Should My Student Attend a Pay To Play Conference at a College

December 2, 2016

ON THE PROGRAM Leadership conferees visited the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial last November. CreditTyrone Turner for The New York Times

The offer that arrived in Emily Wharton’s mailbox looked and sounded more like an Academy Award than a sales pitch. In fancy script, on weighty card stock adorned by a giant gold seal, the letter congratulated Ms. Wharton for the honor of being nominated to attend the National Young Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C. It counted 366 members of the United States Congress on its honorary Congressional board of advisers. It told her that she would represent the state of New York and promised a “lifetime advantage” and “valuable addition” to her résumé. It used words like “elite,” “distinguished,” “select.”

Ms. Wharton, a junior at Mamaroneck High School in Westchester County, N.Y., tingled with pride on reading it. “It makes you feel very unique and gifted,” she says.

The Whartons did not respond to the invitation. Still, Emily’s mother, Philippa, received an electronic elbow in the ribs every few days: more than a dozen e-mail messages from the group’s managing director of education, reminding her of enrollment deadlines and offering testimonials from participants and fund-raising tips.

The company that organized the conference, a direct-mail powerhouse called the Congressional Youth Leadership Council, runs an alphabet soup of such conferences that it says are attended by 50,000 students a year. It solicits recommendations from teachers and alumni of previous conferences, and it culls names from mailing lists, for which the council paid $263,000 in 2006 alone, according to its last filing with the Internal Revenue Service, before it gave up its nonprofit status.

“I like to build my kids up, but on real accomplishments,” she says. “It’s just too much. Instead of coming right out and saying, ‘We organize these wonderful trips to Washington, and you can meet all these other kids who are interested in government and motivated,’ they play up the honor angle. It’s like a marketing scam.”

In fact, the conferences, like many on offer, manage to attract engaged students from around the country. For the Washington gatherings, “scholars” (as conference-goers are called) bunk at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center, a brick Georgian flanked by a dining hall and meeting rooms, just outside the city. During their parent-free trip, students role-play political situations, attend workshops, hear speakers and sightsee, and it culminates in a dinner and dance at a local hotel. The young participants generally give the trips positive reviews: surveys by the council show close to 97 percent satisfaction, and many conferees later recommend friends.

But the big promises in its mailings and the sheer volume of its business have gotten the company into trouble in the last few months. At least one lawsuit has been filed over its conference during the inauguration, and in February, after nearly 25 years in operation, it lost its Better Business Bureau accreditation.

At least 15,000 students, many of them alumni, signed up for the event before knowing the election’s outcome. The invitation promised they would “share firsthand the excitement and ceremony of the inauguration of the president and vice president of the United States.” Students did hear marquee speakers — Al Gore and Colin L. Powell — but many have complained they were left largely on their own during the inauguration and parade, to which they thought they had special viewing, and were shut out of crowded panels and other events.

“You’re told it’s very selective, it wasn’t at all,” says Rasheed Hamdan, a graduate of American Military University. He flew in from Baja California Sur, Mexico, for the conference, the first he had ever attended. He had special business cards printed up and bought a tuxedo for an advertised black-tie gala, which turned out not to be formal or an official ball but, he says, a “glorified prom night.”

Parents paid $2,300 to $3,000 for students to attend the four-day program, a total of more than $40 million.

Malcolm Evans, a sophomore at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, left the conference early in frustration. “For that much money, and the way the stuff was worded, it seemed like you would have a much more personal and exclusive experience,” he says. To view the inauguration, he had to trek out at 2 a.m. to stake a spot at a lamppost along Pennsylvania Avenue.

The lawsuit was filed in New York by a father who says his 12-year-old daughter attended the conference but ended up watching the swearing-in on television.

Richard Rossi, a co-founder of the council and the company that owns it, Envision EMI, says there was a great demand to attend the conference, and with a staff of nearly 1,000 on hand, he believed that the company was well prepared. The logistical challenges proved overwhelming, though. “We were operating in almost a war zone, literally a presidential state of emergency,” he says. “There were a lot of things going on that were inconveniencing even V.I.P.’s.”

Still, he adds, the majority of participants “had a positive to transformational experience.”

Acknowledging responsibility, the company has set aside discount vouchers for future conferences and $1 million for refunds. It hired a former United States attorney general, Benjamin R. Civiletti, to study the events and recommend changes, and it is setting up a parents advisory board.

The company will not say how many letters it sends to parents and to students, nor has it responded to repeated questions about its marketing approach.

How is receiving an invitation an honor?

“These are students who are high-achieving leaders within their peer group, and they thrive on our programs, which are demanding and intensive,” says Carmen McClaskey, Envision’s director of communications. “Our focus has always been to have teachers nominate their high-achieving students for our programs.” Alumni, she adds, have also been “extremely active” nominators. “We accede to their recognition of who the top students are and who will excel in our programs. ”

Solicitations begin filling mailboxes, virtual and real, as soon as children reach middle school, and continue coming through college. In a variety of settings, from Congress to Caribbean beaches, programs advertise their ability to cultivate leaders.

