Jen Smith

Posts by jensmith

5 Myths about Paying for College

myth debunked

Here are 5 myths about paying for college that counselors often hear.  Don’t fall victim to these myths! 

1. My family maketoo much money to qualify for financial aid.
This is one of the biggest myths out there. You may not qualify for aid at one school, and qualify for lots of money at another school (see blog How Do You Get Money for College?)

2. It costs more to go out-of-state than to stay in-state. 
Not so. With increased tuition rates in many states, it is not always cheaper to stay in-state.  There are out of state tuition waivers available for many students. Also, colleges offer scholarships to students for athletes, scholars, certain majors, leadership, and other categories. Don’t narrow your list of colleges to just in-state schools.

3. It cost more to go to a private school than a public school.
Not necessarily.  Each family situation is unique and you may find it will cost less for your family if you attend a private school.  See blog: Can you Pay Less to Go To A More Expensive College? for Jack’s story of paying less at Dartmouth than CSU Los Angeles.

4. Outside scholarships help reduce what you pay out of pocket for college.
Not true. Scholarships don’t necessarily reduce your family’s out of pocket expense unless you pay the full cost of college out of pocket. Scholarships are part of your financial aid package. Colleges may subtract outside scholarships from their own merit awards, or from your student loan/work study allocation.  Ask colleges for their policies. This is why it is in your best interest to explore your choices for college.  Find one that best fits your situation and needs.  

5. Financial aid only helps with tuition.
Financial aid is available to pay for ALL college expenses: tuition, room and board, books, transportation, and personal expenses. Colleges realize you need to buy toothpaste and have a pizza now and then. Financial aid can apply to all of these costs. 

Take Action
GuidedPath offers lots of resources to help you plan for college costs. 

  • Take the EFC Calculator survey to determine your EFC and generate a strategy for reducing college costs. 
  • Read how the College Information Financial Aid Graphs provide insight into the financial aid packages offered to students. 
  • Utilize the Financial Aid Form Report in GuidedPath – it summarizes all the financial aid requirements for each of the schools on your list.   
  • Take a look at these financial aid documents prepared for GuidedPath Families including “Tackling the Basics of Financial Aid” and “How to Compare Financial Aid Offers.” 

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Late College Applications – Colleges are still looking for students

Did you get started late applying to colleges? Or perhaps you got your December test scores back and you are reconsidering what colleges you are applying to?  

Don’t worry! There are many colleges that you can apply to in January and after (even some through August). Here are a few tips for finding colleges/universities with open applications: 

  1. Schools with Rolling Admissions: Rolling admission schools review applications essentially in the order that they are received.  These schools will continue to take applications for as long as there are still spaces available in the freshman class.  The college does not wait for all applications to be submitted before giving you an admissions decision.
  2. Check the Regular Decision deadlines:  Many colleges have “regular” decision deadlines between January and March.  Although, your options for financial aid or scholarships may be somewhat limited the later you apply.
  3. Nearby Public Universities:  Public universities, especially those near you, may have local attendance areas.  Being in the local area may help increase your chances of being admitted.  Some have deadlines that are later than other public universities.
  4. Religiously Affiliated Colleges: Some religiously affiliated colleges or universities will have extended application dates.

Take Action
Each college profile lists the application deadline for the school.  Search for colleges in the above categories, then check their application deadlines.  If the deadline has not passed add it to your college list.

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Mid-year Checklist


Welcome back!  You are half way to the end of senior year.  Hopefully your winter break has you refreshed and ready to dive back into school because this is a busy time of year.     

Review this MID YEAR SENIOR CHECKLIST to be sure you are on track.  Don’t delay – there are a lot of time sensitive deadlines in the next few weeks.

1. Meet with your high school counselor 

  • Request a copy of your seventh semester transcript for your records 
  • Request your counselor send transcripts to colleges as needed 
  • Ask about scholarship opportunities 
  • Check on graduation requirements/deadlines 

 2. Check on college applications 

  • Check your email and follow up on any requests for information 
  • Set up college email account if requested by college 
  • Complete any January-February college applications you are still working on 
  • Confirm your test scores have been sent to all your colleges 
  • Confirm all your recommendations have been sent and received by the colleges 
  • Email an update to any colleges about additional honors/awards received since submitting your application

 3. Finalize your financial aid  

  • Talk with your parents about their college budget for you 
  • Attend financial aid workshops with your parents 
  • Check financial aid deadlines for colleges 
  • Check scholarship application deadlines 

Take Action
GuidedPath is designed to help you keep you organized in the application process so that you don’t miss a task or deadline.  Your dashboard will already show many important deadlines (test registration deadlines, college deadlines, etc.) but you can add your own custom tasks.

