college prep

Voluntary Benefits: A Primer for Employers

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

What Are Voluntary Benefits

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

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

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

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

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

Should My Company Offer Voluntary Benefits?

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

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

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

MyKlovr’s Unique Voluntary Benefit

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

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

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

Your Next Step

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

What to Talk About With Your College-Bound Student in Preparation for Their College Applications

My son is a high school junior and we talk about college in small increments. We are trying to balance his life and not make it all about college, because at some point we know he will be shifting his focus to “it’s all about college.”

So what can we talk about now to plant the seeds so we are not scrambling next fall when he officially begins his college application process?

At a recent high school meeting for parents of juniors, we learned that colleges look at what the student will be doing the summer between junior and senior year. The colleges want to see that the student is either working, enrolled in an academic class, or enrolled in some sort of program to enrich their education.

This is not the summer to hang out at the beach! Luckily our son has already thought this through and is looking into several summer programs.

I have already put the SAT and ACT test dates on the family calendar, so my son can look ahead at the entire year and see when the tests are coming up. Hopefully, this will allow him to pace himself with his test prep and his social activities.

We’ve printed his transcript and have gone over it together. He understands the difference between his GPA and his weighted GPA. He sees what classes he needs to bring his grades up and what classes he needs to maintain grades.

After winter break, we will meet with his college counselor. Since he is interested in perhaps going to art school or drama school, we have encouraged him to set up meetings with the head of the art and drama departments at his school.

He will be able to get their input on colleges which might be a good fit for him. I’m encouraging him to seek out their advice since they know his work better than his college counselor will, even though she did attend his school play this weekend!

As a family, we will determine if we are going to go on a college tour this spring break. This will be planned and booked over the Thanksgiving holiday.

After getting input from his art and drama teacher, he will start working on his art portfolio and select some audition pieces. I know from past experience that if he wants to apply to drama school, he will need a reel and a resume. These are pieces that will take time pull together and I want him to get started on them as soon as he can.

It helps to have gone through this college prep with my daughter. But even if you haven’t had that experience, it’s not too soon to educate yourselves and jump right in!

College Prep List:

  1.  Plan for your student’s educational based summer activity 
  2. Add SAT and ACT test dates to calendar
  3. Review your student’s transcript
  4. Meet with your student’s college counselor and department heads
  5. Think about what colleges to visit with your student during Spring break
  6. Help your student plan art portfolios or prepare audition materials

How to Use the Thanksgiving Break as a Fresh Start to Set New Academic Goals if Things Aren’t Going Well

I always feel refreshed after a long nap. So I’m hoping the Thanksgiving break can be a long nap for my son. It’s been a tough junior year so far. He took on a big course load, a full plate of electives and two honors classes. He also performed in the school play and one outside play. I think a big meal and a long rest are necessary for him right now and Thanksgiving break is the perfect time for him to reset his battery and get ready for the rest of the semester and his impending final exams.

Not only is it important for your student to study and focus, but it’s equally important for them to have some downtime. Perhaps think of Thanksgiving break as that. Hold off on the college talk for a while. Get their mind off their studies and have them dive into family activities. Maybe an old fashioned game of Monopoly or a family hike. These are their last years of childhood so let them be a kid this week. The time for adulthood just around the corner.

Reading is essential for relaxing too. So in my son’s case, I am going to suggest now is a good time to catch up on his independent reading for school, or maybe get a jump start on that novel that is looming for his English class. He’s not the best one when it comes to independent reading, so we’ll take some reading time as a family this week. We can all use some downtime to curl up with a good book.

So after turkey day, a day of eating resting and family activity, then bring up your child’s academic year. Set some goals, maybe reassess their homework load and extra circulars. Is it important to be on the sports team for the Spring sport, or is that just too much to take on this year? Is it time for a tutor? Maybe the after school job is taking away too many homework hours. Be aware of their schedule, notice their concerns. Let them know you are on their side.

