​​                                                                                                                                       FEBRUARY 2016

February 20, 2016

Character Skill Assessment (CSA): Is this the wave of the future for higher education too?

 During 2015-2016, the SSAT has initiated a pilot program called Character Skills Assessment (CSA).  This new, assessment program hopes to measure the intangible traits of middle school students that are not reflected in most independent, high school applications.    

     According to their website, the 30 minute CSA test will “examine character traits your child demonstrates every day in school and in the community.”  The SSAT hopes this assessment will help independent high schools take into account the whole student, academically and holistically, by objectively measuring their teamwork, empathy and integrity as part of the admissions process.
     As more colleges begin to endorse the Harvard Graduate School of Education recent report, Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good through College Admissions, (See Feb. 1, 2016 blog post below) 
I wonder if this concept of Character Skills Assessment will make its way into the college admissions process.  As the parent of an 8th grader who has been asked to be a part of this pilot program, I mixed feelings about a “test” evaluating my son’s character and integrity.  Can it really capture his true spirit? ​ 

     For more information on CSA from the SSAT, visit http://www.ssat.org/test/csa

​ February 22, 2016

​A Free College Education for Americans in Germany!!!???

     “An estimated 10,000 US citizens are studying at German colleges — nearly all of them for free, according to NBC News.”
       Why? German companies have not been able to fill thousands of jobs in recent years because of a lack of qualified applicants due to workforce retirement and the lowest fertility rate in the world. According to studyportal.eu, German universities offer close to 900 college courses in English at the undergraduate and graduate level. "The subjects include social sciences, politics, and engineering — a particular strength of the country’s education system.”
     To see more on this article by Rick Noack from the Washington Post, go to:

February 15, 2016 
Is an Ivy League College in Your Child’s Future ??

     Expects suggest that Parental Expectations that are too high can harm students.  In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology®, 3530 secondary school students along with their parents from Bavaria Germany were assessed on math achievement, parental aspiration and expectations on an annual basis from 2002-2007.   
     “They found that high parental aspiration led to increased academic achievement, but only when it did not overly exceed realistic expectation. When aspiration exceeded expectation, the children’s achievement decreased proportionately.”  These results were reinforced using data from a two-year study of over 12,000 US students and their parents. 
     Does this theory hold true for our teenagers in high school?   This is an age-old question many of us ask ourselves on a daily basis.  It is still a very grey area for many parents; Am I pushing too hard or am I going too easy on my kids?   
     I do not think any of us can answer that question honestly unless we ask ourselves a few questions  
              Why are we pushing so hard?
              Are we doing it for ourselves or for the teen?
              Are we comparing our teens to our own achievements, their siblings or others?
              Are these teens being rebellious or are they just immature? 
     If we look close enough, we may be able to see the signs of our teens’ real abilities.  Each of my own three children who have gone off to college, handled high school and the college process very differently.  Sometimes my husband and I would look at each other and ask if these were really our kids or had they been switched at birth?  Also, we couldn’t understand how children raised in the same house by the same parents with the same rules could be so different.  Only when I really slowed down and thoughtfully looked at the strengths and abilities of the individual was I able to get a better understanding of my teens. 
     I realized that it does take some teens longer than others “to get it” on the academic or social front.  This just means that each teens develop at their own pace.  Also, I realized that, to a certain extent, parents can only do so much to push their children.  At some point it has to come from within. To be competitive athletes, they have to practice on their own. To do well on their SATS/ACTS, they have to study independently.
     When parents continually intervene in their teenagers’ academic life, doesn’t it ultimately diminish their confidence or alter their view of the real world?  Let’s face it, we  don’t want our teens  to peak in high school, but if we continually push for the wrong reasons or beyond their true capabilities, are we raising a generation who will not be able to make sound decisions for themselves?
     *Reference: American Psychological Association Nov 17, 2015
       Parents Aiming Too High Can Harm Child's Academic Performance  

Wednesday, February 10, 2016
     During the anxiety ridden WAITING GAME, our aspiring teenage college students may need to be reminded of some basic principles that we taught them since they were in grade school!!



​​Monday, February 1, 2016
Do not give up preparing for those SAT and ACTs just yet……It may take awhile to “Turn the Tide” on the College Admissions’ Process!
     In January 2016, the Harvard Graduate School of Education published a report about the College Admissions Process.  The report, Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good through College Admissions, stems from a meeting by Harvard’s Graduate School of Education on a project called Making Caring Common.  Admissions’ officers, administrators, guidance counselors, principals, admission professionals, education experts, and other key stakeholders joined together to consider how to improve the college admissions process. The goal of this meeting and subsequent report is to provide concrete recommendations to reshape the college admissions process and promote greater ethical engagement among aspiring students, reduce excessive achievement pressure, and level the playing field for economically disadvantaged students.
     Clearly, the focus of this report was not just to debate standardized testing but to reevaluate the process and look at students differently.  I believe that few people would disagree that incorporating a holistic view of each student in the college admissions process is more reliable than the paper version.  Recognizing and crediting students for their work experience, real commitment to service and redefining achievement could improve economic and ethnic diversity on all college campuses.  It could also prove to be a more realistic indicator as to whether a teen will become a more compassion, driven, successful, and creative adult.  
     In order to equalize the playing field for all applicants, we will need answers to a few questions.   How can this subjective evaluation be objective in the short and long run?”  Who will determine the criteria to evaluate these new objectives?   Will all candidates need to be interviewed in order to get a real feel for each applicant?  How will multiple layers of staff (and potentially alumni) handle these interviews and make recommendations? Making Caring Common does recognize this dilemma and plans to work over the next two years with college admissions officers, parents, high schools guidance and administrators to find ways to implement this report. 
     Just like the “redesigned SAT” that will be implemented in April, no on really knows what to expect with “Turning the Tide” on College Admissions.  Even though approximately 52 college have endorsed this report and "several of these colleges have already made the changes in their admissions materials or practices as a result of this report", consider the fact that there are close to 3000 four-year colleges in the United Sates.  Furthermore, recognize that the vast majority of the schools who are endorsing this approach are very influential and heavily endowed Ivy League or part of the upper most tier of American Universities.
     Realistically, the SATs and ACTs will still be a force in College admissions for some time.  Most universities do not have the resources to evaluate current college applications at the level that the Harvard report suggests.  Although this may begin a shift in the College Application Process, until there is some other easily accessible, reliable, standard indicator of a person’s aptitude, then the SAT/ACTs will exist at some level.   The unpopular truth is, the vast majority of the American high school students will still be taking standardized tests, SATs/ACTS,  for most college applications in the coming years.        
     To review the Executive Summary of Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good through College Admissions, go to


Wednesday September 30, 2015


The much anticipated and debated college rating system from the Obama Administration made its debut this past Saturday, September 12, 2015. The intention of this was to develop a system that rates the quality of the nations colleges and universities.  The idea was to publicly identify low rated schools whose students had low graduation rates, poor post graduate income potential and high debt. The initial plan would have had under performing schools on the rating system eventually lose federal student financial aid funding.  As you can imagine, the plan met opposition from many universities for numerous reasons including monetizing majors and government competition in existing businesses. The result is a website that does not have the accountability that President Obama intended.
So, is collegescorecard.ed.gov worthwhile for average college students and their families to take a look at?  In my opinion, even though there are shortcomings to this website and there isn’t any new information or action that will decrease the price of a college education, it is still worth a look.  There is a wealth of information about all 2 and 4 year colleges and universities in this country available on this one website which can serve as a great reference tool for both parents and students to make their college search a little easier.  The following is a summary of the PROS and CONS of the website:

- It is very user friendly.
- You can search for all two or four-year colleges in the United States based upon the following criteria:  program/degree, location (state or region), size, name, gender/ethnicity or religious affiliation.  For example, if your student was interested in only universities that had Natural Resources and conservation programs in the Plains region of the US, that had less than 2000 students, he/she could identify the 24 institutions that fit that description. 
- It is a great starting point if you want to explore what universities in any region, state or across the country that offer a particular field of study
- It does provides annual salary estimates for graduates (but does not take into account geographic locations and cost of living.)  It should be used as a reference point, not an absolute.
- It identifies graduation rates for every university.  This is important for all parents and students to know because it can be indicative of a variety of underlying issues at a university.   Colleges who have low graduation rates may have issues that include the following: low academics focus, lack of student commitment, lack of resources to guide and assist students, lack of strong college community, faculty turnover, etc.  Often times, students need to be unusually focused and independent in order to graduate from these universities.
- It is a great starting point if you have no idea what the real costs of college are.  It provides the user with quick and easy access to estimating his/her costs to attend a particular university The direct links to the universities’ personal net price calculators are very in depth and accurate.  (Net price calculations for each university are approximately 8-10 pages requesting information on student’s household, finances and academics as well as parental income and assets. 
“The estimates presented in this calculator are based on the current financial aid award year and policies. Results in future years may differ due to changes in financial aid policies or the student's financial circumstances.”
- It provides the user with quick and easy access to estimating students federal financial aid awards with a direct link to Fafsa4caster. (The Federal Government’s calculation to estimate how much federal aid your student will be awarded.)
- It provides SAT/ACT scores of admitted students to each university so a candidate can get an indication as to  whether a school would be a possibility or a reach for them. 

