Author: jjamison

Making the Most of Winter Break: A High Student’s Guide to Productivity and Relaxation.

Winter break is finally here, and it’s the perfect time for high school students to recharge, reflect, and prepare for the challenges ahead. While it’s crucial to enjoy some well-deserved downtime, making the most of your winter break can set you up for success in the coming semester. In this blog post, we’ll explore a balanced approach to winter break that combines productivity and relaxation.

1. Reflect and Set Goals:

Take some time to reflect on the past semester. What were your successes and challenges? Use this reflection to set realistic goals for the upcoming semester. Whether it’s improving study habits, participating in extracurricular activities, or enhancing personal skills, having clear goals will give you direction and motivation.

2. Develop a Study Plan:

While winter break is a time to relax, it’s also an opportunity to get ahead academically. Consider creating a study plan to review and reinforce the knowledge you’ve gained so far. Focus on subjects where you feel less confident, and use resources such as textbooks, online tutorials, or educational apps to enhance your understanding.

3. Pursue Personal Projects:

Winter break is an excellent time to explore personal interests and hobbies. Whether it’s writing, coding, painting, or learning a musical instrument, use this break to dive into a passion project. Not only does this provide a creative outlet, but it also helps you develop valuable skills beyond the classroom.

4. Volunteer and Give Back:

Consider dedicating some time to community service or volunteering during the break. Helping others not only makes a positive impact on your community but also fosters personal growth and a sense of responsibility. Look for local organizations, charities, or community events that align with your interests.

5. Explore College and Career Options:

For juniors and seniors, winter break is an opportune time to explore college and career options. Research potential colleges, attend virtual campus tours, and investigate different career paths. Reach out to professionals in fields you find interesting for informational interviews. This exploration will help you make informed decisions about your future.

6. Relax and Recharge:

While productivity is essential, don’t forget to prioritize relaxation. Use this break to catch up on sleep, spend quality time with family and friends, and engage in activities that bring you joy. Balance is key to maintaining mental and emotional well-being.

Conclusion:

Winter break is a valuable time for high school students to strike a balance between productivity and relaxation. By reflecting on the past, setting goals for the future, pursuing personal interests, giving back to the community, exploring future opportunities, and taking time to relax, you’ll return to school in the new year feeling refreshed, motivated, and ready to tackle the challenges ahead. Enjoy your break!


Navigating the College Decision: Finding the Perfect Fit

Blog written by ChatGPT – I decided to experiment with ChatGPT and the following is actually a really good article with very pertinent information. Next, I will try to have the program write a college application essay. Then I will blog about the difference. In the meantime, read the below blog about choosing the perfect college.

Introduction: Choosing the right college is a pivotal decision that can shape your future in significant ways. With numerous options available and varying factors to consider, the process can often be overwhelming. However, by understanding your goals, exploring your options, and conducting thorough research, you can embark on a journey towards finding the perfect fit. In this blog, we will outline a step-by-step guide to help high school students select the best college for their unique needs and aspirations.

