Last I checked, there are more that 4000 schools to choose from

This latest college admissions scandal rocked the industry. It was a scandal of great proportion. Many of you may feel betrayed, and rightly so. What surprised me is that this has been going on for years and is just now being exposed. There were admissions people who knew about these unethical dealings way back in the 80’s (and maybe even further) and chose to ignore it. Donations should never be traded for admissions for someone under qualified.

That being said, we must remember that college is a business and it’s not necessarily that the college is at fault, it’s the people who are running the college and administrators at the high school level who turned their backs to suspicious dealings that need to be called out for their actions. It’s these few bad eggs who now make us question whether or not going to college is something attainable for our children. I believe college is absolutely attainable and even more so now that this scandal is out in the open. There is a valuable take away we can all get from this:

Parents share this with your students and have them sit in this thought for a moment.

Students; What would give you greater satisfaction, empowerment and confidence, knowing you applied to college and got in on your own merit or that you had help doctoring your test scores or your parents made a huge donation (bribe) to the college to secure your admissions? Obviously, I would hope it would be getting in on your own merit. If you did say your own merit, nothing has really changed for you, you are still going to have to put in the time and work hard in school.

Now that this scandal has been exposed, the middle class and under privileged students will now have a level playing field. All schools will be available to all students who qualify and that is a wonderful thing. Students of all economic and social classes will now have the opportunity to apply and be accepted to the school of their choice.

This is where I am going to ask you to restore your faith in the college admissions process and move past this nightmare scandal. The system was broken but I believe it can be made whole again. I’m sure there are going to be some big changes in how the admissions process is going to work from now on and this too is a good thing, the college process will no longer be as it once was.

I also believe there are good, reputable people out there who want to help you, I mean truly help you. People with good intentions, ethical practices and who have your best interest in mind.

With over 4000 colleges and universities to choose from and the thought of finding the right college for you might just make you crazy or cause you a great deal of anxiety. I get it, it can be quite overwhelming to think about all the possibilities. Maybe that is why students choose schools they are familiar with, it’s a comfort zone thing. The good news is, it is very easy to narrow your search.

Every college has their own admissions guidelines. If you choose an Ivy, grades and extracurricular activities will be important. Or maybe you don’t want that kind of added stress, you just want a college that has a good academic and social balance. One where you can enjoy both your classes and hanging out with friends and it won’t be the end of the world if you don’t get all “A’s” in all of your classes. These are 2 very different college experiences so knowing what you want from your college experience is so important, so that is why “fit” is crucial when selecting your college.

At CollegePrep Lab we only want the best for you, we want to see all your hard work pay off and help you select a school where you will love life and thrive.

I humbly ask you to trust us and give us a chance to work with your student. Fill out the form below so we can get started! I would love to work with you!

Get The Facts: 10 Things every college applicant needs to know

So you’ve made the decision to go to college. It’s something you’ve always wanted to do, you planned for it, have done your research and now the time has come to make that transition from high school to college but where do you begin?

Let’s face it, applying to college can be a full-time job. There are essays to write, a resume to create, a college list to generate, interviews to prepare for and more. In addition, becoming an educated consumer will be key to your success. There are things you need to know and understand about how colleges operate, how to apply for financial aid, understanding your financial aid award, understanding your student loan options and again so much more. Here are a few key ideas for a successful transitiion.

Now is not the time to take shortcuts

When completing your college application it’s best to have a plan. Yes, I’m talking spreadsheets, graphs, charts, whatever it take to help you get organized and stay organized. This will be a crucial step in staying on top of critical deadlines. Sure you can get into college without all this stuff but do you want to risk it? And why cause yourself unnecessary stress? Formulating a solid plan will take the stress out of the college application process. If this just isn’t for you, you may want to consider hiring a college advisor to help.

What do you want from your college experience?

Know your reasons for why you are choosing a particular college or university. Is it the fact that they have a great debate club or an honors program? Is it the unique majors they offer, or that you love that the college is in a big city? You should be choosing the college because it fits all your criteria, not because of its notoriety or status. Colleges are looking for your personal reasons for choosing their school. Important tip: The best way to impress a college admissions officer is to know as many details about their college as possible.

