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Friday, December 13, 2019

Are AP Classes Worth It?

What are AP Classes?

AP classes are "Advanced Placement" courses.  They are certified as such by the College Board, the company that produces the PSAT, SAT, SAT subject, and AP exams.  They are completely Common Core aligned.  There are 38 AP courses in subjects ranging from English, Research, Math, Computer Science, French, Japanese, German, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Latin, Government, History, Art, Psychology, to Science.

Students can take them at any time during high school, although there is a typical pattern and progression for many of them.  While AP level courses are not required for graduation, they do fulfill graduation requirements.  For example, a student can take English 9, English 10, English 11, and English 12 to fulfill a 4 year English requirement.  Or s/he can take English 9 honors, English 10 honors, AP English Language & Composition, & AP Literature.  Both sets of courses, along with many other variations, fulfill the HS graduation and college admissions requirements for four years of English classes.

Why take AP courses?

AP courses are not required for high school graduation.  They are more challenging than regular or honors level high school courses.  Some say they are equivalent to college courses.  This is difficult to evaluate since they are structured completely differently than college courses.  Schools that weight grades weight AP courses, sometimes at one point higher than regular classes, and sometimes two points higher.

Admissions offices consider the courses taken by students, as well as their grades.  Seeing a rigorous course load, especially one including AP courses is desired.  Selective colleges expect to see AP courses on high school transcripts (or dual enrollment, more on that later).  The more selective the college is, the more rigor required in order to be accepted.

Additionally, if the student scores well enough (at least a 3; each college has its own rules about what it will accept for credit, if they accept any), they will be able to get college credit and/or college course requirements waived.  This can lead to significant savings on the cost of a college degree!

Can Homeschoolers take AP Classes?

Yes!  The Pennsylvania homeschoolers offer all the AP courses online.  For more information, see their site here.  They also offer some pre-AP/AP run up courses.  Their courses are also approved by the NCAA.  Homeschooling families will need to make arrangements with brick and mortar schools to take the tests.  Do this early.  The testing coordinators must order the tests by mid-November (for the May testing season).  Homeschooled students from all over the world take these excellent online courses.

How do AP Classes Relate to AP Tests?

Students are not required to take AP classes in order to take AP tests.  Conversely, they can take the AP course but not the test.  However, students cannot get college credit for AP classes without taking the test.  Credit is related to the test score. Yes, students who don't take AP classes but do take AP tests can get credit if their scores are high enough.

AP Tests are given each year in May, on a schedule set forth by the College Board.  All students taking a given AP exam will take it in the same time period on the same date.  For example, all AP US History exams are given on the same morning (or afternoon) of the same date, no matter where in the world the student is taking the exam.

What is an AP Test?

Most AP exams have two sections.  The first is a multiple choice test, where students are scored based on their correct answers.  Wrong or skipped answers do not count against them.  The second section of the exam features various types of free response questions, including essays, verbal/conversations, problem/solution formats.

There is a fee of about $100 for each AP exam.  The College Board currently charges $94/test.  Some schools add a small administration fee to offset their costs.  If there is financial need in the family, a $32 fee reduction for each test is available.  The testing coordinator will assist with that process.

What are AP Scores?

AP scores range from 1 to 5.  5 indicates the student is "extremely well qualified" in that subject and is the best score.  A score of at least 3 "qualified" is required to receive college credit.

Is taking AP Courses and Exams Worth it?

By and large, yes.  Raising your GPA, improving your class rank, impressing college admissions, and learning to handle a demanding workload are all important benefits.  However, if a student is not strong in a subject area, taking an AP level course in that subject could lead to failure or a poor grade and great frustration so it is advised to take AP classes in strong subject areas.

What if our Curriculum is not Common Core Aligned?

There is significant information available from the College Board's website about the material covered on each exam.  Use that to compare your student's curriculum to the tested material in order to determine if there is adequate overlap to enable the student to be well prepared for the AP exam.  There are also CLEP exams available.  While they are also produced by the College Board, they are college equivalency exams so are not Common Core aligned.  These exams can be taken in many places around the country at any time of year.  They are accepted almost as widely as AP scores; full information can be found on the College Board website here.

Is AP or Dual Enrollment better?

