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4 Factors to Consider Before Applying to Ivy League Schools


By Shierly Mondianti October 1, 2015 11:15 AM


For many international students there is nothing more satisfying than when your family back home actually recognizes the name of t he school that you fought so hard to get into. Big namecolleges, such as those in the Ivy League, typically fit the bill.

HarvardYale and Princeton are almost always given the stamp of approval and are typically seen as the pinnacle of U.S. universities. But an Ivy League degree does not guarantee a comfortable post-undergraduate life in a towering New York office complete with a magnificent skyline view of Manhattan. No, it takes more than just an Ivy League degree to land your future dream job.

So, what can you do early on to gain an edge and set yourself apart in your future career? Here are four factors that you might want to consider:

1 . Your potential field of work: Do you see yourself in Wall Street or starting a business? Maybe you are a real tech genius or dream to one day be an astronaut.

If so, you might want to look into specialized or technical schools that might get your foot in the door. For example, you might want to apply to New York University's Stern Business School than study general economics in an Ivy League institution. Similarly, studying aerospace engineering at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University might get you closer to that NASA gig than studying general engineering in the Ivy League. Employers want to hire you because you can do the job, not merely because you hold an Ivy League degree.

2. Think about location: Employers like to hire graduates in the city where their main operations are, and there are more job opportunities at the headquarters. For example, Microsoft, headquartered in Seattle, recruits most of its employees from University of Washington,Washington State University and Western Washington University, according to a Wired report.

Sometimes, the question of rural versus urban is not just about the social aspect that each neighborhood type might represent. Sometimes, it matters because of who is operating businesses there.

When deciding your college, research what companies are headquartered where. If you see a future in manufacturing, you might want to consider schools in Texas or Michigan. If you plan to get involved in politics, Washington D.C. might be an obvious choice.

3 . Think about the a lumni network: It's true that Ivy League schools have substantial alumni networks, but big schools like Penn State have very well connected alumni networks as well. You might think that this is not a factor for consideration, but if you plan to get a job, alumni connections might be your best bet.

Up to 80 percent of jobs are reportedly not advertised, so networking is key. School pride and spirit goes a long way, and you never know how much a strong alumni network can do for you.

4 . Know differences between research universities and liberal arts colleges: Schools might boast about their breakthroughs in scientific research. But will you actually benefit from being part of a school that works to improve the development of carbon nanotubes? Maybe and maybe not.

If you managed to get yourself on the research team at college, then congratulations. But this often doesn't happen to the typical undergraduate. The furthest students might come to assisting our professors might just be doing brief literature reviews for them to skim.

On the flip side, if you enjoy and learn a lot from small group discussions, you might want to consider liberal arts colleges. If not, stick to other types of universities.

You will find this advice most useful if you have strong idea of what you do want after college. There are consequences for taking on a niche path of study. However, there are equally high rewards for those who start early and know what they want out of their college education.

At the moment, you might be tempted by the ability to proudly declare you're a student at Brown, Columbia or Dartmouth. But, as a senior at one of the institutions mentioned, I can tell you that in four years, the name of your school is one of the few things that you care about.


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Yesenia Alduenda


PSAT for 10th & 11th graders is just around the corner. The test will be October 11th, the fee to the exam is $16.00. Just as a reminder some Juniors may qualify for a fee waiver. Reach out to Ms. Alduenda to get more information. The last day to signup and pay for the PSAT will be September 29, 2017. Let me know if there are any questions. 


~Thank you! 

RVHS's A-G Approved courses

To view the courses which have been approved by the University of California as meeting the A-G requirements, visit this website: RVHS A-G


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Solano Community College Opportunities

Sign up for Solano Community College:


The Educational Foundation is launching The Solano Promise:  A Hand Up for Higher Education.  The new program helps students receive a large array of support services and financial assistance to get a college education or certificate in a career technical field of their choice.


Learn more here:

Solano Community College Athletic Recruitment Days

Students planning to transfer to Solano College who would like to compete as a student athlete, please  contact me or the Solano Athletic Recruitment website-  . I look forward to meeting all the student athletes.


Also, it is important that any student planning to attend on one of the recruitment days have already completed the Solano College Application and that they bring with them a copy of a high school transcript. It doesn't have to be official, we now use them to determine placement in classes.


5 Little-Known Ways to Boost Your Scholarship Odds

A leading expert tells how to give yourself an edge over the competition.

These days, just about everybody knows to search for scholarships using free matching services likeFastweb and BigFuture by the College Board. Perhaps these web sites have made finding scholarships too easy—creating an expectation that winning a scholarship should be practically effortless.


But winning scholarships still requires a lot of hard work. Nobody is going to give you one simply for breathing. Every scholarship provider is looking for the students who best match its particular selection criteria.


Very few scholarships are focused on academic excellence, such as having a high GPA, high class rank, and high admissions test scores. Even when a scholarship is awarded based on academic merit, there’s a lot of competition. There are more than 80,000 high school valedictorians and salutatorians each year and more than 1.6 million college-bound high school seniors with an “A” average GPA (including more than 250,000 with a perfect 4.0 GPA).


While the competition may be keen, these tips can help you tilt the odds in your favor:


1. Answer the optional questions. Students who answer the optional questions on online scholarship matching services tend to match twice as many scholarships as those who answer just the required ones. The optional questions are included in the personal background profile to trigger specific awards. Answering these questions is a little tedious, but it can help you find all the scholarships for which you are eligible.


2. Search offline too. The online world is not the entire universe. There are many scholarships, especially small, local ones, that aren’t on any of the scholarship search sites. Look for local awards posted on bulletin boards outside your high school guidance counselor’s office, the local college financial aid office, or at your public library.While you’re at the library, look through a few scholarship listing books. These books are best for an exploratory search and can complement the more targeted online searches. But, before using any book, check the copyright date. If the book is more than a year or two old, it is too old to be useful, as about 10% of scholarships change in some material way each year.


3. Apply to every scholarship. It is very difficult for selection committees to choose which finalists will get their scholarships. Often, there are no wrong choices. So, who wins a scholarship is a matter of luck, not just skill. You can increase your chances by applying to every scholarship for which you are eligible. That’s what the students who win a gazillion dollars in scholarships do. They have far more rejections than wins. It isn’t as difficult as it may seem. After your first half-dozen scholarships, you will find that you can start reusing essays with only slight tweaks for each new application.


4. Apply to small scholarships. Students often think that small scholarships aren’t worth the effort. But these scholarships are easier to win because they are less competitive. Small scholarships not only add up—they also add lines to your résumé that can help you win bigger scholarships.


5. Maintain a professional online appearance. More than a quarter of scholarship providers now require finalists to friend them on Facebook. Partly, they want to get to know the students better. But they are also looking for red flags that the student might not reflect well on the scholarship sponsor. So Google yourself. Clean up your Facebook and Twitter accounts, deleting any posts and pictures that contain inappropriate or immature material. Use a professional email address, such as


Finally, say thank you to the scholarship providers when you win. They fund scholarships to make a difference in students’ lives. Saying thank you encourages them to continue that work. In one instance, a student wrote such a sincere, heartfelt thank you that the scholarship provider was moved to turn her one-time scholarship into a renewable one.


Mark Kantrowitz is one of the nation’s leading financial aid experts. He is the author of several books about scholarships, including Secrets to Winning a Scholarship, and has served as a member of the board of directors of the National Scholarship Providers Association. He also served as publisher of Fastweb, the first free online scholarship search service.


PSAT for Juniors is the only way to become a National Merit Scholar - Heres an example of how important this is...

As the selection of National Merit Finalists are made this spring, I would like to make you aware of Texas Tech University's National Merit Scholars program! Finalists who designate Texas Tech as their first choice institution with the National Merit Corporation will be eligible to receive 100% of cost of attendance including tuition, fees, room, board, books, transportation and a personal/miscellaneous allowance. Qualifying students should make the designation no later than May 31, 2017, to ensure maximum eligibility.


Remember, only 11th grade PSAT will qualify, your earlier (or later) PSATs do NOT count!

SAT & SAT Free Practice Tool - Online

I just found out about this free SAT and ACT prep website that bills itself as "the best money cant buy".


I checked it out and was able to use it so I think it is "legit".


Check it out HERE and if you encounter any issues let me know so I can remove it from our counseling page.

Website to help you with FAFSA, Cal Grant and Dream Act (and more!)


Sponsored by the US Army, this site offers free practice tests and online study materials


March 2 Success is a FREE website providing our users access to online study materials to help improve their scores on standardized tests such as state exit exams, college entrance exams, military entrance exam (ASVAB) and others.  Our content includes self-paced study programs in Math, English and Science, with a focus of materials on grades 8-12.  The High School Math and Verbal Skills course and College Readiness online course each start with a pre-assessment test, using the results to generate a custom learning path.  The learning path includes interactive lessons, quizzes and additional practice tests.  The High School Science Hub provides lessons and practice tests in Earth Science, Biology, Chemistry and Physics.

We provide 7 full-length practice tests for both the SAT and ACT as well as 25 decks of flashcards.  Each section is timed and scored just like the real test.  Each section can be reviewed to see if you were correct/incorrect along with a detailed explanation of the problem.  You can also review the score to see the percentage, raw score and scaled score based on either the SAT or ACT scoring methods.


