Search This Blog


Monday, August 29, 2016

Some of my favorite college references

Here are a few of my favorite college planning reference books and websites organized by category.  What other references do you like and use?

Figuring out what makes a college right for you: College Match

College Majors: Book of Majors

College Guides:
·         The Princeton Review, The Best 3xx Colleges
·         Fiske Guide to Colleges
·         America’s Best Colleges for B Students
·         Colleges That Change Lives
·         Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians and Writers
·         The K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Differences
·         Rugg’s Recommendations on the Colleges

College Search Sites:

Chance for acceptance: Naviance scattergrams from your high school

Financial Aid:
·         Financial Aid information-
·         FAFSA Web site -
·         CSS Financial Aid PROFILE -
·         Federal Student Aid -
·         Some legitimate college scholarship search sites:
Net Price Calculator – on each college’s website
College Visits:
·         “A Pocket Guide To Choosing a College: Questions to Ask on Your College Visits” by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) -
·         On-line visit –

Common Application:

College Essay: Conquering the College Admissions Essay on 10 Steps

Going to College Advice Guide:  The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College

Expected Pay when you Graduate:

For students with Learning Differences:
·         “K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder” by Marybeth Kravets and Imy Wax.
·          Information on SAT and ACT accommodations – and

·         “Questions for the Office of Disability Support” by Rana Slosberg on

Friday, July 8, 2016

Six Unusual Colleges

New College of Florida
Here are six unusual colleges and what makes them different:
  1. Colorado College – Students take one course at a time.
  2. Deep Springs College – With a total enrollment of no more than 30 men, this elite college is a working ranch in the Nevada desert that awards associate’s degrees and charges no tuition.
  3. Landmark College – This Vermont college is just for bright students with learning disabilities, ADHD or Autism Spectrum Disorder.  
  4. New College of Florida – New College, Florida’s public honors college, has no grades or GPAs. Students develop a contract with their adviser each semester and get a written evaluation, instead of grades. Students do individual research and/or group projects.
  5. St. John’s College – With campuses in Annapolis, Maryland and Santa Fe, New Mexico, all students read and discuss the Great Books, about 150 of them.
  6. Webb Institute – Webb is a tuition-free engineering college on Long Island with 100% job placement. Students can get a Bachelor of Science Degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering.
      Landmark College

What's your favorite unusual college and what makes it different?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

FAFSA Changes for the High School Class of 2017

FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a form families need to fill out to get financial aid for college, including grants, loans and money for work-study.   Additionally, some colleges, states and scholarship programs also use the FAFSA. Historically, families with high school seniors filed the FAFSA starting on January 1 of their senior year using the federal tax data due on April 15 of the senior year (known as Prior Year). 
Starting with high school graduating class of June 2017, the timetable and tax year associated with the FAFSA will be changing.  The high school class of 2017 will be eligible to file the FAFSA starting on October 1st, 2016, three months earlier than in previous years.  They will use 2015 Federal income tax returns (known as Prior-Prior Year (PPY)). 
I am hoping this change will be positive for families, because: 
  1. Filling out the FAFSA should be a little easier. Families:
    1. Should be able to use the software (i.e., the IRS data-retrieval tool) to fill out much of the FAFSA, reducing the time to fill out the form. 
    2. Families won’t need to estimate their income or correct it later as was often the case in previous years. 
  2. They will potentially find out about their financial aid earlier in their senior year, giving them more time to consider their options.
There is still some uncertainty for the high school class of 2017.  For example:
  1. The deadlines for institutional aid may change at some colleges. 
  2. Students may initially receive estimated financial aid packages, because college costs for the coming year may not be finalized and/or because state grant data may not be available.  If this is the case, the families will subsequently receive confirmed financial aid packages. 
On the whole, I am expecting these FAFSA changes to be positive.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Iona College

Iona College Main Entrance
At the end of April, I visited Iona College, a Catholic college in New Rochelle, NY with about 3300 undergraduates from 35 states and 30 countries.  Iona has a compact campus of mostly red brick buildings on about 43 acres in Westchester County, about 30 minutes by train from NYC.  A new dormitory will be opening in the Fall 2016.
New Iona dorm under construction

Popular majors at Iona include business, speech pathology, education, social work and mass communication.  Academically, Iona can support all kinds of students. It has an Honors program, as well as a comprehensive Learning Disabilities program.  91 percent of applicants are admitted.  The mid-50% of SAT scores are 450 – 550 for Critical Reading and 440-550 for Math.

In addition to studying, the students can join in Greek life, participate in or watch NCAA Division I sports in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, including Iona’s winning men’s and women’s basketball teams, join in over 80 clubs, do community service, study abroad, and have internships.  The school has performing arts opportunities, and a TV and radio station. 

Some of the April programs at Iona were “The Government Inspector” by the Iona College Theatre Ensemble, a performance by the Iona College Instrumental and Vocal Ensembles, a town hall meeting with Republican candidate John Kasich, a Relay for Life event, a panel on issues in the presidential race, a black light pool party, a Paint Party, Kid Ink in Concert, and a student Fashion Show. 

