Applications Need To Be Sent Now For Best Acceptance Rate

September 26th, 2014

As I look at the calendar and watch September come to an end I am reminding all seniors that now is the time to send their college applications. The period of time from September 1st to November 1st is called the priority filing period for most colleges in the US. It was considered the early application period by most until the last 5 years, when college admissions counselors began to look at these applicants more earnestly.
High school seniors can tell you that the applications, now more than ever, have become very similar and with the higher use of the Common Application actually the same. The process of reviewing the applications are still the same for the colleges but the emphasis on retention of first year students is very important to the four year colleges. The statistics show the students that applied in the priority filing period had a much higher rate of returning sophomore year than the students who had applied later in the year. They have determined that the early applicants were more focused and organized which made them better over all students.
The colleges are always looking for ways of determining which student will be the best fit for their student population. Since they now know that generally, the early applicant is the more successful student in their schools, you do not want to miss the opportunity for this higher consideration by your top colleges. It would be unfortunate for any student to work hard in high school for their GPA, best ACT/SAT test scores and be over looked because of sending their application in 30 days later. Get organized and get your applications in seniors, the other advantage is that you will get your acceptance letter by December 15th so you will have more time to set up your final visits early in the spring semester.
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October 24th, 2013

On October 1st the CSS Profile was available for college bound students to complete. There are over 400 schools that require the CSS Profile (College Scholarship Service Profile) to access their institutional monies for financial aid. You can access the list of schools that requires this for at the following link:

To prepare for the form completion you will need a copy of your 2012 federal tax return and an estimate for your 2013 taxes. You will need your housing information rent/own, mortgage information if applicable, business or farm income and income from any temporary assistance or social security.

The CSS profile is administered by the College Board and once you complete the form there is a $25.00 charge payable by credit card online to send it to the requesting schools. To register for the CSS Profile go to this link:

Once registered you will be able to complete the form. Remember to check your numbers before sending and note that these estimates will need to match the numbers that you use to complete the FAFSA after January 1, 2014. These schools need both forms completed to access all financial aid available.

Having completed both the FAFSA and CSS Profiles over the last 7 years my opinion is that the CSS Profile is the harder of the two to understand. It goes into more depth because it looks at equity in you personal residence and requires two years of taxes to complete. The other difference is the inclusion of smaller businesses that the FAFSA does not. But do not get discouraged, the schools that require the CSS Profile are offering their endowment money to your student to offset the sticker price of their schools. Look at each schools website to make sure you do not miss their application cut off date to send in the form.

There are many books out there that address the completion of the CSS Profile and FAFSA. You will need to look at them to see which one best addresses your financial situation. As always if you feel you need more help call a professional.

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Why Would A Student Prep For the PSAT/NMSQT?

September 23rd, 2013

This year the PSAT/NMSQT will be administered on Wednesday, October 16th and Saturday, October 19th, 2013 at high schools across the country. Here in the Midwest people don’t get too excited about the Preliminary SAT test because we are in the land of the ACT. As a matter of fact, the SAT has planned changes to their test to become more like the ACT. The reason college bound students and their parents should want to see a better score on these October tests is because they are the initial screen for the National Merit®Scholarship Program.  What people don’t often tell you is that there are numerous scholarships available for National Merit Finalists and many schools even give National Merit Finalist students a 100% scholarship to cover tuition, room and board, and even a stipend—this could be worth as much as $100,000 over the four years of college for which you have this scholarship.

Still many people discount preparing for the PSAT based on the odds of qualifying with 1.5 million student entrants. Some 50,000 students or 3.3% with the highest PSAT/NMSQT Selection Index scores qualify for recognition in the National Merit Scholarship Program. Granted the final 8,000 students that receive the awards are a much smaller number, but you need to qualify to be considered. In addition there are an additional 1,200 students which are not finalists that receive special scholarships, some renewable for 4 years and the others are one-year awards. On the plus side doing well on the test is a money magnet for many colleges. They are very happy to offer merit financial aid to students that score well so they can advertise that they attract high scoring students to their colleges.

