college planning

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

By Thomas Broderick

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

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

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

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

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

The Challenge High School Counselors Face

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

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

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

Only So Many Hours in the Day

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

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

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

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

One such resource is myKlovr.  

The myKlovr Advantage

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

Final Thoughts

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

College Plans for the High School Junior

By Kendell Shaffer

Junior year is already off and running in the direction of college prep. On the first day of art class of eleventh grade my son’s art teacher passed out contact info for college art advisors. These advisors will look at portfolios and help get students in shape to apply to art school. They will also suggest which art schools are the best fit.

Next week on my parent’s calendar is a meet-and-greet with the high school college counselor. At this meeting parents will hear about the differences between private and state schools, liberal arts vs. universities. We will be introduced to FAFSA and the CSS and learn when our student needs to sign up for SAT and ACT testing. And we will be able to ask questions from a number of representatives from different local colleges and universities.

Our students will begin meeting with their college counselors mid-November. A weekly meeting will be built into their school schedule. During these meetings the students will become familiar with the Common App and start to work on their college essay. A first draft will be due by Spring break.

This spring my son has the option of taking a trip with the eleventh grade to visit colleges along the California coast. Not all students will sign up for this trip, but it will be available to those interested. It’s a great way to see the schools at an affordable price.

I am starting to think about spring break and if we need to do an east coast college tour with my son. From experience, I know it’s something to start planning early. When I took my daughter it was sometimes challenging to book tours, they filled up quickly. So if you are thinking about a spring college trip, start planning now!

My daughter still has not left for college, her school starts in a couple of weeks, so I was hoping for a bit of a breather before getting my son ready. But I know what planning lies ahead and the next two years will be filled with college talk. I’m looking forward to her return trips home so she can relay her wisdom to my son. And I dream of them both attending the same university just as they attended the same high school. But they are different individuals and there are over 3,000 colleges and universities in this country. The chance that they will end up in the same place is slim.

In the meantime, I am opening up my calendar and speckling it with college councilor meetings and college tours. Here we go again!

Juniors: Use Midwinter Recess to Make an SAT/ACT Prep Plan!

By Thomas Broderick

Despite having the illustrious title of ‘academic advisor’ at myKlovr, I don’t know everything. For example, five minutes ago I had no idea that public school students in New York City had a midwinter recess, or what a midwinter recess even was. I grew up in Tennessee, and we only got spring break!

As this article is slated for publication on midwinter recess eve, please take a moment to enjoy the fact that you have a week off of school.

*Momentary Pause for Enjoyment*

Now that you’ve had enough time to enjoy your break, let’s get down to business. Juniors, if you haven’t already taken the SAT/ACT, the time is fast approaching! The next ACT is on April 14th, and the SAT follows right behind it on May 5th. Simply put, you have between eight and ten weeks to prepare for your first date with a standardized test.

Let’s use part of this week to create an SAT/ACT prep plan!

Selecting Your Test: 2 Days

A quick Googling informs me that in New York City, the SAT is a much more popular test than the ACT. But popularity doesn’t mean everything. If you know the colleges you want to apply to, research their admissions data to determine which test the majority of applicants take before applying. If your dream colleges have no preference, or you don’t yet know where you want to apply, it’s time to take a full-length, timed practice SAT and ACT.

Yes, you will need two days, one for each test. Don’t try to take them both on the same day; your results will be as useful as pulling a random score out of a bag. Take the tests in the morning, just like you will on test day. Once you have your scores, compare them against the SAT and ACT percentile rankings. On whichever practice test you earned a higher percentile, that’s the one for which you will prepare.

Note: To give your brain a break, skip a day between each practice test. That way test fatigue won’t affect the results of your second practice test.

Figuring Out Your Weaknesses: 1 Day

It’s time to dive into the test results to discover your weaknesses. You can do this in one of two ways:

  1. By Question Topic: For each section of the test, arrange all missed questions into categories based on their question topic. For example, if you missed a comma question on the ACT English test, that question would go under ‘commas.’ When you are finished, you will understand which topics are giving you the most trouble.
  2. By The Reason You Missed the Question: Did you miss the question because of a simple mistake, because you misunderstood part of the question, or because you had no clue how to solve the question? By categorizing your missed questions this way, you can identify the ‘low hanging fruit,’ question types you can master with the least amount of effort.

Either way, you organize your missed questions, you will discover your weaknesses on the SAT or ACT. The next step is to create a study schedule. 

Scheduling Time Between Now and Test Day: 1 Day

Sit down with a calendar and mark everything coming up between now and test day that has nothing to do with the test itself. Examples include family activities, working at a part-time job, extracurricular activities, etc. All of these commitments come before studying for the ACT/SAT, so you need to know just how much time you can dedicate to studying.

