Best College Prep Starts in Middle School

Cliché: Teach school.    
POCS Reality: College prep can start in middle school.


Middle School is the new focus of college prep. According to Education Week:

“A rise in college- and career-readiness programs targeted at middle schoolers, particularly disadvantaged ones, has been spurred by mounting research that shows middle school is a key time to improve the academics and attitudes needed to succeed in high school, college, and beyond.”

 ACT’s 2008 College Readiness Report finds that “the level of academic achievement that students attain by eighth grade has a larger impact on their college and career readiness by the time they graduate from high school than anything that happens academically in high school.”

It takes a village to create successful college and career readiness programs with schools, parents, and community working together. Going beyond coursework and standardized tests, students employ planning and organizational skills to:

  • Set goals
  • Learn what is necessary to achieve goals
  • Work towards goals

There are both federal and state college readiness programs for middle schoolers.

Read the full Education Week article about some state programs and their promising results.

POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: If students are taking advanced/honors classes in middle school, their grades may be on the high school transcript sent to colleges. Giving middle schoolers the tools to succeed form life-long positive habits they can use in high school, college, and beyond.

5 Ways to Get a Discount on College Tuition

Cliché: Roll back prices.    
POCS Reality: Colleges can offer grants/scholarships from their own institutional funds to discount their costs.


 Will your qualifications help a college’s ranking and give you some of the $5.3 billion being awarded this year? If so, you probably will receive some money along with your college admittance letter. Colleges award free money grants or scholarships from the college’s own funds to reward students they want and encourage them to attend.

 So what makes a college want a student so much they award money, even to its wealthiest applicants? Here are 5 ways to get a discount on tuition:

  1. Have better grades than most other applicants
  2. Have better accomplishments than most other applicants

 Merit aid is based on a student’s talent-academic, musical, artistic, athletic, or leadership abilities. Many colleges do not consider family finances like they do for need-based financial aid because the goal is to get the accomplished student to accept their offer of admission instead of one from its competitors. College rankings often include student qualifications.

  1. Have better test scores (SAT/ACT) than most other applicants
  2. Afford to pay a good chunk of the college bill

 According to USA Today:

“The schools use the money — more than 20% of all aid — to compete for applicants who have high grade-point averages and SAT scores. Some discounts serve another purpose: They lure high-income families that can write a check for the rest of the tuition.”

 Colleges get more overall dollars from wealthier students. According to the Hechinger Report:

“Even with a generous grant, one higher-income student yields more net revenue than several low-income students.”

  College are concerned about their finances and financial resources are often included in college rankings.

 To sweeten the deal for many who can afford to pay, the federal government supplies tax credits to offset qualified college costs paid including tuition and fees.

  1. Show an interest in attending the college

 For a host, there’s nothing worse than invited guests not coming to the party. College prestige increases as compared to other schools when more accomplished students accept admission offers.

 As an admission factor after academic achievements (grades, advanced classes, and admission test scores), student demonstrated interest continues to be another consideration, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) State of College Admission 2011 report.

 Students can demonstrate their intention to attend through visits, interviews and other contacts with the admission office, applying through an early admission program, and essay/recommendations

 Read more:

 POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: Although mutual attraction is important, the student-college relationship is a business deal, not a love affair. To encourage students they want to attend, colleges can show students the money and students can accept these discounts on tuition.

Top 10 Reasons College Students Look Forward to Thanksgiving Break

Cliché: Happy Thanksgiving.    
POCS Reality: Happy Thanksgiving.    


If you’re a college student home for Thanksgiving break, this list via Miss Cellania is for you:

10 Reasons College Students Look Forward to Thanksgiving Break

If you’re a parent of a college student home for the holiday, this is for you:

5 Ways to Keep the Peace with Your College Student over Thanksgiving

5 Ways Colleges Celebrate Thanksgiving

Cliché: Break with tradition.    
POCS Reality: Students and college staff enjoy their college traditions.


Not all students go home for the Thanksgiving break but that doesn’t mean they forfeit Thanksgiving. According to U.S. News & World Report Education, here are “5 College Thanksgiving Traditions”:

  1. Thanksgiving meal at Ohio State University
  2. Take an international student home for Thanksgiving at Smith College
  3. Celebrate spirituality for the month, then attend Thanksgiving dinner at Carnegie Mellon University
  4. Pre-Thanksgiving 2.6 mile run the week before the holiday at Lehigh University
  5. Student march to petition for the day before Thanksgiving off at Lebanon Valley College

 Read the full article for fun details.

 POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: College traditions bring the college family of students and staff together. Does your college have a Thanksgiving custom?

College Expectations List

Cliché: As I expected.    
POCS Reality: Students and college administrators can discuss college expectations.


Does your student government have a College Expectations List to present the administration? According to the Huntington News, the Student Government Association (SGA) at Northeastern University is providing one to Northeastern officials:

“The list includes a number of suggestions, such as requests for faculty in every college to hold at least one town hall meeting each semester and to ensure that teachers are using the most affordable course materials possible.”

 The goal is for students to partner with their school to meet student expectations.

 POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: Clear expectations can prevent misunderstandings and provide opportunities for preparation. What are your expectations from your college?

Net Student Price

Cliché: Count the cost.    
POCS Reality: College costs continue to rise.


 How much will you pay out-of-pocket for college? No matter where you attend, you will likely pay more than current students based on your net price because college costs continue to skyrocket; but those higher costs are not mainly from tuition.

 According to the Center for College Affordability and Productivity’s Net Tuition and Net Price Trends in the United States 2000-2009 Report, net student tuition increased by $1,067 but net student price rose by $2,988 at 4-year schools. The Report’s conclusion is:

“While tuition tends to get most of the attention when it comes to public discussions of college costs, the $2,988 increase at the four-year level indicates that roughly two-thirds of the increase in total college costs originates from non-tuition sources. This suggests that perhaps more attention needs to be paid to cost control for these other expenses.”

 Two year schools’ net student tuition fell by $849 while net student price rose by $1,333.

 The Report defines the terms:

  • Published Tuition: the “sticker price” of college.
  • Net Student Tuition: how much students actually pay for tuition (that is, sticker price less grant and scholarship aid).
  • Net Student Price: how much students actually pay, including non-tuition expenses, after accounting for grant and scholarship aid.
  • College Net Tuition Revenue: how much tuition revenue colleges receive per student.

  Besides tuition, other college costs include college fees, books and supplies, room and board, transportation and personal expenses. There are also hidden costs such as borrowing costs if taking out loans, car purchase costs if buying a car. 

 Check out the Report’s Appendix A Alternative Methods of Calculating Net Tuition for an interesting description of some other organizations’ methodology including the College Board’s Trends in College Pricing.

 POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: When you get your financial aid award letter, look for need-based grants and merit scholarships that reduce your college bill. Included student loans must be repaid and have borrowing costs from fees and interest charges that will increase your out-of-pocket college costs. Federal Work-Study (FWS) is a job where the student earns a paycheck.

 The FAFSA4caster is a tool to help families estimate their college costs although flaws may make the result inaccurate.

 Another tool, Net Price Calculators, found on each college website, also can distort college costs if they include financial aid loans and FWS awards; and merit awards are difficult to estimate. They also do not include hidden college costs.

 Let’s get the conversation started about cost control for non-tuition college expenses. Meanwhile, the Net Tuition and Net Price Trends in the United States 2000-2009 Report stays focused on out-of-pocket costs as the net student price.

POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: Plagiarism

Cliché: Copycat.    
POCS Reality: Colleges watch out for plagiarism.


Not more cheating- first the SAT scandal and now a plagiarism disgrace. According to  Turnitin’s infographic about its Plagiarism Report:

“We live in a digital culture where norms around copying, reuse and sharing are colliding with core principles of academic integrity.”

The infographic also mentions that 55% of college presidents surveyed by the Pew Research Center believe plagiarism is increasing.

 An article in GOOD Education highlights a finding that 7.99% of high school papers contained uncited text from Wikipedia. The number was higher for college papers-10.74%.

Aside from the plagiarism issue, GOOD points out the info reliability problem of using sources such as Wikipedia as authorities.

Speaking of information sources, a comment under the GOOD article points out the sponsor of the Plagiarism Report has a special interest in finding plagiarism. Turnitin sells to educators, colleges, and students a product to detect plagiarized material in class assignments, college essays, scholarship essays and other writings.

 POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: Is it ignorance not to understand the difference between copying and paraphrasing? Is it laziness not to find an authoritative info source and then cite it? Education is expensive so why not do the work and get your money’s worth? If students have any questions, they can keep their integrity intact and ask their professors for help. The bottom line is plagiarism is cheating.  

POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: Marital Status and College Financial Aid Forms

Cliché: The status quo.    
POCS Reality: Financial aid forms ask about marital status.