Do your due dilligence – Do your homework

Really try to narrow your search. Applying to a ton of schools may not be your best strategy. Unless you are a research guru it will be a challenge to fully know the colleges you are applying to and, admissions officers know when you’ve just skimmed their websites vs doing extensive research. A comprehensive look into the school you are interested in shows the college that you are “all in” and that it is important for you to take the time to really get to know them. Remember the right fit is more valuable than your GPA, test scores or activities. Why would you even consider going to a college that doesn’t check all or your boxes? I believe a good strategy is to choose a manageable number of schools that you know you would really like to attend, then give those applications your all.

Colleges want to know you can handle the extra responsibility

Make sure you are on top of all your deadlines so that you can complete your application on time. There are a lot of little details and supplemental materials that need to accompany your application such as test scores, letters of recommendations, transcripts, financial aid info etc. It is easy to forget things. Try not to get yourself in a situation where you are asking for special accommodations or considerations to complete your application. Know when your deadlines are. Know all of the items that you need for the application in order for it to be complete. If you’re asking for special treatment, make sure you have a good reason such as a medical condition or unforeseen circumstance in your life.

Colleges and Universities aren’t going to call you

Staying in touch with your admissions advisor is important and yes, they do keep track. Colleges like to see demonstrated interest from you. It lets them know that you are serious about their school. A good way to keep track of your communications is to keep a log of every contact.

Mom or Dad isn”t applying to college, you are

Every correspondence you have with your potential college should be from you. It’s ok to write about family members in your essay but the real focus should be on you. The best way to give tribute to your parents is by securing admission and sharing that joy with them.

What is it about you that makes you stand out?

Of course, your family thinks you are amazing because (yes you are) and because they are your family. You may be a superstar at your high school or within your community but this might not make for the most interesting reading to admissions officers. The fact of the matter is, you’ll be competing for a spot with so many others you need to make yourself stand out and generic sports and multicultural experience essays aren’t going to cut it. Now don’t get me wrong, these topics are fine to write about, however, if you’re choosing a common theme, make sure you tell your story in an uncommon way that will captivat and hold the admissions officers’ attention.

There are two sides to the major selection coin

It’s OK to say that you don’t know what you want you’re major to be. Schools require a certain number of core courses partly for this very reason. However, some schools allocate certain merit money and scholarships to certain majors. It’s not often they reserve monies for “undecided majors”. If you don’t choose a major early on you could be sacrificing potential free money. You can always change your major later once you figure out what you want to do.

Know your financial obligations

While about three-quarters of students receive acceptance to their top choice school, only about half can afford to go. Know the true bottom line of your school in terms of fees beyond tuition as well as things like the average debt of graduates. You’re making a huge investment that you could potentially be repaying for many years. If money is an issue and your top choice school is the only school for you, then you need to be creative and come up with other ways to pay for it. Outside scholarships are a great way to supplement your tuition bill.

You are about to enter into a world unlike any other

It’s ok to be nervous and apprehensive about going away to college. The best way to quelch this fear is to just embrace the fact that you’re out of your element along with every other freshman out there. Allow yourself to grow and be open on this new journey, it is the essence of the college experience.

What’s in a financial aid award letter

Making the big decision

This is a super exciting time for college students! If they haven’t already, your admissions packages and award letters should be flooding in this month. Fortunately you don’t have to make your decision until May 1st.

Most schools send out financial aid award letters around the same time as their acceptance letters. The timing can vary, however, depending on things like when you submitted your FAFSA and how many FAFSAs the school received. If you have questions about when you can expect your award letter, call your school’s financial aid office.

Figuring out how you’ll pay for school is a big deal. It can have an impact on the amount of debt you’ll have after you graduate. Once you understand the offers in your financial aid award letters, you can choose what works for you and start planning how you’re going to pay for any gap not covered by your financial aid.

Your award package—and how much extra you’ll need to pay for school—are important, but there are other things to consider than money. Factor in each school’s location, campus culture, quality of academic programs, and graduation rate. Make a pros and cons list. Price goes at the top…but it shouldn’t be the only thing on the list.

Keep in mind, your award letter covers one year only, so you will get a new award letter every year. And that means you’ll need to fill out the FAFSA and apply for financial aid annually while you’re in school.