Denise Clark Pope, a lecturer in the School of Education at Stanford University, does not discount that the experiences can be worthwhile. But the pitches, she says, “are feeding off myths and helping to perpetuate them,” that a child has been selected for a special destiny.

These ticker-tape parades in an envelope — the Congressional Youth Leadership Council tells potential participants they are “the nation’s most highly acclaimed students” and “most promising young leaders of tomorrow” — bewilder many parents and students. On the chat forum College Confidential, the thread begins in 2007: “I got this thing in the mail which I am not sure about. . . . Is it worth it? How does it look for college?” Others wonder: “Is it overpriced?” Is it “legit”? The thread continues into 2009.

The array of similarly named, competing companies underscores the extent to which the concept of student leadership has become big business.

There’s the National Student Leadership Conference, which offers a “select group of outstanding high school students” a taste of fields like medicine, engineering and business through field trips and simulations, and a chance to earn credit from American University (P.S.: the course comes for an extra fee — $620 for one credit hour or $1,650 for three, on top of a program fee of $1,600 to $3,000). There’s LeadAmerica’s Congressional Student Leadership Conference, which also advertises credit (P.S.: it’s pass/fail, from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, and most universities will not accept it). People to People Ambassador Programs, which boasts of ties to Dwight D. Eisenhower, has had to apologize for sending invitations to its leadership programs to deceased children and an Arkansas family’s long-dead one-eyed cat. And Leadership Classroom takes teenagers to the Caribbean each summer for “experiential learning” in sailing and scuba diving.

But the front-runner of them all is the Congres­sional Youth Leadership Council. By its own count, more than half a million students have attended its programs, dwarfing its rivals.

Mr. Rossi, a former staff assistant to a senator, and Barbara Harris, a former teacher, started the council as a nonprofit organization in 1985. They also started the for-profit Envision, which managed the council’s operations before buying it outright in late 2007. Though no longer a nonprofit, mailings still refer to the council as an organization, rather than a company, and the Web address retains the “.org” typically associated with not-for-profits.

Attendance for most students depends on ability to pay — $1,480 for the five-day national conference, for example, and $2,290 for nine days, plus transportation and some meals.

In 2006, the council grossed $56 million tax-free, more than double its revenues in 2002. But only a small portion of that went to scholarships and grants: 1.7 percent, or about $940,000, according to filings with the I.R.S. At the time the council also had a $12 million endowment that provided $1.1 million in scholarships. That fund no longer exists, says Alexander Velaj, a board member involved in the dissolution of the council as a nonprofit.

Needy students are typically sent a brochure with fund-raising ideas and success stories of other students who have tapped friends, family and community to help pay their way. Ms. McClaskey says scholarships are “important and growing” but will not provide details. Mr. Rossi says that generally 90 percent of revenue goes into building up programs, and only 10 percent of the inaugural revenue was profit. Envision runs about 220 programs a year, most of them for 150 to 400 students each.

While the council’s stated goals are educational, Envision has gone after profit openly: a vision statement adopted after 9/11 called for it to increase profits tenfold within eight years. “This big hairy audacious goal has ignited us to think completely out of the box when assessing potential opportunities,” the statement said. “Halfway through this eight-year vision, we are on track to achieve our goal.”

The company adopted that goal, Mr. Rossi says, as tourists fled Washington in 2001 and the company’s survival was in doubt. Newly energized, the company branched out into new markets and bought out the nonprofit council, which aimed to grow “incrementally, or not at all,” Mr. Rossi says.

The company sought growth with a purpose, he says: to “teach young people of great potential, not only at one point in their lives, but to develop this into an ongoing opportunity from young grades to middle school to high school and college,” training them to step up in their communities and “do more than just take.”

Citing student privacy, Envision turned down my request to observe activities at last fall’s National Young Leaders Conference for high school students. The company did provide a copy of its program. Students were to meet their Congressional representatives, watch a debate in Congress, visit Georgetown, Chinatown and memorials, and do the role-playing exercises that are the hallmark of the conferences.

Anita Barrett, managing director for academic affairs at Envision, showed me curriculum guides containing scenarios the students would enact. In an imagined presidential crisis, Russia declares its intention to annex a swath of the Arctic laden with natural resources. Student workbooks include background texts on American-Russian relations, historical facts and treaties. Students play the president, cabinet members, lawmakers, military leaders and other key figures trying to work through a solution.

The simulations offer “something you can’t really get in school,” said Grant Burrall, managing director of K-12 programs. “It’s not taught in math or science or history class. It’s about responsible decision-making, listening, public speaking skills.”

IMPRESSIVE? A mailing from the Congressional Youth Leadership Council.CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

Ms. Barrett concurred. “Leadership is what runs through our conferences: collaboration, problem-solving, conflict resolution,” she said.

