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Student Loans and You

I want you to imagine $1,560,000,000,000 – 1.56 TRILLION dollars. That’s approximately the annual GDP of Russia. With that amount of money, you could buy everything Thailand, Iran, and Austria make in a year and still have enough left over to purchase the entire NFL.

That massive pile of cash also represents the student loan debt Americans held in 2019.

Student loans are a serious business, and many Americans are struggling to pay them back. As this is an election year, you’ve probably heard candidates talk about their proposals to address this pressing issue.

In this article, we’ll discuss some student loan basics, as well as how myKlovr is trying to make the process easier and safer for users like you.

When to Consider Student Loans

Out of all the ways to pay for college, you should consider student loans as your last resort. Now, don’t get me wrong. Student loans, like credit cards, aren’t inherently evil or wicked. It’s just that, in general, it’s incredibly easy for young Americans to get in way over their heads with debt. Entire books have been written on this topic, so I’ll spare you the details.

Before we tackle student loans, let’s explore some of the – mostly – risk-free alternatives to funding your college education.

Scholarships

Pros: In my humble opinion, scholarships represent the absolute best way for you to pay for college. And with the internet, it’s easier than ever to search for and apply to them. Also, many colleges and universities award automatic merit-based scholarships to incoming students with an excellent high school GPA and outstanding ACT/SAT scores.

Cons: Like grants, scholarships have many stipulations that you must meet for them to renew. For example, a scholarship may require that you maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA every semester of college. For you, who likely earns excellent grades in high school, that requirement may not seem like a big deal. However, remember that college can throw you curveballs, and many students struggle their freshman year.

Grants

Pros: Grants, like scholarships, require no repayment. They’re literally free money. Also, too, many schools award them to eligible students automatically.

Cons: Most grants are need-based, meaning that if your parents make over a certain amount of money, you don’t qualify even if your parents do not intend to contribute one red cent to your college education.

The Bank of Mom and Dad

Pros: Who doesn’t love the Bank of Mom and Dad? I did. But why did I put it at the bottom of this list? Well, the Bank of Mom and Dad will be most likely to chip in if you can show them you’ve already earned some scholarships and grants. Also, the less they have to help you out, the more likely they are to do so. They love you and all, but they also have a mortgage, need a new carpet, and, you know, dad’s 401(k) just took a hit…

Cons: Money issues rank at the top of the list of things that families fight over. And the more your parents contribute to your education, the more influence they have over you. If they want you to be a doctor or lawyer, and you want to be one, too, that’s cool. But let’s say you want to change your major to something…less financially lucrative. That could cause some serious friction between you and your folks.

Now that we’ve discussed the best ways to pay for college without loans, let’s get into debt!

What Types of Loans Are There?

Just like in the previous section, I’ve listed loan types by my personal preference. In other words, start at the top and work your way down.

Federally Subsidized

As the name suggests, federally subsidized loans are those the federal government provides college students. Both subsidized and unsubsidized loans have annual limits, meaning you can only borrow so much money each year. Also, federal loans have much lower interest rates than private loans.

So why are subsidized loans at the top of this list? One reason – interest does not start accruing until you graduate. This simple fact can save you thousands of dollars down the road.

Federally Unsubsidized

Once you exhaust federally subsidized loans, you may need to take out some unsubsidized loans. Yes, the interest will start compounding from day one, but they pose less risk than…

Private

Starting about 20 years ago, skyrocketing tuition rates made it impossible for many college students to fund their education with only scholarships, grants, and federal loans. The private market jumped in to fill the gap – easy credit with high-interest rates attached.

Then the Great Recession happened.

After 2009, the private student loan market contracted significantly, and today, most private loans require a co-signer (e.g., your parents) who is also legally responsible for paying back the loan. Fortunately for you, most private loans in 2020 are significantly less predatory than they were pre-2009. However, higher interest rates mean that you will end up paying more over time.

Who Can Help Me Choose the Right Loan(s)?

As private loans are where many college students get into financial trouble, we at myKlovr want to provide you with tools that can help you explore private loan options that best fit your needs. That’s why we’ve partnered with GradFin, a financial services company that works with college students and graduates to both select the right loans and create a payment plan that promotes long-term financial stability.

In the near future, myKlovr users will be able to take advantage of GradFin’s many services, including:

  • Loan searching
  • Refinancing
  • Debt forgiveness

Throughout the process, GradFin experts work with users one-on-one to create a bespoke plan that features loans with the lowest interest rates.

Additionally, GradFin will offer its services to myKlovr users at no additional cost.

Final Thoughts

As we wrap up, let’s take a moment to consider how much debt is too much debt.

Simple Answer: It depends on you.

Complex Answer: As you begin exploring student loans, consider your academic and career goals. Is the job market that aligns with your intended major soft right now? Are average salaries lower than you expected? If the answer to either question is ‘yes,’ you may want to consider cheaper colleges and universities.

Finally, no matter which school you attend, myKlovr and GradFin will help you make the right decisions regarding your academic and financial future.

5 Books For Parents of First-Year College Students

As a parent, the college application process can be as hectic for you as it is for your child. You get caught up in a whirl-wind of campus visits, FAFSA applications, and deadlines. If this is your first time, you seek the advice of other parents, books, podcasts, and anyone else that can help you survive the chaos that can be college admissions. However, throughout it all, what gets forgotten is what happens when the chaos is over. What do you do when your child actually goes off to college?

You spend so much time focusing on getting them into college that you rarely take the time to prepare for the day when they leave home. This can leave many parents unsure of what to do and how to act. What should I do with all of this newfound free time? How often should I call my child? Will they know how to survive without me? It’s a challenging time for any parent and one that should be taken seriously. No matter where your child is in the college process, here are five books aimed to prepare you for the next step in your relationship with your new college student child.

Letting Go: A Parent’s Guide To Understanding The College Years
By Karen Levin Coburn

Overview

Letting Go has been providing parents guidance and advice for well over a decade. This book focuses on how to support your new college student on an emotional and social level. It is packed with stories from former college students and parents who speak openly about the different issues and challenges they had to overcome. Author Karen Coburn guides parents through difficult transitional challenges, including how to encourage independence, when it’s okay to intervene, what kinds of emotions your child will be facing, and much more.

How It Can Benefit You

To get the most out of this book, it’s beneficial to read it before your child actually leaves for college. As you read it, take notes about what challenges mentioned in the book might be an issue for your child. Then, set aside time to discuss the book with them. Have an open conversation about how they are feeling about being independent and if they understand the responsibilities they are being entrusted with. This might be the time to set ground rules such as how often they will call home to ensure you are giving them enough space.

The Naked Roommate: For Parents Only
By Harlan Cohen

Overview

The Naked Roommate is a funny and laid back guide for parents to prepare for the new world that their kids are about to enter. Written by Harlan Cohen, a trusted guru of all things college, this book is designed to collect and deliver fact-based advice to any parent of a first-year college student. This book is a collection of stats and stories from parents, students, and experts across the country. It covers a wide variety of topics such as preparing the summer before, keeping in touch, going to class, financial advice, dealing with roommates, handling homesicknesses, and so much more.

How It Can Benefit You

This book will prepare you for all the surprises you are in store as the parent of a college student. Again, this type of book should be read months before your child leaves for school. If something in the book concerns you, then you should raise it with your child. Otherwise, at least you have a reference guide on how to deal with the majority of issues that may arise during their four years away at school. 