We also include information to help students with the entire college application process.  This information includes guides to admissions, financial aid and scholarships, and a planning guide to walk you through the details of applying to and being accepted at college.

Top 10% of the class of 2016
Article from Daily Republic

Here’s Your Mantra to Tackle the College Admissions Process



A.C.E. I.T.


The college application process can bring out the worst in families, with its high stakes, countless unknowns, and a mountain of work to surmount. Kids procrastinate. Parents nag. Kids procrastinate some more. Parents nag some more – that is until conversations become screaming matches and nothing gets done. It doesn’t have to be this way. As someone who can bring both wisdom and unconditional love to the table, you can help your child by developing a game plan. By breaking the process down into small, realistic steps, your child will get his work done, and done well.


While it is always better to start early, all is not lost, even in the fall. To figure out how to guide your child while keeping your relationship intact, just remember this acronym: A.C.E. I.T. - Applications, College Choices, Essays, Interest, and Tests. These five pieces will allow you to get perspective, get organized, and get through application season.


Applications - These online forms come in all shapes and sizes, and despite their names, not every school uses the CommonUniversal, or Coalition Applications. To figure out what you need to do, start by creating a Common Application account and work through the different sections. The information you gather can serve as a proxy for all of the other applications your child has to complete.


And don’t forget the résumé. These documents are becoming an increasingly integral part of the process, allowing students to showcase their accomplishments and talents in ways that many applications don’t. If you don’t have a résumé for your child to imitate, Google templates and pick a non-flashy one that fits his background. This will eliminate the stress of having to format!


College Choices – With over 4,000 colleges out there, how can your child possibly decide where to apply? Rather than freeze up or rely on the rankings, figure out what your child wants in a college experience. Then use those preferences along with his GPA and test scores to identify options using online databases and search engines like the College Board’s Big Future or Peterson’s. Once your child has researched and whittled down his choices, generate a list of no more than 10 schools more or less evenly divided among Likely, Target, and Reach School options. That way you’ll ensure that he will not only be happy with his options, but that he’ll be going somewhere next year.


Essays – Let’s face it. The essays are absolutely the most demanding part of this process – not only because there are so many of them to write, but because students have to dig deeply into their values, thoughts and feelings in order to share personal stories with complete strangers, who will judge their suitability for admission based on what they say. That would scare any reasonable adult!

So, here’s how you can help:

First, collect all the essay prompts from your child’s applications in a single document and look for overlapping themes. If you have trouble doing this, College Essay Organizer will do it for you!

Second, pace your child based on the number of new essays that he has to write. If only 6 weeks remain between now and his application deadlines, divide the number of essays by 4 or 5 to allow your child to have at least one week of time for revision.

Third, don’t write your child’s essays for him. Let your child speak! Colleges want to hear about his 3 P’s - philomathy, perseverance and passion - in his own words. And trust me, colleges can and will deny students if they suspect the essays are not their own.


Interest – This has become an increasingly important part of the process, and can be very time consuming, when done properly.

Colleges care if students reach out and show interest in them. It’s a lot like dating – you can’t just pop the question, “Will you admit me?” Your child has to court the schools - call the admissions office with questions, attend a local information session, interview, visit campus, follow them on Twitter, and like them on Facebook. Then, if the schools see that your child is serious, then and only then, will they potentially say, “Yes.”


Tests – The SAT and the ACTSubject TestsIB exams, and AP scores. And not to mention the TOEFL for non-native English speaking foreign students. No part of the admissions process provokes as much fear and loathing as testing. It’s expensive, it’s variable, and it’s often independent of what your child is learning in school. And now he has even more studying to do on top of everything else. My one piece of advice here is: Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.


If, however, your child is a terrible tester, all is not lost. An increasing number of colleges are becoming “Score Optional,” meaning students don’t have to submit SAT or ACT scores. Seriously. So, if this sounds like your child, check out theFairTest website for a list of amazing test-free (or test-flexible) options!


Now that you understand the key components of A.C.E. I.T., there’s one last thing you need to remember: this is a mantra of positivity. The worst thing you can do is throw your hands in the air in frustration. So whenever you’re feeling upset or overwhelmed, return to your game plan, and you and your child will get through this process.

How the PSAT Could Save You Thousands in College Costs

Students who do well on the PSAT can be eligible for several types of scholarships

With most of today’s high school students taking several high-stakes standardized tests before graduation, a so-called “practice test” might seem insignificant.

But in the case of the PSAT (more formally known as the Preliminary SAT), that would be a mistake.

Doing poorly on the exam, taken most often by sophomores and juniors, won’t hurt your college admissions chances, points out Mandee Heller Adler, founder of International College Counselors in Hollywood, Fla. But doing well on it could mean more money for college—in some cases, a lot more.

That’s because the PSAT also serves as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test for juniors hoping to be National Merit finalists. The competition is tough: Of the more than 1.5 million 11th graders who took the exam last year, only 15,000 became finalists.

But if you do manage to reach the finalist circle, you’ll be eligible for some of the $43 million that’s awarded each year in scholarships. About half of finalists receive either a one-time $2,500 National Merit Scholarship or a scholarship sponsored by a corporation or any of hundreds of colleges. Note that college-sponsored awards are given out only to finalists who identify that college as their “first choice school” to the National Merit Scholarship Corp. by May of their junior year.

There are also some special scholarships, sponsored by companies, that go to students who aren’t finalists but still performed well on the exam. Some of the most lucrative scholarships will cover the full cost of tuition and are renewable for four years. (For more information and list of the businesses and colleges that sponsor scholarships, check out this guide.)

In addition to the National Merit Scholarship program, the College Board also announced this year that an additional $180 million in scholarship money will be awarded based in part on performance on the PSAT. Five major foundations that work primarily with underrepresented minorities are sponsoring the awards.

Prepping for the New SAT

Given the odds, most students aren’t going to be in the running for these competitive, prestigious scholarships. Regardless, the PSATs are still a chance for students to see how they’ll feel in the testing environment and what areas they should focus on when studying for the SAT.

“You need to get the miles in in a test situation, and that’s exactly what the PSAT is,” says Elisabeth Morgan, who started the Connecticut-based College Matters admissions counseling company. “It’s training for the test that’s to come.”

That’s especially true this year, as the PSAT is the first of the College Board’s newly revised tests. The version given in October will focus on evidence-based reading and deciphering words in context, instead of obscure vocabulary words. Math portions will focus on fewer topics, but ones that were deemed the most important, such as ratios, portions, and linear algebra equations, says Cyndie Schmeiser, chief of assessment at College Board. In March, students taking the SAT will see similar changes.

The College Board has practice PSAT questions on its website, and the organization also recommends a new website run by Khan Academy. There, students can upload their PSAT results and get a personalized study plan that identifies the areas they need to focus on for the SAT.

When and How to Take It

The exam is given every October. (This year, the date is Oct. 19)

How students sign up depends on where they live. In Indiana, for example, the state pays for all juniors in public schools to take the exam. More than 400 school districts elsewhere in the U.S. do the same. If you don’t attend a school in one, you’ll likely need to talk to your guidance counselor to sign up for the PSAT. It costs $15, and fee waivers are available for some students from the College Board.

Finally, because so much of test-taking is confidence, don’t set yourself (or your child) up for failure. If you’re not on an accelerated academic path and a strong test taker, don’t take the PSAT as a sophomore, Morgan recommends. And don’t blow the test off. Even students who know they didn’t try their hardest can be in for a shock if they see poor results.

“I’ve seen kids lose their confidence when they get their scores back,” she says. “Then it can really become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

The important thing, Heller Adler adds, is striking the right balance: Try your hardest, but don’t sweat it too much.

Scholarships and Opportunities for Undocumented Students

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Guide to graduating from college debt free

Visit this site to learn about ways to graduate from college without debt:


ACT or SAT? How to decide which to take

Both the ACT and SAT have rolled out some changes recently, and the changes are making the tests more similar to each other than previous incarnations. However, the changes do not mean that the ACT and SAT have become interchangeable. Distinctions remain between the two, so knowing your personal testing style as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each test might help you improve your score.

RELATED: 10 ways the SAT will change in 2016

Follow our guide to understand the differences between each test and how these distinctions can help you in choosing where to invest your study time.

Before delving into the specifics of the tests, there are three initial steps you should take:


The decision between SAT or ACT might have already been made for you. An increasing number of schools accept both tests, but there are some that still only accept one or have a strong preference for one over the other. If the schools that interest you prefer or only accept one over the other, then focus your efforts on the test that will be most readily accepted at your schools of choice.


Your schedule might be the main factor in choosing which test to take. Both tests are only offered at certain times, with the SAT providing the greater number of opportunities to take the test over the course of the year. It may not be realistic to devote yourself to serious study in the days before a particular test, so you might want to choose based on when you will have time in your busy schedule to truly focus on achieving a high score.


