Nest Empty, and Saying Goodbye

Cliché: Parting is such sweet sorrow.  
POCS Reality: With planning, parents can prepare for their empty nest.    


If you recently left your student’s dorm room on College Move-In Day, you may be suffering from what I call Parent-Student Separation Anxiety. That’s an overwhelming feeling of worry, fear, and loneliness that flood parental hearts like Hurricane Irene’s storm-fed waters submerge the shores.

The rush of emotions clash with Mom’s and Dads’ thoughts about a parenting job well-done; they put their child on the college road to become an independent, self-supporting adult.

Then there’s the taking on of the student’s feelings, an empathic parental ability. Mothers and fathers may think back to when their role was reversed and they were the 18 year-olds moving on from their parents’ home.

Here’s how one mom said goodbye to her college freshman and comments for how other parents journeyed along their student’s rite of passage:


POCSmom’s Insight: Parents come of age also, as they watch their children enter college as blossoming adults. The new challenge is two-fold: adjust to the empty nest and become an on-call parent. These tips may help:

Empty nest fillers

  • Parents can take on a new hobby, sign up for a new class (check out low cost courses offered by local libraries, school district adult education centers, local colleges), join a new group.
  • Enjoy reliving the past. Think back to B.C. (before children). What would you like to do again?
  • Network with other POCS. You never know what pearls of wisdom may drop from a fellow parent of a college student.

Long distance parenting skills

  • Establish regular communication for parents to stay in the loop and students to remember their roots.
  • Listen more, talk less to get your updates.
  • Read between the lines of communication. Is your student asking for advice or just venting? Is his silence about details a call for help or an assertion of independence?

Don’t forget others populating the rest of your empty nest. The student’s siblings and pets may also have their own separation anxiety. They may need new activities and more attention. The bonus is more quality time with your other children before they morph into adults and go to college.

After adjusting to your empty nest, get ready to see your student, again. They can come home and you can go visit. Then prepare for another bout of Parent-Student Separation Anxiety.

*POCS: Parent Of a College Student

*POCSmom’s Insight: College Loans

Cliché: Pay back.  
POCS Reality: There are borrowing costs associated with education loans.    


More college graduates are struggling to repay their student loans:


Even after counting grants and scholarships, many families cannot afford to pay for college out-of-pocket, so they borrow. After applying for federal financial aid via the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), colleges may offer undergraduate students federal education loans that are regulated by the federal government. There are additional federal loans for graduate students (Grad PLUS) and for parents of undergraduate students (PLUS). Some families choose to borrow from private lenders that set their own interest rates and terms for repayment.

POCSmom’s insight: Do the math. There are borrowing costs such as origination fees and interest charges which will increase the cost of a college education. Estimate income potential upon graduation to calculate if borrowing is an affordable option and if so, what is the maximum borrowing amount that is affordable.

If borrowing, federal loans usually have more favorable terms than private loans. Federal loan features that private loans do not have include:

  • Limits to the annual amount and the aggregate amount students may borrow.
  • Forgiveness programs (all or a part of a federal loan may be wiped out and forgiven if meet qualifications).
  • Deferral and forbearance programs to postpone repayment.

The best college choice is the affordable school with the best chance for student educational and student/family financial success. It should have the programs, activities, and location the student wants and the costs the student/family can pay.

To fully enjoy the rewards of  a post-college future, it is necessary to plan wisely in the present.

*POCS: Parent Of a College Student