We decided as a family that this Thanksgiving we would decide if we are going to do college tours for Spring break. After reviewing my son’s Spring schedule, we think a trip would be too much and he should spend Spring break completing some extra projects he has signed up for. We all felt a big relief upon this decision and will now plan on some college tours this summer.

Just because our kids might be taller than we are and are driving, working and can do things themselves these days doesn’t mean they have the capacity to manage their time. It still is helpful if someone can access their schedule and look at it with fresh eyes. They may have bitten off more than they can chew and what could be a better time than Thanksgiving to learn how to manage just how much you can put on your plate without overloading it.

Enjoy your time with your students and family this Thanksgiving!

Stay Productive This Thanksgiving Break

Thanksgiving break is soon upon us. Depending on your school or district’s policies, you may receive two days, three days, or a whole week off of school. Between stuffing your face and watching football, the week doesn’t lend itself to productivity.

When I was a teacher, district policy forbade teachers from assigning homework over Thanksgiving break. As such shackles no longer bind me, I’m going to assign you just a bit of homework for you to accomplish over break.

In this article, we’ll look at different things high school freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors can accomplish during their time off school. And because I want to make sure you have a chance to relax this Thanksgiving, none of my assignments should take more than two hours to complete.

If You’re a Freshman

As a high school freshman, you don’t have to worry about high-stakes standardized tests and applying to college just yet. Instead of research or test prep, I want you to spend your two hours performing some self-reflection that should help you with the big decisions you’ll face in the next few years.

For each of the following bullet points, I want you to journal a one-page reply:

  • Which subject is your favorite? What about it do you like the most?
  • In which class do you have the most trouble? Do you need extra help to succeed?
  • Do you work better by yourself or with others?
  • What careers (even if they’re pie-in-the-sky) do you think are interesting or would be worth pursuing one day?

What I want you to do is tuck these answers away. During Thanksgiving break for the next two years – when you’re a sophomore and junior — revisit these questions to identify how your preferences have changed. By the time you start seriously researching potential colleges during your junior year, you’ll be better prepared to select those that best match your interests and goals.

If You’re a Sophomore

Sophomore year is the time when you dip your toe into the college application pond. It can seem a bit overwhelming (that’s natural), but you can accomplish something this Thanksgiving break that’ll both reduce your stress and start your college journey off on the right foot.

For your two hours of homework, I want you to research potential colleges and select 2-3 to tour between now and the end of summer break before your junior year. Discuss options with your family, as they’ll likely come with you on these tours and play a significant role in your college decision-making process. 

If You’re a Junior

As a junior, this is the last full year of grades colleges will see when you apply next year. That makes your performance on mid-terms, which are only a few weeks away, more important than those you took in your freshman and sophomore years.

During the break, I want you to set aside two hours to study your most challenging subject. It doesn’t matter what it is. You need not only the practice but also the chance to identify the topics giving you the most trouble. Once you identify them, you can master them over the next few weeks with your teachers’ help and other resources (e.g., Khan Academy) they recommend.

If You’re a Senior

Your college application deadlines are coming up fast. For any remaining applications, here’s what I want you to do:

  • Reread all application requirements and make a checklist for each school.
  • Check off what you have completed.
    • Maintain these lists until you send off your last application.
  • Read all of your essays at least once. Make appropriate revisions.
    • If you’re going to visit relatives this Thanksgiving, it never hurts to ask an aunt or uncle to critique one of your essays.

Final Thoughts

I have one last piece of homework for everyone reading this to accomplish between now and the end of Thanksgiving break: find some quality time to relax. The three weeks between Thanksgiving and winter break are full to the brim with studying, tests, and anxiety. Recharge your batteries now so you can face these challenges successfully.

Round Two: Planning Ahead for College Tours With Your Second Child

I found myself in NYC this past week with my family and as I walked by New York University it dawned on me that it was time to take my sixteen-year-old on college tours. He attended all the tours with his sister two years ago, but since his interests are different from hers, he wants his own college experience.

