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We believe in human potential, opportunity, and the ability to succeed.
We are student-founded, student-led, and dedicated to empowering students to access and afford college.

This is The Opportunity: A College Access Newsletter.

It features tools, tips, and advice from our own experiences and also the best college access tools we've found.

Issue Ten: February 6, 2019
Issue Theme: It's National School Counseling Week! #NSCW19

RESOURCE HIGHLIGHT FROM FAIR OPPORTUNITY PROJECT

Six Ways Your School Counselor Helps with College Admissions


It’s National School Counseling Week! We think this deserves a quick reminder of just how key our counselors are in the college application process. We know—school counselors do WAY more than what fits in a listicle. (But we all love a good list, even if it’s a slightly off-number, like six.) Counselors are an incredible resource for you. They can help you figure out your academic plans, your career path, and how to build a socially and emotionally solid you.

When you start thinking about college, your school counselor can really help. If you’ve got all these things already lined up, awesome! Here are some of the ways they help:

1. Planning a college-ready schedule. As soon as you hit ninth grade, let your counselor know that you’re interested in college. Your counselor can help you map out a four-year class plan that is challenging and meets what colleges expect for math, science or foreign language preparation. Remember that what your high school requires for graduation may be less than what colleges require for admission.

2. College fairs and school visits from college reps. Do you know when these are happening in your area? Your school counselor can share the calendar and help you plan to attend. These events are great ways to get answers to your specific college questions. They might help your chance for admission or merit aid, since many colleges track your interest in them.

3. FAFSA and financial aid presentations. The FAFSA acronym stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (which we've reviewed in a previous newsletter). School counselors often host financial aid presentations during the day or evening because they are committed to helping you make college affordable. These presentations are key in getting that FAFSA done—THE first step in getting aid for college—so mark them on your calendar! They also help out with “College Goal” events that happen in multiple states to help you complete the FAFSA. That’s pretty cool.

4. Scholarship nominations. What scholarships do many students have the highest odds of getting? Local scholarships! Rotary, Kiwanis, community business clubs—they are proud of their high schools and want you to succeed. Your school counselor works with these groups every year and knows the applications. Pay attention to your school notices of application requirements and deadlines.

5. Letters of recommendation. For college, scholarships, sometimes internships….school counselors faithfully churn out more letters than we can count. Be sure you give them plenty of heads up, a resume of interests and accomplishments, and a real, handwritten thank you. For real, it means a lot.

6. SAT/ACT registration and prep. Raise your hands, all you who registered for your first SAT/ACT at school and took the exam during the school day. It’s a big, complex production to make sure that fee waivers, testing accommodations, and registration help gets out to everyone on time. Thank you again, school counselors.



Hey counselors! What did we forget? We just know that we’re big fans.

Fair Opp Faves: Tools We Like

Each issue of this newsletter we’ll highlight one cool tool or resource. Maybe it’s for finding the right college, covering college costs, or staying on top of the application process. We only share tools that we’ve checked out and that are free for students.

We like video help for the CSS Profile

About 400 colleges and scholarships require the CSS Profile— in addition to the FAFSA— from students who are applying for financial aid. The application deadline is set by the college and it varies—usually in January to March—so be sure to check on the college website or with the financial aid office for their specific deadline.

Cornell University’s video is short—about 3 minutes. They tell you how long it will take, what materials you need on hand, what steps you need to take, and in what order.

Khan Academy’s CSS Profile Walkthrough is actually a series of seven short videos for each section of the Profile. You can read step-by-step, short instruction, watch a related video, and move through each CSS section at your own pace.


The CSS Profile is longer than the FAFSA and asks more in-depth questions about financial resources in the family. Here’s a short article that highlights some of the common mistakes that families make when completing the Profile and how to avoid them.

What’s Your Question?

Send us your questions and we’ll respond to them here!

Question: It seems like you’re hardly in class when you’re in college. Isn’t college supposed to be harder than high school? — Anaya P.

We agree, those college class schedules seem pretty sweet, Anaya!

Let’s lay this comparison out. A year of high school is about 180 days of school or 1,000 hours. You might have six or seven different classes on your schedule, each one held at the same time and the same length every weekday. The school year is probably divided into two semesters, and most classes run for both semesters. You’re in high school, so you know the routine.

A full-time college class schedule is usually 4 or 5 classes. Your class will typically run for just a 15 or 16 week semester rather than from September to June. Classes usually meet twice or three times a week. Of course, there’s variety out there: trimesters, quarters or even accelerated summer or January terms.

There’s a lot of flexibility for you in this model: No morning classes! No Friday classes! Four-day weekends! You can pick classes to have the schedule you want.

But the freedom is where it can get truly harder. You’ll have a lot more reading, writing, and assignments between each class. Your course grade may be based on just a few tests or assignments and it’ll be up to you to devote the needed independent study time, take advantage of learning resources on your campus like tutoring or peer mentoring, and reach out to the professor with questions on course material.

Anaya, we hope this explains how you’re both in class LESS in college but also working HARDER. The work falls much more on you in college, so block out study time every day and take advantage of study groups, office hours, and tutoring sessions. That’s how you succeed in college!

Three Specific Things You Can Do To Find Scholarships

This may be a time when your college applications are in and you’re waiting for acceptance notifications. Put this time to good use—look for those scholarships that are going to bring down those college costs. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Plan for the long-term. Many scholarships are one-time, one-year awards. Now is a good time to develop a list of what is available to take the place of these first-year scholarships. Many colleges have scholarship website pages for their continuing students and students within specific programs such as engineering or nursing. Having trouble finding it? A quick call or email to the financial aid office can point you in the right direction. Another approach is to use a scholarship search site such as Cappex, where you can narrow your search to scholarships for undergraduates. You’ll thank yourself this time next year!

  2. Look at local organizations and businesses. Beyond the scholarships that are coordinated through your school (thanks again, counselors!) are many other opportunities. What are the big employers in town? Is there a community foundation, a Rotary, 4-H, or Kiwanis club? Where do your parents work? Do you have a part-time job? It’s worth checking with these groups for scholarships that may not be well known and are for a very specific community—yours.

  3. Make it a daily habit. Scholarship search sites like Niche, Cappex and Fastweb can send you email notifications or suggestions based on the profile you set up. Swap out 15 minutes a day of Netflix or Instagram time for a quick scan of these scholarship opportunities. Flag a few and knock them out over the weekend. Think of it like a new year’s resolution—you’ll feel good knowing you’re doing more to make college affordable.

Learn about The Mentor Network


Upcoming Dates to Know

Oct. : The FAFSA 2019-20 application is now open. Here’s a great checklist. FAFSA completion is really important! You can check your school and state’s completion rates on this amazing webpage from ed.gov.

Feb. 8: Regular registration deadline for March 9 SAT

Feb. 9: ACT test date

March 8: Regular registration deadline for April 13 ACT

March 9: SAT test date

April 13: ACT test date

May 1: College enrollment deposit deadline

Ongoing: Free FAFSA completion and college info workshops throughout Illinois.

Ongoing: College fairs offered in cities nationwide; dates and locations here.

Have a date you want us to include? Let us know!

Got a question for us? We've got an app for that!….



On the Fair Opportunity Project website, you'll find a blue "Ask Us a Question" in the bottom right corner. Submit your college question and we'll send your answer in a jiffy!

Your donation to Fair Opportunity Project will allow us to reach more students with free resources about college admissions and financial aid.
Donate

That’s it for this issue! Thanks for reading. More tips and tools in our next February issue. You’d make us even happier by sharing this newsletter. It’s all about giving and getting a Fair Opportunity.

Did someone forward this email to you? Want to offer this newsletter to your students & families? Be sure to subscribe!

Copyright © 2019 Fair Opportunity Project. All rights reserved.


Our mailing address is:
821 E. Washington Ave., Suite 200
Madison, WI 53703

You are receiving this newsletter because of your interest in Fair Opportunity Project.
We’re pumped that you’ve subscribed and so sad if you decide to unsubscribe from this list.
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We believe in human potential, opportunity, and the ability to succeed.
We are student-founded, student-led, and dedicated to empowering students to access and afford college.

This is The Opportunity: A College Access Newsletter.

It features tools, tips, and advice from our own experiences and also the best college access tools we've found.

Issue Nine: January 23, 2019
Issue Theme: It's #NationalMentoringMonth!

RESOURCE HIGHLIGHT FROM FAIR OPPORTUNITY PROJECT

An Interview With the Mentor Network's Co-Director
January is National Mentoring Month! We wanted to share a team member's story on what draws him to be a mentor.

Spencer Wilson
Spencer is a neuroscientist working at the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre, University College of London, whose work deals with understanding the neural circuits underlying volitional control. He attended MIT for an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering followed by an MA from the University of Cambridge in Engineering and an MSc in Applied Mathematics from Imperial College London.