I do not prescribe that all students need to prep for the PSAT. I do encourage any student in the top ten percent of their class to consider prepping for the PSAT/NMSQT to increase their opportunity for scholarship awards. To ensure that academically talented young people from all parts of the United States are included in this talent pool, Semifinalists are designated on a state representational basis.

Since the PSAT is an abreviated SAT we offer a basic SAT prep from New American School that teaches the correct method to take the test and the process of elimination designed to increase the students ability to score higher. The course is offered in a two DVD set that includes 2 practice PSAT tests on CD. It has been our experience that a student willing to practice these techniques over a period of a few weeks will increase their initial score and feel much more comfortable when taking the test that counts this fall. For more information or to order click here.

Report – Fall 2013 Openings at Colleges from NACAC

May 6th, 2013

Openings for Qualified Students

Please view the report to see current openings at colleges after May 2, 2013. The report will change as more schools complete the survey and are posted.

 2013 Press Release  |   2013 Fact Sheet

Click Here For Full Report


Wait Listed-What does that mean to 2013 Seniors?

April 22nd, 2013

Congratulations, you were found to have what it takes to get into the school that wait listed you!  You should be enjoying the fact that you had what the admissions officer was  looking for in their students. But, should you really consider attending that school?

If you prescribe to my philosophy of applying to 9 to 12 schools it is pretty certain that you have been accepted and received an offer of financial aid to a number of schools that you are also considering to attend. The reality is that those are the schools you should seriously look at to commit to.

Schools wait list students when they are not sure that they will fill all their desks for the fall semester and they want a backup group of students to fill those uncertain desks. Yes, many times students feel honored by the wait listing by a school that they felt was a reach school, but the truth is this serves the school not the wait listed student. All schools work their wait listing differently so there is no one way this works. Many times these schools never make a final offer to attend from their wait list. Just like the schools that fully accepted you and have made their financial aid offers, the wait listing school has offered their available aid to their fully accepted students.  Unfortunately, If you do get in from a wait list after May 1st , when counting on financial aid to attend college, the odds of receiving all the need and merit aid that you are counting on are slim. You should be happy that you are lucky enough to have choices of colleges to attend and make your deposit to one of the schools that you are fully accepted at.

In the case that you have a real need to attend the wait listing school and there is no issue of financial aid, let them know that you are interested and be ready to wait to hear back from them. In the event that you are fully accepted by the wait listing school you will have the option to accept their offer or not while having the backup of the school you made your deposit to.

Make sure that you respond to the school of your choice and do not miss the May 1st deadline to accept.

Your Time is Running Out to File Your FAFSA

February 18th, 2013

This post is for those who are waiting to complete their 2012 taxes before they file their senior’s FAFSA for the 2013-2014 school year. I know that the website for FAFSA tells you that you have until June 30th to file but the truth is that most of the aid money available will be gone by March 1, 2013. The schools work on a first come first serve basis and over the last 5 years students are filing sooner because of this. Please look at the website for the schools that you are sending the FAFSA to and note if they have a priority date for filing the financial aid paperwork. Your best opportunity for aid is during this filing period.

The FAFSA provides for estimating your taxes and will ask that you correct the final numbers when you do complete your 2012 taxes at a later date. When you file please note that the SAR (Student Aid Report) is issued by FAFSA usually within 24 hours of submitting, they will tell you then if you are required to submit documentation called verification. This is not like a IRS audit, they are required to ask for this documentation and check that it matches the submitted FAFSA. Remember that this is a federal form and you do not want to submit with fraudulent information, this is how they check for misinformation. The school will send you the request for the specific documentation they are looking for via email and tell you how to submit it to them. You will also want to check each school’s website to make sure that you send all required paperwork and forms that the school requires.

This is a stressful period since the state schools are sending out their acceptance notices in February with the private schools following by March if not sooner. I know that every student has that one school that they really want to get into but, if you are told by that school you are wait listed, the odds of receiving financial aid from that school are not good. What will happen is that by the time that school does accept you all their financial aid will be gone even if you were perfectly on time with the FAFSA and any aid paperwork. Make sure you are working with your second choice school and keep your options open before your final decision on May 1st, 2013

File your FAFSA as soon as possible each year and make sure all paperwork is complete. This is one key to receiving the financial aid available to your student. You should see your award letters from private schools before the end of March, they have been sending them sooner over the last few years. The state schools have still been sending the final award letters by the middle of April. In case you do not see your award letter from a school during these months you need to get on the phone and check that they have your financial aid information. Mistakes do happen and you do not want to let someone else’s mistake effect your future in college.