Cons /Shortcomings
- The website’s financial information can, initially, be misleading.   The “Average Annual Cost (of a university equals the) Average annual net price for federal financial aid recipients after aid from school, state or federal government” (has been applied). This indicates that the initial annual costs to attend a university identified on collegescorecard.ed.gov are based upon the cost for students who are considered low income. (The good news is you can easily get more accurate information about the real cost for your student by clicking on the link to the individual university’s net price calculator.)
- “Salary After Attending” estimates do not identify cost of living variations based upon geography. 
- "Top schools" identified as “low cost schools that lead to high income, high salaries, high graduation rates” are misleading because most of these schools are very prestigious universities that are very difficult to gain admission.
- The user cannot compare two specifically named universities at the same time. 


 College Admissions Seminar for High School Parents​​


June 12, 2017

Get Ready for the Common Application's ESSAY Prompts

     Summer break is on the horizon for all Rising, High School Seniors!  If your teens  plans did not include filling out as much of that Common Application as possible, I highly recommend that, minimally, your teens  have a first draft of the Common Application Essay complete before school starts in September.  Why?  Because once September rolls around, seniors will be in overdrive trying to keep up with academics and the college process; having a first draft composed will take so much stress off them.  It is important to remember that this 650 word Essay is the one component of the application where students  can distinguish themselves  in the college process.  

     The Common Application did change its' prompts this year,offering more of a selection to choose from compared to years past.  The following is a summary of the essay prompts:  

2017-2018 Common Application Essay Prompts
1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. [No change]
2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? [Revised]
3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? [Revised]
4. Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma - anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution. [No change]
5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. [Revised]
6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? [New]
7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. [New
For more information on the Common Application Essay, click

SOURCE:  The Common Application 

     February 26 , 2019 


December 10, 2015

The FAFSA Clause ....

Did you know that 85% of undergraduate students receive some form of financial aid?

To see the Six Most Common FAFSA Mistakes go to, 


December 6, 2015
Tuition Breaks for Massachusetts (and New England) residents at select New England Colleges... Check this out before your students file those regular decision applications on January 15,

       The New England Board of Higher Education offers tuition breaks to undergraduate (and graduate students) called New England Regional Student Program,(RSP). The RSP enables eligible students to pay lower tuition when they attend a participating out of state New England public college or university. There are over 800 undergraduate and graduate degree programs offered.  (The RSP is similar to tuition respiratory programs that exist among other states.)
     How does RSP work for Massachusetts (and other New England state) residents?
If Massachusetts state colleges do not offer a specific degree, a student may be able to earn an associates, bachelors or masters degree from another New England state who does offer that program. You may be surprised to discover the depth and breadth of the programs offered at many New England colleges and universities.  RSP includes Generics at University of New Hampshire, Film Studies at Rhode Island College, Zoology at University of Maine and Statistics at the University of Connecticut, just to name a few.  Although some programs have special requirements and/or restrictions and may not be available to freshman students, it is still worth exploring  (For programs offered to Massachusetts residents seeking a bachelors degree, go to 
http://www.nebhe.org/info/pdf/tuitionbreak/2016-17/brochure/2016-17_Tuition_Break_Brochure_Massachusetts-Residents.pdf  )  
How does a student qualify for RSP?
-Student must be a permanent resident of Mass (Conn, Maine, NH, RI or Vermont)
-Student must enroll in an approved degree program. 
-Student must apply to a participating university.
-Student must declare an RSP approved program when applying. 
-Student must indicate that they are applying for RSP status. 

     Applying for an RSP does not require a student to file a separate application.  This program enables students to pay a significantly reduced rate of an out of state student.  According to the New England Board of Higher Education’s Tuition Break website, student pays a regional tuition rate whose current saving averages about $7000 for a full time student. For specific Massachusetts costs, go to
 http://www.nebhe.org/programs-overview/rsp-tuition-break/data-reports/ .     
For more information on New England Regional Student Program, RSP, go to 
http://www.nebhe.org/programs-overview/rsp-tuition-break/overview/ .

December 3, 2015
The Deadline for FAFSA is approaching fast! A few points to consider before January 1, the first day students can file for financial aid.

     Did you know that students no longer use a pin number to file a FAFSA?  Effective May 2015, a student must have a FSA ID number to file a FAFSA. To get a FSA ID, students should go to, https://fsaid.ed.gov/npas/index.htm to create a username and password.  The FSA ID is a little different than the former PIN number.  The following highlights the key components of the FSA ID:
It requires a social security number, address, and security question.
It offers an immediate verification of a six digit code that will be emailed to the student.
Students will have to have immediate access to their emails to verify the six digit code in order to initiate a FS AID.
It takes a few days to process your FSA ID since the Social Security Office verifies your student's identity. 
The FSA ID will allow your student to enter the data on your FAFSA.
The FSA ID will give your student access to update and edit personal data on the FAFSA.
FSA ID enables yours student to sign and submit the FAFSA.
FSA ID is where students must begin in order to be considered for financial aid. 
     A FAFSA worksheet is available as early as July 1 and a printable version in English and Spanish is available at 
https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/sites/default/files/2015-16-fafsa-worksheet.pdf .  It is important to note that financial aid is not unlimited and there is some discretion at the individual school level as to how funds will be allocated.  The lesson to take away from this is that the earlier you submit a FAFSA, the stronger aid package you may receive.

​                  April 7, 2017 

Need help deciphering College Financial Award Letters? 

There are no standard forms for the letters that tell parents what they can expect to pay for college tuition  if their child attends any university.   Grants, work study, loans and scholarships from Federal, State and the University are listed together.  This number is then subtracted from the total cost of attendance to determine what is a family's Expected Family Contribution, EFC.  This bottom line number may be appealing but as you look more closely and peel back the layers, you will discover that, in this package, there are loans that will need to be paid back and will often accrue interest (unsubsidized loans) from the time your student is a freshman in college.  

My advice is to do the math on all award letters received.  Use the freshman year award as the standard for the next four years, multiply the debt times 4, and identify the interest rate to determine how much you or your student will owe by graduation.  Take it one step further and determine what the monthly payments will be for the debt accrued.  (For monthly payments, go to FinAid    
http://www.finaid.org/calculators/loanpayments.phtml). Then discuss all this with your teen.  Making an informed decision is critical to finding the colleges that is the best fit, academically and financially, for your teen.  

Deciphering these award letters can be challenging, but the office of the Massachusetts Attorney General, Maura Healey, is offering some guidance to help consumers evaluate financial aid awards.  
For more information on this, go to mass.gov/ago/studentawardletter



Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Where Do Students Find College Scholarships and Grants?  
     Most Americans are not aware that the vast majority funding for college grants come from the federal government.  Students often automatically apply for these grants when they file their FAFSA.  (For more information on the FAFSA,go to www.fafsa.ed.gov .) Many private universities  (and a few public) require students to file a CSS/Profile in order to be eligible for other individual college scholarships and grants.  (For more information on the CSS/Profile go to the College Board website at https://student.collegeboard.org/css-financial-aid-profile.)
     For those of you who believe your student may be a candidate for an athletic scholarship, you may be surprised to discover that, according to the NCAA website, only about two percent of high school athletes win sports scholarships every year at NCAA colleges and Universities.  You may be even further amazed to find out that ONLY Division I and Division II Colleges can offer sports scholarships to athletes in the NCAA. Furthermore, the AVERAGE of these sports scholarship is less than  $11,000 per year and it is not guaranteed for all four years of school.  (For more information on NCAA sports scholarships, visit their website at
     So for those of you who would still like to explore scholarships and grants that do not fall into these categories, where do you begin?  A recent article from U.S. News and World suggests that the top  places to look for college scholarships are as follows:
1)Your own High School – guidance counselors and faculty may have information on local sources
2)Local Library – Resource Librarian may be knowledgeable of community scholarships
3)Local Community – Groups involved in your Church, Scouts organizations, Kiwanis or Elks Clubs, 4)Sports Organizations, Local Politicians, etc.
5)Family Employers – Immediate and extended family employers may offer scholarships even if you are a relative to an employee.
6)On Line Resources – Countless options  are available but be aware of scams.  (How to spot a scam, see
https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/pay-for-college/grants-and-scholarships/how-to-spot-scholarship-scams )

Finding a nontraditional scholarships or grants may be as simple as asking the right person a question, but have no doubt, it will be hard work.  The hard work may continue since the students will probably need to apply for the scholarships each year.  Ultimately, that hard work will pay off when students graduate with less debt. 