Secrets of a Financial Aid Pro
By Jodi Okun

Overview

It seems like almost every day we read something about the student loan debt problem in this country. Several candidates for President over the years have promised to get this issue under control, and even a few have pledged to eliminate the debt entirely. In her best selling book, Jodi Okun tackles the issue head-on in a way that can help you prevent the issue before even starts. Jodi has decades of experience in the arena of financial aide and shares her sound and practical advice with you in this book.

How It Can Benefit You

Navigating financial aid can be complicated for any parent and downright overwhelming for any student. This book can help answer your questions and ensure you are making the right choices before and during your child’s college years. Before you make any decisions, read this book and highlight anything you don’t understand. This way, you can come up with specific questions to ask your family, friends, or financial advisor and get the specific advice you need.

From Mom To Me Again
By Melissa Shultz

Overview

As a parent, you spend nearly two decades being Mom or Dad to your child. That is a full-time job with a ton of responsibilities. For most, it keeps them so busy that it defines their existence and gives them their purpose. Then, their child goes off to school, and everything changes. This book tells the story of how one Mom dealt with these issues and reinvented herself to move on with her life.

How It Can Benefit You

As we mentioned earlier, the process of applying to college revolves solely around the child. However, the aftermath significantly impacts the parent as well. Adjusting to an empty home for the first time is not something to take lightly. You owe it to yourself to prepare for what life will be like after your child leaves for college. This book can provide the guidance you are looking for that isn’t always found in your more traditional college-based books.

How To Raise An Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap
By Julie Lythcott-Haims

Overview

This book tackles the issue of helicopter parenting head-on. Author Julie-Lythcott Haims speaks openly about the damage of helicopter parenting by telling stories of her time as a student dean. This book is a collection of her conversations with admissions officers, educators, and employers as she explores the varying ways parents have meddled in their children’s lives and the adverse impact it had on their future. She also provides practical strategies to help parents allow their children to make their own mistakes and develop the skills necessary for success.

How It Can Benefit You

Admitting that you are guilty of being a helicopter or overbearing parent may be difficult. After all, you want what’s best for your child. However, intervening every time there is a problem, and ensuring they never have to endure failure is a recipe for disaster. Just listen to the conversations and stories Julie has had with those in the educational and corporate worlds. If you think this is something you are guilty of, you owe it to your child’s future to read this book and begin implementing its advice.

About Kyle

Kyle Grappone is an educational coach helping students prepare for the next steps in life.

How To Guide Your College-Bound Teen Through The Coronavirus Pandemic

A lot has changed since many states ordered a shelter in place in early April of this year. Millions of students have found themselves sitting at home, wondering how this global pandemic is going to impact their future plans. While there is very little one can do about the situation we find ourselves in, there is plenty that both students and parents can do to make the best of it.

Even if you are working from home, you are saving over an hour of time since you no longer need to commute. Your child may be learning online, but they are no longer attending after school activities. You as a parent are no longer running around, shuffling kids to sports, making lunches, going shopping and running around like your hair is on fire. The world has slowed to a crawl. It’s important to use this extra time wisely and talk to your college-bound teen about their future.

Now that you are both finally home at the same time, take a moment to sit down with your child and have a conversation about college and their future plans. We move so fast through life that we often view everything as an obstacle we have to overcome. We consider applying to college like a series of challenges that need to be completed as quickly as possible. We rarely stop to actually examine what we are doing and why we are doing it.

Ask your son or daughter how they are feeling about the college application process. What has them concerned or confused? You may learn that they have a serious concern about writing their essay or filing for financial aid. Now that you are aware of it, you can use your newly found free time to explore resources such as MyKlovr’s Financial Readiness section or a YouTube video series on writing college essays. The important thing is that you conquer this obstacle together before it becomes a more significant issue.

Next, talk about the colleges they are considering applying too. Challenge your child to explain why each college is on their list. This is not meant to be negative but rather to have an open conversation about what they are looking for in a school. You can talk about the importance of things like internships, alumni networks, tuition costs, and campus size. If your kid is struggling to create a list of schools, our College Finder service will work with them to create the ideal list based on their interests, qualifications, and needs.

As we’ve covered in past blog posts, there are a number of things that you may know a lot about, but your kids will not. This is the perfect opportunity to dispense that wisdom and guide them in the right direction. For example, many of the grads I speak to tell me they were basically clueless when it comes to student loans. They had no idea how they worked or how much money they would be paying back per month after graduation. Be sure to sit down with your children and discuss these things before they start applying for loans.

The chances are that this pandemic has canceled at least one if not several college visits your student was planning to attend. Encourage them to visit the school’s website and YouTube channel and find any virtual tours they can check out. Then, visit sections on the website like student activities, student life, campus activities, and residence life to learn more about the various events they hold on campus throughout the year. Lastly, visit the school’s social media pages to get an idea of what life is like on campus. It will not deliver the full picture that a campus tour would, but at least it is something that will yield information about what it might be like to attend that school.

Lastly, you should encourage your child to use this time to do their own research once this particular conversation is over. If they haven’t done so already, I highly suggest all high school students create a LinkedIn profile. Next, use the search bar to find alumni that have graduated from that school. Then, send them a private message and ask questions about the college such as what they liked, didn’t like, what they studied, and if they would do it all over again if given a chance. You will find great value in their answers because, unlike college employees, they are not being paid by the school and have no reason to sugar coat anything.

In addition to alumni outreach, LinkedIn is perfect for connecting with working professionals. If your child has an idea of what career or industry they are interested in, they should seek out those who are already doing those jobs. Those are the people who can give you an idea of what that career is like and whether or not you will enjoy it. Encourage them to ask questions to learn more about their day to day responsibilities, what they studied in school, and what advice they have for someone just starting out.

This pandemic will be long and hard. It’s not fair that so many students have had their progress stalled, and their futures be thrown into question. Unfortunately, we can do very little but stay home and wait it out. However, what we do at home can make all the difference. Commit to having a conversation, or series of conversations, with your children about the importance of using this time wisely and preparing for the future. This way, when they look back on 2020 ten years from now, they will remember that it may have been a dark time, but it was also the start of something positive as well.

About Kyle

Kyle Grappone is an educational coach helping students prepare for the next steps in life.

Covid-19 and the High-School Crisis – A Path Forward in Unfortunate Times

The Covid-19 pandemic poses a tremendous problem for seniors everywhere. With no real warning, many seniors at the end of their high-school experience have seemingly and abruptly had their year ended. Prom’s all over the United States have been canceled. Athletes who worked their whole lives and were ready to take the “state championship” lost all possible hope of the win in a flash. Many schools are currently closed for two to three weeks, and that timeframe could likely be extended as the coronavirus cases go up. Some speculate that in some states, High-School Seniors may even miss their graduation ceremony, a right of passage for students everywhere. The Covid-19 crisis we face is a challenge on many fronts. Students bound for college or those that wish to go to college are faced with ACTs and SATs being canceled, and schools are rushing and struggling to assemble online education tools to try and bridge the gap between being closed for social isolation and to avoid a worse outspread in communities. While the Board of Education may grant emergency waivers for helping these seniors graduate in response to school closures and Covid-19, students are still left with an abrupt end to twelve years of planning.

Companies like Khan Academy and myKlovr have set up war rooms with their teams to strategize the ways that online technology can stop the widespread fear and pressure that parents and students are facing. Some parents are considering having their children repeat the year, while others are rushing to find solutions so that they can continue to grow and achieve their dreams while not be held back during these uncertain times. It isn’t only high-school seniors that are having challenges.  Children in 9-12 grades are all preparing for their future and with such an unprecedented incident, the idea that planning for future couldn’t be more important.  We know that our country will course correct as the Nation heeds the social distancing warnings, however this still remains.  In this time of reflection, we must consider how we plan for our future, and that includes the future of our children.

