Thomas Broderick

How myKlovr Can Benefit Homeschooled Students

As of 2013, approximately 3.4% of all U.S. K-12 students were homeschooled. And each year, the percentage of homeschooled students continues to grow. Parents who choose to homeschool their children do so for many reasons (e.g., concerns about school safety, desire to provide a unique educational experience, having a child with special needs, etc.).

Fortunately, over the last 20 years, the internet and software have radically changed homeschooling. Parents can research the best resources, and students can go more in depth with the material than their peers who attend a traditional public or private school.

Although these advancements have made it possible for more students to receive an excellent education outside the school setting you may have experienced, attending college presents unforeseen challenges for homeschooled students. For example, even if a student plans to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree online, these programs use an application process designed for applicants who attended a public or private high school.

In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the many barriers homeschooled students face when applying to college. We’ll also explore how myKlovr, our first-of-its-kind virtual college counseling service, can make applying to college a less confusing and frustrating experience.

For Homeschooled Students, Why Is It So Hard To Apply To College?

First off, no one thinks that applying to college is an easy process. Like filing tax returns, the process is bureaucratic, and making a simple mistake could cost you everything. Traditional high school students, even those in schools with inadequate counseling resources, have two advantages that their homeschooled peers do not.

Grades

When it comes to what college admissions counselors value over all else, grades are paramount. Yes, counselors take a holistic approach to every application, but grades are the first thing they review. However, for homeschooled applicants, grades are not a simple matter.

Some states require that parents who homeschool submit grades for their children each year. But how does an admissions counselor view an ‘A’ from a homeschooled applicant when that counselor has no information about the quality of education that the applicant received? And when there are no grades, the process becomes even harder.

For applicants who attended a traditional school, the process is much simpler. High schools often send colleges and universities a fact sheet describing the school’s academic offerings (e.g., number of AP/IB courses), student body demographics, and average and median GPA. With that information in hand, counselors can quickly make a reasonable conclusion about what an applicant’s grades really mean.

Unfortunately, these same difficulties surface when homeschooled students apply to merit-based scholarships, ones that require high school transcripts or use GPA cutoffs.

Counseling Services

Although many traditional high school students throughout the country lack proper college counseling resources, they typically have some access to knowledgeable professionals who can provide help applying to college. Homeschooled students and their families, lacking these resources, must spend precious time researching the best advice on how to apply to college and gain admission to the best school.

How myKlovr Assists Homeschooled Students Apply to College

When we developed myKlovr, we had traditional high school students in mind, those whose college counselors could not provide the time and attention students needed to help them gain admission to a dream college or university. However, our service can offer the same valuable benefits to homeschooled students, as well.

Application Information

After users answer a series of questions concerning standardized test scores, personal interests, extracurricular activities, and academic achievements, we save this information so that they can track their progress over time. This tool can help homeschooled students stay on top of their accomplishments, a useful resource when filling out college applications.

Student Portfolio

College applicants are more than a series of letter grades and test scores. In the Student Portfolio, users input examples of their best academic and extracurricular accomplishments. This way, they can access these examples as they write college essays – telling a unique story to stand out from the hundreds or thousands of other applicants. Also, by creating a portfolio, college applicants improve their organizational skills, something all college students need to succeed academically.

Goal Recommendations

myKlovr’s software uses users’ data to make academic and extracurricular recommendations, a boon for users who have little to no idea how to improve their chances of college admissions success. Adults in a user’s support network (e.g., in the case of homeschooled students, their parents) verify accomplishments as they happen. Goal recommendations tie into myKlovr’s Advanced College Finder.

Advanced College Finder

myKlovr offers users much more than a college search engine. Using users’ data, we recommend a list of College Match schools – colleges and universities that users have an excellent chance of attending if they follow their goal recommendations. We are so confident in our ability to match college applicants with schools that if a user achieves his or her goal recommendations but does not receive admission to a College Match school, we will refund the entire subscription fee.

Financial Fitness Modules

Finally, we understand the difficulty that all students face when searching for and applying to financial aid opportunities. Our financial fitness modules help homeschooled students and their parents explore college savings plans, loans, scholarships, and work-study programs, among other financial aid opportunities.

Final Thoughts

Whether they learn at home or at a high school, students can gain an advantage over other college applicants by using myKlovr. This advantage is especially crucial as many families lack the financial resources to afford professional college admissions advisors, many of whom charge hefty fees. By leveling the playing field, we hope to ensure that all young adults can attend a college that matches their academic interests and career aspirations.

How myKlovr Can Complement Organizations’ Membership Benefits

Professional and civic organizations connect groups of like-minded people throughout the United States. As you’re reading this article, you or someone in your family is likely a member of one of these organizations. Many of these organizations provide tangible benefits to their members.

When an organization decides which benefits to offer, it considers options that can both address members’ current needs and potential ways in which to attract new members. For this reason, let’s discuss how all organizations should offer myKlovr no matter which age group they target.

Here are a few examples:

Ages 14-18

  • Scouting Organizations: Scouting includes more than just the big-name organizations you may have been involved with as a child. Since 1907, the Scout Movement strives to instill positive qualities (e.g., responsible citizenship, personal growth, and community involvement) in children and adolescents.
    • MyKlovr’s mission dovetails with the Scout Movement’s goals in many ways. Both encourage adolescents to take on personal responsibility, plan for the future, and develop interpersonal skills.
  • Honors Societies: In high schools throughout the nation, academically gifted students can join one or more honors societies. These societies are much more than a resume booster. Members often participate in service-learning (e.g., raising money, volunteering) and other projects.
    • Honors societies attract college-bound high school students. MyKlovr can help these dedicated students create an action plan.

Ages 18-25

  • Trade Unions: Trade unions and apprenticeship programs allow high school graduates to obtain a fulfilling career. However, many of these trades require years of training, a time when young professionals make much less than their mentors.
    • Many excellent community colleges boast one-year certificates and degrees in areas such as HVAC, welding, and carpentry. To help young union members advance faster, unions can offer myKlovr to help these professionals so they can explore educational opportunities.
  • Gig Economy Worker Associations: As the American economy evolves, more young workers are part of the gig economy. Although these jobs provide flexibility, they often do not pay way well nor offer benefits. However, in recent years, these workers have banded together to demand greater rights.
    • As the gig economy does not translate into economic stability for employees, many gig workers wonder whether attending college can improve their career prospects. The organizations that represent these professionals should consider myKlovr for its affordable price and college-search functionality. Like with high school-aged users, young adults can also benefit from our counseling service and success steps.

Ages 25-65

  • Corporations: Employees’ benefits need to evolve each year after they have children. For this reason, your company should continuously monitor employees’ satisfaction with their benefits and research new ones you can offer in the coming years. Not only do benefits for working parents increase employees’ satisfaction and loyalty, but they can also, through word of mouth, help your company attract top talent.
    • The complexity surrounding college admissions can put undue strain on parents and negatively affect their work performance. This challenge is one of the reasons that we at myKlovr designed the first virtual college counseling service that provides students personalized goals aimed at increasing their chances of college admissions success. Employees can review their children’s academic and extracurricular accomplishments at any time.
    • Social Worker and Counselor Organizations: When young men and women need help, social workers and counselors step in to uncover problems and propose solutions. These solutions may involve collaborating with children’s teachers. The organizations that these professionals join emphasize professional development and resources.
      • MyKlovr can help social workers and counselors forge a stronger relationship with the adolescents they serve. For example, a high school student may not have any trusted adults who might support them on their myKlovr journey. Counselors and social workers can use myKlovr to communicate with and help these students.

Ages 65+

  • Retirement Associations: Retirement associations claim millions of members ages 65 and over. They spend much of their resources advocating for lower drug prices and strengthening Social Security.
    • At first glance, it seems that retirement associations and myKlovr would be an odd mix. However, consider retired Americans with grandchildren ages 14 and up. If a retirement association offered myKlovr, members could gift it to their grandchildren. Also, student users could invite grandparents to become part of their support network. In this way, myKlovr has two benefits. Students gain expert college counseling advise, and retired individuals have a new way to interact with their grandchildren.

Final Thoughts

As myKlovr has grown, we have realized that people of all ages can find value in our service. We think that myKlovr would be an excellent addition to your association or organization’s benefits package. Please contact us to learn more about myKlovr and how it can help your organization or association.

Why High School Counselors Struggle (And What We Can Do About It)

I spent my entire K-12 education attending public schools in the same district. I received excellent academic support services from my schools’ counselors, without which I would have never been able to attend Vanderbilt University as an undergraduate.

Years later, I returned to my old school district – one of the richest in the United States – to teach at a high school just down the street from the one where I graduated. Over the next four years, I saw a different side of education, one where students lacked the counseling resources that had helped me succeed.

Many of my students, not knowing much about higher education, wrote off college as an unattainable dream. Also, they had no time during the school day to explore career-preparation programs, trade schools, or other educational opportunities that could have prepared them for the next stages of their lives. These issues were not entirely the fault of the counselor. Yes, you read that right. The entire high school, one that catered to at-risk students, had only one counselor.

Unfortunately, this isn’t uncommon in the United States. The average high school counselor works with approximately double the recommended number of students that the American School Counselor Association recommends. And in many parts of the country, the counselor-to-student ratio is growing.

In this article, we’ll look at how proper counseling can help students, why this isn’t happening, and how myKlovr has stepped up to provide a service that assists high school students with college admissions and makes counselors more effective professionals.