US World News  http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/scholarship-search-insider

​Friday, November 20, 2015

Why the COLLEGE ADMISSIONS so DIFFICULT?   The Global Impact.
     “Why is the college admission process so difficult?” The college admissions process in the United States is still a mystery to most parents not only because it is multilayered but also because it is constantly changing.   The truth of the matter is that most of us going through the college process do not even talk about it with anyone because we do not know really know enough about it to ask questions. Furthermore, there are components, options, and requirements to it that didn’t exist 25 years ago while other features change periodically. Additionally, the cost and subsequent debt students or families must incur in order to attend college has grown dramatically.  (According to the Federal Reserve, student debt is up 47% over the past five years.)
     So just when I thought I might have a handle on this, a relatively old aspect to college admissions  appears  to be having  quite an impact on current college acceptances.  College admissions has gone global.  It is more competitive than ever because there are even more international students competing for admission into most public and private universities across the country. An article in the Wall Street journal this week discusses the impact of international students, especially from China, on College Admissions.  “A record 974,926 international students were enrolled at accredited two- and four-year U.S. schools for the 2014-15 school year, a 10% rise over a year earlier, according to the Institute of International Education. About one-third of those students—304,040—are from China.”  This trend appears to be impacting some students in their Home- State Schools.  Often times, these international students pay three times the tuition than that of the in-state students.
      Although the international student population is only at 4.8% across the country, some states have significantly higher numbers.  Massachusetts is one of those states averaging around 10% but this number is reflective of both public and private universities.  As a state with numerous prestigious universities, it is not surprising that our international student population is above average.  (For college specific averages by U.S. News, go to http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities/most-international/page+5 )
     The question about the right number of international students at public colleges appears to be up for discussion.  Is the cash flow from these international student keeping capital expenditures down and quality faculty in place or is it shutting out many students from attending their own state colleges?  There is an argument to be made from either side of this dilemma ranging from the impact of diversity to the tax payers rights.   This is a complicated problem that looks to be on the rise.  The impact on local students versus the quality of education will need to be weighed and measured at each institution of higher education.  It may need to be a  decision that is made on a school by school basis and voted on by residents of that state. 

For more information on this topic, see the WSJ article Foreign Students Pinch University of California Home-State Admissions at 
http://www.wsj.com/articles/foreign-students-pinch-university-of-california-home-state-admissions-1447650060  and The PEW Charitable Trust article at More International Students on Campus, Especially in Some States at http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2014/11/25/more-international-students-on-campus-especially-in-some-states

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

​​​                     What Will  a Four Year College Education Really Cost?
College Tuition increases may have slowed in the past two years, but incoming and current students are still feeling the effects of years of steep growth and a current slow down in some federal financial aid.  Parents and students should fully understand the history and hidden costs of a college education.
Consider the following: 
*In 2005-06, the annual sticker price to attend a four-year public school jumped by nearly $5,000, while the cost of a four-year private school increased by almost $9,000 in inflation-adjusted dollars.
*A bachelor’s degree in 2014 carried $28,950 in debt on average, a 56% increase over their counterparts a decade earlier.  (I still consider this number to be low for many college graduates whose families fall into the working middle class.)
*Net costs vary tremendously by student.  In 2011-2012,
 Families who made less than $30,000, 62% of dependents had all tuition and fees covered.
Families who made $106,000, only 8% of dependents had all tuition and fees covered.   
*The published price by a university may mask the trend toward differentiated tuition by undergraduate major, a practice that is spreading.
 *Universities often publish tuition and mandatory fees but do not necessarily identify the additional costs of housing, meal plans, books and mandatory health insurance (if not covered).   
 *Aid at four-year public schools shrank slightly in the past two years, reversing a long pattern of annual increases.
 *In-state tuition and fees at four-year public colleges can vary dramatically.  For Example, in Wyoming, they are $4,890 this year, according to the College Board report. In New Hampshire, they are $15,160.
*Mandatory fees at public universities have risen dramatically in the past ten years. 
*In Massachusetts,
     *Public colleges' and universities' tuition has held steady from 2007 – 2016.
     *Mandatory fees have gone up $4574, approximately 58% since 2007.
     *Tuition and mandatory fees equal $14174 in 2016 versus  $9600 in 2007.  
     *This total cost of $14174 does not include on campus housing, a meal plan and books. When these items  are added on to the bill, most students are looking at approximately $23,000 to attend a Massachusetts State. Four-year, Public University. 
 (For more information on Massachusetts College Tuition and Fees, go to 
For more information on "Shrinking Financial Aid" article, go to WSJ Nov 4, 2015

 Friday, November 6, 2015
An archived article from earlier this year in the Washington Post discussed how  MIDDLE CLASS families struggle to pay for a college education.  Why don't we hear more about this Main Street topic?  Will universities ever be  held accountable for the rising costs of education?  


Wednesday, November 4, 2015
An article from the Washington Post this week discussed Higher Education Tax Credits.  Even though they do help 60% of undergraduate families desperately trying to fund a four year college education, does Washington insiders consider it a failure?  You decide. 


                                                                             MAY 2016  

May 31, 2016

The Controversy Surrounding State Universities and Out-Of-State Students
     State Universities are in a financial quandary more that ever as they try to compete with private colleges.  Private universities’ tuition rates have escalated out of control in the past ten years, allowing many to improve their facilities and attract a higher, quality faculty.  On the other hand, public universities find themselves in a position where they are financially strapped because they are receiving even less state aid than they have in the past.    

      In order to maintain their current standards or consider growth opportunities, many public universities are looking for ways to increase revenues.  One strategy employed by many public colleges is to attract out of state candidates because they will pay higher tuition rates.  To entice these students, many public universities are offering these candidates merit scholarships. Although the ultimate goal of this strategy is two fold;, to increase university revenues and build a more diverse student body., the question remains ,   “Are in- state students losing admissions spots as a result of this strategy?” 
     This dilemma is not unique to any one state but has risen to the top in Massachusetts this year as state universities offer acceptances and merit scholarships to a record number of out-of-state students.  For a good account of this issue, see the May 29, 2016 Boston Sunday Globe.  The article “Out-of-state students get most of UMass Merit Money” can be found by clicking

May 24, 2016

Are the New Redesigned SAT Scores Inflated? 
     The goal of the newly designed SAT is to measure core skills taught in school, such as reading charts, analyzing evidence and applying algebra in mathematical problems.  To accomplish this new vision, the SAT not only had to change the components, content and structure of the test, but also its’ method of scoring.  The perfect score of the New SAT reverted back to 1600 versus 2400, which it has been for the last 10 years. 
     Information released by the College Board during May shows that, for a good percentage of students, the New SAT scores are comparable to results that could have possibly been 60 to 80 points lower on corresponding sections of the Old SAT.  When I went to the College Board website and plugged in my own children’s past SAT scores into the “SAT Score Converter,” I found a 20 – 50 point increase in their individual scores by section.   
     Do these results mean that kids are smarter or that the test is easier?   Alternatively, does it indicate that the test may in fact, actually measure what it set out to; the core skills taught to our teens in high school? Clearly, this change is confusing and there are concerns that need to be resolved but, the fact remains that it will, ultimately, impact those students who are applying to college in 2016-2017.   

     The College Board has released the “Concordance Tables” to help those who want to evaluate and compare in depth, the New SAT, The Old SAT and the ACT.  (For more information on concordance tables, go to        http://bit.ly/1ozka47 .)  In my mind, the question that remains is, “How will universities interpret these results when evaluating admissions applications?”  Although the jury is still out on that, I wonder if our institutions of higher education will spin this dilemma in their favor!? 
Sources:   Washington Post  March 3, 2016.  As SAT enters a new era this week, students say the exam has improved  http://wapo.st/1RnDhET      

                Washington Post   May 14, 2016 Why your new SAT score is not as strong as you think it is .  http://wapo.st/1T6w6TH          
                The College Board

May 11, 2016

More Standardized Test Talk… SuperScore!? SuperDuper Score!?  What you should know about submitting test scores!
     The chatter about the SAT/ACT is never ending, especially this year since the “New Redesigned SAT” Scores were just released.  The implications and weight that the new SAT will carry at colleges and universities across the country remains to be seen but being knowledgeable about how universities have historically evaluated standardized tests should be a factor as to when and how frequently your students should take a standardized test.
     The origins of the terminology used for submitting standardized test scores is unclear but, the vernacular used in college admissions circles is apparent.  The laymen’s terms for what standardized tests scores are required by colleges and how these scores are evaluated or considered has historically fallen into four categories.  They are as follows:
     "Single Score" – Universities require that applicants submit only their highest scores from a single highest test date.  The institution only uses that one score when evaluating their application.  For Example, a student chooses to take the SATs (or ACTs) in March, May and June of a given year.  That student receives varying results on each test. The student then chooses which test date he will submit. Since he received his highest overall combined scores from the May SAT test, he submits that one score to the university.  The student’s scores for the May test date are the only scores considered by the university on his application.
     "Super Score"- Universities allow applicants to submit their highest scores taken on multiple test dates from a single standardized test (SAT only or ACT only).  The institution then considers the highest scores for each section from all the tests taken.  For example, a student chooses to take the SAT in March, May and June of a given year.  That student receives his highest math score, a 700, on the March SAT, his highest English score, a 650, on the May SAT and his highest writing score, a 670, on the June SAT.   The student submits all three scores to the university because a university who “super scores” standardize tests will cherry pick the best scores by subject and only consider the highest score from each section when evaluating an application. 
     "Super Duper Score"  - Universities allow applicants to submit their highest scores taken on multiple test dates across both the SAT and the ACT.  The institution then considers the highest scores by section across all test dates from either the ACT or the SAT.  For Example, a student chooses to take the SAT in March, the ACT in May and the SAT in June of a given year.  That student receives his highest math score, a 700, on the March SAT, his highest English score, a 32, on the May ACT and his highest writing, a 670, on the June SAT.   A university who “super duper scores” standardize tests will cherry pick the best scores by subject and only consider the highest score by section from BOTH the SAT and the ACT when evaluating an application. 
     "All Scores" – Universities REQUIRE ALL standardized test scores from ALL TEST DATES to be submitted.  ALL SCORES are considered in the review process of an application. If a student is applying to schools that require all of his standardized test scores to be submitted, he should be very cautious and prepared when planning to take all tests.   A few universities that require “all scores” to be submitted include Cornell, Duke, Rice, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, Yale, and Georgetown.
NOTE: This rule holds true for SAT SUBJECT TESTS as well. SAT Subject Test may be taken by high school freshman or sophomores based upon their course schedule. This is often applicable to students taking physics, chemistry or advanced math early on in high school.
      College admissions is constantly changing and there are always variations to these general guidelines.  As a result, I advise students and parents to check with individual universities in order to clarify their requirements and consideration on standardized test scores.   The College Board, who administers the SATs does provide further clarification on this subject.  For more information, please visit The College Board Score-Use Practices by clicking



November 13, 2017

FREE SAT Prep on line with The College Board and Kahn Academy
Did you know that the College Board has partnered with Khan Academy since June, 2015 to offer students FREE personalized SAT preparation based upon a diagnostic test or a PSAT performance? 

