Category Archives: Education

5 FAFSA Tips To Get The Most Financial Aid

As colleges get more expensive each year, students rely more frequently on financial aid to help offsets the costs of education. However, many students are making simple mistakes that cost them thousands of dollars in grants or scholarship money each year. Here are five tips to help you get the most financial aid possible.

1. Fill Out The FAFSA
One of the easiest ways to get financial aid for college is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). While some students mistakenly believe that the FAFSA or CSS (College Scholarship Service) Profile is only for students with extreme financial needs, this is false. All students, regardless of their economic background, should fill out the FAFSA. This application not only takes into account the income level but also the number of children in the family and how many are enrolled in college simultaneously.

Each year, more than $24 billion in state, federal and institutional aid goes unclaimed because people do not fill out the FAFSA. While the FAFSA can be a bit tedious, it is well worth the few hours it takes to complete.

2. Submit The FAFSA Now
The FAFSA application opens on October 1, and it is beneficial to you to fill it out as soon as it opens. Many organizations that gave out larger financial packages will have early deadlines, often before the new year.

Many of these organizations operate on a “first-come, first-serve” system, and by applying early, you give yourself the best chance to earn more financial aid. You can find the full list of FAFSA deadlines on the US Department of Education’s website.

3. Complete The Right Form
Unfortunately, some people have created look-a-like websites to trick people into putting in their financial data or credit card information. Before filling out the form, check to ensure you are on, which is the only official FAFSA website.

Make sure you are filling for the correct year. For example, if you are planning on enrolling in college for the 2020-2021 year, make sure you are selecting the form for that year. Filling out the form ensures you get all the financial aid you are entitled to for that school year.

4. Add ALL Your Schools
One of the biggest mistakes students make is not adding in all their schools to the FAFSA form. Initially, you can only add 10, but after you receive your Student Aid Report (SAR), you can send the FAFSA information to all the schools. Even if you replace another school’s code with another one, it will never delete your financial information from that university’s system.

5. Finish it!
The FAFSA takes time to do, but it is well worth the struggle. In fact, a study by the NCAN (National College Access Network), found that seniors who finish the FAFSA are 63% more likely to enroll in a university than students who don’t complete the form.

Spend a few days completing the FAFSA! While it can be a complicated process, it makes college more affordable and is one of the necessary steps you should take when preparing for college.

Three Ways To Make Your High School Resume Impressive To Colleges by Kristen Moon

Admission rates at top colleges have become more competitive over the past ten years, with even the best students finding themselves on the waitlist or rejected from many of the schools on their list. If you have your heart set on attending a highly-selective school, then you should start planning on ways to get your resume and application to stand out from the crowded field.

With a little bit of creativity, you can accomplish this goal by making your resume so intriguing that colleges can’t wait to meet you. Regardless of whether it is published on LinkedIn, a similar site or attached to your Common Application, your resume should give your profile an extra boost. Here are some ways you can challenge yourself to create a standout resume before applying to colleges.

Get Published
Proving that you are a good writer through top grades and high SAT scores is one thing, but earning a byline is an excellent way to distinguish yourself. You can get started by writing for your school newspaper, and then reach out to local publications and pitch them that you can write articles from a student’s perspective. Look up online publications that are related to your interests and pitch article ideas to them.

If you don’t think you want to commit to writing for an established publication, you can also self-publish. Write a Medium post or a personal blog about the research you have completed, or summer camp and volunteer experiences. If you don’t have a blog yet, you can start one for free with WordPress, Tumblr or Wix.

Start A New Group
Find your passion and think outside the box to bring your interests to the rest of the community. If you love doing arts or crafts, you could consider starting a weekly summer program for local children. You could even visit a nursing home and do simple arts with the residents. Growing the group shows initiative and displays your leadership skills and resourcefulness to college admission officers.

Create Something Online
High school students who are technologically gifted might consider reaching out to a local, small nonprofit and offering their talents. You can help them revamp their website or build an app. Many nonprofits don’t have the budget to pay for professional design and creative services, so this would be an excellent chance for you to have a significant impact while honing your own skills.

You can also offer to run a social media campaign or create marketing materials for a nonprofit. You might even offer to write blog posts. Volunteering and creating meaningful work can be showcased on your resume, and you can link all your creations to your LinkedIn profile.

Making your high school resume more impressive to colleges isn’t as challenging as you might think. By taking the initiative, you can gain invaluable skills that will benefit you both in college and in your future career. You might also form new connections within your community and discover where your academic interests lie.