“We at myKlovr are removing all the stops for employers and associations to help their employees and members with high school-aged children plan for their future and continue the pursuit of higher education,” said CEO, Gustavo Dolfino, “We know that before the pandemic, this group of individuals faced incredible difficulties even trying to navigate all the steps it takes to get into a college that fits the needs of their children and their budget.”

The solution for all is to take a step back and look at all the options. MyKlovr provides students with step-by-step instructions, career assessments, and with over 50,000 participants already using the platform, it has proven data analytics and algorithms that will help kids understand where they are and what they are missing. Though Covid-19 has arisen, perhaps some optimists could find a silver lining with all this time off. Given the fact that 70% of high schools don’t even have a guidance counselor, with companies like myKlovr and its marketplace, students can spend the time they have off inputting some simple data to help them see where they are missing things that could get them into their reach college. Understanding exactly what coursework is required for a particular major is just one of the ways that myKlovr helps. The tool also explains what volunteer work would be appropriate, what grades need to be improved. It allows parents and their students to understand the various scholarships, grants, and financial aid options are out there. The tool enables this process for participants to complete a full assessment with a click of a button.

Those kids that need more help can get it with myKlovr. They can receive virtual tutoring and a “to-do list” of sorts that will help them organize their next steps to their future. The other important thing that myKlovr does for students is help them realize their career goals. Some individuals are not college-bound but may be more wired for a vocational trade. MyKlovr can help these individuals in the same way, reach their potential. Parents and their children need to be strategic about how they invest their money.

America’s workforce needs welders, truck drivers, electricians, and plumbers as much as we need doctors, teachers, and lawyers. Setting a student on the trajectory towards a traditional brick and mortar college when they should actually be getting an associate’s degree and working in a trade is not only a waste of funds but can weigh heavily on the student. With mental health issues on the rise, financial burdens and forced educational goals contribute to an already burdened society that our children are already facing. According to the World Health Organization, sixteen percent of adolescents aged 10-19 suffer from a mental health condition. Globally, suicide is one of the leading causes of death in 15-19-year-olds. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/adolescent-mental-health Add to these statistics on of the worlds most unprecedented pandemic to the mix of an already burdened group of adolescents, and it makes us realize we must address this crisis immediately.

Parents have a difficult task of raising kids in an all-digital world where cyberbullying is prevalent, cell phone and tablet use is at an all-time high among teens. The white noise of high-schoolers day-to-day is always going. By merely understanding solutions are out there to better plan, parents and their children can alleviate the stress of the unknown through simple tools.

Another big concern is that many Americans don’t have the money to put their kids through college. MyKlovr helps parents and kids not only navigate the funding for college; it helps them determine the best course of action for the planning towards a dream career. Many students have no idea what they want to be when they grow up. With 1.5 trillion dollars in student debt, it is incumbent on companies who provide benefits for parents to help them understand benefit offerings that give a clear path to the future. https://time.com/5662626/student-loans-repayment/ Employees today are searching for financial wellness tools to help alleviate the financial strain they have on their families. Having tools that help them and their children can take the weight of the world off their shoulders. This tool provides equitable opportunities for students going through the college admissions process. It doesn’t stop there.  Soon, Colleges in the U.S. will have an opportunity to recruit students that they’d never have seen before without the data we are providing.  They’ll find the perfect match for female mathematicians from socioeconomic backgrounds that they may have never seen due to lack of information and lack of communication. They’ll have a tool for recruiting athletes with certain grade point averages that they may have never seen due to lack of information.  As the process has become more competitive, this platform will allow students to truly differentiate themselves by the advice and counseling they receive from our virtual tool.  It will allow for a more personal look into prospective students and help see beyond grades into the tenacity of the heart of a child seeking admission.

There is only one clear path for helping our students now during a pandemic and when the country recovers from this crisis. That is taking a step back from the many roads that can lead to success and finding a solution that has removed all the pitfalls that lead to debt and poor outcomes. As our country recovers, as it always does, we should take this time to be diligent as employers and associations and provide tools that will help employees and members in times of peace and times of crisis.

5 Ways To Help Your Child Apply For College When You Never Went Yourself

In 2020, attending college is commonplace. In today’s world, a college diploma is required for the majority of careers out there. However, this was not always the case. Decades ago, thousands of students would graduate high school each year and enter the workforce. Most of these graduates went on to have stable careers and were able to start a family and build a beautiful life for themselves. That being said, what happens when the child of a parent who did not go to college decides they want to go.

When a parent is faced with a dilemma, they tend to lean on their experiences to get them through it. They may rely on life lessons they have learned when giving their child advice about a problem or the future. However, going to college is a unique, complicated, and lengthy process with many steps and obstacles along the way. If you, as a parent, never went to college, you may seem lost in your attempt to help your child as they apply to college themselves. Today, we are going to review five ways to help your child through the college process regardless of whether or not you went to yourself.

#1 – List Out The Skills You Do Have

The odds are good that your child is going to be overwhelmed by the entire college application process. The problem is, if you never went through it yourself, you may be overwhelmed too. You may be wondering how you could possibly dispense valuable advice on a topic you know nothing about it. The critical thing to remember is that while you may not know the ins and outs of college admissions, you do know how to tackle complicated problems.

Make a list of your own skills and how they could help your child. For example, if you are a highly organized person, then you can help your child do the same. Applying to college is all about paperwork and deadlines, and knowing how to stay organized can be the difference between getting in or getting rejected. Another skill that can be passed on is attention to detail. You can review these documents with your child to ensure nothing is missed. You can also be an extra set eyes on campus tours to make sure they are getting the full picture.

#2 – List Out The Topics You Need The Most Help On

Just because you never went to college does not mean you cannot be educated on the essential topics. The key thing is to list out what about applying to college you know the least about it. This way, you can spend your time gathering this information so you can give your child the best advice possible. Financial aid is a complicated topic that even college graduates who applied for it years ago are still confused about. Another topic that falls into this category could be going away to school or writing college application essays.

Whatever it is, understand you are not alone. MyKlovr offers several services that are designed to provide you with the information you need. The Financial Readiness section of our app was created to inform both students and parents of there financial options when exploring ways to pay for college. In addition, our Personalized Marketplace feature is your go-to place to find the services, resources, and answers to all of your questions.

#3 – Perform Research

One of the most common pieces of advice I give my student coaching clients is to perform as much research as possible about the colleges they are looking at. While they are researching things like internship options and campus sizes, you should be investigating the topics we listed above that you need more information on. There are several blogs dedicated to preparing students who are planning to attend college. This is where you can get tips about what to buy for a dorm room, questions to ask on-campus tours, and everything else your child will need to know.

Our College Finder feature was created to help conduct this type of research. We have compiled data and information on hundreds of colleges so you can make informed choices.

When your child chooses to look at a school, you can direct them to straight to our app. You may not have the answers they are looking for, but we do, and we will make sure we answer all of there questions.

#4 – Partner With Another Parent

Parents often go to each other for advice when raising their children. Applying to college should be no different. The chances are good that you know a parent who is either going through the process themselves or have been through it in the past. Reach out to them and ask for there help. Explain that you want to be there for your child but fear you may struggle because you never went through this process when you were younger.

