How To Get Your Act Together For College

Financial aid, scholarships, application and essay tips you won't hear at your HS "College Night"

andy college shirt pearl red patterned shirt

Over the years, we’ve heard some of the STUPIDEST things from guidance counselors.

  • Don’t submit a resume, it’s too “braggy” and you’ll make the admissions officer feel badly
  • Stick with [State University], it’s the best you can do
  • You won’t get any money for college, it’s a waste of time to apply (but you should still sit through an excruciating line by line 90-minute presentation in our cafeteria on the FAFSA!)

Look, I actually like most guidance counselors, especially the ones who care and admit that “they don’t know what they don’t know.”

But you’re the one about to send your kiddo to college, and you need answers.

Answers to questions like,

How do I even apply for financial aid?

Should I bother, I own a home, have a job and pay my bills?

I’ve heard how easy it is to screw up the forms, how do I avoid checking the wrong box or messing up something else?

Is it true that there are “loopholes” that can help me qualify for more financial aid?  I don’t care how sleazy or illegal they are, I can’t pay $65,000 per year per kid!

That’s why we’re hosting a brand-new, free presentation for parents of Class of 2018 and younger,  How To Get Your Act Together For College.

REGISTER FOR WEBINAR

We’re going to cover a bunch of checklist items for financial aid, scholarships, applications, essays, college visits, interviews, even how to handle your guidance counselor.

(We will NOT be discussing any sleazy or illegal tips.)

(I save the “good stuff” for actual clients! 🙂

This is the first time we’re sharing information like this, to be utterly candid.  As in, I have no idea how things will go.

Especially because we’ll be running chat, live, which means that you’ll get to fire away your questions!

It all happens tonight – Thursday night!

You’d be smart to tune in tonight before the school year picks up momentum and you learn that you don’t have time for anything!

Please forward this email invitation to any family who feels like they’re behind the College Eight Ball – while there’s still time! 🙂

See you tonight!

Andy “Despised By Guidance Counselors” Lockwood

P.S. This presentation is definitely NOT going to be the “same old same old” as you’ll hear this Fall at one of those high school College Nights.  Pearl and I are 100% independent, we don’t answer to any administration or district, which is why you’ll hear a lot of non politically-correct opinion and pointers.  (Consider yourself warned! 🙂

 

5 Deadly College Planning Mistakes

Avoid these college application, FAFSA and CSS Profile errors to achieve College Success...For Less!

Year after year, college-bound teens and their families commit the same mistakes, which can prevent them from attending the “Dream Colleges” they deserve at the prices they need!  Here’s a short list to help you manage the college process successfully.

1.  Not applying for financial aid because you assume that you will not qualify for anything.  It’s not only low income families that receive financial aid and scholarships.  Most funding goes to families in the top quartile of income, i.e. six-figure earners.

2.  Focusing on rank.  US News & World Report built a business out of ranking colleges.  But if you look at the criteria used, you won’t find anything relating to quality of education.

Rank is easily manipulated.  Ever wonder why colleges that were “safety” schools when we grew up are now crazy-hard to get into?  Today, you need a 1400 SAT or low 30’s ACT and a solid A average to be admitted to U Miami.  In the 1980s, you’d get in if you had a C average, rich parents and a drug habit.   (Google, “How Northeastern gamed the rankings” for the jaw dropping story about how another “regular” college became elite.)

3.  Naivete about the truth:  College is a business.  You likely understand this, but if you’re uncertain, tour a college and check out the workout facilities and dining options.  Oh, and the rock climbing wall.  And Lazy River.  Are you at a college or a resort?  Yes!

Here’s how you can beat them at their own game.  Apply to colleges that compete with one another!  This way you might be able to improve your scholarship or financial aid award by “playing them off” each other.

4. Blowing deadlines.  Most families fixate on Early Decision or Early Action deadlines, commonly November 1 or November 15 (but they vary by college).  However, all-too-often parents get blindsided by priority financial aid deadlines, which are buried in on each college’s website.

Priority financial aid deadlines also vary from college to college, so you must research which forms to file – and when to file them – for each and every college on your list.  The FAFSA and CSS Profile come out October 1, but the DEADLINES to file are whenever each college tells you to submit them.  If you inadvertently blow a deadline, you’ll miss out on grants and scholarships you otherwise deserve.