In December, the company let me attend a day of sessions at a leadership forum for middle-school students from the Washington area and West Virginia.

In one room, about 20 students sat along the walls, a faculty adviser in the center, discussing ways to think about decision-making — taking into account what is known, and the many ways relevant facts may be unknown. Like many a self-help seminar, the program has its own gestures and lexicon; rather than applause, for example, students snap their fingers.

“Good job,” the teachers said regularly.

At another workshop, the students practiced presentation skills, speaking into a camera for 30 seconds and critiquing one another. At a third, they broke into groups of four to discuss how they would respond to a hypothetical situation. One scenario presumed they were Jewish, reared in a religious home, and members of the drama club. They are offered the lead in the senior play, “Jesus Christ Superstar.” What do they do, and what values are reflected in their choices?

Only one student, who was Jewish, said he would reject the role. “It’s valuing a lot of things: the trust of your parents, loyalty, tradition of my Jewish faith, family,” he said. Another student said that she would tell her parents it was her life and she wanted to do it.

Afterward, a faculty adviser asked students what they had learned about themselves. A girl named Susan volunteered that she was reconsidering her tendency to lie to her mother, and to cover for friends who were doing drugs.

“Snaps for Susan,” the moderator said, as the sound of crickets filled the room.

What do experts say about the programs?

In 2007, in a letter sent to middle-school students, a leading researcher in youth development endorsed the Envision program as “key to significant personal development and future success” and urged parents to send their children. Contacted recently about the program, the researcher, Richard M. Lerner, said he regretted endorsing the program and using Tufts University letterhead in violation of its policy barring endorsements of outside products or causes. Dr. Lerner is director of the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts.

“I was in effect telling parents to spend their money, which I didn’t have any business doing,” he said.

He said he was aware of no research showing that programs like Envision’s produce successful young people. Rather, he and other experts in the field say, studies of Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H and other groups are trying to isolate what makes for effective youth development programs. A few of the more promising features: positive and sustained relations with a caring adult, mentoring in life skills and opportunities to use newly learned skills.

“Obviously, a four-day program is starting at a deficit,” he said. “There is no evidence these programs have a lasting effect.”

Dr. Lerner said he agreed to lend his support after presenting his findings on 4-H programs to Envision executives, following an introduction from the chief of the national 4-H club, which has financially supported his research. They described their programs, and Dr. Lerner said he liked some elements. He said 4-H’s support did not play a role in his decision to endorse Envision’s program, nor was he paid.

One participant in the middle-school forum, Zoe Velling, of Ashburn, Va., told me the program helped her to realize that at heart she was a peacemaker, and to assume that role more assertively. Since returning home, she had mediated a conflict between two friends, one of whom had hurt the other’s feelings. To the one who took offense, she said: “She didn’t mean it. You misinterpreted what she was saying.” To the other, she said: “Maybe you should keep some things to yourself. You don’t need to tell everything.”

She paused and added, “In the past, I’d just stand back and watch.”

Her mother, Carolyn Velling, said the workshops helped Zoe think more maturely about responsibility. She was glad the family sprang for the trip, at $1,200 for four days.

“Honestly, I wasn’t sure it was a real thing,” Ms. Velling said, “until I saw her teacher’s name on it.”


Leadership companies marketing to teenagers spend handsomely on mailing lists (the College Board is one source), but the biggest pipeline to customers is teachers and program alumni. Mailings usually name the person making the nomination and include a list of past participants from the student’s school.

There are no hard and fast criteria for nominators. The council says it is looking for students who show leadership potential, academic achievement and extracurricular involvement. Last year, materials for some programs said a minimum G.P.A. of 3.5 was a must. That requirement has been relaxed. Now educators are told to use their own discretion. Typically, the company says, participants come from the top 5 percent of their class. The nomination form asks for nothing beyond the student’s name, address, school year and sex.

“We do try to focus on the G.P.A. of 3.5 and above, but it’s absolutely not the only indicator of achievement,” says Shane Hedges, president of Envision. “High achieving can come in many forms — leaders in sports and bands, people who contribute to classroom conversation. We allow the teachers to tell us who are the students who have the potential.”

Some teachers and guidance counselors toss requests for nominations in the trash; others see them as a way to recognize a deserving student. Some respond only to conferences that returning students have praised; others see the programs for themselves. Envision says it will cover accommodations for teachers but not transportation. LeadAmerica offers teachers grants of up to $500 for classroom programs that promote leadership. The company says teachers are not obligated to nominate students to be eligible for a grant; they need only apply with a good proposal.

Anne Heitz, a guidance counselor at Fort Madison High School in Fort Madison, Iowa, believes attending leadership conferences can be “a neat opportunity for children.” But she worries that a scarcity of financial aid shuts out low-income students. “It doesn’t have any equity to it,” she says. “That gets me going right there.”