What was so hard to figure out about college when you were in high school?

In high school I struggled with understanding the differences between schools. I borrowed a neighbor’s Princeton Review college book, a doorstop offering with a single page on almost every college in the country. I read it for weeks, bookmarking schools that sounded interesting, becoming overwhelmed with the similarities between the schools. I wish I had had someone to talk me through what I wanted out of college in the larger scope of my life rather than viewing college as the endpoint. Had I had access to a mentor, I could have made a much more informed choice and seen college as a means to larger goals. That said, finances were the biggest "black box" to me. I can’t imagine not having parents willing to puzzle through the forms with me. This type of logistical help, both with finances as well as college choice, is a big reason why mentoring is crucial to providing a fair playing field for college admissions.

What in high school did you wish you had more of as a high school student?

I wish I had access to more interview preparation in high school. Some of my college interviews were just plain awful, as I had no idea how to prepare. I interview students now for MIT and so many of them come with a mental checklist. Often they end up overdoing this rather than having a natural conversation, but even that’s better than showing up with nothing but what’s in your pockets. Like I said, this sort of thing is part of a larger practice of goal-setting and meditation on your personal values, interests, and biases. These things are incredibly hard to sort out on your own, and a simple conversation allows you to reflect and hear your own feedback to shape your decision making. With interviews in particular, answering a simple question like “What do you want your interviewer to know about you?” can help immensely. Having another person, a mentor, there to ask you these questions and follow up on your answers helps shape your understanding of yourself such that you can discover your goals and make steps to work towards them.

A national mentor network sounds pretty ambitious! Why do you want to take this on?

I think it’s pretty clear from what I’ve said so far that I’m very passionate about mentoring. I owe so much to the mentors I have in my life now, most of whom I met after going to university. I think if we can inspire a generation to start giving and receiving mentorship before that time, we can do a lot of good. I tell everybody: mentoring is a huge lever arm— with an hour here or there you can change a person’s entire life. That’s how I feel about my mentors, some of whom I see less than once a month, and even then only over Skype. Our project is one that’s ambitious, but important enough to imagine on a large scale. That said, we’re starting with small steps! “Small steps” is one of the most important lessons my closest mentor has taught me.

What’s one tip you’d like to give to your 16 year-old self?

Read more books! My life has been changed in many ways from the books I’ve read, and I’ve calculated how much time I can feasibly read every week, month, year, and for the rest of my life. It’s less than you think, something like a few thousand books if you’re lucky. I wish I had started earlier. Pick up a book, set a reading goal, read widely, and always read with a pencil— buy your books if you can so you can underline and take notes. Borrow books from the library, and use a notepad or take photos with your phone. But most importantly, just read! And challenge yourself with tough books. I think of reading like sleeping— without sleep your brain can’t function. Without books I’m not getting that quiet, focused, long-term intellectual input that I need to progress. Not blogs, not tweets— BOOKS! Read ‘em.

The college application process can be pretty complicated. What’s one suggestion you have for our readers?

I’ll cheat and give two suggestions. First of all, download a copy of the Fair Opportunity Guide, it’s truly fantastic. Next, think about the people in your life you can go to and ask to be your mentor. Be honest with them about the time commitment you would need from them in a mentoring role for you. They might say “No," and that’s perfectly fine. Mentoring could come in any form: in person, online, over the phone. Some of the best college advice came from peers or people a few years ahead of me in school. You can find mentorship anywhere you look. Good luck, have fun, and don’t forget, no matter what, to listen— not just to others but also to yourself.

Fair Opp Faves: Tools We Like

Each issue of this newsletter we’ll highlight one cool tool or resource. Maybe it’s for finding the right college, covering college costs, or staying on top of the application process. We only share tools that we’ve checked out and that are free for students.




If you're a high school junior, you might be looking at taking the SAT or ACT for the first time. We like Khan Academy's test prep resources for a few reasons. First, they're free. Second, they share videos, actual test questions, and complete sample tests. You can drill down on the questions you're struggling with and get more focused help on those. Finally, we like the Test Tips Share Space. Students can post challenges and other students offer advice. You're not facing this beast alone!

One other quick tip: The optional writing essay is just that: optional. Very few colleges require it. Here's an
explanation of why it's probably not worth the cost and effort. Check to see if your college choices are on that required list before signing up.

What’s Your Question?

Send us your questions and we’ll respond to them here!

“I have a disability but I never see any information on how colleges deal with that. Is college for me?” —Mateo C.

Thanks for writing, Mateo! You’re right: the glossy photos of smiling students on a campus lawn don’t really tell you anything about who goes to college. College can definitely be for you! More and more students with disabilities are in college: around 11 percent of undergraduates report having a disability.

You probably have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 plan that guides your learning accommodations as a high school student. These plans don’t automatically transfer over to college. In fact, colleges won’t know about your disability unless you choose to share it with them. Here are some quick tips for making college work for you:

  1. Get in touch with the the college accessibility office. Colleges are required to have an office to coordinate resources for students with disabilities. Find out how these offices work at the colleges you’re interested in and what kinds of services they can provide.

  2. Start discussions early. College semesters fly by—make sure the accessibility office knows what you need well before that first day of class.

  3. It’s on you. Once you turn 18, your parent or guardian isn’t the point of contact—you are. You have a right to an accessible college education, so learn how to advocate for what you need.

  4. Learn from the experts. You’ll find great strategies and supportive communities from DREAM, the National Center for College Students with Disabilities (NCCSD) and Accessible College.


Go for it, Mateo! College can work for you.

Some Mentoring Programs To Check Out


ScholarMatch: An online platform through which low-income high school students can be matched with a virtual advisor/mentor for the college admissions process.

College Mentoring Experience: Based in Chicago and works with schools and community-based organizations to provide guidance and support for the path to college.

College Mentors for Kids. College campus-based chapters in nine states pair with college students with elementary school-aged youth through campus-based activities.

Eye to Eye Mentoring. A national school-based mentoring program that pairs college students who have learning and attention challenges with middle school students who face similar challenges.

And, of course, Fair Opportunity Project’s Mentor Network!

Learn about The Mentor Network


Upcoming Dates to Know

Oct. : The FAFSA 2019-20 application is now open. Here’s a great checklist. FAFSA completion is really important! You can check your school and state’s completion rates on this amazing webpage from ed.gov.

Feb. 8: Regular registration deadline for March 9 SAT

Feb. 9: ACT test date

March 8: Regular registration deadline for April 13 ACT

March 9: SAT test date

April 13: ACT test date

May 1: College enrollment deposit deadline

Ongoing: Free FAFSA completion and college info workshops throughout Illinois.

Ongoing: College fairs offered in cities nationwide; dates and locations here.

Have a date you want us to include? Let us know!

Got a question for us? We've got an app for that!….



On the Fair Opportunity Project website, you'll find a blue "Ask Us a Question" in the bottom right corner. Submit your college question and we'll send your answer in a jiffy!

Your donation to Fair Opportunity Project will allow us to reach more students with free resources about college admissions and financial aid.
Donate

That’s it for this issue! Thanks for reading. More tips and tools in our February issue. You’d make us even happier by sharing this newsletter. It’s all about giving and getting a Fair Opportunity.

Did someone forward this email to you? Want to offer this newsletter to your students & families? Be sure to subscribe!

Copyright © 2019 Fair Opportunity Project. All rights reserved.
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View this email in your browser
We believe in human potential, opportunity, and the ability to succeed.
We are student-founded, student-led, and dedicated to empowering students to access and afford college.

This is The Opportunity: A College Access Newsletter.

It features tools, tips, and advice from our own experiences and also the best college access tools we've found.

Issue Seven: December 18, 2018
Issue Theme: Been There, Done That!

RESOURCE HIGHLIGHT FROM FAIR OPPORTUNITY PROJECT

A December to Dread? Not So Fast.

Remember when December meant looking forward to winter break and holiday cookies? If you’re gearing up for college next fall, this December is probably looking very different.

Many colleges have January application deadlines. Instead of watching Frosty the Snowman, you might find yourself scrambling to pull it all together: transcripts, test scores, recommendations, essays, high school achievements and so forth.

Been there, done that. We’re students who started Fair Opportunity Project to help you make sense of this whole process. Here’s what we learned that we think will bring some sanity to this time.

A good college list. If you’ve got a good mix of colleges--safety, match, and reach schools--you can feel confident that you will have some good options come next fall. See p. 12 of our Guide for more on this topic.

Not every college has a January 1 application deadline. Knock out these early ones first and then you can get to the ones with later deadlines. Here’s a good list of colleges with later deadlines.

Many colleges--especially large public universities-- have “rolling” admissions. This means there is no set date for a deadline, although it also means that their fall 2019 class may be filled if you wait too long. Here’s a good reference list.

Where you start college is not necessarily where you’ll finish college. Don’t heap more pressure on yourself than you need to! More than a third of all college students transfer at least once. Make your best effort on these applications, but know that you’ve got options.