  1. Reflect on Your Goals and Interests: Before diving into the vast sea of college choices, take the time to reflect on your personal and academic goals. Consider your interests, passions, and the subjects you excel in. Think about the career paths that intrigue you and the skills you would like to develop. Understanding your goals will provide a foundation for selecting colleges that align with your aspirations.
  2. Explore Your Options: Research and compile a list of potential colleges that capture your interest. Consider factors such as location, size, campus culture, academic programs, extracurricular activities, and available resources. Utilize online resources, college guidebooks, and speak with guidance counselors, teachers, and college students to gather information. Attend college fairs and campus tours to get a firsthand experience and a sense of the atmosphere.
  3. Consider Academic Programs: Evaluate the academic programs offered by each college on your list. Look for colleges that have strong departments in your area of interest. Consider factors like course curriculum, faculty expertise, research opportunities, internships, and study abroad programs. Make sure the college provides a supportive academic environment that fosters growth and challenges you intellectually.
  4. Evaluate Campus Culture and Student Life: The college experience extends beyond academics. Look for colleges that have a campus culture that resonates with your personality and values. Consider factors such as social activities, clubs and organizations, sports teams, student diversity, and campus traditions. Assess whether the college offers a supportive and inclusive community where you can thrive both academically and personally.
  5. Assess Financial Aid and Affordability: Determine your financial constraints and evaluate the cost of attending each college. Research the financial aid packages offered by colleges and scholarships you may be eligible for. Consider the long-term implications of student loans and the potential for part-time work or work-study programs. Ensure that the college you choose is affordable and aligns with your financial situation to avoid unnecessary stress and financial burden.
  6. Visit and Engage with the Campus: Whenever possible, visit the campuses of your top choices. Attend open houses, orientation programs, and overnight visits to gain a firsthand experience of the college environment. Engage with current students, faculty, and admissions officers to ask questions and get a deeper understanding of the college’s culture, academic programs, and campus resources.
  7. Seek Advice and Gather Perspectives: Don’t hesitate to seek advice from trusted mentors, parents, teachers, and college counselors who can offer valuable insights and perspectives. Discuss your options, concerns, and aspirations with them, as they may have valuable guidance to share based on their experiences and expertise.
  8. Trust Your Instincts: While it’s important to consider various factors, don’t overlook your instincts and intuition. Listen to your gut feeling when it comes to making a final decision. Remember, you will spend the next few years of your life at college, and it should be a place where you feel comfortable, challenged, and inspired to grow.

Conclusion: Selecting a college is a significant milestone in your academic journey. By reflecting on your goals, exploring your options, evaluating academic programs, considering campus culture, assessing affordability, engaging with campuses, seeking advice, and trusting your instincts, you can make an informed decision that sets the stage for a rewarding and fulfilling college experience.


Making the most of your summer break in December

I know it is December, but I have been thinking A LOT about next summer.  What do you do during the summer?  Family Vacation?  Summer School?  As a kid I just thought when summer arrived activities and plans just appeared.  Instead of getting on the bus to go to school, I got on a bus to go to camp.  It was seamless.  I did not realize 2 things when I was younger that are vital pieces of information. 

1.  My parents planned summer and sometimes applied and registered for camps in January. 

2.  I only have so many summers before I am an adult and guess what, Adults don’t get 12 weeks off for summer break. 

The later was devastating.  Since time is tight, I like to dream and plan for what is next.  This week I received an email from Wake Forest University advertising their Summer Immersion program.  I always thought these programs were for juniors and seniors.  I was wrong.  Students as young as current 9th graders can participate.  With that little bit of information, I started researching, what else can my current 9th grade daughter do this summer?

Benefits to Summer Activities

  • Discover YOU – Summer is a great time to try NEW things.  Take time and opportunities to discover what you do well.  Learn what you don’t like.  Are you interested in being a teacher?  Spend the summer working with kids as a coach or counselor.  You will learn very quickly if you want to work with kids every day as a career.  Are you interested in being a nurse, volunteer at a hospital or enroll in a healthcare camp.
  • Network with Adults – Most students have a small circle.  Family, friends, teachers coaches.  Participating in different activities during the summer can help you meet other adults and community members that can share their experience and act as a mentor to help you in the future. 
  • Build Experience and Activities Resume – Whether you are going straight to the workforce or to college you need to start building experience.  Everything you do at a job or in a volunteer capacity can be used to help get you access to that first job or admission to your dream college.  You can also write about your experiences in college admission and scholarship essays during your senior year.

Today, let’s look at summer through the lens of a high school student.  If you are in 9th grade you have 4 summers before you go off to college.  And you only have 3 summers to build experiences and explore interests and schools.  That seems like a lifetime and a blink of an eye all at the same time. 

Usually, students start thinking about college when they are in 11th grade.  By then you only have one summer to participate in experiences that might have an impact on your college application.  I am here today to encourage all high school students to plan their summers like they plan their schedule.  