Linda Litterer, who teaches social studies at Fort Madison, sent her own daughter about seven years ago. “It was a huge boost to her self-confidence,” Ms. Litterer says. Last year, she recommended 10 students for the National Young Leaders Conference, and no other.

Students are relatively isolated in her southeast Iowa town of 11,000, on the Mississippi. “There are some who’ve never even crossed the river,” Ms. Litterer says. “For these kids, it is a big deal.” The invitation’s packaging, she says, “kind of reinforces that.”

Erin Harmon says she chose the National Young Leaders Conference because of Ms. Litterer’s recommendation. “I felt actually really honored,” says Ms. Harmon, who has a 3.8 grade-point average. “There hadn’t been someone from my school in five or six years. It seemed really official and really prestigious.” The local paper ran a small feature before she left, and another when she returned. (The company offers press releases to send to hometown papers.)

She credits the program with helping her decide on a career in politics rather than law. She is headed for Wartburg College in the fall. She believes that recommendations from her counselors at the leadership conference helped win her admission (Wartburg admits 72 percent of applicants).

Patrick O’Connor, the director of college counseling at the Roeper School, a K-12 school for gifted students in Birmingham, Mich., says that when he gets these solicitations, he makes an announcement over the public address system. He advises any students interested in attending to stop by his office. “I’m happy to nominate whoever wants to go,” he says.


In February, the Better Business Bureau downgraded Envision to an F rating.

As of April 8, 28 of the 57 complaints filed over the last 12 months had not been resolved. Issues included advertising practices, contract disputes and quality of the programs. Ms. McClaskey notes that the complaints spin off one event, the inaugural conference — in the prior two years, a dozen complaints had been filed — and fail to “reflect the value we have delivered to hundreds of thousand of students over nearly 25 years.”

The council’s Web site still features the seal of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Jeff Sherrill, an associate director of the association, says the seal is an educational version of the Underwriters Laboratories seal for electrical appliances, attesting that the programs meet minimum standards. The association, he says, reviews documentation that each program or contest submits for a range of features, but it does not endorse.

In Mr. Sherrill’s view, a leadership conference is no more or less likely to enhance college applications than, say, soccer camp. “It doesn’t fall into the same category as being selected by your county where there was truly some type of assessment and selection process,” he says. “That becomes a true honor.” By way of example, he cites appointment as a Senate page. “Honors typically don’t come with a price tag,” he says.

That is a sentiment echoed among college admissions officers, who say they do not place much stock in participation in such summits.

Susan Garrity Ardizzoni, director of undergraduate admissions at Tufts, says students whom she would hardly consider leadership material have received the invitations. In recent years, she has seen more applications from students citing attendance at these workshops as an achievement.

“But this doesn’t really give them any advantage,” she says. “For us, activities or essays are most meaningful for students where there’s an established track record or interest.”

Eric J. Furda, the dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania, says that “the real depth to this in a highly selective process is: How has this shaped or influenced you? And your ability to articulate that.”

“For each opportunity, there will be a context or the deeper meaning,” he adds. “Where are you coming from, or where are you going with this experience?”    Send article as PDF   
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Christian College Fair, Phoenix Scottsdale, Chandler

September 20, 2016

The Christian College Fair is coming up on October 17th and 18th.

Scottsdale Christian Academy SCA 4400 N Tatum Boulevard, Phoenix, is hosting the National Christian College Fair from 6 PM to 8 PM see the website for more information (37 colleges will be in attendance, up from last year's 34!)

And for those of you who live in the east valley, Valley Christian High School will be hosting this year's Christian College Fair.

  1. October 17, 2016 East Valley Phoenix at Valley Christian High School 6-8PM -VCHS 6900 W. Galveston Street, Chandler, Arizona
  2. October 18 2016 Northeast Phoenix at Scottsdale Christian Academy 6-8PM SCA 4400 N Tatum Boulevard, Phoenix

Use this link to register for the fair

Check this list of colleges, if one or more of the colleges that you plan on applying are in attendance at this fair, go to the fair. Meet the recruiter, ask some questions and get the recruiter’s business card so you can follow up with a thank you note.

Plan on attending this fair if you are considering one of these colleges.

The following colleges will attend:

  1. Arizona Christian University
  2. Azusa Pacific University
  3. Bethel University
  4. Biola University
  5. California Baptist University
  6. Calvin College
  7. Colorado Christian University
  8. Concordia University Irvine
  9. Corban University
  10. Dordt College
  11. Eastern University
  12. Grove City College
  13. Hope International University
  14. Huntington University
  15. LeTourneau University
  16. Life Pacific College
  17. Lipscomb University
  18. Manhattan Christian College
  19. Northwestern College
  20. Oklahoma Baptist University
  21. Oklahoma Christian University
  22. Oral Roberts University
  23. Patrick Henry College
  24. Point Loma Nazarene University
  25. Providence Christian College
  26. San Diego Christian College
  27. Seattle Pacific University
  28. Simpson University
  29. Southeastern University
  30. The King's College
  31. The Master's University
  32. Trinity Christian College
  33. Vanguard University
  34. Westmont College
  35. Wheaton College
  36. Whitworth University
  37. William Jessup University
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List of colleges that require the SAT ACT writing essay

September 13, 2016

Here is a list of colleges that require the SAT Writing Essay and or the ACT Writing Essay portion of these tests.

