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Sunday, January 23, 2022

Signs that Your Child is Ready for College

By Katherine O'Brien, MA CCPS, Founder of Celtic College Consultants

Experts have noticed that there are signs we can observe in high school students which are pretty reliable indications of whether they are ready for life on campus, or not. The fact that a student is accepted into a university is not an indication of his or her ability to be successful on campus. Admissions looks for academic prowess and intellectual curiousity and, to some extent, leadership skills. They do not evaluate each applicant's "soft" skills.

How do you know if your teen is ready for college?

Living on campus is quite different from living at home with a supportive family, friends, teachers, familiar places and groups. How can we discern whether our teen is emotionally ready? Are they mature enough? (And how much can we expect them to mature between now and when they move onto campus?) Are they ready to build a new network of support people and friends, as well as academic mentors?

There has been a significant flow of students onto campus, then back home again after a disastrous first semester or year.

What happened when I put what my son needed ahead of what "everyone" was doing

It can be difficult to be realistic with ourselves. It's easy, as parents, to just flow along and assume our child is ready for college, just like his or her peers. When my oldest son was a senior, he applied to several schools, was accepted, and was offered some hefty scholarships. At the same time, our family had gone through major upheavals during his high school years and, as I watched, he began to unravel psychologically during his senior year. We discussed it several times through the winter and into the early spring. Finally, I sat in prayer, in silence away from home, and looked at the signs of anxiety and immaturity he was displaying. On the one hand, I saw an intelligent, curious, capable Eagle Scout. On the other hand, was a boy with a wounded heart, some serious uncertainties about navigating socially, and fear about moving to the other side of the country, where he knew no one, to a campus we had visited and truly liked. When I was honest, I could see that he needed time. He needed to step out of the "typical" flow and sort himself out. I can't tell you how relieved he was when I sat down with him privately and gently asked what he thought about not going off to college right after high school. His whole demeanor changed. He had been pushing himself to do what he thought was expected. His perception of my expectations were heightened because of my work as a college consultant. And I had to put his needs before my "bragging rights." Ten years later, he still hasn't decided about college. He has a stable full time job that can become a career, and he is much more stable emotionally. Having five younger siblings, but no father, he stepped in in some ways to help anchor the family and help his siblings on their own journeys to adulthood.

Questions to Start to Assess Your Teen's Readiness for College

1. Who is driving?

The college application process takes months and has many facets. Who is leading the way? Are you finding yourself (or your college consultant (me, I hope!)) dragging your child through the process? (If you are having to push him/her through the process, is this new, or is procrastination typical behavior for your teen?) Is he or she discussing college and major possibilities with you?

If your teen isn't the one making the decision to go to college (and why to go), either on his/her own or under the mentorship of myself or one of my colleagues, that is a red flag. If your teen isn't finding interesting and desirable opportunities on the campuses under consideration, that's a concern. Either s/he isn't doing the research into the possibilities or s/he may not be really interested.

2. Can your teen cope with setbacks?

The teen years are full of changes and transitions. Academic, social, and romantic successes and setbacks are plentiful. While this can be rather intense during the teen years, these sorts of occurrences continue in adulthood, and are a normal part of life.

Notice how your teen handles these challenging moments. When a quiz or exam result is not as good as was expected, how do they handle it? What do they do when relationships encounter difficulties or end? Are music, drugs, alcohol, or self-harm their primary method of coping with these situations? How do they handle doubts? Do they find a compassionate sounding board or do they seek someone to "rescue" them and solve their problem for them? Can they handle problems without parental help? Having a strong relationship with your teen is important; nonetheless, s/he needs to learn to manage without us, too.

The inability to cope with setbacks well is something that could well undermine your teen's ability to be successful on campus. Room- and dorm-mate conflicts will happen. Relationships will break down. And academic challenges will be plentiful.

3. Can your teen manage self-care independently?

Basic life skills must be in place before our teens move away. Setting times to retire and to rise, taking care of personal hygiene, organizing one's tasks, and keeping their room and desk in order are absolutely essential skills teens must have in order to be successful on campus. The ability to determine what and when to eat is another basic skill some of our teens lack. 

When the opportunity to drink alcohol, use drugs, or do wild and crazy things arises, is your teen able to make responsible choices? Can s/he exercise self-control? Is s/he able to handle the consequences of their decisions? I was ever so grateful that, as a 17 year old freshman at Northwestern, I absolutely knew how to handle alcohol and get myself out of uncomfortable situations. I watched other freshmen end up in situations they didn't want to be in. Having learned from my parents and extended family, I was able to manage difficult situations successfully.