Steps to the Process

  • Explore Opportunities and Experiences – Research is key, and Google is your Friend.  Use Key Word search and be sure to narrow for your state.  Example – College Camps for High School Students in North Carolina.  Other Key Words “Summer Immersion” “Pre-College Programs” “Camps for High School”  You can also use subject matter words to find specific programs.  Example Music, Art, Theater, Engineering, Medicine, etc.
  • Looking for a Job?  – Search specific companies or businesses in your area and click on career, jobs or join us.  Sites like Indeed.com can also be helpful.  Be sure to search for internships or part time jobs.  You can search with keyword summer as well.
  • Search by Colleges of Interest – Make a list of all the colleges you are interested in and see what summer programs they have to offer.
  • Use some type of Organizational tool to track information – Be sure to document DATES, COST, FINANCIAL AID – If you see only information for last year, make note of when the application opened last year, 9 times out of 10 it will open the same time next year.  Mark the page and go back to look for updates. 
  • Talk to your Parents about Budget, Transportation, Family trips and events for timing and conflicts.  You can narrow your search based on your family needs.
  • Plan and apply to participate – Be sure you read all the instructions very clearly for each opportunity.  Some schools will have you create an account to apply.  Most applications, even for jobs are online, but you want to know what you are committing to before you sign on the dotted line.  Some applications are as simple as signing up, others require essays or questions to be answered.  Some programs like Governors school can be selective.  Make sure you understand your eligibility.  Is it Invitation only?  Do you have to be referred?  Find out who can refer you and ask the appropriate people.  NEVER list an adult to write a reference that you have not spoken to about it.   

Below is a list of ideas for summer activities.  There is something for everyone.  I want you to view the list like an exciting opportunity to try something new, explore careers, visit college campuses, and build relationships with other students and adults that could influence your future. 

Summer Immersion, online & on campus camps, college experience

This is not meant to be overwhelming.  Your future is a blank canvas.  Go experience sights and sounds and views to help you start painting on the canvas.  If you need any help or have any questions, please reach out to a Crosby Scholars Staff member.  We would love to help you.  www.crosbyscholarsiredell.org


Flashy Brand Names Should NOT Influence Your College List

It is time for Back-to-School shopping.  Clothes, supplies, books, computers, and colleges/universities.  Yes, that is right, I said colleges and universities.  Seniors, at this moment are finalizing their college list to start the application process.  What schools are on the list?  Too often students are attracted to the Brand names but just like shopping for clothes you need to consider FIT. 

I am trying to remember the first time a brand name called to me.  I must have it.  I am about to age myself big time, but I feel like I am writing to parents at this moment so here I go… I wanted that SWATCH watch, The Jordache Look, Gloria Vanderbilt, Guess, Calvin Klein.  You all know the IT names from the 70’s/80’s.  It was back to school shopping time and let’s just say my family had a budget for the Blue Light Specials at Kmart as opposed to shopping at a fancy mall. 

My parents did the best they could.  They worked hard to make a nice home for our family.  I think back and I see the MANY sacrifices they made for us.  Notice I said look back.  At the time like any middle school or high school student I wanted to fit in.  I wanted that BRAND that IT piece of clothing or jewelry.  Wearing Wrangler or Lee jeans somehow made me feel like I was less, not good enough.  When we would scrimp and save for that perfect popular SWATCH watch, it was the older model, dated as if to let everyone know my status in life. 

I have a point I promise, and we are about to come around to college. 

When I was 16 or 17, I got a job at the local mall.  I was earning money and was finally in control of my fashion choices.  When I took that paycheck to the store and I looked at price tags, my view changed.  I looked for sale prices and made my own sacrifices, making sure to craft a wardrobe that would look nice or at least not cause people to pick or make fun. 

What does this have to do with college?  EVERYTHING!  Just like picking an outfit for the first day of school, many students AND parents look for name brand labels and rankings in their college choice, instead of considering fit.  Looking at highly ranked colleges and well-known schools also comes with a price.  Consider brand colleges just like brand name clothes.

  • Elusive – Hard to get – Colleges are HIGHLY selective and makes the process VERY COMPETIVIE and almost impossible to obtain.  Leaving you frustrated and feeling less about yourself.
  • Expensive – When demand is high and stock is limited, prices skyrocket.  Capitalism 101 – Take a look at the Total Cost of Attendance at a top ranked college if you can find it.  Private Colleges avg 60 – 80k a year price tag while public schools, especially if you are an out of state student can run 45-55K a year.
  • Experience is not guaranteed – Just because you get in to one of these brand name schools does not mean you will have the same experience as those before you.  Each students experience and access to opportunities is not promised.  This is one of those cases that if everyone is special then no one is.  You overcame the hurdle to get into this fabulous school, now compete to get into the major or individual college or degree program you want to study.  Pre-med vs biology. 