Remember, you don’t need to study every day. When planning and executing a successful study schedule, the key word is ‘consistency.’ If you make a plan to study four times a week, see it through. If you resolve to commit one hour to each study session, see it through. Just like exercising, studying will become more natural if you make it part of your routine.

Start Your Study Plan: 1 Day

There’s no time like the present to get into the studying habit. Near the end of your midwinter recess, take an hour to hit the ground running. As it’s your first study session, start with something easy, one of the ‘low hanging fruit’ topics we discussed earlier. Mastering a simple topic will give you a sense of accomplishment and encourage you later on. Also, another reason I’d recommend starting with an easy topic is that you probably won’t need outside help. Save the harder topics for when you’re back in school and can call on the help of teachers and peers.

Final Thoughts

Hey, would you look at that: midwinter recess lasts a total of nine days, and you’ll only need five of them to help you create an ACT/SAT prep plan. That means there’s still plenty of time to relax, and maybe even play tourist in your hometown.

Happy studying!

Paying for College: A Parents’ Guide

By Thomas Broderick

It’s no secret that college tuition increases every year. For example, the cost to attend my alma mater, Vanderbilt University, rose 50% (from $40,000/year to $60,000/year) since I graduated in 2008. At America’s elite private universities, the $60,000/year figure is a common one. Even at public colleges, rising costs have locked out many students whose parents benefited from the same system as young adults. Also, since 2008, the amount of student debt held by Americans has more than doubled to approximately $1.5 trillion. To put that figure in perspective, American student loan debt equals the amount of money necessary to buy everything the United States produces in a single month.

If these trends continue, it is possible that by the end of the 2020s, the United States might have at least one college that charges more than $100,000/year to attend. Even accounting for inflation, the rising costs of college will invalidate many savings plans parents have traditionally used to pay for their children’s college education.

In this article, we’ll discover why paying for college became so expensive before diving into how to best respond depending on your children’s ages. Along the way, we’ll explore how changes in education may dramatically alter your children’s college experience (and save everyone some money in the process).

Up, Up, and Away!

If there’s a story that mirrors the rising cost of a college education, it’s healthcare. Since the 1960s, the federal government began subsidizing health care through programs such as Medicare. More people, especially older Americans, gained access to healthcare, which is great. However, the government does not set rules regarding how much healthcare providers can charge, even though the government is paying. Knowing they’ll get their money no matter what, healthcare providers can increase costs as much as they want.

Now let’s switch out a few words in our story.

Since the 1950s, the federal government began subsidizing college education through authorizing federally backed student loans. Many young Americans, especially those from underprivileged backgrounds, gained access to a college education, which is great. However, the government does not set rules regarding how much colleges and universities can charge, even though the government is paying. Knowing they’ll get their money no matter what, colleges and universities can increase costs as much as they want.

Greed certainly has a lot to do with the rising cost of college. Before you start looking for your torches and pitchforks, however, consider two other reasons that college tuition has skyrocketed over the last half-century.

  • Advertising Costs. Once going to college was no longer just for the wealthy, colleges had to learn how to cultivate ‘the best’ student body. In 2016, private colleges paid, on average, $2,232 to attract each member of its incoming class of freshmen. These costs include, but are not limited to sending school ambassadors to events around the nation, and in some cases around the world, to sell their college to high school students. Other costs include traditional advertising techniques such as mailers and a social media presence.
  • Colleges have evolved. The very nature of college has changed since the mid 20th College campuses are not only larger to accommodate more students, but colleges’ financial priorities have shifted from education to research, especially scientific or engineering research that might one day benefit the college’s bottom line.
    • Colleges focusing on research is not necessarily a bad thing. At many colleges and universities, undergraduates can gain valuable research experience, working side by side with professors and graduate students.

Paying for College: The Basics

Important Note: As of the publication of this article, the Congress is considering a tax bill that could dramatically change how parents should save for college. As you continue to read, keep in mind the changes that may soon affect your family’s future.

  • 529s: A 529 plan is a specialized, tax-free college savings plan offered by the IRS. Since 1996, it has been the preferred method for new parents setting up their children’s college fund.
  • Scholarships/Grants: Besides savings, your children may be eligible for a wide range of scholarship and grant opportunities based on their academics, extracurricular activities, and community involvement.
  • Loans: The average debt for college graduates in the United States is $16,900. For some, the figure is much higher. For your family, taking out loans may be necessary. You, as a parent, may need to cosign these loans. No matter what, loans have a dramatic impact on people’s lives. That being the case, process with caution and consider loans as a last resort.