Most colleges accept most applicants. It’s true. You may want to include at least a few of the many, many colleges with more generous acceptance rates.

Get organized first, and the rest will fall into place much more easily. Don’t get so stressed out that you leap over this part. We’ve got some good tips on this starting on page 13 of our Guide.

Give that essay time to ripen. Write, review, reflect, rewrite, repeat. Don’t try to knock this out in one sitting, like on December 31. Our step-by-step advice in this short video is a good way to go.

It’s not you; it’s them. Meaning the colleges. The most selective colleges receive many times more applications from high-achieving students than they can possibly admit. Bring forth your most distinctive strengths in your application and know that the admission process is more art than science.

When you hit that submit button, give yourself a high five! And an extra holiday cookie. You’ve accomplished a lot right there.


Fair Opp Faves: Tools We Like

Each issue of this newsletter we’ll highlight one cool tool or resource. Maybe it’s for finding the right college, covering college costs, or staying on top of the application process. We only share tools that we’ve checked out and that are free for students.




Niche offers every kind of ranking for every kind of category for colleges. Who can resist scrolling through a ranking? Best college dorms! Best college food! Best college athletics! And so on. Niche uses multiple sources of reliable data and surveys to develop these rankings and you can see what they are.

What we especially like about this free college search website are all of the student reviews that it includes about every college. Not just the great reviews; the reviews from students who weren't such fans. This reminds us all that rankings have their limits: the more you learn about a college, the better you'll know what is the best-ranked college for YOU.

What’s Your Question?

Send us your questions and we’ll respond to them here!

“How do I choose the college that I want and not where everybody else thinks I should go?"-Mia Z.

Hi Mia! Sorry to hear that you’re getting a little clobbered with excessive advice. We find that people like talking about college and they know that this is a big decision for you. With 5,300 colleges in the United States, you can bet that most people are familiar with just a fraction of the colleges out there. Here’s what we’d do:


Listen. When someone suggests a college to you, ask them for their reasons why. You may learn something that you didn’t know about that college, or it may help you reflect on what you value.

Learn. With college search sites like Niche or the video campus tours on CampusReel, you can find some great insights on colleges.

Write. Try making a list of specific features or offerings that you like--this will help you respond to those helpful folks who might have different colleges in mind.

Accept. You’re going to hear a lot of questions and comments about your plans after high school. If you choose a college that’s far away, you’ll probably get a lot of blank stares too. After all the senior year frenzy of thinking about rankings and who got into where, the questions and advice will quiet down. Build your college list thoughtfully (our Guide is really handy for that!) and you can be confident in your own college decision.

You’ve got this, Mia!


Some Cool Scholarships To Check Out
Going Merry, Chegg, and Fastweb are comprehensive, free scholarship search websites. Avoid the scam scholarship sites!


GE Reagan Foundation Scholarship Program
Amazing opportunity & in the “huge” scholarship category.

Deadline: January 4, 2019

Award: up to $40,000 over four college years.

Operation Prevention Video Challenge
On the dangers of prescription opioid misuse.

Deadline: March 6, 2019

Award: $10,000

MIT THINK Scholars Program
For current high school students, who submit a project proposal on a science, technology, or engineering idea.

Award: $1,000 budget, chance to win $500 scholarship, mentorship, and a trip to MIT

Deadline: January 1, 2019

Washington Crossing Foundation Scholarship
For high school seniors intending careers in government service.

Award: Up to $5,000

Deadline: January 15, 2019

Watch our video: Affording College

Upcoming Dates to Know


The FAFSA 2019-20 application opened on October 1, so don't delay! Here’s a great checklist.

Jan. 1: Regular decision application deadline at some colleges

Jan. 11: Regular registration deadline for Feb. 9 ACT

Jan. 15: Regular decision application deadline at some colleges.

Feb. 8: Regular registration deadline for March 9 SAT

Feb. 9: ACT test date


Ongoing: Free FAFSA completion workshops throughout Illinois.

Ongoing: College fairs offered in cities nationwide; dates and locations here.

Have a date you want us to include? Let us know!

Got a question for us? We've got an app for that!….

Support button on website


On the Fair Opportunity Project website, you'll find a blue "Ask Us a Question" in the bottom right corner. Submit your college question and we'll send your answer in a jiffy!

Your donation to Fair Opportunity Project will allow us to reach more students with free resources about college admissions and financial aid.
Donate

That’s it for this issue! Thanks for reading. More tips and tools in our January issue. You’d make us even happier by sharing this newsletter. It’s all about giving and getting a Fair Opportunity.

Did someone forward this email to you? Want to offer this newsletter to your students & families? Be sure to subscribe!

Copyright © 2018 Fair Opportunity Project. All rights reserved.


Our mailing address is:
821 E. Washington Ave., Suite 200G
Madison, WI 53703

You are receiving this newsletter because of your interest in Fair Opportunity Project.
We’re pumped that you’ve subscribed and so sad if you decide to unsubscribe from this list.
*|MC:SUBJECT|*
View this email in your browser
We believe in human potential, opportunity, and the ability to succeed.
We are student-founded, student-led, and dedicated to empowering students to access and afford college.

This is The Opportunity: A College Access Newsletter.

It features tools, tips, and advice from our own experiences and also the best college access tools we've found.

Issue Seven: November 29, 2018
Issue Theme: Great Organizations that Help Students Succeed.

RESOURCE HIGHLIGHT FROM FAIR OPPORTUNITY PROJECT

A Shout-Out to our Partner Orgs


We create resources for students, but we also look for and collaborate with groups that also offer great student opportunities. It's all about giving and getting a fair opportunity! Here are two worth checking out:



How do you find a college that’s perfect for you? What scholarships should you go for?

College Greenlight helps you build a solid college list. They use information that you provide about your school record and interests to plug into over $11 billion scholarship possibilities. You’ll get a list of the ones you qualify for.

Plus, you can apply to multiple colleges as a Greenlight Scholar with one application and no fee—that’s a great option for saving time and cost. College Greenlight is focused on serving first-generation and underrepresented students, while every student can use Cappex, the comprehensive college and scholarship website that runs College Greenlight.

College Greenlight also compiles the most detailed list you'll find of "fly-in programs"—colleges that will pay for most or all of the costs of a campus visit. Campus visits are powerful ways to get a feel for the college! These fly-in programs should be on your radar, before your senior year.
.

The Coalition for College provides a new way for you to plan your path to college.

What’s new?

You can set up a digital “Locker” to stash the essays, visual art, or quick notes on the clubs and activities you do, starting in ninth grade. This could actually mean that senior year looks slightly less frantic as you pull together these things for college applications!

It also helps you find the colleges that keep your debt low and your odds high for getting that college degree. Every college that accepts the Coalition application has committed to these very important goals, and they're located all over the country:




You can find the complete list of those colleges hereand the list keeps growing.

There are a lot of different features you can explore on the Coalition website, like
application fee waivers and a virtual collaboration space, along with the application that more than 150 colleges accept. Curious about how it all works? A lot of those questions are answered right on the website.

Fair Opp Faves: Tools We Like

Each issue of this newsletter we’ll highlight one cool tool or resource. Maybe it’s for finding the right college, covering college costs, or staying on top of the application process. We only share tools that we’ve checked out and that are free for students.



Where can you find detailed, illustrated instructions on the FAFSA in English, Spanish, and 8 other languages? On the understandingFAFSA.org website! The FAFSA is the form you need for federal financial aid and this manual answers all kinds of questions about the documents you need, your parents' role in this, and more. Free paper copies also are available through the websitewhile supplies last.

What’s Your Question?

Send us your questions and we’ll respond to them here!

“Why would I want to go on a study abroad program in college?"-Jacob L.

Hey, Jacob! Great question. Because you'll get some really awesome Instagram pics! Seriously, sometimes you learn the mostabout yourself and otherswhen you go beyond your comfort zone. Living and learning in another country can be a really powerful way to do that. You often end up learning more about yourself and your culture as you experience other cultures.

Most four-year colleges offer study abroad programs to their students, and 16% of all college students took advantage this year. You can find programs as short as a few weeks and as long as an entire year.

There are programs in almost every continent (sorry, Antarctica), and in hundreds of countries. Study abroad can be one of those experiences that shape what you want to do in life!

Here are some practical details that are important to consider:

  1. Ask how your financial aid will apply to the study abroad experience. The college may have grants or other ways to cover additional costs like airfare or passport and visa requirements.

  2. Understand how the classes and the credits you take abroad will count towards your college major and degree. Plan early with your advisorlike in your freshman yearand you’ll stay on track to graduate in four years.

  3. Don’t rule out this experience if you have a disability. More and more students with disabilities are participating each year, and there are helpful guides to make it a great experience.


Bon voyage, Jacob!

