36 Questions to Ask on a College Visit

As you begin to plan for college visits, how do you determine which will ones will be the best fit?  Do you know about a school’s academic reputation or majors which are highly regarded?  Is location important and is cost a significant factor?  In this U.S. News article,  Lynn O’Shaughnessy proposes 36 questions you may consider asking while on a college visit.  Good luck on your college trips!


Writing an Effective College Essay

U.S. News and World Report inteviewed admissions staff at various colleges for suggestions on formulating an effective college essay.  The respondents suggested that it was not the topic that made a difference, but rather the voice and creative aspects that the student employed in the paper.  The article offers some general guidelines for creating an effective story and also provides specific examples of well-written essays.

Read the full article

Prepare for College with these Summer Opportunities

Princeton Review presents a list of activities that students can complete over the summer to help improve their chances in the college selection process.  Each of these suggestions provides an opportunity for students to show a level of initiative and maturity that demonstrates readiness for college.

Read Article Here


Financial Aid for Middle Income Families

Paying for college tuition can be a significant challenge for middle class families.  While daily living expenses consume the majority of after tax income, there are several ways in which families with modest incomes can lower tuition costs to make college more affordable.

For more specific data on the tax deductions, I have also attached the most current IRS Tax Benefits for Education form.

IRS Tax Benefits for Education

Financial Aid Process for Middle-Income Families

College Planning Tool

The College Board has created an exceptional resource which allows students and parents to plan for college.  This site website offers the following the following tools:

  • Finding colleges which are the best fit

  • Explore different careers and majors

  • Paying for College

  • Admissions

  • Creating a plan 

College Aid for Families with Above Average Incomes

Qualifying for financial aid can be a challenge for families earning over $150,000 per year. This first article lists some potential options for tax deductions ( the HOPE credit is now the American Opportunity Tax Credit), scholarships, and loans.  For more specific data on the tax deductions, I have also attached the most current IRS Tax Benefits for Education form.

Read full article here.

IRS Tax Benefits for Education

Improving ACT Scores to Earn Additional College Aid

Mark Skoskiewicz gives examples of the impact of ACT scores on college financial aid packages. Although actual amounts vary by college, Mark explains how test score increases of as little as one point can translate into thousands of dollars of additional aid offered to students.

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Base Year Calculations for Student Aid

Shannon Vasconcelos, former financial fid officer at Tufts University and Boston University, discusses the significant change that has been made for calculating the base year of a student’s financial aid package. The “base year” is the tax year in which the assets and income for both students and parents is calculated. This is critical planning information for all families!  The article was written for the website gettingintocollege.com

Testing Timeline for the ACT

ACT Prep and Testing Timeline

 When students should plan to take a prep class and first official ACT

Early – 9th grade-only for highly advanced students taking AP classes and Calculus

Most Common – Summer after sophomore year or winter/spring of junior year

*Most metro high schools administer an in-school ACT to all juniors each April

ACT Retesting Opportunities after a Student’s Junior Year-

June, July, and September– all of these test dates will allow students to submit test scores in advance of the early action/early decision deadlines (depending on the college, the October test date may work as well)

For the regular college application process students can submit scores from the October or December ACT test dates in addition to those listed above


*Please contact me at otoole@att.net with any questions about the prep/testing timeline