College prep from 2011 to 2012

Cliché:  Come to the aid.    
POCS Reality:  College prep can help the college-bound get into and pay  for college.


Twas the night before New Years and celebrations abound,

And college apps have been filed by the college-bound.

The essays were written and the recommendations sent,

In hopes a college admission offer is meant.

Visions of getting in danced in each student’s head,

While parents voiced other concerns and said,

“Admission is one thing but what of the cost?”

If we can’t pay for college, all will be lost.”

The Feds heard their cries and came to their aid,

With a Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

File the FAFSA, the FAFSA, the FAFSA’s the one,

For grants, student loans, and work/study programs.

FAFSA soon is released, January 1st is the day,

Get your records together and be prepared to say,

“We filed the FAFSA early to have piece of mind,

College financial aid awards are what we’ll find.


Read more: POCSmom’s website and 2011 (and soon to come 2012) College Prep DIY Insights about how to form a successful college list, getting into college, college costs, college life and life after college.

 POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: As 2011 fades from sight, Happy 2012 to all, and to all a good night!

3 Huge College Prep Don’ts

Cliché: A recipe for disaster.    
POCS Reality: The wrong college prep can set students up for failure.


Who does this: Set yourself up to fail? You do, if you are guilty of the following college prep don’ts:

  1. Don’t have a Plan B What happens if you attend your 2nd choice college or you don’t have the money to pay for your college choice? Consider different scenarios including the possibility of transfer and affordable borrowing.
  2. Don’t let college rejection motivate you  Being deferred for admission, placed on a wait list, or rejected out right is not personal. There are many reasons for college admission decisions including logistics and statistics. Send updates about your accomplishments, reapply, or put your energy into other college possibilities.
  3. Don’t keep up  Congrats, you got into college but this is no time to rest on your laurels. Colleges expect you to keep your grades up and your activities going or they can withdraw their offer of admission. Fight senioritis, keep up the good work, and don’t slack off.

 POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: Set yourself up for less stress and more success with this life plan: always have a Plan B and continue to do good work.

3 Unusual Tips for Unusual College Essays

Cliché: March to a different drummer.    
POCS Reality: College-bound students can use the essay to showcase a unique experience/viewpoint/situation that sets them apart from their fellow applicants.


Are you scratching your head and pacing your room trying to write a college essay in 25 words or less? If you are, you may be applying to the University of Maryland according to an article in the Detroit Free Press:

“The essay question is new for 2012 applications to the University of Maryland and is just one example of a wave of quirkiness and brevity that has swept the usually staid world of college admissions essays in recent years. Some colleges have added questions that might elicit answers more suitable for a text or Tweet, and others have introduced video to the process.”

Okay so the questions are unusual and the topics odd but aren’t teens in the best position to handle the challenge? Here are 3 unusual tips for unusual college essays:

  1. Tap into your inner child You are walking the line between childhood and adulthood so use it to your advantage. Create ideas with the freedom of a youthful imagination but present them with your new thoughtful maturity.
  2. Think social media You’ve mastered posting on Twitter and Facebook. You know how to get your point across succinctly and colorfully. Reread my post College Essay-Think Twitter for more essay-writing tips.
  3. Be nerdy, be cool, be you Grab this opportunity to showcase how special you are beyond grades, test scores, and accomplishments. Use your essay to prove your unique experience/viewpoint/situation will be an asset to the campus.

POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: Leadership, maturity, and creative qualities are important attributes colleges seek. They want their students to become successful alumni. Use typical and unusual college essays to enhance your application and show you have what colleges want.

Got a Free Hour? 6 College Prep Things To Do Now

Cliché:  Take the time.    
POCS Reality:  Students can do a lot of college prep in an hour.


Sure you are busy prepping for the holidays, but it’s important to squeeze in some serious college prep before you are completely swept up in the celebrations. Here are 6 things you can do in one hour:

Admission application

  1. Check prep Contact colleges to make sure your application file is complete. If it’s incomplete, your application may not be processed and you could lose your opportunity for being selected for admission. If you haven’t sent the app in yet, complete it, proofread it, make sure you followed all the directions, and make a copy for your records before sending it in.
  2. Update prep Create a list of your new information including accomplishments and activities that have occurred after you submitted your college application. Send the info to the colleges to enhance your application if you haven’t heard yet or final decision has been deferred.
  3. Q & A prep Revisit the website of each college to make sure you still want to attend. Take a virtual tour, read the course catalog, and review its FAQs. Read the student newspapers/magazines and listen to the college radio station. Your goal is to learn as much as possible and form a list of questions you need answers to before accepting an offer of admission. No longer interested? Rescind your application. There is still time to research and apply to other schools.