I suggest considering FIT over Brand when crafting your college list and making your ultimate decision about attendance.  Things you should consider:

  • Cost – While this should not be the only factor and there are schools that have funding available, you really need to understand what total spend over a 4-year college experience will cost and is it in your family’s budget and does it make financial sense.  Borrowing 50K a year to attend a top school and coming out with 200K in student loans will be a very hard pill to swallow 4 years from now.  The average salary for college graduates entering the work force in North Carolina is approximately $32,956, according to ZipRecruiter.com.1
  • Selectivity – Review your grades and test scores and be realistic in your chances to obtain admission.  Many of the top ranked schools have the ability to wait until March of your senior year to give you a final decision on acceptance.  I am amazed every year at who DOES not get in.  Top students with top scores and extraordinary activities and experiences.  Many times, these same students while getting waitlisted or denied to the top school they are offered scholarships to less selective schools trying to attract the student for their talent.  When I am in a room full of people I like to be wanted and appreciated, not just there. 
  • Access to Opportunities – How many students are fighting for the same internship or study abroad experience or representative from the college to participate in a national program. 
  • Majors/Programs – Does the school offer multiple areas of interest.  It is hard for a 17-year-old to decide what they want to do for the rest of their life.  Pick a school that has a variety of majors and programs to choose from. 
  • Size – Big, Medium, Small?  High schools in our county can be bigger than a small private college.  Students need to consider how they learn and will they have access to professors.  At bigger colleges, first year classes can be 100+ students in a lecture hall.  Is that scary?  At a smaller school, depending on the area of study, students will be getting a large portion of their education from the same 3-5 professors.  That might seem comforting to students who are looking for mentors.  Other students might find this limiting.  There are pros and cons to all sizes of school and ultimately the success lies with the individual student and how they thrive.
  • Location – How close to home are you willing to go?  Are you looking for city life?  Would you prefer a small college town in a rural area? Are you ready for the temperature changes that go with the location you selected along with the traffic, parking, and cost of living?   “Location, Location, Location” It really does matter and students should put themselves in the middle of the campus and drive around the surrounding community, before making their final decision.  Visit that school in Boston in the winter.  Tour that Alabama school in the summer.  Visit the Target or Walmart or restaurants off campus.  Who do you see?  Are you welcomed?  Remember this is going to be your home away from home for at least 4 years. 

This is a BIG decision and an expensive proposition.   Families should take a moment to determine what they want and create a list that best fits their situation.  Selecting a college should not be solely driven by rankings or brands.  It is only finding the best personal fit that will provide a higher percentage of success. 

1 College Grads Salary in NC:$32,956 – ZipRecruiter


Comparing the Cost of College

During the admissions process, families are so focused on working to gain acceptance, that financial aid and cost is sometimes an afterthought.  Not for long.  The cost of college has increased exponentially over the past 2 decades and parents are often surprised at the total cost.  This is often the final factor in deciding which school to attend.  Here are a few things you should consider when comparing the cost of college.