Introducing our new Mentor Network

How will students communicate with their mentors?

Our program is focused on facilitating mentorship via face-to-face meetings, video, and email. Students can decide which method works best with their needs, logistics permitting.

Who are the mentors?

Fair Opportunity Project will pair students with recent college admits from the community, using our data and the help of local counselors. The idea is that the best mentor is not someone from the other side of the country who has just heard your school name ten minutes ago – it’s someone who knows your community, and all the difficulties of applying to college it entails, who’s been trained with college advising resources of the highest quality.

How often will mentors communicate with students?

We aim to provide a minimum of 2 hours of mentorship per month with students for as long as their college applications require – often significantly more. At the six month mark, we assess the relationship based on student needs.

What are the requirements for students to participate?

The only requirement for students is dedicated participation. Fair Opportunity Project’s goal is to provide free college advising to any student with an interest in applying to college.

What do you offer students during mentoring?

Our model centers on a coaching-mentoring approach. Our mentors are trained to advise students using information from our curriculum, with all the resources Fair Opportunity Project has to offer, and to coach students towards their self-generated goals regarding college admissions.

Do you work independently or through school counselors or parents and guardians?

We work closely with school counselors to facilitate mentorship. With the help of Fair Opportunity Project, the counselor acts as a facilitator “on the ground” for the student-mentor relationship.

How long is the program?

The mentorship program is set up for one year in the first instance, working towards college application submissions. As the program develops, students will receive mentoring for as long as their college applications require.

What are your goals for the program and for students?

Our goal is to help level the playing field of college admissions in the US. We want everyone to be able to have good college advising, no matter their zip code or background. Our goals for students lie along a spectrum from assisting students in their journey towards submitting a college application to helping students develop goals and plan towards their achievement. We expect all of our mentees to submit a college application to a school of their choice at the end of the mentorship cycle.

What’s the catch?

There is none. We do this to help students from all backgrounds succeed.

Learn More about the Mentor Network

Upcoming Dates to Know


The FAFSA 2019-20 application opened on October 1, so don't delay! Here’s a great checklist.

Dec. 1: SAT test date

Dec. 8: ACT test date


Jan. 11: Regular registration deadline for Feb. 9 ACT

Feb. 8: Regular registration deadline for March 9 SAT

Feb. 9: ACT test date


Ongoing: Free FAFSA completion workshops throughout Illinois.

Ongoing: College fairs offered in cities nationwide; dates and locations here.

Have a date you want us to include? Let us know!

Got a question for us? We've got an app for that!….

Support button on website


On the Fair Opportunity Project website, you'll find a blue "Ask Us a Question" in the bottom right corner. Submit your college question and we'll send your answer in a jiffy!

Your donation to Fair Opportunity Project will allow us to reach more students with free resources about college admissions and financial aid.
Donate

That’s it for this issue! Thanks for reading. More tips and tools in our December issue. You’d make us even happier by sharing this newsletter. It’s all about giving and getting a Fair Opportunity.

Did someone forward this email to you? Want to offer this newsletter to your students & families? Be sure to subscribe!

Copyright © 2018 Fair Opportunity Project. All rights reserved.


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We believe in human potential, opportunity, and the ability to succeed.
We are student-founded, student-led, and dedicated to empowering students to access and afford college.

This is The Opportunity: A College Access Newsletter.

It features tools, tips, and advice from our own experiences and also the best college access tools we've found.

Issue Six: November 13, 2018
Issue Theme: Scholarship Searches Don't Need to Consume Your Life.

RESOURCE HIGHLIGHT FROM FAIR OPPORTUNITY PROJECT

The Key to Scholarships

Our guest contributor is the founder of Going Merry, Charlie Maynard. Going Merry helps students find and apply for scholarships online with a free, shared app.


Let’s face it--college is pricey.

Not only are students expected to pay for tuition and housing, but there are also meal plans, transportation, books, and other essentials! At the end of the day, it’s a huge financial investment.

But not to fear! Scholarships are a key part of the financial aid package. They can save you money and make your college dreams come true at the same time.

How do you find them? Where can you start?


It's essential to develop a scholarship strategy and stick to it. Blindly searching for and applying to scholarships can get messy...and the last thing you want is added stress while you’re already juggling a million other applications.


How do you develop a strategy? You can start by following the tips below. Try them out and see what works for you!

1. Stay Organized

We get it. Who has time to be organized while there are a million things going on? It can be tough, but trust us on this one...it’s totally worth it. Take the time to jot down scholarship deadlines in your calendar. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to work on them.

Because, honestly, catching up on scholarship essays is perhaps one of the worst reasons to stay up all night.

Remember: it’s often not just you who needs to put in the work. Asking for recommendation letters can involve the most planning. You should give your teachers, professors, or employers at least a four-week notice when asking for a recommendation, so that they don’t feel overwhelmed and can actually put time and effort into it!

Finally, don’t forget that, while many scholarships have deadlines in March or April, there are scholarships available all year round. Set up a routine to check regularly for opportunities to make sure you don’t overlook one that you definitely don’t want to miss.

2. Prioritize!

Make sure that you’re prioritizing your scholarships and not spending hours and hours on ones that you have very little chance of winning, or that require huge amounts of work and with little payoff.

When deciding which scholarships to prioritize, look at the details. Compare things like the essay questions and length, required documents, (e.g. letters of recommendation or transcripts), and if there are multiple rounds of applications. This will help you get an idea of how long it will actually take you to complete the application.

Figuring out the popularity of a scholarship can also give you an idea of your chance of winning. For example, a nationwide scholarship with vague eligibility requirements probably has lots of applicants--we recommend targeting local scholarships first. Even though they might have smaller award amounts, they can really add up and your chances of winning are probably higher. Speak to your high school counselor to find out more.

Make a list, ranking the most important scholarships, and go from there! Remember, it’s better to focus on a couple of great scholarship opportunities than on several mediocre ones.

Pssst...Going Merry gives you an estimate for how long each application takes to complete and provides you with a personalized list of local scholarships. This can help you prioritize even further.

3. Reuse Essays

If two scholarship applications have similar essay topics, why write two different versions? Save yourself time by tweaking essays you’ve already written! You can even reuse your college application essays, since these tend to touch on a lot of the same topics: for example, life goals, or personal development.

To help you with this, we created MerryApps, which group together scholarship applications that have the same essay questions. As a result, all you need to do is submit one application and we’ll send it to all the scholarships within the bundle. There are currently MerryApps for career goals, overcoming challenges, community service and digital marketing. By submitting to all four, you can apply to 44 scholarships. That's a big time savings!

And more time saved means more time to dedicate to other scholarships applications!


4. Learn from Past Winners

Even though it’s not always possible, learning from past scholarship winners can be a huge help! Sometimes scholarship committees will actually post essays from past winners on their website. Take advantage of this benefit and look them over!

These winning essays will give you an idea of what the committee is looking for (AKA a HUGE advantage). You'll learn what a winning candidate looks like to them in terms of GPAs, goals, etc. You might even find some inspiration for your own (unique) essay! Some great resources to find essay examples are College Essay Guy and MindSumo.


5. Make Your Essay Shine

Let’s face it...scholarship committees generally don’t want to hear about your favorite TV shows or your daily routine. They want to hear about what makes you a great candidate for their award...so show them!

Before you even start applying for scholarships, it’s a great idea to make a list of your strengths. Ask friends and family for ideas. Then, try and incorporate these strengths by showing them in each essay that you write. It’s equally as important to highlight your vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Showing how you’ve learned from your mistakes, or how you’re overcoming your weaknesses, is a great way to express that!

And, of course, the best way to make your essay shine is to show your personality. Don’t be afraid to make it witty and clever. This is your one opportunity to show the committee who you really are.

6. Just Go For It!

Since tomorrow never really comes, the only time to get started is...today! So start researching and creating a list. Also make sure to keep a positive attitude. While it can feel overwhelming, you’ll see that it was totally worth it when you’re not graduating college with mountains of student debt.

Fair Opp Faves: Tools We Like

Each issue of this newsletter we’ll highlight one cool tool or resource. Maybe it’s for finding the right college, covering college costs, or staying on top of the application process. We only share tools that we’ve checked out and that are free for students.


We checked out the Going Merry app and like the way it groups similar scholarships together--this can really save you time. You can easily find dozens of opportunities with one starting point.

What’s Your Question?

Send us your questions and we’ll respond to them here!

“How can I figure out what the college scene is like?"-Jay W.

Hiya Jay! You've asked a really important question. Colleges and universities can be very different from each other. You might hear people call this "college fit" and a good fit can make the difference between succeeding in college--or not. Just like a pair of jeans (but much more important), you should try the college campus out before you make a decision.

If you can, visit the campus and talk to current students. Some colleges offer free visiting programs--"fly-in programs"--and you can find a complete list here.