Although the free prep course offered is not limitless, it definitely gives students a starting point.  Even with limited resources or time, a motivated student can start preparing independently anytime they want for a future SAT test date. 

 I think what is so unique about this partnership, besides the fact that it is free, is the customization for students.  The program generates questions on a scale of difficulty.  After the baseline is established through a diagnostic or PSAT, the  level of difficulty of the questions increase as the student progressively answers questions correctly.  Those questions answered incorrectly are immediately given an explanation as to how the answer was derived. 

 The test prep includes practice questions, timed sections and 4 full exams that are then evaluated by Khan Academy.  Students will need to have a College Board account as well as establish a Khan Academy account so they can link the two to get “automatic personalized recommendations and evaluations". 
For more information on how to start a free SAT Prep program with Khan Academy and the College Board, go to

October 1, 2017

​Attention Parents of High School Seniors:  FINANCIAL AID FORMS CAN BE FILED!
    As of October 1, financial aid forms for your high school senior who plans to attend college in the Fall of 2018 can be filed based upon your family income from 2016.  Since October 1, 2016 students have been able to file FAFSA earlier based upon income from two years prior to the start of classes.  The following highlights some key points about the financial aid process:
Sources of Financial Aid
1) Federal 2)State 3)Individual Colleges 4)Non-Profit/ Private Entities
 Types of Financial Aid
1)Grants – financial aid that does not typically have to be repaid.
2)Loans – borrowed money for college costs that must be repaid with interest.
3)Work-study – earned money from a work program that helps students pay for school.
4)Scholarships – a financial award to defray the costs of college; most often based on merit, need  and/or association with a particular group. Typically does not have to be repaid. 
Calculation of Financial Need
Financial Need =     Cost of Attendance (COA)- Expected Family Contribution (EFC)*
*Each agency/institution uses the same formula but the criteria to determine aid  (EFC) varies based upon resources and endowments
Two Major Applications For Financial Aid (and some private scholarships)
1)Federal and Massachusetts State:   FAFSA   
2)Private Universities:  CSS/PROFILE           
       *Both can be submitted NOW
A Few Financial Facts About the Financial Aid and the Costs of a College Education….
1)TOTAL COST MASSACHUSETTS STATE UNIVERSITY in 2017-2018 =  $29,997. (Tuition and fees = $18,166:  Room and Board = $11,831 for ONE year). 
2)TOTAL COST PRIVATE UNIVERSITY may run approximately $60,000+.  (This includes tuition, mandatory fees, room, and board. Cost varies by institution.)
3)Average Class of 2016 graduate has  $37,172 in Student Loan Debt.
4)Submit your Students’ FAFSA  (and CSS/Profile if required) as soon as teens decide on what colleges they will apply to.
5)Funding for financial aid is not unlimited! 
6)The earlier you submit your Financial Aid Forms, the better the financial aid offer may be!
7)Financial Aid packages only come after the student is accepted to a college. 

​​​​​​​​​                                                             APRIL 2016

April 23, 2016
SAT Subject Tests Are Coming May 7 and June 4..... What are the SAT SUBJECT TESTS and WHY should my Student take them? 
     SAT Subject Tests are standardized test that are separate and in addition to the standard SAT or ACT.  It is considered an additional measure of a student's proficiency on a particular subject.  SAT Subject Tests are less common but are often required by Ivy or elite universities as a part of a student's admission application. Other colleges may recommend SAT Subject Tests in order to make an student's application stronger.  (Click
 list of colleges that require them.)

 The following is a summary of the details of SAT Subject Tests:
      1)There are 20 SAT subject tests. 

      2)SAT Subject Tests are offered six times a year:  October, November, December, January, May and June.

      3)Not all SAT Subject Tests are offered on each test date.

      3)SAT Subject Tests are offered in five  general areas of testing: English, History, Languages, Mathematics, and Science. (Click HERE for a list of subjects and dates.)
      4)SAT Subject Tests are one hour long.
      5)SAT Subject Tests are multiple choice

      6)SAT Subject Tests are scored on a 200-800 scale.
      7)SAT Subject Test costs $26 for the first test; each additional test is $18 except Language with listening, which are $26.

      8)To learn how to register for SAT Subject Test, go to the College Board website or Click HERE.  

APRIL 21, 2016

Is your teen interested in studying abroad in college?  
A few quick questions to ask admissions' counselors.....
     1) Does this university have a study abroad program?  If so, Where? 
     2) What percentage of students study abroad ?
     3) Do students have to apply and be accepted? 

     4) How far in advance do they have to apply?  

        5) What does the application process involve? 

     6) When do students find out if they are accepted or confirmed for a program? A year or semester in advance?
     7) Are there any additional COSTS/FEES associated with this program such "A Study Abroad Fee"? How much?       

     8) Are there any financial aid implications associated with any study abroad program? 
     9) Are all academic credits accepted? Does this include CORE requirements or ONLY electives?   
     10) Can students propose independent abroad programs? If yes, who needs to approve it?  

April 13, 2016

Which Financial Aid Package is Best????
High School Seniors will need to notify colleges by May 1 as to whether or not they will be accepting their offer of admittance.    If your student is deciding among choices based upon financial aid packages, the best recommend is : DO THE MATH.   That means you should take this freshman financial aid award and estimate the total amount of loans that will be needed to pay for four years of college.  Take it one step further and help your students calculate, with interest, what they will have to earn after graduation in order to pay off these loans.  (Click
HERE to estimate the monthly payments of a loan.)  Not only is this an eye opener for students and parents but it could help make the decision easier.   It is important to note that all financial aid packages can increase or decrease from year to year and freshman year is often considered the most lucrative award  during the students four years of college.    
     Additonally, the
Federal Student Aid Department’s website provides a quick and concise overview of the financial aid options in order for students and parents  to make informed decisions.  (It is also informative for parents who are just getting started on the college process.)  This link not only provides an overview of each type of aid, but also answers some basic questions include the following: 
        *I’ve got an award letter from my school. Which financial aid is the best to accept?
        *I will need to borrow some money. How do I decide which student loans to accept?
        *Is it okay to accept less loan money than the school offered?
        *How do I tell the school what aid I’m accepting?
        *How and when will I get my financial aid?

Sources : Federal Student Aid Website  http://1.usa.gov/1qmIrvi

                Fin Aid Loan Calculator Website http://mnstr.me/1grAFaD  

April 7, 2016 

What do Record Low College Acceptance Rates REALLY Mean???

     Could the highly publicized low college acceptance rates be an artificially inflated view of increasing demand? The truth is that a growing number of students now apply to 7 schools or more (29% in 2011).   “For members of the class of 2015 who are looking at more competitive colleges, their overtaxed counselors say, 10 applications is now commonplace; 20 is taking on a familiar ring; even 30 is not beyond imagining.” 1
     The total number of US high-school graduates rose just 5% between 2004 and 2013, while applications to private colleges rose by nearly 70%.   Even when you take into consideration international students, the total number of student applying to all colleges has not risen to double digits.    A 2014 report by Moody’s Investors Service describes how more students are applying to a greater number of colleges than ever before, either to attain the best possible aid package or to hedge their bets at highly selective institutions.
     This trend often leaves many universities, even some elite ones, with the difficult task of predicting their yield. “Yield rates for many colleges have plummeted over the last decade leading to a 2013 yield rate under 20% in nearly 20% of colleges and universities.  Ten years prior, only 2% of institutions had yield rates that low.”2
     Pamela T. Horne, Vice Provost for Enrollment Management at Purdue University, which received 47,475 applications this year, breaking last year’s "all-time record", educates faculty to the application boom. Application growth, "Provides a tangible measurement of their effort and is a great morale booster and source of pride,” but “More applications don’t necessarily mean more, or better, students.”3(CHE)
     The perception of an extraordinarily, competitive college admissions environment has in part, been created by the media hype and the Common Application.  The media often only focus on one eye catching aspect of a story while The Common App has made it much easier for students to apply to 5, 10, 15 or 20 colleges with just the click of the button.   The result is an undertone of hysteria among students and parents when it comes to college acceptance.  I imagine many would be surprised to discover that the nation average college acceptance rate for 4 year institutions is 65%. 4
     While many qualified students are shopping around for prestige, placement or financial aid, they must also face the reality that college admissions departments are constantly changing their goals and initiatives. The ideal student one year may be out of favor the next.  Students and parents often forget that "quality and quantity work against each other”.  Can any one student show real demonstrated interest in 20+ schools?  Let us not forgot the fact that “the problems of scale only increase as decisions roll in. Five rejections are painful; 15 can be devastating.” 4

1.  Kaminer, Ariel. “Applications by the Dozen as Anxious Students Hedge College Bets.”  nytimes.com. New York Times, 15 Nov. 2015.  Web. 7 Apr. 2016. http://nyti.ms/1BzHoMs 
2. “Rise in student applications creating greater financial risk for some colleges.” Moody Investor Service, 2 Oct 2014. Web 7 Apr. 2016.
3. Hoover, Eric. “Record-Breaking Numbers of Applicants? Don’t Gloat.” chronicle.com.  Chronicles of Higher Education, 1 Apr. 2016.  Web. 7 Apr. 2016. 
4. Hoover, Eric. “Record-Breaking Numbers of Applicants? Don’t Gloat.” chronicles.com. Chronicles of Higher Education, 1 Apr. 2016.  Web. 7 Apr. 2016. 
5. Kaminer, Ariel. “Applications by the Dozen as Anxious Students Hedge College Bets.”  nytimes.com. New York Times, 15 Nov. 2015.  Web. 7 Apr. 2016.    

