Top 5 Checklist for college-bound 10th graders

Sophomore year is a great time to jumpstart the college admissions process. If you have taken any standardized test by this point or submitted your contact information online, then it’s highly likely that you have started receiving college brochures. Yes, those glossy brochures can be very enticing. However before you get too excited about those beautiful campus pics, follow this top 5 checklist to get into your top colleges that are a good fit for you!



1. Take courses that challenge you.

Don’t worry about what your friends are taking or the rumors about a teacher to avoid. Colleges will consider how well you took advantage of the curriculum that your high school offers. Your success in these courses can also lead to merit scholarships from colleges.


Blue lights are everywhere on college campuses.
Blue lights are everywhere on college campuses.

2. Get involved in extra-curricular activities that interest you.

If there’s a club that you can see yourself leading, consider getting involved during sophomore year. Perhaps you could see yourself as yearbook editor, student council president, or secretary of 4-H. Then, sophomore year can be the time to learn more about those roles, as well as whether you enjoy participating. Please remember depth, instead of breadth. Focus on the few activities that you enjoy and excel in, rather than participating in 10 different clubs just for the sake of including on your resume.


3. Get to know your teachers and let them get to know you.

Your teacher recommendations will be an important aspect of your college applications. Set a goal to meet with 1-2 teachers on a monthly or bimonthly basis. Be sincere in your efforts by meeting with those teachers that you want to know better and/or have an interest in their subject area.


4. Read outside of school assignments.

Believe it or not, your local library has some fun ways for you to enjoy reading! If you have a library card, use it regularly and get involved with the teen events. If you don’t have a library card, get one right away . . . it’s free and easy to use. You can also take advantage of winter and spring breaks to read a book that you enjoy. Now, how does this relate to college?? Reading for pleasure will help with getting higher test scores, developing your intellectual curiosity, and writing your college application essays.


5. Own your online persona.

If you have any social media accounts, make sure that they are updated to protect your privacy and represent you well. Delete any questionable or unfavorable comments. (Do the “grandma check”: if you would be embarrassed by your grandmother seeing it, then delete.) More and more colleges are reviewing prospective students’ social media presence, so be careful!


Which of these action items is at the top of your to-do list?


Rolling Admissions: Benefits and Drawbacks

How Do Rolling Admissions Work? Here’s What You Need to Know

Did you catch one of our recent blogs where we discussed the difference between early action vs. early decision? Today, we’re going to talk about another important admissions process known as rolling admission.

First, let’s recap about early action and early decision applications. 

Early action means a student is notified of their acceptance under a non-binding agreement, and they don’t have to make a decision right away. The deadline is typically May 1 but this can vary.

On the other hand, early decision means a student’s acceptance signifies a binding decision to attend that institution. This agreement is usually made once a student reviews and accepts a financial aid offer (if there is one).

Learn more about early action vs. early decision college applications here

What are rolling admissions? 

Early action and early decision admissions have hard deadlines. Rolling admissions, on the other hand, typically don’t. 

Instead, students can usually submit their application between September and May of senior year, which is a much larger window than most admission processes utilize—but that doesn’t make colleges with rolling admissions any less competitive. 

A Rolling admission applicant tends to hear back about their application within a few weeks. Usually, rolling admissions operate on a first-come, first-served basis. That means colleges will continue to review applications until their class sizes have been met. 

You should keep in mind that although the application window is larger, there are still important deadlines to be aware of for applying to colleges who use rolling admissions. 

That’s just another reason it’s so important to be aware of college application deadlines. 

They can also impact your student and financial aid—here’s how.

To many students, this large window is incredibly appealing. But like anything else, it comes with its advantages and disadvantages. 

To help you decide if a school with a rolling admission program might be right for you, let’s talk more about the benefits and drawbacks.

Are you struggling to find the right college? Sign up for my FREE upcoming master class!


There are plenty of good reasons to apply to a school with rolling admissions. Here are some qualities that make it the right decision for some students: 

  • For colleges without rolling admissions, you’re out of luck once you’ve missed the application deadline. But thanks to their larger window, rolling admissions can be a great option for last-minute applicants.
  • You tend to hear back sooner.
  • Applications are judged upon receipt which can mean less competition but only for early applicants.
  • Applications are non-binding (unlike early decision applications) so you’re able to weigh your options. 


On the other hand, rolling admissions aren’t right for everyone: 

  • Available spots can fill up quickly. Even though the application window is larger, this can mean if you don’t apply early, you’re out of luck. 
  • The longer you wait to apply, the more competitive the admissions process gets.
  • You might be forced to make a decision sooner than you’d like to.

The admissions process isn’t the only thing to consider when applying for post-secondary. 

Things like free laundry can matter too! Here’s more on that.

Colleges with rolling admissions.

Currently, there are no Ivy league schools that utilize rolling admissions, but plenty of other great schools do. A Rolling admission option is also popular for many law schools. Some schools might accept rolling admissions applications for certain programs, while others have firm deadlines.

