Scholarship Mom Alert: Tweet for Success Scholarship Contest

Scholarship Mom Alert, Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Scholarship Mom Alert, Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Does your college-bound student have time to write a tweet? If so, he can apply for the Tweet for Success Scholarship Contest.

College scholarship expert Monica Matthews, author of How To Win College Scholarships, researched and found this quick and easy scholarship that does not require a long essay but merely the length of a tweet of 140 characters or less.

Monica’s Winning Tips are a must read for scholarship applicants. The deadline is September 18 so read her post Tweet for Success Scholarship ASAP.

Good Luck!!!

Wednesday’s Parent: School counselors and the parent/student team

Meet with your school counselor. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Meet with your school counselor. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

School counselors are often the first professional who introduces the college process to students and parents. They may bring outside speakers in to supplement their own in-house programs about admission and financial aid. With cutbacks in education funding, there is even more pressure on high school counselors, college-bound students and their parents to find expert info to navigate the complicated college process.

When I speak at high schools, middle schools, public libraries and private groups, my favorite part is the Q&A session. The comments reflect parent and student consistent concerns. They are worried about the coming changes, stressed about the increased to-do list, and scared about the financial and emotional costs.

When the parent/student team partners with a school counselor, they have access to a valuable resource. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) explains the credentials of professional school counselors, formerly referred to as guidance counselors, as state certified/licensed educators with a minimum of a master’s degree in school counseling. As vital members of the education team, they can help students in the areas of academic achievement, personal/social development and career development.

School counselors may meet with students alone and/or with their parents to form a plan of classes, programs and services to satisfy student immediate needs and future goals. For the college-bound, school counselors play an important part. They are often responsible for submitting school transcripts, general school information and specifics about class ranking, and teacher and school recommendation letters to the colleges students indicate they are submitting admission applications.

When going to any professional for advice, it is helpful to prepare. Use the parent-student team meeting to brainstorm questions and think about different scenarios. School counselors have limited time to spend on an individual student so maximize the chance to pick their brain.

Here are ten questions and topics for the college-bound to ask and explore when meeting with their school counselor. The last one is a biggie:

  1. How can I improve my academic standing, extracurricular choices, and college admission chances?
  2. I don’t know what to study in college. Please help me match my interests and skills to career possibilities and colleges with the best programs for me.
  3. What websites and other resources should I use to help form a college list?
  4. I prepared this resume of my skills and accomplishments in addition to what is in my school records. Please look it over and ask me any questions before writing the school letter of recommendation about me. What are your suggestions for teacher recommendations?
  5. What local and other scholarships do you recommend I apply to and have a good chance of winning? Any tips?
  6. Please proofread my college and scholarships essays.
  7. I am so stressed and pressed for time. Can you offer any guidance on study strategies, stress management and test preparation?
  8. When attending school sponsored college fairs and information sessions, what questions should I ask?
  9. What else should I do to prepare for college?
  10. How can my parents and family best help me?

After the meeting, the parent-student team may discuss the school counselor’s suggestions and form their own plan of action. As the college process moves forward, students can assume increasing responsibilities and leadership. They can keep the counselor updated on their progress and continue to ask questions.

Read Suzanne’s post: Cultivate the Counselor Relationship


Tonight is Wednesday’s Parent night (the fourth Wednesday of each month) on #CampusChat, Wednesday, August 27, 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will talk with Shelley Kraus @butwait about the role of school counselors in the college process. Shelley served as director of admissions at @PreviewingPenn,  associate director of admissions at @TCNJ_Admissions and is in her tenth year as a member of the college counseling team at @RutgersPrep, New Jersey’s first independent school. She is the lead curator of, a counselor ­curated collection of over 250 college lists. Please join us and bring your questions and comments.

UPDATE: RECAP (For those who missed the chat or want to review the important tips shared). 


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

 Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from to and vice versa.

Scholarship Mom Alert: Xerox Technical Minority Scholarship

Scholarship Mom Alert, Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Scholarship Mom Alert, Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Winning scholarships can help pay the college bill and add to a student’s resume. College scholarship expert Monica Matthews, author of How To Win College Scholarships, helped her son win over $100,000 and is sending POCSmom readers a specific alert to learn her tips for applying and winning college scholarships.