If a fellow parent does agree to help you, be sure to make the most of it by asking specific questions. Go back to the list you made earlier about topics you were unsure of and write out questions you have. The parent may be able to give you the answers you seek and save you the time by not having to look it up. They may also be able to point you in the direction of any resources they have discovered or share lessons they have learned on what mistakes to avoid.

#5 – Be There For Support

As much as you want to be able to answer every question your child has, that is never going to be possible. What is possible is to be as supportive as possible during this complicated time in their lives. Even though you never went through it, try and remember that applying to college can be confusing and stressful. You may not be able to solve their problems immediately, but just being there to listen will be just as helpful.

Conclusion

Just because you never went to college doesn’t mean you are useless in your child’s pursuit of secondary education. You still a lot to offer your child and can be a valuable resource for them along the way. The key is to identify what you don’t know and seek out help from professionals, experts, and other parents. By following these five steps, you will be able to support and guide your child from application to acceptance. 

About Kyle

Kyle Grappone is an educational coach helping students prepare for the next steps in life.

 

aerial view of college campus

When Looking At Colleges, Your Kids Won’t Know To Ask These Questions Part 2

Last month, we started a conversation regarding what questions your kids won’t know to ask during their college application process. You can find part one of this series here. Today, we are continuing to focus on building out that list. As adults, we know a lot about the world our kids are going to enter. There are undoubtedly several things we wish we knew when we were younger. This is why it is imperative we stand by their side during this complicated process and ensure they are asking the right questions and gathering the right information. Here are three more questions that your child may not think to ask.

When Do I Have To Declare A Major

Most schools do not require incoming first-year students to declare a major on day one. For some students, this is an opportunity to keep their options open and learn more about the majors they are considering. On the other hand, some students know exactly what major they want to choose, and they are eager to get started. Regardless, once they begin classes, things might begin to change. 

As adults, we know this happens in all phases of life. We take a job or sign up for a class, and it’s not what we thought it would be. This type of knowledge comes from experiencing different situations over time. For a high school student, they are blissfully unaware that these types of scenarios unfortunately exist. Therefore, it is important they understand the school’s rules about declaring or switching a major.

For example, if the deadline is the end of freshman year, the student can take that time to understand the various options open to them. They can research what classes to take and what career paths are open to them. By assigning a due date, you are creating a sense of urgency. For students who have declared a major, it’s still essential they know the deadline to switch. They should still be using that time to confirm this is what they want to pursue. If they change their mind, they can avoid the nightmare scenario of missing the deadline and being stuck taking courses they don’t like heading for a career that is no longer their aim.

The College Finder section on the MyKlovr app can come in handy when asking questions like this. This service will provide the answers you are looking for regarding which schools require students to declare a major and when. If your student feels they may change their mind after starting courses, then you can find schools that allow them to switch majors during or after their sophomore year. This will enable you to focus on specific schools and skip the ones that do not fit your needs.

Is Housing Guaranteed All Four Years?

The idea of living on your own is thrilling for any high school-aged student. Their mind races with ideas of how to decorate the dorm room and what their future roommate might be like. When on tour, the guide will undoubtedly show you the freshman dorms. Yet, not every school guarantees campus housing for all four years. Some schools will tell you flat out that they do not have room for juniors and seniors to live on campus. This is something that many graduates have told me surprised them after they started their freshman year.

This is an important question you should encourage your student to ask. If the answer is no, and you will need to start finding housing starting your junior year, you will want to explore the surrounding area and ensure it is somewhere they will want to live. An excellent follow-up question would be, what role does the school play in finding your housing? Do they have relationships with local apartment companies, or is it every student for themselves? This is a factor to take into consideration when comparing your options and preparing to choose a school.

On this topic, the Custom Recommendations section can produce the information you are looking for. If you only want to look at schools that guarantee housing for at least three years, then this service will provide a list to fit those criteria. As long as your student understands the importance of this question and the answer, the myKlovr app can ensure you spend time looking at schools that will fit this need.

What Is Your Internship Process?

The number one thing employers look for experience. Hiring someone fresh out of school is a gamble for any company. The graduate has never worked full time and does not yet have a proven track record of being a valuable employee. Furthermore, entry-level jobs see hundreds of applicants at once. For hiring managers, they have to sift through all of these resumes that often look very similar. These applicants come from similar schools and have the same degrees. How does a student stand out and win that first job?

The key is internships. Being an intern means you are getting that real-world experience that companies are looking for. It is an opportunity to learn how to act in a workplace and ask questions about how to be a valuable employee and team contributor. Internships can also help your resume stand out. If a hiring manager sees you have already done some of the things that the role in question requires of you, they are much more likely to bring you in for an interview.

Every college will claim they can help you get an internship. However, you deserve to know what the exact process is. Will the career center sit down with you and help you find internships that will be beneficial? Is there a portal that you can log into and review the different open internships? How many companies does the college partner with and routinely send interns to? There has to be a reliable process in place, or your chances of landing a quality internship will diminish. Colleges that can lay out out a plan to help you achieve a quality internship should be ranked significantly higher than the ones that can’t.

Conclusion

When it comes to college, your child will be both excited and overwhelmed. They will also be without the knowledge that comes with getting older and living through various life experiences. You owe it to your kids to ask the questions they won’t think about asking. This is crucial information they are going to be happy they had as they choose a college and move forward in life.

About Kyle

Kyle Grappone is an educational coach helping students prepare for the next steps in life.

When Looking At Colleges, Your Kids Won’t Know To Ask These Questions Part 1

As a parent, if your child is applying to college, you are basically applying as well. The application process is long and complicated, with several steps, questions, and deadlines along the way. As a student coach, I am always advocating that students take on more responsibility as they get older. They should spearhead the task of getting into college because it is their future at stake. However, there is only so much a student will know before starting the process.

This is where you, the parent, play a pivotal role. Managing the whole process from end to end is not a reasonable solution. You will get overwhelmed, and your child will become disinterested. Plus, this robs them of the opportunity to grow and mature as a person and student. Instead, think about the knowledge you have gained over the years. What questions do you wish you would have asked when you were their age. Based on research, and my experience as a youth coach and speaker. This is part 1 of my list of questions that your kids might not think to ask when looking at colleges.

Will all my classes be on one campus?

When we as humans experience something new and impressive, we become star-struck and maybe even overwhelmed. This is what tends to happen when a high school student tours a campus for the first time. They are preoccupied with looking at the buildings, watching the students, and taking in all the facts and figures that are being thrown at them. This where the parent can step in and ask questions on their behalf.

It’s essential to know how far away their classes will be from each other. If everything is within walking distance, as is the case at smaller schools, then they are free to create their schedule as they want. There is no reason to worry about taking two classes back to back. However, if the college has several campuses and requires students to take a bus to travel back and forth, this could cause an issue. Students might be unable to take certain classes because they won’t make it on time.

If a school has multiple campuses, it’s important to know which majors host their courses on which one. For example, let’s say the majority of business courses take place on Campus A. If today’s tour only covers Campus B, then you are not getting the full picture of the school. The beauty and functionality of campus are pointless if you won’t be spending time on it. You want to make sure you take a tour of the campus you will be spending the most time at.

Lastly, multiple campuses mean additional transportation. For students who are used to spending an entire day in one building, the idea of mastering a bus schedule, on top of a new school, new friends, a new town might be too much to take. I have spoken to several graduates over the years who talked about being unable to adjust and having to transfer home as a result.

Speak with your child about what they need to succeed, including class location. Once you determine this, you can work with MyKlovr’s Custom Recommendations section and find colleges that fit this need. This allows you to spend time looking at the right colleges and avoid wasting time at the wrongs ones.