You'll find thousands of real video tours, filmed by current students, of dorm rooms, libraries, and campus spaces on CampusReel.

And, we've just launched a free mentor network, where you can connect with college students. Learn more and sign up on our website.

College Knowledge Quiz!
Calendar dates for 2018

Upcoming Dates to Know


Oct. : The FAFSA 2019-20 application is now open. Here’s a great checklist.

Nov. 15: Early Action and/or Early Decision deadlines; confirm with colleges.

Nov. 19: Late registration deadline for ACT test on 12/8/18.

Dec. 8: ACT test date

Ongoing: Free FAFSA completion workshops throughout Illinois.

Ongoing: College fairs offered in cities nationwide; dates and locations here.

Have a date you want us to include? Let us know!

Got a question for us? We've got an app for that!….

Support button on websiteOn the Fair Opportunity Project website, you'll find a blue "Ask Us a Question" in the bottom right corner. Submit your college question and we'll send your answer in a jiffy!

Your donation to Fair Opportunity Project will allow us to reach more students with free resources about college admissions and financial aid.
Donate

That’s it for this issue! Thanks for reading. More tips and tools in our next November issue. You’d make us even happier by sharing this newsletter. It’s all about giving and getting a Fair Opportunity.

Did someone forward this email to you? Want to offer this newsletter to your students & families? Be sure to subscribe!







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We believe in human potential, opportunity, and the ability to succeed.
We are student-founded, student-led, and dedicated to empowering students to access and afford college.

This is The Opportunity: A College Access Newsletter.

It features tools, tips, and advice from our own experiences and also the best college access tools we've found.

Issue Five: October 31, 2018
Issue Theme: The College Essay Should Not be like Halloween.

RESOURCE HIGHLIGHT FROM FAIR OPPORTUNITY PROJECT

A Really Solid Approach to Make College Essays Less Terrifying

[This is an abridged excerpt from Chapter 8 of The Guide. It’s on our website, it’s free, and it’s how you slay those college applications.]

 

Hey you! Yeah, you! You can write an amazing college essay (or essays) and it only takes being yourself and a bit of time and thought. In reality, this is one of the most dreaded parts of the college application process, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, the writing process can be an intellectually and personally meaningful experience. It is an opportunity to reflect on how far you’ve come and on where you would like to go next.

The essay is the first opportunity for the admissions committee to hear from, and not hear about, you. That’s exciting.


Colleges don’t admit a list of accomplishments; they admit human beings. This is your chance to put the ‘human’ into the rest of your application and show admissions officers a bit more about yourself.

 

The college essay is used by admissions departments primarily for three reasons:

 

1. To evaluate students’ writing ability, with a specific focus on developing a logical and coherent essay structure with persuasive and well-written sentences.

2. To learn more about the student through the topic and content of the essay.

3. To see what the student would contribute to the college’s student body.

 

An excellent reference guide on the college essay is provided by Yale. We highly recommend checking it out for further advice.

The Topic

Selecting the essay topic is one of the hardest parts of writing a college essay. Try a few of these things:

1. Start by thinking about topics that you want to write about. These are most likely to represent some important aspect of yourself.

2. Don’t worry too much about what others are writing. There is no one way to write about, let alone to have, a meaningful experience, role, person or reflection.

3. Don’t be afraid to abandon a topic and find something that works even better.

4. Successful essays won’t necessarily add another bullet point demonstrating academic or extracurricular success. Some of the most compelling essays are written as stories, and might describe a relationship, a meaningful time of your life, or an interest that has had an impact on you.

 

The Tone

In addition to the topic, the tone is important to convey your ‘voice.’ Most good college essays do not read like dry, academic papers you might write for an 11th grade English literature class. Instead, the college essay is a chance for students to demonstrate to colleges that they can write, while presenting certain aspects of themselves through the essay. Successful college essays can be witty, clever, touching, or even solemn. In each case, be yourself and present your voice.
Be you!

 

The Process

The process of writing college essays can be unlike that of writing academic essays. See The Guide for more detailed tips from our student writers. In brief, here are some tips our student writers used to go about writing their essays.

1. Brainstorm. Starting the essay can be the hardest part. Brainstorming about your personality traits and the characteristics you’d like the essay to illuminate is a good place to begin.
2. Get words on paper. After you have an idea of what to write about, create an outline to organize your essay and let the words flow. Do this as soon as possible.
3. Keep it simple.
4. Put yourself in the college’s position. Ultimately, colleges want to accept students who are going to graduate and be successful in the world after graduation. It is vital for you to present yourself as someone that can think critically, who loves to learn, and has a passion for something.
5. Show don’t tell.
6. Balance the use of imagery.
7. Use the essay to say what your application can’t.
8. Stay humble.

 

The Review

“There is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting.” This applies tenfold to the college essay, and is why it is vitally important to start writing early. Once you think you’ve written everything, proofread it and proofread it again. Once you think your essay is ready to submit, work with a teacher, parent, or mentor to go through your essays to seek out the grammatical mistakes that you might have missed. Don’t have a committee write your essay, but do get a couple of trusted voices in the process to ensure that the essays represent you.    

Action Step: In Section Four of
The Guide, we’ve got actual essays that students used in their college applications. “Essays that Worked” begins on page 44. Read through the samples and you’ll see how you can develop the right approach in your own essays.

College Essay Infographic

New Fair Opp Resource! Here’s a special treat (no trick) just for all you newsletter readers: a downloadable poster with our college essay tips. You can download this poster from our website. It looks great on your wall in 8 1/2" x 11" or 11" x 17" sizes.

Fair Opp Faves: Tools We Like

Each issue of this newsletter we’ll highlight one cool tool or resource. Maybe it’s for finding the right college, covering college costs, or staying on top of the application process. We only share tools that we’ve checked out and that are free for students.
 

This newsletter, our Fair Opp Fave is one of our own! We’ve launched a new support button on our website. Got a burning college application question? Lace up, click on that button, and plug it into the pop-up box. You’ll get a response in a jiffy.

Support button on website

 

And now in the financial aid corner….

Financial aid brings the cost of college down but it’s not just one thing. It can be a grant, an offer for work-study funds, a loan, a scholarship. It gets more complicated, because each of these categories include different kinds.

This issue, let’s focus on scholarships.

You want scholarships, right? Lots of them! Because a scholarship is a kind of money gift—that much less that you have to pay. Some scholarships are awarded by your high school or—more often—the college where you commit to attend. These should be the first places you look for scholarships.

We’re going to talk about the scholarships that you can find on scholarship websites. These may be offered by businesses, or corporations, or foundations, or clubs. You can use them wherever you attend college unless their rules say otherwise. Is there a
scholarship for tall people? No tall tale here—yes! Why would someone award an Asparagus Club scholarship? Maybe to be first on the alphabetical list?
 

The point is that there are way more scholarships than you have time to apply for. Make a plan and a list BEFORE you start plugging away at the application form and you’ll save yourself A LOT of time and repeat effort. Many scholarships ask for the same things.

Here are common items you’ll need.

  • Save every essay you write in your own file where you can find it quickly. You can reuse all or parts for different applications. That college essay we talked about above? Save it for scholarship applications!
  • A copy of your high school transcript
  • Letters of recommendation (from teachers or non-relative adults)
  • A copy of your ACT or SAT scores.
 

Scholarships take time to apply for. You won’t win all of them. Make a plan and you’ll knock some applications out. That’ll feel like a win! Schedule time in your week, every week, to find a few and apply for them. Because they take time and some effort, the competition for some scholarships isn’t as big as you’d think.
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” --Wayne Gretzky

 

Action Step: Take a look at Chapters 12 and 13 in The Guide, where we lay out more details on financial aid and on finding scholarships. Are you a Tweeter ? Search #scholarship for new announcements and upcoming deadlines.  In our next newsletter, we’ll dig deep with one of our favorite scholarship search tools, Going Merry.

What’s Your Question?

Send us your questions and we’ll respond to them here!
 

“What if I want to go to an art school?”-Lucia P.


Hi Lucia! Art must be your favorite class, right? You’re not thinking art school because it sounds fluffy and easy, right?

Art school is hard work. But it can be an amazing experience.

This isn’t the choice you make if you don’t like the idea of spending long hours outside of class time on art projects. Being an art school student is really like a way of life and not just some casual hobby.  What we group together as “Art school” are many different kinds of institutions and with many different kinds of environments, students, and expectations.

Art school is a more specialized path after high school so it’s important to reach out to schools that you’re interested in to find out what they offer and what you need to apply. In most cases, you will need a portfolio and this takes time to build. Do some research on costs and aid, because art supplies and materials can become expensive. Find out how many students graduate, and what kinds of professions graduates enter. You might find graphic designers, digital animators, costume or even fashion design as well as painters and art gallery directors. An art school education can offer preparation for these kinds of careers and more. 

Remember that you can also study art at two year and four year colleges. Again, do your website research and then talk to these different programs to be sure you understand what they offer. 