“The Xerox Corporation is once again offering generous amounts of college scholarship money with their Xerox Technical Minority Scholarship,” Monica says. Qualified minority students who are enrolled in a technical degree program at the bachelor degree level or above may apply to win awards ranging between $1000 and $10,000.

Go HERE to read Monica’s great tips for winning scholarships and HERE for her special “Winning Tips” for applying to the Xerox Technical Minority Scholarship. Hurry up because the Xerox scholarship deadline is September 30!


Wednesday’s Parent: YOU want ME to recommend you!?!!

There is no easy button to press for a great recommendation. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

There is no easy button to press for a great recommendation. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

People rely on the opinions of respected others. When presented with several choices that are equally unknown, it makes sense to choose the one someone more familiar with highly recommends.

That’s why celebrities are paid big bucks for their endorsements. You may vote for a particular candidate, buy a particular toothpaste, see a particular show because someone you trust provided a testimonial about it.

That’s why advisors urge job applicants to network. Opportunities may pop up unexpectedly and indirectly. Employers pay attention when a candidate is glowingly recommended by a connection.

That’s why colleges and scholarship sources seek recommendations about applicants. With so many qualified prospective students to choose from, references provide critical additional information about student academic performance, interests and personal qualities that may sway the admission and/or money offer.

Getting a great recommendation is not as easy as pressing a button. Students should have a reason why they are asking a particular individual for a recommendation and how they hope it will enhance their application. The details aren’t always obvious so let who are asked in on this.

Some recommenders don’t have to be asked because their job requires it. School counselors submit recommendations along with high school transcripts to those colleges students tell them they are applying. Whether students and counselors know each other very well or not, pay particular attention to #3 below. This is also good for those the student asks but suggest the student write a first draft.

Here are five ways parents may help their college-bound get great letters of recommendation:

  1. Start the search. As part of your parent/student team for college prep, let your student know colleges require recommendations from school/guidance counselors and teachers. Research the requirements for number of letters required from each school and if recommendations may also come from others such as employers and mentors.
  2. Brainstorm possible references. There are a lot of possible choices but not all will be able to provide the best recommendations. Select those who want to be a reference, think highly of the student and are able to clearly and concisely convey their reasons in writing before deadlines.
  3. Prepare a resume. Some people are extremely busy. Others are unsure of what to say. Make it an easy and simple favor by giving examples in a succinct student resume filled with bullet points of character traits and accomplishments they demonstrate. Personalize each according to what the reference personally has seen and hand it over at the time of the recommendation request.
  4. Time it right. Let’s say the student drew up a great resume and the recommendation writer is eager and knowledgeable. However, the student waited too late to ask. Maybe the writer is going on vacation or has already committed to do this for others. Be courteous of the writer’s time, give plenty of advance notice and provide a deadline before the date actually needed. That way the student may provide a gentle reminder before time runs out.
  5. Have a back up. There are times when Plan B’s are necessary. Unforeseen circumstances may waylay the best intentions. If this happens, don’t panic. After #2 brainstorming and #1 selections, go back to the list and ask someone else.

Thank the recommendation writers after they have written the reference even if you don’t get a chance to read it. School letters are usually not available for student review.

Read Suzanne’s postWill You Write a Recommendation Letter? 


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Suzanne and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound.

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from to and vice versa.

Why You Need To Diversify Your College List

Steve Palley, co-founder and CEO of ApplyMap

Steve Palley, co-founder and CEO of ApplyMap

If you and your student are having trouble forming a college list, read this guest post! Steve Palley CEO/co-founder of ApplyMap aims to simplify the college search process by employing advanced statistics and social science. He shows us the statistician approach to use math and statistical thinking to find colleges with the best chance of student success. Take it away Steve.

Practically every parent has explained to their child why putting all of one’s eggs in a single basket is a bad idea. Most parents who are active on the stock market know not to put their money into just a few big-name stocks, too. But too many forget the power of diversification when helping their teenaged son or daughter with their college lists — even though it may be the single most important step in the whole college application process.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: sure, the college list is important, but more important than grades, test scores, the essay, and even financial aid?! Absolutely yes. Let me explain.