Do You Have An Alumni Network?

The idea of college itself can be an overwhelming proposition. High school students are thinking about things like the SATs, essays, campus visits, major, living away from home, and amongst other things. Essential items such as career prospects and applying to jobs might be pushed to the back of their minds simply because they are perceived to be years away. However, you, as a parent, are aware of how quickly time flies by.

You are also aware of how competitive the job market can be and the importance of having an advantage when applying. While your child is looking at classes, you can be thinking about what comes after college. Be sure to enquire regarding the school’s alumni network. A good school will have relationships with graduates and pipeline that allows new grads to apply to companies where alumni currently work. By showing that they have a job placement partnership with past students, they are proving that they understand the importance of employment after graduation.

MyKlovr’s College Finder function can help you in your research. This function allows you to review various schools for what they offer, including things like alumni relations, job placement, career readiness, and much more. Any school you are giving serious thought to should be providing these types of services to your child.

Do You Partner With Any Local Businesses?

This last question for today’s list also falls in line with career readiness. As we covered earlier, you are much more aware of how the corporate world works because you have worked in it. As you already know, companies will always prefer a candidate with experience if they are going to spend time and resources on a new employee they want proof that they have performed like a valuable member of a team before.

The best way to gain experience as a college student is to serve in one, if not several, internships. The college your child attends must emphasize placing their students into these types of opportunities. Be sure to ask questions about how the school’s career center finds internships for the students. Specifically, what kinds of partnerships do they have with local businesses. It’s one thing to have a platform that collects and presents open internships, but a good school will have partnerships with companies and a pipeline for placing students each semester.

Once again, the College Finder function can help here. When reviewing schools, be sure to check out the career center and internships. See what past students and graduates have to say about the opportunities that were open to them. Doing this type of research now will be invaluable in the future as your child’s list of schools continues to grow.

Conclusion

This was part 1 of my list of questions that your kids won’t think to ask. Your greatest asset when helping your child is the knowledge and experience you have gained over the years. It’s vital that they take responsibility, but it’s okay to ask questions that will help their choice. These questions were chosen based on the research I have done over the past few years. We will continue to release more questions in this series throughout the year.

About Kyle

Kyle Grappone is an educational coach helping students prepare for the next steps in life.

3 Ways To Use Holiday Break To Help Your Kid Plan for College

There comes a time in every parent’s life where their child reaches a certain age, and it becomes time to start looking at colleges. It is an extraordinary and exciting time in the life of not only the teenager but also the parents as they prepare to guide their kids through this critical and complicated process. The problem is, just because it is time to look at colleges doesn’t mean you magically get more time in the day to do so.

Your free time does not expand simply because your child is now 16 and ready to start researching schools. Most parents have jam-packed days, including their day job, taking care of a house, and tending to their other children who are not on the college hunt. For the typical parent, the idea of adding a complicated task like keeping up with college admissions could seem flat out impossible.

Unfortunately, this is what I hear when I talk to college graduates about their application process. So many grads regret not putting in enough time and conducting enough research and for many, applying to colleges messy and chaotic. The result being they ended up going to schools that weren’t a great fit and taking out student loans they didn’t understand.

The holiday break is right around the corner. This is a rare time where tasks and responsibilities are at an all-time low for the year. You must use this free time to begin the college planning process. You should be sitting down with your child and having critical conversations without the distractions of the typical everyday life. It is also a chance to map out your plan of attack and determining how you are going to fit this crucial process into your daily life.

#1 – Establish the importance of what is coming next

The common theme across all of my research is that today’s graduates are in the state they are in because they did not understand what was coming next. As previously mentioned, the majority of the grads I interviewed admit they did not put enough time and research into their college search. They ended up choosing a few colleges based on family suggestions or location, and that is where they applied to. It is imperative to have a conversation with your students to help them understand the importance of this process.

A student cannot have the mindset that college application tasks are mundane nuances that are meant to be completed as fast as possible. This is serious stuff and needs to be treated as such. It is time to start becoming an adult and caring about their future without being nagged about it. You can motivate your student to develop this mindset by asking them what they are interested in and passionate about. If you can find ways to connect their passion to a future career, they will begin to be excited about the prospects of college.

This is also a time to explain to them what the real world is like and what will be expected of them. In most of my keynote speeches, I show a slide that outlines how much time you spend at work. This is a solid wake up call for those who do not fully understand how much time, energy, and resources go into your career. By helping your student to understand what’s coming next, it will give them the motivation they need to prepare for their future.

The Holistic Student Planner section on the MyKlovr application is the perfect support tool for this conversation. MyKlovr’s virtual counselor helps students begin building a comprehensive student portfolio. It helps the students see the big picture regarding their personal stories. By the end of there college preparation journey, this profile becomes there showcase college application portfolio.

#2 – Determine how you are paying for college

This is an uncomfortable conversation. As a parent, you want to give you kids everything they want and more than what you had. Graduates, I speak to often talk about never having this conversation. As a parent, you probably are trying to avoid it because you are afraid your child will get discouraged or not try to apply to their dream school.

Based on my research, I highly advise you take this break from school to figure out how much if any, financial aid you are prepared to provide to your child. It is much better to do this now than have them choose a school they cannot afford and be disappointed. Once you determine the amount of money you can offer, you can begin exploring financial aid options. This allows you to set a price range before you start looking at college.

The number one regret of graduates I speak to does not understand the loans they signed up for. Many students applied for the amount they needed without understanding how loans worked or how much they would be required to pay back. Make sure your child understands the basics of a loan and what their financial responsibility will be based on how much money they borrow.

Again, you do not have to tackle this alone, thanks to the Financial Readiness service that MyKlovr offers. This service provides valuable insight into the many financing options that are open to future college students. Once you determine your price range and your student has a full understanding of how loans work, they can use this valuable tool to select the right option for your family.

#3 – Map out key milestones and commit to weekly check-ins

Everything cannot be accomplished in just one week. The college application process is long and includes many time-sensitive milestones along the way. Take the time to map out these milestones and markdown essential dates. For tasks that do not have hard deadlines, assign your deadlines to them. This will ensure that they do not fall through the cracks. Lastly, by creating a roadmap for your journey, you will never have to worry if something is being missed.

However, like most new year’s resolutions, they will fade unless you keep working at them. This is why you should schedule 30-60 minutes on the same day at the same time each week to review your student’s progress. The meeting can cover two main topics: what was accomplished last week and what needs to be started/finished this week. This ensures that you hit every one of your milestones on time. It also ensures that each milestone is given the time and attention it deserves.

Once again, you do not have to tackle this alone. The key function of the MyKlovr app, the Assisted Action Plan, is designed to help you map everything out. You can review this action plan each week during your weekly check-in. It will lay out what is due that week, what is on the horizon, and what else you can do to increase your chances of getting accepted to the college of your choice.

Conclusion

Life is busy and moves very fast. Often, we do not make time for the things that matter most. Be sure that your child’s college application process is not something that has to get squeezed into a packed schedule. With life temporarily slowing down after Christmas, be sure to set aside some time to meet with your child and discuss the points listed above. A few hours this month could result in years and years of a prosperous career and life.

About Kyle

Kyle Grappone is an educational coach helping students prepare for the next steps in life.

A Different Approach To Your College Application Essay

By Kyle Grappone

3 Ways To Help Your Child When They Get Stressed About The College Application Process

Applying to college is complicated and stressful for both students and parents. As parents, we have gone through similar situations and can usually lean on our past experiences for guidance. However, for a teenage student, this is probably the first time in their life, they are experiencing something so complicated. Furthermore, they have been told for the past few years how important this choice will be to their future. That combination can lead to a high level of stress and confusion.

