Academic Success

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.

5 Questions To Ask A College Alumni

By Kyle Grappone

Selecting a college is an important choice with long term implications for your future. Wherever you choose to go, you are dedicating four years and thousands of dollars to that college and in return, you expect a positive and worthwhile experience. Even more important, the college you end up at needs to give you the best chance to succeed. It must offer you multiple opportunities to prepare you for your chosen career and the real world that awaits you. It also must provide the type of environment that will help you to learn and grow as a student and as a person.

So, how do you know if the college you are looking at is going to deliver these things? Yes, you should research the college ahead of time. One of the most important steps in your college selection process is taking campus tours and asking questions. We covered what questions to ask your campus tour guide in an earlier blog post. While you are visiting the school, you may meet alumni who went to that school. It is fine to ask them questions – but remember that they were chosen to be at that tour or open house for a reason. The school knows they are going to speak about them in a positive light.

To ensure you are getting the whole story, make sure to reach out to at least 3 alumni via social media or mutual connections. This is where you will get the full truth, the good and the bad, about the school you are looking at. Once you find these graduates, you should  ask them specific questions in order to get the information you need and not waste anyone’s time since many will be working professionals. Here are 5 questions to ask and what types of answers to look for.

What was your major and are you working in that field today?

This question is important because a student experience can vary depending on what their major was. Out of the three alumni, you speak to, ensure at least once studied the same subject(s) you plan on pursuing. This gives you an idea of what your time will be like. If certain classes are difficult, you can plan ahead by ensuring you take that class at a time where you function at a high level.

The second part of this question is just as important. This will give you insight into how well the school prepared their graduates for the real world. If the graduate responds by telling you that he is not working in his major you may want to dig deeper. This may lead to an important discovery such as finding out the school has a lackluster career center or has no process in setting their graduates up with companies after graduation.

On the other hand, you may discover that the school in question does a great job in assisting students in their transition into the workforce. These types of positives should be documented and will come in handy when you are comparing schools. Again, it is important to understand every aspect of this school before making this crucial decision.

What was the biggest transitional issue you faced when you started at the college?

 Even if you do all your research and choose the ideal college for your needs and goals, the transition can still be difficult. If you are going away to school, then you are starting a new routine, with new people, in a new environment. If you are not careful then this massive change can overwhelm you and your grades may suffer.

 By asking this question you are getting advice from someone who has already been there. Not only can they tell you what to expect, but they may also bring up something you never even thought of before. This lets you prepare ahead of time and ensure that whatever is coming will not distract from your schoolwork and knock you off course.

 You may also learn something interesting specifically about the school. For example, several students I have spoken to were not prepared to follow a bus schedule to get to class. Many of them missed at least one class due to this issue. Students also talk about the weather at their school and how different it is from where they grew up. It’s up to you and your needs as to whether or not these are disqualifying factors. For some, learning a bus schedule is no big deal. For others, they may prefer to be able to walk to and from class and have complete control over their schedule. The important thing is that you know these issues exist ahead of time and can plan for them.

Did you feel the college prepared you for the workforce and the real world?

Almost any school can teach you the basics of any course of study. However, you want to be sure you attend a college that goes above and beyond that. Not only are you going to college to learn, but you are also going to prepare for the next steps in life and start to build a career and life you will enjoy. This question lets you know if the college offers the opportunity you need to do just that.

This is also where you will most likely get the most passionate answer from the alumnus. Did the college provided them with a great education, valuable internships, and help in finding a job? 

This is where you want to look for trends in the answers you are getting. If you are hearing the same positive or negative things it can help you paint a picture of what it will be like to attend that school. Be sure to document these answers so you can refer to them later. The biggest thing to look out for is whether or not the school is going to help you reach your goals and start your career off in the right direction.

What was your favorite and least favorite thing about the school?

Again you are looking for two things in the answers you get here. Emotion and trends. This is where you can tell if a student feels passionately one way or another about the school. It also helps continue to paint that picture we started in the last question. Either way, these answers should help you understand if the school you are looking at is worth your time and money.

Pay attention to how much time they spend answering both parts of this question. If they go on and on about all their favorite things and cannot name anything negative, then that is a great sign. On the other hand, if the conversation once again turns negative, that is a red flag that needs to be explored. Again, you should not disqualify a school because someone has something negative to say about it. 