Another area teens need to be able to manage is making travel arrangements. Whether s/he needs to get off campus for a medical (or other) appointment or travel to a conference or home for a visit, your teen needs to know how to organize a trip. S/he also needs to be able to manage a budget for the trip, and for the semester.

Lastly, our days of advocating for our teens are coming to an end. They need to learn how to advocate for themselves with teachers, doctors, in social situations, etc. Learning to ask questions and get the information and assistance you need can be daunting. Be sure your teen can do these things.

4. What to do? When to do it?

The rhythm of life on campus is completely different from typical high school and work routines. Some independent homeschoolers have a college-like routine. Everyone else must adjust. Life on campus requires strong time management skills. A college student's week can look like it is full of free time and opportunities to have fun. In a sense, it is. In another, this is a serious deception.

For some, this unfamiliar need to organize their work and schedule their days will cause them to take charge of their lives and capitalize on the many opportunities available on and off campus. For other students, the flexibility will lull them into thinking they have plenty of time to "do it later." These students end up being led through their days by the next fun sounding event, rather than doing their work in the stages and time frames they need to perform at their highest level. 

Teens who regularly miss turning in assignments, or typically procrastinate then cram for tests or churn out sub-par papers are throwing up red flags that they are not yet ready for the demands of college life. These teens have not learned to manage their time and their work and will seriously struggle to be successful when they get to campus.

5. Help!

Teens need to become aware of the times when they need help, whether it is a ride to an event, a session with a teacher or tutor to clarify concepts, or medical appointments or counseling support. Parents are conditioned to notice these needs and arrange for the necessary help. Teens need to both learn how to assess their own situations, noting problems, then seek appropriate help. They also need to be able to ask for help determining what options there are for getting the assistance they need. 

Related to this is the ability to rebound after problems and failures. During high school, teens need to demonstrate that they can recover from their failures and learn from them. In fact, failures are among the best learning opportunities offered in life. They need to seek help as needed, too, and from the proper sources. Asking a friend to talk you through the pain of a break up might be adequate; asking that friend to talk you through the pain of a broken arm certainly is not.

6. When Everything Falls Apart

Teens (and adults!) make mistakes. The prefrontal cortex of the brain (the decision making center) is not fully developed yet.  Therefore, their ability to make good judgments is still developing, as is their ability to control their impulses. Given that, making the kinds of decisions they will be able to make when their brain is fully developed is not a reasonable expectation. However, some basic exercise of good judgment as well as the ability to take responsibility for their misjudgments is key. 

Sometimes parents respond to a situation with some sort of statement like, "Do that again and you won't be going off to college next year!" to impress the gravity of the misjudgment on their teens. Many are quite shaken by what has happened and will make changes. Those who do not are showing signs that they are not ready to live independently just yet.

7. Trial Independence

Opportunities to manage themselves when away from the family are great opportunities to see how they do and to highlight areas that need further skill development. Camping trips, retreats, conferences, summer programs, visits to relatives and trusted family friends are all opportunities for our teens to manage themselves, show that they can handle various situations, and make good decisions. These occasions are encouraging both to you and your teen.

8. Danger! That's Risky!

College life offers many opportunities to engage in risky behavior. Consequently, collegians need to assess the riskiness of various choices on a continual basis. Is your teen able to consider the consequences of his or her choices and actions? Has s/he shifted from the "What will happen if I get caught?" way of thinking to considering what could go wrong if I choose this particular course of action.  Realistically and holistically evaluating the possible outcomes is essential.

9. What's Their Plan?

As mentioned above, some students just go with the flow of "everyone" and head off to college. These students are there, but they don't have a focus or a purpose yet. That's a shame. It can also lead to a 6 (or more!) year path to earning their undergraduate degree. Students who go to college are people who are in an environment rich with opportunities for personal, scholarly, and spiritual growth. Those who are on campus because their parents want them there or their friends are there are not poised to make very much of those opportunities. 

Given the expense of college, it astounds me, year after year, that so many arrive on campus without much of an idea about why they are there. Taking the time to create plans and goals that are realistic and well suited to the student is essential. When I work with students, I spend time with them in Spring of senior year exploring the opportunities on campus, including social, academic, spiritual, and more. I help them define concrete goals for what they will look for and participate in when they arrive on campus.

For more information about the many benefits of working with a college consultant, and for information about meeting with Ms. O'Brien to discuss your student's needs, please visit her website:

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Five Habits to Become a Better You

by Katherine O'Brien, MA CCPS


For those of you who prefer the short version, here it is: Be intentional. Be grateful.