AZ College Planning's suggestion is to always take the test with  the writing until you know 100% if the college(s) that you will apply to require it or not.

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New FAFSA Changes for October 2016

September 9, 2016

New FAFSA changes for October 2016 will impact the 2017-2018 school year.

There are two exciting changes coming to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid(FAFSA®) process this year.

  1. The 2017–18 FAFSA will be available earlier.

You can file your 2017–18 FAFSA as early as Oct. 1, 2016, rather than beginning on Jan. 1, 2017. The earlier submission date will be a permanent change, enabling you to complete and submit a FAFSA as early as October 1 every year.

  1. You’ll use earlier income and tax information.

Beginning with the 2017–18 FAFSA, you’ll be required to report income and tax info from an earlier tax year. For example, on the 2017–18 FAFSA, you—and your parent(s), as appropriate—will report your 2015 income and tax info, rather than your 2016 income and tax info.

We understand that some families’ income may have changed significantly since the 2015 tax year. If this is the case for you, you must complete the FAFSA with the info it asks for (2015). Then, after filing your FAFSA, contact the financial aid office at your school to explain your situation. The school has the ability to assess your situation and make adjustments to your FAFSA.

The following table provides a summary of key dates as we transition to using the early FAFSA submission timeframe and earlier tax information.

When a Student Is Attending College (School Year) When a Student Can Submit a FAFSA Which Year’s Income Tax Information Is Required
July 1, 2015–June 30, 2016 January 1, 2015–June 30, 2016 2014
July 1, 2016–June 30, 2017 January 1, 2016–June 30, 2017 2015
July 1, 2017–June 30, 2018 October 1, 2016–June 30, 2018 2015
July 1, 2018–June 30, 2019 October 1, 2017–June 30, 2019 2016

We know you probably have some questions. Here are some we’ve been hearing from students:

How will the changes benefit me?

You might find that the FAFSA process is easier than you expected.

  • From now on, the FAFSA will ask for older income and tax information that you will already have. This change means you won’t have to use estimates anymore, or log in later to update your FAFSA after you file taxes!
  • Because you’ll already have done your 2015 taxes by the time you fill out your 2017–18 FAFSA, you may be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) to automatically import your tax information into your FAFSA.
  • Having the FAFSA available three months earlier will give you more time to meet most deadlines (although some will be early, so fill out the FAFSA right away just in case) and to explore and understand your financial aid options.

Since the 2017–18 FAFSA asks for the same tax and income information as the 2016–17 FAFSA, will my 2016–17 FAFSA info automatically be carried over into my 2017–18 renewal FAFSA?

No. Too much could have changed since you filed your last FAFSA, and there’s no way to predict what might be different, so you’ll need to enter the information again. However, keep in mind that many people are eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to automatically import their 2015 tax information into the FAFSA, making the process of reporting tax info quick and easy.

Do I have to update my 2017–18 FAFSA with my 2016 tax information after I file my 2016 taxes?

No. The 2017–18 FAFSA asks for 2015 tax info, and only 2015. Beginning October 1, you can fully submit the FAFSA in one sitting using your 2015 tax info. No updating necessary. (Hooray!)

But what if my family’s financial situation has changed since our 2015 taxes were filed? Can we report our 2016 tax information instead?

No. You must report your 2015 tax info on the 2017–18 FAFSA. You do not have the option to report your 2016 tax info. If your family has experienced a loss of income since the 2015 tax year, talk to the financial aid office at your school. They have the ability to assess your situation and make adjustments.

Note: The FAFSA asks for marital status as of the day you fill it out. So if you’re married now but weren’t in 2015 (and therefore didn’t file taxes as married), you’ll need to add your spouse’s income to your FAFSA.

Similarly, if you filed your 2015 taxes as married but you’re no longer married when you fill out the FAFSA, you’ll need to subtract your spouse’s income.

Since I’m required to report my 2015 tax information, do I also answer all the other questions on the FAFSA using information from 2015?

No. Here’s a guide for which year’s info you should use to answer the different types of questions on the FAFSA.

Will FAFSA deadlines be earlier since the application is launching earlier?

We expect that most state and school deadlines will remain approximately the same as in 2016–17. However, several states that offer first come, first served financial aid will change their deadlines from “as soon as possible after January 1” to “as soon as possible after October 1.” So, as always, it’s important that you check your state and school deadlines so that you don’t miss out on any aid. State deadlines are on; school deadlines are on schools’ websites.