Admissions officers don't tend to comment on this.  In my experience, taking actual college courses is better preparation for the student.  Additionally, it makes it clear to the colleges that the student is already able to successfully handle college courses so will likely transition to university very smoothly.  However, there are legitimate concerns about having high school students mixing with college students.  Parents and colleges have these concerns.  Some colleges require parents to be present in class if the student is under a certain age, or for the professor to approve the student's presence in the class.  Check with any college to learn their requirements.

Students will need to be mature and able to handle the behavior and comments of college age students in order to be successful.  There are many considerations involved.  Parents know their children best so are best suited to make this determination.  Students will also need some coaching, since college courses are structured differently from high school classes and have different academic expectations.  Grading is handled differently as well.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Early Tests, A Look at the PreACT, PSAT, and CLT8&10

CLT8 & 10

The CLT8 is designed for 7th and 8th grade students and evaluates elementary mathematical, grammatical, and logical reasoning.  It shares the same format at the CLT and CLT10, which helps students become familiar with the style of these tests.  It is currently offered in March and May.  Some high schools use it as an entrance exam. The exam takes two hours and tests for grammar, literary comprehension, and mathematical and logical reasoning. Students take the CLT8 on school or home computers, and receive their scores the same day.

The CLT10 is an alternative to the PSAT10 and the ACT Aspire and is designed for freshmen and sophomores.  It is preparation for the CLT exam.  There is not trigonometry included on the CLT10.  The questions of the highest difficulty level are also not included on the CLT10.  Students who score in the top 1% are eligible for a $2,500 scholarship through the National Association of Scholars. Register here:  It is currently offered in February and April.

PSAT tests

All of the PSAT tests are only offered at and through institutional schools.  Homeschooling families must contact formal schools to arrange for your child(ren) to take the test on that campus.

The PSAT8/9 is a version of the PSAT for 8th and 9th graders.  The material covered is scaled down to the appropriate academic level for them.  This test familiarizes students with the PSAT/SAT style of test.  It is common Core aligned, like all of the PSAT/SAT related tests.  Like the PSAT10 and NMSQT, it includes a reading test, a writing and language test, and a math test.  While the PSAT8/9 is typically given in early spring, the date of this test is set by the school and can range from September to April.

PSAT 10 is the same test as the PSAT/NMSQT but is taken during October of the sophomore year.  It provides students the opportunity to take the PSAT and learn how their score stacks up in relation to other students across the country.  This score is also extremely helpful during the college list building and scholarship search processes.  Lastly, for many students, the sophomore PSAT score is a strong motivator for them to work at improving their scores during the junior year.

PSAT/NMSQT is taken in mid-October of the junior year and serves as the national merit scholarship program’s qualifying test.  The top 1% of students in each state will be semi-finalists. The PSAT is a Common Core aligned test which includes a reading test, a writing and language test, and a math test.  There is no penalty for wrong answers so skipping questions is not advised.  There is a practice test available on the site.  The student search service has an opt-in question on the PSAT registration page.  Information about the various affiliated scholarship programs is available on the College Board website.
            The 50,000 top scorers are acknowledged.  34,000 will be commended scholars, while 16,000 of the 1.6M students who take the test will be named National Merit Semi-Finalists. These students will be invited to apply to compete for National Merit Scholarships. In February of their senior year, 15,000 of them will be named National Merit Finalists.  In March, 7,600 of them will be named winners of National Merit $2,500 scholarships, corporate sponsored scholarships, or college sponsored scholarships. An additional 1,100 students will be special scholarship recipients.  They will be notified in March of their senior year.


The PreACT8/9 is a shortened version of the ACT.  It is now scored on a 1-36 scale and provides 8th and 9th grade students a short practice for the ACT. It also gives students some idea how they scored in relation to students across the country, thus pinpointing strengths and weaknesses in their academic program so far as well as feedback regarding how their grades correlate with their scores.

The PreACT is taken by sophomores and provides students the opportunity to take a shortened ACT and learn how their score stacks up in relation to other students across the country.  This score (1-36) is also extremely helpful during the college list building and scholarship search processes.  Lastly, for many students, the sophomore Pre-ACT score is a strong motivator for them to work at improving their scores during the junior year.  It can be administered on any date between September 1 and June 1 and is only offered through institutional schools.  Students also receive a personalized view of college and career possibilities based on their answers to the ACT interest inventory.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Major Shifts in the World of College Admissions Testing

With recently announced changes to the ACT, instability in SAT scores from one sitting to the next, and the strong showing of the new CLT, students need to re-think their approach to college admissions tests.


