Why You Should Invest in SAT/ACT Test Preparation and Admissions Counseling

StratusPrep ACT and SAT Tutoring IconApplying to and funding college can be stressful, but proper planning and expert guidance can help alleviate some of the pressure on students and their families. According to the College Board, the cost of attending a four-year college ranges from $91,000 to $179,000. College is a large investment in your child, and as with any other large investment, it is best to seek out an expert advisor who is experienced and has successfully guided others to similar goals.

I’ve outlined a few of the top reasons why you should invest in SAT/ACT test preparation and college admissions counseling for your child as a means to maximize your investment and set your child up for success.

Return on Investment. Working with a seasoned team of SAT/ACT tutors and college admission counselors will substantially increase your child’s chances of gaining admission to the school of his or her dreams. Graduating from a top university increases your child’s opportunities after graduation and lifetime earning potential. Investing less than 5% of the investment’s total in expert guidance is a minimal spend to maximize opportunity.

When seeking professional test preparation and admission counseling, it’s important to choose a tutor and counseling team wisely. Costs for these services varies by company, but be sure to ask questions regarding process, credentials and successes. For example, all of Stratus Prep’s tutors have scored in the top 1% on the ACT/SAT and have had at least two years of teaching experience. It is our firm belief that great test-takers must also be experienced educators in order to help students maximize their test scores. All of our admissions counselors have graduated from the nation’s elite higher learning institutions including Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Columbia and have significant admissions experience. We also believe in a team-based, customized approach. Stratus Prep counselors and tutors work together to help each student succeed – from practice test to admission. I am also involved with every single student’s admission plan and at multiple touch points throughout the application process. References are also always available.

Scholarship guidance and negotiation. When it comes to paying for college, there is quite a bit of money available. Since 2011, Stratus Prep has helped students negotiate over $15 million in merit-based scholarship. Our experience with negotiation has allowed many of our students to graduate debt-free. The luxury of not having to repay loans after college provides your child with the freedom to take any job opportunity that he or she may desire. Your child may also choose to extend his or her educational career by going to graduate school and would then be able to do so without the burden of knowing that he or she will soon be expected to make loan payments. It is also important to have guidance to navigate other types of scholarships that require essay writing and other forms of qualification.

A competitive edge. Admission to elite universities is more competitive today than ever. Most students only apply to college once. Just like with anything else, doing something for the first time is rarely as successful as the second, third, or thousandth time. Having the support of a team of seasoned admission professionals who have successfully worked with thousands of students gives your child an edge. Highly skilled admissions counselors know what works and what doesn’t.

An unbiased, available advisor. Many high school students look to their high school’s college advisor for guidance. This person serves as a great resource; however, certain universities may only accept a certain number of students from specific schools and it is up to the advisor’s discretion to promote one student more heavily than another to university representatives. Having an unbiased counselor to help guide your decisions such as essay topics and recommenders will allow your child to maximize chances of acceptance. High school advisors may also be guiding hundreds of students within a single application season. In order to receive personalized attention, it is best to look to an outside admissions counselor who is only working with a small number of students at one time.

For these reasons, you should consider investing in SAT/ACT test preparation and admission counseling for your child. Summer is a great time to determine your child’s application strategy and next steps. Please reach out to me with any questions or comments regarding investing in SAT/ACT test preparation and college admissions counseling at shawn.oconnor@stratusprep.com.

This post was provided by Shawn O’Connor, Founder and President of StratusPrep, who was a guest on College Smart Radio “Tackling the Runaway Costs of College” on June 7th, 2014.  Listen to this broadcast on YouTube here.

An Inside Look at Admissions That Make or Break Student Acceptance

Monmouth College LogoStudents have been to applying to more colleges than ever. As a result, many colleges have actually seen increases in their number of applications. Ironically, this increase comes at time in which many regions across the United States are graduating fewer seniors. Private and Public colleges alike, are seeing increases in the number of applications they receive. Some flagship state universities now have admission criteria that reflect some of the most selective private colleges and universities.

