The Edge Our college admission blog

Transitioning To College – From High School All-Star To Freshman Rookie

by Admitster May 20, 2016


Here’s another great guest blog post from our friends over at NCSA Athletic Recruiting! What happens when you transition to college – and aren’t the best any more? 

Every high school student-athlete dreams of winning a state championship. One runner in Louisiana had much loftier expectations and she exceeded each one. Gabrielle Jennings, of First Baptist, who has been winning state titles since the fifth grade, just finished her career with a ridiculous 44 state championships!

If anyone can say “All I do is win”, we think it’s Gabrielle. Her resume is nearly flawless:

  • Eight cross country championships
  • Eight 1,600-meter outdoor championships
  • Eight 3,200-meter outdoor championships
  • Six 800-meter outdoor championships
  • Five 3,200-meter indoor championships
  • Three 1,600-meter indoor championships
  • Three 4×400-meter outdoor championships
  • Two 400-meter outdoor championships
  • One 800-meter indoor championships

After her final high school race, Jennings was overcome with emotion at the end of an era, telling the Times-Picayune:

I’ve been doing this for eight years and it’s bittersweet. At a time like this I’ve made so many friends and this is my childhood. I grew up doing this. This is literally my life. A part of my childhood is gone tonight. It’s all in my memories. I have graduation tomorrow, so it’s going to be a real emotional weekend. I have a lot of family and friends in right now. I just know that I have a lot of great support behind me and I can’t wait for bigger things to come. I’m ready to move on at the same time.

Jennings is set to attend Furman University next year where she’ll make the transition from superstar to freshman athlete. The transition to college can be a humbling experience for student-athletes, especially for someone as decorated as Jennings. For the first time in years, she is likely not going to be the fastest runner on her team — much less in her conference.

Many student-athletes struggle with no longer being the top-dog. Rather than get frustrated with this big change, they must work even harder in the weight room and at practice to compete against better competition. Sports are about dealing with adversity and rising to meet challenges. No matter which obstacles lie ahead, don’t worry, you will be ready. You have been preparing your whole life for this opportunity!

And if you’re still worried about stepping up your game at the next level, check out what other NCSA recruits have said about their first year on campus. These comments come from several NCSA basketball athletes who were getting ready for their first college basketball season:

“So far things are going fine. Pre-season practices started 10 days ago and it looks like I’ll have a pretty good chance to play as a freshman.”

NYU is great! I’ve had a very smooth transition thus far. Pre-season workouts have been very challenging, but manageable. I couldn’t be happier here. I absolutely love my team and the school. I can’t wait for the real season to start!”

“College life I going well so far. It definitely is a huge step up from high school but I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. Conditioning has been really tough but I know it will help me in the long run. All of my teammates are really cool we all hang out with each other and look after one another.”

“Everything has been going fine since I began class here at Austin College. We have 6am conditioning three times a week and we have an open gym where the basketball team runs 5-on-5 three times a week.”

“I will say that college is totally different from high school. But I love it; still adjusting though. I have actually been red-shirted due to a knee injury. Conditioning is brutal but awesome!”

“Conditioning has been very hard – they are pushing us to our breaking point. There is a bunch of stories, I have a great roommate, who I found out is also with NCSA.”

“Hey, school is great, we just finished conditioning today. We have been conditioning for about three weeks now. We lift and do plyos from 6:30 to 8:00 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays we play for a couple of hours and then we have to shoot two days a week on top of that. It’s really tough but I’m seeing serious gains and I think the team is looking really good. I’m extremely happy with how everything is going.”

“Everything is going great so far. Conditioning is obviously pretty tough, but I love it. I’m having fun!”

“So far college has been good. It was a little different at first but I’m getting used to it. Conditioning is going well. I don’t think I have ever ran this much in my life, but I like it because I know I’m going to be in shape.”

“College has been great. Conditioning is going great as well. I’m almost over my homesickness and starting to get into the groove of college life.”

“I have been a little busy out here. But I had a pretty smooth transition from high school, and college is great. Conditioning is a little harder than I expected it to be at the beginning, but I’m getting used to it.”



Remember, NCSA Athletic Recruiting can help you prepare for the transition to college, ensuring that it’s not a shock when you arrive. The best way to get started is with a recruiting profile!

How To Get A Great Letter of Recommendation

by Admitster May 5, 2016


Today’s guest blog post is contributed by ScholarPrep! The organization brings students, parents, and counselors together to prepare for the college and scholarship application process. The ScholarPrep Organizer saves time and money by encouraging students to start planning for their future now, helping them to set goals, organize information, and track their progress.