Beginning with the September, 2020 national ACT test date, students who have taken the ACT will have the option to retake individual sections of the test, rather than the entire exam.This new option will enable students to fine tune their scores, especially combined with the new policy to begin superscoring the ACT, thus providing students with the highest possible ACT composite score.

In September of 2020, students will also begin to have the option to take the ACT online, with faster test results, but only on national test dates.    At first this will only be available at selected test centers.  Eventually all testing centers will offer students the option to take the test on paper or online.  Online testers will also see their scores in two days, rather than the typical two weeks.

For further information, see the ACT's announcement here.

The Newcomer, the CLT or Classic Learning Test

The CLT (Classic Learning Test) is in its 5th year.  It has a verbal section and a math section (no calculator).  The test is roughly 2/3 verbal and 1/3 math.  Since the top score of 120 is 5 points higher than the CLT score that correlates with a 36 or 1600, top students can (and are!) differentiate themselves from the others also scoring perfect scores on the ACT or SAT.

The CLT has doubled the number of test sites for the December 7, 2019 test date.  Many of the sites are colleges – and many of those are offering lunch and a campus tour after the test! During the test, students have 40 minutes for the Verbal Reasoning section, 35 minutes for Grammar/Writing, and 45 minutes for Quantitative Reasoning, for a total test-taking time of 120 minutes, not including the optional 30-minute essay. There is a 10-minute restroom break between the Grammar/Writing and Quantitative Reasoning sections. Students take the exam on their own laptop or tablet, and receive their scores the same day, which they can then share with colleges of their choice at no charge. Register here. (The deadline is 12/3). The CLT also offers an optional 30 minute essay (admissions will be able to read the essay, thus offering them a glimpse at a writing sample which is unedited and untouched by anyone other than the student).  There are over 400 testing sites all across the US.

The classic in Classic Learning Test refers to its use of the greatest and most enduring texts that have informed and shaped society. Although these texts are featured prominently in a classical education, the CLT instead emphasizes intellectual aptitude and achievement, by no means limiting itself simply to a classical curriculum. All students are welcome to take the CLT, whether for self-evaluation or to send results to colleges. The list of authors whose work is cited on the CLT is available on the CLT website ( and includes Christian, pagan, Muslim, and other authors.

At the moment, the CLT is accepted in lieu of the ACT or SAT at over 170 colleges and universities.  Top students are submitting their CLT score along with their ACT or SAT score to set themselves apart from other top scoring applicants.


The CLT offers free practice tests for the CLT and the CLT10 exams.  Test examples can be downloaded from  A practice CLT8 test is also available on that page.


The SAT hasn’t been as consistent from sitting to sitting as the ACT has been over the years.  The recent dip in scores after the August 2019 sitting has left students unsure of whether their scores will accurately reflect their abilities.  For full information, see the article here.
The SAT and ACT are standardized; students are held to the same standards and compared to each other, which is what college admissions officers want to see. However, that also means that raw scores are converted to that 1600-pt scale using a curve that depends on the difficulty level and performance of students on that particular test administration. 

Here's how Jed Applerouth explains it: "On the scales that the College Board provides for their official practice tests, a student who missed one question in the Math section would normally expect to score 790, a student who missed two would score 770-780, and so forth; on most practice tests the College Board provides, a student could miss as many as eight questions and still score in the low 700’s. The August test was different. From what we could find out from our own students, a student who missed one question dropped to 770 and a student who missed two dropped to 750. Missing eight questions dropped a student to 660, rather than the low 700’s." 

That sort of anomoly has understandably made many students concerned about what will happen in future administrations.  After all, thousands and thousands of scholarship dollars, as well as admissions decisions, are tied to these scores.

With all of these changes happening, it's time to re-think testing strategies.  I'd be happy to help discuss this as well as all your college prep questions.  Schedule your one hour private (via Skype or FaceTime) consultation (normally $250, recently reduced to $100) here.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Programs for Career Exploration

by Katherine O'Brien, MA CCPS

With half of college students changing their majors, many of them adding one or more years to their path to a bachelors degree and about $50,000 of dollars to the cost for each extra year it takes, it is very important that students take time during the high school years to explore possible careers.  Having clear goals enables teens to be able to identify and seek majors and programs that will prepare them for work in the field they have identified.
The Boy Scout program offers 137 merit badges, many of which are designed to allow Scouts to explore various careers.  Some examples are welding, landscape architecture, robotics, animal science, astronomy, automotive maintenance, engineering, entrepreneurship, soil and water conservation, game design, cooking, environmental science, sustainability, graphic arts, crime prevention and computing, medicine, moviemaking, nuclear science, oceanography, plumbing, public health, fish and wildlife management. Additionally, once the Scout has attained the Life rank he or she can organize and lead an Eagle project.