The Challenge High School Counselors Face

In a perfect world, counselors would have time to analyze students’ academic – as well as emotional and social – needs. Counselors would meet with students at multiple points throughout the year to discuss progress, challenges, and goals. Finally, counselors would have detailed notes to refer to before working with a student – much like a patient file a doctor uses during a checkup. In this world, high school students would not only receive excellent advice but would also have a solid action plan for after high school.

However, the typical high school counselor is responsible for nearly 500 students. This workload leaves them little time to address students’ needs, let alone learn names. As a result, students spend only a few minutes each year with a counselor.

Sadly, too few counselors working with too many students is only one part of the problem that 21st-century counselors face.

Only So Many Hours in the Day

School counselors’ job responsibilities extend much further than what most people realize, and when Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)in 2001, counselors found themselves with an even larger job description. Before NCLB, high school counselors were responsible for administering some high-stakes standardized tests (e.g., AP, ACT, SAT). In the district where I grew up and taught, each of these tests took place during school hours, further reducing counselors’ time for other activities.

By the time I started teaching 10 years after NCLB became law, my school’s counselor was responsible for state- and district-level assessments. There were pre-assessments, formative assessments, and benchmarks sprinkled throughout the year. Although teachers administered these tests, it was the counselor’s responsibility to analyze the data, further taking time away from students.

Besides additional responsibilities, counselors are some of the first targets when a school or district tightens its budget. Districts make this choice despite overwhelming evidence that reducing the number of counselors increases the dropout rate.

Although some school districts have embraced change and hired additional counselors, most counselors still struggle with finding time for their primary duty: serving students. For this reason, counselors need resources that can make their limited time with students more efficient and effective.

One such resource is myKlovr.  

The myKlovr Advantage

Our goal at myKlovr to provide college-bound students with personalized college admissions advice. Our service helps students identify their academic strengths and weaknesses, create an action plan, and research colleges that would be a good fit. Concerning the latter, we develop a College Match for each user – a list of schools that a student would have an excellent chance of receiving admission if he or she followed the action plan we recommend. Parents, counselors, teachers, and other trusted adults can stay up to date with that student’s academic and extracurricular progress by receiving notifications or accessing the student’s profile.

We are so confident in our ability to help students go to college that if a student cannot gain acceptance to any of his or her College Match schools, we will gladly refund the entire subscription fee.

Final Thoughts

High schoolers throughout the nation suffer from a lack of counseling resources, and counselors are overburdened to the point where they cannot provide their limited resources effectively. MyKlovr aims to close the gap. Students receive individualized advice, and counselors can keep up to date with their students’ evolving needs.

Understanding Millennial Employees’ Benefits Needs

In 2019, millennials became the largest living generation in the United States. Their ages range from 19 to 37, and overall, they possess many liberal economic and social views. On the job, they want to apply their talents toward producing meaningful work.

Economically, most millennials lag behind the previous two generations (e.g., generation X and baby boomers) due to the “Great Recession” that began in late 2007. This two-year recession and the long recovery stunted many millennials’ career opportunities and salary potential. The recession’s lingering effects have a continued impact on millennials’ earning power.

When considering these challenges under a benefits microscope, two words come to mind: stability and opportunity.

In this article, we’ll explore both traditional and voluntary benefits that appeal to millennials. We’ll also consider how millennials’ benefits needs might change in the coming years.

What Young Families Want

Although millennials differ from other generations, they still value traditional benefits packages. Millennial employees are marrying and starting families, meaning that they put a priority on careers that offer good medical and life insurance policies. Both provide young families – many of which are still adjusting to new financial realities – the knowledge that sickness or death will not cripple them financially.

Yes, millennials greatly appreciate traditional benefits, but their generation also values their families’ well-being over all else, including their employers or careers. This desire to provide their spouses and children with the best quality of life makes it easier for millennials to switch companies if they can attain a better benefits package.

For this reason, companies are offering voluntary benefits to attract and retain employees. Let’s look at some of the voluntary benefits that align with millennial employees’ short- and long-term needs.

The Best Voluntary Benefits for Millennials

Millennials, whether they have families or not, generally want a voluntary benefits package that boasts flexibility, encourages peace of mind, includes their family, and promotes personal fulfillment outside the office.

  • Gym Memberships: Gym memberships represent an excellent supplement to a traditional health insurance policy. Exercise not only improves health, but many people report that it also affects mental well-being. Also, as gym memberships can extend to family members, healthy spouses and children translate into happier employees who can focus on their work better.
  • Financial Literacy: Financial literacy resources can include courses at your job site, apps, and other online tools. If your company adopts financial literacy courses as a voluntary benefit, choose a service that emphasizes 529 plans (i.e., college-savings plans), retirement savings, and student loan repayment strategies. These services best match millennials’ most pressing needs.
  • Additional Paid Time Off: In recent years, companies have used unlimited PTO as a way to attract highly-trained professionals. With more time off, employees can spend more time with their families and feel higher loyalty toward their employers.  Even if your company does not offer employees additional vacation days, ensure that employees feel safe in taking time off.
  • myKlovr Virtual College Counseling: MyKlovr has developed a first-of-its-kind virtual counseling service to assist high school students and their families navigate college admissions. Students receive personalized advice that helps them improve their chances of college admissions success.

Looking to the Future

Although millennials’ children will not enter high school for a few years,  the myKlovr employee benefit can be extended to siblings or even nieces and nephews who are in need of specialized tools to help them gain admission to a good college or university. We at myKlovr also believe that this benefit can be extended to workers who may have taken time-off from studying after high school,  and are currently employed but enroll in college.

Our program works by asking students a series of questions concerning their academic achievement, extracurricular activities, and college preferences. MyKlovr turns this information into success goals that students can achieve throughout high school. If students meet these goals, they can obtain letters of admission from the colleges and universities that myKlovr recommends. We call these recommendations a College Match. In fact, if none of a student’s College Match schools admit the student, we gladly refund the entire subscription fee (terms and conditions apply). That’s how confident we are in myKlovr’s ability to help high school students attend college.

Final Thoughts

Whether through fitness incentives, financial literacy courses, PTO, or myKlovr, your company can attract and retain millennial employees by offering voluntary benefits that match their evolving needs.

Why Your Company Should Offer College Admissions Counseling as a Voluntary Benefit

Voluntary benefits provide employers an excellent, low-cost method to attract and retain the best talent. With so many options, however, human resources departments may find it challenging to determine which benefits best match their employees’ needs. Also, a benefit that employees value in 2019 may lose its luster in 2020.

When employees lose interest in a voluntary benefit, that fact does not automatically mean that the benefit in question has lost value. Every time you hire an employee, your employees’ demographics shift ever so slightly. If your company experiences moderate to heavy turnover, expect that your employees’ voluntary benefits preferences to change. For this reason, companies should curate a broad selection of voluntary benefits that they can either offer all at once or rotate as their employees’ needs evolve.

We at myKlovr created our virtual college counseling service for the large percentage of American families who cannot afford the high prices that professional counselors charge. In this article, we’ll discuss our voluntary benefit and how it can help your mid-career professionals become more effective and loyal workers.

Your Target Audience

Before discussing myKlovr’s college counseling service, let’s determine whether your company’s employees might be interested. Our service benefits high school students and their families. As a result, if Millennials make up a majority of your workforce, it may be too soon to make myKlovr a pillar of your company’s voluntary benefits package. Millennials have young families whose children range from infants to late elementary school students. However, it’s never too early to start surveying these employees on whether they would want myKlovr as a future voluntary benefit.

How myKlovr Brings College Admissions Counseling to the Masses

Over the last few decades, college admissions have become more competitive than ever. Parents with means turn to private college admissions counselors to help their children explore colleges, improve their grades and extracurricular activities, and write excellent application essays. The best counselors charge over $100 per hour, putting their fees on par with some lawyers.

We at myKlovr created the world’s first virtual college counseling service to help high school students from all socioeconomic backgrounds increase their chances of college admissions success. The service works in much the same way as hiring a private counselor. After setting up an account, students take a lengthy survey that allows our software to understand their strengths, weaknesses, and college preferences.

Students receive a list of custom-tailored academic and extracurricular goals, as well as a college match – a list of colleges where they have the best chances of gaining admission. Parents and other trusted adults (e.g., teachers, high school counselors) that students invite to view their profiles receive updates on students’ progress.

Students’ profiles also provide a dedicated space where students can curate their best academic work. They can then reference these accomplishments in their college admission essays. At the same time, teachers can review this work when writing college recommendation letters.

Finally, we are so confident in our program’s ability to help students succeed that we offer a College Match Guarantee. If a student follows the academic and extracurricular recommendation we suggest and does not gain admission to any schools on their college match, we will refund their entire subscription cost.

What You Can Expect

The college application process takes an emotional toll on students and families. Also, most parents feel great anxiety at the prospect of their children moving away. These combined stresses can negatively affect employees’ work performance. Although myKlovr cannot eliminate stress from parents’ lives, it can assure them that their children are receiving excellent college admissions advice. This peace of mind can help your employees focus on their work better.

Final Thoughts

If your company employs primarily mid-career professionals, consider surveying them on whether myKlovr matches their families’ voluntary benefits needs. myKlovr offers a competitive rate for subscribers who purchase our service through a company-wide voluntary benefits package.

Benefits for Working Parents

Every day they go to work, working parents sacrifice time that they could have otherwise used to make memories with their spouses and children. In return, they expect their employers to provide not only a salary but also benefits that help them and their families.

As benefits play such a vital role in employer/employee relationships, working parents should not only understand the benefits they and their families receive but also demand that those benefits match their families’ needs. At the same time, employers should take note of employees’ life situations and craft unique and attractive benefits packages that blend both traditional and voluntary options.

