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Know before you go…

“Within 10 years, 70% of college grads will not be working in a field related to their major.”

Most people ask for help from those who they are closest to.  Unfortunately‚ Mom & Dad may not be the best advisors when it comes to helping you decide what to do with your life.  In fact‚ most people‚ even those who dearly love you‚ will still give you advise based on THEIR personality‚ experience‚ and current life circumstances.  In other words‚ most people give you the advice they need to take themselves.

Many of them made the wrong choices and ended up poor‚ fired‚ divorced‚ or at least unhappy‚ and so their advice is questionable.  The best thing they could tell you is “I don’t know.  You are going to have to figure it out for yourself.”  However‚ once they tell you that you are back where you started… still needing help.

MAPS was developed with these students in mind… with ME in mind! MAPS helps students figure out WHO they are, so then they can figure out WHAT they can do. MAPS will give students their top strengths and we can then develop a list of majors that will BEST compliment who they are as a person. Once we figure that out, we can then generate a list of colleges and universities that would BEST suit their individual needs. And we can do it for a fraction of the cost of other counseling options.

College Life Planning does offer a comprehensive list of counseling options, but if you want my honest opinion, using MAPS would be the best, most affordable way to build a college list, choose a school, select a major, and build your College and Career path on!



It’s just around the corner and many high school seniors still aren’t ready for college and the Jr’s are still picking their nose waiting for their moms and dads to make them fill out paperwork. If you don’t start pulling your act together (and I mean you high school freshman out there), you are going to miss prime deadlines for the best scholarships, grants, and other admissions requirements. All this means to you is that by dragging your feet YOU LOSE.

I once spoke with a parent who told me (over the phone) that he didn’t think it was a good idea that his daughter (who was a sophomore in high school at the time) needed to start thinking about college because he believed two things, 1) that the college admissions standards would be changing drastically, and 2) he didn’t think his daughter needed to be thinking about such things so soon, she was still so young! I know two things about this well-meaning father, 1) that he has a limited understanding of the college admissions process, and 2) that he still views his daughter as the little girl who once sat upon his knee and to whom he once read bed-time stories. This however lack of understanding doesn’t serve his “little girl”, it sets her back.

This is the first post that has gone up in over 6 months, primarily because I have been in Guatemala, working with my wife to establish a non-profit organization that serves the disabled there. Our primary focus was establishing Guatemalan leaders to run the organization. But secondarily we aided in the purchasing and distribution of food for the malnourished, therapy for the physically disabled, and education for local business leaders including English as a second language, as well as leadership and business principles.

The point is that hesitation in planning for the future will not enable success. There is a quote, it states, “If you aim for nothing, you are sure to hit it.” We must take aim at our futures and fire shots based on calculated reasons, any other way is simply foolish. College Life Planning exists to help students and parents plan for college and career, we exist to help find that lighted path that will lead to success and happiness in our future generations.

Higher Education’s Bubble is About to Burst

“First — as with the housing bubble — cheap and readily available credit has let people borrow to finance education. They’re willing to do so because of (1) consumer ignorance, as students (and, often, their parents) don’t fully grasp just how harsh the impact of student loan payments will be after graduation; and (2) a belief that, whatever the cost, a college education is a necessary ticket to future prosperity (Glenn Harlan Reynolds, 2010).”

From the perspective of that ignorant student that believed blindly that any degree would be more profitable than no degree; student loan repayment is a painful lesson. Go into college with your eyes wide OPEN, and take the counsel of people who have made the mistakes- so you don’t have to.

Do you want specialized Independent Educational Consultation? Don’t break the bank:

Package Yourself Well

I talk with students regularly looking for a “magic-plan”. This plan will somehow transform mediocre work into something amazing and these “C” students will somehow be admitted into Yale. The reality is far from that. Do you know who gets into Yale? Smart people. This is most often reflected in their grades and test scores; that is why they get into Yale. But with an acceptance rate (according to College Board) of 8%, being smart isn’t good enough- you also have to be wise. Wisdom is a word that isn’t used much in America today, but it really is needed in order to get really bright students where they ought to be. This short article is about “packaging yourself” for the college admissions process.