Some high schools have DECA groups.  The mission of DECA is to prepare emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality, and management.  Some of the DECA program happens in the classroom, some happens in applied learning situations.  DECA hosts competitions in business administration, team decision making, personal finance literacy, business operations research, entrepreneurship, marketing, professional selling and consulting.

Girl Scouts also offers some career exploration opportunities in their badges: engineering, computer science, space science, robotics, mechanical engineering, financial literacy, healthy relationships, car care, textile arts, website designer, novel writing, business etiquette, programming and designing robots, ecology, government, cooking, jeweler, and photography.

Junior Achievement also offers Biztown experiences and classes which allow young people to explore various business roles including store owner, entrepreneur, and financial professional.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

What Every Student Heading Off to College (or to the Workforce) Should be Able to Do

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

1.     Write a cover letter and resume.
2.     Send a professional email to a potential employer or a colleague.
3.     Search online for open positions/jobs you are interested in.
4.     Make a call inquiring about a position.
5.     Create and maintain a LinkedIn profile.
6.     Keep all social media posts appropriate for the kind of work you are doing and/or hope to do.
7.     Prepare for a job interview by researching the company via its website and social media.
8.     Know how to dress for a job interview.
9.     Know how to behave for an interview, with talking points about qualifications for the position, questions for the interviewer about the position and company, and small talk to fill in any gaps in the conversation.

Regarding Finances

10.  Create a monthly budget.
11.  Monitor your spending.
12.  Limit expenditures to what is within the budget.
13.  Know how to plan meals and grocery shop and maintain a healthy diet and within the budget.
14.  Know how to manage your finances, balance your accounts, transfer money to other accounts, withdraw money, pay bills, monitor balances.
15.  Look for an apartment within a budget.
16.  Be able to track expenses, prepare taxes, and maintain organized records.

Regarding Relationships

17.  Work out living arrangements and shared costs in an equitable and agreed upon manner with his or her roommates.
18.  Successfully negotiate issues of privacy, tidiness, cleanliness, expenses, responsibilities, guests, etc. with his/her roommate(s).
19.  Be able to move into a new apartment or dorm room without parental assistance.
20.  If living away from home, call home regularly without reminders.  Texting is ok but regular calls are essential; hearing each other’s voices is important.
21.  Remember and do something for family birthdays and holidays without being reminded.
22.  Know how to buy and deliver a gift for family and friends.
23.  Write/email thank you notes when others do kind things for you.
24.  Answer texts and emails within a reasonable amount of time, especially if they are from Mom or Dad.
25.  Nurture and maintain your own relationships with relatives and family friends.

Regarding Health

26.  Be able to find a doctor, clinic, urgent care clinic, and emergency room that takes your insurance without help.
27.  Know how to schedule a doctor’s appointment and keep it.
28.  Know how to use health insurance and keep records of medical expenses.
29.  Be able to fill and refill a prescription.
30.  Know your own health history and basic health history of your parents.
31.  Know how to listen to your body’s needs for sleep, nutritious food, exercise, prayer, social time, quiet time.
32.  Know basic first aid and how to manage basic illnesses.
33.  Make prudent decisions regarding sexual behavior, aware of the health, moral, and psychological consequences.
34.  Handle alcohol prudently.

Regarding General Life

35.  If in college, plan your courses so you will graduate on time, meet all pre-requisites, have a balanced course load from term to term.
36.  Be able to speak knowledgeably about some of the major issues of society.  Be aware of what’s going on in the world, and be prepared to vote.
37.  Vote.
38.  Make and change travel arrangements using transit, bus, plane, train, and automobile, hotels, B&Bs, etc.
39.  Be able to prepare basic meals and clean up the kitchen afterwards.
40.  Be able to treat spots on clothing and launder your clothes.
41.  Be able to sew buttons on clothing.
42.  Be able to get a haircut/style.
43.  Have a driver’s license or state issued identification card.  Optionally, have a passport.
44.  Choose friends wisely.  Learn to extend trust carefully.
45.  Be able to resolve conflicts with peers, superiors, and business relations.
46.  Ask for help as needed – tutoring, mentoring, counseling, etc.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Your College Prep Team