Traditional Benefits

Traditional benefits are those that many employers began offering in the years immediately following the Second World War. As employers shoulder the financial burden, employees receive these benefits at no cost.

Health Insurance

The most significant traditional benefit, health insurance protects employees and their families by paying for many medical services. Expecting parents should research their companies’ health insurance policies to ensure that their children have coverage from the moment they are born. Signing children up for dental or vision insurance may require additional forms.

Paid Time Off  

Paid time off benefits working parents in many ways. For one, working parents can use this time for vacations or other significant events in their children’s lives. Most employees gain additional paid time off each year that they stay with the company. 

401(k) or Other Retirement Plans

Although retirement plans benefit parents rather than their children, some retirement plans can reduce employees’ tax burdens, ensuring they have more money for their growing families.

Voluntary Benefits

Working parents with children of all ages appreciate when their employers offer voluntary benefits that improve their children’s lives. Unlike traditional benefits, employees – and not their employers – pay for them. However, as employees receive a group discount, they can both save money and choose the services that their families need.

Supplemental Health Insurance

Health insurance may cover most expenses, but up-front costs (e.g., premiums, the need for out-of-network specialists, travel, etc.) can still put a tremendous financial strain on families. Supplemental health insurance policies close the financial gap. Many policies allow enrollees to select the specific health benefits that match their financial and health needs.

Life Insurance Policies

Life insurance policies reassure employees that if something should happen to them, there will be money to take care of their surviving spouse and children. However, once an employee has children, the costs of these policies jump significantly. A cheap, long-term life insurance policy can put your employees’ minds at ease and increase their loyalty to your company.

College Counseling

Although employees may keep their supplemental health insurance and life insurance policies as their children become high school-aged, the complexity surrounding college admissions can put undue strain on parents and negatively affect their work performance. This challenge is one of the reasons that we at myKlovr designed the first virtual college counseling service that provides students personalized goals aimed at increasing their chances of college admissions success. At work, employees can review their children’s academic and extracurricular accomplishments at any time.

Final Thoughts

Employees’ benefits needs evolve each year after they have children. For this reason, your company should continuously monitor employees’ satisfaction with their benefits and research new ones you can offer in the coming years. Not only do benefits for working parents increase employees’ satisfaction and loyalty, but they can also, through word of mouth, help your company attract top talent.

Voluntary Benefits That Attract Top Talent

Voluntary benefits help companies diversify their benefits offerings and tailor them to the talented professionals they want to attract and retain. As companies and employees’ needs change, so can voluntary benefits.

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most popular benefits that attract top talent, including myKlovr’s affordable college admission-counseling service.

Family Benefits

Many traditional benefits (e.g., health insurance) already help both employees and their families. However, as millennials who enjoy voluntary benefits start families, they will want voluntary benefits that help their spouses and children. Employers that offer these benefits can forge a deeper connection with their employees, reducing the odds that those employees will leave for other opportunities.

Voluntary benefits that help families come in many forms:

  • Public Transportation Passes
    • Employee benefit: Employees who take public transportation have more energy when they arrive at work.
    • Family benefit: Spouses and children can save money on travel in their local communities.
  • Gym Memberships
    • Employee benefit: Employees maintain good health, which saves employers money on health insurance plans.
    • Family benefit: Families can bond through physical activities.
  • Additional Health Insurance
    • Employee and family benefit: Families can save money on unexpected health emergencies.
  • Life Insurance Policies
    • Employee benefit: Employees, knowing that the policy will take care of their families if the worst should happen, feel higher loyalty toward their employers.
    • Family benefit: Families do not have to pay as much for life insurance policies.

Like with all voluntary benefits, employees pay a reduced cost compared to if they had obtained these services on their own. However, when it comes to providing voluntary benefits to employees with children, employers must consider not only how many employees have children, but also those children’s ages. As children age, so do parents’ priorities. Employees with young children may sign up for a life insurance policy, while employees with high school-aged children may desire something different.

That’s where myKlovr comes in.

How myKlovr’s Voluntary Benefit Meet Employers’ Needs

MyKlovr’s revolutionary voluntary benefit provides employers a new and unique way to attract and retain employees with high school-aged children. For a low monthly rate, students can make a custom profile, and after answering a few simple questions, receive individualized college admissions advice.

The system works by helping high school students create a series of academic and extracurricular goals for their freshman-senior years. Parents and other trusted adults (e.g., teachers, counselors) can view these goals at any time and keep track of when and how students complete them.

Students’ myKlovr accounts also boast a portfolio wherein students can curate their best academic achievements (e.g., research papers, projects, awards, etc.). This way, students do not have to rummage through four years’ worth of work when it comes time to write college application essays and ask teachers for recommendations.

Not only does myKlovr provide valuable advice and a place where students can organize their best work, but it also pairs students with colleges and universities that match their academic performance and potential. We at myKlovr are so confident in our ability to match students with potential colleges that we developed the MyKlovr College Acceptance Promise. If students do not receive an acceptance from at least one school in their College Match, myKlovr will refund their subscription fee.

In other words, if we make a mistake, we pay for it, and not your company.

Final Thoughts

To attract and retain the best talent, your company should offer voluntary benefits that positively impact employees and their families’ well-being. Start by researching your employees’ family lives and preferences. And if myKlovr doesn’t meet your employees’ needs at this time, keep us in mind as your employees’ children reach their teenage years.

Your employees – and their families – will thank you.

Six Rising Trends in Voluntary Benefits for 2019

Voluntary benefits have shown great promise in supplementing traditional benefits packages that include health insurance and retirement savings plans. However, attracting top talent means that companies must continuously refine which benefits they offer employees and how they roll out these benefits. For this reason, employers must keep up to date with the latest trends in voluntary benefits – trends that have a significant impact on employee retention.

That said, let’s look at six rising trends that employers should pay close attention to for the remainder of 2019.

Voluntary Benefits Are Expected Benefits

The first trend is not so much a type of voluntary benefit but an essential fact that all employers should know. By the end of 2019, most employees will want to work for companies that offer flexible benefits packages that provide some choice. Voluntary benefits provide employees agency, and even the smallest amount of agency can forge a bond between employees and their employers. 

Student Loan Relief

Students loans take years if not decades to pay back, and the stress of paying off loans can have a detrimental impact on your employees’ work performance. Also, consider retention. Employees burdened with loans are more likely to leave for another company that pays them a higher salary.

To offer student loan relief, your company matches student loan repayments up to a set dollar amount. The system works in much the same way as retirement matching. A student loan relief program can instill employee loyalty, as employees can pay off their loans faster than they would have been able to otherwise. Your company can also supplement this benefit by holding seminars on student debt – educating employees on other strategies they can use to pay off their loans and build excellent credit.

Financial Guidance

Young employees have more financial difficulties than student loans. Many employees struggle with saving, budgeting, and other skills. An automated savings plan costs your company very little and can go far in convincing employees that you have their best interests at heart.

In addition to savings plans, professional development courses and other tools can help your employees build their financial skills. No longer worried as much about savings or debt, they can focus more on their jobs.

Multi-Generation Support

In the generations since the Second World War, companies that offer childcare services have attracted employees with young families. However, as America ages, more and more employees find themselves caring for elderly parents and grandparents, as well. These responsibilities can negatively affect even the most talented and hard-working employees.

You can offer multi-generation support through discounts on elder care (e.g., nursing services, physical therapists) and additional financial assistance for employees who act as a family member’s sole caregiver.

Multi-generational support means much more than aiding employees’ infants and elderly family members. It also means helping employees’ school-aged children.  myKlovr created our virtual college counseling service as a voluntary benefit that prepares high school students for college admissions success. Employees receive this benefit at a low cost and can use the app to check in on their children’s college preparation goals at any time of day.

Professional Development

Employees in hundreds of professions take professional development courses to maintain their professional licenses. These courses can cost hundreds of dollars a year, even if employees receive other discounts through professional organizations. Employers who provide group rates on professional development courses can save not only their employees money but also time. Employees without their employers’ support often waste hours researching professional development courses that meet recertification requirements. By helping their employees save time and money, employers can further raise their employees’ loyalty and job satisfaction

Keep Employees Informed

Making voluntary benefits a success at your company requires much more than a company-wide email or form. To ensure that voluntary benefits become a cornerstone of your company’s corporate culture, you have to invest the time and money to ensure that all employees understand voluntary benefits and stay up to date with the latest benefits your company offers. Consider investing in professional development, seminars, videos, and simple ‘how to’ guides. Once employees become acclimated to voluntary benefits, you can release more periodic updates.

Finally, keep prospective employees up to date by prominently displaying your latest voluntary benefits on your company or organization’s website.

Final Thoughts

Trends evolve, which means that companies must update their benefits every year to meet employees’ changing needs. This way, companies never lose out on attracting and retaining the best talent.

Voluntary Benefits: A Primer for Employers

From catered lunches to flexible work schedules, employers are doing everything they can to attract top talent away from other companies. Although attractive to employees, these benefits and perks can cost employers a tremendous amount of money. Also, not all employers can afford these services, especially when they already pay for traditional benefits packages. However, in this era of record-low unemployment, all employers must experiment with new and unique benefits. One such option involves voluntary benefits.

What Are Voluntary Benefits

The following chart breaks down some key differences between traditional and voluntary benefits.

Traditional BenefitsVoluntary Benefits
Employees receive them automatically.Employees select some benefits from a list of options.
Employers pay the cost.Employees pay the cost, but a much lower price as they receive a group rate.
As every major employer offers them, companies do not stand out to prospective employees.By curating a unique list of voluntary benefits, employers can target a particular group of professionals (e.g., millennials with young families) they want to recruit and retain.