It seems as though students have hit their limit with the number of college applications they complete. The majority of students now apply to 7-10 schools and that number has remained consistent over the past few years. Tools such as the Common Application and its growing popularity have contributed to the rise in applications. However, applications fees, essays and supplemental documents may be the reason why students are generally reluctant to apply to more than 10 schools.

I like to advise students that no one is going to care which schools you applied to and how many of them accepted you. They should not apply to Ivy League schools just so they can say, “I applied to Ivy League schools.” Future employers will only care about the college you did attend. Students should spend a lot of time up front researching colleges, just as anyone about to make a large investment would. Then they should apply to schools meeting their criteria, not someone else’s.

Not all colleges operate the same way when it comes to the admission process. Some have Early Decision or Early Action deadlines in which they hope to secure top students early through a loosely binding process. Many of Regular Decision deadlines occur in January, with review of applications taking place only after that date. An increasing number of colleges have adopted Rolling Admission, in which applications are reviewed on an ongoing basis usually without any deadline for consideration. NACAC (National Association for College Admission Counseling) recently released on their website a list of over 200 schools still accepting applications after May 1st, the National Candidate Reply Date. Every year there are students who start their college search late and think applications deadlines have past. Although students should begin seriously researching colleges during their junior year, it should be known that just because one school’s deadline has passed it does not mean all others have as well.

There are vast differences between large and small colleges. The two of the most striking differences are the residential life and classroom experiences. For obvious reasons it much more difficult to build a close-knit community among 20,000+ students than it is at a small, residential college of 1,300 students like at Monmouth College where I work. Additionally, smaller colleges typically have no Teaching Assistants, small class sizes (average of 15 at Monmouth College) and low student to faculty ratios (12:1 at Monmouth College).

Monmouth College is an ideal place for students seeking a broad classroom-based education, great co-curricular opportunities such as Study Abroad and ways to explore leadership opportunities. Over 90% of Monmouth students live on campus and 99% of them received a scholarship or grant. Faculty know students by name, provide them with their cell phone numbers and invite them over for dinner at their homes. Monmouth College has been a great investment since 1853 and continues to be with 99% of our 2013 graduates reporting employment or enrollment in a graduate or professional program within six months of graduation.

This post was provided by Phil Betz, Director of Admissions at Monmouth College, who was a guest on College Smart Radio “Tackling the Runaway Costs of College” on May 31st, 2014.  Listen to this broadcast on YouTube here.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Online Learning vs. Traditional Education: What’s Right for You?

Trident University LogoTrident University International (Trident), recognizing both the changing needs of its students and the employers that hire its graduates, is introducing its first new programs since 2011. Students can choose a path of either Bachelor’s or Master’s of Science in Leadership degree starting in this year’s summer session beginning on July 7th. Registration is open now.

These programs utilize the most current leadership theories and are taught using tried and true pedagogical methods. Students will have the opportunity to build on their current managerial skillset, as well as learn new theories and practical approaches. With a focus on the development of critical thinking skills, the tools provided to students in these degree programs will give them a professional edge, whether they are working their way up the corporate ladder or strengthening their resume as an active duty member of the U.S. Armed Forces.

“People ask “Are leaders born or made”? I’ve never met a “born” organizational leader who hasn’t gone through the life experience, studies, and work with others that it takes to make a leader.” Dr. Stefan Hanson, Program Director, B.S. in Leadership, Trident University

Roles requiring managerial leadership skills, which are currently in high demand, have grown at 4.5% over the past decade and are expected to generate an additional 410,000 jobs by 2020. Despite this, there are few options to meet that demand in the private online space. Several industry segments have the need for professionals who have mastered these skills, including management of companies and enterprises, professional scientific and technical services, computer systems design, and state and local governments at the national level.