Can I fill out the FAFSA before I submit my college applications?

Yes, you can fill out the FAFSA even before you’ve submitted your college applications. Add every school you’re considering to your FAFSA, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. Even if you’re on the fence about applying to a particular school, add it. It will hold your place in line for financial aid in case you end up applying for admission at that school. You can always remove schools later if you decide not to apply (but you don’t have to).

Will I receive aid offers earlier if I apply earlier?

Not necessarily; some schools will make offers earlier while others won’t. If you’re applying to multiple schools or thinking of transferring to another school, you might want to look at the College Scorecard to compare costs at different schools while you wait for your aid offers to arrive. Note: You should be aware that the maximum Federal Pell Grant for 2017–18 might not be known until early 2017, so keep in mind that even if you do receive an aid offer early, it could change due to various factors.

Where can I get more information about—and help with—the FAFSA?

Visit; and remember, as you fill out your FAFSA, you can refer to help text for every question and (during certain times of day) chat online with a customer service representative.

Also get professional help with these financail aid forms at, give us a call.


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SAT Test Dates for 2017-2018

September 7, 2016

Anticipated SAT dates for 2017-2018, note the new August date and removed January date.

The proposed anticipated SAT test dates for the 2017 – 2018 school year are:

  1. August 26, 2017
  2. October 7, 2017
  3. November 4, 2017
  4. December 2, 2017
  5. March 10, 2018, no subjects tests
  6. May 5, 2018
  7. June 2, 2018


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Phoenix College Fair 2016

August 29, 2016

ncfheaderPhoenix College Fair 2016

the BIG ONE! Go, meet recruiters, schmooze, gather information on the colleges and Demonstrate Interest!

The Phoenix College Fair for 2016 is October 23 Sunday 11AM-3PM.

Imagine filling out 100 plus+ forms. I’ve got writers cramps just thinking about it. At the upcoming Phoenix College Fair, almost 200 schools will be represented.

Working on your “College Touch Points” is now easier than ever. It used to be that when a student went to a college fair they would take 5 minutes or more filling out contact forms for each college they were interested in. Now a quick scan from a prefilled out form handles all of it electronically.

No need to fill out all the registration cards for dozens of colleges by hand!



Pre-registration is available online at the  following link: <-- Click here to register

Phoenix Convention Center
100 N Third Street
Phoenix, AZ 85004

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Flinn Scholarship Essay Prompts for 2017

August 29, 2016

Flinn Scholarship October 2016 for the 2017-2018 school year.

The due date for the Flinn Scholarship application is Sunday, October 23, 2016, before the clock strikes midnight.

for more info click this link

  • Forms that collect biographical and family data; information about current studies, extracurricular activities, honors and awards, and employment;
  • Three essay questions and five short-answer questions;
  • Two teacher recommendations, submitted separately by your teachers;
  • A report and recommendation from your high school’s academic counselor, submitted separately by your counselor;
  • A copy of your transcript, uploaded by your counselor in conjunction with your counselor recommendation;
  • Copies of your SAT and/or ACT score reports, sent directly to the Flinn Scholars Program by ACT/College Board (enter Code 2175).

The essay prompts for the Flinn Scholarship are:

Here are the 2017 Flinn Scholarship essay questions:

Short?Answer Questions

Please answer each question with no more than 80 characters.

  1. Beyond your achievements, what defines you?
  2. What is more important: kindness or intelligence?
  3. Who is your hero (living or dead), and what do you admire most about them?
  4. What personality trait do you value most in others?
  5. Of what in your non-academic profile are you most proud?

A. What book should all high school students be required to read and why? 200-word maximum

B. Tell us about a project or initiative you worked on that did not go as you planned or hoped. What did you learn? 300-word maximum

C. Lincoln University recently suspended its major in history. The president of the university explained the decision saying, “We must make decisions like these as we look toward the future and the needs of the changing workforce.” Do you believe job preparation should be a university’s main priority? Defend your answer. 500-word maximum


It is your responsibility to ensure that all application components are submitted and received by the Flinn Scholars Program by the deadline. The deadline for applicants, as well as teachers and counselors, is Sunday, October 23, 2016 at 11:59 p.m.

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PLUS Loan, How, Who, What and How Much?

August 24, 2016

How to Apply for a PLUS Loan

PLUS loans, PLUS loan repayment,

If you’re a parent of a dependent undergraduate student or if you’re someone planning to attend graduate school, you’ve probably heard of the PLUS loan. The Direct PLUS Loanis a federal loan program that’s available specifically for these two groups of people to help cover the remaining cost of attending school after all other financial aid has been applied. Below we’ll explain the requirements, application process, and some tips if you’re considering getting a PLUS loan.

Requirements to Receive a PLUS Loan

No Adverse Credit History
A credit history is a summary of your financial strength, including your history of paying bills and your ability to repay future loans. To qualify for a PLUS loan, you cannot have an adverse credit history.