Now that you know how traditional and voluntary benefits differ, here are some popular voluntary benefits that companies are offering their employees:

  • Identify theft protection
  • Critical-illness insurance
  • Pet insurance
  • Student-loan refinancing
  • Public transportation passes

To create a benefit for employees, companies partner with a second company — a benefits broker or professional employer organization (PEO) — that manages the benefit. The two companies agree on how the benefit will work and how much employees will pay. This process costs the employer very little; the company offering the benefit knows it will make its profit from the other company’s employees. Companies can offer their employees as many or as few voluntary benefits as they please.

Should My Company Offer Voluntary Benefits?

Voluntary benefits provide a host of advantages with little to no drawback for your company. By researching the most popular voluntary benefits and surveying your employees, you can determine which benefits would best attract and retain talented professionals.

If your company has never offered voluntary benefits, employees will need to learn how these benefits can complement their traditional benefits packages. You might consider holding a company-wide seminar or training session to educate employees about voluntary benefits.

After you roll out voluntary benefits, be sure to judge your employees’ reactions and adjust benefits accordingly. Just because employees responded positively to a benefit in a survey does not automatically mean that they will stay with your company if they should receive a better offer. In other words, providing the best voluntary benefits requires continuous fine tuning, especially if your company experiences moderate to high turnover.

MyKlovr’s Unique Voluntary Benefit

The best college admission counselors often charge over $100/hour for their services, making them out of reach for most families. Since 2017, myKlovr has striven to create an affordable virtual college admission advising program for high school students and their families. For a flat monthly fee, students receive expert, tailored advice to help them raise their chances for college admission success.

Our benefit appeals to employees who could not otherwise afford college admission counseling for their high school-aged children. As of the writing of this article, myKlovr has partnered with the following companies to bring our service to families in need:

By selecting myKlovr as part of your company’s voluntary benefits package, you convey to employees that you care about their lives outside of the office. With their children’s college advising in good hands, employees can direct more energy toward their work.

Your Next Step

Now that you understand voluntary benefits and how they can help your company, consider hiring a consultant – preferably a survey researcher — to determine which benefits best match your and your employees’ needs.

How to Make the Most of Summer to Prep for College Admissions

It’s late May, which means summer vacation is right around the corner for millions of high school students like you. As both a former student and teacher, I remember those days fondly. It was like the light at the end of the tunnel. Just hang on a little longer and I’d be rewarded with nine glorious weeks off.

Yes, I expect you to use this upcoming summer break to get a little R&R. However, if you’re a rising high school sophomore, junior, or senior, I encourage you to spend a little time over the following weeks to prepare for college admissions.

That said, let’s dive into what you can do to make the most of this summer while still leaving you plenty of time to relax.   

If You’re a Rising Sophomore

Now that you’ve completed freshman year, you should have a decent understanding of your academic strengths and weaknesses. You also (hopefully) found at least one extracurricular activity that you enjoy. Let’s turn this new knowledge into an action plan.

What You Should Do

  • If struggled with English or math your freshman year, spend 2-3 hours a week reviewing lessons on Khan Academy. Using Khan Academy or a similar service will both improve your English/math skills and prevent you from forgetting what you learned.
    • If your parents can afford a tutor, that works, too. 🙂
  • Spend about 7-10 hours over the summer researching colleges online. Here are some potential Google searches:
    • Colleges that have strong [Insert the name of your favorite subject here] programs.
    • Community colleges in [your state].
    • Best public colleges in [your state].
    • Colleges that award scholarship for [your extracurricular activity/high GPAs/good test scores].
  • As you research potential schools, you’ll notice that a lot of them come with big price tags. Talk to your families about what the can/will contribute to your college education.

What You Could Do 

  • As you’ll take either the PLAN or PSAT test during your sophomore year, you need to decide whether you are going to prepare for either test. Many students take these tests ‘cold’ so they can understand their natural strengths and weaknesses. This is fine, but if you are aiming for a National Merit Scholarship, you’ll need to put in some PSAT prep.

If You’re a Rising Junior

Becoming a junior is a big deal. You’re an upperclassman now, and college is just two years away. This summer you’ll need to take a more active role in preparing for your future. 

What You Should Do

  • Go on at least two college tours.
    • By researching colleges online, you should know already have a few that interest you. It’s time to hit the road with the family and see these colleges up close.
  • Decide whether to prepare for the ACT or SAT.
    • You’ll likely take both of these tests during your college admissions journey. However, as many students discover that perform slightly better on one test over the other.
  • Curate scholarship opportunities.
    • Continue your research from last summer and select 5-10 scholarships that you can apply to now or when you become a senior.
          • Although application deadlines might not be for another year, researching now means that you still have time to improve your grades/increase your volunteer hours/etc.
  • Sign up for challenging classes.
    • No, I don’t mean ‘take all AP courses.’ Yes, for some students, that’s challenging. For others, it’s a recipe for burnout/failure/etc. You need to choose a curriculum that’s challenging for you.
    • In other words, if you made an A in a non-honors course, consider taking the honors course in that same subject area as a junior.
      • The same advice applies if you did well in honors courses as a sophomore. Maybe it’s time to take 1-2 APs your junior year. 

What You Could Do

  • Take an ACT or SAT prep course.
    • Standardized tests like the ACT and SAT are a milestone for high school juniors. By preparing for these tests now, you might earn a good enough score that you do not have to retake them later.
  • Intern or volunteer.
    • There are plenty of internship or volunteer opportunities in your local community. Find one that represents a cause or issue you believe in and spend 5-10 hours each week interning or volunteering. 

If You’re a Rising Senior

College admissions season is coming up fast, which means that this summer you’ll decide which colleges you’ll apply to in the fall. The following advice should help you make up your mind and put the final touches on your application packets.

What You Should Do

  • Take additional college tours.
  • Prepare to retake the ACT or SAT.
    • You took one or both of these tests during the spring. Now that you have the results, you can create a study plan that involves tutors or free Khan Academy resources.
    • I’d recommend spending 1-2 hours a week on test prep. This way, you can retake the ACT or SAT in late August or early September. These test windows are excellent as you’ll have your results in hand before college applications are due. 

What You Could Do 

  • Start application essays.
    • It’s never too early to start your application essays. See my article on the topic for more information.
  • Keep interning or volunteering.
    • If you interned of volunteered last summer, keep up the good work by trying a new experience this summer.

Final Thoughts

Summer is a great time to relax. By all means, stay up late, sleep in, and have a good time with your friends. But remember that time is a resource like any other. This summer, invest some time in your future by preparing for life after high school. Future you will thank present you.

 

How to Obtain the Best College Recommendation Letters

Throughout four years of high school, you put in a tremendous amount of work to create an excellent college application portfolio. You take – and retake – standardized tests. You write – and rewrite – college admission essays. In other words, dedicated students like you fine tune their applications to match their dream colleges’ expectations. However, there is one part of your application portfolio that’s mostly, but not entirely out of your control:

Your teachers’ recommendation letters.

Yes, these sealed envelopes or confidential online forms contain information that can go a long way in convincing college admissions counselors that you’re a perfect fit. And although you’ll never have the chance to edit, review, or even see what these letters contain, there’s a lot you can do to ensure that your teachers write glowing endorsements of your academic potential and all-around goodness as a human being.

Having been on both sides of the teacher’s desk, let me share my recommendation letter expertise with you.

Why Recommendation Letters Matter

As you know, a lot goes into a college application portfolio. The essential pieces are your grades and standardized test scores. After that, your essays and extracurricular activities allow admissions counselors to see you as a person rather than a set of scores and letter grades.

Last, but certainly not least, come the recommendation letters. They provide a different, fresh, and just as relevant, personal perspective. And since they come from adults who are trained educators, they carry a lot of weight.

And that’s why recommendation letters matter…a lot.

Step #1: Choose Your Teachers Wisely

If you’re an academically gifted student, it’s likely you excelled in the majority of your classes. First of all, good for you. However, having a lot of options raises an issue: which teachers do you pick?

Here’s some all-around good advice:

  • At least one letter should come from a teacher you had during your junior year.
    • Junior year’s the toughest one of all – at least for most students – and a letter from a teacher who had you then can say a lot about how you work under pressure.
  • If you’ve taken AP/IB courses, try to get a letter from one of those teachers, too.
    • Let’s say you excelled in your first AP course and earned a high score on the AP exam, too. Discussing this accomplishment in your personal essay and including a recommendation letter from that teacher would be the perfect combination.

If you struggled in some courses, still consider whether those teachers could write you a good letter. Did you come in for extra help and improve your grades along the way? College admissions counselors love applicants with grit, those who buckled down and invested the time and effort to raise their grades. A turnaround story is just as compelling as a ‘he/she was an academically gifted student’ story.

Step #2: Include an Information Packet

Even if a teacher just had you last year, they may be a bit fuzzy on your personal and academic details. That tends to happen when teachers see 150+ students a day. That’s why when they agree to write you a letter, give them a small info packet detailing your academic and extracurricular accomplishments along with any other information they may need (e.g., a sample of your work from their class) to jog their memories.

Pro Tip: In this packet, include a personal note that discusses what you got out of their class. It never hurts to butter up – compliment – your teacher, too. Just don’t go too overboard.

Step #2.5: Give Them Plenty of Time

Teachers are extremely, significantly, tremendously busy people. They put in a ton of effort, most of which you don’t see. That’s said, please give teachers at least two weeks – preferably three – to write you a recommendation letter.