Take time to consider each of these habits. Plan some time to work on this over a number of days. Why are you hoping to make this change? What are the positive outcomes that you hope to have as a result of this change? What are the negative outcomes that you hope to eliminate from your life? Why do you want to do this now? Write down these reasons and keep  . They will help you continue to take the steps required to make the change you desire to make in your life.

1) Determine what it is you want to work on. Really take time to consider it. Here are some questions to get you started:

What is tugging at your heart? What is something you are striving to be or want to be? What would complete an "I am _________" positive statement that you want to work toward? Do you want to be confident or patient or prayerful....?

Take time to really consider this. Think on it, pray over it.

Then, Set an intention... A general positive statement. (Please note: an intention is not a resolution. Resolutions are more specific. Intentions are more overarching. For example: Intention: I will eat in a healthy way. Resolution: I will lose X pounds by Y date.)

2) How do you want to impact the world? What is the way your intention will "show up" when you interact with other people? Think about it. Then select a "word" to give to the world, to your family, your friends, people you meet. Will you give them compassion? a hug? How will you do it? Use a certain phrase when you leave people? Start thanking everyone who helps you, from the bank teller to the cashier to the oil change guy, etc.? 

Doing this helps your intention have a concrete manifestation, something you can notice that you are doing or not doing, or doing more often (or less often!) than you used to. Again, keep it simple and take some time to ponder this. If what you select at first doesn't work or needs to be adjusted, then do that. The most important thing is to work at doing or saying something noticeable that is related to your intention, is a fruit of it in some way.

3) Consider what you want to leave behind. Write it down, then burn that paper - safely, of course.  What situation, relationship, attitude or belief that isn't serving you? What is weighing you down? What burdens do you want to let go of?

4) Gratitude is such a gift. Being grateful changes our perspective. As you set this intention and work to improve yourself, take time to honour someone you lost in the last year or so. It can be someone who died or someone who left to go to college or join the military or who moved away. One way to express it is to give a toast to him or her (can be wine or sparkling apple cider...). Make a tribute to this person or these people who have been close to you, someone who has made a powerful, significant, impact on your life. Take time to really consider the blessings you have received by having him/her/them in your life for the time you did.

5) Make an event out of the toast. Dress up. Perhaps gather with others. Do it at a meal, or on an outing. Invite them to join you in doing this.  If you like, you can end that gathering by stating your intentions. Often our desires to grow are inspired by those people who blessed our lives so your intention may well be something your beloved person taught you by the way s/he/they lived.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Advice for our sons


1. Having good friends is a blessing. Being a good friend is obligatory. So, become a man who is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, patient, and understanding.


2.  Females have a better sense of smell, need I say more?


3. Covering your tracks reveals a faulty character. Real men own up to their mistakes, apologize, and try to put things right.


4. Do not photograph your private parts. The picture will end up in places you cannot imagine and I promise you, you do not want to go there.


5. You are not what you eat, or what you drive or where you work. You are you. And if that is not working out for you, changing your diet or car or job will not fix the problem.


6. Clean is attractive. Thoughtful is attractive. Being blindingly drunk is a red flag, a moral failure.


7. Video games may not seem to cause you harm, but they certainly do not make you a better son, student, or friend. Play them sparingly.


8. Sleep will not solve all of your problems, but not sleeping will create new ones.


9. Make a reputable news site the home page on all your devices. You will be smarter for it.


10. Junk food is for teenagers, by the time you are twenty you will understand that your body wants real food. Give it what it needs.


11. Playing sports will make you happy and help keep you healthy. Keep games in your life, even if you aren't athletic.


12. Choosing a spouse is the most important decision you will ever make; do not let your heart ignore your head, nor vice versa.


13. If you are shopping for clothes and wondering if you are the kind of guy who can get away with a certain trendy style, then you most certainly are not.


14. Saving a few dollars on a bad haircut is something you will regret instantly.


15. Your girlfriends, the women who befriend you, love you, and will never sleep with you, will be some of the most important people in your life. Treat them beautifully.


16. Never let your siblings down, they are irreplaceable. They will be the longest friendships in your life and, one day, will be the only people who remember your childhood.


17. When you have the nagging feeling that your parents would disapprove of what you are about to do, pause, make sure you are completely sure you have answered for yourself all the questions they would ask. Then proceed, using your own judgment.


18. Your 20's are the time to discover your tolerance for risk, don’t pass up the opportunity. At the same time, don’t be foolhardy.


19. Spend the extra few dollars to buy decent shampoo. And deodorant.


20. Own one perfectly pressed white shirt and a clean tie. You never know when a job interview or your girlfriend or roommate’s parents will arrive.