  •  Know the TRUE COST
    • Net price calculators on college or university websites are nice for estimates, but you really need to make sure you understand the TRUE cost of attendance.  This is usually spelled out in the Financial Aid Award Letter.  This document is either mailed or available for download on the college/university’s student portal.  Some schools will release this information at time of acceptance, but others will wait until March or April.  The amount they represent here is the amount used for calculating need.  Often referred to as the Cost of Attendance or COA.
    • The Award Letter is unique for each university and for each student.  Typical costs are Tuition, Fees, Housing, Meal Plan, Books, Supplies, Transportation, Misc.  – While these things go into the Total Cost of Attendance you will not necessarily write a check to the university for transportation or supplies, so they are just estimates and your major, distance from school to home, class selection can have an impact on these costs.  So don’t look at another students COA. 
  • Make sure you compare Apples to Apples
    • COA and specific line items can be referred to differently by each school.  Example, one school might lump tuition and fees together, while another school might have 10-line items for different fees ranging from information technology, facility usage, recreation, loan payment fees, etc.  Also, some schools will lump room and board together or they may breakup the items with housing and then a line item for meal plan or food.  To complicate matters, your finial selection of dorm and meal plan, will have an impact on final cost of these items.  Example – if you get your COA before you select your dorm and when you choose a dorm you select one that has an upcharge, suite style or apartment style dorms that have upgraded amenities might come at an additional cost. 
    • Create a Spreadsheet or Document that will help you compare each cost as a separate line item.  You can do this with Excel, Google Docs or there are many free resources available to help with this. 
  • Look at your 4- year spend
    • One of the first things you should consider is how many years will it take you to complete your degree.  Like everything else, this is unique depending on your major, how many AP or dual enrollment classes you took in high school that are accepted by your college/university.  If you were an early college student that completed your associates degree while you were in high school, you might still need to attend the college for more than 2 years.  Do your research with each school and determine if they will take all your credits and if they apply directly to your major or if they are elective classes and you still need to complete all major classes which could add time to your schooling.  Once you determine the estimated amount of time, multiply the yearly cost by the number of years to determine total cost. 
    • During this comparison, you want to consider cost of living on campus vs living off campus.  Most off-campus housing will charge you for a full 12 months’ rent even if you are not there.  You will want to include those extra months of rent and utilities in the cost of education.   The cost of 4 years on campus at a smaller private school might be less than a 4-year public school in city with high cost of living.
  • Reach out to Financial Aid Offices with questions
    • Each school presents this information in its own format.  If you have any questions or need clarification, please reach out to the school’s financial aid department.  These professionals can offer clarity and help guide you in next steps. 
    • If you are struggling or feel that the calculation for need is incorrect, you will have to appeal with the Financial Aid department.  Let me be clear, there might not be anything they can do, but if there are options and other opportunities for additional assistance, they would be able to let you know.
    • DO NOT THINK YOU CAN WHEEL AND DEAL.  I often have students who want to use acceptance into one college to get a better price at another.  It does not work that way.  No matter how many internet videos you have watched. Every decision or change made by a financial aid department is based on student specific information.

A few other tips:

  • Understand the ROI (Return on Investment) – Go to Indeed.com or salary.com and look up your dream job and see what the average pay in the part of the country you want to live.  If the salary is less than the yearly cost of your education, you might want to consider all your options.  Example:  If AVG yearly salary is $40k, you might think twice before paying 60k a year for 4 years for your education.  How long will it take you to pay off those student loans?  Is the cost of the school you have selected worth the investment.  Can a less expensive school provide the same opportunities?
    • Attend the Crosby Scholars Evaluating your Financial Aid Award Letter Academy – Open to students and parents. March 28, 2022, 7pm www.crosbyscholarsiredell.org
    • StudentAid.gov is the federal student aid website.  Lots of people try to make money from financing your education.  Go straight to www.studentaid.gov with questions.

Did you get the answer you wanted?

The next step in the college application process is to receive an answer from the admissions department. There are a number of responses you can receive…Accepted, Deferred, Wait-listed, or Declined.  At this time, you might not even have any of these responses and you are in a waiting pattern.

The Global Pandemic has modified the College Admissions Process.  Many colleges were frantic to make sure they kept their application numbers up.  For some schools numbers were down, but for many others, they received a record number of applications during the Early Action process.  There is no way to know exactly but test optional applications, increased number of students applying early, and students applying to higher number of schools than they would in prior years might be some of the factors that have driven the numbers up.

Students and Counselors alike are surprised that they have not heard or have been deferred in record numbers.  Admissions offices with the same or less staff are having to review a higher number of applications early and they are not sure what they are going to get during the regular decision timeframe.  College Kickstart has published acceptance rates that you might find interesting.  When the number of applications is up the % of acceptance goes down.  All of this impacts our students. 

How you respond to the communication you receive from the college or university you are applying to will determine your ultimate success in acceptance.

No matter what the answer you need to do the following:

If deferred: 

Follow steps above. If you have decided that you no longer wish to attend that college/university, then you can communicate your decision to the school. A deferral decision in the Early Action/Early Decision process removes any obligation to attend and frees you to accept admission in another college or university. Most students continue with the deferral process and wait on final decisions in the spring. If you are still interested in this college/university then consider these next steps.