5. Starting too late.  I could rack off another 25 mistakes that could sabotage your chances of admission and/or getting funds without breaking a sweat.  Most of the time these errors can be easily avoided…if you get a jump on the process and go about it strategically, not by merely “winging it” at the last minute.

Andrew Lockwood, J.D.  wrote the best selling books How to Pay ‘Wholesale’ for College, The Incomparable Applicant and College Essay Insider Secrets.   He and Pearl Lockwood (his wife, the last name isn’t a coincidence) own Lockwood College Consulting in Jericho and specialize in helping “Forgotten Middle Class” families get into, and pay discounted prices for the best colleges in the country.  Contact us today for a complimentary College Strategy Session by going to www.BookLockwood.com!

3 College Admissions & Financial Aid Fails

We see dozens of financial aid, scholarships and admissions mistakes each year - here are three biggies

I’m generally a positive guy, but I feel the need to “go negative” today.

No, I’m not running for office or promoting a “fake news” story – I wanted to chat about three very real mistakes I see families commit all the time in the college admissions and financial aid process.

The first is a mistake of omission – sticking your head in the sand and expecting things to magically work themselves out.

Look, there’s something to be said for this approach, it’s less stressful…at least in the short term.  The problem is that, in the medium and longer term, “winging it” could very well lead to:

  • Not getting into the college or colleges you hoped to attend (or thought you “deserved” – an interesting word – to get into)
  • Graduating with a cr-p load of student loans
  • Graduating with a useless major and being forced to come home to mom and dad’s basement with your tail between your legs while you scrounge around for a job, even if it doesn’t require a college degree

Mistake Deux is about expectations – too often, kids and parents fail to have “The Talk” early on.  No, not THAT talk…puh-lease.

I’m referring to the one about financial aid, scholarships and paying for college.  Too often, hard working kids put everything they’ve got into their studies, extracurricular activiites, applications and essays and, lo and behold, get IN to their top choice college!

Then, reality hits when Mom and Dad (OK, 99% of the time it’s Dad) looks at the bill, clutches their chest and screams “What orafice do they expect me pull money out of to pay for THAT?”

It would better to say, the summer before senior year at the latest, “Hey, kiddo. You can apply anywhere you want, but the plain fact is that we don’t know what college will actually cost us until we get the financial aid/scholarship package.  I can’t promise you that we can send you to ___________. We have two other kids, retirement and financial security in general to think of.  THIS PROCESS IS NOT ONLY ABOUT YOU.”

Shocking words!

Seriously, have this tough discussion early, before things come to a head when college acceptances start coming in a matter of months.

The third mistake is not learning about the financial aid and scholarships process, which I’ll be covering tonight on our webinar.  Most parents tell me that they’re surprised at how much money there actually is out there for “Forgotten Middle Class” families;  i.e. families who think they can’t possibly qualify.

But if you never put in the time to edu-ma-cate yourself about where money is, you’re setting yourself up for a big – nay, epic – fail.

These are only three of dozens upon dozens of mistakes that Pearl and I see in the college financial aid and admissions process.  Tonight, we’re going to help you avoid as many of ’em as humanly possible.

www.CS4L.tv

Our webby is about three topics, actually:

  1. Getting into a top college
  2. Getting grants and scholarships
  3. Choosing a list of colleges that can actually help you succeed POST-college

I’d consider it a personal favor if you would forward this email to anyone and everyone you know who needs this info.  I can pretty much guarantee that they’ll want to buy you a steak dinner, take you to see Hamilton  and be your BFF for-eva!

We’re going live at [7:30] pm, I will have a helpful gift ready and waiting for you.

And, we’ll be live AND unscripted in the chat box, where anything goes and anything can happen (like last week, when the whole webinar went dark. That was…fun.)