Most scholarship applications require a letter of recommendation, and some will require as many as three! The individuals you will ask to write these letters are called your references. Be aware that securing a great letter of recommendation takes a little planning on your part.

Here are 8 tips to keep in mind:

1. Start thinking early about who could write you a good letter of recommendation. Common examples include teachers, your principal, school counselors, employers, community members, and church leaders. Anyone can act as a reference for you, as long as they are NOT related to you. Did you know that teachers are the most common required authors of recommendation letters? It is important to build relationships with your teachers early to ensure that they will be willing and able to write you a good letter of recommendation.

2. For certain scholarships, some people will serve as better references than others. If you’re applying for a community service-focused scholarship, for instance, it would benefit you to get letters of recommendation from individuals who have interacted with you in this capacity. However, if you are applying for a math scholarship, you will want to ask people who can attest to your mathematical abilities.

3. If you are given a copy of your recommendation letter, be sure to make copies for yourself and also to save a digital version. These saved letters can be used in situations that do not require the recommendation to come directly from the author. Keep in mind, however, that original, signed letters may carry more weight than electronic or copied letters.

4. Come up with a diverse list of potential references, for instance, not a list comprised only of teachers.

5. Provide your recommender with a copy of your resume. Even though you should be choosing people who know you well, it is helpful to remind them of your activities and accomplishments. This will make it easier for them to talk about specific examples of your skills and experience, ensuring a more personal letter. You should also tell them specifically what the recommendation is for, so they can highlight the reasons why you should be chosen.

6. If there are special requirements for the letter, these will be provided to you. Make sure you read them carefully. For example, some committees require that:

  • a survey be completed by your recommender, which should then be submitted along with his/her letter;
  • the letter to be printed on official letterhead;
  • the letter be sealed, and then signed across the seal; and/or that
  • the letter to be mailed to them directly from the author.

7. It is a nice gesture to provide your recommender with all the materials that they will need to deliver your recommendation. For example, if the author is instructed to mail the letter directly to the scholarship committee, make sure to provide a stamp and envelope, unless it must be sent in an official envelope. Once again, be sure to read all of the directions!

8. Send a thank you note to everyone who wrote recommendation on your behalf. Send another thank you note if you receive the scholarship, letting the recommender know your happy news and mentioning your appreciation for the role they played in you receiving the award.



Quick Tips:

  • Start early to build relationships with individuals who you may use as references.
  • Come up with a list of potential references.
  • Choose people who know you well, as most applications will ask how long you have known each other.
  • Make sure your references are strong writers and that they are comfortable writing letters of recommendation.
  • Ask well in advance of submission deadlines for letters of recommendation. Not only is this courteous, but it also ensures that they will have plenty of time to complete the letter before it is due.
  • Don’t expect to be able to read the recommendation before it is submitted. Rather, choose your references wisely because many letters must be sealed!
  • Follow the specific requirements given on each application.
  • Provide your reference writer with your resume and any other information and materials they will need.
  • Thank your references, and send another thank you if/when you receive the scholarship.

Do you have other tips? Tell us in the comments below how you got a great letter of recommendation! Do you need ideas on who you could ask to write you a letter? Ask us!

5 Genius Ways To Maximize College Financial Aid

by Admitster April 14, 2016


American Honors

This post first appeared on the American Honors blog. American Honors is a selective honors program offered at community colleges across the country. They help students find, prepare for, and transfer to their best-fit schools to finish their four-year degrees.

To visit their website, click here

Paying for a college education is increasingly an expensive endeavor. With sticker prices of top schools soaring over $200,000, figuring out how to pay for college is more important than ever.

The good news: there are some clever ways you can maximize your financial aid. Here are the five top ways to make the most of financial aid.

To be clear, none of this is professional legal, tax, or financial advice. You should always consult a professional adviser before you make decisions about your personal situation.

1. File FAFSA Early

Believe it or not, one of the best ways to maximize your financial aid package is to file your FAFSA  as early as possible. This is because some schools, and now seven states – Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, and Washington – award aid money on a first-come, first-serve basis until funds are depleted. If you’re applying in select locations, failing to file your FAFSA early can literally be a costly mistake. In general, it’s good practice to file in January when registration opens. To learn more about how best to be prepared for the FAFSA, click here!

2. Move the Money

collegefund3Call your parents over for this one. Before you begin the financial aid process, consider moving the aspiring student’s assets over to the parents’ personal accounts. Here’s why: When the Department of Education reviews your income, assets and family information, it will come up with a figure known as your EFC, or Expected Family Contribution. The EFC is how much money you’re supposed to be able to pay toward college expenses, and the college you attend will use that EFC figure to determine how much aid you get.