The truth about the Ivy’s is that they are great universities, but equal in truth is the reality that there are hundreds of great universities around the country and you need to open yourself- it’s just about getting into the best school, it’s about getting into the right school. It is about getting into the school that will help you to fulfill your dreams and hopes and aspirations.

These days getting into any school has become a challenge and with budget cuts, increases in class sizes and reduction in counseling departments, finding good help can be difficult, and even pricey! College Life Planning hopes to bring some light into the college guidance world, give you some solid information you can run with, and save you money.

Back to packaging yourself. When it comes time to apply to college, you are a senior and you have been busting your behind to get everything in the right order. You have taken the right classes, you’ve been dedicated to the homeless ministry at your church, you studied for the SAT and got a great score, you even have a recommendation from a federal judge- you are ready! But the reality is that there are literally 40,000 other students who look exactly the same on paper. Great grades, good test scores, and involved. So how do you stand out?

There is a phrase that goes something like this, “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” This is very true, especially when it comes to your admissions applications! You have got to let your application come alive, this is not just a piece of paper that determines your future- it is your story.

Here is a silly video you may enjoy:

It is a bit long, so I’m not offended if you just jumped right back into where I was going with all this (I know you’re riveted by my writing and style)…

Here are the top four things you must include in your admissions application:

  1. All the normal stuff: This is your transcripts with the most rigorous courses your school offered (or the most rigorous you could stand) with the grades to show your dedication and commitment. Your SAT or ACT scores would be sent to the colleges directly from College Board and these are critical. Study for this test, and take it at least two times. etc etc. You get the point; you apply to the schools that are within a range of your abilities with some obvious shoe-ins (for you) on one hand and on the other, some reach schools that would be difficult for you to get into.
  2. The recommendations: These are often very important int he admissions process. Who recommends you and what they say about you is vital! So with this in mind, choose people you know and more importantly, who know you (well). In addition, be sure to get recommendations from people whoa re in a field of study that you hope to continue into college. If you want to pursue biology, but your recommendations are from your AutoShop class and Spanish… there might be a disconnect there- and colleges can see it. One other point, ask your recommender to review their recommendation of you. They may say “no”, and that settles it, but they will probably be willing to show you what they wrote, and then you can ask for clarification and even give some coaching.
  3. Your extracurricular activities: These will NOT get you into college. But they sure help! When you are working with a pool of potential college applicants as big as Lake Michigan you need to go above the pack. Mike Moyer over at says one way to set yourself apart is with an NTA, or a non-teenager activity. He defines this as, “quite simply, any activity that other teenagers don’t typically do. By choosing an NTA you will differentiate yourself in a way that will have a very positive impact on your chances of getting into college.” Need some ideas? Contact us.
  4. Your personal Statement: This is a key component because it is your chance to tell your story. The truth is that the entire application for admission is telling your story, but the personal statement/essays might be a way to share the more personal side. This is a chance to demonstrate that it’s not just a number on an application, this is YOUR life. And you are living and breathing and your life matters. And with this life you have you are going to make a difference no matter the odds, no matter the circumstances, good or bad; you will be a difference maker, in your own way. You are saying to the admissions officer, “you already have my grades, activities, clubs, jobs, passions; you know all the facts about my life; no let me introduce myself to you.”

At the end of the day you are “selling” yourself. Don’t get me wrong, the colleges need you too! That is an entirely different post. But you are showcasing your achievements, your passions, your values, and you are pleading your case on why you not only deserve to go the school you are applying to, they would be remiss if they didn’t accept you, leaving a gaping hole in their university. So choose which school you are going to attend, and then package yourself well.

Juniors… Get Ready!

High School Juniors prepare for CollegeJuniors

Hopefully, you have been examining your profile and doing everything you can do to make yourself ready for college. The admissions process isn’t overwhelming unless you procrastinate! Here’s the point of this article- next year you will start applying at the colleges that you have chosen. If you’re struggling to decide how to pick a college, you might want to check this article out or use the awesome AdmissionsSplash Facebook app. I want to go through the top 4 things that, as a junior, you ought to be doing over the course of the next year.