Iona offers both need-based and merit aid, with merit aid up to the full price of tuition.  98 percent of freshmen receive financial aid.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Transfer Forum

About two months ago, I attended a Transfer Forum sponsored by NJ Association of College Admission Counseling (NJACAC) at Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC).  There was a panel of transfer personnel from RVCC, Middlesex Community College, and the County College of Morris.  Here are some of the highlights of the program.

Transfer: One of the most common questions asked is, “Will my credits transfer?” The answer is, “it depends.”  It depends on the:
  1.          Grades you get.  Typically you need a C or better for your credits to transfer.
  2.          Major you select.
  3.          Articulation agreement between the community college and the 4-year college.
  4.          Type of class (i.e., on-line classes may not transfer).
So, have your transfer discussion with transfer services personnel at the community college and at the 4-year college you would eventually like to attend, while you are still in high school.

Community College Price: Generally, you pay less for your local public NJ community college, than another public NJ community college in the state.  If your local public NJ community college doesn’t have the major you are interested in, you may be able to attend another public NJ community college for the same price, through a charge back. 

Look into the NJ STARS program which waives tuition at community college, for the top 15% of the graduates from your high school.

Disability Services: Not all public NJ community colleges have the same level of disability services.  For example, County College of Morris offers disability services to about a quarter of its students.

Middlesex County College
Remedial Coursework: The panel members indicated that about 75% of their community college students need at least one developmental (aka remedial) course. Students need to take an Accuplacer placement exam unless their SAT or ACT scores are above a threshold.  Currently, they need at least an SAT score of 540 in Critical Reading (old SAT) and 530 in Math (old SAT) or a 23 subscore on the ACT to be waived from the Accuplacer exam.  Students cannot use a calculator for the Accuplacer exam.  It is not unusual for a two-year associates degree to take 3 years, because of remedial classes.

Unique Programs and Opportunities: Some public NJ community colleges have unique programs and/or opportunities.  For example:
  •         Middlesex Community College has Dental Hygiene degree.
  •         RVCC has a medical coding  degree.
  •         Students at Glassboro Community College can live on the Rowan campus.
  •         Middlesex Community College gives credit for military experience. 
      If you attended a NJ community college and transferred to a 4-year college, what tips/advice do you have?

Monday, April 4, 2016

East Stroudsburg University

General: East Stroudsburg University is a medium sized public university with about 6800 undergraduates in the Poconos.  About three quarters of the students are from Pennsylvania with one quarter from 30 states and 25 countries.  New Jersey sends the most students from outside of Pennsylvania.  Most of the campus is made up of low-rise red brick buildings of 5 stories or less.

Academics: ESU has five undergraduate colleges: College of Arts and Sciences (the largest), College of Business and Management, College of Education (where you will get into the classroom early), College of Health Sciences (the most competitive for admissions), and the University College (for undecided students). 

Science Building with Planetarium

Housing: There are 18 residence halls with traditional, suite and apartment living.  There is special interest housing and honors housing.  Freshman housing is guaranteed and laundry is free.  Wi-fi is available throughout the campus.

Campus Life: There are 139 clubs and organizations, including 20 NCAA Division II sports teams and Greek life.  The biggest spectator sport is men’s basketball.  There are club hours from 2-4 PM, twice a week; during those hours there are no classes.  You can start your own club with 9 or more students.

University Center

Financial Aid:  There is out-of-state merit aid of $7K for students with a GPA over a 3.0.  There is also a $3.5 K merit scholarship for some out-of-state students with a GPA less than 3.0.

Services: ESU has a tutoring/writing lab, mentorship, as well as counseling and career services. Professors are required to have 5 hours a week of office hours.  The school provides college buses into town and an Enterprise car share.  There is a hospital “next door” which is handy if you become seriously ill.

Open House: If this sounds interesting to you, you may want to attend one of the upcoming 2016 Spring Open Houses on April 9, 16 and 23.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

General:  For many, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, is the golden ring.  The school has about 18,000 undergraduates from all 50 states and over 100 countries.  18% are first generation college students.

Location:  The school is in an area with other colleges and over 200 companies.  To walk from one end of campus to the other takes about 25 minutes. Across from the university is Franklin Street, home to many local restaurants.  There are plenty of free buses.

Academics:  The school has 70+ majors and 75+ minors.  Sixty percent of the students participate in undergraduate research.  36% study abroad in over 70 countries or elsewhere in the United States.  Students complete their gen ed requirements during their first two years.  Many classes consist of two lectures and a recitation section, with the recitation section capped at 20 students.  Foreign language classes are also limited to 20 students and freshman seminars are capped at 24 students.  

 Extracurricular activities:  UNC Chapel Hill has 875 student organizations, and students can create new clubs.  There is Greek life, NCAA Division I sports, and over 50 club sports.  Students can attend the basketball games for free.
Student Club Fair for Spring Term
Financial aid:  UNC Chapel Hill is need-blind.  Eligible low-income students who earn admission have the opportunity to graduate from Carolina debt-free.

Applying:  Early Action applications are due by 10/15.  The freshman class is made up of 82% North Carolina students and 18% out-of-state students.  Two thirds of applicants are from out-of-state.  The school superscores the SAT (old or new) and superscores the ACT.