While we can point you in the right direction, don’t make your final decision until you take a full practice test. Yes, this means spending two days of precious free time taking and scoring a practice test. This step can seem imminently skip-able. However, take a moment to think about it. You’re going to invest a considerable amount of time studying for the exam—much more time than required for a practice test. Moreover, the information that you will get from the practice test in terms of strengths and weaknesses can help you strategize your studying to get the most out of test prep.


Precision vs. generalization

The ACT tends to place greater emphasis on discrete information, while the SAT tends to highlight the student’s ability to generalize information. Of course, these are not absolute for each test. You’ll need to generalize some things for the ACT, and you’ll need to be able to be precise for the SAT. However, if you tend to be stronger in test taking scenarios with either precision or generalization, you might do better in the test that gives you the advantage.

Reading comprehension speed

For each passage in the reading section, the SAT gives you about 13 minutes to answer 10 questions while the ACT only provides about 8½ minutes to complete the same number of questions. If you tend to need more time to comprehend the meaning of a reading passage, the SAT might be the way to go.


Even the SAT’s redesigned version still doesn’t have a science section. If you have performed well in your science classes at school, and especially if you want to go into one of the STEM fields, the ACT can give you an opportunity to shine in a way that the SAT simply doesn’t.

Pace of the test

Would you prefer to answer more questions that have clear cut answers or would you prefer fewer questions that are more nuanced and require more time to consider each possible response? With 215 questions, the ACT has quite a few more than the redesigned SAT’s 154. Also, the SAT will give you 180 minutes total (plus 50 for the essay) versus 175 for the ACT (with 40 for the essay). Although the times are practically identical, the redesigned SAT has an herbal tea pace to it, while the ACT is a little more espresso.

Ryan Hickey is the Managing Editor of Petersons and EssayEdge and is an expert in many aspects of college, graduate, and professional admissions. A graduate of Yale University, Ryan has worked in various admissions capacities for nearly a decade, including writing test-prep material for the SAT, AP exams, and TOEFL; editing essays and personal statements; and consulting directly with applicants.

How to get a perfect SAT score



Target These 5 Best Places to Find College Scholarships, Grants

by Kevin Ladd

It is much faster and easier to search for collegescholarships and grants than it was 20 years ago, before the Internet changed the process for finding information forever. Now you just need an I nternet connection and a phone, tablet or computer to find multiple resources for free money for college.


The following five ways to search are all viable and every one of them is a potential gold mine.

1. School: It makes sense, doesn't it? Since school is the primary place for formal education of teenage students who are about to potentially go on to a postsecondary education, you can expect to find fliers, posters and planned financial aid information nights at your high school or possibly even middle school.


Look in the school's lobby or rotunda and check your guidance counselor's bulletin board. Ask your teachers and counselors about any potential financial aid for which you might be eligible. It doesn't hurt to ask. There is nothing to lose and who knows -- you might find a way to pay for a portion of your college costs.


[Here are five people you haven't asked about college scholarships.]


2Local library: The next most education-centered local source for most students is likely to be the public library. If you have one, even if you have not been a regular visitor, nothing is keeping you from going and asking the librarian or another employee what they know about local scholarship availability. Often you will find it is just a matter of asking the right person the right question when it comes to unlocking a wealth of valuable information.


3. Community organizations: If you or your parents belong to an organization such as the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, 4-H Club, Elks National Foundation or similar community organizations, you should find out if they offer any scholarships or grants. There are so many opportunities for students and parents who belong to these organizations, it is just a matter of performing a little bit of research.

The Scholarships for Scouts website lists many scholarship opportunities for students involved in scouting, so the parameters and deadlines will vary. The Elks National Foundation offers more than one scholarship so parameters and requirements will vary. However, they will require membership, so find out if your parent, uncle, aunt or a grandparent is a member and, if so, look into this great opportunity. Awards from the 4-H club will vary, but if you are a member, you should look up your local chapter and see what they offer. In Illinois, for example, 4-H Club has many youth development programs as well as a variety of scholarships.


[Find mentoring programs that offer college scholarships.]


4. Your employer: This could be a company for which a parent or possibly other relative has worked for years, or even your part-time employer when you are in high school. Any corporation with which you are connected might be a scholarship resource. Be sure to find out if any of the employers of anyone in your family offers scholarships or grants.

The McDonald's Educates Scholarship Program offers one $1,000 award each year to a high-achieving student employee from each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. One of those winners is eligible for a $5,000 prize. The United Technologies Employee Scholar Programcovers tuition, academic fees and book costs for students attending of the company's approved colleges, and there is no restriction on the type of degree. And the CVS Health Scholarships are available to students of full-time CVS employees. The application process will reopen in early 2016.


[Search for scholarships from your parents' employers.]


5. Fr ee online scholarship searches: This one, naturally, is my favorite. Ever since the late 1990s, students and parents have been able to easily get information about scholarships online, and even get matched to them by creating a profile. Rather than searching for each type of scholarship for which you feel qualified, specialized websites allow you to just answer a few questions and find hundreds of potential sources for free college money.


Not only that, but you can save, organize and update your profile and search results, tracking which ones you plan to apply for, those you don't, those you have applied for, etc.


While I recommend using all of the above mentioned methods, we all know time can be a major factor when pursuing such an endeavor. This is why I am constantly preaching the "early and often" method of researching and applying for scholarships. Start now and don't stop until there are no reasonable matches left. If you want to win scholarships, you are going to have to find them first.


Kevin Ladd is the vice president of, one of the most widely used free college scholarship search and financial aid informationresources online. The organization also formedRightStudent about five years ago, acompany that has built relationships with colleges and universities across theU.S. to provide students with the opportunity to not only interact withprospective colleges, but to also be recruited by them. on Twitterand Facebook.

9 things I wish I knew in college

By Vanessa Miller, Penn State University December 5, 2015


Your semester’s winding down, and I don’t want to freak you out, but another’s on its way. Which makes it the perfect time to go through the checklist of 9 things I wish I’d known when I was an undergraduate:


Sleep, grades, social life. More specifically, football games, extracurricular activities, classes, downtown bar crawls, organizations, internships, keeping in touch with family, sleeping six-plus hours a night. If you’ve been trying to do it all, you’re probably close to collapsing. So remember this one word: Balance. Choose your priorities, and aim for a happy medium.


Many people at school are there for you. Faculty, administrators, student leaders, community leaders and staff are available to help you navigate the complexities of college. Use professors’ office hours to get your questions answered, know who represents you on the student government. it’s a great way to enrich your experience, and extend your network — good not only for college, but when looking for work.


It’s easy to get caught up in a group mentality at school; you naturally want to hang out with friends tension-free, or bond with classmates to fit in. But now’s the time to voice your opinion (respectfully) and to do what you care about and love to do because it’s important to you, not to anyone else. Band geeks are only in movies and philosophy majors don’t walk around campus barefoot. Shake off any thoughts of being a cliche, and make yourself happy.


Are you still living close to home? Then think about studying abroad or spending a semester elsewhere volunteering. Only do the bare minimum to meet course requirements? Take a year of a foreign language. The point is, now’s the time to try something new. Who knows when opportunities like these will come around again?


It may seem like some students have their entire lives — from their stimulating class schedules to their cool group of friends — worked out perfectly, but it’s a good bet that they don’t. Life is way more complicated and nuanced than that. No one has a perfect handle on college life so don’t expect to have it, either.


Campus shuttles seem pretty appealing when the weather gets crappy, but walk the grounds whenever possible. Campuses are filled with historic buildings and beautiful architecture. Plus, it’s a great way to stumble onto organizations or events you might not otherwise hear about — and the people-watching component isn’t bad, either.


Amid your internships, jobs, leadership position, friends, activities, it’s easy to forget why you’re there: To be a student and to learn. Now’s the time to focus on the intellectual opportunities available to you, from engaging in classroom discussions to continuing the conversation outside of classes with your peers.


Some semesters will be busier than others and that’s alright. FOMO – fear of missing out – may be a genuine concern for some students but know that where there is one social event, there will be five more.


You made the active decision to attend the college or university in which you’re enrolled. Get that extra t-shirt or college poster and don’t be afraid to represent your college or university wherever you go. Four years of college life will soon be a memory so enjoy your time while you can.

Vanessa Miller is currently working on her third degree and spends too much time wondering whether Socrates actually knew nothing.

RELATED: Advice from an upperclassman: How to avoid typical freshmen mistakes

7 college admission myths that you shouldn't fall for

By Petersons November 7, 2015


We’re hardly the only ones out there with advice about college admissions myths. Pick your number — anything from five to 50 — and you can find an article outlining that many myths in the college admissions process.

While most offer solid advice, some are conflicting, and it can be difficult to know who to trust. Even someone who has worked in admissions can have a narrow or outdated perspective.


After working with thousands of college applicants each year, we’ve distilled the most common admissions myths down to seven of the most dangerous. Don’t let these inaccuracies ruin your changes of getting into your dream school.



While you should definitely apply to the schools that are the right fit for you, no college is your soulmate. Yes, your school will be your alma mater, but not getting into one particular school will not destroy your life.


In the college admissions process, don’t be afraid to play the field. If you think there’s only one school for you, then you really haven’t taken the time to explore the schools that are out there. This is not to say that you shouldn’t have a preferred school.