Financial aid application

  1. Documents prep Find the documents (SSN, Driver’s license if any, last year’s W-2s and federal tax returns, amount of child support paid if any, bank and other investment records), you will need to file your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Documents are needed for parents of dependent students and the student applicant. You will be all ready to prepare this important financial aid application for college when it becomes available in January 2012.
  2. PIN prep Most FAFSA applicants file online and you will need a PIN (personal identification number) to access your data online to make corrections, view your Student Aid Report online, find your info on other Federal Student Aid websites like National Student Loan Data SystemSM, and use as your electronic signature. Both students and parents of dependent students each need to apply for their own PINs and you can do this now at and be ready to file your FAFSA.
  3. Q & A prep Get familiar with the process and the kinds of questions you will likely be asked by checking out last year’s FAFSA. FAFSA 2012-2013 will not be released until January 1, 2012.

If you have more than an hour, read this for 10 Things High School Students Can Do Over Holiday Break.

POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: Taking a little college prep time now can save you a lot of college stress later. Happy Holidays!!!

3 Flavors of FREE College Money

Cliché: A free ride.    
POCS Reality: There are FREE money grants and scholarships to help students pay for college.


Did you get FREE money to help pay for college? Money that you don’t have to pay back is the best type of financial aid and there are 3 different flavors:

  1. Plain vanilla grants are free money for college based on financial need. Students demonstrate their need by supplying financial and other information on an application. Grant programs are sponsored by federal and state governments and the colleges. To apply for federal aid, students must fill out a FAFSA. Check with your state higher education agency for its application. Some colleges will use info from the FAFSA to award grants from their own institutional funds, others may require their own supplemental form, and a few hundred also want the CSS Financial Aid PROFILE®.
  2. Cream of the crop scholarships are free money from from the college based on student merit. Students are rewarded for their academic, athletic, artistic, musical or leadership abilities. Colleges may require a special application or just use the admission application to determine awards. Ask your college for program details.
  3. Cool Mint Chip outside scholarships are free money from private sources that students can earn or win. Many are contests that are as varied as their sponsors. For example, there’s a best tweet $1,400 Twitter scholarship (“In 140 characters or less, write a Tweet highlighting how we can use Twitter to improve the world.”), and a $5,000 duct tape scholarship to a prom attending couple “wearing complete prom attire and/or accessories made using duct tape.” Other sponsors include small and large businesses, employers, individuals, high schools, fraternal associations and professional organizations. Outside scholarships require an application and many also want an essay or a project. They may be financial need-based, not consider need at all, or a combo of need and merit.

POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: Watch out for deadlines, follow the application rules, and reapply every year you want money for college. Before accepting, check for strings attached such as maintaining a certain grade point average, playing on the team, or writing a thank you note. You can search online for outside private scholarships but don’t give out your personal numbers (bank account, PINs, Social Security Numbers, credit card numbers). Watch out for scams and don’t pay a fee for free college money.

5 Ways Parents Can Help During College Finals

Cliché: Help out.    
POCS Reality:  Parents can help their student during finals week with care packages and kind words.


 Is your college student sleep-deprived, bleary-eyed but caffeine motivated to study beyond human endurance? Does he have 4 papers, 3 exams, 2 group projects, and 1 presentation due within the next 7 days? Then it is finals week and students are stressed to do their best, show what they know, and prove they got the most out of their college dollars.

 Here are 5 ways parents can help students achieve their goals:

  1. Send a care package Remind your student you care with a favorite healthy, easy to prepare/eat snack, family photo, CD, and silly tension-relieving toy (beach ball, squeeze ball, stuffed animal). Include a brief note of support or a joke that will bring a smile and perhaps a laugh or two. Pack your own care package or buy one ready-made from a school organization or private gift shop.
  2. Keep contacts short and sweet Whether it’s a phone call, email, or text, keep the message brief and upbeat creating a momentary respite so your student can get back to studying refreshed. Let your student know he can contact you anytime but you will limit your calls so he can finish his work.
  3. Read between the lines Listen to what your student says and notice what he doesn’t say. Sometimes students need a little more help such as from tutoring or counseling services.
  4. Hold your tongue Unless it is an emergency, discuss stressful topics and issues bound for disagreement until after finals. Let your students focus on studies rather than distractions, so he can be better positioned to do his best.
  5. Stay tuned Sign up for college alert emails and regularly review the college’s website. Your student may be so involved in her studies tucked in the library she is unaware of a flu outbreak, severity of a snow storm, or other emergency that lead to schedule changes for dorm/cafeteria/school closings.

 POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: “I love you. I’m proud of you. I’m here for you. Do your best. I’ll see you soon.” Parents can be supportive guides, cheerleaders, and mentors and convey the above messages to their student during finals week.

How College Can Improve Ice Cream

Cliché: Flavor of the month.    
POCS Reality:  So many ice cream flavors but there are just two in a twist.