FAFSA Completion and PLUS loan Application
The student going to college (the child of the parent requesting the loan or the graduate/professional student) has to submit a FAFSA before beginning the PLUS loan application process.

Requirements for Parents:
You must be the biological, adoptive, or in some cases, stepparent of the dependent undergraduate student going to college. Your child must also be enrolled at least half-time at a school that participates in the Direct Loan Program. Unlike Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans; you, the parent, are responsible for repaying the PLUS loan.

Requirements for Graduate or Professional Students:
You must be enrolled at least half-time at a school that participates in the Direct Loan Program.

TIP for graduate and professional students:
If you’re eligible for Direct Unsubsidized Loans, you should borrow those loans before applying for PLUS. The interest rate is lower for Direct Loans.

How Much Money Can I Borrow?

The maximum PLUS loan amount is the cost of attendance (determined by the school) minus any other financial aid received. If you aren’t sure what your school’s cost of attendance is, contact your school’s financial aid office. If you want to see the average annual cost of a school, look it up on our College Scorecard.

How to Apply for a PLUS Loan

In most cases, you’ll apply for a PLUS loan on

Some schools have a different application process, so check with your financial aid office to make sure you’re going to the right place.

  1. Go to
  2. Log in using your FSA ID.
  3. Select the type of PLUS loan you’re requesting, graduate student or parent.

Before making your selection, you should know the following:

  • The award year the PLUS loan is for.
  • Parents should have the student’s information, including their date of birth and Social Security number.
  1. Fill out the “School & Loan Info” fields.
  2. In the section that reads “Loan Amount Requested” you will have a few options.
  • Selecting “I want to borrow the maximum amount for which I am eligible” will require you to select the loan period to which you’d like to apply the PLUS loan. This field may be different for each school.
  • Selecting “I would like to specify a loan amount” will require you to type in the amount and the loan period start/end dates.  If your request exceeds the amount you’re eligible for, the school will contact you.
  • If you select “I do not know the amount I want to borrow. I will contact the school” then you should contact the school after your application has been approved, or the school may contact you.


  1. Information about the PLUS loan borrower (the borrower is the parent of the undergraduate dependent student or the graduate/professional student):
  • Permanent address.
  • Mailing address.
  • Employer information if the borrower is employed.
  1. Credit Check and Adverse Credit History
    PLUS loans are the only type of federal student loan that require a credit check. If you are found to have adverse credit history during the application process, you still have options.

Note: If you’re a parent applicant with adverse credit history and you’re unable to get a PLUS loan, your child may be eligible for additional unsubsidized student loans. Check with the financial aid office at your child’s school for details.

Even with adverse credit history, there are two ways you may still be able to quality for a PLUS loan:

  1. Sign a Master Promissory Note (MPN)
    After finding out that you’re eligible for the PLUS loan, you’ll be required to sign an MPN and agree to the terms of the loan. Make sure you read your MPN carefully because it’s a binding legal document that lists all the conditions of your loan.

Graduate students: If it’s your first time receiving a PLUS loan, you’ll be required to complete entrance counseling. Confirm with your school to make sure.

Note: If you have previously received a PLUS loan you may not have to complete another MPN. Check with your school to confirm.

How do I find out how much I can borrow?

After your PLUS loan request is complete, the school will inform you of how much you’re eligible to receive.

How and when will I get my loan?

The school will apply funds to the student’s school account to cover tuition, fees, room and board, and other school charges. If there is a remaining balance, the school will give it to the student to help pay for other education expenses. Parents who have been approved for a PLUS loan have the option of asking the school to pay the remaining funds directly to the student.

Each school has a different schedule for disbursing PLUS loans, so check with the school to find out when you should expect the funds.


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10 best sites to look for scholarships

July 8, 2016

The 10 best sites to look for scholarships

orignial article here

With a new semester upon us and our bank accounts drained from holiday shopping and much-needed nights out, scholarships of any amounts can certainly come in handy.

Here are the 10 best sites for searching for scholarship cash — along with one scholarship from each to get you started!


Zinch is a college students one-stop-shop for scholarships that are creative, easy and fun to apply for and win. To apply for scholarships via Zinch, you’ll have to create a username and profile that will help the site find scholarships that are specifically relevant to you! One of Zinch’s most popular awards is the Weekly , where applicants must generate a 280-character essay (that’s only two tweets!) while vying for $1,000 of cold, hard cash.

Visit for more scholarships.


Fastweb is another terrific, free resource where you’ll find thousands of scholarships at your fingertips. Not only does Fastweb offer a massive database of monetary awards, but it also features helpful career planning services and learning tools for its registered users! One of Fastweb’s most recently featured scholarships is the “Natural Disaster” PSA Video Contest, a $3,000 scholarship offered to creative undergrads with an eye for cinematography and knowledge of the consequences of natural disasters.

Visit for more scholarships.