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

    In the “good old days,” we visited our high school guidance counselor to help us prepare for college.  Today, things are completely different.  While the guidance counselor continues to serve an important role in many high schools, the vast majority are overburdened by huge caseloads which prohibit them from offering college bound students the guidance they truly need.  Actually, the national average for the number of students per counselor is 464 to 1.  In California, the ratio is 708 to 1 and Michigan has a whopping 744 students per counselor; Arizona’s even worse with 903 students per counselor.  The American Student Counselor Association recommends having 250 students per counselor.  Only New Hampshire, Vermont, and Wyoming have ratios at that level.

What are parents doing to make sure their kids get the direction and support they need?

Many are assembling their own “college teams.”

As one parent put it, “College costs are absurd.  There is more pressure on kids these days.  More competition, more steps involved.  We don’t have the time or the ability or the experience to do this alone, so it only makes sense to get help.”

What expertise do you need on your team?

College Admissions & Applications Coach: This person should regularly interact with admissions officers, be an expert writing coach, and have helped students get admitted by all types of colleges, including state schools, elite colleges, and the Ivy League/top tier highly selective colleges.

College Funding Advisor: This is critical for any family.  Having an expert in your corner to help with Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and prepare financial aid forms including the FAFSA and CSS PROFILE is invaluable.  This member of your team should also be able to assess your retirement readiness, calculate your cash flow for college, ensure that you don’t burden yourself or your student with unreasonable loan debt.

Test Prep Planner: Experts advise college bound students to have a testing and test prep timeline in place by the start of the 10th grade.  This allows the student to determine which test is best for them, take it 2 or 3 times and complete all testing by the summer before their senior year, at the latest.  Increases in test scores often correlate into thousands of dollars in merit based scholarships so being prepared can warrant a lucrative return on your investment.

Test Prep & Academic Tutors: In order to score the highest possible scores, some families find utilizing tutors to be an effective strategy.  Test prep courses of some kind are imperative.  Additionally, in order to keep the student's grades as high as possible, many include academic tutors on their college prep team, as needed by their student.

Career Advisor & Major and College Selection Guide: There are over 4,000 colleges & universities in the US.  Picking the right major, the right career, and attending the right school for you is essential to ensuring a timely graduation and avoiding unnecessary expenses. With new data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 60% of college students graduating in 8 years.  55% are finishing in 6 years, the longstanding national average.  For students who started at community colleges, 45% have their degree in 6 years.  Private colleges continue to be significantly more successful in producing 4-year graduates.

Specialty Guidance: For athletes, artists, performers, and musicians, special guidance is required.  Identifying and attracting the attention of college coaches is key for athletes.  Athletic recruiting has changed in recent years so an athlete marketer will be a key member of your college team.  For others who must participate in auditions or compile portfolios, particular guidance is also a necessity.

Personal Growth Mentor:  Soft skills are becoming increasingly important in college admissions.  College want to see that students can interact well with others, maintain their wellbeing, and manage the stress of campus life and collegiate level academic demands.  With the enormous increase in mental health needs on campus, admissions teams truly value students who have demonstrated strengths in these areas.  Students benefit from having a mentor’s guidance along the way.

How do Parents Put Together Their Team?

Fundamentally there are two options.  First, parents can determine which kinds of expertise they need then seek it out, effectively creating their own team.  This can be an effective way to approach the process but it also involves a great deal of effort and time to seek, find, interview, hire, and coordinate the various professionals on the team.  For that reason, most parents prefer to hire college planning specialist like myself then rely on our expertise to identify other professionals needed to address their particular needs in ways best for their student.  Being a holistic planner, I provide student development and guidance as well as the financial side of things.  Not being an investment advisor, I regularly collaborate with my clients' financial advisors, using our complementary expertise to propose the most effective strategies for the family to achieve its goals.

To explore partnering with me, kindly schedule an initial consultation appointment with me, Katherine O'Brien through my online scheduler, which I update weekly with my availability:  Once your meeting i scheduled, I will send you a survey for your student to complete as well as an agenda for our meeting.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Some Great and Not-So-Great Colleges for Pre-Health Students

By Katherine O'Brien, MA CCPS
Choosing the right undergraduate college is even more important when you hope to attend medical or dental or other health profession schools after you graduate. 