Step #3: Be Grateful

So, the letters are done and in the physical or electronic mail. As you take that sigh of relief that your college applications are finished, don’t forget about your teachers. It’s time to get them a thank you gift.

Why a gift? Well, besides being the right thing to do, your teachers just did you a HUGE favor. It’s time to show a little gratitude with a gift card or something small that’s in the $10-$20 range. If you’re a bit shy, give it to them just before winter break – that’s when good students like you give gifts to their teachers anyway — and include a personal note thanking them for helping you out.

And when the day comes you get into your dream college or university, please let the teachers who wrote you letters know. It’ll make their day. 🙂

Final Thoughts

Good test scores and excellent grades are a dime a dozen in the college admissions world. Genuine recommendation letters are much rarer and can nudge an application from the ‘waitlist’ to ‘accepted’ pile. Will the letters teachers write for you do this? You’ll never know, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put in the time and effort to obtain the best letters possible.

So, if you’re a high school freshman, sophomore, or junior, make sure to let your best teachers know they did an excellent job before the school year wraps up. Your teachers will likely remember your kind words…and be more inclined to write you a recommendation letter when you need it. 😉

Everything You Wanted to Know About the PSAT

Considering all the standardized tests that you take in high school, it’s easy to overlook the PSAT. After all, it’s a practice test. On the one hand, the pressure’s off. On the other hand, you may feel that you don’t need to try your best on test day.

But you should try your best. A great score can help you tremendously when it comes to getting into your dream college.

In this article, we’ll examine the test’s format, difficulty, and relationship to the National Merit Scholarship Program. Let’s jump in!

What’s the Format?

 Let’s compare the PSAT and SAT’s format and time requirements.

PSATSAT
Evidence-Based Reading & Writing:

Reading: 60 Min., 47 Questions

Writing: 35 Min., 44 Questions

Evidence-Based Reading & Writing:

Reading: 65 Min., 52 Questions

Writing: 35 Min., 44 Questions

Mathematics

No Calculator: 25 Min., 17 Questions

Calculator: 45 Min., 31 Questions

Mathematics

No Calculator: 25 Min, 17 Questions

Calculator: 55 Min., 45 Questions

Total Time: 2 Hours, 45 MinTotal Time: 3 Hours

Quick Notes:

  • The SAT also includes a 50-minute optional essay. More on that in another article. 😉
  • You do get short breaks between sections on the PSAT.

In the smallest of nutshells, the PSAT closely mirrors the SAT in format and time. Think about it: it would have to as the results are meant to predict how you’ll perform on the SAT. Now that we know a little bit about the test, let’s cover a few key facts about each section.

Reading

  • Five passages
    • Literature (1)
    • Social science (1)
    • Science (2)
    • U.S. founding document or an international text inspired by U.S. founding documents (1)

Big Takeaway: The reading test is 80% non-fiction, meaning that to improve your reading comprehension skills (and score), it’s better to read the newspaper than your favorite novel.

Writing and Language

I have three words for you: grammar and usage. On this test, you’ll face passages with underlined portions and the dreaded NO CHANGE option. Believe it or not, NO CHANGE can trip up a lot of test takers by making them second-guess themselves.

Big Takeaway: As there are a TON of grammar and usage rules out there, I’ll keep it simple. Buy a used copy of Strunk & White and learn to love it.

Mathematics

The first thing you need to know about the mathematics section on the PSAT is that the first 17 questions (the no calculator ones) are grid-in questions, meaning that you provide the answer rather than selecting from a handful of options. That’s part of the reason why you have 25 minutes – you need to write in the grid and bubble in the answer so that a machine can score it.

Here’s what the mathematics portion covers:

  • Everything you learned through middle school
  • Algebra I
  • Geometry
  • Trigonometry

There’s a lot of math in those four bullet points, but I bet it’s the last one that has you the most worried.

Big Takeaway: Jump down to the next section to learn more about the most significant difference between the PSAT and SAT.

Is it Easier Than the SAT?

Short Answer: Yes, but only a little.

Long Answer: The good folks at the College Board designed the PSAT for a slightly younger crowd, meaning that on the PSAT, you won’t find more than two questions that deal with an introduction to trigonometry. Expect a lot of algebra and geometry questions, though. The Reading/Writing and Language questions are about as difficult as their SAT equivalents. 

What’s the NMSQT?

Short Answer: PSAT = National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, and the test takers who earn the highest scores receive a scholarship and/or recognition for their accomplishment.

Long Answer: Test takers with excellent PSAT scores can receive one of four distinctions:

  • Commended Student
    • Test takers who score above the College Board’s super-secret selection index score
  • Semifinalists
    • The top 0.5% of test takers in each state
  • Finalist
  • Scholarship
    • Typically 1% of all finalists receive a scholarship
    • $2,500

In other words, it’s more challenging to earn a National Merit Scholarship than it is to get into Harvard.

Even if You Don’t Receive a Scholarship

Were you a finalist, semi-finalist, or a commended student? If so, you may not have an extra $2,500 to spend on college, but you have something else just as valuable: bragging rights. Although I don’t recommend that you actually brag on your college applications, definitely bring up your finalist/semi-finalist/commended student status in your personal statement or application. As these distinctions are rare, they’re going to earn you a TON of points with college admission counselors.

Should I Prepare for the PSAT?

A lot of high school students take the PSAT ‘cold,’ meaning they’re using the test to determine their baseline score. Going in cold can be a valuable strategy, as having authentic PSAT results can act as the foundation for an SAT study plan. However, many students want to shoot for the stars and become National Merit Scholars. If this describes you, let’s talk prep work.

Creating a Study Plan

Here’s a valuable ‘plan of attack’ to use when preparing for the PSAT.

Note: For maximum impact, start this plan about five weeks before the real PSAT

  • Take a practice test under timed conditions.
    • Saturday morning would probably be the best time to do it.
  • Score it.
  • Analyze the results to determine your weakest areas.
  • Start with the ‘easy fixes’: topics that take you the least amount of time to improve.
  • Slowly work your way up to harder subjects.
    • An excellent study plan means commitment. Try to spend 30 minutes to one hour a day preparing for the PSAT.
  • A few days before the real PSAT, take a second practice test.
    • Not only will this test better acclimate you to the test’s format, but you’ll also see how far your score has come.
      • If you earn a higher score on the PSAT, that’s great! If you earn a lower score, you may need to research and practice test anxiety remedies.

What Happens After I Take the PSAT?

Analyze (and Learn From) Your Scores

Whether or not you prepared for the PSAT, you can learn much from your score. If you went into the test cold, consider the experience as steps #1 and #2 in the previous section’s study plan. Also, think back to how you felt on test day. If you had any test anxiety symptoms, it might be time to consult some resources to make sure when you take the SAT, you don’t have to worry about high heart rate, sweating, and feelings of hopelessness.

Expect a Lot of Mail

Even if you did ‘just okay’ on the PSAT, expect a lot of physical and digital mail to show up soon after you receive your results. The College Board – along with the ACT – make a lot of money selling your info to colleges and universities across the country. The benefit for you is that when a college sees that you’re an okay to strong test taker, they’ll reach out to you with a letter or packet that describes their schools and what they can offer you as a potential college student.

Reading through the material will teach you much about colleges and how they operate. Like advertisements, they’re trying to catch your attention. Not all schools will interest you; that’s fine. For the ones that seem promising, contact them to learn more and start discussing college tours with your family. 

Final Thoughts

The PSAT can be scary, especially if it’s your first standardized test. For that reason, even if you don’t create a study plan, I’d still recommend that you take one timed practice test. That way, at least you’ll know what you’re getting yourself into.

My other final thought is that no matter how much you study, please remember the PSAT is just the start of a standardized test journey that lasts until you take – and likely retake – the SAT. So, if your results aren’t what you expect, cut yourself some slack. As a 21st-century high school student trying to do his or her best, you deserve it.

What Questions Should I Ask During A College Visit?

Touring a college is in many ways like visiting a car dealership. Admission counselors and tour guides have a ‘product’ to sell you, and that product costs a lot of money. They’re going to highlight their product’s best qualities and carefully sweep any negative aspects (e.g., high tuition) under the rug. In other words, they’re trying to charm you into buying what they’re selling.

And in both cases, you need to be an informed consumer. Asking questions during a college tour is one of the best tools you have to determine which schools go on your short list.

So, let’s answer your questions…about questions.

Do Prep Work in Advance

College tours may require you to drive or fly long distances. As a result, you may not be at your mental best during the tour. That’s why you need to prepare a few questions in advance. The best way to do this is in the weeks leading up to a tour, commit a few hours to research the college and jotting down questions as they come to you.

Through internet sleuthing, you should be able to find out what each college’s standard tour entails and find answers to the most common questions. If any information looks fishy, bring it up during the tour and receive clarification. Your goal is that for each school you visit, you should have 3-5 questions ready.

Also, remember that everyone – and their questions – are unique. Here are some common question categories to get you started:

  • Extracurricular Activities
  • Living On/Off-Campus
  • Dorm Life
  • Research Opportunities for Undergraduates
  • Honors Program
  • Scholarships and Grants

The list goes on. Again, I am not you, so I do not know what YOU are looking for in a college experience. Start with your needs/wants/desires/etc.

During the Tour

During the tour, expect your guide to be a current student or someone who has no influence on which applicants the school admits. I mention this because it means that you do not need to feel nervous asking questions.

During a standard college tour, expect there to be a few points where your guide will ask if anyone has any questions. Use this fact to your advantage. If you have a dorm question, ask it while your tour group is inside a dorm. Your guide may be able to show you an answer rather than tell you about it. That way, you gain a clearer understanding.