Lastly, examine the quality of these answers. If the best part of the school is the parties or the ice cream, that is not a good enough reason to go there. Just like if the worst part of the school is that the football team is in last place or you have to walk up several hills, that is not a good reason to cross it off your list. You want to look for answers such as quality of the lecture halls, campus life, access to resources, and other things that are rooted in education, academics, and the impact on your ability to grow and succeed.

If you could go back in time, would you attend the school again?

If you are in a situation where you feel like you can only ask one or two of these questions, be sure to ask this one. You will get an honest answer and most likely get the reasoning behind it. Notice the emotion and passion when they answer this question. If they say they would attend again – they will speak highly of the school and you will be able to tell that they enjoyed their time there. If they would not attend again – you will learn why and it could be the main reason you decide not to go to that school.

Conclusion

Speaking to alumni is just one part of the college selection process. At the end of it, you will need to choose a college that fits your specific needs and goals. Talking to people who went to that school is an ideal way to learn about what to expect. The most important thing is to look for trends among the answers you get. If you are lucky enough to speak to alumni in person be sure to notice the emotion they use when talking about the school. By asking these questions you will have important data points that will help you when it comes time to picking a school.

About Kyle

Kyle Grappone is the founder of To The Next Step, an educational coaching and services company designed to prepare students for the next steps in life including college, entering the workforce and the real world. He offers several students focused services including one on one coaching and on-demand courses. You can learn all about it at www.ToTheNextStep.org or by emailing him directly at Kyle@ToTheNextStep.org. 

 

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.

4 Mistakes to Avoid During the College Selection Process

By Matt Wujciak

You’re a Die-hard Fan

Everyone has their favorite college football or basketball program. But picking a school because you like their sports teams or because your parents went there isn’t always in your best long term interest.

After all, your college experience is about you, more specifically about what you learn that will make you a better, smarter, and happier person. Although school comradery is important, you’re not there to spend your college career in the cheering section.

 

They Specialize in your Favorite Subject:

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 80 percent of students in the United States end up changing their major at least once. On average, college students change their major at least three times over the course of their college career. No one is telling you not to follow your passion or desired career path.

However, it is important to note that you will most likely be changing your major throughout your college career. That’s why most schools give you at least a year or two before choosing a major is required.

To put things into perspective for you, I once knew a kid who chose his school based on what he thought he wanted to major in. He loved Economics in high school and wanted to attend a college that had the best Econ program that he could get into.

Two years in and he realized that this was nothing like the experience he was anticipating. He decided to change his major from Econ to a less strenuous business concentration such as Marketing or Entrepreneurship.

At that point, he began wishing he hadn’t chosen the best Economics school that he could find, but perhaps the best general business school… a school with a wider variety of strengths that he could have explored before picking his concentration.

 

Being a Follower

Whatever you do, do not follow a friend or significant other to the college of their choice. This piece of advice is very simply, yet extremely important. Remember that college is one of the most critical and momentous times of your life. Try to make the decision that is best for you and your future, not your temporary demands or desires.

Although following a friend might seem like a good idea at the time, there will come a point in your relationship where you are presented with a crossroad. Either that relationship will end which means maybe this decision was in everyone’s best interest, or become stronger, overcoming distance, as well as time.

 

Temptation of Partying

Now this potential mistake might seem obvious to avoid, but it can be a tough subconscious concept for many eager students to grasp, especially when you are looking forward to moving away from Mom and Dad and into the college environment for the first time. Actively remind yourself what your end goal is.

As you begin to make your final decision on selecting your college, remember the increase in responsibilities and decisions that you will face. Don’t compensate your future for the short term happiness that a big warm party school might provide, especially in one of the most pivotal points of your life. Because at the end of the day, these are only four years, but they’ll have an impact on each one to come. How are you going to use them?

Students of all Achievement Levels Cheating. But who’s to Blame?

By Matt Wujciak

Whether your parents like it or not, cheating has been a part of academia since the beginning. The nature of cheating, however, is rapidly changing. There have always been struggling students who cheat so survive.

However, more and more studies in the past few years have shown that higher achieving students are beginning to cheat to get ahead, and stay ahead. According to the NY Times, studies on student behavior have shown that the majority of students violate academic standards and integrity to some degree.