Deferred (Not a denial) possible response to an Early Action or Early Decision application. If you were deferred most colleges and universities feel that you are a strong candidate, but not as strong as others that applied early. They want to review your application with other applications in the regular decision process. Chances of acceptance after deferral depend on the university. Explore the school’s website for additional information.


Waiting on Decisions – What should I do?

So you have finished your applications and are now waiting to hear from the schools about a decision. Each day you check your email, run to the mailbox, or log in to the school’s website to check your status. It does not help when friends and family going through this process might have already heard from their school and are posting all over social media, “I Got IN” photos. Very few people jump on to tell the world they were deferred, waitlisted, or rejected.

So we are really in No Man’s Land. That space where you just have to wait. Some people are better at this than others. If you have not received the envelope yet, you are probably wondering WHY?

Add COVID into the mix and you are probably wondering if there is a path out of NO Man’s Land. Here are a few things you can do.

Stay Calm – Don’t stress out.  There are so many factors and you should take a moment to enjoy the relief of completing your college applications.

Don’t pick up the Phone First – The last thing you want to do is pester the admissions department.  Calling and saying – “Where’s my letter or Why didn’t I get in?”  Is probably not going to get you anything.

CHECK YOUR EMAIL – Yes that is all in caps for emphasis.  I have no idea why, but high school students really don’t like email.  But schools still use email to communicate key pieces of information.  Not only Check your email…READ your email. 

Check the School’s Web Tools – It is really important to make sure YOU are NOT missing something or your application is incomplete. Also, you might see an update on your status online, before you get anything in the mail.

COVID IS having an impact on the process – Each College is working their process through the lens of a pandemic.  The number of applications might have changed, which changes the formula that they might have used in the past.  The Fall enrollment might have been down so they are trying to figure out how many students to accept.  Be patient, this might work in your favor.

Do Your Homework and Reach Out if appropriate – Some Admissions teams really WANT to interact with students!  Schools are going to extraordinary lengths to reach out to students.  These offices missed in person interaction in the fall. They are setting up zooms, virtual hours, and social media live events.  Check into the school’s policy on interacting and reach out to those departments.  

I am tired of hearing and saying that this year is different, but it really is.  If you have real questions and you have done your homework reach out. They know this year is different and they want to make sure you have a path to communicate. Follow these steps.

If the published dates pass and you have not heard, or you have not gotten the response you were hoping for, reach out to your Crosby Advisor.  We are here to help.  You can also email me at jjamison@crosbyscholarsiredell.org. I would love to help in any way I can.


Power in YOUR Story

Some people have to be prodded to share their stories and other people you just can’t shut up.  Have you heard the phrase “Listen & Learn”?  I know all too often we listen to be able to interject our experience or our story.  I can see the scene right now, and if I was totally honest, I have caught myself doing it.  Two plus people having a conversation.  (If you are having a conversation with yourself this is an entirely different conversation :)). 

So, at this point you are thinking, why am I reading about telling my story on a Crosby Scholars Website?  What does this have to do with college access?  How does this affect me?

I have found that stories can get a student into a school, can help a friend avoid a mistake, can inspire others to support a program.  I recently asked our alumni and students to share their Crosby Scholars Success Story.  My hope is that their story will help future students to know that it is possible to achieve their goals.  I hope to share these stories in a future blog.

Now, let’s address how your story can get you into school.  College applications are ALL about telling your story. 

Your transcript tells your academic achievement story.  But it is only part of the story.  People can’t see the struggle the effort and the work you put into those grades.  Your high school adds to the story.  What your school offers AP, IB, College Level Classes, when viewed in conjunction with your grades, shows how you challenged yourself and took advantage of opportunities. 

Your Activities tell your story – Did you take time to do other things while going to school?  Are you an athlete?  Musician?  Are you a leader?  What clubs or groups did you align yourself with?  Your activities show your passions and interests and can make your transcript even more impressive.  Example, if you don’t have time to participate in 10 clubs at school, you might think, wow I don’t have a very impressive story.  But, if you worked 20 hours a week to help your family with finances and you still kept your grades up, that could be more impressive than joining 10 non-descript clubs. 