So I quickly got online and booked a couple of college tours in the city. His sister was a good sport and attended the tours with us. She explained to him that he needed to check in with the tour director, showing demonstrated interest was important and the college starts a file for you the minute you register for the tour. I noticed her nudging him to ask questions or to pay attention when he was drifting off.

Dinner conversation that night shifted from my daughter’s college talk to his. It was kind of surreal for all of us since we had just spent the last two years talking about my daughter’s college journey. It was fun to watch him think about his future and he had some serious ideas of where he wants to attend after touring all the schools with his sister.

So even if he toured with his sister, does he need to tour the same schools again for himself? I think so since the colleges do want to see demonstrated interest. And in the case of some schools, his sister toured a different department then he would be majoring in. Does this mean we need to repeat the same college tour vacation we had two springs ago? Do we take his sister with us who will then be deep into college herself by then? All these decisions are creeping up quickly. My short answer is to take him on a tour next Spring to a city that has a bunch of schools he wanted to see that his sister didn’t. And next summer we can regroup and narrow down his choices. He needs to figure out if he wants to go to art school, theater school or a liberal arts college where he can do both art and theatre. I am hoping he won’t need to do all the auditions our friend Anne did. But thrilled we have some good art school portfolio prep from our friend Edie.

We are back home now and the first thing Jasper did was come into my room this morning and ask if he could use my computer to look up some colleges he’d been thinking about. When I picked up the computer later in the day, I noticed all the schools he had looked at were in England. Looks like we will be heading across the pond for next summer’s college tour vacation.

Does your high SAT / ACT score guarantee that you will be admitted to college?

The average SAT score for high school seniors admitted to college is approximately 1060/1600. The ACT score for the same group is around 20/36. However, averages can be misleading. For selective colleges that accept less than 25% of applicants, the test scores of their freshmen class are 30-35% higher than the national averages. However, we have found only four colleges with an average SAT score above 1500 and fewer than ten colleges with an average ACT score of 34 or higher. If your total SAT / ACT score is only 10-15% higher than the national average, you are likely a part of the top 25% of test takers. Yet this score may not be enough to make you a competitive applicant in the eyes of the top 25% of colleges and universities.

There is a definite correlation between standardized test scores and college admission success. You need to understand where your test scores place you against other applicants at a specific college. You should work on your SAT / ACT scores to maximize your chances of getting into the best possible college. That is why both the College Board and ACT offer tests designed for 8th-grade students: students can familiarize themselves with the testing process and improve their score over time.

Do high SAT / ACT scores guarantee that your dream college will accept you? Well, not really. College admissions officers are not robots focused solely on number, and this works to your advantage. They look for well-rounded candidates, not only great test takers.

High SAT / ACT scores equal a better chance of admission. If your scores are not quite where you would like them to be, you can still improve your admissions chances with the other parts of your application. Colleges begin by reviewing your high school transcript. Also, many colleges value AP courses and often prefer candidates with high AP scores. Your personal qualities play a role, too. For example, candidates who demonstrate a strong work ethic are more likely to graduate college; this is a trait that colleges want in every applicant they accept. Your extracurricular activities, passions, and interests can also make up for relatively lower test scores if you can tell a compelling story of who you are and how you can contribute to a college’s community.

At myKlovr, we compare your standardized test scores to your list of potential colleges, as well as help you identify specific areas, academic and non-academic, that you should focus on to become a more desirable college candidate. Finally, myKlovr helps you develop your personal story and gives you the tools to tell it distinctively and engagingly in your college application essays.

We believe that the earlier you begin thinking about your path to college, the more successful you will be when you apply. As a freshman or sophomore, you may think it is too soon to worry about college. But if you procrastinate, you may be surprised to learn that you are not ready to apply when you are a senior. Start with myKlovr today, and discover how to become the best college applicant you can be.

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