The reason is fairly simple. It’s easy. As Gen Z is growing up using conveniently enhanced technology at their fingertips throughout the school day (or at home), students are tempted to compromise their integrity and work ethic for a better grade or less time spent completing an assignment.

Not to mention, educators, parents, and leaders of society are failing to alleviate this world-wide academic phenomenon in a couple ways. Between new media outlets and downloadable pieces of software, the internet truly has changed perceptions on what exactly we consider “ownership.” No one is pointing fingers there… yet.

However, as a result, students are unclear about the guidelines of assignments, especially when a lack of differentiation is given on which resources are allowed and which are not. Take a look at the Harvard cheating scandal from 2012.

A professor issued a take-home final with directions on the first page reading as follows, “The exam is completely open book, open note, open internet, etc. However, in all other regards, this should fall under similar guidelines that apply to in-class exams. More specifically, students may not discuss the exam with others—this includes resident tutors, writing centers, etc.”

Why would a professor use “etc.” in his policies? What other “open” resources are allowed, then?? Regardless, the scandal lead to an investigation of half of the 279 students enrolled in the course, around 2 percent of the undergraduate body, leading to law suits from each side, as well as a number of various and severe disciplinary actions… an absolute catastrophe.

Who was guilty and who was not is not the point. It is the systematic approach from both sides of the cheating phenomenon that must be corrected. Howard Gardner, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education said that over the 20 years he has studied professional and academic integrity, “the ethical muscles have atrophied,” in part because of a culture that exalts success, however it is attained.”

Cheating may be easy. Cheating may be unclearly defined. However, do yourself a favor and think about what’s at stake next time you contemplate cheating. Most students feel the need to cheat from factors such as academic pressure, lack of organization and preparedness, or poor communication and understanding.

Let myKlovr 2.0 take care of these influences for you by using this application to help you earn your desired grades, college experience, job placement, and future.

3 Tips for Incoming College Students

By Matt Wujciak

You are what you like

Attention class of 2018. Whether you are dying to start fresh with the next stage of your life, or you simply want to preserve a reputation that you built over the past 4 years, you are going to be presented with a plethora of opportunities to re-market yourself to a new network of peers.

As you enter college, your digital voice is about to exponentially grow. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, that new LinkedIn account that your parents told you to make, your school’s social education platform, you name it.

Regardless of the media outlet, be cautious of what content you are associating yourself with. Leave the childish or inappropriate retweets and likes in high school. Scratch that, don’t leave them there. Delete them.

You never know when they could be used against you. Conversely, liking, creating, or sharing inspirational and informative content that you want to be associated with is a great way of letting old friends know what you are up to, as well as marketing yourself to new ones.

 

Creativity is your new currency

As generation Z is growing up with far more technology and purchasing power than any other previous generation, more and more educational institutions are incorporating free-flowing and team-oriented creativity into their curriculums.

For example, take a glance at Bryant University, a small school in Smithfield, Rhode Island. Here at Bryant, each freshman, regardless of their intended major, endures a 3-day intensive program (16 hours each day) that attempts to maximize potential customers of a local business by improving their business plan and creating a prototype to be pitched to alumni.

Whether you like it or not, the design thinking process will most likely be part of your curriculum, and probably even more so, part of your career path. Use it to your advantage and start learning about the concept of innovation.

Many students compete against each other for the best grades and achievements while having many of the same skills. However, what students are failing to realize is that their ideas and creativity are the X factors to the tipping point of their success.

 

Be present

Thank you notes, networking emails, chatting with with professors after an interesting class… Anything you could think of to be present in the moment that you are in by communicating and learning from the people that you want to know a little bit better.

Although preparing for your future is imperative to educational and professional success, do not take your current opportunities for granted by failing to be attentive and present each day, each class, each moment.

The late Brian Fleury, former athletic director and mentor at Delbarton School, one of America’s most prestigious high schools in academics and in athletics once said, “Attitude. This is what I want to end with…please pay attention to how you approach each and every day of your life. Make the decision – and it is an individual, conscious decision – to be positive about the day ahead of you.

Like I talk to you about all the time, be present, be where you are, care about what you claim to care about, love the things you claim to love…”

How to Help Your Parents Help You with College Admissions

By Thomas Broderick

The early 1990s were an exciting time. America had won the Cold War. Trappers Keepers were the bane of elementary school teachers around the country. (Teachers hated them because of the noisy velcro.) And on the news, reporters were talking about a newfangled technology called the Internet.