  1. Look over your High school Academic Transcript: This is your grades, your accomplishments… it’s you on paper. This document will help you to set realistic goals for which college to apply to based on your accomplishments. What are Admissions Officers looking for in a high school transcript? The extent to which you challenge yourself academically relative to the resources available to you. Academic areas that interest you. Your ability to perform; in other words, what do your grades reflect? The degree to which these factors overlap with the university’s character and priorities. Eva Ostrum in her book, The Thinking Parent’s Guide to College Admissions states, “Deans of admission around the country can usually characterize in a phrase or two what they hope a transcript will reflect about a student. Jim Sumner at Grinnell College hopes to see “intellectual engagement.” Harold Wingood at Clark University describes the ideal entering students as “academically independent, willing to take academic risks.” So this summer, look over your high school grades and look for these things: Letter grades and GPA, the difficulty of the course work, the types of classes (did you focus more in one or two subjects than in others?).
  2. Examine your extracurricular activities: Aren’t you glad to hear that it isn’t all about grades? Well, it is mostly about your grades and most colleges are really looking for students with a strong academic profile. You can, however, increase your chances of enrollment into your reach schools by supplementing your academic profile with strong extracurricular activities; and you can have a lot of fun in the process!  “Admissions officers at selective colleges and universities want to see commitment to activities over time rather than a series of single-year affiliations with various clubs or committees” (Ostrum). So there you have it, get involved with an organization or an activity and stay involved!
  3. Study for your Standardized Tests: Next to grades, your scores on the ACT or SAT (I & II) will be the most important part of the admissions process. Make sure that you take this test seriously. BY simply studying, you can raise your scores and by taking the tests more than once you can dramatically increase your score. This could be the difference between your reach school and your match school. Students who do not take these tests seriously do themselves a major dis-service. You will want a review time before you take the tests of about 8-12 weeks and you can utilize books, online test prep services (ePrep), or a tutor. Use the resources available to you and study for your tests. Also, plan to take the test at least twice.
  4. Essays: These essays are critical! If you have the grades and the test scores, then your college admissions essays need to help set you apart from the other 10,000 applicants who also have excellent grades and test scores. In order to have a winning essay, you will want to have help. Have one of your parents read it over and give you input, show it to your guidance counselor or a favorite teacher, or you can have someone like me look it over and provide feedback. Some characteristics of a winning college application essay are: They tell a story; They provide vivid examples that allow the reader to put himself in the student’s situation or mindset; They sound authentic, like they are coming from the student herself, rather than from a college-essay coach; and finally The writer gets to the heart of what she wants to say, so that the essay reflects who she is and what she cares about. Long story short, make it interesting and get to the point.

There are so many other things that go into preparing for college, but as a junior, you ought to be thinking about these key areas right now and you may want to consider some help. I offer a variety of services for students (and parents) to help students get ready for college. CAP is my online college prep course that will cover these things (and a lot more) in a four week online course. It is self directed and very easy to take so you can take the course as you need it, and once you sign up, you have access for an entire year! I also offer comprehensive in-person services that can help prepare you for college and help you get into the best school possible.

You can always call me: (619) 823-5974 (Nathan) or email me:

Scholarship help from a student who’s got the blues!

Scholarship Help

I have a student in Louisiana , planning to go to LSU for Biological Engineering. He has a 4.55 GPA and is as sharp as a tack. He has applied himself, pushed himself and now, he is ready to go to college; he will be the first in his immediate family to graduate from college. His dad works long hours to support a family of 6, and he has done that for nearly 20 years. Tonight he sounded despondent, I asked why he was so discouraged, he said that he was so disappointed about scholarships. This young man’s future may hinge on the ability to get scholarships because his dad makes just over $80k per year. This salary was just enough to make it through the years, put a roof over his kids head, and now his son has a chance at graduating from college, and it may be just out of reach.