Understanding what your child is feeling is an essential first step to helping them navigate this challenging process. When I speak to college graduates about their past choices, an overwhelming amount of them talked about regretting their approach to college. Many grads spoke of not doing enough research, being confused by all the options, and some even pointed out that the lack of parental support led to them making a choice they would later regret.

In this week’s post, we are going hone in on three specific steps you as a parent can take to help your stressed-out teenager. We will also show how myKlovr is built to help you carry out each of these steps.

#1 – Guide them in creating a plan

As we mentioned earlier, applying to college includes several phases, steps, and deadlines. Before you begin anything, set us aside time one afternoon to list out everything that needs to be done between now and when they get accepted. Create a timeline that shows when specific tasks need to be completed.

This accomplished two primary goals. First, the student understands what needs to be done when instead of starting at one long list, thinking everything must be accomplished right away. Second, this prevents anything from sneaking up on them down the line. They always know what is coming and what to prepare for. They can get in the habit of starting each week by making a list of what specific action items need to be accomplished.

Our Action Plan function is the ideal partner for getting organized and creating a detailed plan. This is where a student can enter important dates, deadlines, and anything else you want mapped out. It also provides reminders regarding upcoming and past deadlines. The student does not have to live in constant worry that something is being missed. If they ever feel overwhelmed, they can simply look at the app, see what they have accomplished and what is coming next.

#2 – Encourage them to tell their story

The application process is not the only thing students worry about when trying to get into college. Many times students worry about how they will get in after they apply. When you are applying to a college alongside hundreds or even thousands of others, it is easy to feel like you won’t stand out. This is where you need to encourage them to craft their own story.

College admissions counselors read vast amounts of applications and essays every day. Most articles read the same because students are writing about topics they found online or about personal perseverance. Applicants can look similar when the applicant is merely listing off extracurricular or volunteer experience. The way for students to stand out is to tell their own stories. Encourage them to discover who they are and what they want to accomplish.

When an admissions counselor reads your child’s materials, you want them to be able to envision them at the school. You want it to be clear that your child will make that school a better place. You want to be telling a story of a student who has always worked hard and strove to be a better student and a better person. Most importantly, you want to make it clear that your child has specific career goals and that this college is the one that can make them a reality.

The Student Portfolio is the perfect way to help craft and showcase a student’s story. We help your students create a portfolio by merely having them input data points such as grades, activities, awards, work experiences, and much more. This portfolio allows students to gain a holistic view of everything they have to offer a college and will give them the confidence to apply anywhere they want. 

#3 – Find the college that is a right fit for them

Over the years, I have researched, surveyed, and interviewed hundreds of college graduates regarding their time in school and what they wish they could do differently. One of their biggest regrets is not spending more time looking at colleges. Many of them only applied to a few colleges and never took the time to figure out if they were even the right fit. The result being they either struggled during their freshman year or had to transfer out to a different school.

Before you and your child start looking at colleges, a student must know what environment is best for them. Are they responsible enough to go away to school? Will they thrive in a lecture hall, or should they focus on schools with smaller class sizes? How far away from home are they willing to be? The number of colleges out there can be overwhelming. This is why you must help your child narrow them down by answering these questions before you even start looking.

Our College Finder tool is designed to help any student navigate through all the choices that are open to them. This tool helps to narrow down the list to only the colleges that fit your needs. It then takes that list and divides them further into reach, match, and safety categories. This ensures you are keeping your options open and have applied to the appropriate amount in each group. Once again, myKlovr is there for you when your student gets overwhelmed, and myKlovr also helps to reassure them they are on track.

Conclusion

The best way to help your child when applying to college is by understanding what they are going through. This is the time to put your years of guidance and wisdom to good use. Whether it’s your experience in applying to college yourself or in dealing with stressful situations, you can help your child navigate this path to the career and future they deserve. The best part is, you don’t have to do it alone. MyKlovr was designed to help you each step along the way by answering your questions and reassuring your child that everything will turn out for the best.

About Kyle

Kyle Grappone is an educational coach helping students prepare for the next steps in life.

How myKlovr Can Benefit Homeschooled Students

By Thomas Broderick

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.

Is Early Action or Early Decision A Good Idea?

By Kendell Shaffer

My daughter didn’t know about Early Action (EA) when she applied to college. I first learned about it as her friends started receiving acceptances before she’d even finished applying to schools. I thought the only early application option was Early Decision (ED).

The biggest difference between Early Decision and Early Action is that Early Decision applications are binding meaning the student is obligated financially to accept the tuition package offered. Early Action plans are non-binding and the student can put off their decision to accept their package until they hear from other schools. ED works like this; a student applies early to one school and receives their decision early (before May 1). If accepted, the student must accept the offer of admissions and withdraw all of their other applications. This can be quite a gamble because a family is deciding without being able to weigh other options. Other schools may offer the student more financial or merit aid, but the student will never know if they apply ED.  A student should apply to other schools as well in case ED does not work out. However, this is a costly proposal, knowing they must give up those other applications if admitted to their ED school. The only way to get out of a binding contract would be if the family can prove that they don’t have the financial means to pay the tuition. It is so important for students to have backup schools that they love. It’s not wise to rely on one favorite.

Early Action is a non-binding contract. In EA, a student applies to one school early and receives their decision early. However, they do not have to commit to that one school until they hear from the other schools they applied to. This allows the student to weigh all their options.

Students will apply EA or ED if they are very passionate about one school. It is important to remember that your child should only apply ED if they are certain they want to attend that school. Students will also use EA or ED to get into a difficult school that they might otherwise get into during regular admission. The acceptance rates for EA and ED are usually higher than regular admission acceptance rates. A loophole is that some schools do not offer EA or ED (like the UC’s) and others will either offer only ED or EA, not both.

In my experience, Early Decision is a gamble and Early Action is a safer and better bet. EA allows your student to weigh their options (particularly financial ones) while knowing early if they got into their dream school. Knowing what I know now, I would have advised my child to apply EA when possible and only do ED if there are no doubts in their mind that this is the perfect school for them.

What Does Test Optional Really Mean?

By Kendell Shaffer
If your student excels in extracurriculars and has a good GPA, but doesn’t test well, then Test Optional schools are great options. About 1, 000 colleges accept applications without requiring SAT or ACT scores; they refer to those schools as test optional. This option gives the student more opportunity to be valued by their strengths, instead undervalued because of their weaknesses. But make sure your student has a good GPA if they don’t submit test scores.
Universities tend towards tests because they receive so many applications they need some way to screen candidates. But some universities are becoming test optional. The University of San Francisco, for example, is finding that a better indicator of how well a student will do in college is their grades in college prep classes, not SAT test scores. More liberal arts schools are test optional because they have extra resources to review individual applications.
“About half of the top 100 liberal arts colleges ranked by U.S. News & World Report are test-optional. Institutions that are test-flexible allow applicants to substitute scores from other tests such as SAT Subject Tests or Advanced Placement tests.”
FairTest: The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, a non-profit that advocates against the tests. is the best way to find test-optional schools and has a list of over 1000 colleges that are test optional listed alphabetically.
If your student plans to apply for financial aid, then they might need to do some additional research. Candidates may not be eligible for merit aid if they don’t supply their scores, so please make sure your student asks the colleges about merit aid.

How Many Times Should You Take the SAT or ACT?