Finally, remember your guide’s name. Keep reading to learn why.

 It’s Okay to Email Questions After Your Tour

It’s perfectly fine if you think up questions after your tour. Most high school students do once they have the chance to explore campus, sit in or a class, or have a meal in the dining hall. Just like during your pre-tour research, keep that paper and pen handy to write down extra questions.

Once you get back home, get out your questions and write an email to the college’s admissions department:

Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening,

My name is [Your Name Here]. On [Date You Took the Tour], I visited campus and went on a tour led by [Tour Guide’s Name Here]. He/she was very informative, and I learned much about the school. As I am seriously considering applying to [University’s Name Here], I was hoping that you could answer a few follow-up questions I have about your school.

After that, ask questions by tying them to your tour experience:

As we were walking through [Name of Dorm Here], I noticed some students who were staying on campus for the summer term. Does your school provide a summer enrichment program in [Academic Subject You Are Interested In.]?

Although you’ll likely have more than three questions, I wouldn’t recommend asking more than three for each email you send the admissions department. You can always write more emails or answer questions yourself through extra research.

Before moving on, here’s one last tip when it comes to contacting the admissions department. Keep their reply so you can reference it in your application essay:

After I took the tour, [Name of Admissions Counselor] quickly responded to my follow-up questions about [Topic]. His/her reply convinced me that applying to [School] was the right decision for my academic future.

This reference accomplishes more than you may realize. The people reading application essays are attracted to thoughtful and organized young men and women who take a vested interested in the application process. And who knows, the person reading your essay may be the same person who answered your questions months ago.

Final Thoughts

With tons of information online, you may think that asking questions during a college tour is a thing of the past. But as you already (hopefully) know, you can’t trust everything you read online. A college visit gives you the chance to get information ‘straight from the horse’s mouth.’

Finally, don’t forget to have some fun during your visit. It’s like the college admission process in reverse: they’re the ones trying to impress you. Enjoy it. 🙂

The Common App: What You Need to Know

Here’s an interesting, but not ironic fact: getting into college is harder than ever, but applying is easier than ever. And no, the latter has nothing to do with the former. Societal expectations and good marketing are to blame for admission rates plummeting across the board.

But applying to college sure is a lot easier than it was 10, 15, or 20 years ago. Thanks to the trusty internet, high school students and their families can learn about colleges, take virtual tours, and apply online.

Another critical component of college application readiness is The Common Application (Common App). For over 40 years, the Common App and the organization behind it have encouraged member colleges and universities to simplify the application process. After all, it can be daunting keeping up with different application requirements and materials. Why not make it easier for applicants?

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the Common App and examine what you should know before submitting it.

What Is the Common App?

To answer this question, we have to go back to 1975, when a non-profit called, you guessed it, The Common Application released the first version of what we call The Common App. You see, as the Baby Boomer generation flooded into America’s colleges, some people realized that there had to be a better way to apply. Today, more than 800 colleges around the world accept the Common App. 

What Do I Need to Know?

Doing research for this article, I learned just how much the Common App has changed since I used it to apply to colleges 15 years ago. Back then, the Common App was just a form. You filled it out once and sent copies – along with other application materials – to colleges. It made applying somewhat easier, but it wasn’t groundbreaking.

The Common App in 2019 is so much more than a piece of paper. On The Common Application website, you can create an account, research potential colleges and universities, review application requirements, and most importantly, and apply to schools. The Common Application even features a mobile app wherein high school students on the go can access and update their accounts at any time.

This system’s most significant advantage for you is organization. By using the website or app, it becomes nearly impossible for you to forget about a test score, recommendation letter, or essay requirement. Speaking of essays, be sure to write yours in a .doc before copy/pasting it into the application. The program tends to delete the essays of applicants who type their essay in the provided text box.

At the colleges and universities that you apply to, admissions counselors use a similar interface to access and review your materials. And before you ask, no, an admissions counselor CANNOT see the other schools where you sent applications.

One thing the Common App DOESN’T do is lower the cost of applying to college. For each application you submit, you still need to pay that school’s application fee.

Other ‘Common Apps’

In your college search, you may come across competitors to the Common App. These alternative ‘common apps’ – Universal College Application, Coalition for College, and the Common Black College Application – offer many of the same services as the Common App, but fewer colleges accept them. Although these organizations offer legitimate services, I would caution against them as you’d be juggling these apps, the Common App, and likely other applications for schools that use neither.

In other words, when it comes to the Common App, accept no substitutions.

Final Thoughts

I wish I had the 2019 Common App to help me navigate college admissions in the fall of 2003. What was once just a form has become a valuable college application resource that can help you research colleges, stay organized, and submit applications. These tools, combined with those in myKlovr, can help you dramatically increase your chances of college admission success.

So, if you haven’t already, get on the Common App website and create an account.

What’s the Difference Between For-Profit and Non-Profit Colleges?

When I hear the phrase ‘non-profit organization,’ I immediately think of those ASPCA commercials that play Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” while displaying pictures of neglected puppies and kittens. 

Disclaimer: If you’ve never seen the commercial I’m talking about, don’t look it up. It’ll wreck your day. 

The ASPCA is one of many non-profit organizations in the United States. In the smallest of nutshells, a non-profit is an organization that puts back any surplus income into its mission. There are no shareholders to please or pay off. As a result, non-profits do not pay taxes on the money they take in. That way, people who give to the ASPCA know that 100% of their donation is going to the organization’s mission. 

Everything else is a for-profit enterprise. When you buy the latest iPhone, a little bit of that money goes to people who own Apple’s stock and the board of directors. Another way to put it is that a for-profit organization’s mission is to make lots (and lots) of money. Unlike non-profits, these organizations pay taxes on the money they bring in.              

Now that we’ve learned a bit about the difference between for- and non-profit organizations, let’s see how this distinction applies to the college you attend. What’s the difference in the educational experience and academic rigor? We’ll explore answers to this question and much more. 

Public colleges are always non-profit schools…

Public colleges and universities are as much a part of their states’ educational systems as public elementary, middle, and high schools. They receive funding from the state and put students’ tuition dollars back into their programs. Also, as institutions designed to benefit in-state residents, they often charge higher tuition to out-of-state students and set quotas on how many out-of-state students they accept each year. That’s why, for example, a student from New York who attends the University of California – Berkeley pays more than double the in-state tuition rate.

…but private colleges aren’t always for-profit schools.

When I went to Vanderbilt University, I could almost see the money bleeding from the walls. In my junior and senior years, the university was spending truckloads of cash constructing new dorms and science centers. You would imagine that just by looking around, Vanderbilt was a for-profit institution. But that’s not the case.

Vanderbilt, along with many other private colleges and universities, is a non-profit school, as well. They invest their tuition dollars into endowments, research, and new construction. In other words, the amount of money a school has doesn’t make the difference between for-profit and non-profit.

So what does?

There’s a lot of tax law and legalities involved, but like the example at the beginning of the article, a for-profit school is managed by a corporation. Here’s an easy-to-remember scenario that explains the difference between the two.

Non-profit college: “We need to provide a broad range of majors and minors to our students. We do not consider how profitable a major is when making funding decisions.”

For-profit college: “Enrollment in East Asian studies major dropped 20% since last year. We’re eliminating it.”

At for-profit colleges, majors and academic departments are like products. If one’s not selling well enough, they cut it to save money. 

Now that we know a little bit about how for-profit and non-profit schools operate, let’s examine the question you really came here to answer.

What’s the Difference for Students?

In terms of the student experience, the most significant difference concerns each type of school’s academic offerings. Like in the example in the previous section, for-profit schools tend to offer a more limited selection of majors, those that are in line with what the economy needs. At for-profit colleges, you’re likely to find more STEM majors and fewer humanities majors.

Another thing you may have heard concerns for-profit schools and scandals. Yes, for-profit colleges have gotten in hot water in recent years for breaking the law and other dubious practices. Thankfully, many of these schools have gone out of business, and remaining for-profit schools are under the microscope. What this means is that if you’re considering for-profit colleges, you need to do your due diligence. When researching a for-profit college, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does this school possess regional accreditation?
    • If the answer is ‘no,’ move on.
  • Does the program I’m interested in possess national or subject-specific accreditation?
    • If the answer is ‘no,’ it’s not a deal breaker, but keep looking just in case.
  • Are there any news reports that portray this school in a negative light?
    • If the answer is ‘yes,’ move on.
  • What are alumni saying about their educational experience? 
    • Like restaurant reviews, people with negative experiences are more likely to share their stories online than people who had a good or neutral experience. Even so, take all claims seriously and continue researching.

In fact, it’s a good idea to ask yourself these same questions about non-profit colleges, too. 

Final Thoughts

Non-profit and for-profit colleges have the same basic mission: educate students. And as many for-profit schools have cleaned up their acts in recent years, you can feel safer about them as an option for your college degree. However, no matter what kind of college you want to attend, pick a reputable school that aligns with your interests and goals.

So, set aside time to research schools, call admissions offices, and ask yourself – sometimes difficult – questions about what you really want out of your education. This way, you can pick the best school for you.

Good luck. ☺️

On Academic Honesty

When news of the college admissions scandal broke the other day, I was both surprised and not. For decades, wealthy parents have paid huge sums to buy their children’s way into elite universities. But instead of the normal quid pro quo (e.g., “You buy us a building, and we’ll let your kid into our school.”), this latest scandal was pure fraud that involved bribes and dishonesty among hundreds of people. From parents to test proctors to psychiatrists to coaches, it seems that no one’s hands are clean.