Free Courses For High School Students Interested In STEM by Kristen Moon

For the ambitious student, taking online classes is an excellent way to expand your knowledge, advance your education, and help your application stand out from a crowded field. Some high schools, faced with budget cuts and overfilled classrooms, have had to cut out intensive courses. This leaves them at a disadvantage, and lacking in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education. Other students want to challenge themselves further than what is offered at their school and must look for alternatives.

With STEM jobs on the rise, gaining exposure to this discipline is becoming increasingly important. Regardless of whether a student is looking to explore a career path, learn more about their intended major, or simply to add a new skill to their resume, there are options online for high schoolers to master STEM, without having to spend a dime.

Many of the offered courses are through accredited universities, created to allow for an even platform for learning. Students can find college-level classes that can showcase an impressive drive for learning to college admissions counselors. Here are some of the top free courses for high school students interested in learning STEM.

MIT OpenCourseWare
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has one of the largest collections of free OpenCourseWare (OCW) on the internet. A majority of their thousands of courses do cover STEM topics. “Introduction to Computer Science and Programming in Python” and “Mathematics for Computer Science” are two of their most popular courses. No matter what your age or occupation is, you can find something of value with the MIT OCW content. There are no signups, enrollment, or deadlines you have to hit; you can learn on your own time.

Learn more:

Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative
Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative offers a variety of classes, many of which are free. Their courses do not have any start or end dates, and you won’t have any tests or receive any certifications at the end of it, but you can gain invaluable skills by the end of the course. A few of their offered courses include “STEM Readiness” and Chemistry.

Learn more:

Open Learning At Harvard
Through Harvard Extension School, motivated students have the chance to learn from the prestigious university. They offer free courses on a variety of subjects, including STEM courses such as Introduction to Game Development or Data Science Probability. The courses are all self-paced, and often do not require a big time commitment per week, making it easy for even a busy high school student to complete during the school year or summer.

Learn more:

Apple’s “Everyone Can Code”
Apple created “Everyone Can Code” because the company realized how essential coding is, and it wanted to give everyone an equal platform to learn. The tech giant created the app-development curriculum using the Swift programming language that is incredibly easy to use. Through the app, users have to solve puzzles to master code. As you advance, the puzzles become harder, allowing you to learn complex code in a fun way. The only caveat is students will have to use an iPhone or iPad to download Swift Playgrounds.

Learn more:

About the author:
Kristen Moon is an independent college counselor and founder of Moon Prep provides one-on-one college counseling services. They guide students through the entire application process including: completing applications, personal statements, supplemental essays, student resumes, scholarships, and financial aid. Their specialty lies in the Ivy League, direct medical programs (BS/MD), and highly competitive universities.

SAT Subject Tests Explained by Kristen Moon

The SAT is one of the most well-known, and perhaps one of the most dreaded, college admissions tests. A little less infamous are the SAT Subject Tests, previously called the “Scholastic Achievement Tests” or SAT II. Some colleges, especially Ivy League and other selective institutes, require or recommend that you take SAT Subject tests, especially if you are applying for particular courses or programs.

The SAT Subject Tests are 20 subjects in 5 general subject areas, 1-hour-long, and multiple-choice. They focus on individual subjects and will test the applicant’s understanding of the overall subject material learned throughout their academic career. They are scored between 200 to 800 and the five main disciplines are English, History, Languages, Mathematics, and Sciences. Each of these categories has at least one subcategory underneath it.

SAT Subject Tests can be an essential piece in your college application. SAT Subject Tests will measure a student’s readiness for college-level courses. The tests are designed to measure knowledge in specific areas, so colleges can decide if the applicant can be exempt from college requirements. However, no matter how well you do you are not able to earn college credits.

The subcategories within each subject are as follows:

  • English: Literature
  • History: U.S. History, World History
  • Languages: Spanish, French, Italian, German, Latin, Hebrew, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese (Some will have an option to test listening comprehension and might require additional equipment)
  • Mathematics: Level 1- college preparatory including one year each of algebra and geometry. Level 2 – all subjects from Level 1, plus trigonometry and pre-calculus
  • Science: Biology – either Ecological or Microbiological, Chemistry, Physics.

The registration and test dates vary year to year, so it is essential that you check the website early to make sure you do not miss the deadline. They are offered six times a year and will correspond with the dates of the SAT, with one exception as the Subject Tests aren’t available in March. Not every discipline and their sub-category are available each testing date. Fees are also applicable and in some cases, can be waived for students from low-income families.

The SAT Subject Tests are not tied to any particular course on your transcript; they can be used instead to emphasize your abilities that are most relevant to your experiences and what you plan on studying in college. For example, if you already have a major or program in mind, taking a Subject Test in that subject matter can help showcase your qualifications or help with course placement.