College Knowledge Quiz!
Calendar dates for 2018

Upcoming Dates to Know


Oct. : The FAFSA 2019-20 application is now open. Here’s a great checklist.

Nov. 1-15: Early Action and/or Early Decision deadlines; confirm with colleges.

Nov. 2: Regular registration deadline for ACT test on 12/8/18.

Nov. 3: SAT test date

Nov. 12-16: Virginia College Application Week

Nov. 19: Late registration deadline for ACT test on 12/8/18.

Dec. 8: ACT test date

Ongoing: Free FAFSA completion workshops throughout Illinois.

Ongoing: College fairs offered in cities nationwide; dates and locations here.

 

Have a date you want us to include? Let us know!

In Your Region

 

Here’s a good way that you can reduce your college costs, based on your region:

 

Most states participate in regional discount programs. And that means? If you live in the south, a neighboring state may offer you the “in state” tuition at their public colleges instead of charging you the out-of-state tuition.

There’s also a midwestern, a western, and a New England region. Sometimes it’s called a “reciprocity program” or a “tuition exchange program.” It can mean that you pay A LOT less for tuition. Out-of-state tuition is often two or three times the cost of the in-state tuition, so the discount from one of these programs adds up to a lot of savings!

The best way to learn about what options you have in your region is to look at this detailed list on the NASFAA website. (NASFAA is the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and they have good, trustworthy information.)
 

If you’ve got regional tips or tools, share the wealth! Send your items to newsletter@fairopportunityproject.org and we’ll include them here.

Three high school students guide themselves--and their classmates--through the college admissions process. It's a powerful film worth watching!
Your donation to Fair Opportunity Project will allow us to reach more students with free resources about college admissions and financial aid.
Donate

That’s it for this issue! Thanks for reading. More tips and tools in our November issue. You’d make us even happier by sharing this newsletter. It’s all about giving and getting a Fair Opportunity.

 

Did someone forward this email to you? Want to offer this newsletter to your students & families? Be sure to subscribe!

Copyright © 2018 Fair Opportunity Project. All rights reserved.


Our mailing address is:
821 E. Washington Ave., Suite 200G
Madison, WI 53703

You are receiving this newsletter because of your interest in Fair Opportunity Project.
We’re pumped that you’ve subscribed and so sad if you decide to unsubscribe from this list.
 






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We believe in human potential, opportunity, and the ability to succeed.
We are student-founded, student-led, and dedicated to empowering students to access and afford college.

This is The Opportunity: A College Access Newsletter.

It features tools, tips, and advice from our own experiences and also the best college access tools we've found.

Issue Four: October 17, 2018
Issue Theme: Finding the Right College (Part Two). How to make a college list and then understanding the true cost of college.

RESOURCE HIGHLIGHT FROM FAIR OPPORTUNITY PROJECT

Making that College List


Remember Goldilocks? I know, it’s probably been a few years since you’ve gotten away with those picture books in school. She’s the one who kept looking for the chairs, the porridge, the bed that was “just right.” You see, Goldilocks was faced with options. These options were fine options for the three bears in the cute house she wandered into, but Goldilocks had to think about the option that was right for her.
 

 

Yes, you’re looking at more than three college options out there. In the last newsletter we walked you through thinking about what matters to you—that’s what should be on your college list. The fancy college word for this is “fit.” You’re going to spend a lot of hours at this campus so it’s got to feel “just right.”

So, picture this profile of a college, and try to be specific about what is important. Maybe it’s about 5,000 students in a warm part of the country with amazing outdoor activities and environmental science study options.

Or something completely different.

Take that list of college characteristics and now match that up with what kind of student that college is looking for. What kind of SAT/ACT scores or Grade Point Average does an accepted student typically have at that college? What is the college’s acceptance rate?

Here’s a good way to find that information: on the college home page or even from Google, search “class profile,” or “admitted student profile.” Don’t let this list of numbers scare you off! These profiles don’t mean that you need to fit within every single range of numbers. Most colleges look at many different qualities or factors when they make their admissions decisions.

We’ve found that
College Board’s College Search tool is pretty helpful for plugging in your priorities and getting the colleges that meet those priorities.

The college profile will help you figure out what is a “safety, match, or reach” school. Your college list should include at least a few of each, and don’t include a college on that list that you wouldn’t be satisfied to attend.

Chapters 4 and 5 in The Guide offer some great tips on building and then managing that college list. You’re going to have a lot of deadlines! Now’s the time to get that adulting going. Spreadsheets and checklists are your friend.

 

Action step: We know you know how to use Google sheets. Or Excel. List your colleges in the left-hand column and then make columns for every deadline from their application webpage. Here’s our not-so-pretty but really practical example from our Guide.

Fair Opp Faves: Tools We Like

Each issue of this newsletter we’ll highlight one cool tool or resource. Maybe it’s for finding the right college, covering college costs, or staying on top of the application process. We only share tools that we’ve checked out and that are free for students.


We checked out Edmit. It’s a website where you can get good information about what colleges are likely to cost based on your particular academic background and financial situation. It’s quick and it’s free.

And now in the financial aid corner….

 

When Comparing Colleges, Understand Their True Cost

 From our guest contributor,  Sabrina Manville.

Think back to the last big purchase you made. Maybe it was a PS4 (or you’ve started putting money away for the soon-to-launch PS5). Or perhaps it was a new pair of sneakers, a goose down jacket, or a set of custom-color headphones. Whatever you purchased, we’re guessing you didn’t just run out and buy it: If you’re like us, you did some research into who had the best price for the best quality item you wanted to get. You looked both online and in store, and compared offers to choose which place would best serve you and your budget.
 

When it comes to choosing a college, the process isn’t so different from other big purchases.

Think about it: You’ll want to compare offers (e.g., academics and advising, campus culture and extracurriculars, internship opportunities) and price (e.g., cost to attend) across multiple colleges to determine which school will best serve you. You’ll want to take a longer view (a four- or five-year view, to be exact) and anticipate how the college will continue to serve your needs—and how costs will go up—over that time. But by approaching the college decision like an informed consumer, you’ll be in good shape to select a school that will fit you, both academically and financially.

 

Unlike other big purchases, however, determining the true cost of college has a lot of factors to consider—and those factors aren’t always easy to understand.

That’s where we come in!
Let’s go over three key areas that can help you figure out what a college really costs.

 

1. Understand Affordability

 

What makes a college affordable? The answer will be different for every family, based on your income, savings, and financial aid awards, but essentially an affordable college is one that will enable you to comfortably make payments both short- and long-term: It’ll be covered by what you’ve budgeted and received in financial aid now and will have manageable monthly student loan payments post-graduation.

 

When crunching the numbers, look at the college’s sticker price (its published cost to attend) compared to a college’s net price (the college’s sticker price minus your financial aid award). Consider the net price over all four years of college, not just during your freshman year, and anticipate that the cost will go up slightly every year you’re enrolled.

 

The goal is to find a school that your savings will cover and/or will give you ample “free money” (e.g., scholarships and grants) and minimize the total amount of student loans you have to take out.

 

Of course, many of us have student loan debt—but how can you determine what’s reasonable and what might be too much? To keep student loans in check, it’s good to keep the following three rules in mind:

 
  • Don’t borrow more than your anticipated salary your first year out of college. If you think your first job will pay $55,000, don’t take out more than $55,000 total in student loans.

  • Stay on top of your monthly student loan payments after graduation by capping your payment at 8% of your gross monthly income. So if your monthly income is $4,500, your student loan payment should be no more than $360.

  • Aim to pay off your loans in a reasonable time frame: the portion of your discretionary income that goes toward student loans should be limited to 20%.

 

Use these guidelines when comparing college costs to narrow down the schools that will be affordable for you.

 

2. Understand Return on Investment (ROI)

 

Let’s say you’ve been offered a full ride to small regional college—a mid-ranked school in a rural area. You’ve also been accepted to a well-ranked city college, near several employers that offer internships, but you’ll have to take out some student loan debt in order to attend. Both colleges have excellent academic programs in your anticipated major, but access to networking and career opportunities are distinctly different.

 

In this scenario, you don’t want to just consider a college’s affordability, but also return on investment (ROI). Will a more expensive college that has better career prospects be a better choice? Only you can make this call, but take a critical look at each school’s academic advisors and career services, relationships with local and national employers, internship opportunities, and professional alumni networks when comparing colleges. You may find, in this case, that a less affordable college may result in higher earnings down the line—offsetting that initial expense.

 

3. Understand Value

 

Did you know there are more than 5,000 colleges across the United States? Chances are you’ve only heard of a couple hundred, if that. With so many choices, odds are you’ll be able to find multiple colleges that will provide a quality education and be a good fit for you—even if you’ve never heard of them prior to your research. Many schools can provide a good value, so the consumer research is less about getting into that name-brand school, but instead finding those schools that match your academic and career goals and your financial profile.