More importantly, We will open things up to Q&A so you can get your questions answered.

www.CS4L.tv

Here’s what’s on the table:

  • How to navigate the financial aid process, including what forms to file and WHEN to file them
  • Common financial aid mistakes that will “rob” you of financial aid and scholarships you otherwise deserve
  • How six figure-earning families can receive five figure financial aid awards, even if they think, “Families like us can’t possibly qualify!”
  • College essay  – what to write, what NOT to write, how to get ’em done
  • How to stand out in a “Sea Of Sameness” when you have the same grades and standardized test scores as 5,000 other competitor-applicants
  • The inconvenient, politically-incorrect truth about what college admissions officers are really looking for in a candidate
  • Plain facts about how much grades and standardized test scores “count”
  • How to get something out of college more than what you put in (i.e. PAID)
  • More!

This class is free to attend and we have not configured a replay.   Here’s where to sign up:

>>>>>>>>REGISTER FOR WEBCLASS HERE

Hope you can stop by!

-Andy “The Mensch Of Mistakes” Lockwood

Fact vs Fiction For College Applications & Financial Aid [webinar]

Hi, there are SOOOO many half-truths, urban legends and outright lies about the college process circulating among parents and kids.  I’ll give you a few of my faves so you can be on the lookout, esp. during junior year of high school, creshendoing in the summer and fall of senior year.

Some are perpetuated by uber-competitive parents, jockeying for position on behalf of their kids.  You know who I’m talking about, the ones who bump and elbow themselves to the head of the line during “College Night” at the local hotel or high school, or ask loud questions-that-aren’t-questions on college tours to 1. brag about their kids, 2. hear their own voices and 3. psych out other families.

But others are reinforced by unwitting guidance counselors and teachers, who you’d think would know better.  Here’s a short list:

  • We can’t possibly qualify for any financial aid because we make too much
  • My kid will never get a merit scholarship because she hasn’t cured a deadly disease yet
  • Colleges love kids to do a ton of extracurricular activities because it shows that they’re well-rounded and “looks good” for college
  • _________ college accepts 5 kids from our high school each year, max (so I’m not going to tell you where I’m applying because I don’t want you to also apply and “take my spot” from this quota)
  • We’re getting a lot of emails and phone calls from _________ college, they’re really interested in us!
  • Reading emails/social media posts/random thoughts from a heavy, Jewish college planner in Long Island who thinks he’s funny is a good use of your time

OK, so I hope you don’t think the last one is a lie, but, sadly, plenty of people do.  (Personally, I prefer to think of myself as “big-boned.”)

Tonight we’re running a live webinar to cut through the clutter in three gi-normous areas:

  • Getting into a top college
  • Getting grants and scholarships
  • Choosing a list of colleges that can actually help you succeed POST-college

Here’s where to get all the deets and sign up:

12 Summer To-Do’s For Class Of 2018 Families

We’re going live at 7pm, I will have a gift ready and waiting for those of you who show up on time!

Pearl will be running chat, so you can get all of your questions answered, time permitting.  Topics to be covered include:

  • How to navigate the financial aid process, including what to file and WHEN to file them
  • Common financial aid mistakes that will “rob” you of financial aid and scholarships you otherwise deserve
  • College essay  – what to write, what NOT to write, more
  • How to stand out in a “Sea Of Sameness” – The Activity Sheet and Resume
  • The inconvenient, politically-incorrect truth about what college admissions officers are really looking for in a candidate
  • More!

This class is absolutely free to attend, but we have not configured a replay.   Here’s where to sign up:

>>>>>>>>REGISTER FOR WEBCLASS HERE

Please forward/share with everyone you think could use this info!

-Andy “No Filter” Lockwood

Summer College To-Do’s For Class Of 2018 Families

Can you guess the biggest problem that frustrates college applicants and their parents (esp. their “Primary Parents,” a/k/a “Mom”)?

It’s not financial aid and/or scholarships paperwork.

It’s not the essays.

It’s not even the general feeling of overwhelm, as in, “I don’t even know where to start or what questions to ask!”

These are daunting, fo’ sho’, but for my money, they’re not the Numero Uno biggie.  My pick:

Running out of time.

But don’t take my word for it, ask any parent who’s been through the college application process, my guess is that 95% of them wish they had gotten “serious” earlier.