You know how you always seem to receive a new, complimentary gift after so many purchases at that favorite beauty counter of yours? ScholarshipPoints works the same way! Well, kind of. The site’s users rack up points through a rewards system, making them eligible for different scholarships according to how many points they have earned. Members can earn points through fun, day-to-day activities like reading blogs, taking quizzes and playing online games. ScholarshipPoints offers a rolling, monthly $1,000 for its members and a quarterly $10,000 scholarship . Join today and start earning your points!

Visit for more scholarships.


You may remember being advised by your high school guidance counselor to make a Cappex account to help narrow down your college search, but don’t delete that online profile just yet! The site is still helpful during our undergrad years, offering ample scholarship opportunities and financial advice. Once we’re undergrads, Cappex graciously bumps us up to “College Pro” status, where we’ll be eligible to apply for a $2,500 College Pro exclusive scholarship! Don’t wait, and check out all of the fine print of the Cappex College Pro scholarship today.

Visit Cappex for more scholarships.


A no-brainer of a URL, are we right? is a wonderful resource for college students who aspire to kill two birds with one stone—the site finds both scholarships and colleges that are perfect for you! If you’re looking to transfer to a school that is dying to recruit you and offer you scholarships, this is the site to visit. The site allows you to pinpoint specific scholarships by your major, year in school and location, increasing your chances for receiving awards and saving you tons of time. For meticulous proofreaders and aspiring editors, you may want to check out Scholarship Program featured on! Although an essay is required, the $1,500 you could earn is definitely worth the time spent behind the keyboard.

  1. College Board's Scholarship Search
    Offering 2,300 sources of financial aid and over $3 billion in scholarship awards, the College Board's scholarship search resource could put you on the right track to financing your education—and fast! To start your search, be sure to fill out the detailed questionnaire on the site to narrow down specific awards that satisfy your financial needs. While you're browsing the College Board's scholarship selection, see if you're eligible to apply for theCoca-Cola Community Colleges Academic Scholarship! If you're at a small, local school this $1,000-$2,000 award could be right up your alley.

Visit the College Board for more scholarships.

    Formerly known as, NextStudent is an online leader in helping undergrads pay for college tuition, books and more. Like most of the aforementioned sites, NextStudent requires its students to set up a user account complete with details like school year, location and major to pinpoint scholarships for you! One of the scholarship matches that NextStudent found for me? The Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Scholarship, a $5,000 award available to any undergrad who has performed community service in the last 12 months, namely in the areas of food service.

Visit for more scholarships.

  1. is much like, serving as a powerful search engine for finding relevant scholarships for undergrads. This site is also helpful because it features career profiles for many fields of study, giving its users a good idea of expected salary and job opportunities after graduation. Check out the Dr. Aura-Lee A. and James Hobbs Pittenger American History Scholarship, a $8,000 scholarship (with $2,000 paid annually through a four year college career) if you're a collegiette™ interested in American History and Government!

Visit for more scholarships.

    This site boasts that it is "fast, easy and free" which is certainly true! is yet another great resource for scouring the Internet for great monetary awards during your undergrad years. Check out the "Courage To Grow" scholarshipon the site, which awards eligible undergrads one $500 scholarship every month.

Visit for more scholarships.

    Last, but not least, we have! This site is an online database of scholarships, grants and fun contests for undergrads to enter and (hopefully) win. On top of offering great scholarships, SuperCollege also offers no-nonsense guides for collegiettes™ like "How to Write a Winning Scholarship Essay" and "More Easy Ways to Save Money in College." For creative collegiettes™ who are savvy with videography and have a way with flashcards, be sure to check out SuperCollege's Flashcard Scholarship worth $500!

Visit for more scholarships.

While many students and families go after these private scholarships the BIG Dollar Scholarships are from the college’s endowments. Discover who and how to maximize these scholarships at the workshop hosted by AZCollegePlanning - “How to Not Go Broke Paying for College”.

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Preferential Student Packaging

June 16, 2016

Preferential Student Packaging is a term you must know so you can get all the aid you can get.

Colleges use financial aid to recruit and attract the students they want. This is called preferential packaging, offering more scholarships/grants to the students they want and “gapping” or under-awarding (offering more loans) to the students they really don’t want or don’t care. Read this as a college playing favorites over one student vs. another.  (I’ll show you how to be a favorite!)

Depending on if the student is highly desirable at college A verses college B will determine what type of scholarship package the student is offered.

Too many times students apply to a “reach” college and maybe they get admitted but will most likely not be offered a great scholarship package. This data can be found on the college's common data set.

The key to preferential packaging and getting a great scholarship is properly positioning and marketing the student to the college(s).

It might mean joining an extra club and getting a leadership position in the club. It might translate to taking the SAT or ACT one more time to bump up the score. It certainly means writing a stand out essay and properly demonstrating interest at the college(s).

Get in, get big scholarships. We’ll show you how! We can help. Give us a call now.

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