“Assets belonging to the student are assessed at a 20% rate. Parents’ assets are assessed at 5.65%.”

Under current financial aid formulas, your EFC is higher when there are assets specifically in the student’s name. That’s because all assets belonging to the student are assessed at a 20% rate, but parents’ assets are assessed at 5.65%. For example, for every $10,000 of the student’s assets, your EFC goes up by 20% ($2,000). For every $10,000 in parents’ assets, however, your EFC goes up by 5.65% ($565).

By strategically positioning your family funds, and keeping large assets out of the student’s name, you can increase your eligibility for thousands of dollars in additional college financial aid. Moving over the funds effectively shields it from being considered the teen’s asset while retaining a parent’s ability to put it towards college.

3. Use Cash to Pay Down Debt

Having debt like credit cards or car loans doesn’t reduce your eligibility for financial aid, but having cash does.

“Pay down debt and make big purchases before filing the FAFSA.” 

If you have a lot of savings, consider spending some of that savings to pay off your debt. This has the primary advantage of reducing your EFC, the asset base by which your need is assessed. As with any financial plan, however, be sure to consult with a financial adviser!

4. Don’t Overstate Your Assets

When you’re filing your FAFSA, pay very close attention to every question that asks about your assets and income. This is important, as you are legally allowed to exclude or omit certain income sources and various assets that you may own. For example, you don’t need to report any of the following as assets:

  1. Your primary residence
  2. Your car
  3. A boat you may own or furniture in your home
  4. Untaxed Social Security as income

Mistakenly reporting these items on your FAFSA can unwittingly increase your EFC, thereby slashing your college financial aid.

5. Appeal Your Financial Aid Package

You got in to your dream school but you received a disappointing financial aid package. It’s a gut-wrenching scenario, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the line. You can appeal and even negotiate your financial aid package. Specifically, if you had a substantial change to your financial situation or if other schools have awarded you wildly different aid packages, it may be worth contacting the financial aid office at your top-choice school.

Remember, always remain grateful and courteous, while making a strong case for yourself. Be prepared to provide supplemental documentation supporting your claim, as well as any other information requested by the school.

Bonus Tip: Make College Cost Less!

This one is a little sneaky. Any aid you receive can go a lot further at a school that is more affordable.

A smart way to do this is to start college at a two-year community college, and then transfer after two years. This is especially helpful when your financial aid doesn’t quite cover all the costs you need for four years — it might just be enough for your final two years at that expensive dream school. Plus, if you do well during your first two years, you’ll be in a better position to fill the gap with scholarships when it comes time to transfer!

Guest Post

Three Traits That Make You An Ideal Recruit To College Coaches

by Admitster March 30, 2016


Here’s another great guest blog post from our friends over at NCSA Athletic Recruiting!

When we talk about finding the college that’s the right fit for you, we often discuss three important areas: the academic fit, the athletic fit, and the social fit. Conversely, we need to remember that coaches are also looking at whether you are an ideal recruit for their program. This is because at the same time that coaches are looking for student-athletes who will be the right fit — those who will say yes to an offer to join their roster — they’re also looking for recruits who say no, whether it’s explicitly, in an email or a phone call, or implicitly.

Here are some ways to be an ideal recruit, one who doesn’t unintentionally signal no to a coach.

An ideal recruit is honest about the right fit.

That “right fit” question is a two-way street. Are you the right kind of player for the program? Are you the right size for your position? Do you race at the speeds that the team requires?

At the same time, is the college/university right for you? Are you going to benefit from the school’s academics? Is the campus social scene a place where you can see yourself fitting in? Furthermore, if you’re from Wisconsin and you know that you don’t want to have to fly back and forth from home to college, talking to coaches on one of the coasts probably won’t serve you well in terms “best fit”, no matter how great a program the coach offers.

An ideal recruit is respectful in his/her communication with college coaches.

Depending on where you are in the recruiting process, you might be receiving questionnaires, form letters, e-mails, or even phone calls from coaches. Often there are strict rules that govern when a college coach is able to communicate with student-athletes.

The important thing for you to know is that no matter how far along you are in the recruiting process, being respectful to college coaches, and replying in a timely fashion to any type of communication you receive, is paramount.

Again, some coaches are searching for the “no”. Many student-athletes are intimidated by the prospect of saying no to a college coach, which makes a lot of sense given that a coach is someone who student-athletes, in general, deeply respect and want to impress. You should remember, however, that if a college coach has to hunt you down because you’re not being respectful in your communication or being proactive in reaching out to him/her, then your chances of being recruited by that coach are slim. In all likelihood, there are more ideal recruits who are signalling a deeper interest in that program than you are!