The Bachelor’s or Master’s of Science in Leadership programs resulted from years of research, managed by Dr. Simcha Pollard, Dean, College of Business Administration and College of Information Systems. Approval from accrediting bodies, such as Western Association of Schools & Colleges (WASC), depended on many factors, including the employability of future graduates from these programs. Both programs received approval from WASC, the body that reaffirmed Trident’s accreditation in April 2013 for 7 years.

As Trident’s demographic diversifies, the university remains committed to student success through the development of degree programs that appeal to a diverse population while preparing these students for careers in the modern world. With the B.S. and M.S. in Leadership, current and future managers can hope to gain the skills necessary to handle growth, increase productivity, and manage conflicts in an ethical way in the modern professional environment. The B.S. in Leadership offers concentrations in Management, Interdisciplinary Studies, and Criminal Justice Administration.

About Trident University

Founded in 1998, Trident University International (Trident) is a leading online post-secondary university serving adult learners. Trident developed the Trident Learning Model, which employs case-based learning in an online setting to teach real-world relevant critical thinking skills to enhance student’s lives and careers. Trident offers high-quality bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs, led by a qualified faculty team, over 90% of whom have doctoral degrees. Visit www.trident.edu, Trident’s Facebook page, or call at (800) 579-3197 to learn more about Trident’s wide range of program offerings.

These two blogs were originally posted to Trident University’s website.  Andy Vaughn, CEO & President of Trident University was a guest on College Smart Radio “Tackling the Runaway Costs of College” on May 24th, 2014.  Listen to this broadcast on YouTube here.

An Affordable Option for Low-Income Students to Obtain a High-Quality Degree

Berea College LogoThere is a college in the US unlike any other.

  • A college that offers full tuition scholarships to all admitted students and admits only students who lack the means to contribute at all to tuition.
  • A college that offers a high-quality liberal arts program as well as majors with vocational/professional character including nursing, education, business, agriculture, sustainability and agriculture.
  • A residential college with an attractive campus, well-equipped facilities, a faculty active in research and scholarship, a staff that contributes to the educational enterprise through supervision of students in the work program, international programs, and vibrant extra-curriculars including inter-collegiate athletics, lectures by distinguished visitors, many events in the performing arts and community celebrations of our distinctive character.
  • A college that not only admits students, but hires each and every one into work positions that help support efficient campus operations and provide valuable work experience.
  • A college that was founded before the Civil War and was the first interracial and coeducational school in the South; still with a diverse and interesting student body, faculty and staff, including substantial numbers of international students and a broad mixture of domestic students.
  • A college that accentuates the celebration of its regional association. It is located in the city of Berea in the state of Kentucky, near Lexington, and does its utmost to provide an educational opportunity to students living in Appalachia as well as other services to distressed communities in that part of the country.
  • A college that through that commitment offers opportunities to all its students to learn through the offering of service to those in need.
  • A college that has put a high emphasis on sustainability of its operations—we operate the first LEED certified hotel in Kentucky, have built one of the only platinum-level LEED certified residence halls in the country, and are renovating all of our buildings to reduce substantially reduce our carbon footprint—and also offers living and learning experiences in Sustainability and Environmental Studies.
  • A college, that because of its compelling mission and model, is supported by an array of friends, foundations and alumni so that its unique financial model remains robust and sustainable, and so that it enjoys a triple-A bond rating.
  • A college that leads the way in many areas of national recognition including Kiplingers, the Washington Monthly, and other rating services. The U.S. Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency Center’s report that shows Berea has the lowest tuition and fees in the nation. The national average for private, four-year not-for-profit colleges for tuition and fees is $22,786. Berea’s is $910.

This college has many successful graduates in nearly every profession and career imaginable, including entrepreneurs in business, public servants in politics, professors and academic leaders, preachers, teachers, nurses, farmers and foresters. A short list of distinguished graduates might include:

In conclusion, one might rightly ask why there is not a Berea College in every region of the country? That seems to us a very good question.