However, the admissions process is multidimensional, so having a top three or a top five can save you a lot of anxiety.



Schools actually do keep track of how many times you have contacted the school and if you’ve arranged for a campus visit. If your application is on the bubble for a school, making an extra effort can give you the push that you need.


Part of a college’s prestige is its yield rate, which refers to the number of accepted applicants who actually enroll. Giving the admissions officers confidence that you’ll matriculate if they send you an acceptance letter can provide you with a significant edge.



After checking off their basic requirements for admissions, schools consider many factors to help them decide who gets accepted. Once those requirements are met, then everything else is a matter of diminishing returns. Yes, high test scores and GPA will help you, but they are not a guarantee that you will be admitted.



The vast majority of applicants will actually be overqualified for the school and will also have numerous extracurricular activities and experiences. Therefore, the admissions officers are looking for the activities where you had a leadership role or played a significant role in a major project. It’s better to have fewer activities where you focused and made a difference than more where you were just a participant.



For your letters of recommendation and in your essays, name-dropping won’t impress the admissions officers. They want letters of recommendation from people who have worked with you and can personally attest to your potential. Unless you have a personal relationship with the renowned individual, leave it out of your college application package.



This is less of an active myth than a myth by omission. Admissions officers aren’t expecting you to be a saint, but you need to actively protect your reputation online.


Did someone tag you in an embarrassing photo? The admissions officers will see it. Did you stretch the truth in your application? The admissions officers will fact check you. If they don’t, that means that they are not seriously considering your application.

Therefore, take the time to clean up on social media.



Even for the most ideal of candidates, submitting bad essays can hurt your application. You might be in a position where you don’t need to include a stellar essay, but a rushed essay or one that clearly shows that you did not make an effort can knock you out of the running. Regardless of the strength of the other aspects of your application, including strong essays is essential.


About the Author

Ryan Hickey is the Managing Editor of Peterson’s & EssayEdge and is an expert in many aspects of college, graduate and professional admissions. A graduate of Yale University, Ryan has worked in various admissions capacities for nearly a decade, including writing test-prep material for the SAT, AP exams, and TOEFL, editing essays and personal statements, and consulting directly with applicants.


College Essay Coaching Video by Questbridge with admissions counselors from Stanford and Pomona College

Click on the link to see this video tutorial on how to write an engaging college entrance essay: 

This video is hosted by Questbridge and includes admissions counselors from Stanford and Pomona College.

5 Steps for Using College Admissions Essays to Address Weaknesses

Brian Witte November 9, 2015

A semester of lackluster grades, a disciplinary report or a poor showing on a standardized exam can all present significant challenges when attempting to get into a competitive college. Most experts advise addressing any deficiency directly, with the assumption that the essay portion of your application is your best chance to explain weaknesses.

The essay, however, may not always be the ideal place to do so. But if it is, how can you use it most effectively?

1. Consider the complexity of your issue: Addressing a delicate issue in an admissions essay can be challenging because emotion is especially difficult to accurately convey in text.

You may believe that you explained the situation in great detail and said all the right words, but your reader may find the essay is unclear. If your issue is very complex, one alternative to consider is the in-person interview

[Get 10 tips for writing the college application essay.]

One advantage of a face-to-face discussion is the opportunity to impress your interviewer with your sincerity. Interviews are also better suited to situations that require long explanations. For instance, if you have a disciplinary record, you may benefit from the chance to fully explain the circumstances and to demonstrate your determination to improve.

Explaining a difficult situation often works better in person because dialog is possible, and the difference between excusing bad behavior and explaining the circumstances often comes down to the look in a person's eye and the sound of his or her voice. Neither of those factors operates in text.

If you opt against addressing a significant issue in your essay, mention in your application that you are aware of the problem and that you look forward to addressing it in an interview. That avoids appearing that you are trying to conceal or skirt difficult topics. Instead, you are choosing the most appropriate medium for the discussion.

2. Define the problem clearly: Do not assume that the issue you see in your application is equally clear to your reviewers. Define, in your own words, what you see as the problem. This is also your opportunity to demonstrate that you understand the issue and its importance to your future college success.

If you received several C and D grades in your freshman year, for example, you might point out not just your low marks, but that you are aware that they could demonstrate an inability to handle stress. Self-awareness is one of the best indicators of a capacity for change.

Anyone can obey instructions, but it takes truly understanding yourself to really change. Defining the problem also ensures that you and your reader will be on the same page as you explain why you got into this dilemma and how you will escape it.

[Focus on three college preparation tasks for high school juniors.]

3. Accept responsibility for your actions: There are often mitigating circumstances that contribute to problems. You will have a chance to explain how you found yourself in such a difficult situation, but start by making it clear that the responsibility rests with you.

Use a simple statement like, "I earned a C-minus in algebra during my freshman year." The word "earned" indicates that you realize that you received the grade you deserved.

You likely learned a lesson from the experience, but the grade was not given to you. Students who claim that their teachers "gave me this grade" are far less likely to be or seem sincere in their desire to grow.

4. Articulate the lesson learned: While everyone makes mistakes or poor decisions, only some individuals learn from them. For others, past poor behavior indicates future poor behavior. You want to prove that you are in the first group.

Ensure that what you learned relates to your own behavior. In other words, say, "I learned to ask for help when I am struggling," instead of, "I learned that teachers will not automatically know that I need help." The first statement indicates that you have learned how you can do better, because your own behavior is the only thing that you can control.

Remember, too, that if you cannot articulate the lesson that you have learned, you will have a difficult time convincing others that you have matured.

[Know what should and shouldn't go in a college essay.]

5. Describe your plans for improvement: What are your plans for the future, and how will you incorporate any hard-won wisdom into your future actions? This can be challenging to say or write, as it is easy to sound formulaic and insincere.

"I plan to study harder," is a generic response to a bad grade. "I will continue to implement a plan of daily review, and I will ask for a pretest study session with my instructor in order to stay on top of my responsibilities," is much more detailed and specific.

A blemish on your admissions package does not automatically rule out any school on your short list, so long as you do not try to cover up or ignore the issue. Admissions officers, like most people, are likely to be sympathetic to a sincerely told story of error and redemption.

Brian Witte is a professional SAT tutor with Varsity Tutors. He earned his Bachelor of Science from the University of Washington and holds a Ph.D. from Ohio State University.


College Matching and Scoring

visit this link to learn more:

How to Fill Out a FAFSA for College Financial Aid

What you include on the application determines how much you'll receive in grants, work-study and student loans.

By Stacy Rapacon, November 6, 2015


The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as the FAFSA, is the ticket to many thousands of dollars in financial aid for college. Just be sure you get the application right so that you maximize the money you receive to cover tuition, fees, room, board and more. Here's what you need to know.


At the heart of the FAFSA, which can be filled out either online or on paper, is a calculation to determine how much you and your family should be able to afford to pay for college. This is referred to as the Expected Family Contribution, or EFC. The formula takes into account not only financial information such as income and assets, but also how many people are in your family and how many of them will be enrolled in college at the same time. The EFC doesn't tell you exactly how much you'll pay for college or precisely how much aid you'll ultimately receive, but it does rate your family's financial strength so that  schools can establish how much federal aid you're eligible to receive.


For dependent students—and you most likely are unless you're, say, married or serving in the military—the EFC is calculated using parents' and the student's income and assets, excluding retirement savings and home value. Parents' incomes carry the most weight in the equation, followed by a student's income. Assets run counter to that; 20% of a student's assets are expected to be contributed, while only up to 5.64% of parents' assets are counted. Also, a portion of the parents' assets is protected and excluded from this equation, but that allowance has been on the decline in recent years.

Be mindful at the outset of how the FAFSA defines parents. If your parents are married or living together, you need to report details on both of them. If they live separately, you need to provide information only about the parent with whom you lived most of the time or the one who provided the most financial support over the past year. If either of your parents remarried, the stepparent should also be listed on your FAFSA. For more details, visit


File Your FAFSA as Early as Possible

It's smart to file the FAFSA as soon as you can so that you'll be near the front of the line when schools begin handing out money. After all, aid reserves aren't limitless. For the 2016-17 academic year, the FAFSA submission period opens on January 1, 2016. The deadline for federal aid isn't until June 30, 2017, but some states have earlier deadlines for doling out nonfederal aid. Connecticut, for example, has a February 15, 2016, deadline. Others, such as Illinois, Kentucky and North Carolina, award aid on a first-come, first-served basis. You can find every state's deadlines at

There's a big change coming to the FAFSA application process starting with the 2017-18 academic year. Students planning to attend school in the fall of 2017 can submit FAFSAs as early as October 1, 2016. The date shift means you will be able to use completed prior-year tax returns to fill out your FAFSA. With the current January 1 start to FAFSA filing season, many families are forced to estimate financial information on the application, then later correct the information on the FAFSA once their prior-year tax returns are completed.


All those dates may seem far off, but it's never too soon to start preparing. Documents that you and your parents should gather before you start the application include: most recent federal income tax returns; W-2 forms; records of earned income, other taxable income such as rental income and unemployment benefits and untaxed income such as child support and veterans noneducation benefits; bank statements; records of investments; and other financial information, such as business and farm assets you may have. You also need your Social Security numbers and, if you plan to file online, FSA IDs, which act as electronic signatures. The student and one parent must each create an FSA ID at Alternatively, a paper FAFSA can be filed by mail.