If you have a high school junior (Class Of 2018), we’re doing a free webinar geared toward you – 12 Summer To-Do’s For Class Of 2018 Families

Here’s a sneak peak at three of them, which may or may not make the final cut for Thursday’s class:

  1. Get a handle on the college essays, meaning put the Common App essay to bed by the end of July (even though the Common App gets released August 1, we already know the essay prompts, or questions).
  2. Figure out whether you can possibly qualify for need-based aid by using a tool like the FAFSA Forecaster to calculate your Estimated Family Contribution. But do not stop there – determine whether you can improve your eligibility by “sheltering” (not “hiding” – that’s so sleazy! 🙂 your assets legally and ethically.
  3. Manage expectations.  Yes, it would be nice to brag about attending an Ivy League school, but if you’re an A minus kid with above average (but not record setting) ACT or SAT scores, you’d be smart to balance out your list.  Parents, have that awkward conversation about FINANCES now, as in, Look, I hope you get into your  “Dream College,” but we don’t know whether they’ll give us enough financial assistance to send you.  This process is not solely about you and your needs, we have your siblings/our retirement/fill in the blank to consider also. Trust me, enduring the unpleasantness of this chat now will be much better than medium term severe pain in six months or so, when college acceptances roll in.

There’s your snippet!  Lots more to come this Thursday night.  This class is absolutely free to attend but we have not figured out whether we’re going to do a replay or not.   All details are here:

>>>>>>>>REGISTER FOR WEBCLASS HERE

Please forward/share with everyone you think could use this info!

Hope to see you on the interwebs Thursday night!

-Andy “Summer College Fun In The Sun” Lockwood

Surprising News About Desperate College Discounting

Lots of news in the last couple of days about how colleges discount families, including one great NY Times article, How Colleges Know What You Can Afford.

(Side note: yes, there are other news stories pertaining to non-Trump items, they’re just hard to find 🙂

I think all the discounting talk is terrific, because the likely consequence will be to teach parents how to avoid paying full price.  Fun fact:  at any given college, roughly 75% of families receive some sort of discount off the “sticker price.”  Fun fact deux:  the average discount at a private college is now 49.1%.

On a related but different note, each year at this time the National Association For College Admission Counseling, of which I am NOT a member, thank you very much, releases a list of colleges that are STILL accepting applications.  Yes, as in “now,” even as we close out May!

You might be thinking, what schools are on this list?  Are they undesireable (dare I say, “deplorable”) colleges?

Of course you should judge for yourself, but there are more than 500 schools on the list. I betcha dollars to donuts that you’ll be surprised if you scroll through them.  I sure was when I saw the likes of Hofstra, High Point and Elon!

COLLEGE OPENINGS LIST

The NYT article and this list serve to remind us that this college stuff is all one big bid-ness, which by now should be patently obvious to anyone who has not been living under a rock for the last few years.

The lesser-understood implication, however, is that YOU – and your children – are in business for yourselves too, whether or not you realize it.  The business of getting the lowest price possible so that you have a shot at College Return On Investment…

AND the business of marketing yourself (your kids) to desireable colleges, when it’s becoming harder and harder to stand out in a sea of sameness when thousands of your competitor-applicants appear to have the same grades and standardized test scores.

Here’s where you can get more – free – information on how to multiply odds of admission, and create a windfall of grants and scholarships, even if you think you can’t possibly qualify:

>>>>>>>>>>COLLEGE PLANNING SECRETS WORKSHOP & WEBINAR SCHEDULE

You’ll see that I’m speaking locally at the Wantagh Public Library tonight, and have a webinar and more live appearances in the next two weeks.

If you’re confused, stressed out and flat-out frustrated that there’s nowhere to get college planning information that you can actually use, our free workshops are exactly what the doctor ordered.  Plus, they’re air conditioned!

Hope to see you soon!

Andy “College ROI Guy” Lockwood

P.S.  I’d love you to forward this post along to anyone you think needs this information -thank you (and your forwardees  – should be a word – will thank you too! :)!

College Planning The Stupid Way!

As a college guy and the parent of a Class of 2017 kid, I can assure you, from both perspectives, that we’re doing it all wrong.

Kids – and parents – pick colleges for the dumbest reasons:

  • Great “rah rah” sports teams (“They went deep in my March Madness bracket!”)