 

Look for schools that want students like you and are willing to pay scholarships and grants to get you on campus. As you delve in, keep your assumptions at bay: You may find that a private college will be more affordable than a public institution (especially if you’re out of state). You may discover a new-to-you college that offers generous scholarships to students just like you. And you may learn that some colleges are open to financial aid appeals—which could turn a previously unaffordable college into an affordable one.

 

So as you start your college research and application process, remember affordability, ROI, and value. By placing an importance on college cost in the decision-making process—and by understanding how you can determine a college’s true cost—you’ll be well prepared to select a college that’s both a good financial and academic fit.

 

Action Step: Now that you have these practical tips, make your list of affordable and high value colleges. Edmit is an easy-to-use, free tool that helps you get a complete understanding of the true cost and value of different colleges.  → Let’s Go!

 

What’s Your Question?

Send us your questions and we’ll respond to them here!
 

“Just what is a liberal arts college?”-Jacob R.

Here’s a question back at 'ya, Jacob: is chemistry part of the liberal arts? Maybe you’ve heard about STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Are these subjects part of the liberal arts? And all you wanted was a straight answer. “Liberal arts” is a name that comes from Latin (yes, it’s that old) and includes subjects like literature or philosophy or history. It also includes sciences—like chemistry—and math, because these are subjects that have been valued going back centuries for understanding the world and civic life.


Liberal arts colleges are usually for undergraduates only and they are on the smaller side: around 2,000 students or less. They don’t usually offer subjects like business or engineering. They are more likely to be private and not public colleges. As a student at a liberal arts college, you will most likely be expected to take classes in all those different subject areas and not just in the subject that you want to major in. This goes back to that idea that a student needs a broad education before specializing in one subject. The liberal arts college is a kind of college you’re most likely to find in the United States and are mostly in the northeast. You’re seeing a lot of “mostly” and “usually” because liberal arts colleges have changed in different ways over the years and may offer subjects or learning opportunities that look very different.

 

Some people think that liberal arts colleges don’t offer a practical education or something that will get you a job. Google your favorite actor or even the CEO of a company you really admire and you might be surprised at what they studied in college. The most important thing you can do to set yourself up for a job is to go to a college where you can really plug in, do your best, and GRADUATE!

College Knowledge Quiz!

In Your Region 


 

Did you know that there are 238 College Promise programs across the nation? These are programs that offer tuition aid to state residents that may cover up to two or four years of college. This searchable database provides the most current and complete list of programs in each state along with each program's details and website.   

Calendar dates for 2018

Upcoming Dates to Know

Oct. 1: The FAFSA 2019-20 application opens. Here’s a great checklist.

Oct. 15-19: North Carolina college application fees waived; complete list here.

Oct. 24: Online late registration deadline for SAT test on 11/03/18.

Oct. 27: ACT test date

Nov. 1-15: Early Action and/or Early Decision deadlines; confirm with colleges.

Nov. 2: Regular registration deadline for ACT test on 12/8/18.

Nov. 3: SAT test date

Nov. 12-16: Virginia College Application Week

Nov. 19: Late registration deadline for ACT test on 12/8/18.

Dec. 8: ACT test date

Ongoing: Free FAFSA completion workshops throughout Illinois.

Ongoing: College fairs offered in cities nationwide; dates and locations here.

 

Have a date you want us to include? Let us know!

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That’s it for this issue! Thanks for reading. More tips and tools in our next October issue. You’d make us even happier by sharing this newsletter. It’s all about giving and getting a Fair Opportunity.

 

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We believe in human potential, opportunity, and the ability to succeed.
We are student-founded, student-led, and dedicated to empowering students to access and afford college.

This is The Opportunity: A College Access Newsletter.

It features tools, tips, and advice from our own experiences and also the best college access tools we've found.

Issue Three: October 2, 2018
Issue Theme: Finding the Right College (Part One). It's all about you.  

RESOURCE HIGHLIGHT FROM FAIR OPPORTUNITY PROJECT
Fair Opportunity Project's Co-Founder Luke Heine talks about Finding the Right College.

Is it a Pizza Kind of Day?

 

Or salad. Or tacos. Sometimes that all-you-can-eat-buffet sounds amazing but maybe the single dish of ice cream does the trick.

 

We’re really sorry if you’re reading this right before lunch hour. Besides getting your stomach’s attention, what we’d like to like to point out is that colleges are like a kind of smorgasbord. A smorgasbord of some 5,300 different dishes and it’s not very likely that you’ll need to sample all of them. (Even if we did happen to make you really hungry just now.) You’ve got one plate, one appetite, so you’re going to think about what you want on that plate. What’s going to really hit the spot and not break the budget?

 

The point is, there are A LOT of colleges and universities in the U.S. — yes, really like 5,300 of them — and they’re not all the same. If you’re a junior or a senior in high school, you’re probably hearing from a lot of them right now.

Quick! How many different KINDS can you name?

 

"Two-year-four-year-technical-community-agricultural-military-engineering-art-music-liberal-arts-engineering-nursing-public-private-beauty-aeronautical-for-profit-nonprofit-residential-commuter…"

 

How many did you name? What did we leave out?


We could write through next Monday’s dinner hour about all the majors, the programs, the certificates, the degrees. [Promise, we won’t do that, but here’s the official list if you want to go down that rabbit hole.]

OK, we couldn’t resist a little trivia, but let’s move on.

 

Yep, there is absolutely this monster variety of colleges out there. Luckily, the best way to find the right college doesn’t start with that list, it starts with YOU. Shiny brochures aside, not every college is going to be equally amazing for you. So the first step in creating a college list is making a list of your interests and your priorities for life after high school.

 

Are you determined to live at home during college or are you itching to experience an entirely new area of the country? Those packed college football games can be loads of fun, but that might mean 100+ students in your Intro Bio class. What sports, clubs, work opportunities matter to you outside the classroom?

 

The point is to start the college search with your priority list in mind. Colleges come in different sizes, locations, and with different vibes and strengths. And you should know that some colleges do a much better job than others of connecting with their students and getting them to graduation. Don’t let some college ranking tell YOU what your dream college is.


College costs and your budget absolutely have to be part of this process. We’ll unpack what you need to know in an upcoming newsletter.



Action step: Take a look at chapter two in The Guide, where we outline some really good ways to think about what you want to find in a college. Watch our short video above and you’ll nail it.

Fair Opp Faves: Tools We Like

Each issue of this newsletter we’ll highlight one cool tool or resource. Maybe it’s for finding the right college, covering college costs, or staying on top of the application process. We only share tools that we’ve checked out and that are free for students.

 

For this issue, we’re going low-tech on our Fair Opp Fave. Take out the ol' pen and paper and write your personal responses to the college checklist that we outlined on pages 8-9 in the latest edition of The Guide. [Hint: this checklist asks what you care about. Think and write about the Academics; the Location; the College Size; Public/Private; Housing; Social Life; Food; Athletics; Extracurriculars; Finances.]

Hang onto this sheet because you’re going to need it to build that college list! [Stay tuned for our next issue, when we walk you through how to build that list.]

And now in the financial aid corner….


 

 

Who knows what the FAFSA is? [Bonus points if you know what all the letters stand for.]

 

Who loves the FAFSA? [crickets]

 

The FAFSA is an application for aid. It’s THE single most important thing you can do if you want to receive financial aid for college. And yet, two million students who could have—and should have—tackled the FAFSA just didn’t do it last year. $24 BILLION unclaimed college dollars. That’s crazy when you think about it.

 

We’re not asking you to love the FAFSA. We ARE asking you not to leave college money on the table.

 

The FAFSA had a special occasion this week, because it opened up on October 1st for students who are looking for financial aid for next school year: 2019-20. [That’s your cue.] Help FAFSA celebrate this special occasion and knock this one off your college to-do list right now. Seriously, all that college money goes to students who are first in line for it. Why would you miss out?

 

Here are some things that you CAN love about the FAFSA:

  • It’s the first step for getting a Pell Grant (doesn’t need to be repaid), and this can be a good chunk of money: the annual maximum award for a Pell Grant in the 2018-19 school year= $6,095
  • It’s free to complete [DON’T pay to submit the application.]
  • There’s a nifty mobile app now that you can use (see our Sept. 4 newsletter)
  • Dodge the most common mistakes with this list.
  • In many states, you can find free workshops with knowledgeable volunteers who can help you fill out the form. Ask your counselor or try searching “College Goal [your state]”
 

Action step: Set up your FSA ID on the FAFSA website and then keep it in a safe (and memorable) place—you will need this ID every year that you fill out the FAFSA. You can watch this video with really rousing music on how to create the FSA ID, or you can quietly read this tip sheet.

What’s Your Question?

Send us your questions and we’ll respond to them here!
 