Compare your financial aid packages

Okay, now it’s time to compare the award letters from all your schools and see which has the best deal for you. An easy way is to create a spreadsheet so you can compare their offers side by side.

  1. Create a column for each school.
  2. Make a row for each category: COA, scholarships, grants, fellowships, work-study, and federal loans.
  3. Subtract all the categories from the COA.
  4. What remains is the gap—the amount you’ll need to pay for school from other sources, such as savings or a private student loan.

Financial aid award letters usually contain this information:

  • Cost of attendance (COA), an estimate of what you can expect to pay for one year of school. This includes tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation, and even some personal expenses.2 If the COA isn’t included in your letter, check the school’s website or call the financial aid office.
  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC), a number that your school uses to determine how much financial aid you’re eligible for. It’s not (despite its name) how much your family will have to pay for college.3
  • College grants are typically need-based and can be given by state or federal governments.
  • College scholarships can be need-, merit-, or interest-based and are awarded by a school, company, or private organization.
  • Federal work-study is a program, implemented by the school, where you work to earn your financial aid.
  • Federal student loans let you borrow money directly from the federal government; you pay this financial aid back with interest. A financial aid award letter may also list the amount you can borrow with a credit-based loan (like a federal Direct PLUS Loan or a private student loan).

Free money vs borrowed money vs earned

Your award letter lists all the financial aid you’re eligible for, but there’s an important difference between whether the aid is free, borrowed, or earned:

  • Free money is money that you don’t have to pay back: scholarships, grants, and fellowships.
  • Borrowed money is money you’ll need to pay back with interest: federal student loans (which may be listed as “Federal Direct Loans”) or credit-based loans (like Direct PLUS Loans, which come from the federal government, or private student loans).
  • Earned money is like a part-time job and you don’t have to pay back the money you earn: work-study.

A financial aid offer isn’t always set in stone

You don’t have to accept all the financial aid listed in your award letter.

Let’s say you’re awarded work-study in your financial aid package but you know you’re going to be too busy with schoolwork. Or the amount of the federal loan you’re qualified for is more than you want to take out. You can say “no” to all or part of a financial aid award, or ask your school’s financial aid office to review your financial situation. Just be sure that you won’t need to borrow money for costs that you could have covered with free money.

Whether you decide to accept or decline your financial aid package, you’ll need to respond to the award letter. Each school sets a deadline for a response, so don’t miss out, whether it’s mailing back a signed form or answering online. If you do decide to request more financial aid from a school, talk to your financial aid office. There might be a written process to request a review of your financial situation.

Remember, bigger isn’t always better. Don’t rely only on the total dollar amount of a school’s financial aid award. For instance, you might receive a smaller total award that offers more scholarships and grants than a larger award consisting mostly of loans. Or, despite a generous financial aid package, School A will still cost a lot more than School B, which is offering less financial aid.

Take your time when you’re comparing your financial aid packages. You’re investing years of your life in school, so invest the time now to figure out what’s best for you.

1 This information was gathered on 10/26/18 from

2 This information was gathered on 10/26/18 from

Freshmen Matter

9th grade is not too early to start planning

Don’t underestimate the importance of 9th grade when planning for college

Students To Do List:

  •  Take challenging classes in core academic subjects. Most colleges require four years of English, at least three years of social studies (history, civics, geography, economics, etc.), three years of mathematics, and three years of science, and many require two years of a foreign language. Round out your course load with classes in computer science and the arts.
  •  Work with one of your parents to estimate your financial aid using FAFSA4caster and be sure to save for college.
  •  Get involved in school- or community-based activities that interest you or let you explore career interests. Consider working, volunteering, and/or participating in academic enrichment programs, summer workshops, and camps with specialty focuses such as music, arts, or science. Remember—it’s quality (not quantity) that counts.
  •  Ask your guidance counselor or teachers what Advanced Placement courses are available, whether you are eligible, and how to enroll in them.
  •  Use the U.S. Department of Labor’s career search tool to research your career options.
  •  Start a list of your awards, honors, paid and volunteer work, and extracurricular activities. Update it throughout high school. 

Plan out a challenging program of classes to take.