After researching the scandal inside and out, I wondered: If this news broke when I was a high school upperclassman, what would I think? How would I react to the fact that an entire scheme had been concocted to undermine a system that already overwhelmingly favors the wealthy and well connected?

To say the least, I wouldn’t have a positive reaction. For that reason, I want to reach out to current high school upperclassmen, the people applying to the schools caught up in this scandal (I have no doubt that more complicit schools and individuals will come to light in the coming days. That’s what happens with scandals – they just get bigger.)

What Honesty Is

Today I am going to give you two examinations, one in trigonometry and one in honesty. I hope you will pass them both, but if you must fail one, let it be trigonometry, for there are many good [people] in this world today who cannot pass an examination in trigonometry, but there are no good [people] in the world who cannot pass an examination in honesty.

– Madison Sarratt (1891-1978), dean, Vanderbilt University

 

As a Vanderbilt undergraduate, I passed this quote just about every day. It’s posted outside the Sarratt Student Center in the middle of campus. If you walked through the doors next to it, you’d be greeted by four massive framed documents: the signatures of every undergraduate student, a contract to abide by the university’s rules regarding academic honesty.

Honesty is a lesson most of us learn as children, and it’s a shame that some college students do not know it. It’s a greater shame that in this most recent scandal, it was the parents at fault. Did their children, many of whom took spots from more deserving applicants, know what was going on? We might never find out. Should they be asked to leave? That’s not my call, and I’m not sure what my decision would be if I were a dean.

Takeaways 

One thing I don’t want you to take away from this scandal is that since the rich and influential were trying to buy their children’s way into elite schools, you should only pursue elite schools during the college admissions process. To the people who broke the law, these schools are nothing more than status symbols. “Hey, my kid got into USC. Isn’t she so smart? Aren’t I a great parent?”

We at myKlovr believe that every student who aspires to attend college should apply to schools where they can best excel regardless of their parents’ wealth, fame, or political influence. Families from all socioeconomic backgrounds can afford our services, none of which go against Madison Sarratt’s century-old message about honesty. Finally, unlike the scandal’s ringleader, we cannot guarantee that you will attend your top-choice school. We utilize artificial intelligence and data science to provide personalized college counseling and the very best tools and resources to help students maximize their chances of college admissions. However, if you do not attend a college within your projected college tier, we will refund your subscription fee. That’s our guarantee, one we stand by with pride.

Final Thoughts

To the college-bound young men and women reading this, let me reiterate a very important fact: college is still worth it. Others’ lying, bribing, and cheating does not devalue the pride you feel after getting into a top school, earning a good grade on a test, or working your hardest to achieve the life you want.

Increasing Your Scholarship Chances

When I was a kid, I loved watching game shows. I don’t remember the particular show, but once in a while, a contestant would enter a phone booth-sized box with transparent plastic walls. The host would turn on a fan attached to the booth and money would start flying around. The contestant would have 30 seconds to catch as much as she could before the fan stopped and the remaining bills fell back to the floor. 

College scholarships work pretty much the same way. As a high school upperclassman, you have a set amount of time to research and apply to college scholarships. The money may not be flying in front of your eyes, but trust me, millions of dollars are out there for the taking. You just need to reach out and grab it.  

How do you get this money before the timer buzzes? It’s simple. You have to have a plan going in. 

1. Start Early

In other words, the moment you start your junior year (or sooner depending on how ambitious you are), you should start researching scholarship opportunities that match your interests, background, etc. There are plenty of scholarships that are a perfect fit for you, but there are also plenty of others where you have no chance or are ineligible.  

The sooner you start creating ‘yes,’ ‘maybe,’ and ‘nope’ scholarship piles, the sooner you can start preparing your application portfolios. 

2. Keep Up Those Grades and Test Scores

As scholarships are a merit-based form of financial aid (Grants are need based.), the first thing scholarship committees look at are your grades and test scores. In fact, many scholarships will not consider your application if you do not meet their GPA or test score cutoffs. In other words, good grades and scores are your ‘foot in the door’; receiving the scholarship is far from guaranteed, but the scholarship committee will take your application seriously. The same statement is true for every college to which you apply. 

Last, but certainly not least, good grades and scores may lead to automatic scholarships (e.g., lottery scholarships) if you attend school in-state.  

3. Choose an Extracurricular Activity and Stick With It

If you have the grades and scores, you can further improve your scholarships chances by showing your commitment to extracurricular activities. In other words, competitive scholarship applicants participate in 1-2 extracurriculars for a least three years of high school. Long-term extracurriculars show your dedication. Also, if you spend enough time in one activity, you can take on a leadership role. 

Scholarship committees love awarding money to leaders. 

4. Volunteer

There are plenty of scholarships exclusive to high school students who volunteer in their communities. No matter what kind of volunteering you perform, keep in mind my tips for extracurricular activities. The longer you do it, the better odds you have of receiving a scholarship. The same is true for leadership positions or times when you took charge (e.g., You create a new volunteering club.). 

5. Get Feedback on Essays and Other Application Materials

Just about every scholarship asks for an essay. What this means is that no matter how excellent your academic or extracurricular accomplishments, submitting a poorly written essay will dramatically reduce your scholarship odds. 

It’s time to reach out to trusted adults, people who can provide honest feedback on your first draft(s). Take their input and run with it. Even if you’re lightyears ahead of your peers in terms of your writing ability, everyone needs feedback. The same advice goes if you’re submitting supplementary materials (e.g., an art portfolio). And when scholarship dollars are on the line, you should do everything possible to stand above the crowd of applicants. 

6. Partner with Financial Advisers

It’s your job to research and apply to scholarships, but there is much you can’t do alone. For example, you have to have an honest discussion with your family about how much they can or are willing to contribute to your college education. 

After that, you, with your family’s help, should research professionals that can advise you about the best way to cover college expenses after scholarships. Financial advisers can be a boon, but they’re usually pricy…but not for myKlovr subscribers.

myKlovr is proud to announce its partnership with Financial Fitness Group (FFG). myKlovr subscribers and their families receive “a dedicated library of content on topics such as education and employment, saving and paying for college, tuition plans, managing student loans and more.” The moment you sign up for myKlovr, review FFG’s advice right away to learn more about the best ways to ensure that you leave college debt free.

Final Thoughts

Like the truth, the money is out there. It’ll be a lot of work on your end, but I hope that with your parents, teachers, and FFG’s help, you can apply to the scholarships where you have the best shot. 

Good luck!

Dealing with Rejection

Valentine’s Day was earlier this month, and for a lot of teenagers, it was a hard lesson in how rejection stinks. Rejection is a gut punch followed by a lingering sadness that sometimes feels like it’ll last forever and a day.

Romantic rejection isn’t the only kind. In a few weeks, hundreds of thousands of high school seniors across the country will receive the ‘thin envelope’ from their top choice college or university. “We regret to inform you that…” That’s about as far as the rejected applicant gets before the letter slips from their hands or they tear it up.

If you’re a high school senior waiting to hear back from your dream college, it’s okay to keep your hopes up in these weeks before April 1st. If you submitted a strong application portfolio, you have a good chance. By all means, fantasize of receiving an admission packet and attending the school of your dreams.

However…

Now is the time to prepare for how you’ll react in case the ‘thin envelope’ should arrive in your physical or digital mailbox. Over the next few paragraphs, we’ll discuss how planning in advance can lessen the blow and get you back on track as soon as possible.

Accept Your Feelings

In the first 24 hours after you receive a college rejection, you may feel angry, sad, frustrated, or numb. It’s normal to feel all of these things at once.

Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

Anyway, it’s perfectly okay to feel this way, and there’s no shame in reacting however your mind is programmed to do so. If you want to show a brave face to family or friends, okay. But when you’re by yourself, just let it out. Scream, cry, rage…just don’t hurt yourself or others. 

Don’t Overanalyze It

You’ll never know why a school rejected you. You already know this fact, but if rejection should come, you’ll likely spend days wondering why it happened. Was my ACT score too low? Were my extracurriculars not impressive enough? Was….And the cycle goes around and around.

If you’re a competitive applicant, here’s the simple truth about why you didn’t get into your dream school: there just wasn’t enough room for you. It’s simple math. Too many applicants. Not enough seats.

Never forget that you were worthy. Unfortunately, so were thousands upon thousands of other applicants.

Concentrate on the Acceptances You’ve Received (or Outstanding Applications)

If your dream college should reject you, try focusing on the bigger picture. Have you received acceptances from other colleges or are waiting to receive a decision? If the answer is ‘yes’ to either part of this question, that’s what you should focus on. Either you already have a ‘bird in the hand,’ or there’s still hope. Both are positives.  

Final Thoughts

I still remember the day that my first-choice college (University of Chicago) rejected me. It was a Thursday afternoon, and I discovered the thin envelope in the mailbox. I was sad, my parents were sad for me, and I spent Friday moping around school. On Saturday I was still sad…until I opened the mailbox again and found a fat First Class envelope addressed to me, an acceptance packet from Vanderbilt University. I was ecstatic, and my mom cried with joy.

As I think back on that emotional whirlwind of a weekend, the Vanderbilt acceptance still makes me happy, but the University of Chicago rejection no longer makes me sad.

Don’t fear rejection, dear readers. Sadness fades, and wherever you attend college, I’m sure you’ll do great things. 

Are Liberal Arts Educations Worth It Anymore?