Picking the right colleges to apply to is the most important step because it’s the first step. Everything else you and your teen will do during the college application process — and beyond — depends on it.

As a statistician who specializes in analyzing college admissions, I think about the problem like this. When all is said and done (and assuming they don’t transfer), your teen will attend exactly one college or university. What’s the absolute best-case scenario? He or she will be:

  1. Graduated in four years or less;

  2. Happy, healthy, and with great job prospects;

  3. Bearing little to no debt.

Those are our goals. Now, working backwards from there, what combination of steps should we take to maximize the likelihood of this outcome? We live in an uncertain world so there are no guarantees, but we can certainly do things to make it more probable given the information we have today.

Well, if you want your teen to get his or her degree on time and debt-free, with a great idea of what they want to do next AND the skills and connections to make it happen, they should go to the school where they’ll do the best. Duh. End of article.

Just kidding. How do we know where your son or daughter will have the best overall college experience (or as many parents and the Obama Administration now think about it, the best college experience given the cost)? Again, we can’t know for sure, because a young person maturing into an adult is a very complex system. Neither they nor we have a clear idea of what is best for them to begin with, and it’s a moving target anyway given how much young people change in college.

So, we need to make some educated guesses based on what little we do know. Graduates from Top 10 schools tend to be very well connected, but it’s hard to gain admission. Flagship public universities can deliver tremendous bang for the buck, but on-time graduation rates are lower. Smaller liberal arts colleges can deliver a totally unique educational experience, but they can also cost a pretty penny.

The bad news is that with all of this in mind, it’s effectively impossible to identify the single best school for your teen to attend. The good news is that trying to do that is a waste of time anyway, because applying to a single school is a very poor strategy. If you apply to a single selective school, you might not get in; if you apply to a single non-selective school, you could almost certainly do better.

Your teen should apply to at least eight schools that make sense both individually (meaning that your teen would do well there) and collectively (meaning that each school fits together into a larger strategy). This, finally, is where college list diversification comes into play. A properly balanced list can virtually guarantee that your teen will have a solid college experience, but building one isn’t easy.

Suppose your teen got sick of all this college talk and simply applied to all eight Ivies, Stanford and MIT. That’s not an optimal strategy for two reasons. First, there’s a real chance they won’t get into any of those schools (about 15% with a 4.0 unweighted GPA and a 2200 on the SATs). Second, those are all fantastic schools, but would one randomly-selected school from that list be better for your teen than every other school outside of it? Probably not.

OK, so why not expand that list of top schools to 20 or even 30? Now you have two more issues. First, the more schools they apply to, the more choices they’ll have, but that’s a problem in itself. In fact, having too many choices is often more stressful than having too few, and you’ll still be flying blind as far as college fit goes. Second, nobody wants to apply to that many schools. There’s no better way to make your teen hate your guts.

Mathematically, the perfect college list looks something like this: two dream schools, four reach schools, four match schools, and two safety schools (the classic bell curve shape) — and every school on the list, regardless of selectivity, is a good fit for your teen. If you’ve done it right, your son or daughter will have three to five great options to choose from, and they will fall in love with one of them after visiting.

Now you see how a little statistical thinking can go a long way in the college applications game!


Steve Palley is an entrepreneur, academic, and educator. He is the co-founder and CEO of ApplyMap, a new website that builds statistically balanced college lists, as well as a graduate student at UCLA.

Wednesday’s Parent: Best question for parents to ask to help with college essays

Parents can help students crack college essay writer's block

Parents can help students crack college essay writer’s block

The single best question parents can ask themselves to best help their teens write a college or scholarship application essay is:

Who’s going to that college?

The answer puts into perspective two vital points in composing a killer essay:

  • It’s all about the college-bound
  • And how the college-bound will be an asset to a particular campus

It comes down to what the student offers and wants. To find out, he/she has to do a lot of thinking about his strengths, weaknesses, talents, abilities, interests and desires. Then he has to figure out which colleges will best help him achieve his short and long term goals. Finally, she has to write essays that along with her application convince the schools they want her to attend and/or provide financial awards.