21. Own lots of underwear; it will ultimately determine your laundry schedule.


22. Wait until marriage. Save this expression of self-gift for your spouse. And help your girlfriend save this gift for their future husband, too.


23. Buy or make gifts for birthdays and any other special occasion that arises. Small offerings, bought or made with care and thought, go a long way to making people feel like they are valued by you. If your budget is tiny, thoughtful notes and gifts of service are great choices, too.


24. When you get the chance, be the kind of boss, teacher, father, and friend that you had, or wish you had.


25. Finish what you start. That goes for tubes of toothpaste, expensive entrées, and commitments you have made to others and yourself.


26. You are only as good as your word, so keep it. Period.


27. Technology will not make you happy. The people it connects you with will. Do not confuse the two.


28. When a girlfriend sets out to change you, head for the hills. If she doesn’t like who you started out as, she won’t like who you end up as any better.


29. Your manners will say everything about you and will reflect on your parents every day. Don’t make them look bad.


30. Life will disappoint you. People will disappoint you. You will disappoint yourself. Your parents are available to ease those blows anytime you need to talk.


31. Piercings and visible tattoos for men will go out of style, if they haven’t already. Don’t be fooled into believing otherwise. And don't forget that future employers, employees, and clients will make judgments about you based on them. This goes for unnatural hair dye and unprofessional hairstyles, too.


32. Aspirin, water, and black coffee solve a multitude of problems. Just sayin'


33. Education is expensive, and not using it is even more expensive. Make the most of the talents you were given and the hard work you have done.


34. If your friends are jerks, you will not be far behind. Choose wisely.


35. Be nice to your parents, it will be a long time before you can afford everything on your own.

36. Answer your mother’s texts promptly, period. And don't make your father wait long either.

37. With shoes, quality always wins over quantity. The same goes for suits, dress shirts, and ties. And take good care of what you have.


38. Toothbrushes do not last forever. Neither do razors.


39. Learn to swing a golf club, cook one great dish, and ride a bike, these skills will come in handy.


40. Never use your physical size to intimidate anyone, male or female, unless it is in an organized game of sport. If you do, you have failed to live up to your potential.


41. Drugs will make you stupid, waste your money, introduce you to people you do not want to know, get you in trouble with the law, and become a habit that is very hard to break. Am I clear?


42. Smile in all photos and don’t look like a jerk; you never know where the picture will end up.


43. If you get a rash or a cut or a burn, photograph and text it. Moms diagnose, even digitally.


44. When you come back for a home cooked meal, your old bed, and laundry service, remember to bring a good attitude and a willingness to help out, too. These things are not your birthright, they are gifts.


45. Calling your parents for no special reason is always, always a good idea.


46. If you only share the good and never reveal the bad, no one will really know you.


47. Never assume anything about another person’s wealth, health, or happiness; all too often we are mistaken.


48. Put the seat down, don’t argue, just do it.


49. If you don’t use a top sheet (why, oh why?) then you have to wash the blanket or duvet cover. It is just the rules.


50. Don't be fooled, what's posted on the internet is written in ink. Remind yourself of that every time you touch a keyboard.


51. If you and your wife think you are ready for children but are not sure, get a dog or mentor someone and learn how to care for another living creature.


52. No one is ever completely ready to be a parent, it is always a bit of a leap. So, trust God and be not afraid!

53. It is best to have children within 50 miles of at least one grandparent. In parenthood, emergencies are the rule rather than the exception. Keep this in mind when the "great job offer" from across the country comes.


54. House gifts will always be remembered and appreciated so never accept a dinner invitation or weekend’s stay without a small token of gratitude.


55. Soon enough you will be in a position to help those younger than you. Offer a hand up quickly and generously - and discreetly.


56. Remember that you are a product of your upbringing and schools. Show gratitude for the teachers and institutions from which you graduated (especially if you were homeschooled!). At the same time, be respectful of others, especially those not afforded the opportunities you had. Their hard won skills and abilities are valuable. Learn from them.


57. Check your mail and email regularly! As old-fashioned as it may seem, there are some letters and emails that must be opened. Letting things pile up only creates nasty past due surprises. Grappling with paperwork is one of adulthood’s biggest but unavoidable headaches. So is filing important papers.


58. Be the kind of person others turn to with their troubles. People in pain seek out those with good hearts and those who can keep a confidence.


59. Learn to pray and lean on the Lord. You may be strong; nonetheless, there are some challenges you can’t manage on your own. Your humility will pay off in countless situations. And many will be blessed when they see a strong man become even stronger by being a man of prayer.