So, if you want to keep a door open (and we recommend that you never burn bridges with any college coaches!) then communicate clearly with coaches and behave in a manner that is respectful.

An ideal recruit is courageous and is a leader.

Coach Sue Enquist tells us that the number one trait coaches want to see in their athletes is courage: the courage to get to practice early, to work harder than your teammates while you’re there, and to stay late when you need to.



The courageous student-athlete is one who knows what the right thing to do is for him/herself, but is also able to convince/show peers what the right thing to do is:

“If you want to separate yourself in the recruiting process, start right now practicing your courage. It’s not easy. It’s so much easier in high school to go with the flow, fit right in. Just take little baby steps to work on your courage. Step out, step up, and be the one that others will follow.”

Be honest, be respectful, be courageous — and you’ll be more like the ideal recruit than ever before.

We’d love to chat with you about what kind of schools will think you’re the ideal recruit for their rosters. The best way to get started is with a recruiting profile!

Enough With College Bashing

by Admitster March 17, 2016


We are fortunate to have as our guest blogger today Debra Isaacs Schafer, a work/life consultant and special education adviser who works nationwide with parents of children from elementary school through college to help them effectively advocate for their children’s needs in school. She is the CEO and Founder of Education Navigation, LLC, which provides special education services as a company benefit for working parents who have children, teens, and young adults with autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, learning disabilities, and mental health issues. She also coaches high school students and their parents on the college preparation process and provides assistance to college students in need of accommodations and other supports. You can reach her at:Debra      @EdNavigation      

Is anyone else getting a bit tired of the increasing level of college bashing going on lately?

Full disclosure: I support college and the students striving for it, struggling to stay in it, and those who successfully complete their degrees.

This being said, I also recognize that college isn’t for every high school student and that some do pursue other paths. Yet the message that seems to be coming through at an increasingly loud volume today is that a college degree isn’t necessary for a career, for financial success (and I’m not talking about the 19-year-olds who find themselves moving quickly to an IPO for the tech firm they started in their dorms), or even for one’s own sense of accomplishment. Like every institution, there will be different perspectives depending upon the experiences of those providing them. While I support taking all viewpoints into consideration, there’s a big difference between sharing thoughts and basically trashing the institution entirely.

There’s no question about it – college has reached a tipping point when it comes to costs and access, and there is also much debate as to whether our high schools are effectively preparing our children for college. Yet to state or infer that college has long overstayed its welcome or to convey to young people that it isn’t worth their time or investment (defined many ways), discouraging them from pursuing the goal of a college education, is quite another thing entirely.

IvyI know few parents who, in their children’s earliest years, did not already have the hope for college on the horizon, and many started stashing away what cash they could while their children were just learning to read. It mattered little whether it was community college or a four-year university, or whether enrollment took place a few short months after high school graduation or after a gap year. College has been — and continues to be — a goal shared by millions of parents and their children. And why shouldn’t it be?

Let’s be honest…no parent (including this one) wants to see their child in debt that they’ll be struggling to pay down until they reach retirement. Few parents send their children to college expecting four years of binge drinking and failing grades. And most parents raise their children to understand that anything worth achieving requires hard work and sacrifice. Yet the choir seems to be singing the tune that college isn’t worth any of it.

Here’s how I see it. College is the time in a young person’s life when they’re encouraged to explore new areas, to challenge their assumptions, to engage in discussions that stretch their thinking, and to collaborate with people — professors and students alike — who expand their horizons. It’s a time when learning occurs in ways that exposes young people to experiences that form the foundation for what comes next…life. And it’s the time when children grow into young adults in ways that cannot be measured by a paycheck.

There’s no question that college isn’t for everyone. Many successful people do well without it and many make other choices. A man I worked with many years ago personified success — several homes, foreign cars, vast travel, philanthropic efforts, etc. Late one afternoon, he shared with me his greatest regret in life: Not attending college. No matter his achievements, and there were many, the fact that he didn’t attend college was the thing that overshadowed all else.

Every person has a different life path. College has been and remains one aspired to and chosen by many. Of course the “real life” issues of cost and expansion of access require our immediate attention, but losing sight of the things that are more difficult to measure and quantify (e.g. that college prepares young people to enter and sustain themselves in an educated, diverse, capable, flexible, and collaborative society) is doing them a terrible disservice.

It’s true that not all goals are achievable. Yet some goals and the experiences that come with achieving them frame and remain with us forever. The people we become — our jobs, titles, and income — may help to define us well into adulthood, yet college sets the tone for what comes next. Few other things in life have the same lasting power.

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