This post was provided by Lyle Roelofs, President of Berea College, who was a guest on College Smart Radio “Tackling the Runaway Costs of College” on May 10th, 2014.  Listen to this broadcast on YouTube here.

Go to College in the West for Less!

WUE“I can afford to study out-of-state? You’ve got to be kidding!”

Students — and their parents who are bankrolling their kids’ education — are often amazed to learn that they can afford an undergraduate education outside of their home state, thanks to a program called “WUE” that’s been around for a quarter of a century. Some say it’s like winning the lottery!

More than 25 years ago, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), a nonprofit higher education policy organization, forged an agreement with its 15 western member states called the “Western Undergraduate Exchange”, or “WUE”. WUE is a multi-lateral regional tuition reciprocity agreement whereby a resident of one WICHE member state can go to college at a participating public institution in another WICHE state, and pay 1.5 times the resident tuition of the enrolling institution. WICHE member states are: AK, AZ, CA, CO, HI, ID, MT, ND, NM, NV, OR, SD, UT, WA, WY and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

WUE is the biggest program of its kind the nation; a 154 total of institutions — community colleges and universities – participate in the network. This year alone (2013-14), some 34,000 students saved an estimated $264.7 million by paying the reduced WUE rate, instead of full nonresident tuition. Individual savings ranges from about $900 up to $13,000 per student, but on average, a student this year is saving about $7,800.

The savings numbers are even more staggering when you look at the historical savings the program has provided for families since the first exchanges began in 1988: western residents have saved an estimated $2.2 billion on some 392,000 tuition bills! Depending on where you’re from and where you want to enroll, earning your degree may cost about the same and sometimes less than what you would have paid if you had studied in your home state!

Now you’re wondering: what’s the catch? What motivates institutions participate in WUE? Community colleges and universities like WUE just as much as students and families do. It helps them achieve their enrollment goals on several levels. The savings can entice students to enroll in difficult-to-fill majors. They can also use WUE as a merit scholarship, to attract the brightest students in the region, which also boosts their graduation and retention rates.

WUE also helps them diversify their student body; the more regional and ethically diverse their students are, the richer the learning experience for all. Some institutions also use WUE to attract academically qualified athletes in the region. Furthermore, some graduates will probably remain in the state where they received their degree, and become part of the local workforce. For growing states, this is a plus!

Prospective students must apply for the WUE discounted rate at the same time they apply for admission. The WUE rate is never guaranteed. Students must request it and meet the enrolling institution’s requirements.

Here are a few simple guidelines to follow:
1. Make sure your major is eligible for the WUE discount at the WUE institution where you’re applying. Some high demand majors are excluded. To find out, check your dream institution’s WUE profile. Remember, if you change to a non-eligible major, the institution will charge you full nonresident tuition.

2. Read the participating institution’s WUE eligibility requirements (GPA and ACT or SAT scores). Do you qualify? About 20% of WUE institutions use the program as a merit scholarship.

3. Apply directly to the institution where you want to enroll, and apply as early as possible! Check the institution’s WUE application deadline. An early application will increase your chances if you meet all of the other qualifications where you want to enroll. Remember: some institutions have a limit on the number of WUE discounts that they will offer to new students each fall—you want to fall within that number.

4. If you’re awarded the WUE discounted tuition rate, be ready to study hard and finish your bachelor’s degree within four years. Most institutions limit the number of semesters that they will give you the discounted rate. Community colleges may also set a two-year limit for full-time students. It’s important to note that WUE is for students who want to complete a full degree; it is not designed for a semester or one year study experience.

For specific questions about admissions requirements, contact the enrolling institution directly. If you have general questions about the program after reading the WUE FAQ contact WICHE staff at info-sep@wiche.edu 303.541.0270.

This post was provided by Margo Colalancia, Director of Student Exchanges at WICHE, who was a guest on College Smart Radio “Tackling the Runaway Costs of College” on April 5th, 2014.  Listen to this broadcast on YouTube here.