When it comes to soft ice cream, I’m a big fan of the twist. That way I get two deliciously entwined flavors. As I visit colleges and each campus’s fave parlor, I find the variety of flavors has exploded. What I need is a multi-twist and I call on college students to make it happen.

 The problem

The twist has not kept up with technology. The number of flavors has increased so it has become ever more difficult to just pick two. When the decision has finally been made, inevitably the twist machine’s pairing is different.

What if I want to mix more flavors? Say, red velvet cake, chocolate peppermint frozen hot chocolate, Bananas Foster, and coconut custard pie? Or cinnamon apple strudel, berry cobbler, Dulce de Leche, and sweet cappuccino? The twist stops at two.

 Not a solution

The last time I complained of my dilemma, I was directed to a serve yourself parlor. Although my dish was filled with all of my choices, my cup runneth over. I’d much prefer a pre-measured twist dose that fits my belt notch and budget.

 This is the solution

Attention college students, engineers, inventors, and ice cream lovers everywhere-your challenge is to create a multi-twist soft ice cream machine. Problem solved.

 POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: I’m wondering if there are now more ice cream flavors than college students…

No More College Roommates

Cliché: I want to be alone. 
POCS Reality: College students have a choice of campus living quarters from traditional doubles to single room suites.


More students prefer a single room to double occupancy and colleges are happy to comply, according to a article.  

Living in a strange place with a stranger was an expected part of the college rite of passage. Adjustment to campus, classroom, and cohabitors was assumed.

Now, more dorms are being built with suites containing single bedrooms, common living/dining areas, and a bathroom. This recognizes student preferences and decreases potential roommate conflicts concerning rising and retiring times, activity and noise levels, visitors and alone time.

Single room suites do not tell the whole building/renovation story. As I tour colleges across the country, I’ve seen suites decked out with all the trimmings: washer/dryers, walk in closets, wall-to-wall carpeting. Furnished suites can include sofas, dinettes, entertainment units, full-sized beds, computer desks, and dressers.

Freshly painted walls and professionally cleaned surfaces are often completed prior to occupancy. After move-in, some suites include periodic house-cleaning services and others provide fully equipped kitchens stocked with stainless steel appliances that rival any home channel makeovers.

POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: College competition is fierce, costs are rising, and high-priced living quarters are one reason. Single room suites are often more costly than traditional double or triple rooms with a common bathroom down the hall. It’s a sweet suite deal for those who can afford the price of the room but all students may bear part of the financial burden…if the college absorbs building costs in its tuition/fees.

5 Ways Colleges/Students Use Twitter

Cliché: Sign up for Twitter.    
POCS Reality:  Colleges and students use Twitter.


 How do you get info, make connections, and stay current in 140 characters or less? You get on Twitter and easily read brief bits of time-dated posts. The social media site has also become invaluable for colleges and college students for a variety of uses.

Here are 5 ways colleges and college students use Twitter:

1. Emergency Alerts Using Twitter, colleges and students can send real-time updates. For example, The Virginia Tech University newspaper The Collegiate Times got out the word and photos concerning the December 8th campus shootings through it’s Twitter feed when staff were evacuated from the newspaper office, according to The New York Times article: Using Twitter Virginia Tech’s College Newspaper Kept On Publishing.

2. College recruitment Communicating with college staff via Twitter and following Twitter tweets for college updates and photos can help create connections during the admission process.

3. Paying for college Twitter college tweet/essay scholarships can help pay for college. You can start a tweet scholarship search by using keywords: “Twitter and scholarships.”

4. Professor-student contact Through tweets in or out of the classroom, profs and students can share info, videos, and notes. Check this Infographic for surprising results of higher classroom engagement and grades for college students using Twitter to get answers to their questions.

5. Internship/Job search There are several ways and sites to find an internship/job on Twitter including through a Twitter job search engine, Twitter job sites, and creating your own Twitter account to network.

POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: Twitter is a powerful social media tool. College students should use it wisely and self-edit. A good update of the carpenter saying “Measure twice, cut once” for Twitter users can be “Read twice, post once” before tweeting.

Tech Makes College Easier for Disabled

Cliché: There’s an app for that.    
POCS Reality: Technology makes college easier for students.


“Having a disability should not stop any student from pursuing higher education,” reports Blog.

Effective assistive technology tools can meet the diverse needs of students.

From screen magnification, voice recognition, and reading software, to amplification systems, specialized keyboards, and other equipment, technology can enable the disabled.

POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: Check with your college’s Office of Disability Services to see what services/technology they offer and how they can best help you. As the technology revolution and the economic crisis continues, innovations to use inside traditional classrooms and the number of online college classes will increase, giving students a chance to learn at there own pace and with effective assistive tech tools.