How does marriage, divorce, or separation impact financial aid forms for college? Marital status determines which parent must supply information including financial data such as income and assets. Sometimes that means stepparents’ info is counted, too.

The government and the colleges analyze information about the dependent student’s family including financial data of parents but whose info is included depends on if parents are married or remarried, widowed, single, divorced, or separated as of the date the form is completed and signed.

All schools require the filing of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)  before awarding federal aid to students to help pay for college. Some colleges want students and parents to submit additional information before awarding their own money from institutional funds.

The FAFSA wants parental information from:

  1. Both parents if they are living and married to each other
  2. Single or widowed parent
  3. Divorced/separated parent the student lived with more during the past 12 months. If student did not live with one parent more than the other, give answers about the parent who provided more financial support during the past 12 months, or during the most recent year the student actually received support from a parent
  4. Stepparent of remarried parent filling out the FAFSA

Under FAFSA:

  • “Married / Remarried” does not mean living together unless your parents’ state of legal residence recognizes their relationship as a common law marriage.
  • According to the Defense of Marriage Act (1996), “…the word ‘marriage’ means a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” Therefore, same-sex unions are not considered marriages for federal purposes, including the FAFSA4caster.
  • The following people are not considered parents on this form unless they have legally adopted you: grandparents, foster parents, legal guardians, older brothers or sisters, and uncles or aunts.

These parent definition rules apply even if the student is not living with his parents.

There is one exception to the rule. For the two FAFSA questions about parents’ education levels, your parents are considered to be birth or adoptive parents not your stepparent.

POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: Colleges can ask for additional financial aid forms including one from divorced/separated parents not included on the FAFSA to help calculate financial aid awards from college funds.

Ice Cream on Campus

Cliché: Sweet tooth.    
POCS Reality: College is full of ice cream lovers.


Frost is on the ground, a cold wind is blowing, but I still prefer my dessert served cold and so do thousands of college students. I’m talking ice cream and the wonderful parlors that sell it.

I tour colleges and speak with administrators, professors, parents, and students to stay current but I haven’t been to a college that didn’t have a favorite spot that offers a form of frozen delight on or near campus.

Parlors may have standard flavors or those available for a limited time. Sometimes ice cream scoops are seasonally based. Pumpkin, apple, cinnamon, salted caramel-these are some flavors of fall.

On a recent 40 degree night, I enjoyed a kiddie-sized cup of pumpkin pie ice cream. Mmmm. I may go back next week to try a version of frozen hot chocolate.

What’s your favorite parlor/flavor? Tweet or post your answer.

Read more: *POCS Insight: College and Ice Cream

POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: Freshmen 15 myth aside, a little ice cream treat can go a long way in a college student’s healthy and fit lifestyle.

Freshmen Fifteen Myth Confirmed or Busted?

Cliché: Put weight on.    
POCS Reality: A healthy life-style can help students stay fit and healthy in college and thereafter.


 Is the Freshmen Fifteen myth confirmed or busted?

 The “Freshmen Fifteen” refers to the number of pounds college students are rumored to gain during their first-year. A recent study says that weight gain occurs throughout the college years but the numbers are off.

 According to PyschCentral, a national study shows average weight gain is gradual and it may take until college graduation to come closer to that number:

 Researchers determined that not more than 10 percent of college freshman gained 15 pounds or more — and a quarter of freshman reported actually losing weight during their first year.

 On average, women gained 2.4 pounds during their freshman year, while men gained 3.4 pounds.

However, the study also shows weight gain continues throughout college and thereafter, per PsychCentral:

 The results do show, however, that college students do gain weight steadily over their college years.

The typical woman gains between seven and nine pounds, while men gain between 12 and 13 pounds.


They found that in the first four years after college, the typical respondent gained another 1.5 pounds per year.

 Is the Freshmen Fifteen myth confirmed or busted? College weight gain is confirmed although the snappy term incorporates a fudged number.

 5 Ways to Avoid the Freshmen Fifteen is the title of an article I wrote with nutritionist Shelley Howe for Merrick Life, a local publication. We provide tips for how students can stay fit and eat healthy while in college. 

Read more: 3 Ways to Prevent the College Freshmen 15 

POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: More students are taking 6 years not the previous 4 to graduate from college, allowing more time for potential weight gain. Whether or not the Freshmen poundage number of “15” is confirmed or busted, healthy eating and life-styles never go out-of-style.