  • Colleges want to know which courses you’re taking and are looking at your grades in high school. By starting to plan for your college future in your freshman year you give yourself more options.
  • The courses you take in high school show colleges what kind of goals you set for yourself. Are you signing up for advanced classes, honors sections, or accelerated sequences? Are you choosing electives that really stretch your mind and help you develop new abilities? Or are you doing just enough to get by?
  • Colleges will be more impressed by respectable grades in challenging courses than by outstanding grades in easy ones.
  • Do your high school course selections match what most colleges expect you to know? For example, many colleges require two to four years of foreign language study.
  • Establish your college preparatory classes; your schedule should consist of at least 4 college preparatory classes per year, including:
    • 4 years of English
    • 3 years of math (through algebra II or trigonometry)
    • 2 years of foreign language
    • At least 2 years of natural science
    • 2 years of history/social studies
    • 1 year of art
    • 1 year of electives from the above list
    • Enrolling in algebra or geometry classes and a foreign language class for each semester (most colleges have math and foreign language requirements)

Create a file of important documents and notes.

  • Copies of report cards.
  • Lists of awards and honors.
  • Lists of school and community activities in which you are involved, including both paid and volunteer work, and descriptions of what you do.

Start thinking about the colleges you want to attend.

  • Create list of colleges and universities in which you are interested. Try to think outside of the box and consider schools that you’ve never heard of. The perfect college doesn’t lie in just one college
  • Prioritize your criteria – 1st, is financial fit a concern? 2nd will the college/university challenge you academically? and 3rd can you see yourself at that college? Decide what is important to you and why?
  • Values – Use your top five criteria to evaluate your colleges that are in alignment with your values
  • Attend any and all college fairs
  • Discuss the list with your school counselor and narrow it down to your top few.
  • Start visiting the campuses.

once you find that foundation you can apply that to a number of things what classes you what to take, the kind of job you want, careers, major you are interested in. The more you can articulate how you chose your colleges and why they are a great fit the better you can maximize experiences and take advantage of all the resources.

Here are some resources that will help you compare colleges. College is a huge investment and finding the right fit is an ongoing process so it’s important to make sure the college is going to deliver the experience you want. Using websites like these you can help you to continue to build your criteria: (make sure you are looking at the colleges main campus)

Find out about honors-level courses at your school.

  • Ask if AP or other honors courses are available.
  • See if you are eligible for the honors classes you want to take.

Stay active in clubs, activities, and sports that you enjoy.

  • Study, study, study. Colleges look at your permanent academic record for admissions beginning with freshman-year grades.
  • Think about an after school or summer job to start saving for college.

To Explore:


To Do:

  •  Talk to your child about college plans as if he or she will definitely go to college.
  •  Keep an eye on your child’s study habits and grades—stay involved.
  •  Encourage your child to take Advanced Placement or other challenging classes.
  •  Add to your child’s college savings account regularly; and make sure you are fully aware of the provisions of the account.

To Explore:

Our Best resources for college scholarships

Who doesn’t want FREE money?

When it comes to finding out about all things college, students today have a wealth of resources available to them on the web . Trying to figure out where to start can be a bit daunting so I have compiled a list of some great websites where you can go to find a ton of college scholarships.

  1. Big Future (College Board)

Of course College Board is at the top of the list. Not only do they provide a whole host of helpful information about standardized tests, advanced placement classes, colleges and universities, internships from more than 2,200 programs and pretty much anything else you might need when it comes to college. So it comes as no surprise when I tell you they have a scholarship list and comprehensive search options to simplify the whole process.

  1. Broke Scholar

The great thing about Broke Scholar is they have made it super easy to search for scholarship and better yet, you don’t have to give them any personal information. Also on their site you will find info on grants and fellowships, giving your student even more options to explore.

  1. CareerOneStop

Here is a college website that claims to be “your source for career exploration, training and jobs,” CareerOneStop has thousands of scholarships to choose from and they have made it easy to filter your list based on criteria, where you live, type of award you looking for, level of study and more, so take couple of hours or an afternoon to explore.

  1. Chegg

We have nothing but great things to say about Chegg, from book rental to their generous contribution to the environment, planting over 6 million trees to date! Their scholarship list is comprehensive, user friendly and they have a super handy online application processes.