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Mid-year Checklist


Welcome back from winter break!  Now is the time to review your MID YEAR CHECKLIST.  January is a great time to get organized and jump start your college search.  

1. Meet with your high school counselor 

  • Review your PSAT scores with counselor and parents (if you took it in the fall) 
  • Ask for recommendations for summer programs 
  • Schedule next year’s courses 
  • Schedule your standardized tests for spring 
  • Discuss any school based standardized testing (AP, IB, other) 

2. Gear up for next year 

  • Explore summer programs 
  • Prepare for spring standardized tests using PSAT test scores as a guide 
  • Ask teachers about their recommendation policies (for summer programs, scholarships, or college applications) 
  • Job shadow or intern to learn more about potential careers 
  • Plan college visits

Take Action 

  • Take or review the Course Plan Survey to verify your next year course schedule will fulfill your graduation requirements 
  • Add your Spring testing schedule to GuidedPath in order to get registration and test reminders

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Happy 2020!


It’s the start of a new year and a new decade (possibly – there’s debate about that).  However, there’s no denying that January 1, 2020 is the start of a year full of big changes ahead – graduation, college, new people and places.  Start the New Year off right with a few resolutions:   

  1.  Keep your grades up.  With only one more semester left in high school, you may be tempted to coast in to graduation.  Don’t let “senioritis” get the best of you.  Colleges will look at your final grades and can take back your admission offer if your grades are not up to snuff!   
  2.  Don’t procrastinate!  Another symptom of senioritis is procrastination.  Develop a system to stay on track of your assignments and deadlines.  Creating good habits now will make your freshman year of college will be a piece of cake.
  3. Use social media responsibly.  Does it pass the “parent” test?  If it isn’t something you would want your parent to see- don’t post it. 
  4. Pick up a book!  Make an effort to read a novel each month, or at minimum try reading one long-form journalism piece each week.  Reading will improve your vocabulary and make you a better writer.
  5. Make someone smile.  Find ways to bring happiness into someone’s life each day.

 Happy New Year from the GuidedPath team. 


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PSAT scores released next week

If you took the PSAT earlier this fall, you should expect to receive your scores sometime next week.  The CollegeBoard says scores will be released to students Dec 9-11 (the exact date depends on where you live).  Your counselor can access the scores on Dec 2 through the K-12 reporting portal.  Be smart by using your PSAT scores to improve your score on the “real” SAT.  Your score report explains what areas you need to review before taking the next test.  

Viewing Your Scores 

The CollegeBoard has aligned the PSAT scores with the SAT scores.  You can use your PSAT test scores to learn more about how you might do on the upcoming SAT tests.  But there are a LOT of scores on the PSAT test.  Which scores should you to pay attention to? 

Here are some tips.  When viewing your score report, focus on: 

  1. Raw scores.  Look at your Reading/Writing score, your math score, and total score. 
  2. Ignore percentiles.  This is a new test- the percentiles are research based only.  Don’t worry about the percentiles. 
  3. Check your NMSC Selection Index.  Is there an asterisk (*) next to it?  Learn more about the National Merit Scholarship selection process in this guide 

College and Career Readiness Benchmarks 

Don’t spend a lot of time worrying about where you are on the benchmarks.  Make a count of how many you have in the following benchmark areas: 

  • Green (meets or exceeds benchmark) 
  • Yellow (approaching benchmark) 
  • Red (need to strengthen skills) 

Get Advice from the Experts on Benchmarks 

Talk to your counselor or advisor about recommendations to move your red and yellow benchmarks into green. 

Using Sub Scores 

Find the section of your score report, Your Scores: Next Steps.  This is a great resource for you, showing what you are already able to do.  It also includes suggestions for improving your skills.  These suggestions become the beginning of the Khan Academy personalized preparation plan.   

The scores are broken into: 

  1. Reading Test 
  2. Writing and Language Test 
  3. Math Test 

Study Smarter, not Harder 

If you use your PSAT scores for preparation for the SAT, you will be studying smarter, not harder.  Reviewing your PSAT scores will save you hours of studying for the SAT by showing you where you need to focus your preparation.  Go over your PSAT scores with parents, counselors and teachers.  Use this to create a personalized, study plan for the SAT. 

Take Action 

Record your PSAT scores in GuidedPath, and schedule your next SAT or PSAT test. 

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