These schools have everything you want as an undergrad preparing for medical or dental (etc.) school: small class sizes, great pre-med/pre-health advising, and a stellar success rate in getting students into medical school (often better than the traditional “pre-med power schools.”)

Bates College (ME)
Bowdoin College (ME)
Carleton College  (MN)
Claremont McKenna College (CA)
Colby College (ME)
Davidson College (NC)
Grinnell College (IA)
Hamilton College (NY)
Haverford College (PA)
Middlebury College (VT)
Pomona College (CA)
Scripps College (CA)
Swarthmore College (PA)
Vassar College (NY)
Wellesley College (MA)
Whitman College (WA)
Williams College (MA)

The following schools are ranked highly by the US News and World Report but don’t offer very much in the way of support for students applying to medical or other health profession schools.  These aren’t terrible places for pre-meds (etc.), but they’re not good, either.

Boston College (MA)
Boston University (MA)
California Institute of Technology (CA)
UC Berkeley (CA)
UC Davis (CA)
UC Irvine (CA)
U Michigan (MI)
UNC, Chapel Hill (NC)
U Pennsylvania (PA)
U Virginia (VA)

8 Ways Parents Can Help Teens Avoid Student Loans

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

Teenagers typically see the world as nothing but possibility.  While this is true, those possibilities always have costs and trade-offs which are often overlooked by teens.  Being strategic about which colleges your student applies to can help him or her avoid taking out student loans.

1.     Start estimating your EFC and net prices during freshman year.  I regularly meet parents who are shocked and dismayed at their EFC (Expected Family Contribution) when the FAFSA is filed during their child’s senior year.  Never before had they any idea how much college was going to cost.  Yikes!  Spend some time net price calculators, then show your teen how to do the same.  This has the side benefit of incentivizing him or her when s/he can see the net cost shift based on improved GPA and/or test scores.
2.     Discuss money and the financial side of college early.  When you put off having that conversation, you are missing the opportunity you have to set expectations.  Your child needs to know that the choice of which college to attend will have the single biggest impact on his or her future financial state.  Explain to them that they need to make wise choices financially, and that brand name colleges, like everything else, aren’t necessarily the best choices.  Also take the time to help them understand that what is best for their best friend(s) may not be best for them.
3.     Do NOT procrastinate about filing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)!  It opens October 1 and needs to be filed during your child’s senior year for his or her freshman year (and re-filed every year after that for each subsequent year of college).  Filing this form will make your child eligible for federal loans and grants, as well as (as determined by each state and college) a great deal of additional need (and sometimes merit) aid.  Much financial aid is awarded in a more or less first come, first served basis.  Put yourself at the front of the line!
4.     As a woman of faith, I can solemnly assure you that “Hope and Pray” is NOT a good college application strategy.  While it’s exciting to try to get accepted at highly selective or reach schools, this dream can become a financial nightmare, for both your child and yourself.  The temptation to stretch yourself too thin in order to make the “dream school” a reality (despite it being unaffordable for you!) is great.  It’s better to insist that the college list (list of schools s/he will apply to) ONLY include schools that you expect to be affordable, based on actual research and realistic expectations.
5.     Out of state costs for public universities can be as much as DOUBLE what they are for in state students.  This works well for the universities, especially in states like California and Illinois where budget cuts have been significant.  However, paying double for something similar to your in-state universities is ridiculous.  (Honors colleges are a completely different case.)
6.     Many assume that all scholarships are great and will make a significant difference when paying for college.  Many private scholarships are for $1,000 or less and last only one year.  They also are counted as resources and reduce need based financial aid eligibility dollar for dollar.  Selecting colleges with generous scholarship programs your student would be eligible for will make a much greater difference to the financial bottom line.
7.     Choosing colleges because they are highly ranked doesn’t guarantee that your student will have a good experience or the educational opportunities you hope for.  The criteria to be highly ranked often differs from a given family’s idea of what make a good college.
8.     Parents are the best educators for teens in matters of money.  Your regular interaction enables you to mentor how to comparison shop, save up for a special purchase, develop and use a budget, and borrow money.  Educating them about the realities of debt can significantly help teens avoid a nightmare of debt and set financial boundaries during the college search process.  If you ask a bank, which derives most of its income from lending money, to teach your child about how to manage their money, you can reasonably expect them to be taught how to be good consumer and borrower.

For more information on Katherine O'Brien's college consulting services and the program she uses to save students hundreds of thousands of dollars on college, see