January 21st, 2013

This time of year I am asked repeatedly which test, the ACT or SAT is better for a junior in high school to take? The answer depends on the student. Most colleges will take the score from either the ACT or SAT  and your choice of test should be driven by the way the students tests. The ACT and SAT are different types of tests and they measure different skills. I recommend that a student take both the ACT and SAT each at least once by Fall of junior year to determine if they score higher in one than the other.

The ACT is a knowledge based test. This is why many times students score their best in the Spring of their junior year, by then they have been presented all the material in class to complete the ACT. Some people like the ACT better because they perceive that the ACT test more closely tests the core curriculum taught in most school classrooms. The ACT questions seem to more easily understood on first read compared to the SAT where the questions might need to be figured out as to what they’re asking you. The ACT requires higher level math skills and you will have to have some knowledge of trigonometry. This does not mean the math section is harder just that the students knowledge base should include this course information. The ACT has a science section which the SAT does not. The ACT science section is not pure science knowledge instead it measures your reading and reasoning skills based upon the information given in each question about science. The ACT writing is offered as optional, it currently isn’t needed for admission by all schools but, it is asked for by the colleges so they have a measure of the students writing skills when they consider remediation and class placement at the school. Admission counselors look more at the total score of the ACT and seem to be more interested in the composite score. This makes students feel they can have a weak section and still obtain a good score because of the other better section scores.

The SAT tests critical thinking and problem solving. The SAT is broken into more sections during the test which breaks up the testing compared to the larger sections of the ACT. Students need to be able to move from one subject to another more quickly to be comfortable and successful. As mentioned above there is no science section in the SAT, so if the student just has an overwhelming  fear of science the SAT could be the better test for them. Vocabulary is much more important in the SAT which can benefit the students skilled in writing and language. They also could benefit from the writing section included early in the test. Admission counselors look harder at the sections of the SAT looking for students strengths when considering admission.

Whichever test  a student takes they need to take some type of prep course. We have found that after a student takes both tests as practice and has a base score, they greatly benefit from really practicing the skills needed to take their chosen test successfully.  Remember that these tests only measure the students ability to choose the correct answer that day and that all the correct answers are offered on each question. This is why I believe that prep courses designed to prepare the student to have a strategy of how to attack the test and choose the correct answers work quicker and easier than trying to reteach high school based on the student weaknesses. For more information about the ACT/SAT prep courses we offer go to this link to see the first video of our DVD test prep courses. Scoring as high as possible  on the ACT or SAT is the easiest way a junior in high school can increase their chances of getting accepted into the schools of their choice and there is a lot of money in financial aid available to students that have scores that colleges are looking for.

Shopping Not The Only Thing Seniors Need to Finish By December 25th

December 3rd, 2012

As the year comes to a close so does many of the college deadlines for accepting applications. It is human nature to put off stressful tasks and completing college applications for seniors in high school is no exception. All students must be aware of the deadlines of the schools that they are interested in attending and make sure that they complete and submit their application before that date. Be aware that if you are one of these students filing at the end of the year you are not alone. Just don’t make the mistake of applying after the deadline. I find it amazing that every year I get calls from parents to help their student after New Years and the student has one or two schools still on their application list with their deadlines come and gone. Most college admissions counselors will tell you that they get a huge crush of applications between Christmas and New Years every year. What you need to know is that the systems have a hard time with this final volume and will usually crash servers over that that last week of the year making it more frustrating than usual because of limited access to file your applications. So a word to the wise, try your best to get any applications you still need to submit into the system before December 25th. This way you will be confident that your application will be considered and you can enjoy the holiday season before you start to stress about being accepted to these last schools in February and March.

There Are Advantages to Applying During College’s Early Decision Period

October 24th, 2012

For high school seniors there is a lot of pressure to get your college applications in now. Most schools offer their priority filing period starting September 1st through November 1st each year. When you make your application the school will give you an acceptance answer shortly after they receive your application or usually by December 15th depending  on their policy. This can make students anxious because they are afraid to find out they might not get into their college of first choice.