Your Common App Essay tells your story – If it doesn’t, IT SHOULD!  You have 650 words to relay your story.  I read hundreds of essays each year and one of the biggest mistakes I see is that students use a large number of those words telling someone else’s story.  Like your proximity to someone that has a really dramatic story gives you credibility.  NO!  Use the essay to share about YOU!  Make sure people walk away with a greater understanding of who you are, what you want and how you want to get there.

College specific supplemental questions tell your story – Colleges are looking for more insight.  The more selective the school the more questions you have.  Most of the time these questions get to why you want to attend a school and how you will use the opportunities available.  Sometimes the questions are weird, “List the first 5 songs on your playlist?” What on earth does that have to do with anything. You would be surprised at what tells your story.

Social Media Accounts Tell your Story – Not every college looks at your social media account to determine if you are good fit, but everything you put out there is not going away.  Schools, scholarship organizations, teachers, and future employers, can see your story online.  Have you ever googled your name and city and state?  What images appear?  What story shows up?  Your good, bad, and ugly has a part of telling your story. 

There is Power in your story!  Sharing about your struggles, achievements and experiences can earn you friends, give you access to experiences, and help others learn.  Use your power, TELL YOUR STORY!


Do I need to complete the FAFSA?

Working with 12th graders and their families, I get this question A LOT!  What if I told you your child could go to a private selective 4-year college with a list price of $73,000 per year for the amount represented on your EFC?  You say, “I make too much money.”  What if your EFC came back as $28,000?  Would you want to fill out the FAFSA then?  The answer would be YES.  

What is the FAFSA?  The Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  This application is what colleges and universities use to determine if a student has financial need.  When you complete the FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR), which shows your families Estimated Family Contribution (EFC).  Based on your tax returns your EFC can range between 000000 – 999,999.  The lower the number the higher the need.  Families with an EFC lower than 6,000 are typically eligible for federal assistance like the Pell Grant.  Colleges also use the EFC to determine use of state assistance and funding and that EFC can be higher to get access.  Completing the applications not only gives access to federal aid in the form of grants but it gives all students access to federal student loans and parents access to Parent PLUS Loans. 

What Determines Need:  

Now I am not going to spend my time selling you on the FAFSA.  There are plenty of websites and groups focused on encouraging students to complete this free application.  These are the sites you want to visit to get the answer to all of your FAFSA questions.   

One caution here, there are a ton of websites that want to provide you information on how to complete the FAFSA.  While some might be helpful and reputable, some are trying to sell you something.  How do I know?  Five years ago, when I started this journey with my oldest going to college, I paid someone to help me complete the FAFSA.  Back then you had to key in everything manually and they did not have the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.  To be honest, I had heard so many horror stories about this process that I was afraid to try it myself.  Guess what, I DID NOT NEED to pay for help.  I could have saved my money.  Your answers are your answers, and no one can play the system to change the outcome.  If someone is telling you they can get you a lower EFC…RUN AWAY, they have some snake oil to sell.  I am happy to report that using the IRS Data Retrieval tool made the next time I completed this form much easier. 

If you are unable to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool because of special circumstances, please do your research for your situation. Studentaid.gov has detailed information, instructions and videos to help. You can also reach out to your institutions financial aid department. CFNC.org is also partnering with NC schools to offer assistance. Click on the CFNC.org link in the above list to see help options.

If you are going to pay for college completely out of pocket and not utilize any student loans, work study, grants, scholarships and for some school’s merit aid, then NO don’t fill it out.  Completing the FAFSA DOES give you access to:  

  • Federal Grants 
  •  Work-Study
  •  Subsidized student loans
  •  Unsubsidized student loans
  •  University need-based grants & scholarships
  •  Merit Scholarships (Some schools require the FAFSA or awarding merit scholarships)
  •  Crosby Scholars need-based Last Dollar Grants
  •  Admission to some schools requires the completion of the FAFSA

Every school uses the FAFSA in some way.  You really need to research the schools on your list to determine what they require and how they use it.  Some schools will also require the CSS profile.  There are 5 schools in NC that require this document and there is a cost associated to complete.  That is a topic for a different blog.  🙂 

So, to answer the first question, “Do I need to complete the FAFSA?”  I would say, YES.  And by the way, this is not a ONE and DONE thing.  If you want access to the same funds, you will need to complete the FAFSA every year your student is planning to attend school.   