Before preparing for the Subject Tests, check the requirements of each school you are applying to, and then choose the test you think will best demonstrate your talents and interests. Even if your perspective schools do not require them, you might want to consider taking the two to three tests. It can show your willingness to advance in your intended field and can help you stand out from the crowded playing field of applications.

Some students might benefit from taking the Subject Tests like international students, multilingual or ESL students, and homeschooled students. It can help validate your experiences or ensure that you are have learned the same material as other people your age who attended a more traditional U.S. high school.

Don’t confuse the SAT Subject Tests with Advanced Placement (AP) tests as they are very different tests. SAT Subject Tests are used as a baseline for a student’s understanding of the subject material from high school and do not count towards college credit. AP tests will cover college-level material and may count towards college credit.

Work the SAT Subject Tests to your advantage. Whether they are required or not, they can be a great asset on your transcript. Be selective in showcasing your skills, experiences, and interests so you can use them to help your college application stand out as much as possible.

About the author:
Kristen Moon is an independent college counselor and founder of Moon Prep provides one-on-one college counseling services. They guide students through the entire application process including: completing applications, personal statements, supplemental essays, student resumes, scholarships, and financial aid. Their specialty lies in the Ivy League, direct medical programs (BS/MD), and highly competitive universities.

The Secret to Gaining Acceptance to the Ivy League by Kristen Moon

Most high school seniors have college admissions on their mind. Many students have the same desire: opening an acceptance letter which says “Welcome to Harvard”.

It is no easy feat to be accepted to the Ivy League and top-tier universities throughout the U.S.

The admission rate for Stanford University hovers around 4%. It is not uncommon for a valedictorian to be rejected. The valedictorian, and their parents, are always shocked when this occurs. How could a student with a perfect GPA and test scores be rejected?

The answer is simple.

There are nearly 40,000 high schools across the country. That means 40,000 valedictorians. With only eight Ivy League universities, the number of valedictorians is more than three times the number of open slots. What this means is that these highly selective universities turn down students who are “perfect on paper” all the time. Being valedictorian is great, but it is definitely not enough to warrant admission to the most selective colleges in the country.

Academics are the first hurdle to overcome in the college admissions process, but there are additional hurdles.

Countless parents and counselors advise their students to be well-rounded, in terms of their academics, participation in sports, volunteering, extracurricular activities, etc.

I suggest that you do the exact opposite.

Most students, and people in general, work hard on improving their weaknesses. They try to present an adequate skill level across all areas. As a result, they are mediocre at most things. The well-rounded strategy backfires in most cases because the student comes across to the admissions officers as average in all fields and does not shine in any one field.

Harvard is not an average college, so why would they accept an average student?

I advise that students work diligently on their strengths. Forget about striving to be well-rounded. I see “pointy” students gain admission to the top universities in the country. They are exceptional in one, maybe two areas.

This strategy takes time to implement; it requires persistence and dedication to become a specialist in your field, and that is the exact reason why it is so extraordinary. The first time Tiger Woods picked up a golf club he was not a pro. Even Pablo Picasso had to start somewhere.

The university wants to know that you are willing to put in consistent, sustained effort in your chosen field until you achieve the kind of success that makes you stand out amongst your peers. ‘Pointy’ students demonstrate that they have the direction, the passion and have laid the groundwork to do this, and that is why they are preferred candidates for any university.

Top universities seek specialists: individuals who are so driven by one aspect or one field that they are enthusiastic about devoting their entire time and attention to achieve outstanding results in that area.

By choosing different students with ambition, initiative and demonstrated skills in different areas, the college builds a class that is well-rounded yet made up of ‘pointy’ students.

I will let you in on another secret.

The most innovative companies in the world – such as Apple, Google, and Amazon – follow the same strategy. They hire “pointy” candidates.

The “pointy” students stand out, not just in college admissions, but in life.

About the author:
Kristen Moon is an independent college counselor and founder of Moon Prep provides one-on-one counseling services catered to university admissions. They guide students through the entire application process including: completing applications, personal statements, supplemental essays, student resumes, scholarships, and financial aid. Their specialty lies in the Ivy League, direct medical programs (BS/MD), and highly competitive universities.

Attack the SAT: What to do when your score plateaus By Allyson Evans

You’ve been studying for weeks and you’ve taken multiple practice SATs. You saw improvement on your first couple of practice tests and were feeling great! Then, you scored your most recent practice SAT and your score stayed the same (or even went down a little). What a bummer.


The good news is that you are not alone! At some point, almost all students see their SAT score plateau or even dip a little. So, take a deep breath, know that you’re not alone, and read the tips below to ensure your score starts going up again!  

Don’t give up.