Some colleges with a rolling admission program include: 

  1. Alaska Pacific University
  2. Barclay College
  3. Daemen College
  4. Goshen College
  5. Kent State University
  6. King College
  7. Minot State University
  8. Montana State University
  9. North Park University
  10. Notre Dame College
  11. Ohio State University
  12. Penn State York
  13. Rivier University
  14. Simpson University
  15. Stillman College
  16. University of Baltimore
  17. University of Central Florida
  18. University of West Alabama
  19. Xavier University
  20. York College

Whether you’re applying with rolling admission, early action, or early decision, there’s help available for the college admissions process! 

If you’re looking for one-on-one guidance to help you get into (or pay for) college, click here for help. 

Want to see more posts like this? Don’t miss these: 

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Where’s the money for college? Case studies of how students earned big scholarships

Big college scholarships: Do they exist as readily as you might have heard or are they unattainable for the “average” student? I often hear from prospective students and their families who are convinced there aren’t as many scholarships out there as they’ve been told, or they just have no idea how to find them. 

As college-bound high school students finalize their lists and begin the application process, their parents may be left wondering: “Where’s the money for college?” 

One of the places that parents start their search for extra money for college is on websites that provide a list of scholarships, including niche scholarships for things like athletics or particular areas of study.

There are several websites to choose from, and I especially like for its variety of options. As parents are looking through these options, they may end up thinking, “Wow, we could have been applying for these scholarships a long time ago.” And yes, that’s true! In fact, many there are many scholarship applications available for students as young as 13 years old. 

So parents shouldn’t wait until junior or senior year to start asking “Where’s the money for college scholarships?”

Lottery scholarships.

When I’m counseling students each year, I don’t want families to leave any money on the table. 

Some students apply to these “lottery” scholarships (I refer to them with this term because of the low chances of “winning” the scholarships.) 

When you look at the fine print text of the instructions, you’ll learn that the chances of winning are often based on the number of submissions. These scholarships are indeed quite competitive. Even for a prestigious scholarship like the Coca-Cola Scholarship, there are thousands of students with strong ACT/SAT scores and perfect GPAs.

Instead of putting all your eggs in the outside scholarship basket, students should consider scholarships directly from colleges. That’s where the real big money for college is found. 

Don’t believe me? My students have received scholarship awards ranging from $40,000 to $300,000. These scholarships came directly from their colleges.

Now, let’s go over how they did it. 

How my students earned big scholarships.

Colleges are recruiting students who will contribute to their campus community in a myriad of ways. 

Here are five real-world examples of merit scholarships that my students have received and what they did to earn these awards:

CASE STUDY 1: Scholarship for fine and visual arts. 

To obtain these awards, students submitted a portfolio as part of the application process. Much of their portfolio preparation was completed during the summer before senior year. 

I also encouraged them to attend a National Portfolio Day as a way to get feedback on their portfolios before they submitted it to colleges. Students also took advantage of the National Portfolio Day to learn about potential colleges they wanted to visit. 

The subsequent campus visit reinforced their interest in some colleges and further helped with securing scholarship awards.

By the way, campus visits don’t have to be agonizing for students or their parents. Here are 5 tips for a stress-free campus visit.

CASE STUDY 2: Scholarships to travel abroad. 

There are a number of college scholarships that are posted on a college’s website and listed in my firm’s online portal

My students have applied for a number of these scholarships. Several of them have been for travel funds to study abroad. Students submit an essay discussing how they would benefit from traveling abroad as part of the application process. In most cases, these were short essays, which I think are harder to write!
claremont colleges

CASE STUDY 3: Scholarships to do research with faculty mentors. 

There are several colleges that seek students who are interested in research. (One of the colleges that I found particularly advanced in its research scholarship offerings is Clark University.)

My students who received these college scholarships had all demonstrated their interest in research through summer experiences. The summer experiences included working in a laboratory, conducting research through a formal summer program offered at a university, or continuing a project with a high school teacher.

CASE STUDY 4: $100K+ scholarships.  

These awards went to students who expressed interest in a specific department or program featured at that college. 

Students wrote about their interests in supplemental essays and had also demonstrated interest in that particular area through a summer experience. Their interests ranged from departments of business to natural sciences to engineering

Several colleges required essays for a particular named niche scholarship and a few offered invitation-only interviews. Colleges are seeking different types of students and will offer niche scholarships to attract THAT student.

Want to learn more about writing essays for college? Don’t miss this podcast where I break down the best practices. 

CASE STUDY 5: Scholarships for being MALE.  

I don’t know how else to say this, but there’s been a trend over the years where my male students get awarded more money. 

This is the only common attribute that I’ve found…some of them didn’t even have the strongest GPA or high school resume. (Go figure, right?) A college admissions officer from a well-known Florida university even stated at a professional conference that:

“We gather all the applications from males first, review their credentials, award scholarships, send their offers and wait on their response. Then we look at the female application pool…Frankly, we need more males on our campuses.”

Yes—I was shocked to hear this too! But the fact that more women are enrolling in college means that a number of campuses have more women. Colleges that seek to reach a 50/50 gender balance will continue to award these scholarships.

Okay, now tell me what you’re thinking. What have you been doing to find more money for college?

Are you looking for one-on-one guidance for how to get into (or pay for) college? Click here for help. 

If you enjoyed this post, don’t miss these either: 

Living Off-Campus: Pros and Cons

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Colleges with Free Laundry: A Time and Money Saving Consideration 

This article was updated from the original post from 19th September 2016