April 6, 2016

I Dont Want to Look But I Must!?!  America's Top 50 Colleges 2015  According to Forbes

     Why are we so obsessed with ranking? I guess it is human nature to aspire and be informed, especially when it comes to our children, but we do not have to internalize this and believe that these are the ONLY worthwhile colleges for our own teens. There is an abundance of great universities out there that will be a good fit for your teens. It is worth doing some work to help them find the colleges where they will succeed rather than relying on an "expert opinion" about what is considered the best. Enough said. 

     To see America's Top 50 Colleges 2015 according to Forbes, Click HERE.   

April 4, 2016

High School Seniors UNDECIDED???

Three little questions for High School Seniors to ask themselves before they decide on a college.   
     1)  What do I want to Study?
     2) What is the best financial investment for me?
     3) Which of my choices will give me the best chance of employment in my field of study?

To see more of this Huffington Post article, click HERE

August 2017

​Attention Rising Seniors.....The 2017 - 2018 Common Application is LIVE!

The Common Application for college admissions is available for rising seniors to start filling out.  Although the New Common App essay prompts for 2017-2018  were previously released, the actual application is now LIVE for rising seniors to complete.  Before they get started, there are a few changes that they should know about.
1) "Google Drive Integration: 
Students will now be able to easily access and upload documents, resumes, and school assignments while completing the Common App and the college-specific sections of the application. We know that many school districts have adopted Google Docs and Google Drive to enable their students and teachers to create, collaborate, and access shared documents from any internet connected device. We also recognize that some students do not always have personal computers at home but use Google Drive on school or library computers to store their documents. We want to meet students where they are. By incorporating the tools that they are already using, we are making the process more accessible for students.
2) Advisor and Recommender Enhancements: Students receiving support from advising and community-based organizations will be able to work with those counselors just as they work with their school-based counselors and teachers within the application. These individuals will then be able to manage their caseloads and view student progress within the Common App system. In addition, any student who wishes to do so will be able to share a view of their in-progress application (read-only) with their school counselor, advisor, or mentor. If a student chooses to invite an Advisor, that action will remain private. The Advisor invitation and profile information will not be visible to a student's colleges or any other invited Recommender.
3) Courses & Grades: Many students are required to submit self-reported high school academic records when applying to some colleges and universities. With Courses & Grades, students will be able to fill out their self-reported transcript information as part of their Common Application. By integrating the Courses & Grades section into the Common App, those students who are already sending this information will be able to complete and submit it with their Common App, making the process of self-reporting transcripts more standardized and streamlined for students, counselors, and colleges. Seven Common App member colleges plan to use Courses & Grades in the coming year.
4) Spanish Language Resources: Key informat
ion for using the Common App has been translated so that students, parents, and other family memberswho speak Spanish as their first language can better understand the college admission process. These new resources will also benefit counselors who work with these families and need Common App materials in Spanish."1

 1. The Common Application, 10 Apr. 2017. Web. 4 Aug. 2017, http://www.commonapp.org/whats-appening/application-updates/key-innovations-2017-2018-common-application 


Friday, October 30, 2015

A perspective on ED II from the New York Times that is worth a look .


Thursday October 29, 2015
Good quick reference for student loan calculations by college - identifies average loan debt over 4 years, what students will pay monthly, and what they need to earn in order to pay off their loans.

Wednesday October 21, 2015
Here is some good information for identifying LEGITIMATE College Scholarships. Check out the article here. 


Morse Institute Library Natick, MA

7-8:30 pm

 April 30, 2017
Five myths about college admissions according to The Washington Post....
The Washington Post, recently published a story on what they believe to be five myths about college admissions.  As I read through the article, I had to smile to myself because I have often been asked by parents to share my opinion about similar, pointed topics.  What I always tell these parents and students who are trying to figure out the best route to their top tier campus is, “The one constant in college admission is change." These are the facts: The goals and objectives of every university vary from year to year which forces admissions’ departments to minimally, modify their criteria.   Although there may be some overall parameters such as standardized test scores and GPAs that generally determine who may “play in the sandbox”, a final acceptance is not often predictable
     This is why my mantra for all high school students who are thinking about applying to college is. “Do what is best for you, academically, athletically, emotionally and physically.” Constantly struggling to take one or three AP classes, filling schedules with club activities to build resumes, or starting charitable organizations does not a guaranteed acceptance to any university.   Being a strong, self-aware teen with a passion for something will build a better human being and even a better college candidate. 
     So for anyone going through the college process, the goal is to find the Colleges (yes plural, colleges) that are the BEST FIT, both academically and financially.  Students who know and are confident in themselves are more likely to be happy and successful in college and in life.
     So what are the most recent college admissions myths??
#1 Admission Essays don’t matter
#2 The more extracurricular, the better.
#3 Ivy league schools are the most selective.
#4 Average Grades in hard classes are better than A’s in easy ones.
#5 Schools don’t need affirmative action to make diverse class
For more go to. http://wapo.st/2oYdtsO 
Source: The Washington Post,  Five myths about College admissions, Web 24 Mar 2017.  ​

March 7, 2017 
What’ s a NESCAC??
     If you are just dipping your toe into the ice-cold waters of the college admissions process, you have undoubtedly heard numerous acronyms being tossed around.  ED, EA, FAFSA, AP, SAT, and ACT are just a few phrases that have crossed your path.   Although you may be able to identify a couple of these in the world of college alphabet soup, one you may not have heard of is NESCAC.  What is a NESCAC?
     NESCAC is the New England Small College Athletic Conference, which is currently composed of 11 private, highly selective, liberal arts colleges and universities located primarily in New England. Established in 1971,  “the Conference was created out of a concern for the direction of intercollegiate athletic programs, and remains committed to keeping a proper perspective on the role of sport in higher education.”  In other words, this group of colleges wanted academics and sports to be challenging and equally important. 
     Participating in the NCAA Division III platform, the NESCAC’s sports often have additional restrictions with respect to a season’s length as well as the number of pre, in and post season competitions.  Not only are the NESCAC team members athletes and scholars but, the league is known for being fiercely competitive.  Often referred to as the “Baby Ivies” by local New Englanders, these institutions rank among the top Liberal Arts Schools in the country.  In fact, US News and World Report 2017 Best Colleges Rankings rated 4 NESCAC institutions in  one of the  top 6 positions on the Best National Liberal Arts Colleges list! 
     So what colleges make up the NESCAC?
Amherst College, Bates College, Bowdoin College, Colby College, Connecticut College, Hamilton College, Middlebury College, Trinity College, Tufts University, Wesleyan University and Williams College​​

For More information about the NESCAC and the individual colleges, go to http://www.nescac.com/about/about 
    For more information on the U.S. News & World Report Releases 2017 Best Colleges Rankings, Sept. 13, 2016, go to: 

February 28, 2017
Can a College Education Be The Great Economic Equalizer?

     Yes, according to the study,  “Mobility Report Cards: The Role of Colleges in Intergenerational Mobility”, conducted by researches from Stanford, Brown, the University of California at Berkley and the U. S.  Treasury Department in conjunction with the National Bureau of Economic Research.    Although the study focused on students from 12 Ivy League and prestigious universities, the research showed that “students economic background had little impact on their future earnings, as low income students went on to earn nearly as much as high income students. “
     The article, Colleges Can Help Students Move Up. Let’s Make It Easier. , in the Chronicles of Higher Education goes on to discuss that not all public colleges perform as well  as this study suggests and that educational institutions need to focus on serving  more students better.  By focusing on the colleges that have the capacity to help more American join the middle class and reinvesting in underfunded public institutions, we can promote upward mobility for all students.  To find out how your local colleges rate on this and other key factors like graduation rates, go to the U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard website at https://collegescorecard.ed.gov 
Source: Chronicles of Higher Education,  Feb 24, 2017

January 24, 2017
How Much $ Can My Teen Expect In Financial Aid From the Federal Government????!!!??
A Quick Reference Guide from Forbes
2017-2018 EFC Quick Reference Table for College Aid
Step 1 – Locate your income in the AGI column.
Step 2 – Find the column at the top of the table that corresponds to the number of dependent children that you have and follow that column down to the row that corresponds with your income (AGI). The intersecting number is your estimated Federal EFC based on parental income only. The estimated EFCs in the table below do not take into account your assets, or if you make contributions to qualified retirement plans or receive any form of untaxed income. All of which will increase EFC.