I want to offer just a few pieces of advice from

  • You must to be able to organize and prioritize
  • You must be able to write about a variety of topics that may or may not be exciting to you in a fluid and thoughtful way, demonstrating that you are a scholar or would like to be a scholar.This may be the most difficult part about becoming a successful scholarship winner. However, we know that with some help, you can do it.
  • You must understand yourself well enough to create a compelling portrait of who you are. You must understand your audience well enough to be able to position your skills and strengths as deserving of their support.

Knowing yourself takes more work than writing down a list of extracurricular activities. But it can start there! You might find that with some help, and some of your own introspection, you will be able to find and apply for some of the best scholarships out there, and get them!

A few more tips from are:

  • Start with local searches: Foundations are often looking for worthy candidates for scholarships int heir own backyard, you may find some great scholarship help from businesses and organizations in your area- start there!
  • When you are doing a Google (or Bing) search, get specific. If you type in the word, “Scholarships” you get “About 61,400,000 results [in] (0.11 seconds) “. If you some specifying words like, “lsu scholarships for biological engineering” you’ll find “About 18,700 results [in] (0.09 seconds)” This will help narrow your search significantly. You can clarify further by putting [“”] around specific text. For example, “scholarships for Louisiana students” will find you “About 3,990 results [in] (0.20 seconds)” At the end of this, you might actually apply for all 3,990 of those!
  • Don’t give up!
  • Find similar scholarship contests in similar areas and write essays that can be “grouped”. This doesn’t mean turning in the same essay for each one, but you can write “themed” essays that can be slightly modified for specific scholarship contests (or projects) and submit them for multiple scholarship opportunities.
  • Have someone else read through your scholarships! Finding grammatical errors can be an instant turn off, and I am the WORST at this. I am a horrible speller, and I don’t slow down to check my work either- having someone else to read over and check for errors could be a huge asset for you!

These are just a few tips that you can learn from, and hopefully it will EARN YOU MONEY FOR COLLEGE! Let me know if I can do anything to help you in your quest to be debt free and pursuing your college dreams!

C.A.P. First Release… Success? Or failure?

We released the first CAP workshop to a group of great teens this past month, they paid between $20 and $30 for this first release course and they helped us to work through some of the bugs and concerns and questions that we had about the course. College Admissions Prep is an online, 4-week college prep course that students direct themselves through to learn about how to prepare for college. It is cheap, and an easy way for parents and students to get ready for college admissions!

But was it a success?

Well, yes and no. Every student I talked to said they loved the content, what they read and how they read it was funny and easy to read. They even said they learned something they didn’t know before about planning for college. They liked the videos, they liked the discussion posts, and they felt that they learned something valuable as a result of taking this course.

On the other hand… Only about 35% of the enrolled students participated in the discussions, and only 1 in 14 completed the final assignment, a short essay, geared at helping students get ready for the college admissions essay. She wrote an excellent essay by the way and, with some minor tweaking, will be a great college admissions essay!

So what’s the problem?

It’s a question of motivation. Why would a group of kids complete an online course helping them get ready for college? That’s an excellent question, one that I haven’t effectually answered in full. However, I know it is a multifaceted issue. First, parents must be willing to help motivate their kids. One student actually suggested that if I raised the price, parents are much more inclined to care about it and thus provide that parental motivation teens often need. For example, “I paid [insert expensive amount here] for that college prep course and you’re going to do it whether you like it or not!” Adding an explicative or two might depend on the family you come from.

Truly, many students are genuinely busy, so another route I am researching is a way to get teachers on board by offering extra credit or some other external motivation that may help increase student involvement. Do you think that would help?

Lastly, we are and will continue to offer fun drawings for iTunes gift cards, and increasingly more expensive tech toys like iPads to help motivate students that may not have the intrinsic drive to succeed.

So, which is it?

It was a huge success in my book, one that I have learned from. One that I am growing from and have already made huge improvements and set some more realistic goals. If you were waiting to find out what would happen with this release, there you go. For what it’s worth, I’d like you to take a risk and have your kids sign up for the course, there is a 110% money back guarantee if you don’t like it, and really- you will probably learn as much as your kids will; so make the investment and start preparing for college NOW!