Photo Credit: OutOfStateCollegeFairs.net

Becoming an “Angular” Student

students_readingIn the early eighties, when I applied, the buzzword for college acceptance was “well-rounded,” which referred to a student who participated in many different activities.

That is no longer what colleges are looking for from applicants. Now they want to build a well-rounded class made up of students who will each fill one or two slices of their total round pie: in other words, students who are unique, focused, and angular (or express excellence or uniqueness) in their interests.

Peter Johnson, The Director of Admission at Columbia University, echoed this view when I heard him speak recently.  Johnson said that Columbia is seeing a rise in what he calls “Niche Applicants” and what I call Angular Applicants. These are students who have already demonstrated a deep independent intellectual curiosity or expertise in a given area from science research to humanities to outstanding athletics. An angular student can also be a student who has developed a degree of excellence in one or two areas—leadership, intellectual curiosity, athletics, or community service—or who has a special talent or exhibits unusual personal character.

I developed The College Application Wheel™ to serve as a framework and tool to assist you in identifying your strengths and “gaps”—areas that you may need to fill in such as community service or higher standardized test scores—it will also help you determine where your energy may best be spent in making yourself shine or stand out from the crowd. It will help you understand what makes you unique, how to find a college that values you for who you are, and help you see where there is a match between you and a specific college.

The College Application Wheel™

college_app_wheel

The key components of the College Application Wheel are:

  • Academics/test scores
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Leadership
  • Intellectual curiosity
  • Athletics
  • Special talents
  • Financial
  • Other

Colleges don’t expect you to excel in all eight of these categories, but they do look at these areas to determine if you will be a good academic, cultural, emotional, financial, and character-based “fit” with their institution.  So what’s your angle?

Bio
Lisa Bleich is founder and president of College Bound Mentor, LLC and the author of Surviving the College Application Process: Case Studies to Help You Find Your Unique Angle for Success.  She mentors students from all over the world on the college application process, helping them uncover their strengths and develop a personal plan for success. Lisa holds a BA in European cultural studies and French from Brandeis University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and three daughters. Two of them have successfully survived the college application process!

This post was provided by Lisa Bleich, College Bound Mentor, who was a guest on College Smart Radio “Tackling the Runaway Costs of College” on March 22, 2014.  Listen to the broadcast on YouTube here.

Photo Credit: University of Nottingham

Western Undergraduate Exchange: Is Your Student Eligible for Reduced Tuition?

Map of participating WUE states.Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) operates as a non-profit facility and essentially acts as an informational hub, conveying data or “resource sharing” between educators, governors and policymakers.  They pride themselves as an organization dealing with and concentrated exclusively on higher education.

It’s centered in 15 western states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

For more background information, visit the WICHE about page on their website.

The Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) is one of their primary initiatives focused on financial aid.  As a resident of one of those states, you’re eligible to receive reduced tuition of 150% at over 150 WUE participants.

Wondering if your dream school is part of this program?  A full list can be found here.  You may also use their search feature and they grouped colleges by state for your convenience.

You simply need to indicate on your admission form to the participating institution that you’d like consideration for the WUE tuition rate.  While it isn’t automatically given to all students, be sure to apply early.  A number of colleges hand out a limited amount of WUE awards.

Still unsure about something with their organization?  Any other FAQs can be found under their page called “Ask WICHE”.

For questions directly concerning the WUE, send an e-mail their way to info-sep@wiche.edu or give them a call at (303) 541-0270.

This post gives you basic information about the Western Undergraduate Exchange.  We went into greater detail on our College Smart Radio “Tackling the Runaway Costs of College” February 1st 2014 broadcast.  Listen to this broadcast on YouTube here.  For a more detailed explanation of the WUE program, listen to our show with guest Margo Colalancia, Director of Student Exchanges at WICHE.

Photo Credit: U. of Montana