College is a huge investment that pays off big time. For grads it means a better life style via more money earned over a career. Read this to find out how much more. Parents get an unexpected bonus, too. They live longer with healthier lives. Read this to find out how much longer.

Parents can’t expect their child to do their best if he or she is not vested in the college process from application through graduation. So it makes sense for parents to focus their energy on helping their college-bound student get motivated. For general tips read this and this.

To motivate to compose essays often means cracking the hard shell covering known as writer’s block. Writing doesn’t always come easy and many drafts are typical. That’s why it is best to start early when the clock isn’t ticking moments away before deadlines.

The essay is an opportunity to show student strength, maturity and growth and is best written from a position of leadership. Staring at a blank page isn’t fun for anyone so here are six ways for parents to help their college-bound write a super essay:

  1. Creativity is stifled by stress. Give your child time and space to think without pressure.
  2. Distractions impede focus. Provide an organized and quiet place for your child to write.
  3. Unsolicited and unappreciated advice isn’t helpful. Let your child know you are ready to listen and brainstorm should he suffer from writer’s block.
  4. Self-esteem is lowered from being overshadowed. Don’t make it a competition by over-relating your own past history of accomplishments, mistakes or desires.
  5. Over-confidence doesn’t help either. Constant reminders of past glories are more like bragging than inspiring compliments.
  6. A good support team can provide confidence. Let your child know you are available to help but so are teachers, guidance counselors and other admission counselors.

Then sit back, keep repeating the above question, and wait for your child to take the lead when she is ready to own the college process and do what it takes to get in and earn a diploma. He may even let you read his finished essay.

Read Suzanne’s Top 5 Essay Posts for Parents


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Suzanne and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound. 

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from to and vice versa.

The Political Side of Student Loans

Warning sign to keep up with student loan law changes. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Warning sign to keep up with student loan law changes. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Please welcome the return of special guest Jenny L. Maxey, blogger and author about financing higher education with minimal debt and maximum opportunities. Read Jenny’s important post about how to keep up with the frequent changes in student loan laws and get involved beyond staying informed:

Summer seems to be the designated time of year to get down to student loan business on Capitol Hill, attempting to beat whatever impending change will go into effect on July 1st. In 2013, a new law was passed tying Federal Direct Loans and PLUS loans to the rates of the Treasury plus a fixed rate based on the type of loan. These rates are determined in the spring and then are fixed for the life of that loan. This summer, the U.S. Department of Education has made a regulatory change to help those in default calculate a repayment plan similar to those not in default using the Income Based Repayment plan, allowing some to have repayments as low as $5. Further, President Obama signed an executive order to go into effect December of 2015 that alters repayment plans to extend repayment in order to become more manageable, especially for older borrowers.

The changes come from all over – legislative, executive, administrative. How are you or your college-bound student expected to keep up with it all? Can you? Here are a few levels of activity to help you keep informed about the political side of student loans.

LEVEL ONE:  Maybe you and your college-bound student have better things to do than follow the ever-changing squabbles on Capitol Hill. However, it is important to be informed about the influence those changes can have on the debt you and/or college-bound student are taking on. Here are a few easy ways to keep up-to-date.

  • Before you sign the terms, make sure you understand what is in them. You’ll need to do this every year, but it’s only once a year.
  • If you don’t understand the terms, visit to get the most up-to-date information on government loans.
  • Speak with your Financial Aid office for additional help in understanding any changes.

LEVEL TWO:  If you have an opportunity to dig a little deeper, try these steps in addition to Level One.

  • Add a Google Alert. You can put in keywords such as “student loans” or “federal loans” and receive daily, weekly or monthly updates on what changes are being ensued. Learn how to set up a Google Alert HERE.
  • Do some bill tracking. While this only follows the changes made legislatively, you can follow the debates and where your elected representatives are hoping to steer the conversation. You can track bills HERE.