I love playing pool, and whenever I see an empty table, I rack em’ up and start shooting. The last time this happened was during a sunny October weekend in Los Angeles. As I sank shots, my two friends – we were having a mini college reunion — stood a few feet away admiring an impressive selection of video game consoles: everything from Atari 2600 to PS4, all of them attached to a massive flat-panel TV. The ‘game room’ was full of other fun distractions: guitars, a drum set, and even a large collection of board games.

I felt a little bewildered. The whole building was full of similar amenities: coolers stuffed with complimentary snacks and drinks, a gourmet dining hall, and comfortable seating areas where people could socialize. Heck, even the bathrooms were stocked peppermints and mouth wash.

Being Los Angeles, you’d think my friends and I had made it into some exclusive club, the kind where bouncers make you wait for hours before getting inside. But no, to figure out where we were, all you would have to do is read what was printed on the pool table’s green felt:

Google L.A. 

Yep, one of my college buddies was giving me and another friend a tour of where he had worked since we graduated college in 2008. 

After seeing all those perks first hand, I must admit that for a moment I doubted whether earning a bachelor’s in East Asian Studies and a master’s in Teaching had been the right decision for my college education. Are liberal arts educations worth it anymore when it seems that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics) careers offer the highest salaries and perks?

After thinking it over, I came to the realization that a liberal arts education is still worth it. Allow me to convince you why. 

STEM Isn’t for Everyone

Think back to when you were in elementary school. What were your favorite subjects? Are the same subjects your favorites now? Probably not.

Children and adolescents’ interests change over time. And as our interests and passions are such personal things, forcing STEM upon students doesn’t work. When I was a teacher, we tried to have the school take part in the Hour of Code. Long story short: it backfired. A lot of students just weren’t into it. 

If you also fall into the ‘just weren’t into it’ category, too, that STEM isn’t your cup of tea, don’t beat yourself up. Don’t force yourself to commit to a college major or career path that, even though you may be smart enough to succeed at it, you’d be miserable doing it for the rest of your life.

When it comes to selecting a college major and career, you shouldn’t ask yourself “What are my talents?” You should ask yourself “Which of my talents am I committed to improving?” You may not know right away, and that’s fine. It took me years to realize that I no matter what I studied or what job I did, I performed my best when work involved improving my skills as a writer.

If your passion and drive point towards liberal arts, then go for it. 

What You Gain From Liberal Arts Isn’t What You Learn in Class

Full disclosure: I’ve forgotten most of the actual content I learned in my college liberal arts classes. Gone are the Chinese dynasties, the antebellum South, etc. But sitting here now, typing these words, I am using my education in a way most 18-22-year-olds don’t recognize.

A liberal arts education provides you an extremely flexible skillset, one that employers still value highly in applicants. Yes, you need specific knowledge and skills to succeed in any career, but these same careers will also demand that you ‘upgrade’ your knowledge and skills over time. A liberal arts education prepares you to do just that.

There is one quote that perfectly explains just why a broad, liberal arts education is still so important. It was coined by an American who wore many hats throughout his career: naval officer, philosopher, inventor, engineer, and science fiction author.

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

-Robert A. Heinlein

Final Thoughts

Back to Google L.A. The three of us were the employee lounge, sitting in soft swivel chairs that looked right out of the bridge of the starship Enterprise. My friend was describing common interview questions Google asks applicants. I tried answering one but promptly shut my mouth after realizing that I had no idea what I was talking about. As my other friend took a shot at the same question, I studied the art on the walls and the nearby conference rooms; each room bore the name of a famous film set in L.A. I realized that even at Google, home of the world’s STEM titans, they still admire and respect the work performed by those who pursued liberal arts and other creative endeavors.

So, if Google believes that liberal arts are still worth it, maybe we all should believe that, too.

A Comprehensive Guide to Financial Aid

College sure is expensive. How expensive is it, you ask? Well, the four-year tuition at America’s priciest schools exceeds the nation’s median home price. Yep, some college degrees cost more than houses. Fear not; most colleges are nowhere as expensive, especially public schools where you qualify for in-state tuition. Even so, rising prices mean that in 2019, even ‘cheap’ schools put a financial strain on students and their families.

That’s why you need to spend a LONG TIME researching which school can give you the best bang for your tuition buck. But that’s another article.

Today, I want to talk with you about financial aid and paying for school. Your financial aid journey begins the moment you start researching colleges. Use the following steps to ensure that you can attend the best school at the lowest out-of-pocket price.

Talk to Your Family

Your first step involves determining what, if anything, your family will contribute to your college education. Money can be an awkward topic, but you need to have an honest conversation. The earlier you do this, the sooner you know how much money you need to raise through grants, scholarships, and/or loans.

Fill Out the FAFSA

No matter the amount of money your family has set aside for college, your first stop for financial aid begins with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA, a financial questionnaire, determines your eligibility for federal grants, loans, and work-study programs. You can learn more about each of these financial aid opportunities in later sections.

Take a minute to review some essential FAFSA information:

  • Application Deadlines: You can submit the FAFSA for the 2020-2021 academic year between October 1st, 2019 and June 30th, 2020. Of, course, the sooner you file the FAFSA, the sooner you receive your results.
  • Requirements: To apply, you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • File as Independent?: Certain applicants under the age of 24 can file as an independent, meaning that the FAFSA does not consider their parents’ finances when making its determination.
  • Materials: When you apply, you need you and/or your families tax returns for the previous year. You may need other records if your family has other investments such as stocks, a business, etc.
  • Determination: The FAFSA doesn’t say whether you do or do not qualify for financial aid. It merely reports how much you or your family can contribute to your education in the coming year. FAFSA calls this amount your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
    • What this means is that at some cheaper schools you may not qualify for aid, but at more expensive schools, you do.
  • Reapply: To qualify for aid under the FAFSA, you must reapply each year using a special FSA ID you receive when you first register. (Don’t lose this ID!)

Now that you know some FAFSA basics, let’s explore different types of financial aid. Each section begins with the kind of aid directly related to the FAFSA.

Research Scholarships & Grants

Federal Grants

If your EFC qualifies you for aid at your college, you may receive a Pell Grant, approximately $6,000. A Pell Grant can go towards any education expenses if there is money left over after you pay tuition, fees, and housing. You can receive a Pell Grant for up to six years if you remain FAFSA eligible.

State Scholarships & Grants

Does your state have a lottery? If so, it might use some of that money to sponsor a lottery scholarship or grant program that pays a portion of your college tuition as long as you attend college within the state. To qualify, you may need to earn a specific GPA or standardized test score. Also, after you start college, maintain good grades to ensure that your scholarship renews.

Even if your state does not have such a program, other financial incentives at the state level may qualify you for special aid. Check with your school’s guidance counselor to learn about opportunities.

College-Specific Scholarships & Grants

As you research colleges, pay close attention to the financial aid they provide eligible students. Schools with large endowments often award generous financial aid packages to students with financial need or those with excellent academic records.

Private Scholarships & Grants

Finally, we arrive at what may be your most significant scholarship and grant opportunity. Navigating scholarships may seem like a daunting task, but like your college search, the effort will have positive results.

If you need some help getting started, focus on subject-specific scholarships and grants, especially if you plan to major in a STEM-related field. Subject-specific scholarships limit the application pool, increasing your chances. They also give you the opportunity to highlight your passions and academic achievements.

When it comes to scholarships and grants, you may come across many scholarship/grant hybrids. These awards have both academic and financial requirements. Some scholarships in this category take applications only from members of a specific minority group.

Consider Work-Study Programs

Federal Work-Study

The FAFSA’s work-study program connects eligible students with part-time employment either on or off campus. This program caps the number of hours students work and imposes different rules for undergraduate and graduate students.

School Work-Study

Many schools offer similar work-study programs to help students pay for college. In these cases, students work part-time for their schools. Some schools reserve work-study programs for students with financial need, while others allow all interested students to participate. In some cases, reimbursement may come in the form of tuition reduction or a meal plan. In these cases, students do not receive a traditional paycheck.

Be Wary of (Most) Loans

Federally Backed Loans

First off, there are two types of loans you may qualify for under the FAFSA:

  • Subsidized Loans: These loans do not incur interest during your time in school.
  • Unsubsidized Loans: These loans do incur interest during your time in school.

Subsidized loans are your best bet, as interest can add thousands of dollars to your loan and lengthen the time you need to pay it back. However, all federal loans typically offer better interest rates than private loans. The FAFSA also caps the amount of subsidized and unsubsidized loans you can take out each year. 

Private Loans

Finally, we arrive at private loans. There are hundreds of lending institutions out there willing to loan you tens of thousands of dollars. “Just sign here,” they say, no doubt like the Devil bargaining for your immortal soul.

Okay, not all private lenders are the Devil, but private loans are – without a doubt – the riskiest form of financial aid that a college student can use. First off, student loans, even the FAFSA ones, never go away, even if students declare bankruptcy later in life. Also, private lenders typically loan much larger sums than federally-backed loans, meaning that young students can rack up massive amounts of debt in a short amount of time.

My advice: be wary of private loans and use them as a last resort.

Learn More About Military Service

Are you thinking about joining the military after high school? If you serve, you qualify for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. In a nutshell, military personnel and veterans with at least 30 days of active duty service receive some tuition benefits. These benefits max out after three years of service. Other benefits include housing allowances and tuition discounts for spouses and children. The law is complex, and many stipulations apply.

Joining the military is not a light decision. Weigh your options carefully and discuss them with adults you trust.

Final Thoughts

You are incredibly fortunate: you have thousands of financial aid opportunities at your fingertips! By starting work now, you can attend your dream college without incurring debt, setting you up for financial, professional, and personal success later in life.

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