Resources For Undocumented Students

Resources for undocumented students:


Scholarship Resource Guide 2014-2015 click this link:


Click on the links below for more information and to begin your scholarship search:

Employees of McDonalds:

Minority Student Scholarship search:

Kiplinger’s favorite scholarship finder is at, which maintains a database of more than 1.5 million scholarships. Other reliable online scholarship finders can be found at and Available scholarships and search criteria can vary by Web site, so try using at least two to boost your odds of success.

Be sure to expand your search to include national religious governing bodies. The United Methodist Church, for example, oversees more than 50 scholarship programs available to its active members. The average undergraduate award is between $500 and $2,000.

Even non-believers can get in on the action. American Atheists gives out two $1,000 scholarships and six $500 scholarships every year. The awards are presented annually at the group’s national convention.

If you think there’s no way that your obscure hobby could help you pay for school, think again. From duck calling to competitive eating, name your pastime and there is probably a related college scholarship for enthusiasts just like you.

Hobbies with national governing bodies are the most likely sources of college funding, says Kantrowitz. Take scouting, for instance. The Boy Scouts of America lists about two dozen scholarship opportunities for Eagle Scouts. A biggie is the Mabel and Lawrence S. Cooke scholarship, which usually awards $48,000 over four years to one Eagle Scout and $25,000 over four years to four other winners.

There are scholarships just for females, too. Some come from national organizations, such as the Girl Scouts of the USA, and others come from smaller groups. If you happen to be an aspiring female filmmaker, check out the Girls Impact the World Film Festival. By creating a three- to five-minute film discussing issues faced by women around the world, you can compete for $1,000 to $5,000 in cash, as well as an internship with the Creative Visions Foundation.

For those who have faced great adversity in their lives, consider Beat the Odds scholarships. Various states, including Texas, California and New York, offer funds to students who overcome obstacles to receive an education.

Your parents’ unique traits can help you find scholarships, too. The Through the Looking Glass Scholarship is awarded to students whose parents have disabilities, and children of veterans are eligible for scholarships such as the Military Commanders’ Scholarship Fund.



PG & E Scholarship Opportunities


Full 4 Year Scholarship


  • The Sullivan Leadership Award exemplifies Seattle University's holistic definition of academic excellence, one that transcends classroom performance and seeks students with diverse leadership styles and personal backgrounds.  This full scholarship covers tuition, room and board for each of four years of undergraduate study at Seattle University and is awarded to nine incoming freshmen each year.

     Award Criteria

    Academic Excellence

    Students who pursue rigorous college preparatory coursework with noteworthy achievement. Typically Sullivan Scholarship recipients have a GPA of a 3.7 or higher.


    Students who demonstrate leadership through school activities, public service and community involvement.


    Students who demonstrate commitment to justice and the well-being of others through service in their communities and school.


    Students who possess well-developed written and oral communication skills.


    Consideration is reserved for students living in and attending school in the following states: 

    • Alaska
    • Arizona
    • California
    • Colorado
    • Hawaii
    • Idaho
    • Montana
    • New Mexico
    • Nevada
    • Oregon
    • Utah
    • Washington
    • Wyoming



Check Out 3 Weird and Unusual College Scholarships

By Kevin Ladd October 8, 2015 for


What is your idea of weird? Most of you reading this blog will likely find the following scholarshipsa bit odd -- but hopefully a great deal of help as well.

This week, we take a look at some nontraditional scholarships you may not have known existed and help you continue the search for free money for college. To start, don't forget the basics ofsearching for scholarships: starting early and applying often; following the rules to the letter; and staying organized and following up.

[Get tips for before, during and after the scholarship search.]

The above rules are still going to apply here, but students can further ensure they are separating themselves from the pack by considering scholarships that are less conventional and perhaps a little less competitive due to their "odd" requirements. Are you creative or weird enough to actually win them? You'll have to decide that for yourself, but some of these are worth at least giving a try.

1. Duck Brand Stuck at Prom Scholarship: This scholarship contest pays big money, but it does require a considerable amount of work. Have you ever made your own clothes? How about out of tape? Basically, that is all this particular scholarship is.

Each couple enters by creating their attire for that special night at prom at least partially out of Duck Brand tape and then they are judged on the results of their efforts. The first prize is worth $10,000 per person, second is worth $5,000 per person and third place nets $3,000 a person.

Runners-up are awarded a $500 prize and there are honorable mentions by category -- no cash, though -- for Best Singles Category, Best Detail Work, Best Theme and more. The contest begins in mid-March and ends on or around June 1 each year.

The winners for 2015 used 39 rolls of tape and committed 90 hours to the process.

[Target these 10 unique college scholarships.]

2. Union Internationale de la Marionnette-USA Scholarship: This puppetry scholarship is aimed at Americans who wish to study puppetry outside the U.S. Applicants must have some professional experience in the field, a university degree in puppetry or the ability to show a deep commitment to the art form.

How's that for off the beaten path? If you are into puppetry you can win $1,000 to put toward your studies. The deadline for applications is November 30.

3. Our World - Underwater Scholarship Society Rolex Scholarship: This scholarship is quite unique and offers the opportunity for travel and lots of underwater adventure. If you enjoy scuba diving or are already an underwater enthusiast, check this one out and see if it fits your schedule, skills and interests.

One scholar is selected from each of three regions -- North America, Europe and Australia -- and spends around a year working and traveling with leaders in underwater fields of study. The maximum amount for the North American award is currently $25,000.

[Find scholarships that reward creativity and offbeat interests.]

As a heads up, you must be at least 21 to enter and no older than 26 at the time of application, which is due December 31. You must also be certified as a rescue diver or the equivalent, with a minimum of 25 logged dives in the past two years. Don't worry if you aren't old enough yet, though. Just make a note and come back and apply when you are.

These are just a few of the weird ways you may qualify for scholarships. Sure, there are scholarships for the brainy students and jocks out there, but you might be surprised just how many others have reasonable academic or athletic requirements.

If you think you don't qualify for any scholarships, you probably haven't searched enough yet. There is something for everyone out there, so devote some time to see how you can find free money for your education.

Kevin Ladd is the vice president of, one of the most widely used free college scholarship search and financial aid information resources online. The organization also formed RightStudent about five years ago, accompany that has built relationships with colleges and universities across the U.S. to provide students with the opportunity to not only interact with prospective colleges, but to also be recruited by them. on Twitter and Facebook

3 Key Differences between Regional, National Scholarships


By Kevin Ladd October 22, 2015

Finding scholarships is a considerable undertaking, but one that generally rewards the best prepared and hardest working students. If you are following the basic guidelines "early and often" suggested in past articles , as well as following the directions of each scholarship to the letter in each of your applications, the rest is often just working harder and smarter than your competition.

A lot of people will give up or pursue only a few or several scholarships. Be the one who doesn't give up and you might just be the last one standing when the scholarships are awarded.

Scholarships offered at the national level have a tendency to be competitive and often even prestigious, occasionally offering special incentives such as study abroad opportunities. Though it may require more effort and work, they are highly impressive for resumes and future references.

[Know what to do before, during and after the scholarship search.]

Often, students applying for and winning such scholarships find that the more they win, the more they keep winning, perhaps in part due to the fact they have a bit more experience and confidence and possibly also due to what now might be considered an impressive scholarship resume.

Regional scholarships are less likely to carry such prestige, but they generally offer scholarships to students of a specific geographic region, which significantly narrows down the applicant pool and competition. So, for a basic break-down of the three key differences, check out the points below.

1. The amount of money awarded: Typically, you will find that the local scholarships for which you qualify and apply are going to be of a smaller dollar amount than those of the national ones. This is generally due to the size and resources of the organization offering the scholarship.

The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, for example, is a sizable organization with national reach and a large endowment; much larger than most, if not all, regional scholarships you are likely to find. Other examples of national scholarships include the Horatio Alger National Scholarship Program and the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation.

[Learn to stretch your scholarship search with regional opportunities.]

2. The number of scholarships offered: For many similar reasons as those listed above, you will generally find that national scholarships will not only offer larger amounts, but they will also offer more individual scholarships than will their regional counterparts. These may be broken out into categories as well, with a broader range in type and size of scholarship.

3. The level of competition: Now comes the, shall we say, less welcome news: Your chances of winning a scholarship of the national, larger, more numerous individual scholarships variety are going to be slimmer.

Particular institutions and organizations may only offer scholarships to students of a specific geographic region, which significantly narrows the applicant pool and competition, as opposed to national scholarships.

Not only will you be competing with other scholars from around the entire country rather than state or county for larger, national scholarships, their criteria is often a bit broader. This is not always the case, but you probably will find it to be so the majority of the time if you are fairly thorough in your research and pursuit.

[Find out how local scholarships can net you money for college.]

Regional scholarships may offer you a better shot. Some examples -- though you'll want to research in your area -- include the Leadville Legacy Foundation, which awards scholarships in Lake County, Colorado; the Legacy Foundation, which awards scholarships in Lake County, Indiana; and local Junior Achievement programs, such as Junior Achievement of Wisconsin in Dane County.