  • Feelings (“When we got there, she just knew!”  Or, “We got out of the car, but got right back in. He said that he just wasn’t feeling it.”)

  • Rank (“Great school!  US News rated them top 200 most selective liberal arts colleges in states that start with “N” and have a horse for a mascot!”)

  • They know other people who attend or have attended (‘My second cousin twice removed’s former babysitter goes there, and SHE ABSOLUTELY LOVES IT!  That means I will too.  Duh.”)

  • (Fill in your own dumb reason here. Better yet, send it to me, I’ll publish the best ones! 🙂

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that you ignore each of the foregoing. However, I urge you to look past rah rah, feel, rank and so forth.

Here’s how we “Backwards Plan” into the college process. Disclaimer – this is not an advertisement, namely because this approach is right only for 25% of the families I meet, give or take.

  1. Focus on the 40, not 4.  Forget college for a few moments, even though it should be an incredible four years (hopefully only four) of your kids’ lives.  Incredible, but not the best four, because that would be sad (you know those guys our age or older still talking about how great college was, or the guys who manage to work into every conversation that they went to Harvard.  Toe curler!)  Instead, get to know yourself, i.e. how you’re “wired,” and what that means for your potential place(s) in the world.  There a bunch of free or inexpensive online assessments to chose from.

  2. Narrow those places in the world to ones where you can actually make a living and get off mom and dad’s payroll!  It’s incredibly easy to major in something that will be as attractive to an employer as backstage tickets to “An Evening With Carrot Top.”  Marine Biology? Architecture?  Women’s Studies?  (Bracing self for hate mail.)

  3. Back into a set of colleges that are reputable in the two or three (hopefully) overlapping areas that match your wiring and are reasonably lucrative.  It’s OK to change majors, 80% of kids do. It’s not OK to change majors and have to spend an extra year or two acquiring enough credits to graduate.  You’ll spend an extra $40-60K per year, and you’ll delay entry into the workforce, which opportunity cost could be $50K per year.  It adds up, Sparky!

  4. Learn the rules of the game and do what it takes to get into your top colleges!  Understand that it’s more marketing than meritocracy.  Yes, of course, grades and standardized test scores are important.  But they might factor roughly 60% of the admissions decision, according to long-time Princeton University Admissions Committee Member Don Betterton.  To get into a top school, you must realize that you are in business for yourself and must answer the “Why should we pick you” unspoken question on every admissions officer’s lips.

  5. Get discounts!  The average tuition discount in 2015 was 48.6%.  When they (The National Association Of Collegiate Business Officers) release 2016’s numbers, I betcha that the discount will be larger, because it grows each year.  The point is that paying full price for college is not an obligation, it’s a choice.   If you’re strategic and think about ROI (return on investment), instead of mascots and “feel” only, your results will be a heckuva lot better than families who surrender the process over to their hormonal 16-17 year olds and “wing it.”

——-

Two local events this week to help you discover how to get in – and pay “wholesale” prices for the best colleges in the US of A.  Please, pretty please forward to any and all fellow parents who could use this info!

Free workshop – Tuesday, 4/25, 7pm at the Roslyn Public Library (13 seats left)

A free community workshop for stressed out parents of high school juniors who want to 10x their kids’ chances of getting into their “Dream Colleges” and learn how to qualify for “yuge” tuition discounts.   Learn “loopholes” and “landmines” on the financial aid forms, how to negotiate with colleges, more.  

REGISTER FOR ROSLYN PUBLIC LIBRARY WORKSHOP

Open House – Saturday, 4/29, 10am -12pm in our NEW Woodmere location (25 seats max)

This event is a “meet and greet” for parents interested in our college advising, financial aid & scholarships and/or ACT/SAT tutoring services.  Our star tutor, Marissa, Pearl and I will be there to INFORMALLY  answer questions and play “let’s make a deal!”  Special incentives to be offered.

REGISTER FOR 4/29 OPEN HOUSE IN WOODMERE

See ya!