By Kendell Shaffer
SATs and Acts have different rules about how many times someone can take them. But it’s probably best to follow your student’s college counselor’s guide to determine what is right for him or her. Please consider that although these tests are important, they are just part of the package that colleges look at when assessing a student.
Students can take the SATs as many times as they want. There are no restrictions. However, only the most recent six remain on their file at a time. In contrast to the unlimited times you can take the SAT, the student is only allowed to take the ACT twelve times. But taking the test so many times may not be a great idea. Some colleges require students to submit all their test scores to be admitted. They report poor scores alongside great scores. Some schools let the student Score Choice and select the best scores to submit. It’s important to review the requirements of each school before diving into the SAT or ACT tests.
Superscoring is a good way for students to submit the best of their scores to schools. Instead of defining their score by a specific date, some colleges agree to allow students to send their superscores, which may be a culmination of tests taken on different dates. For example, if your child scores higher in math on their June SAT, and higher on English on their September SAT, their superstore would be their June math score along with their September English score.
My son’s college counselor is suggesting that he take both the SAT and the ACT in June and then see which one he performs better on and which one he feels more comfortable with. Then she wants him to pick one and take that test again in the fall. She does not want him to spend all his time for the test. She wants him to spend the summer on his college essay and prepare his art portfolio. This advice works well for my son, but it might not work well for every student.
Tests are expensive, so unless your child has a large budget, taking the test multiple times can be a strain financially. I am comfortable in knowing that my son will take the test twice, but not obsess about it and spend his entire summer studying.

Should Parents Limit How Much Time Children Spend on Tech Devices?

By Kendell Shaffer

Balance is the most important thing when raising teenagers. They are at the point in life where they want to make their own decisions. They think they know what is best. But they really don’t. So in maintaining a peaceful household, I find compromise and balance to be essential. I’m not one for punishment, I let my teens know the parameters and hope they make the best decisions.

But decisions on tech devices are tricky. That was never an issue when I was a kid since there were none. But I did watch a lot of television. Probably too much, but I had a career in TV so I like to think all those years watching was good training. As an adult, I know I spend way too much time on tech devices and find I need to limit myself. I recently cut out Facebook and all my social media for a month. It was a breath of fresh air. After two days picking up my phone, with nothing to do on it because I had deleted all social media apps, I realized how addicted I’d become to the phone.

Soon I reflected more, read more, jotted ideas down in a journal I kept with me. I listened to podcasts when I had time to kill and then put a newspaper app on my phone and read more articles during downtime. I don’t think it would have been fair of me to limit my son’s device time if I hadn’t limited my own.

But it’s hard to tell a seventeen-year-old what they can and can’t do. So I make suggestions and hope he listens. And I knew I needed alternatives to offer him. So I brought up drawing pads for him to draw on, pulled out an old guitar, and plugged in the keyboard. I noticed as these creative outlets were in the living room; he’d pick those up instead of his phone.

Children learn by example, we all do, so I knew I needed to set my example. I recall once when my daughter was about five and I was online looking for new toys for her. She came up and said, “Mommy, I don’t want new toys. I want you to play with me.” I kind of think this still applies. They don’t really want to be online; they want us to play with them. Although they won’t admit that, try it and see what happens. You might surprise each other.

Whose Fault is it if a Child is Failing in School?

By Kendell Shaffer

The old expression, “it takes a village” applies with our children’s education. Parents know what it takes to get into a competitive college or university. We know how hard junior year is and how challenging SAT’s and ACT’s can be. We also know from experience how valuable a college education is. So we sacrifice for years, our time, our money to provide for our children hoping they can achieve this goal and graduate from college. That’s our part.

We rely on good teachers and administrators at school to not only educate the children but to keep an eye on their academic progress. We hope they will report to the parents and work with students when they notice slipping grades or bad behavior. But, it is ultimately the child’s responsibility to maintain their grades and academic responsibilities. This is part of the maturing process and the preparation to live away from home. In college, they won’t have so many eyes on them.

In many schools, classrooms are overcrowded and students don’t get the personal attention they need. But hopefully they can find mentors in their community when they need help and guidance.

Wouldn’t it be great if our community could work with our students as well? If our kids could go to their friend’s parents if they needed help in school or with a social problem. Extracurricular teachers also play important roles, coaches and dance teachers, art teachers can be a great ears and watchful eyes on our children’s progress. Employers also have an inside look into our children. Are they arriving at work on time, handling their responsibilities, acting appropriately?

In elementary school, parents would gather for class meetings where issues surrounding the children were discussed and shared. As children got older, parents moved on from these discussions as the children wanted more privacy. The “village” model deteriorated as our children began to drive and stopped asking for help with homework.

So, whose fault is it if a student is failing in school? I’d say everyone’s fault. Children need support and eyes on them and should not fail. But if they do, they should know someone will be there for them. And hopefully they will have more than one person they can count on.

Can Cell Phones Be Educational Tools?

By Kendell Shaffer

Everyone has a cell phone in their hands these days, so why not use them for learning? My sixteen-year-old son disagrees. He says you can’t use cellphones as educational tools because they are too much of a distraction. But then he listed the apps on his phone he uses for school. The calculator is the most obvious one, but he also uses Duolingo for Spanish. He looks things up on Safari when he needs to find a definition of a word or a quick point for a debate class. 

His sister is studying Italian in college and has switched all her phone settings to Italian, so now whenever she picks up her phone it’s an Italian language lesson. It makes it tougher for the rest of us when we accidentally grab her phone.

My son also uses an app called Wolframalpha. His cousin who is a systems programmer turned him on to this app which allows you to type in complicated math problems and then see an example of how to solve them. 

I researched when my daughter was studying for the SAT and ACT’s and found super helpful apps such as Magoosh ACT Flashcards – presenting a pool of problems and once your student masters the problem, that kind of problem is removed from the pool; Daily Practice app from the College Board gives your student an SAT problem a day; Math Brain Booster app which gives the student practice problems from the non-calculator part of the SAT and The Grading Game allows the “player” to find errors in college essays.

SAT Vocab by Mindsnacks looks a little silly with its coloring book artwork, but it gets great reviews and it’s free. So maybe a few silly cartoons can cut through some other heavy-handed apps when learning vocabulary.

I had some of these SAT and ACT apps on my phone and answered the questions and played games when I had time to wait. Sure beats looking at Instagram. Now if I can just get my sixteen-year-old to switch over to Magoosh from Snapchat.

Does Technology Get in the Way of Learning?

By Kendell Shaffer

I think the phone and social media definitely impedes learning. But nowadays some kids are required to bring a phone to school. My son uses it as a calculator, to look things up in class, and to take photos of class assignments. All of his homework is assigned and uploaded on the school’s specific website. They track his grades on that site and post school announcements there. In his Spanish class he uses a program called Quizlet and in math sometimes he’s assigned a Khan Academy video to watch.

But it’s the social media that is a problem. Not only can apps like Instagram and Snapchat become addicting, they can also lead to depression and bullying. What’s worse than seeing your friends post pictures from a party you weren’t invited to? And texting can take up so much time.

I once taught a two week writing workshop where a shy girl sat in the front row and looked into her lap each class. She didn’t do one bit of writing or respond to questions. I worried about her. When I looked closer, I saw she was texting the entire time. I approached her and tried to engage her about her texts. Texting is writing after all. And since I was teaching a screenwriting class, I equated texting to dialogue. She was writing her side of a conversation. Since she did not care if she would pass this class or not, I felt challenged to engage her. But after, she still didn’t care and continued to text until the bell rang never turning in an assignment.