This is not to say you should not pursue any of these types of scholarships; just that you should be aware of what you are getting into in each case. Certainly, it is absolutely worth applying to both types of scholarships, always making sure you are aware of what is required of you and considering the risk and reward of each opportunity as well as the level of compatibility.

There may be hundreds of scholarships for which you are technically qualified to apply, but how likely are you to win the scholarship? If not much is required of you in order to enter, go for it either way. However, if you will need to invest significant time to any given scholarship, make sure you feel confident in your chances to win and spend your time as productively as possible to ensure the best results.

Kevin Ladd is the vice president of, one of the most widely used free college scholarship search and financial aid informationresources online. The organization also formedRightStudent about five years ago, acompany that has built relationships with colleges and universities across theU.S. to provide students with the opportunity to not only interact withprospective colleges, but to also be recruited by them. on Twitterand Facebook.


US NEWS Article about Scholarship Applications

What you might not already realize about the scholarship application process -- something that could be very critical in more ways than one -- is that a lot of scholarship applicants are going to appear very similar on paper where the "numbers" are concerned, such as academics.

You should be congratulated on maintaining that 4.0 GPA and yes, a 28 on your ACT is really a great score, but who are you as a student? Fortunately for you, scholarships are really not just about test scores and your GPA.

Many scholarship providers are looking for someone who really exemplifies the values and virtues with which they align themselves, while also making sure to select a candidate who is likely to perform well in college and continue their education, making the most of the opportunity they have been given. 

[Know what to do before, during and after the scholarship search.]

Other things many scholarship providers look at might be extracurricular activities such as membership with various organizations and volunteering. All of these could come into play and should not be overlooked. Make sure to get involved in such activities, as they are frequently considered on scholarship applications.

Ultimately, it could come down to the scholarship provider choosing between you and dozens or maybe hundreds or thousands of similar students. This is where you need to stand out from the others if you are going to have a chance of winning the scholarship. So, how can you accomplish this?

It all starts with a great scholarship essay.

I know, I know. You don't like writing essays. It's a lot of work and takes too much time. That's not the way you should be thinking of it. Think of it as your chance to shine and to stand out from all the other applicants.

Many scholarships are going to include an essay requirement, most of which will have a prompt built in, or at the very least, a choice between two or three prompts. The essay you turn in is going to be very important.

[Check out four ways to make a scholarship essay stand out.]

If you can write an essay that gets more than one read or possibly inspires a smile or laugh or even better, a unique perspective, you are moving in the right direction. Be creative and have fun writing it while, of course, following the directions provided.

As a scholarship judge myself, I have read thousands of essays and most of them are not great. They aren't awful, they just include needless grammatical and spelling errors more often than not, and what's worse is they are often quite boring. Here are some tips on what to avoid when writing your personal statement.

1. Avoid grammar and spelling errors: Why would there be any errors on a document that is so important? Between all of the tools available to you via the Web and on your computer, there is really no excuse for such errors, but you obviously can't rely solely on them. Get somebody to proof-read your work and make sure you go over it thoroughly. 

[Get tips on reusing and recycling scholarship essays.]

2. Follow the directions of the prompt: As with many things in life, here, too, it is critical to follow directions and answer the question or address the topic presented to you. If you don't have sufficient knowledge to do so intelligently or aren't confident in your ability to do so, research the topic or talk to friends and family about it to perhaps get some inspiration.

3. Tap your creativity: Be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to complete the essay and application so you can really get into the topic and approach it in a way that is somehow unique. If you are too pressed for time, you really are much less likely to produce something with the best possible chance of helping you win the scholarship.

Of course, there are other factors that go into a successful scholarship application, but this will hopefully get you started in the right direction.

Kevin Ladd is the vice president of, one of the most widely used free college scholarship search and financial aid informationresources online. The organization also formedRightStudent about five years ago, acompany that has built relationships with colleges and universities across theU.S. to provide students with the opportunity to not only interact withprospective colleges, but to also be recruited by them. on Twitterand Facebook.

Graduates of 4-Year Universities Flock to Community Colleges for Job Skills

As many as 1 in 5 community college students already have bachelor's degrees.

Liliana Ibarra's bachelor's degree in business administration from Washington State Universitycouldn't save her from the unemployment line. Now she's banking on the idea that something else can: community college.

Ibarra is back in a classroom, but this time it's at Skagit Valley College, about an hour north of Seattle. She expects to receive an associate degree in accounting in June, and use it to start her own company.

"When this opportunity came up I was really excited," says Ibarra, 41, a mother of two in Mount Vernon, Washington. She enrolled at Skagit Valley just two months after leaving the failed mortgage lender where she worked, and knows there's a strong demand for accountants and bookkeepers.

A surprising one out of every 14 of the people who attend community colleges – widely regarded as low-tuition options for the less-well-prepared – has already earned a bachelor's degree, according to the American Association of Community Colleges. That's 770,000 students. At some community colleges, the proportion is as high as 1 in 5.

Many bachelor's degree holders attending community colleges are seeking new careers, especially in health-related disciplines such as nursing, while others are looking to upgrade their skills in computer-related professions or other job-rich fields including biotechnology.

The phenomenon also has exposed a failure by some four-year universities to prepare their graduates for the kinds of jobs available in their surrounding regions, a longtime focus of community colleges, experts and observers say.

"There's a lot of disciplines universities aren't offering," says Cecilia Rios-Aguilar, an associate professor of education at UCLA and director of its Higher Education Research Institute, who says it's no surprise that college graduates who want more specialized training or career changes are turning to community colleges. "The universities aren't keeping up."

By definition, community colleges are more responsive to the needs of local employers than some universities, says Davis Jenkins, a researcher at the Community College Research Center.

"Certainly the regional universities should be more customer-responsive," he says.

The fact that they're not has driven up the proportion of students with bachelor's degrees at some community colleges. At one, Foothill College in California's Silicon Valley, the number rose to about 30 percent after the economic downturn before falling to about 19 percent now.

Scholars have conducted little research into this group, whose numbers have surprised even seasoned educators. Richard Rhodes, president of Texas' Austin Community College, recalls walking into a biology lab with visiting Danish officials and finding that nearly half of the 25 students in the class had bachelor's degrees, shocking Danish and Texas visitors alike.

Washington state has seen an influx of university graduates at its community colleges, particularly in nursing and computer programs, says David Prince, policy research director for the state community college system. Those students tend to be serious and motivated, he said.

"It's not as exploratory for those students, like, 'I don't know what I'm going to do when I'm all grown up,'" Prince says. "These students have grown up."

David Ruiz, a 2014 University of Washington graduate, went back to school at Columbia Basin College, a community college, for a cybersecurity degree. At 27, he's now the student body president and has set up networking groups for career-focused students like himself.

But while the trend would seem likely to be a morale boost for long-disparaged community colleges, it's actually causing problems for them.

Nearly 60 percent of community college students require remedial work before reaching college-level math classes because of poor preparation they received in high school, according to the Community College Research Center, and time away from the classroom tends to create the same need for returning students.

"You think about all the students with bachelor's degrees and it's been five, 10, 15 years" since they attended college, says Rhodes, of Austin Community College, where about 3,000 students have bachelor's degrees. "They're going to have to do developmental math."

For schools that already receive far less funding per student than other colleges and universities, the idea of spending money to support students who already have college degrees can be exasperating.

"If it detracts from their ability to serve students without credentials, I think colleges might be reluctant to do it," says Kent Phillippe, associate vice president of the American Association of Community Colleges. While institutions may not go so far as to turn away those students, Phillippe says, some might eventually choose to charge them higher tuition.

California already moved to charge more for students in that situation in the 1990s, though it quickly reversed the decision.

Geography plays a major role in how many college graduates attend community colleges. Some areas of the country have severe nursing shortages, for example, which drives interest among bachelor's degree holders in local community colleges' nursing programs.

But that's not the only reason job-seekers with bachelor's degrees end up at community colleges.

At California's Foothill College, employed workers from nearby tech companies have flocked to the community college for advanced training in geographic information systems, says Kurt Hueg, Foothill's vice president of instruction. The school has embraced its role helping Silicon Valley, he says, but it's difficult letting educated workers know about opportunities at community colleges.

"Marketing is a big part of our function here," Hueg says. "As much as people think they know about us here, they don't really know us."

College Cost Reduction Article

Never Pay Full Tuition: 3 Ways to Reduce the Cost of College

By Beth Braverman


The ever-increasing price of higher education can be a frightful shock for anyone saving for college. The average tuition at public colleges and universities was $19,000 last year, while the tuition at private schools was $33,000, according to the College Board.

But the majority of Americans won’t pay anywhere near that price. Nearly nine in 10 first-time, full-time freshmen at private universities receive some sort of institutional aid, with the average award amounting to 48 percent of tuition, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers  (NACUBO). “It’s just like airline ticket prices,” says financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz. “Nobody pays the same price as anyone else and very few people pay full fare.”