– Andy “Tough Love” Lockwood

3 Ways Your Guidance Counselor Might Be Sabotaging You

Local college financial aid, admissions planning workshop

Recent College Planning “Secrets” Workshop

Fair warning, this is a bit of a “mini-rant.”

But I need to get this off my chest, because it’s been going on for far too long…

…and it’s hurting our kids’ futures.

Be honest – we choose colleges for the dumbest reasons.  Just because a particular college “went deep” in the NCAA tournament, or is in The South, or happens to be festooned on the rear window stickers of cars in your neighborhood, does NOT mean that it’s a “good school.”

Even US News & World Report rank is seriously flawed – not to mention easily manipulatable.  I wish guidance counselors would explain this to their students – and parents.

The next gripe has to do with getting our kids’ hopes up about their chances of admission at top colleges.  It’s easy – and, frankly, a bit lazy – to use a tool like Naviance and proclaim, “These are your Safeties, Targets and Reaches.” How helpful is this?

You be the judge.  Naviance factors two things: academic credentials (grades and standardized test scores) and how your child stacks up compared to his/her peers from that high school.

However, academic credentials are weighted approximately 60% (!) in the overall admissions decision.  In other words, Naviance ignores 40% of the elements that admissions officers examine.  How comfortable can you feel?

College admissions is more marketing than meritocracy!

Even if you don’t like it.

Even if it’s “not fair.”

The other fatal flaw is that your kid is facing competition from all over the world, not merely from your particular high school.  I know you and your kids are curious about where you stand, but how are you supposed to rely on this microscopic amount of information?

You’re competing with thousands of kids with the same grades and scores, Naviance shows you a handful of them, artificially chosen.

Problem 3 is that most kids – and parents – don’t have a serious college planning discussion until late in 11th grade, when they have “The Meeting” with their guidance counselor (and walk out with the same list of colleges as the family who met with her before them).

My issue is that kids start creating their “body of work” that admissions officers will judge as early as 9th grade. By the time you meet with your guidance counselor, at least half of the choices and decisions about classes, extracurricular activities, what to do over the summer and so forth will already have been made.  Whoops!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing individual guidance counselors, although I know that many will take what I’ve written this way.  Guidance counselors are part of the system, but most of them are hard working, they have far more to do than meet with kids about college, and most genuinely mean well.

Look, I listed only three problems here, I didn’t get into financial aid, scholarships, college essays, negotiating with colleges and a LOT more stuff that needs to be addressed.

I’m conducting a free workshop on all of the above this Wednesday night, in Garden City.

http://lockwoodworkshops.com/

Discussions topics include:

  • Which types of savings accounts “penalize” you in the financial aid formulas, which do not count against you at all

  • What to do at the 11th hour if you’ve saved in the wrong places

  • The inconvenient, politically incorrect truth about what college admissions officers REALLY want to see (hint:  it’s not just super high grades and ridiculous standardized test scores)

  • How millionaires can get discounts of 48.6% off the cost of college

  • How to “10X” odds of admission, even if your kid didn’t cure a deadly disease last summer or build a village in a Third World country over winter break

  • WARNING:  your guidance counselor’s, accountant’s or “financial guy’s” advice may have SABOTAGED your chances of aid

  • The new changes to the FAFSA financial aid form and what they mean for your family

  • The surprising truth about what admissions officers are REALLY looking for

  • Little-known financial aid “loopholes” for business owners

  • Negotiation secrets: How a mild-mannered college planner got an extra $30,000  – per year – out of a top West Coast college AFTER its “final” offer

We added more seats last week, so please send this invitation along to any of your fellow parents who are facing the same obstacles and have the same questions.  As long as we have room, they’re welcome to come!

http://lockwoodworkshops.com/

I hope you can make it, especially if you have a Class of 2018 or 2019 kid.

Sincerely,

Andy “Busted Bracket” Lockwood

P.S.  I know the tone of this message was a little, ahem, “strong,” but our kids are facing severe obstacles and I feel like someone needs to shout til they’re blue in the face about it to get us all to wake up:  Student debt and defaults continue to skyrocket, 50% of kids who graduated college two years ago STILL don’t have  jobs that require a college degree, 93% of employers say that college grads are unprepared to work for them.  I could go on, but you get the point!  🙂