This Graph is meant to give you a simplified, quick reference to a student's  Expected Family Contribution, EFC, for college.  This is the FEDERAL government’s calculation, (referred to as Federal Methodology) which is different from how individual UNIVERSITIES calculate financial aid. (This falls under Institution and Consensus Methodologies.) 
     Although this graph is strictly based upon income, the Federal Methodology does take into account students’ and parents’ non retirement assets when calculating aid but does not take into account small business assets and home equity. 
Source: Onink, Troy.  “2017 Guide To College Financial Aid, The FAFSA And CSS Profile.” forbes.com.  8 Jan. 2017. Web 23 Jan. 2017   http://www.forbes.com/sites/troyonink/2017/01/08/2017-guide-to-college-financial-aid-the-fafsa-and-css-profile/#2cd81d314ccb​​

January 23, 2107  
Dreading Financial Aid Applications and Deadlines?   Some Tips on what to Expect in the Process.
Although Massachusetts does not require the 2017 FAFSA, Free Application for Federal Student Aid, to be submitted until May 1, 2017, universities like University of Mass Amherst have a deadline of February 15, 2017 for candidates being evaluated for Regular Decision.  In addition, many private universities such as Northeastern University, require another form called the CSS/ Profile, College Scholarship Service Profile, to determine financial aid awards.  The CSS/Profile also has a deadline at February 15, 2017 at NU.
     If you have been putting off filing these forms or want to learn more about the process, here are a few tips that will get you started and help you understand the process. 
1)FAFSA is required by the majority of colleges across the country for financial aid awards from most states and the federal government.
2) FAFSA awards are based upon income earned 2 years prior to the start of the school year.  For example, freshman starting school in the Fall 2017 will file FAFSA using their parents’ 2015 income.
3) FAFSA is a relatively simple form and minimally requires financial information from a W-2.  
4) FAFSA aid is awarded based upon an EFC, Expected Family Contribution, which is calculated based upon the criteria set up by the federal government.  (Often referred to as the Federal Methodology.)
5)CSS/Profile is required by many private colleges across the country to get a better picture of a family’s financial situation . 
6) CSS/Profile awards are based upon financial information from 2 years prior but also asks financial questions about the most recent and coming year’s income. 
7) CSS/Profile requires more financial information and documentation than the FAFSA. 
8) Financial Aid is calculated differently by the colleges themselves.  Each university has its own criteria to evaluate a student’s EFC.  As a result, financial aid packages will vary by university based upon their financial interpretation, funding and goals.  This may be referred to as the Institutional Methodology. 
9) Another option coined the Consensus Methodology is use by a small group of 23 colleges that make up what is known as the 568 Presidents’ Group.  It was formed by the presidents of those institutions to assess students’ ability to pay for college using a “consensus” methodology.
 10) Merit aid is another form of student aid that is based on the student’s academic, athletic, music and other merits, not family finances. It is important for you to recognize that merit aid, which can come from  a university, state, local scholarships and  private scholarships, etc, will all be used to first reduce or “meet” the student’s need, NOT to reduce a parents out-of-pocket costs.
11) At the end of the college admissions and aid application process, your student will receive an official financial aid award letter by each university to which he has been accepted. The award letter includes outside scholarships, state grants, student loans, work-study, etc.  as well as the total cost of attendance to enroll for the upcoming academic year, including tuition, fees, room, board, books, travel and personal expenses.
12) Remember, financial aid awards can vary from year to year.  Often times, the best financial aid awards come freshman year (unless there is a dramatic change in the family’s financial situation), in order to entice students to attend.
13) Once your student starts receiving financial aid awards from colleges, you need to be careful to make sure they don't have loans buried in the small print.
14) Evaluate each financial aid package in depth by tabulating the entire out of pocket costs of a college education over a four-year period.
15) Take it one step further by calculating how much money your student will have to earn in order to repay all loans back when he graduates. 
16) Understanding what you are both getting into up front may not only help make some decisions about which college to attend but will also ensure that there are no surprises in the future

Source: Onink, Troy.  “2017 Guide To College Financial Aid, The FAFSA And CSS Profile.” forbes.com.  8 Jan. 2017. Web 23 Jan. 2017   http://www.forbes.com/sites/troyonink/2017/01/08/2017-guide-to-college-financial-aid-the-fafsa-and-css-profile/#2cd81d314c

January 11, 2017
​Should high school sophomores take the PSAT (Preliminary SAT) or a Practice ACT tests? 

      There seems to be more buzz about whether high school sophomores should take standardized tests for college.  In the past, many, local private and public high schools officered the PSAT to sophomore students during the fall (or the spring semester) as part of their normal progression to prepare for college.  (The ACT has only become more popular locally, (that is in MA), in the last 5+ years. As a result, few schools administered a practice ACT.) 
     The onset of the NEW REDESIGNED SAT may have influenced some high schools approach to standardized testing for sophomores. The first REDESIGNED SAT was administered in the Spring of 2016.  The graduating Class of 2017 will be the first students to be evaluated for college admission with the REDESINGED SAT. No one, including all guidance departments, knows exactly how the NEW SAT will be interpreted by college admissions.  (This past year, some high schools even advised students to only take the ACT because they knew what to expect from college admissions with this test.)  As the NEW SAT scores emerge, it turns out that students, on average, scored 50-80 points higher on the "NEW SAT" than their predecessors did on the “OLD SAT” .  The question that remains is, “How will those higher scores impact college admissions across the board?”  Will schools that used to look for a minimum of a 650 on “Verbal/Language/Reading” and "Mathematics" now be looking for at least a 700??  
     Historically, the rationale for sophomores to take the PSAT (and or an ACT Practice test) was twofold.  First, it allowed students to understand and become familiar with the extent of the test. Sophomores were able to experience the length, format and level of difficulty of the test while recognizing their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Second, students were able to perform without pressure .  As a sophomore, the college admissions process is not looming overhead and the urgency to prepare is not immediate.  Testing as a sophomore can give students  the time they need to strategize for the future SAT/ACT. 
     Today, the CollegeBoard, still recommends a version of the PSAT for both 10th and 11th graders, depending on students skills, goals and development.   For more information on the PSATs, click 
     If you feel that your teens could benefit from standardized testing during sophomore year, there are many on line and in home options offered through various companies including Princeton Review and Kaplan.  One local company in Newton who offers free practice tests for both the SAT and ACT is Summit Educational Group.  (For a fee, they will administer a PSAT.)   For a list of Summit's SAT and ACT Practice test dates, click 
NOTE:  The PSAT, Practice SAT and Practice ACT tests are not submitted  to colleges as part of an admissions application. Although most colleges allow students to send their own selection of standardized scores, many elite and Ivy League schools require students to submit ALL SAT/ACT test scores with their application.  ​

June 2016 

June 15, 2016

Planning to visit some colleges this summer??? Here are some insider tips to enhance those visits.  

1) Begin Locally.  Drive to a university close by.  Walk around. Eat lunch in the cafeteria.  Visit the Library. Get a feel for the college campus.  

2)Stop by the career development office. Look for internship opportunities and post graduation employment.

3)Pick up  a copy of the school newspaper. Get the inside scoop on what is going on around campus.
4)Sign up for the college blog or newsletter. Gather information on admissions, financial aid or webinars.
5)Find out the name of the Regional Coordinator at each university of interest. Get his/her contact information in order to follow up with if your student plans to apply to that college. 
6)Walk or drive around the neighborhood where the college campus is  located. Ask your student, “Can you imagine living here for the next four years?
7)Check to see if interviews are offered and encouraged.  If so, book a interview as part of an official college visit. 
8)Record ALL Visits.  All colleges blend together after visiting  3 or 4. initially list the pros and cons in a notebook.  (See the book, Demystifying COLLEGE ADMISSIONS by Terry Greene Clark, for a thorough college visit sheet as well as a complete guide to the college application process.) 

                                                                 MARCH 2016

March 30, 2016

​Math Versus Arithmetic….What courses should our High School students really be taking???