LEVEL THREE:  Do you want to do more than just stay informed? Get active!  Have an effect on the outcome. After all, it’s you and/or your college-bound student who are taking on this debt. Now that you know the news and are tracking legislation, you can email or call your state and local representatives and ask them where they stand and give your opinion on the matter. Your effort might make the difference in how the issue is amended or voted upon.


Jenny L. Maxey is the author of Barrister on a Budget: Investing in Law School…without Breaking the Bank. Jenny earned a Master’s degree in Public Administration and a J.D., and is licensed to practice law in Ohio. Although her book is geared toward pre-law and law students, most of the information can be easily applied to any level of higher education. Barrister on a Budget is available on and Barnes & Noble Nook. You can find more information and follow her blog on

Wednesday’s Parent: 6 unexpected bonuses from summer reading

Fill your plate with reading. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Fill your plate with reading. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Childhood is not what it used to be. Our kids are over scheduled and technologically driven. Even summers are no longer filled with cloud watching, daydreaming and nothing to do. Downtime has been replaced with videos, gaming and social media. However, parents may share some good old fashioned reading habits that lead to some surprising results.

In a busy life, reading slows the pace. It is an introspective solitary experience that prepares children with knowledge, provokes thought, and inspires learning. The casual summer reader sharpens decision-making abilities by choosing the subject matter. He manages time by carving out a daily piece to read. She organizes her space for reading comfort. All of these are necessary skills for the college-bound.

Your child may be holding an e-reader instead of paper as the reading material but that’s not the point. Once the words are consumed, the plate they are served from doesn’t matter. It’s still food for thought.

Based on your child’s personality and interest, here are six ways parents may encourage summer reading and find these unexpected bonuses:

For those who resist sitting still, read to create. How-to books are perfect for active would be scientists, engineers and artists. Teens may select an area of interest and try it out with a special project or experiment. If the subject will be studied in school, students may have a leg up on the work load. If it is purely an extracurricular activity, teens may have something special to add to their college application activities and honors list.

For the go-getter, get a jump start on college essay writing. With more schools going standardized test optional, essays grow in importance during the admission process. Reading the work of great writers exposes teens to clear examples of how to craft an audience-grabbing opening line and an audience-retaining gripping paragraph. It also shows writing styles vary and it is up to the author how to best express her point.

For the quiet one, form a family book club. Libraries and social groups have them so why not a family? It gives parents and children a chance to calmly converse on a higher level as a team. Depending on the topic, it may become a broader opportunity for teens to share their developing opinions on social, political and financial issues as they grow toward their own independence. It’s a great way for families to prepare for the shift from a parent-child relationship to a parent-adult child relationship.

For the inner chef, read to cook. Many cookbooks offer more than recipes. Some provide interesting details about ingredients and fun facts about the origin of dishes. The whole family will benefit from a meal while the teen learns life skills about nutrition and meal preparation. This is good practice to avoid the dreaded Freshmen !5 weight gain that plague many new college students.

For the history buff, read about the past. Go beyond textbooks and find books authored by historical figures or about a specific era. Or delve into the pages of an historical novel. Both fiction and nonfiction book lovers can find love and war stories, inventions, poetry, thought processes and bygone life styles. When classes resume, teens may have a keener insight into the subject matter.

For the adventurous, read for travel. If your family is planning a vacation or collegecation (college visit + family vacay), why not have your interested teen help plan by learning about the attractions, events and must see and do sights. Teens curious about going away to college may also learn about what makes a particular school and their surrounding community special, different and worth further research on a college list. If a teen is thinking about enrolling in a study abroad program, reading about another country will help make this decision.

There is a physical or virtual book, periodical, newspaper or article to suit every genre and some will cross over. For example, readers of  a mystery novel set in 19th century London may be challenged to figure out the puzzle while picking up some historical tidbits about a foreign country. Something from the craft section may spur entrepreneurial talents leading to creation of a new business.

Reading may also change moods with laughter and attitudes with empathy. Parents may help their children experience the joys of summer reading today for a lifetime of learning in school and beyond.

Read Suzanne’s post: Encourage Summer Reading.


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Suzanne and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound.

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from to and vice versa.