Now that we’ve covered the bases, let’s look at what you can do to help your children, no matter their age, financially prepare for college.

If You have High School-Aged Children

If your children are high school aged, college is only a few years away. Even if you created a college savings account the moment your children were born, you might still worry if there is enough money. Let’s explore a few ways to close the financial gap.

  • Community college is an option. Your children may have the skills and aspirations to attend an Ivy League, but your family cannot afford the costs. Discuss with your children the possibility of attending community college for the first year or two. This way, they will have to pay little to nothing for their education, save money, and still be able to transfer to a four-year institution at a later date.
  • Have your children start saving, too. The benefits of a summer job extend much further than having pocket change. Summer jobs are just as a valuable tool for saving for college.
    • When your children receive their first paychecks, encourage them to put their money in a certificate of deposit (CD). CDs make a bit more interest than traditional savings accounts. Also, your children will not be able to withdraw their money, making it less of a temptation.
  • Research relevant scholarships. As early as your children’s freshman year of high school, your family can begin exploring scholarship opportunities. The more scholarships your children earn will reduce the financial pressure on you and open up more possibilities to them.

Lastly, you may be tempted to tell your children not to consider colleges outside your family’s price range. I don’t recommend this. An effect might be your children adopting a defeatist attitude. (“I’m only going to community college, so why should I take APs or try to get As?”) To avoid this reaction, be honest with your children about what your family can afford, but also stress the importance of scholarships and community college as a stepping stone.

If You Have Younger Children

If your children are middle school-aged or younger, it’s impossible to say what the educational landscape will look like when they graduate high school. Until Congress makes up its mind, the tips in the previous section still apply. However, two trends may make college more affordable for everyone.

  • MOOCs: Over the past decade, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have opened up a world-class education to anyone with an internet connection. Many MOOCs are completely free. Notable academic institutions such as Stanford University and Harvard University offer MOOCs through different online platforms.
  • Online Degree Programs: Having your children attend college online confers many cost-saving benefits when compared to a traditional college education. Also, as the technology advances over the next few years, the educational experience should improve. However, there is much to keep in mind when considering online education as an option for your children’s college education.

Final Thoughts

Figuring out how to pay for college is a stressful experience for parents and children alike. However, the earlier you start working with your children to find solutions, the better the outcome will be.

Saving for College – Is That the Best Bet?

By Kendell Shaffer

How best to spend money you have allocated to education? Private school? Tutors? Test prep? College fund? Do you take family vacations to broaden your child’s worldview? Do they do summer enrichment camps? Seeds of Peace? There is no one answer. It’s a gamble really.

Suppose you put away money in a 529 account and there is a family emergency, can you take out that money without penalty?

What if your child winds up going to an in-state school and you don’t qualify for financial aid? You might wind up paying more than a private school with a good endowment.

I am finding the Net Price calculator helpful in breaking down college prices. There is one on the website of each college and university. After you plug in your basic household income figures, the college will estimate how much they expect you to pay. That figure is broken down into three separate categories: parent contribution, student work-study, and student loan. These estimates don’t include merit money.

The amount of student loan they expected students to take out is roughly between $3,000 – $5,500 freshman year.

I was relieved when I read the figure. I don’t feel it will put students in too much debt after graduation. It might even be a healthy amount to pay off. I paid off my college loan after graduation every month and it was a real motivation for me to stay employed. I also did work/study when I was in college and felt it was a good way to gain job experience, make pocket money and purchase textbooks.

There are many scholarships beyond merit, but they take time to find. Fastweb.com is a website that guides students towards scholarships. The students are asked details about themselves, their interests and academic strengths. Then a list of potential scholarship matches is calculated. The scholarships range from $1,000 to $20,000. These scholarships in most cases can be applied to any college the student attends. The scholarships are very broad from corporate scholarships offered by Coca-Cola to regional and local scholarships. My favorite being The National Rice Month Scholarship, where students who live in states that produce rice can submit a 500-word essay about how rice has affected their lives.

I receive daily emails from fastweb.com with hand-picked scholarships that my daughter might qualify for. If the student has time, they can fill out multiple scholarship applications every day. Most involve writing short essays. At this point with college applications due in January as well as keeping up with senior year academics, there is not much time for these additional applications. So far, Sydney has just applied for one $1000 scholarship. Hopefully, after the new year and all the applications are in, she will apply for more.

I’m betting we’ll find a college that is not only a good fit for our daughter academically and socially, but a good fit for our family financially.