Colleges often use big tuition discounts in the form of financial aid packages as a means of competing for students to boost their enrollment numbers and look better on college rankings. But you have to do your research to find out about those discounts.

Last year nearly 40 percent of families eliminated specific colleges prior to researching them based the cost of a school, according to a Sallie Mae report. That could be a mistake, especially since some private schools, which have higher sticker prices, may also offer more competitive aid packages.

Lower income students, who are the most likely recipients of need-based aid (the largest proportion of grants given), are also the least likely to be aware of how heavily schools discount, so they may be unnecessarily writing off schools as unaffordable.

Finding your actual price
Experts consider a college affordable if you can attend without borrowing more in total than your projected first year of income. Parents should aim to borrow less than one year of income or the amount they could pay back before retirement. “I would never put your financial future at risk just to put your kid in a specific school,” says West Virginia-based educational consultant Jamie Dickenson.

Rather than narrow your list of affordable schools based on the posted sticker price, use the net price calculator on a school’s website to get a ballpark idea of what your actual cost of attendance would be. You can also compare the net price at multiple schools via the Education Department’s new College Scorecard tool. Having a conversation with a financial aid officer at the school about your family’s income level and your academic profile can also give you insight as to what kind of aid package you’d likely receive.

Your first step toward securing aid for college is filling out the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). That form is required for federal student loans and need-based aid, but many schools also require it in order to qualify for merit aid and other non need-based institutional grants.

The deadline to fill out the FAFSA ranges from early January through early March (the form is usually available right after January 1), but getting yours in early can boost your chances of getting more aid, since some schools dole out aid based on the date the application was received.

If you’re applying to private schools, you’ll also want to fill out the CSS profile, which is used to determine the school’s own aid distribution. The CSS profile may be due earlier than the FAFSA, particularly if you’re applying to a school for early decision.

Getting merit aid
One factor that goes into how much merit aid a student gets is the competitiveness of the school. The most elite colleges (think Ivies) don’t have to offer much merit aid because they’re already swamped with high-quality applicants.

They tend to have generous cut offs for need-based aid — Harvard, for example charges no tuition to families that make less than $65,000 and about 10 percent of income to families making up to $150,000. Most others are expected to pay full freight.

At second-tier but still high-profile private institutions, where schools have large endowments and are really competing for the best students, merit aid is far more generous. More than 200 schools, including Boston University, George Washington University and Villanova University, offer full scholarships to students based on merit. And some schools offer scholarships to every single incoming freshman.

For your best shot at landing merit aid, compare your academic record to what’s typical at that school. “Look at median test scores and the median academic profile of the school and see where you fall, to put yourself first in line for merit aid,” says Nat Smitobol, a college admissions counselor with Ivy Wise and a former admissions officer at New York University.

When calculating your net cost, remember that many schools “front load” their aid awards, meaning that they’ll give more grants to incoming freshman and then offer less generous packages in subsequent years. That NACUBO study found that the average discount rate drops from 48 percent to 41.6 percent when factoring in all students, rather than just freshmen.

Following up
While federal aid dollars are doled out based on a strict formula, schools have more leeway with their financial aid decisions. Many colleges will match a competitor’s offer in order to get a student to attend. “Parents have won out by pitting one school against another to see who will give you the most money,” says Daniel Riseman, founder of Educational Consulting in Westchester County.

When comparing aid packages, be sure to carefully evaluate your award letter, which typically arrives sometime in early April. Many schools include student loan offers in their award letters, but student loans do not actually reduce the cost of college. In fact, they may increase the overall cost of a school after interest rates are factored in.


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Understanding the Cost of College - An Article

We recently sent off our oldest daughter to college. I'd like to share a few things from that experience. Whether you're a parent saving for your own children's college educations or a grandparent helping an adult child work through this issue for grandchildren, there's no manual that tells you all need to know about colleges and financial aid.

Our family focused on finding the best-possible institution that wouldn't get my daughter--or us--into long-term debt. That's quite a challenge since the average student debt upon graduation today is $35,000, according to, a highly useful college information site.

Sadly, the current class of college students has the highest debt burden ever, something I find unacceptable. Of course, 18-year-olds aren't thinking about how much their loan payments will be, nor do they contemplate how that debt will impair their ability to buy a car, home, or other amenities of an independent life. Nor do they even ask about details when presented with a "financial aid" package that can get them into debt for decades.

Here are some useful tidbits I gleaned from personal experience and more than a year's research for my book, The Debt-Free Degree.

Ignore the Retail Price of College
The average retail price for public colleges is roughly $31,000 annually (including all fees) for the 2014-15 school year and $46,000 for private universities. Keep in mind that these are averages. You can easily pay more than $40,000 for a top state school and $70,000 for a private college when all fees are tallied.

What do these numbers really mean? They are like sticker prices on cars. It's only when you compare prices, aid packages, and other incentives that you will get a realistic picture of the cost of any given college to your family. The problem is, you don't know what a college's best aid package will be until you ask and negotiate.

Most people think that the school's first offer will be the best one and they have no room to bargain. That's not true. You have the most amount of bargaining leverage with above-average students, meaning those in the top 10% of their high school class and scoring in the top percentile of ACT/SAT tests. Having a good academic resume of tough college-level (AP) courses, vigorous public service, and solid essays and interviews also increases the chances that a top school will offer a generous nonloan aid package.

In addition, it's a myth that state colleges will give you the best price. Some states will offer better prices than private institutions, but only if that state's economy is healthy. In any event, private colleges should not be overlooked--even the "name brand" ones. These schools often have robust endowments and grant scholarships that can sometimes cover most of the costs of attendance.

Always Seek the Best Net Price
The net price is what your family will pay after all nonloan aid is subtracted from the school's listed fees. Don't be deceived into thinking that loans should be part of this mix, though. Loans are not aid. Although the college may include loans in the first or second round of aid offers, look for scholarships, tuition discounts, grants, work-study, and departmental aid.

If your family qualifies after you file the FAFSA form--required now by most institutions--your financial situation may net you more aid. Single/divorced parents or those with several children in school at the same time will fare the best on "need-based aid." Schools want to know how much income and assets can be applied to college. The good news: Colleges will not count your retirement savings or home equity (in most cases) when determining aid. They don't expect you to cash in your IRA and 401(k) to pay for college. What counts is cash on hand, income, and other liquid assets in your name and your child's name. The most expensive, nonprofit schools are often the most generous.

How do you divine a net price before you commit to a college? Use the government's College Scorecard site. It's dull and no frills, but it will give you an idea of how much specific colleges are offering in aid, what their graduation rates are, and how much students will likely earn once they graduate.

You can also search locally or statewide for other scholarships through FinAid.

Focus Your Search on What Counts
Once you come up with a list of schools that are good fits for your student--based on desired programs, campus life, and academic support--use the College Scorecard to find out where you're likely to find the best aid package. This step may come after your student has submitted test scores and applications, and toured a few of the colleges.

You will likely see some incredible brochures and campus amenities in the interim. There are some gorgeous campuses out there that put some country clubs to shame. But ignore all that. Focus on the net price and your ability to negotiate a debt-free package. "Don't go into debt for the college experience," says Natalia Abrams, executive director of, a nonprofit advocacy group. "An exemplary student can go to college without much debt."

Know Before You Go
For some, getting into debt may be unavoidable, even with the best aid packages. Yet, counseling on how to manage debt is poor; often schools only provide a half-hour video to educate you and your student on something that may be more complicated that getting a mortgage.

Students have multiple repayment options under the federal loan program, and they can change their options if their postgraduate income comes up short, or if they go back to school. Don't fall for "loan forgiveness" pitches on the Internet, which are scams. Avoid private loans if at all possible. Abrams even suggests that parents should avoid parental "PLUS" loans, because they carry higher interest rates than federal loans granted directly to students. Always know what your payments will be and the total cost--including interest--of the loans acquired. Then, ask the bigger question: Will a proposed loan package hold your student back in saving for a home, car, or retirement?

Consider Alternatives and Save
There are many often-ignored financial options that every family paying for college should consider. Among them: community or commuter colleges. If you can shave the $10,000-per-year room-and-board bill from your expenses, then you are already ahead of the game and may not need to go into debt. Commuter- and community-college courses can be bargains compared with four-year institutions--often at less than half the cost. Of course, there's little cachet in precollege or community colleges, so they don't get much attention in the media. But I'm always amazed at what "junior" colleges--which have to accept anyone--offer.

If your children are still in high school, have them take advanced placement (AP) courses, which will award college credit at a fraction of the cost--if they do well on the AP tests following completion.

Also, look at college "honors" programs that may waive tuition and any programs that offer grants to students who want to specialize in a field.

Last but not least, don't forget the savings option, which should be done early on and often in 529 college-savings plans. You can invest in any plan from any state. Even if you're a grandparent or friend, you can also invest by contributing directly to a plan in a student's name. The key is to plan early and save as much as you can. That's a surefire way to avoid student-loan debt down the road.

John F. Wasik is a freelance columnist for and author of 14 books, including Keynes's Way to Wealth: Timeless Investment Lessons from the Great Economist. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of

What an Insurance Executive Taught Me About Liberal Arts Colleges

by Noah S. Leavitt 

Dean, author and engaged citizen

Posted: 10/04/2015 11:26 pm EDT 

You'll never believe what's going on with insurance these days, we've got all the health care reform mandates coming down, and...