Why am I waxing on about part of a decade that I was too young to remember? It’s to get across the fact that a lot has changed since the days when airports and hotels were full of payphones. And your parents, who probably went to college in the early 90s, aren’t up to speed on how the college application process has evolved since then.

In this article, we’ll examine how you can help your parents help you. That phrase may seem a bit contradictory (or just confusing), but let me convince that if you invest a little time educating your parents about how applying to college works in 2018, they will become fully prepared to help you gain admission to your dream college.

Why Bother?

You ever know someone who had good intentions but made things worse because they didn’t know what they were doing? If you don’t educate your parents about modern college admissions, you and they may fall into the same trap. Also, since they’re family, your relationships might become strained as a result.

There’s a lot of risks involved keeping your parents in the dark. Let’s change that. The sooner you get started, the sooner your parents will be able to bring their skills to the table knowledgeably and productively.

What to Bring Up

The path to college has changed a lot in the last 25 years. Going over everything with your parents would take forever, so at a minimum, hit the following high notes when you talk to them.

Acceptance Rates Have Plummeted

When your parents applied to college, there were plenty of colleges and universities that were difficult to get into. Back then the Ivy League was closed off to all but the super smart or well connected.

In 2018, getting into any one of the top 75 colleges/universities is just as tricky as it was to get into the Ivy League 25 years ago. And with more high school seniors reaching for those top colleges every year, the odds of getting in are ever dwindling. When I graduated Vanderbilt in 2008, it was a running joke that no one in the class of 2008 would have been accepted for the class of 2012.

How do you get this point across to your parents? Show them the admissions data from their colleges since they graduated. Even if they attended a public college or university, you would still discover the trend I described in the previous paragraph.

Tuition Has Skyrocketed

If your parents went to a private college, they should know from experience that college can be pricey. Even so, tuition just about everywhere has gone through the roof. Like with acceptance rates, convey this information to your parents through a few relevant examples. If you haven’t already, now would be a great time to discuss just how much financial support your parents are willing to give you when you go to college.

(Just About) Everything’s Done Online

When I applied to college in the fall of 2003, about 50% of everything I submitted was done online. Today it’s approaching 100%. Don’t be surprised if some colleges ask for digital copies of your transcripts.

Once you have finished your college list, tell your parents how the application process works for each school. This way they will better understand and be able to help you throughout the process. Making them members of your myKlovr support team doesn’t hurt either. 😉

Standardized Test Scores Ain’t What They Used to Be

Your parents took the SAT/ACT when they were high school students. Yes, the tests have changed in the last 25 years, but not so much that your parents couldn’t recognize the modern versions. Also, your parents may even be able to help you prepare for the Reading or English sections. I wouldn’t count on Math, though. Everybody forgets high school Math.

The biggest change your parents should recognize is that the way college admissions counselors view these tests has changed significantly over the past 25 years. Back then, an impressive SAT/ACT score was a golden ticket to admissions success. Since then, the growing number of applicants along with the ballooning test-prep industry has made the value of a perfect or near-perfect score fall faster than a meteor falling to Earth.

What does this mean for you and your parents? The main point you need to get across to them is that yes, SAT/ACT scores still matter, but their importance has shrunk A LOT in the past quarter-century. Stress that college admissions counselors, especially those at the most competitive schools, want to see well-rounded candidates who excel in the academic, extracurricular, and community realms.

Benefits

So you’ve caught your parents up to speed, and they’re still willing to help out. That’s great! Here are a few crucial ways they can assist you throughout the process:

  • Buying organizational materials such as folders or organizational apps for your phone/computer.
  • Proofreading college essays or investing in Grammarly (or a similar app).
  • Hiring a standardized test or subject-specific tutor.
  • Researching scholarship opportunities.
  • Teaching you financial planning tips to budget for college expenses.

Final Thoughts

A little knowledge goes a long way. For you, imparting a little knowledge to your parents about the modern college admissions experience can go a long way to help you get into your dream college. Along with your parents, be sure to invite other trusted adults to your myKlovr support team. Over the following months (or years if you’re still a high school underclassman), use these adults as valuable resources.

Last, but certainly not least, happy beginning of summer break! 🙂

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