60. Listen to colleagues, especially women. Men usually dominate conversations and miss women’s valuable insights.


61. Ask for help when you need it, for everything from carrying awkward furniture up narrow stairs to professional endeavors. Build strong teams and be more successful. 


With thanks to Lisa Enlich Heffernan, who authored most of these.

Hope on Campus


By Katherine O’Brien, MA CCPS

Founder, Celtic College Consultants


There’s no denying that many of our young people are abandoning Christianity in their teen years, the vast majority opting out of it without ever getting to know Christ or His bride, the Church. In fact, it’s the number one prayer request of parents – they cry out for their children to return to the faith.


While things may look bleak, there is hope. This is guaranteed because, in God, there is ALWAYS hope! Nonetheless, it is encouraging to be able to glimpse actual glimmers of hope. They exist! And they are not as rare as you might think.


Into the wasteland of higher education, a veritable army of young people boldly stride, working in teams, doing various tasks, moving forward, always forward into the masses of students on campus, inviting them to encounter Christ and His Church, and to give themselves fully to God. These bold young people have made beachheads on hundreds of campuses all over the US and the world.


Catholic run colleges, for the most part, have a Catholic history of faith and sacrifice upon which heresy and political correctness have been built, rather than truth, right reason, and critical thinking. Nonetheless, there are some Catholic run colleges which have clung to the Cross of Christ and continue to share the Catholic faith through their courses, student life policies, and campus ministry activities. Often called “Newman Guide schools” these colleges and universities offer an array of immersive Catholic environments for students. These schools are a beachhead amongst Catholic run colleges. They are listed and some information about  them can be found online at


Additionally, there are beachheads at over 300 private and public colleges and universities in the US and abroad as well. Ranging from the strong small groups at Ohio State to schools with Catholic dorms and top Newman Centers (Catholic parishes on non-Catholic campuses) like Texas A&M and Bowling Green State Universities to Arizona State and Northwestern Universities, whose Newman Centers offer courses students can take in addition to or to fulfill humanities requirements.


There are programs like Christendom Colleges’ Christendom@ program, too. Newman centers gather groups of students and accompany them through online courses offered by Christendom College, a small Newman recommended, faithfully Catholic college in Virginia. In addition to learning the faith, by studying together at their Newman Center, these students develop deep relationships with one another as fellow well-educated Catholics. Christendom College works with their home universities to create agreements so the courses will fulfill some of their degree requirements. Courses through the Christendom@ program can be taken by any college student.


There are hidden gems all over the country like the Platteville campus of the University of Wisconsin, located in southwestern Wisconsin’s farm country. St. Augustine’s offers the Latin Mass numerous times each week and has had almost ten men enter the seminary upon graduation from UW in the past few years. There are numerous Bible studies, retreats, and activities at. St. Augustine’s, too.


The University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University students are blessed to be served by an Oratory of St. Philip Neri which offers fantastic opportunities for growth in the faith, from numerous daily Masses, ample confession times, perpetual adoration, rich and robust retreats, numerous courses and Bible studies, outreach to Eastern as well as Roman Catholics, and an abundance of spiritual direction opportunities whereby students are challenged to grow as mature, faith-filled Catholics serious about growing in holiness.


FOCUS missionaries on campuses (even online!) all over the country take the net out to the deep, inviting students into relationships and small groups, opportunities to encounter Christ and be discipled, trained as His followers. Working with the Newman Center staff on campus, these missionaries bring students into the various ministries and establish Catholic communities on campus which enrich their members as well as serve as opportunities for them to invite their friends to join and see what Christ is all about, learning more before trying to participate in the oftentimes foreign language of liturgy.


The Thomistic Institute, an academic institute of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington DC, promotes Catholic truth in our world by strengthening the intellectual formation of Christians at universities and elsewhere. They have chapters on more than fifty college campuses. These student run groups bring top-notch, faith-filled intellectuals to speak on their campus, addressing the hot topics of today. They also create events and programs  including lectures, reading groups, and multi-speaker conferences built on the Catholic intellectual tradition. More information can be found online at


In order to make it easier for Catholic families to find colleges with strong Catholic communities on campus, Katherine O’Brien, MA, a certified college planning specialist and the  founder of Celtic College Consultants (, which helps students prepare for, select, successfully apply to, and afford college,  has created a complete college guide. Not only listing all the colleges with strong Catholic communities on campus, the guide includes detailed admissions, costs, aid, campus ministry, and academic information for each college and university. It also includes an extensive index  so students can search for schools that offer the major(s) they are considering and one so they can search the colleges by state. There is also a list of non-US colleges and universities with strong Catholic communities on campus that teach in English. The 2022 edition of this invaluable resource is available in print and kindle editions through here:

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Differentiating Yourself & Lower College Costs: Earn College Credits while in High School

 by Katherine O'Brien, MA CCPS, Founder of Celtic College Consultants

One way to differentiate yourself from other applicants is to earn college credits while in high school. There are a number of ways to do this. Students can take AP or CLEP exams through the College Board. They may also take community or regular college courses or programs. For illustration purposes, I have given detailed information about Notre Dame's Global Scholars program and Holy Apostles College's Take Credit! Program. I have also provided general information about community college dual enrollment programs.