Some schools are talking about banning phones from classrooms. Our local middle school hangs shoe organizers with pockets that keep cell phones safe during class and out of the student’s hands. This sounds like a great idea and I’d like to implement it in my house.

I watched a lot of television as a kid and I try to equate the phone usage with that. But My television didn’t go everywhere with me and I didn’t have it in my bedroom at night. My biggest gripe with the phones are that they aren’t allowing our children to have any downtime. Or to daydream or to spend a moment without stimulation. It’s always there within thumbs reach.

I hope the technology will one day be boring for kids. I hope they only go to the computer to look up something or to learn. But for now, I can only hope they come up for air once in a while.

How Should Parents Handle a Bad Report Card?

By Kendell Shaffer

Bad report cards are warning signs that something in your child’s world is not right. Did they take on too heavy of a course load? Are classes are too advanced for them? Is something socially upsetting them? Whatever the reason, it’s time to take stock. 

I learned early on that what my kids feared most was disappointing me and their dad with bad grades. As soon as I figured this out, I made it very clear to them that their grades good or bad were not important to us, but they should be important to them. I suggested my job is to support them and help them to get the best grades they can and when they are slipping in a subject to let me know early on and I’d try to help them to figure out why. I found when the fear factor was removed, my kids took more responsibility for their grades and did not want to disappoint themselves. 

But what can we do as parents when a bad report card comes home? The first thing is to evaluate whether that class is just too hard. Perhaps meeting with the teacher and figuring out if they might have been placed in the wrong level. It’s okay to do a math level they can succeed in instead of an advanced math course they might fail in. This is also a good time to test if your child is putting in the work they need to for this class. 

A meeting with our child’s Advanced Chemistry teacher after a bad grade made all of us aware of his study poor habits. When he was in Chemistry the previous year, he studied the night before each test and got A’s. This year in Advanced Chemistry the tests are cumulative, so his teacher pointed out he needs to study every night even if he doesn’t have a test the next day to secure the ideas they review in class. She also went over some test-taking skills and found that he panics with short-answer questions. She suggested he start the test in the middle, warm up with the sections he is comfortable with and then go back to the short answers. These helpful hints have really worked and his grade is back up to an A and he feels a lot more confident and less scared of both his parents and his teacher. 

During a meeting with his English teacher she emphasized that going to her for help with essays before turning them in is crucial. Once he did that, his English grade improved. Teachers want their students to do well and if the student shows an interest in their grades and improving them, the teacher is thrilled and might even offer extra credit. 

Evaluating your child’s extracurriculars and how they spend their time after school and on weekends is important. Perhaps being on two sports teams and three clubs is just too much. It’s true that colleges like to see well rounded students, but that GPA can really make or break whether they get into the school of their choice. So when in doubt, get those grades up before anything else. 

It’s always best to look at your child’s grades before their report card comes out. So the more involved you are with their assignments and tests early in the semester the better. But what to do if a child fails a class. Check in with their advisor. Sometimes it might be best to take that class again in summer school, the following year, or at a community college. 

And finally, if your student’s grades are slipping, make sure things are okay socially. Are they being bullied? Hanging out with the wrong crowd? Or depressed? Falling grades can be a warning sign so rule all the outside factors out and seek help if need be.

High school is a tough time academically and socially, so the more your child knows you and their teachers are on their side and want to see them succeed, the happier they will be. These are the last years we have at home with our kids, so please don’t make it all about punishment for a bad grade. Enjoy this time and work through the struggles with them. And they will succeed.

What is All This Mail My High School Junior is Getting and How to Prioritize It

By Kendell Shaffer

If you have seen a lot of mail from colleges coming for your high school junior, it’s most likely because they have just taken a PSAT or ACT. Colleges buy mailing lists from standardized tests. This is a way for lesser-known colleges to advertise to potential students. And a way for well-known schools to generate more applications which will then make their colleges more desirable and rank higher on lists like US News. This strategy began in the 1970s when the College Board agreed to sell names of students to colleges.

Sometimes the mail will seem personalized, noting the major your child is interested in. When the student takes the PSAT, they indicate their major of preference. This info is part of the info sold to colleges. Business schools can send mail to all potential business majors. Colleges also market to students based on their PSAT scores. So you may find that where University of Chicago is sending mail to a student who scored high on their PSAT’s their sibling who might have not scored so well is getting mail from lesser-known schools. 

Is it important for your student to open this mail? Only if something about the school is intriguing. This could be an opportunity for your student to learn about a school they never have heard of. Otherwise, you are free to recycle the paper mail and delete the emails. 

What if a specific school becomes aggressive in their mailings? The schools can be aggressive sending weekly emails with quizzes and activities to engage your child. They can ignore all of this. It will not make a difference if your student engages in these emails even if they plan to apply to that college.

Some college advisors suggest the student create a separate email address for all of their college related information. So before taking the PSAT help your student set up one of these emails. That way they can separate all the college-related email from their regular life email. If your student didn’t do this, then set up a folder with in their email box where they can store all the college-related emails. When they have downtime, they might spend a couple minutes looking at the emails, and then they can delete them. 

Organization is important during the college search. Your student will also gather college brochures from tours and college fairs. So perhaps setting up a storage box and some filing folders will be a great way to store important items without them getting lost. You can toss the snail mail in there too. 

The mail will slow down. It won’t be a solid two years of your mailbox being bogged down. But be on the lookout for those acceptance letters during the spring of their senior year. You don’t want to ignore those!

 

Checking in With Your College Freshman Half Way Through Their First Year

By Kendell Shaffer

My daughter has been in college for 168 days, but she’s home today. Asleep on the sofa. It’s eleven o’clock in the morning. She woke up about an hour ago, came downstairs and immediately curled up on the sofa under a blanket she crocheted this summer and fell asleep again. 

She was up late last night studying, turning in a paper due at midnight which she uploaded to her professor. I think she might have stayed up after that as I saw the light on in her room as I passed by in the wee hours of the morning. She didn’t want to tell any friends she was back this weekend. She wanted to relax, read, take a bath, walk on the beach, “be quiet and reflect”, she said. All the things she missed most about being at home. 

Academically she is doing great, stimulated, challenged, working very hard and feeling proud of her good grades. Socially she has made friends and has learned to pick who she wants to spend time with. She realizes her time is valuable and she can’t afford to give it all away. She’s been athletic, taking advantage of the jogging paths, yoga classes and lap swimming the school has to offer. Not to mention the hikes between classes and the five flights of stairs she walks up several times a day to her room. Her dorm has no elevator. She probably hasn’t been in better physical or mental shape ever. 
But she misses solitude. Time to think. She is surrounded by people always. Even when she finds a cozy spot in the library to study, there are people nearby. She shares a dorm room with two roommates, so someone seems to always be in the room, there is really no place to be quiet. 

She has noticed kids dropping out already. Her neighbor just never came back to school after a long weekend. Another kid decided he wanted to become a fireman and dropped out to pursue that dream. Some just couldn’t take being away from home or the academic load and quit. School it turns out is not for everyone. 

It’s hard balancing all of these things on your own as an eighteen-year-old. Some thrive being away from home and exploring their independence. Some just want to be at home with their cozy pets and their childhood comforts. It’s hard to watch the transition into independence and as a parent I kind of want her to stay at home. But I know she needs to figure out how to live on her own and juggle the many aspects of life and to figure out how she can find solitude in a busy world. But for now I am happy to watch her curled up on the sofa under her favorite blanket she designed which fits her like a cocoon because when she is ready, I know she will emerge as a brilliant butterfly. 

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