            Has the desire for a rigorous high school course load out weighed the need for useful mathematics that all adults should know?  According to author and College Professor, Andrew Hacker, that may be just the case.  In a recent interview with the Chronicles of Higher Education, Hacker describes his alternative to mathematics is, what he calls, “numerical literacy or adult arithmetic”.  He believes that we are not teaching our high school students the numeric skills that they will need for life.  “It is the kind of thing (arithmetic) you need to make sense of everything from corporate reports to the federal budget, or decide whether it’s better to buy or lease a car.” 
           Mr. Hacker’s definition of Math includes “algebra, trigonometry, and calculus” while arithmetic is the quantitative literacy that people actually need.  He supports his theory by arguing, “Despite the fact that nearly every young American is made to take algebra and geometry, we rank very low in international ranking of numerical literacy.”  Also, he suggests that these Math courses, often poorly taught, are the “chief academic reason that students drop out of high school and college”.
          Whatever your opinion on this subject matter, the importance of “adult arithmetic” is something that should not be ignored.   In order to make our students thoughtful, informed adults and better citizens, they need to have a solid footing in the fundamentals of numerical literacy. 
For more information on Andrew Hacker’s theory, see his book, The Math Myth and Other STEM Delusions. 
Source:  Chronicle of Higher Education: The Case Against Mandating Math for Students

March 14, 2016
Bankrupt Dad struggles to get student Loan forgiveness on Parent Plus Loans

 Student Loans are difficult to discharge in bankruptcy.  In order to get a court to do so, one  “must show that payment of the debt “will impose an undue hardship on you and your dependents.” According to the SLBA, Student Loan Borrower Assistance, there are three common factors that can lead to undue hardship:
        1) Debtor and dependents cannot maintain, a “minimal” standard of living
        2) Debtor has additional circumstances  
        3) Debtor has made good faith efforts to repay the loans.
     So, what constitutes “Undue Hardship” for those who took out Parent Plus Loans but are finding it hard to repay?  Proving undue hardship may be harder to prove than you think .  The following article in the Boston Globe details a Duxbury Dad's struggle to repay Parent Plus loans taken out to education their three children when peak income earnings are followed by a shifting economy, advanced age and  unemployment.  To read this Boston Globe's article, go to 
 ​SLBA:  http://www.studentloanborrowerassistance.org/bankruptcy/

March 8, 2016
What Students Said Right After Taking the New SAT..... 

Go to 
http://bit.ly/21hSZYg  to check out this article in the Chronicles of Higher Education  to get some students' perspective on the New SAT.   
Source: http://chronicle.com/article/What-Students-Said-Right-After/235609   

March 2, 2016​
What factors impact low income students’ college graduation rates?

     Researchers at Drexel University conducted a study of former Philadelphia public-school students to evaluate college matriculation. They found that only 1 in 5 had earned a college degree or certificate 6 years after high school graduation.  Ms. Neeta P. Fogg, research professor at Drexel, said “The pathway you choose as a student is very strongly related to your success.”  Factors that played into successful completion of college for this group of Philadelphia students included where they went, when they started and their demographics.  The following are highlights from the Drexel University Philadelphia study, which were reported in The Chronicles of Higher Education:   
* 46% success rate for those who started college within a semester of getting HS diploma     (Nationally 2/3 finish within 6 years)
*15% success rate for those who started past the first semester after High School
        Of those who started late –
               -15% success rate for those attending a Community College (CC)
               -50% success rate for those attending a 4-year college
*40% of high school graduates opted for CC upon graduation…
                -22% earned certificate or degree
                -10% earned a degree  when they delayed enrollment
*90% of the students who went to a 4 year college upon graduation…
               -53% earned a degree.
*65% of graduates who went to a private college earned a degree in 6 years;
     (Surprisingly, delayed enrollment at Private 4 year college lead to a shocking low graduation rate of 19%.)
*Latino and black students were significantly less likely than whites or Asian peers to earn a degree
*Minorities groups are disproportionately likely to end up at institutions that see a lower share of students through graduation.
*High school attendance, GPA SAT/ACT scores and turnover within a high school impacted college completion
*Pell grant recipients are 20% less likely to go to a 4 year college as opposed to a 2 year college.
     Varying circumstances can impact an individual’s ability to pursue and earn a college degree or certificate including drive, disciple and direction but there may be others as well.  One factor may be the services and student support provided at various institutions.  According to the Delta Cost Project, community colleges spend $10804 per student (- $531 vs 5 yrs ) while public research universities spent $17252 per student (+ 404 vs 5 yrs). 
     Laura Perna, author and professor at Penn., believes that this is not a problem that can be solved by higher education alone; High schools too must play a role.  I would add that it is not just the universities, the government, or the high schools that impact whether a student will earn a degree but a family’s support, on numerous levels, will play a pivotal role ‪in the success of any student on a college campus today. 
 Chronicles of Higher Education: 2 Keys to Success for Underprivileged Students: When to Start College, and Where to Go  
 http://chronicle.com/article/2-Keys-to-Success-for/235377 ​​

Terry Greene Clark

​​JANUARY 2016

January 29, 2016 

What does Bernie Sanders think of these "Three Reasons for Those Hefty College TuitionBills"??

     The continuing saga of the costs associated with a college education rages on and has become a significant factor playing into the Presidential election.  Bernie Sanders has built a platform on promising young adults free tuition at state universities.  All this buzz and no real plans from any candidate have not only fueled my disappointment in this election but also, returned my thoughts to a question that has haunted me for the past ten years.   “How do universities get away with continually raising tuition costs??!!”  If the majority of America students and parents are being saddled with exorbitant debt for a college education and may even discover that it is not within reach, why have costs of college only steadily risen over the past decade?  Are universities ever held accountable or questioned about the rising costs associated with attending their institutions?
     While researching this and trying to come to terms with this phenomenon, I found an article in the New York Times by N. Gregory Mankiw, titled, “Three Reasons for Those Hefty College Tuition Bills”.  Mankiw’s three major factors are as follows:  First, even though productivity barely advances, “wages increase so the cost of producing services increases as well.” Second, “educational institutions hire a lot of skilled workers.  It takes educated people to produce the next generation of educated people.  Third, “colleges have increasingly followed this practice of raising published prices and offering more financial aid based upon a family’s resources.”
     The first two indicators, the cost of living increases and employing a skilled workforce, are basic economics and make sense.  The third force, called “price discrimination” is what I take issue with.  Basically, my objection to this policy lies in the "numbers" that universities and the federal government deem as the appropriate debt to incur for a college education.  If you look at the statistics, the middle class is the most vulnerable in this equation.  More and more, middle, American parents are working two and three jobs just to earn enough disposable income to pay the immediate costs of a college education for their children.  Subsequently, their offspring are still saddled with debt after their parents’ sacrifices.  
     Do you think it is reasonable for a family of 5 making $150,000 gross a year to be able to pay, an Estimated Family Contribution, EFC, of $31,096* to send one child to a four-year private college?  This means that 31% of that family’s net income will be allocated for the college education of only one of their children.  When you do the math, that leaves $58,904 to house, feed, cloth, provide health insurance and care for a family of five over a 12 month period!!  Some might argue and believe that this is not a terrible financial situation to be in; these sacrifices are necessary and worthwhile in order for their children get ahead. 
     An unpleasant surprise, or the final blow, comes when families realize that their offspring will still be in debt when they graduate!  How is this possible?  Most parents do not realize that the majority of financial aid for most students comes in the form of loans.  These loans, subsidized or unsubsidized, need to be paid back by the student, or the parent, immediately or upon graduation.   If the student is fortunate, their subsidized loans have not accumulated interest throughout their college education so they will be repaying just the face value of their loans.  The majority of the middle class will
have only qualified for unsubsidized loans and will be facing debt that has been mounting for four years. 

     Is this the American dream all citizens have envisioned for the next generation?   Should universities be held accountable for their policies on the costs of a college education? 

* For more Information on EFC from Troy Onink and Forbes, click HERE 

** For more information on the New York Times article by Mankiw, click HERE 

Thursday January 21, 2016 
Who Reviews MY College Application????
     Now that those college applications are submitted, what actually happens to them? Georgia Tech offers an excellent youtube video of the process. Although it provides details that are specific to GT, the process is applicable to all universities. To see what really happens once you hit that "submit" button, take a look at this: ​​​

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Id8ruqd470o ​​​

Friday, January 8, 2016
Even Experienced Parents Get College Tuition surprises!!! 

       Somewhere in the onslaught of emails for year end savings between Christmas and New Year's Eve, an almost unobservable message from my son’s college appeared in my inbox; the subject, “tuition statement". Since Patrick is studying abroad this Spring semester, I had already spoken to the bursar’s office back in September of 2015 about tuition and fees when I set up our payment schedule. I made a mental note and saved the email to open after the new year. This past Monday morning, I calmly opened the message since I didn’t expect any surprises. Only when I quickly scanned it did I discover a $4100 discrepancy!! Upon further inspection, I realized that a $1750 meal plan charge would be easily rectified with the filing the “mandatory paperwork” but the $1300 “Academic Service Fee for a BS” and the $1000 “Study Abroad Fee” were probably not negotiable. I did my due diligence by calling the bursar’s office and questioned the charges. Of course, the personnel fielding the phone calls had no insight or empathy for my plight. These were mandatory charges that were just not negotiable. As our dialogue progressed, I asked if they could see the irony in these charges. Not only were we paying for tuition and fees in a European country where the cost of a university education is most often, significantly less than a US College, but also, we were being slapped with another college mandatory fees when my son would not even be present or step foot on that campus for the next 8 months!!!
       Words of caution for current and aspiring parents evaluating tuition and financial aid packages:  Ask more and specific questions about all fees associated with each semester so there are no surprises when the bill arrives. This should include fees described as academic, study abroad, activity, club sports, lab, health service, health center,(usually separate from insurance fees), recreation, (just to use the gym!!!), and housing (fees for special requests). If the personnel in the bursar’s office cannot answer your questions, get the name and contact information of the person in the housing, business school, science department, etc. who can answer the questions you have.  I wish you luck and remember to just BREATHE!!  ​​​​

Tuesday,  January 5, 2016 ​​
      Submit Your FAFSA (and CSS/ Profile) ASAP!!!!!
​​Even FAFSA admits that many colleges often distribute financial aid on a first come first serve basis. FINANCIAL AID FASFA FORMS are eligible to be submitted as of  January 1!  The moral of this story....FILE your FAFSA NOW!!
​          Federal Student Aid on Twitter!        
TIP: Many schools' financial aid is first come, first served. So put "Fill out the FAFSA" on your calendar.   