Be S.M.A.R.T. when searching the internet.

I just finished attending a staff meeting with the team at Crosby Scholars Iredell County.  We were discussing the appropriate curriculum and ways to get key information to students and parents in our program.  In this COVID, Pandemic world we live in, more people are looking to the internet for information.  Any kind of information. 

How do I bring out the curls in my hair?  How do I apply makeup to look skinny?  Top 10 ways to learn virtually?  How to write the best essay to get you into all Ivy League schools?  You know what I am talking about, you each have gone to that much-loved search bar and typed in a question and been directed to a list of resources.

What you do next is sometimes a game changer.  Do you click on the first 5 on the list?  Have you noticed that those sometimes have the word (AD or Advertisement) in the line?  This means they paid to be in this spot and just because they come up first does not necessarily mean it is the most accurate or relevant information.  Here are a few tips to help you make sure the information you find actually provides accurate information. (I am going to gear my remarks towards college access.)

Source Check

  1.  Check the Source – Who is providing the information?  Is it a reputable organization, like Crosby Scholars? What experience does the writer or site have in the realm of your search?  Visit their website without going through the link and see what they are all about.  There are also sites like SNOPES.com; truthorfiction.com; factcheck.org you can use to check the validity of a claim.

Marketing is Everywhere

2. What are they selling?  – EVERYONE is SELLING SOMETHING!  YouTube channels want you to subscribe, you might have to watch advertisements until that lovely SKIP ADS button appears.  Most businesses are sharing information to push you to purchase or investment.  While Crosby Scholars is a free program, we want you to use our services or become a participant.  We never charge a fee for our academies, information, or participation.  Many websites have fees, they will tease you with a video or article about the best way to do something, but if you really want the knowledge you can, 1 share your personal information or 2 pay a small fee to get access to what is next.  Proceed with caution!

I want to be clear!  There are LOTS of reputable organizations offering services that are reasonably priced with good outcomes.  With my Non-Profit Hat on – I would like you to search for FREE resources.  I bet you can find the information, skills, knowledge you are looking for at no cost to you.

Avoid Expired Information

3. Check the Date – Is the information provided current?  Things change sometimes by the minute.  Information about COVID 19 from March is really not relevant any longer.  So many things have changed and so much has been learned that videos, articles, papers are really out of date.  If you are researching a history project that dates thing might not be as important but as for College Access information, this is a moving target right now and you want to find the most recent info.

Research for your specific circumstance

4. Go Straight to the School’s Website – So many organizations and groups want to be the end all be all for college access information.  At the end of the day most of the people giving you advice, or information are providing that information in general terms.  If you want to know SPECIFICS, go straight to the horse’s mouth.  Example:  A recent news program shared a video that spoke to the ability to haggle with schools over the cost of tuition.  They shared 2 student’s stories.  If you watched that and you do not understand the specifics that went into that student’s outcome, you might be really frustrated with your outcome in a similar attempt.  Example:  Financial Aid questions about your specific situation should be addressed to your school’s financial aid office.  They know what they are looking for and you can get your answer directly.

Tears are NOT Necessary

5. Keep an Open Mind – I read A LOT of content about College Admissions, Test Prep, Financial Aid, etc.  Because I am looking through my filter of helping many different students in different situations, it is easier for me to objectively review the information and not get upset or take it personally.  While keeping an open mind, understand the audience, don’t automatically give up because someone said on YouTube that they did not get into a school because of a test score.  Don’t be discouraged, don’t give up!  Make a list of things that you question and dig deeper into the topic.  Example:  Talking about the cost of college and scholarships and federal aid.  You might start your search with high-level general information, but then dig deeper by going to Net Price Calculators at the schools’ websites and visit the studentaid.gov site to get your questions answered. 

In this very VIRTUAL world we are working in, be SMART about how you find your information.  Check the source, don’t buy what they are selling, check the date, dig deeper at organizations’ sties and KEEP AN OPEN MIND!