My analysis of these various programs is provided ni order to serve as a guideline for families considering such courses and programs as part of their high school coursework.


1. AP Exams

Every May, the College Board administers AP (Advanced Placement) exams in high schools across the US and the world. Most students taking these exams take College Board approved AP courses although they may prepare for the exams independently. Information about the AP exams is available at


At $95/test, AP exams are a very affordable way to earn college credits.


According to the College Board data, only 18.8% of 2020 AP test scores were a 3 or better. No colleges give credit for a score less than a 3. 

Every college has its own policy regarding whether and which AP scores it will give credit for. There is no guarantee that these credits will be able to be applied to the student's undergraduate degree at their particular university.

Many do not think that an AP course and exam is equivalent to a college course. Students pursuing the AP path, then, may well not be as well prepared for upper level work in these subjects as their peers who took the corresponding college courses.

2. CLEP Exams

Offered in 34 subjects, these college equivalency tests are used by some to earn college credits.

CLEP exams are offered by the College Board at testing sites all over the world. They are available year round. Students prepare for them independently. Test information is available at


At $89/test, AP exams are a very affordable way to earn college credits.


Every college has its own policy regarding whether and which CLEP scores it will give credit for. There is no guarantee that these credits will be able to be applied to the student's undergraduate degree at their particular university.

Many do not think that an CLEP exam is equivalent to a college course. Students pursuing the AP path, then, may well not be as well prepared for upper level work in these subjects as their peers who took the corresponding college courses.

3. Notre Dame's Global Scholar Program

The details: 10/16 - 11/20 

Tuition $1375 Application fee $60

Includes: 6 weekly live scheduled online 75 minute classes given by Notre Dame International Faculty teaching from the ND London and Ireland Global Gateways.

Courses offered: Economics of International Trade, Environmental Conservation & Sustainable Thinking, Global Issues & Challenges, Irish Literature: Myths, Legends, & Folklore, and Science Fiction Movies in the 21st Century. 

Application requirements: "strong academic standing with solid extracurricular activities," sophomore or junior standing, at least 14 years old by 10/15, and "a sincere desire to be part of the Notre Dame international community while they are participating in the program." No test scores are required. Transcripts and counselor reports are.

Students will have 2-3 hours of homework each week, with a maximum of 3 hours. Students can miss 2 classes, and still successfully complete the course. Each course will grant one hour of Notre Dame college credit upon completion. (A typical college course is a 3 credit hour course.)

Skills needed: "During our program, you will find you will continue to develop essential skills needed in order to succeed in an undergraduate course setting. Just like in the traditional college setting on campus, you need to be organized, utilize time management, and remain open minded as you learn from Notre Dame faculty and your peers." 


Students will be exposed to college type lectures and discussions.

Students will have to manage their time more effectively than their peers since they will be adding about five hours of academics each week, but only for six weeks.


It's expensive. At $1,375/credit hour, that's more expensive than most, if not all, college courses! 

One credit hour is not very helpful toward a college degree.

The admissions criteria are very general, which is not impressive to colleges.

Based on the testimonials, one of the major results was exposure to other students' ideas and perspectives. This is not acquisition of knowledge.

Every college has its own policy regarding what courses they will accept. There is no guarantee that these credits will be able to be applied to the student's undergraduate degree at their particular university.

4. Holy Apostles College Take Credit! Program

The details: semester long courses fall/spring/summer, open to all HS students who have completed 10th grade

Tuition: $375/3 credit course + $40 fee + $25 application fee

Includes: Ability to take 2 courses per semester with one to two hour long lectures each week and typical college course requirements, including significant reading and writing. Courses taught by Holy Apostles College professors. Students can take courses beginning the summer after their sophomore year. Therefore, it is possible to take 12 college courses while completing high school.

35 Courses offered including: ENG 115 Writing & Composition, ENG 181 Research & Writing, HIS 101 Western Civilization I, PSY 200 Psychology, SAS 101 Sacred Scripture, and SCM 201 Physics, with lab.