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                                          DECEMBER 2016 

PSAT/NMSQT and the PSAT10 are most often administered by high schools to their own student body.  The major similarities and difference between the two are as follows:
*2 hours and 45 minutes;  *Components - Reading– 47 Questions – 60 Mins, Writing & Language– 44  Questions – 35 Mins, Math– 48   Questions – 70 Mins   Total– 139 Questions – 165 Mins           
*No Essay; * Same  scoring scale as the SAT; PSAT scored between 320-1520 for PSAT 10 and PSAT NMSQT, as compared to 400-1600 for the “Real SAT";  PSATS equal 160 - 760 per section.
*Who: 11th- and 10th-graders; *When: Fall; * Used by scholarship programs, including the National Merit® Scholarship Program, to look for eligible students; *Designed for juniors based upon material covered so it is slightly harder than the PSAT10
*Who: 10th-graders, *When: Spring; *Scholarships: NOT considered for the National Merit Scholarship Program;  Used by  other scholarship programs to look for eligible students. 
*Designed for sophomores so it does not cover as much material as the PSAT/NMSQT.
For more information on the PSAT/NMSQT and PSAT10, click


                                                             NOVEMBER 2016

November 29, 2016
​First Round of college applications have been filed.  Now what????

     Even though the first round of college applications have been submitted, this is really just the beginning of the application process for most students.  I remember my teens (and myself) feeling so overwhelmed with just the options, never mind actually filling out the application!  So many universities have their own individual variations on the major categories of submitting an application that it is easy to become confused.   To compound the madness, many colleges even offer the opportunity to apply to a second round of “early applications” which are often due before the end of the year, coincidentally right after the decisions for the first round of early applications are released.  
     Whether your teens are seniors or freshman, there will be much talk about college submissions and acceptances over the next few weeks and months  in every high school and media outlet across the country.  In order to be "in the know" of this college application phenomenon, which I fondly refer to as “Alphabet Soup”, I offer you a quick reference to help you understand and feel confident about the college application chatter. 
College Applications Electronic Submissions  
ED – Early Decision                                                           EDII - Early Decision Two

     Binding agreement- required to attend                                               Binding agreement - required to attend
     Apply to one college                                                                               Apply to one college
     Apply by November 15                                                                            Apply by id January
     Decisions by December 15                                                                      Decision by Mid February
 EA – Early Action                                                             EA Single Choice/Restictive
     Nonbinding agreement                                                                           Nonbinding agreement
     Apply to multiple colleges                                                                      Apply to one college
     Apply by November 15                                                                            Apply by November 15                                                                                                                                                       
     Decisions by December 15                                                                      Decisions by December 15
    Commitment by May 1                                                                             Commitment by May 1 
RD – Regular Decision
     Nonbinding agreement
     Apply to multiple colleges
     Apply by January 15
     Decisions by April 1
     Commitment and deposit by May 1
Rolling Admission Application
      Nonbinding agreement
     Apply to multiple colleges
     Applications accepted over an extended time; often as early as June for the following school year.  
     Decisions roll out as the year progresses but received no later than by April 1
     Commitment and deposit by May 1
*Variations on each option by many universities.  Always check with each institution to make sure your students are following protocol for each individual school ​                                                                  

​                                                                                   October 2016 

October 17, 2016 
What does the 2016 -2107 FAFSA look like for?

The 2016- 2017 FAFSA has been available to submit as of October 1, 2016.  It is 8 pages long with 7 steps comprising the entire application. They are as follows:
* Step 1- Student's Name, social Security #, citizenship, education...
*Step 2- Student's Income
*Step 3- Determines if student files as an  independent.
*Step 4- Parents' Income and financial information.
*Step 5 Required only if student is deemed an independent.
*Step 6- Identifies colleges to receive FAFSA
*Step 7- Signature of Parent and Student.
To see a copy or print your own FAFSA, click HERE  or go to the FIN AID Tab on this website.   

                                                                          September 2016                                                                                     

September 22, 2016
​The Calm Before the Storm for Seniors in High School

   Have your teens started senior year full of excitement knowing that they are considered the “top dogs” at their high schools and will soon be free to choose their own paths in life?  Ahhh yes, the calm before the storm!  They can see the sun but do not truly understand what they need to do in order to get over to that rainbow.  The warm weather has lulled us all into believing summer is not over but, as September slowly slips, I offer you some reminders for those young adults  in your life I hope this helps to minimize the chaos that is to come when those college application deadlines hit!

Fall Check List for High School Seniors
1) Register for the SAT/ACT or Subject Tests scheduled for November and December.
2) If you haven’t, develop a rough draft of the Common Application Essay and have a teacher or guidance councilor review it.
3) Confirm teacher recommendations for your college application.
4) Fill out everything on the Common Application that you can.
5) Make a list of the College that you think may be a good fit for you.
6) Narrow down that list by doing more research on those schools.
7) Schedule local college visits for Saturdays in the Fall or plan  a visit  for any long distance universities  over the Columbus Day weekend.  (Make sure you register for these official visits on line or through the admissions offices before you go.)
8) Schedule Interviews with universities or alumni where applicable.
9) Determine what additional essays are required by colleges you may apply to.  Start working on those as well. 
10) Begin to evaluate the timing of your applications.  (Early Decision or Early Action usually filed by November 15) 

Bonus:  Remind your parents to do their homework and gather the information needed to file any financial aid or scholarship forms.  (FAFSA and the CSS/Profile can be filed as early as October 1!)

                                                                                    ​August 2016

August 1, 2016
The Common Application Releases Today August 1…. So what should I be doing???
     Parents and Teens of rising seniors may be in the thick of researching colleges while rising juniors and their families are trying to determine some first steps.  Where do we begin?
​    1)Go on line to websites of colleges that your teens may have some interest in. 
     2) Utilize the federal government website  www.collegescorecard.ed.gov to generate a list of universities that meet your teens preliminary requirements and ideas. 
     3)Look at Naviance if your High School has it (but remember Naviance only includes those colleges where other students from your own high school have gone in the past.)
     4)Visit some local colleges unofficially or officially.
What should we be looking for???
     1)Find universities that have majors, programs, or sports that your teens are interested in.
     2)Look first at size, location, graduation rates, student body, costs....
     3)Look even more closely at academics of schools such as curriculum requirements, course offerings, teaching staff (experience)….
     4)See what universities are out there that may fit your teens ideal college experience. 
How do I begin ?
     1)Visit local colleges unofficially even if you have no intention of attending that university. It will give your teens a feel of different college environments.
     2)Visit urban and suburban universities.
     3)Record all impressions of visits on the college visit fact sheet in Demystifying COLLEGE Admissions or minimally identifying the pros/con of different colleges. 
     4)These topline factors will help your teens begin to understand what colleges may be the best fit for them.
Rising Seniors and the Common Application 
     1)Recognize that it is available as of today, 8/1, so you can start working on it.
     2)Suggestion #1 - Fill out as much as possible of the Common App by August 31.
     3)Suggestion #2 - The ESSAY! Start thinking about it today! (Essay prompts this year are the same as last year.) 
     4)Suggestion #3 - Start working on what you would like to write about.
     5)Suggestion #4 – Set the goal of having a rough draft of the essay done by Aug 31.   
Following these suggestions will make you and your teens more confident and relaxed as September rolls around. ​

     July 2016

July 19, 2015
OMG! It is mid-July already and I haven't done any college searching with my rising senior
     If you are a parent waiting for your teen to come to you about the college search and they haven’t, it is time for you to act!  Grab the car keys, capture your teen and just drive to any local college near your home.  Remember, most teens cannot handle this overwhelming process alone.  They need the help and sometimes a push from their parents  (teachers, coaches, guidance counselors..) in order to get this process going.  Start this college conversation with some unofficial visits to any campuses in your region.  It doesn’t matter if your teen has no intention of attending that particular university.   Just being on a college campus will not only start your teen thinking about what is important to them in a university but also, what types of colleges are the best fit!   
     Initiating conversations about the size, location and geography of a university, should start the wheels churning!  Questions to discuss with your teen include:
What class size do you feel most comfortable in?
Would he or she mind a freshman lecture in Biology or psychology with 100-150 other students?
Do they want a college environment where all the students stay and socialize with each other on the weekends?
Would he or she mind a “suitcase” college community where students go home or away from the university on weekend?
How far from home does your teen really want to be?  A car ride? A train ride? A plane ride?  
Will your teen need/ want to have a job during college? Is there access to employment and public transportation?
Would your teen prefer an urban environment versus suburban community?
Would they lean toward a rural community or a small town?
Is your teen more comfortable in a city school where the university is spread out throughout an urban community?
Would they prefer a closed college campus where the majority of facilities and housing are located in a dedicated area, often set apart from the surrounding community? 
     Remember to record impressions of all your college visits in a notebook (or utilize the College Visit Sheet on pg 28-29 in my book) because I guarantee you and your teen will not remember the details about likes and dislikes of any particular college after you have visited more than two or three!  Go out there and get started!

Terry Greene Clark - Author