  1. JLV College Counseling

This site favorite was created by a previous admissions counselor. You have the option to search by major, deadline month and more. You can’t filter by certain criteria like other scholarship search engines (i.e. GPA, SAT score, etc.) but we find most of the scholarships on this site to be legitimate.

  1. Student Scholarships

Student Scholarships provides the user with a variety of categories to organize their information, and a search bar that allows the student to search for the criteria that is relevant to them. Another great feature is their career-oriented Q&A’s, giving your student the opportunity to learn more about the many different  types of professions available to them (this is especially helpful when a student is undecided about their major).

  1. Tuition Funding Sources

This search engine makes it quick and easily to narrow down your list of criteria saving you hours of unnecessary search time. It’s worth checking out.

  1. Unigo

Unigo’s list of scholarships, awards and grants will give you fun, unusual, academic, need-based, student-specific, career, and even more types of scholarships. Browse through their list and find new scholarships to add to your child’s college fund. They also have a tool to compare different universities.

These sites will give you a good place to start! Happy searching!


Fastweb While there are some great opportunities here, there are also a large number of sweepstakes that pose as scholarships. Sweepstakes carry an innate level of risk, and the potential of flooding your email with junk mail or spam.  If you choose to use Fastweb for your scholarships search, you need to do your research before applying. If something seems suspicious, it probably is so don’t submit an application or give your personal details to the site.


Merit scholarships are one of the best ways to obtain free money for college. Merit scholarships make it possible to greatly reduce your child’s tuition bill, or even get a “free ride. ” The great thing about merit scholarships is your child may automatically qualify at their chosen college or university based on their GPA, test scores, portfolio or extracurriculars. Check out this this website, the Merit Scholarship List, for aggregated merit scholarship information from universities all over the country.


  • Free searches
  • Calendar listing scholarships by deadline
  • Filtering capabilities
  1. By name
  2. By deadline
  3. By award amount
  • Rating of scholarships
  • Adjustable settings
  • Email alerts when new scholarship matches are available
  • The ability to save profile information
  • Responsive design (mobile-friendly)


  • Local scholarships
  • Scholarships from the university or college your child will be attending
  • KFC scholarships
  • Coca-Cola scholarships
  • Wal-Mart Scholarships
  • Exon Mobil Scholarships
  • Ronald McDonald House Charities Scholarships
  • General Electric foundation Scholarships
  • Target Scholarships
  • Scholarship America
  • AT&T Labs Fellowship Program

College Application & Materials Timeline

A step by step monthly guide to keep you organized and on schedule

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  • Have your list of colleges completed and know which ones you will be applying to,you should have at least 10 schools on your list
  • Determine which tests you will take, ACT or SAT and decide when you will take them
  • Study for tests
  • Consider Enrolling in summer camp

SAT/ACT test Dates

  • SAT/Test Date                             Registration                             SAT Scores Released
    March 9, 2019
    May 4, 2019 March 20, 2019 April 5, 2019
  • ACT/Test Date                            Registration                             ACT Scores Released
    April 13, 2019 March 8, 2019 April 23 – June 7, 2019
    June 8, 2019 May 3, 2019 June 18 – August 2, 2019

AprilScreen Shot 2019-03-03 at 11.36.03 AM

  • Juniors – you should have asked your teacher/other for letters of recommendations. If not, make sure you ask for them before the end of the school year.
  • Send decline letters to schools you will not be attending
  • Send acceptance letter and admissions and housing deposit no later than May 1st
  • Study for advance placement test
  • Attend National College Fair Wednesday April 24th 2019


MayScreen Shot 2019-03-03 at 11.13.43 AM

  • Request your final transcripts be sent to the college you selected
  • register for orientation




  • Begin a list of scholarship opportunities
  • Polish your resume adding any junior year accomplishments
  • Ask for any additional letters of recommendation
  • Consider hiring a tutor during the summer months, especially if you are struggling in any areas. Plus, you can be working on studying for your ACT/SAT that is coming up
  • Internships
  • Getting a summer job is a great way to help with college costs
  • Focus on extracurricular activities such as volunteering
  • *Work on college essays* at least your first draft should be completed by the end of the summer
  • Take time for summer fun!