Students need to know that some colleges use this period to cherry pick the type of students that they have determined that they are looking for. Many times they need to bring in more minorities, male or female students after they have reviewed their schools population. They also look at the level of academics for the current school population and will accept the applications of higher qualified students, usually in the schools top 25% of the freshman class of the previous year to raise academic standards.

Even with this happening there are many advantages to applying in the priority filing period. Historically colleges receive the bulk of their applications just before the deadlines to apply.  Most of the highly selective and selective schools cut off all applications by December 31st.  By applying early you get a first look from the essay readers and admission counselors while they have fresh eyes. You have more opportunity to stand out instead of blending into the later mass of applications. You can also benefit from the early decision by not getting your final acceptance in the first round. Most schools will tell you that you did not make the first round but you will be notified of acceptance when they announce who is accepted at their scheduled date. Most of the state schools will have their dates in February and the private schools in March. This can give you time to examine a few other schools that might better meet your needs than the school you are probably reaching for.

When a student has worked a plan to determine if they academically match well with a school and there is opportunity to receive financial aid from them, there should not be any issue with an early application. So the message is to research and visit your schools during junior year of high school. Take advantage of the early application period and use it to your advantage to get accepted in the colleges of your choice. Remember that you will receive your financial aid offers later, after your file your financial aid paperwork. All the schools will then let you make your final decision by May 1, 2013.

Please go to www.cps-illinois for more information concerning our services for college bound students and their families.


October 8th, 2012

High school juniors are close to starting their series of tests that will effect their getting into college and the financial aid that they will receive. These tests are the PSAT/NMSQT, the ACT and the SAT. I am focusing on the PSAT/NMSQT for this discussion.

So what does PSAT/NMSQT stand for? It is the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/ National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. In 2012, high schools across the nation will offer all juniors the opportunity to take this test on October 17th or October 20th. This is the test that qualifies the top scoring students for the National Merit Scholarships and recognition. I generally do not hear of many schools that prepare their students with prepatory classes to take this test even though it can mean millions dollars of scholarships to students.

What is the PSAT? It is a shortened version of the SAT test cosponsored by College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

What is on the test? There are 3 sections to the test. Below are the explanations directly from the College Board website.

Reading:  there are 2 – 25 minutes sections.

1.      Sentence Completion questions measure your knowledge of the meanings of words and ability to understand how the different parts of a sentence logically fit together

2.      Passage-Based Reading questions measure your ability to read and think carefully about a single reading passage or a pair of related passages.

Math: there are 2 – 25 minute sections. The math section of the PSAT/NMSQT requires a basic knowledge of number and operation; algebra and functions (though not content covered in third-year math classes–content that will appear on the new SAT); geometry and measurement; and data analysis, statistics, and probability. You can use a calculator to answer math questions, but no question on the test requires a calculator.

1.      Multiple Choice questions ask you to decide which is the best of the five choices given.

2.      Grid-ins, or student-produced response questions, requires you to solve a problem and enter your answer.

Writing Skills: There is 1 – 30 minute section. The multiple-choice questions on writing skills measure your ability to express ideas effectively in standard-written English, to recognize faults in usage and structure, and to use language with sensitivity to meaning.

1.      Identifying Sentence Errors questions test your knowledge of grammar, usage, word choice, and idiom. You are required to find errors in sentences or indicate that there is no error.

2.      Improving Sentences questions ask you to choose the best, most effective form of an underlined portion of a given sentence.

3.      Improving Paragraphs questions require you to make choices about improving the logic, coherence, or organization in a flawed passage.

Unfortunately, many students do not take the PSAT/NMSQT seriously which is a mistake since there is millions of dollars worth of scholarship money at stake. I have seen students prepare for months for the ACT and SAT after they take the PSAT. Had they just prepared for the PSAT for a short period of time they could have qualified for more scholarship money. There still is plenty of time to prepare for the PSAT with a course that teaches students proper test taking techniques designed for the PSAT/SAT. For more information concerning PSAT prep go to I will discuss the ACT and SAT and the benefits of each next.