Application requirements: application, essay, letter of recommendation, HS transcript, test scores (ACT, AP, CLEP, CLT, or SAT)(waived for 21/22 school year)

Students will have 6-9 hours of reading, studying, and writing each week.  Each course will grant three hours of college credit.  Students must maintain a B average in order to continue taking courses in the program.

Skills needed: Students need excellent note taking, time management, and study skills to be successful. The college does provide writing support for all of its students, including the dual enrolled high school students.


Students will be exposed to college lectures and academic expectations.

Students will develop college level writing skills.

Students can earn up to 38 college credit hours while still in high school, solidly demonstrating their ability to do college level work well.

Tuition is 1/3 college tuition. Not only can students earn a year's worth of credits, they do so quite affordably.


The workload is significant. Students will have to work hard to manage the course demands.

Every college has its own policy regarding what courses they will accept. There is no guarantee that these credits will be able to be applied to the student's undergraduate degree at their particular university.

5. Community College Course/Dual Enrollment

The details: semester long courses fall/spring/summer. HS students are typically limited to one or two courses per semester

Tuition: varies.

Includes: Regular on-campus or online community college courses

Application requirements: vary by college.

Students will have 2-3 hours of reading, studying, and writing each week per credit hour. Students in 3 credit classes should plan on 6-9 hours of work each week while students in 5 hour courses should plan on 10 -15.

Skills needed: Students need excellent note taking, time management, and study skills to be successful. The college does provide writing support for all of its students, including the dual enrolled high school students. 


Students will be exposed to college lectures and academic expectations.

Students will develop college level writing skills.

Students can earn up to 38 college credit hours while still in high school, solidly demonstrating their ability to do college level work well.

Tuition is 1/3 college tuition. Not only can students earn a year's worth of credits, they do so quite affordably.


The workload is significant. Students will have to work hard to manage the course demands.

Students will take courses with the general community college student population, which may include students much older than HS age.

Students need to take care to take college level courses. Many community colleges offer remedial (high school level) courses. These will not transfer to 4 year colleges and universities. Every college has its own policy regarding what courses they will accept. There is no guarantee that these credits will be able to be applied to the student's undergraduate degree at their particular university.


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Ways to Explore Academic Interests

 by Katherine O'Brien, MA CCPS, Founder of Celtic College Consultants

High school courses introduce students to a variety of topics. Learning more about those that interest you takes some effort but will be very helpful when comparing potential majors, majors at different colleges, as well as various concentrations within majors, not to mention potential research and internship opportunities.

In some cases, students can take a course at a local college or online in their area of interest. Many universities have numerous courses available through various online platforms like Coursera.

Another option is to attend undergraduate research presentations at colleges you are exploring. Watching student presentations will introduce high school students to the topics as well as expose them to the caliber of research and presentations being done by undergraduates.

A third option is to attend academic conferences. At these, students will be exposed to advanced research topics and techniques, have opportunities to learn from leading scholars and faculty in fields they are interested in, as well as possible networking opportunities. Hopefully, students will also be inspired and will be able to glean ideas for further study and/or activities in their community. Advice and/or exposure to well-done and effectively presented research will also provide valuable input for their own endeavors.

Attend a conference in your areas of interest this Spring! Typically high school students can register at the undergraduate rate. Here are a few; there are many more!

Upcoming Spring 2021 Academic Conferences (ALL Virtual)

  1. American Chemical Society’s Annual Meeting: April 5-10, 2021This STEM conference separates out its “student-focused programming.” These include sessions such as “Enabling environmentally friendly plastics” and “Goals and activities of the Warriors Chemistry Club: COVID-19 edition.”  ($29 online registration fee for all 5 days, just attend the sessions you want to.)
  2. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) International Conference on Soft Robotics hosted by Yale University: April 12-16, 2021  Presenters from Yale, Facebook, UC San Diego, Columbia, and more are planned. Includes optional workshops on topics such as material intelligence and interventional robotics, as well as a robotics competition you can observe and two informative “speed networking” sessions you can partake in. ($25 online registration fee)
  3. Society for Affective Science Annual Conference (co-sponsored by Harvard, Tufts, and the Society for the Improvement for Psychological Science): April 13-16, 2021.Includes faculty presenters from UC Berkeley, Stanford, UC Davis, Harvard, U of Michigan, Vanderbilt, and more on topics on psychology, neuropsychology, family dynamics, and speech and brain patterns. ($50 online registration fee)
  4. Society for Military History’s 87th Annual Meeting: May 20-23, 2021Online and in-person in Norfolk, VA. They have not yet posted the virtual registration rate, but will soon and should be similar to these other conferences.
  5. Society for Freshwater Science Annual Meeting: May 23-27, 2021This is their first ever virtual conference. Session topics include: freshwater science ecological changes in arctic lakes and rivers, inequitable waterscapes, environmental justice, “herstory in freshwater sciences,” and more. Also includes e-workshops such as “writing for aquatic scientists”  and “Trash Talk,” on the ecology of trash in freshwater. ($30 online registration fee)

These are 5 low cost options that could make a BIG impact on your spring, and perhaps your summer and eventual college, graduate school and/or research pathway as well. If you've found particular professors interesting, see if any of them are speaking at conferences and see if you can attend. You may even get to do some Q&A with them!