You’re going to have ups and downs when you’re studying for the SAT. It’s inevitable. Some days, everything will just click and you’ll get more points than ever! Then, the very next day, you might miss ten questions in a row. That’s totally normal. The thing that’s going to get you ahead of the competition is your perseverance.


Take a day or two off to rest, and then get right back to your SAT study schedule. Follow your One Month SAT Study Plan to make sure you are covering all the topics you need to and in the right order.  While you might be tempted to deviate from the plan, now more than ever you need to stay on track. This SAT study plan was designed to help you learn everything you need to in time for the actual SAT when your score really matters.


Also, remember to keep your personal motivation in mind. For most students, that’s thinking about their dream colleges and the scores needed to get into those schools. If you’re not sure yet what your dream school is, check out the average NYU test scores or Georgia Tech scores to give you a sense of what some top schools want. Start by reviewing NYU Scores: What You Need to Get In and Georgia Tech SAT Scores, and then start thinking about the school that would be best for you!


Now that you’re back on track and holding your head up high, let’s look at a couple of specific steps you need to take to ensure your next practice SAT score is higher.

Analyze your SAT practice test results.

To keep making progress, you need to know exactly what’s working and what’s not working for you. The best way to determine what’s working is to set aside a few hours and review your most recent practice test or two. Go through all of the answers—right and wrong—to make sure you understand what you did for each question. Even for the questions you got right, you need to comprehend your approach so you can do it again next time.


For the questions you got wrong, take the time to understand why you got the questions wrong. Did you miss all the Algebra questions? Or did you miss the meaning of vocab questions? By noticing these patterns, you can start to see what you should focus on for the remainder of your study time. You don’t want to keep trying the same approach—now is the time to really hone in on your weaknesses and strengthen them! Find a solid SAT ebook, like the  Complete SAT Study Guide, and be sure you’ve reviewed all the best strategies and tactics for your weaker areas.


Also, if the pattern you’ve noticed is that you’re always short on time, the next tip will be crucial to raising your SAT score.

Pick up the pace.

To keep seeing your SAT score increase, you have to work through most, if not all, of the questions efficiently. It doesn’t matter how many times you can get a data interpretation question right if you have thirty minutes. You have to learn how to solve each question in the allotted time you are given. If your score has plateaued, you need to do some timed practice.


Set up your timer and try one section at a time in the allotted time. If you’re really struggling to get through all of the questions, keep an eye on the timer to help you remember how much time you have left. (Once you develop a good sense of the time you have for each question, you won’t need to look as often.) Remember to move on when you get really stuck on a problem, you don’t want to miss an easier question down the line because you got tripped up early on in the section. With a little timed practice, you’ll start to notice your efficiency increase and, no surprise, your SAT score, too!


When your SAT score plateaus, it can definitely be discouraging. Keep your chin up and stick to your study schedule. Once you’ve analyzed your strengths and weaknesses, spend a little time increasing your speed. If you do all of these things, your SAT score will start climbing back up in no time!



About the Author:


Allyson Evans earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and her JD from the University of Texas at Austin. She has been teaching and tutoring the LSAT since 2007, and loves helping students achieve their goals. She currently practices law in Austin, Texas. When she’s not helping students conquer the LSAT, she enjoys traveling and camping.



Education Enthusiasm: Why It’s Never Too Late To Go Back By Emma Sturgis

Just because you feel like you’re too old to go back to school doesn’t mean that you are. While parents would love for their teens to go straight to college following their graduations, only about 79 percent of graduates actually enroll in school by the time they reach 20. Since some graduates take a break from school, it’s no surprise that 40 percent of student populations are 25 and older.




Continue reading

5 Ways 21st Century Education Will Change By Rachael Murphey

In the future, education will drastically change and begin to rely heavily on technology. Certain subjects that students were not exposed to in traditional school will be heavily explored in the future. Here are five ways that education will change in the 21st century.

Reliance on Online Classes

In the past decade, online classes have been introduced and offered to students throughout the country. In the future, there will be more of a reliance on these classes, as students are able to explore areas that were previously off limits. If a student wants to learn about a particular level of science or a specific field of history, he or she will be able to rely more on online classes. Online classes will also allow those who live in remote areas to gain a level of education that they did not have access to in the past.

Continue reading

The Importance of Paper in the Digital Classroom By Emma Miller

With constant technological advances and state-of-the-art devices, it’s only a matter of time until the classroom will become a completely digital environment. In fact, it’s already happening – computers have become an integral part of education, while more and more students and teachers are using tablets instead of books. However, despite such a progressive approach to the classroom environment, there’s still an essential need for paper in the otherwise digital classroom, and it will be a long time before it disappears.


Continue reading