I was flying across country last week to do some consulting with my alma mater, Haverford College, to help them think about how they might expand the ways they support off-campus learning opportunities for their students. After almost four hours of silence, my seatmate launched into a mini-tutorial about his long career and how his industry is shifting so quickly now because of new laws, regulations, technologies, and market pressures. I wasn't sure where he was headed and listened carefully as he described the complicated landscape he had to navigate.

"Hey, I saw on your computer that you work at Whitman. That's a good college. I went to a liberal arts college, back in Marietta, Ohio. You know..." He paused for a moment, and then said, "we're always going to need schools like those."

Intrigued, I asked what he meant.

All those stories about liberal arts education being 'useless.' I don't know who is writing those but I can tell you that after a career in business I'm thankful I went to a school that made me think hard and challenged me all the time because that's what my work's been like since I graduated. A lot of days I almost feel like I'm back in school, asking questions, trying to figure out what's coming up, trying to analyze industry trends. It's like being in class but I get paid!

I laughed and understood his point that the intellectual skill set, curiosity and persistence that he developed as a college student was the foundation for a lot of what he was able to accomplish later, in several different industries, in highly voluble environments.

You know, not too long ago I read that a third of Fortune 500 CEOs were liberal arts students as undergraduates...

We spent about 20 minutes on our laptops searching for the source of this frequently quoted figure. In the process we learned that nine percent of these CEOs went to private liberal arts colleges, like his and mine, despite the fact that graduates of those schools constitute only four percent of all undergraduates (the others are from public colleges and universities). I asked him why he thought that businesses bring in so many graduates from this tiny number of institutions. He did not hesitate:

You know why they do so well in business? Because they can get along with other people! They don't just go around showing how smart they are, like some people who have only studied one topic in school. They are smart, and they also know they have to work well with everyone around them and keep learning all the time.

I laughed again and thought about my trip. In a recent list, Whitman and Haverford were ranked #1 and #2 for offering "collaborative environments." It's not just those two schools, though. So much of what happens at liberal arts colleges, especially those with residential campuses, involves an enormous amount of collaboration with other students, faculty, administrators, off-campus partners, alumni, and others.

"Nope," he wrapped up, as we started our descent, "these places are never going away. I can't stand reading those stories"

While it is likely true that some colleges and universities may not endure, the teaching of a broad non-professional curriculum will always be needed. All across the country, small liberal arts colleges like Marietta and Haverford and Whitman and dozens of others are doing excellent work supporting our students so they can achieve their post-graduation goals. As my seatmate reminded me, the dynamic and shifting 21st century needs those smart, creative, collaborative and tenacious young people with whom we get to work for four extraordinary years.


Article about becoming a medical doctor

How students of all degrees can become medical doctors


Thanks to a unique program at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Berns ended up fulfilling his parents’ dreams while still getting his fill of artifacts.

FlexMed, a first-of-its-kind program, allows top students like Berns to apply to the Icahn School as first-semester sophomores. Accepted undergraduates can major in archeology, music or any other degree withough having to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) or any of the other usual pre-med requirements.

Says Berns, 35, now a palliative care physician at Mount Sinai Hospital: “It’s a fantastic program.”

Last year, the highly competitive program received 1,000 applications and accepted just 50 students. When it began, FlexMed limited admittance to humanities majors, but several years ago, the program was opened to include those in other non-medical tracks, such as computer science.

This unusual approach was created to expand the pool of new doctors beyond traditional pre-medical applicants, Icahn administrators say. “We have to be open to innovative ways to bring people into our profession,” says Valerie Parkas, MD, senior associate dean of admissions for the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

This expansion can draw students who “are brilliant minds who have not thought of applying their major to healthcare” as physicians, says David Muller, MD, Icahn’s dean for medical education. “What we want to encourage is a continued love of learning and intellectual curiosity.”

Students are accepted on factors including their GPA, SAT scores and their reasons for wishing to become physicians, which they convey during in-person interviews. Once accepted, students must maintain a 3.5 GPA and take some science classes, but the worry of getting A’s in dreaded pre-med organic chemistry, for example, are jettisoned.

“When you have to do all the pre-med stuff, you don’t have time to do what you love. When you are in a pre-med track all through college, you struggle to keep your GPA as high as possible and are less likely to take academic risks,” says Muller. “It is the last chance in life for [students] to take on academic risks to expand their horizons.”

Eesha Dave, 24, a second-year medical student, wanted to study sociology and Spanish as an undergraduate at Harvard, but also had a longtime interest in working in something medically related after receiving a diagnosis of celiac disease at age 11.

Three days before the FlexMed application deadline, Dave learned of the program from her father, a physician. “At first I didn’t believe it was true,” she says. “I was ecstatic that this option existed.”

Dave says the program “changed the trajectory” of her college career “for the better.” After being awarded a prestigious Fulbright Fellowship, she spent a year between college and medical school teaching English.“That’s not something I would have dreamed of,” says Dave.

Masha Jones, 26, a fourth-year medical student, found that acceptance into the program while at the University of Pennsylvania allowed her to pursue her passion to learn Spanish. She was also able to author an honors thesis, which “took a considerable amount of time that I would have otherwise spent doing organic chemistry,” she says.

For students who lack a science background when entering Mount Sinai, an intensive summer program can help. Berns found the first two years of medical school difficult, with its rote memorization and a competitiveness he wasn’t used to as an anthropology major. But once he began working with patients in his third and fourth years, “I really thrived,” Berns says. “Medical school didn’t make sense until I started working with patients. I chose a profession that is very humanities-based, and having a liberal arts education really helps with what I do now.”

10 Reasons to Attend a Community College

By Travis Mitchell 6/10/2015

Why Students Should Consider Community College

The traditional four-year college experience isn't for everyone. Some students aren't sure what they want to study, while others are looking for a more affordable education. Community colleges can be good options for students in these situations.

If you're considering community college, or are just curious about the benefits, check out the following reasons why attending one might be a good decision.

1. Money

Paying for college is a big consideration, and annual tuition and fees at four-year institutions can soar to tens of thousands of dollars. This can also lead to mounds of student loan borrowing and debt.

In contrast, many community colleges charge around $1,000 for in-state tuition.

2. Academic Flexibility

Attending a community college can be a good way for students to ease into the world of higher education and learn at their own pace.

This is especially true for students who struggled in high school or anyone who's unsure if they want to make the significant time and money investment in college, experts say.

3. Financial Aid

Financial aid isn't only for four-year college students -- community college students are eligible as well. Federal student loans require students to be enrolled half time -- about six credit hours, or two courses. Students just need to make sure they don't drop out of classes or they'll risk losing their aid award.

4. School-Life Balance

About 60 percent of community college students attend school part time, so anyone interested in taking one or two classes at a time will not feel out of place. This makes community college a good option for nontraditional students like parents and older students who wish to balance school with family or career obligations.

5. STEM Education Opportunities

Community colleges have associate degree programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. These so-called STEM subjects are in demand by employers, and some community colleges are supporting these students as they work their way up to a career, experts say.

6. Transfer Agreements

Enrolling in a community college doesn't have to be a student's final destination. Many two-year schools offer admissions agreements with public colleges that allow qualified students to transfer their credits toward earning a bachelor's degree.

7. Elements of Traditional Colleges

Two-year colleges haven't always provided the same student experience as four-year schools, but that is changing. Nearly one-quarter of community colleges now offer dorms, according to the American Association of Community Colleges. And it's possible to find extracurricular activities, scholarships and networking activities on two-year campuses.

8. Personalized Attention

Many community colleges offer smaller class sizes than larger schools, meaning students can find more personal attention and one-on-one time with instructors. This can be a plus for students who like to learn at their own pace and ask plenty of questions as they go.

9. Professional Certificates

Career progress is often tied to advanced degrees and skill development, usually through costly graduate school programs. But community colleges provide professional and short-term certificates in many fields, including information technology and electronics.

10. Online Class Options

As is the case with four-year universities, certain community colleges have expanded online offerings to entice more students. This includes training professors to be available at odd hours, and tailoring programs to fit regional industry needs. These credits can potentially be used toward a four-year degree.

Learn More About Community Colleges

Check out the U.S. News Community College Directory to find a program near you and read more about attending a two-year college. And be sure to follow U.S. News Education on Facebook and Twitter for the latest advice and information on higher education trends.

Travis Mitchell is an education Web producer at U.S.News. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at



The Smartest Colleges in the USA

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The River Delta Unified School District programs, activities, and practices shall be free of discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying based on actual or perceived ancestry, age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation, parental, family or marital status, or association with a person or a group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics.

If you believe you have been discriminated against, immediately contact the school site principal and/or the following person who has been designated to handle inquiries regarding issues related to RDUSD non-discrimination policies: 

Amy Bettencourt, Director of Educational Servicers and Special Education River Delta Unified School District 445 Montezuma St., Rio Vista, CA 94571 Phone: (707) 374-1725

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3 Tips for Parents to Teach Teens to Take Academic Responsibility

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