A Parent’s Guide to College Planning in 7 Steps

By myKlovr

As a parent, your time is limited and the task of planning for college with your child can become daunting. You want the best for your child; however, private college consulting services cost a minimum of $5,000 and public school counselors are often overwhelmed with advisees. At MyKlovr, we offer you a cost-effective, virtual counselor program to help you and your child get into the best colleges.

Here are 7 highly effective tips to help you navigate the college admissions process and improve your child’s chances of getting into the college of their dreams.

1. Choosing the Best Colleges

While the first decision for many is based on a college’s rank and prestige, this is rarely the best approach. Even if your child attends the top-ranked college in the nation, if he or she is miserable at the school their educational experience will be less than ideal.

Instead, start to narrow the field by having a conversation with your child using these questions:

  • Are you attracted to a large student body or do you prefer a smaller academic environment?
  • Where are you happiest? In a bustling city setting or do you prefer a more rural setting?
  • Are you willing to move far away from home or would you prefer to be close? (If saving money on room and board by having your child live at home is ideal, talk about schools within a reasonable traveling distance).
  • Do you have a good idea of what you want to study in college? (If the answer is yes, then focus on schools that offer the best programs in that area. If the answer is no, focus on more well-rounded schools to allow your child to find their chosen path).

In general, you should aim to create a list of 6-8 schools (2-3 difficult colleges, 2-3 target schools, and about 2 safety schools).

2. Visit Your Chosen Schools

If possible, plan a trip to as many schools on your list as possible. There is no better way to see whether a school is a good fit for your child than walking the campus, having dinner in the surrounding area, and getting an overall sense of the vibe of the school.

Insider Tip: Many schools allow prospective students to sit in on a class or two. This can be a great way to get a feel for a school and the experience will motivate your child to take the college admission process seriously.

3. Keep a Written Record

Once you have a list of schools, make a list of all the requirements for each college. This may seem like a lot of tedious work, but it will save you time, aggravation, and frustration down the road. All colleges have a list of required materials on their website, make sure you and your child work together to write a detailed list of what each school requires and don’t forget to write down the deadlines for applications and supporting materials.

This list will save you more than time. It will serve as a great reminder to motivate you and your child to meet the college deadlines together.

4. Request Recommendations Early

Almost all colleges require recommendations and well-written recommendations will increase the chances of getting into the best colleges. But keep this one thing in mind, the people you ask for recommendations are busy and you are asking them for a favor.

In all your communications, be polite, friendly, and helpful. Clearly, list out in an email what is required of the recommender. Do not make teachers and professional references go to the website to find out for themselves. If the recommendation must be mailed, provide each reference with a stamped envelope with the address filled out in advance.

Don’t be too pushy, but after a reasonable amount of time, there is nothing wrong with a gentle and friendly reminder if the recommendation still hasn’t been completed.

5. Request Supporting Material Early

It might sound simple, but having transcripts and SAT and ACT scores sent to colleges takes time. So give yourself some breathing room and make sure the supporting materials get in earlier rather than later. For example, SAT scores typically take about 2 weeks to send.

Insider Tip: The first step of the college admission process is simply collecting all the required material. Meaning regardless of the brilliance of your child’s application, missing components will hold up the whole process or, worse, result in missing an opportunity to apply to your chosen colleges.

 6. Nail the College Admission Essays

College admissions selection committees often read through hundreds of applications. One way to have your child stand out is by writing a top-notch college admission essay to showcase their personality.

But start the process early. Most writers, no matter how talented, write terrible first drafts. For this reason, the revision process is the key to a solid and outstanding college essay. If possible, plan to have your child write a first draft, a revision, and then the final draft.

A Few Insider Tips:

Because college selection committees read hundreds of essays, make sure your child’s unique voice and experiences stand out from the pack. For example, instead of vague statements such as “I’m an adventurous person,” encourage your child to be more specific and use real-life experiences. Such as: “In 2016, I decided to hike the Appalachian Trail to build confidence and push myself beyond my limits.”

A Few Other Tips: 

  • Double and triple check all grammar and spelling.
  • Have your child read the essay out loud (yes, this really does improve writing).
  • Ask friends, family, and peers to read the essay if possible.
  • Watch the word count, all colleges have length limits, make sure to follow them.
  • Provide plenty of encouragement, most of us hate writing about ourselves.

7. Celebrate

After you complete the college admissions process, celebrate with your child. Visit a favorite restaurant, participate in a shared activity, or anything you both enjoy. You earned it!

We hope these 7 steps make the process of applying to college a little easier. If you need more help, be sure to visit MyKlovr, a virtual counselor platform providing high school college-bound students with personalized recommendations of goals, milestones, and resources to increase their chances of getting into the college of their dreams.

We wish you the best of luck!

Back to Top