  • Begin outline/final draft for college essays. In a perfect world, August 1st is a good goal to set to have your essays completed but we know how life goes so you should at least have a draft ready for editing.
  • Campus visits
  • Finalize resume
  • Register for fall SAT/ACT tests and consider signing up for an ACT/SAT test prep course. Kite Tutoring is one of my local favorites.
  • Start a scholarship calendar for private scholarships
  • Music and Art students need to register for any scholarship competitions
  • Review all your college websites for scholarships and requirements

SeptemberScreen Shot 2019-03-03 at 11.10.31 AM

  • Participate in ant admissions teleconferences that will be helpful
  • Finalize your college list that you will applying to
  • Start a large 3 ring binder to file all correspondence
  • Verify your transcripts are accurate
  • Write a letter to guidance counselor – Parents
  • Ask for letters of recommendation required for college or scholarship applications
  • Have your essays reviewed, we can help!
  • Complete final draft of essays
  • Accept any invitations to scholarship competitions

OctoberScreen Shot 2019-03-03 at 11.10.51 AM.png

  • All applications MUST be completed by October 15th
  • Make sure your application, essay, resume, letters of recommendation and other required information is included in application
  • PLEASE watch and read ALL your college emails. 9 times out of 10 there is at least one student who missed out on scholarship money because they missed a deadline – no one was reading the mail.
  • Submit FAFSA October 1

NovemberScreen Shot 2019-03-03 at 11.11.30 AM

  • Follow up with your admissions representative at EVERY college you applied to. Confirm they are not waiting on anything to review your application
  • Do some career exploration and research in areas that interest you
  • Early Decision
  • Early Action Nov 1-15

DecemberScreen Shot 2019-03-03 at 11.01.53 AM

  • Regular Decision
  • Register December 1-Jan

JanuaryScreen Shot 2019-03-03 at 11.11.56 AM

  • Update your admission representative with some new positive information about you
  • Do not get senioritis – these grades count for scholarship and admissions
  • Schedule interviews with the department heads – request consideration for scholarship money
  • Send thank you notes

FebruaryScreen Shot 2019-03-03 at 11.12.13 AM.png

  • Guess what…this is a FREE month but continue to work hard in your high school classes. Tie up any loose ends and if you need to catch up on anything, now is the time to do it.
  • For freshmen, sophomores and juniors in the family, mid-winter break is a great time to explore and visit a variety of college campuses




Spring Break

Don’t delay, schedule your appointment today!

If you haven’t already scheduled your college visits, spring break is a great time to do it. Sure I know you don’t want to spend your spring break visiting colleges but look at it this way, you get to travel to places you’ve never been before and being on a college campus is pretty exciting!

There is a lot to take in while on campus so make sure you go prepared.  Trust me, you will forget all the little details the college has to offer so I suggest you make sure you have a notebook so you can jot down notes during your visit.

US News 36 Questions to Ask on a College Visit


How much time do students typically spend on homework?

How much writing and reading are expected?

What is the average class size of introductory classes?

How widely used are teaching assistants on your campus?

What is the average class size of upper-division courses?


Academic Perks

What opportunities are there for undergraduate research?

How many students participate in undergraduate research?

Is there a culminating senior year experience?

Do you have an honors college?

Do you have a learning community or other freshman experience?

Financial Aid

What is your average financial aid package?

What is the typical breakdown of loans versus grants?

What percentage of financial need does the school typically meet?

What is the average merit award?

What percentage of students receive college grants?

What is the average college debt that students leave with?

What work-study opportunities are there?


Graduation Track Record

What is your four-year graduation rate?

What is your five-year graduation rate?

What does it take to graduate in four years?

What percentage of freshmen return for sophomore year?

Academic Support

What type of tutoring program do you have?

How do you provide academic advice to students?

Do you have a

writing center and how do I access it?

What kind of learning disability resources do you have?


Outside Opportunities

How many students at the college get internships?

What percentage of students study abroad?

What type of career services do you have?

Student Life

What kind of dorm choices are there?

What percentage of student live on campus?

How long are dorm accommodations guaranteed?

How many students live on campus?

Do most students go home on the weekend?

What percentage of the study body belongs to a sorority or fraternity?

What activities are offered to students?

What clubs do you have on campus?

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