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Good, as well as Alarming, Changes to Financial Aid Eligibility for the HS Classes of 2023 and beyond


Recent Changes have BIG Impacts for families with younger children!

At the very end of 2020, as part of the COVID 19 relief bill, a number of changes to the FAFSA form and the formula used to calculate need based financial aid eligibility were made. These will go into effect in 2022, when families start to file the FAFSA for the 2023/2024 school year. All current sophomores/10th grade students and younger will be affected.

Some of these are quite beneficial. The number of questions was cut from 108 to 40. A smaller amount of both parent and student income will be assessed as part of the family's resources to pay for college. The COA or cost of attendance for one year of college will be required to be posted on each college's website. That has not been the case so finding the total costs at most colleges has been quite difficult if not impossible.Veterans' education benefits and workers' compensation will no longer be counted as income.

Additionally, the elusive and confusing EFC (expected family contribution) will be renamed and called the Student Aid Index (SAI). Since the actual out of pocket cost of college is typically more than the EFC, changing this misleading name should help end that confusion. Unfortunately, because of the many factors each college considers when creating aid packages, the SAI will not give a family clarity about their expected out of pocket costs any more than the EFC did.

The portion of a student's income which will not be assessed will be increased to $9,410 for dependent students and $14,630 for independent students. This significant increase is designed to encourage students to work both during the school year as well as the summer and semester breaks. The qualification to be considered an independent student is also being slightly expanded to include students who are legitimately unable to contact a parent and/or those for whom contacting a parent would pose a risk.

Financial aid officers, starting with the 2023/2024 school year will be able to make adjustments related to costs incurred because of natural disasters, national emergencies, recession, economic downturn, and significant business losses. This should bring some extra assistance to families who need it. They are also going to be unable to have a policy of denying all aid appeals.

Unfortunately, not all the changes are good. At the moment, and until these changes take effect, the parent portion of a family's EFC is divided between the college student children in the family (parents in college aren't included). That means that a family with two kids in college would have the parent contribution split 50/50 between the two children. If the parent contribution is $20,000, $10,000 would be included for student one and $10,000 for student two. The student contribution of each student would make up the rest of their EFC. Once the changes are implemented in 2022, that will no longer happen. The parent portion will NOT be divided. In this example, it would look like this:

NOW: Parent contribution $20,000

Student 1's EFC = 1/2($20,000) + student 1's contribution (as calculated by the formula)

Student 2's EFC = 1/2($20,000) + student 2's contribution (as calculated by the formula)

AFTER October 1, 2022: Parent contribution $20,000

Student 1's EFC = $20,000 + student 1's contribution (as calculated by the formula)

Student 2's EFC = $20,000 + student 2's contribution (as calculated by the formula)

This means that the family's out of pocket costs will literally double and the eligibility for need based aid will not be increased, despite the fact that two of the children will be concurrently in college.

This is a HUGE problem that seriously adversely impacts families with multiple children in college. PLEASE reach out to your senators and representative and ASK FOR A CORRECTION! 

While you're at it, as that the APA, the Asset Protection Allowance be restored. In 2011, a two parent family with the older parent at age 50 would have had $48,800 of their assessed assets not considered in the EFC calculation. This allowance has been steadily decreasing. At the moment, this same couple only has a $7,000 allowance. 

Barring a legislative change, this change will make college financially out of reach for many families, forcing them to choose which of their children to send to college. Strategically, students will need to use AP and CLEP and dual enrollment strategies to lower their college costs and apply to colleges where they will receive massive scholarships. Students should also plan to work, since their income allowance was increased. Those three strategies, well applied, will help families make college educations possible for multiple children.

For more information on Katherine's College Success Program, please visit Celtic College Consultants' website. To schedule a consultation with Katherine to explore how to best implement her College Success Program strategies in your family, click here. Her 2015 - 2020 College Success Program graduates were offered, on average, over $235,000 each in merit scholarships and were accepted by multiple great fit colleges and universities.