Twenty years ago, there was no internet. There was no Common App. There was no email.
When we wanted to know more about a college, we had to go visit. Or make phone calls. Or hope they would send us prospectuses in the mail. The summer before senior year would be akin to the month before Christmas: our mailboxes would overflow with glossy ads and catalogs. However, rather than enticing us to buy the latest Big Green Machine from Toys 'R Us, we'd be tempted by USC's men's water polo team or the Alabama's new chem lab.
Twenty years ago we were like townsfolk from 200 years ago. Never venturing outside our 20 mile comfort zone to see what else existed in our world.
The internet has changed all that. Want a university strong in biomechanical engineering and underwater basketweaving plus also has strong scaffolding for ADHD students? Just Google it. Want a small, private, Wiccan university with a great theater program? Google it.
However, here's the downside. With all of this information at our fingertips, we are now victims of the Tyranny of Choice: so many options that we can't sort the information and can't feel satisfied with our decisions.
This is where a competent counselor comes to good use. We are the filter that Google doesn't have. We can help students think through all that firehose quantity of data and just absorb the worthwhile sips. We can help students use the internet to not only answer the questions they knew to ask, but also answer those questions they didn't know they didn't know to ask.
How do I feel about the internet now with college and career counseling? I feel that I have a better handle how I can use it to help students. How I can help them step outside their 20-mile radius and explore--not all their options--but rather the ones that apply to them specifically. I have better set of filters at my fingertips--literally--that I can use to research quickly and directly.
Do I know more than I did before? No. Do I know how to access and use the material better? Yes.
That's what this class has afforded me.
I have a secret: I'm a closet Tiger Parent.
Whew. I have that off my chest.
That said, maybe I'm really a Tiger Cub Parent. I don't push my kids to do tons of stuff, but I do encourage them to pursue their interests. I don't hire private coaches. I don't require the cello/violin/piano.
But I do care about testing. Sort of.
Here's what I do: I love these Barron's SAT Flash Cards for vocab. I tape them around the mirrors in the girls' bathroom, in their shower (where they can't get wet), next to their beds. And I do have them take an SAT prep course. But not for the SATs.
Here's why: There is no test more important for the college-going student than the PSAT.
You get one shot at the PSAT, and this one shot determines whether or not you qualify for National Merit Semifinalist. It's not until students get their scores junior year that they realize the importance of this test. This test and their results can guarantee tuition reduction or elimination at many schools nationwide. For instance, if a Virginia student is a NMSF, she can get in-state tuition rates at Ohio State, Auburn, Arizona, etc. This means and automatic "scholarship" of $25K/year.
The SATs are teachable and retakeable. The PSATs are a one-shot chance.
So, while SATs are always the oft-talked about worry; my kids are secretly studying for the PSAT. Because mamma's big into scholarships. (We can talk about my strategies later. But suffice it to say I know of what I speak. My daughter, independent of university-sponsored scholarships, has earned $23K in scholarships this year through outside scholarships.
When my grandfather came to this country from Germany in the 1920s, he stepped off the boat in New York and found a dollar bill on the street. Even after he built his business here, he still marveled at the country were there was literally free money to be found.
Scholarship money is the same. You can find it, but sometimes you have to look. I have one student this year who has earned $24,000 in scholarships so far this year; enough to pay for her first year of college.
There are two major scholarship types: 1. From a university or 2. From outside a university.
From a university
Most universities offer some sort of merit-based scholarship.
Pro Tip: Many universities will not consider you for their scholarships if you do not apply by the Early Action deadline. This means you have to have all of your information together and submitted in November. If you miss this deadline, the university will not consider you--no matter how qualified you might have been.
From outside a university
Lots of organizations offer scholarship for rising college freshmen. Each requires its own application packet: application, essay(s), transcript, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation(s), picture of you, portfolio, etc.
These outside scholarships can range from $200 to a full ride. Many students apply for only the big scholarships (Gates Foundation, McDonald's Cares, Kohl's, Siemens, National Merit). Many student also feel that applying for the lower amount scholarships ($200 to $1500) is not worth their time. This is the wrong mindset.
A student of mine applied for a won a $10,000 scholarship from a competition that accepted 10,000 applicants and only 50 winners. Thats a .005% chance of winning. This means 9,950 people did not win this scholarship.
However, she also won a $4000 local scholarship that accepted 400 applicants and 40 winners: a 10% chance of winning. While the $10,000 seems like the best one to apply for, the chances are actually so much stronger for the lesser amounts. Don't skip those as they add up quickly.
How to find outside scholarship money
Finding outside money does require some effort on your part. You'll need to scour all of your resources to find ones that apply to you: scholarship books, online sites, etc. Personally, I don't care much for the books (too many choices) or sites (too much of everything). However I do have some tricks I recommend you consider when finding and applying for outside scholarships. :
If you win a scholarship, you should know two things
A College Counselor who asks and answers the tough questions.