Finding College Scholarships

Parents often ask us where their teen can find college scholarships and in our opinion this is the one area we recommend parents take an active role. Searching for and applying for scholarships is time consuming and many students avoid it.

What you need to know is all college scholarship sites are not equal. Many aren’t legitimate or are little more than sources for gathering your data. It’s a given you will get some unsolicited emails and you won’t want to overload your college application or your personal email accounts.

Tip #1:     Set up a new email to be used only for scholarships.

Tip #2:     Never pay for a scholarship search.

Tip #3:     Start local; places to consider are employers, local service organizations (Elks, Rotary, Lions, etc.), school foundations, high school counseling department, and PTA.

Our top 5 scholarship sites are:






On each site be sure to:

·      Fill out the student profile 100%, leaving no blank spaces or unchecked boxes.

·      List all possible majors for the most scholarship matches. If you are unsure of your major check the boxes for anything that interests you.

·      Update your information regularly, as different scholarships are offered for different grade levels.  Also, more matches may occur if you join clubs, volunteer, learn new skills, and take part in different activities.

Bonus Info: At the time your student is submitting admissions applications, parents of seniors can research the financial aid page for each college. There you may find additional information on institutional or departmental scholarships and whether a supplemental application is required. Not all schools offer departmental scholarships for incoming freshman, but if they do, you don't want to miss out!

4 Steps to Great Letters of Recommendation

Colleges ask for letters of recommendations because they value the information a well-written recommendation letter says about a prospective student. Letters reveal things about you that static grades and test scores cannot, provide personal opinions from a professional and can reveal positive aspects of your character.

Step 1: Know what you need.

  • The University of California, California State Universities and many other large public institutions do not accept recommendation letters.
  • For schools that do, plan on a minimum of two letters from teachers and one from your high school counselor.  There are a few schools that might require three.
  • Sometimes the letters are optional and sometimes not even required. Our suggestion is to submit one if you have a strong relationship with a teacher.

Step 2: Who should you ask and when?

  • Don’t automatically pick the teacher in the class in which you have an A. Some of the best letters come from teachers you had to ask for help during lunchtime or after school. 
  • Think about your areas of interest. For example, if you are planning to major in a STEM field, at least one teacher should be from that discipline.
  • Having a balance of one math or science and one English, history or foreign language teacher is a good idea for most students.
  • Consider asking teachers you’ve had more than once—a freshman and junior foreign language teacher can speak to your development as a student and a young adult.
  • If you’re an arts student, consider asking your band, choral or theater teacher.  Many schools allow non-academic, optional recommendation letters. If you have a job or are an athlete, including your boss or coach is also appropriate. Remember these people are in addition to, not a replacement for, the required recommendations.
  • Ask your teachers politely, in person and in late spring (May) of junior year.

Step 3: Follow your school’s protocol.

If your school uses Naviance, check under the “About Me” tab to see if there is a specific survey that needs to be filled out by you and possibly, your parent/guardian.

If your school does not have a packet or questionnaire of their own, it’s your job to give your teachers enough information to be able to write you a letter.  We suggest providing them with a note that includes one or more of the following:

  • Why you selected this particular teacher;
  • Highlights of your class achievements, or areas you worked to improve;
  • A description of a meaningful experience in the course, and how it impacted your work;
  • What you plan to study or your interest areas; and anything else they should know about you. Be sure to include an expression of thanks!
  • When you ask the teachers, be prepared to give them a copy of your note or questionnaire, and a résumé or extra-curricular activities list so they get an idea of all that you do outside of the classroom.
  • Provide them with the application deadlines for the schools to which you are applying.

Step 4:  Thanks

  • Thank them, thank them and thank them. Be sure to express your genuine appreciation for the work they’re doing on your behalf. 

4 Ways to Keep College Application Costs Down!

This year will be another record-high year for applications. In conjunction with that it has also marked a banner year for wait-list and denials of competitive students. So, is the answer to send more applications, and does that increase your chances of getting an admit letter? It might. But it will cost you.

The average student in our area is applying to 10-12 schools and can expect to pay upwards of $1,000 in application fees. That doesn’t include sending transcripts and test scores, with their associated fees, required by many colleges.

First, every school on your list should be one that you are happy and excited to attend. If you’re feeling disappointed over an admit letter from a “safety school,” that school has no room on your college list, so why pay for it?

Second, apply to schools for you!  Be discerning and apply to them because you want them, not because your friends are applying or because there’s no essay.  At the same time, don’t apply to UC’s or Cal State’s that don’t suit your program needs or interests.

Third, take advantage of the standardized test scores you can send for free.  Though many are hesitant to send scores before they see them, schools really are looking for your best score.  We recommend that you do this at the larger state schools if any are on your list, though maybe not the highly selective private schools. If you can save $48 in test fees, why not do it?

Fourth, consider applying Early Decision.  If you know you’d be really, truly happy at a particular school that offers an ED option, you are a strong candidate, and your ability to attend isn’t dependent on a significant financial aid award, send that application. Then send other applications that have a deadline prior to your “hear by” date, holding back on other submissions until you know about your ED decision.  Have those apps ready to go, but don’t pay for them until you know you have to!

Collecting a list of college acceptance letters doesn’t really make you special, but it can make your poor, so be selective about where you apply!

© College Crew

What Looks Good on a College Résumé

We hear this question often—many times from students who have come to view the college application process as an exercise in spinning themselves into something they think a college wants, rather than an opportunity to exhibit who they really are and where their interests lie. The temptation to “amass” a long list of activities won’t help you get into the college of your choice. College admission officers are interested in reading and seeing meaningful engagement from students in what they do outside of school. They are quite capable of distinguishing between the student who does “stuff” just because and the student who does “stuff” because they love what they do.

Here is a short list on how to find an activity that shines a light on what you love.

1. Be Yourself. Colleges want to admit a diverse community of students with a wide range of talents and interests. If you’re not interested in sports, student council, or some other typical extracurricular activity, don’t worry about it. Colleges are just as intrigued by the student filmmaker or poetry club founder as they are by the power forward or student body president. Provided that you demonstrate a deep and consistent commitment, admissions officers will take notice, whatever the activity.

2. Go Deep. Assuming a leadership role, participating extensively (10-20 hours per week) in one or two pursuits will always outshine comparable applicants who merely dabble (an hour here, an hour there) in several or more activities. If you want to have an impact, find your niche, and improve your college admissions prospects in the process, forget the “laundry list” and commit to wholeheartedly following your true extracurricular interests.

3. Use Your Summer. Do you want to show colleges that you are serious about your extracurricular pursuits? Then use your summer to secure an internship, take a class, or enroll in a camp that will allow you to further explore your interests outside the classroom. There is no better way to impress an admissions rep than to forego those lazy summer days and use your vacation to better yourself.

4. Get a Job. Perhaps more than anything else, having a job demonstrates to an admissions committee that you are mature, practical, and ready to take on the responsibilities associated with adulthood. If you can get a job in your area of interest, great; if you can’t, get one anyway. Show colleges that you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty.

What you do is not about building a resume to get into college; it’s about finding yourself and showing the admissions rep your true calling (at least now). Follow your heart, strive for authenticity, and college will take care of itself. Besides you’ll have plenty of time to build a career resume later. If you need help finding something to do, give us a call, we have a lot of ideas to share.