“I’m just feeling overwhelmed by how many colleges there are. Where do I start?”-Zoe Y.

 

Yes, go ahead and start with an UGH. Seriously. This college application process seems WAY too complicated and stressful. Your news feed is probably highlighting all kinds of ominous tales of what can go wrong.

The good news?

The more you plan, the better this is going to go. You’re reading this newsletter, you’ve got all kinds of information and resources on our website: solid approach for a solid plan. Take a deep breath and read our article above on how to tackle this. You don’t roll out of bed and just run a marathon, right?  That would be crazy overwhelming. Not a healthy approach. We’ve got examples in our Guide of a much saner approach. A written, detailed, reasonable timeline with specific steps. You can do this!

In Your Region 

  

Here’s a very handy U.S. map of links to college aid programs in each state.

Yes, most of this aid goes to students who are attending a college or university in the state where they live, but you’ll find exceptions. These state-by-state websites are a great resource for finding state-based scholarships and grants for specific fields (like education, medicine, or dentistry).
You may find that you can qualify as a resident after just 12 months of living and working in that state but be sure to understand the requirements beforehand. Don’t forget about the tuition exchanges that we shared in our last newsletter!



If you’ve got regional tips or tools, share the wealth! Send your items to newsletter@fairopportunityproject.org and we’ll include them here.
Calendar dates for 2018

Upcoming Dates to Know

 

Oct. 1: The FAFSA application for the 2019-2020 academic year opens

Oct. 1: Begin requesting Letters of Recommendation, esp for Early Action or Early Decision applications.

Oct. 6: SAT test date

Oct. 10: PSAT/NMSQT test date in most locations

Oct. 13: Alternate PSAT/NMSQT test date.

Oct. 27: ACT test date

Nov. 1-15: Early Action and/or Early Decision deadlines; confirm with colleges.

Ongoing: College fairs offered in cities nationwide; dates and locations here.

 

Have a date you want us to include? Let us know!

Fair Opportunity Project official music video
Your donation to Fair Opportunity Project will allow us to reach more students with free resources about college admissions and financial aid.
Donate

That’s it for this issue! Thanks for reading. More tips and tools in our next October issue. You’d make us even happier by sharing this newsletter. It’s all about giving and getting a Fair Opportunity.

 

Did someone forward this email to you? Want to offer this newsletter to your students & families? Be sure to subscribe!

Copyright © 2018 Fair Opportunity Project. All rights reserved.
 






Fair Opportunity Project is a nonprofit that empowers student to access and afford college

We believe in human potential, opportunity, and the ability to succeed.

We are student-founded, student-led, and dedicated to changing the face of college application for every student in America.

ISSUE TWO: September 19, 2018

ISSUE THEME: MAKING THE MOST OF HIGH SCHOOL

This is The Opportunity: A College Access Newsletter. It features tools, tips, and advice from our own experiences and also the best college access tools we've found. We've got one goal in mind: empowering students to access and afford college.

 

RESOURCE HIGHLIGHT FROM FAIR OPPORTUNITY PROJECT

Making the Most of High School

Are you Round or Pointy?

 

We’re not trying to be rude. We also don’t believe students fit only one of these dimensions.

 

This is about the way you fill your days and how you might share that with a college. There’s that round side of you —as in well-rounded—doing all kinds of different things outside of classes. Basketball? Marching band? 4-H? Volunteering at your church? Bagging groceries on the weekend? Don’t hold back from sharing these things if they’re a key part of your hours outside of school. Colleges know that you have a lot of responsibilities and interests that don’t show up on your transcript. Let them know who you are and what’s important.

 

Then there’s that pointy approach. Maybe that kindergarten visit to the Humane Society is where it all started, and now you volunteer, coordinate a Dog Jog, break the Internet with your advocacy stories and shots. You’ve got a passion and it fires you up everyday.

 

“We just want students who live and die for homework” said no college admissions officer ever. Focus. Passion. Enthusiasm. Colleges want and need both the round and the pointy students—and students all along that amazing spectrum. We think you’ll like this framework for thinking about who you are and how you share that story.

 
 

About those hours in school….

 

No amount of roundness or pointiness will make up for a squishy class schedule or mediocre grades. Coasting through high school isn’t how you can coast into college. Challenge yourself (but don’t overwhelm yourself) and remember that what classes you need to graduate from high school may not be enough for getting into college.

 

Action step: Read The Guide’s detailed tips on how your extracurricular activities and academic performance play a role in the college admissions process. You need just a few minutes for our short student-to-student video modules that walk you through Making the Most of High School.

Screenshot of myStudentAid FAFSA app

Fair Opp Faves: Tools We Like

Each issue of this newsletter we’ll highlight one cool tool or resource. Maybe it’s for finding the right college, covering college costs, or staying on top of the application process. We share only tools that we’ve checked out.

 

Lights, Camera, Action!

Don’t you wish you could get beyond the glossy college campus photos? What is the campus vibe really like when you’re living the student life there? Campus visits are really important for knowing whether you fit in.

 

We think that CampusReel offers one affordable alternative. Students film short pieces on their dorm rooms, campus food, study spaces and so forth. You can see students other than the walking-backwards tour guide. Not every college is featured [yet].

And now in the financial aid corner….

 

Ten Things to Know about the PSAT/NMSQT

 
  • You don’t really need to know what all of those letters stand for.
  • It’s a test you take in your junior year/11th grade, but 10th graders may be able to take it as a practice round. Check with your school.
  • Taking this standardized test is the only way to be eligible for 8,600 college scholarships offered through the National Merit Scholarship Program and other special scholarships. (Special exceptions for illness or emergencies.)
  • It’s offered one time a year, in October: this year, it’s October 10 for most schools but the alternate date is October 13. Confirm the date with your school.
  • It’s only offered through your high school and you will need to register before the test date. Check with your counselor (soon!) on how to register.
  • Registering includes questions about your academic and college interests. You will be asked whether you want this information to be shared with the “Student Search Service.” This is how colleges and scholarships may find you—and contact you.
  • It’s a standardized test, and that means that not every student’s strengths are going to come shining through. Do not despair if this is you—there are many other ways to do that.
  • Taking the test doesn’t affect your school grades and is good practice for the SAT, a standardized test that many colleges require for admission.
  • The competition is stiff for becoming a finalist but it’s a pretty amazing thing to be able to call yourself a National Merit Scholar.
  • If you want to dig into the nitty gritty details, you can find them on the National Merit website at www.nationalmerit.org.
 

Action step: You can only take the official PSAT once as a qualifying test for the competition, but you can get lots of practice and tips at no charge on the Khan Academy website. Answer a few questions and see how you do!

What’s Your Question?

 
 

Send us your questions and we’ll respond to them here!

 

“How do I apply for a scholarship?”-Clio M.


Hi Clio! This may sound like bad voting advice, but here’s what you need to do for scholarships: apply EARLY and OFTEN. You may not get every scholarship you apply for, but you definitely won’t get a scholarship that you DON’T apply for.
 
Here’s what we recommend. First, make a resume: focus on the details, not the fancy layout.
 
Next, your high school and the colleges you’re applying to will offer some of your best options for scholarships. Get the lists and the deadlines BEFORE your senior year, if possible. Deadlines for the most generous college scholarships may be earlier than college application deadlines!
 
Stay organized. Set a realistic and steady goal—how many can you apply for every week? If you write an essay, save it and reuse it where you can.
 
Be sure to check out the complete steps that we recommend in The Guide and catch some advice in this short video module on our website.
Upcoming Dates to Know
 

Sept. 28: Registration Deadline for the Oct. 27 ACT test

Oct. 1: The FAFSA application opens for the 2019-2020 academic year

Oct. 6: SAT test date

Oct. 10: PSAT/NMSQT test date in most locations

Oct. 13: Alternate PSAT/NMSQT test date.

Oct. 27: ACT test date

Ongoing: College fairs offered in cities nationwide; dates and locations on the NACAC website here.

 

Have a date you want us to include? Let us know!

 
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FOP Music Video

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In Your Region

 

Colleges want your state’s students. The list of discounts and grants that are offered in one state to attract students in another state continues to grow. This means that public universities may offer out-of-state students the same, lower tuition as set for in-state residents. Private colleges don’t have in-state or out-of-state tuition pricing but some of them have started to match the tuition cost at their state’s public colleges.

 

Here is a detailed listing from NASFAA (National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators) of some of the main tuition exchange and reciprocity discount programs offered by region. If you have a specific college in mind, contact their financial aid office for the most specific information.

 
 
If you’ve got regional tips or tools, share the wealth! Send your items to newsletter@fairopportunityproject.org and we’ll include them here.
That’s it for this issue! Thanks for reading. More tips and tools in our October issue. You’d make us even happier by sharing this newsletter. It’s all about giving and getting a Fair Opportunity.

Your donation helps us bring resources and information to more students.

 
Donate
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