The College Checklist Podcast

The College Checklist Podcast is the podcast dedicated to guiding you through the complex world of college admissions. Host Lauren Gaggioli interviews experts from all areas of college admissions, college search, financial aid, scholarships, test prep and more to empower you take control of your family's college admissions process.

Don't forget to subscribe to The College Checklist Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher Radio so that you'll receive the latest episodes right to your smartphone or tablet as soon as they're released!

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TCC 035 : How to Improve Your SAT Scores with Debbie Stier

"WIth SAT prep you need to get out of your comfort zone and do the work." -Debbie StierIn this episode of the College Checklist Podcast, I interview Debbie Stier, author of the Perfect Score Project. Debbie shares insights from her journey as she tackled the SAT the year before her son Ethan did in order to figure out the best methods of preparation for the test. Debbie even went so far as to take the SAT an incredible seven times in one year. She shares some great tips on what to do and what not to do in preparing for the SAT, including some great test day tips.

Debbie’s #1 takeaway from her SAT journey is that preparing for the SAT is not a fast process, but it does not need to be a reviled rite of passage. I can’t agree with that statement enough and am grateful to Debbie for sharing her experience with us in this episode.

As an added bonus, at the end of the episode I’ll share with you a way for you to win a free copy of Debbie’s book.


The College Checklist Podcast – How to Improve Your SAT Scores

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About Debbie Stier

Debbie Stier, Author of The Perfect Score ProjectDebbie Stier has a background in the publishing world and is the author of The Perfect Score Project*. In 2011, Debbie took every SAT offered in an effort to motivate her son Ethan. The book that results is part memoir, part research project that will open your eyes to all of the aspects of the SAT – from history and facts about the exam to the implications of a good SAT score to the touching (and stressful) moments that Debbie and her son share on this journey.

Show Notes

Are you enjoying The College Checklist Podcast? Let us know by leaving us a review on iTunes! Click here to review The College Checklist Podcast.

A Few Tips for HIgher SAT Scores

  • Physically cross out the wrong answers.
  • Keep your own time.  Wear an analog watch and, at the beginning of each section, set it at the top of the hour.
  • Bring snacks, nothing big, dark chocolate and apples are good.
  • Sit in the front row to minimize visual distractions.
  • The night before , watch quiet TV and keep yourself from distractions.  Make it a peaceful night.

Click here to hear my top 5 tips for higher SAT scores.
Click here to hear my top 5 tips for higher ACT scores.

Quotable Quotes

“To be good at the SAT is to be good at reading, writing and math.  It is not mutually exclusive to improving your GPA.”

“For SAT prep you need to be methodical.  You need to choose one good plan and stick with that plan.”

“Learning vocabulary is not a short process. It takes time.”

“With SAT prep you need to get out of your comfort zone and do the work.”

Lightning Round Q&A

Q1: What’s your best piece of advice for families as they begin this journey?
A1: Try to have fun. Go into it with a positive attitude and it can be a wonderful shared experience.

Q2: What is your favorite college admissions book, blog, or tool that no family should be without?
A2: The Perfect Score Project* and The College Solution by Lynn O’Shaughnessy*

Q3: What should a family who is overwhelmed by the college admissions process focus on?
A3: Pick one town and go on college tours. Do 1 per day and see all you can at that college.

Q4: What is your all-time favorite book?
A4: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien*

*These links are affiliate links through Amazon. You will not pay extra; however, we do receive a small reimbursement if you purchase through our links. Thank you for your support of The College Checklist Podcast!

Get in touch with DebbiE

Want to win a free copy of The Perfect Score Project? Share your favorite takeaway from this episode in the comments below!

Submissions are due by 11:59pm Monday, November 3rd. I’ll notify the winners by email.

TCC 034 : Tips for Great College Visits with Jessica Velasco

"The sollege campus visit that you make can play into the admission decision." - Jessica VelascoIn this episode of the College Checklist Podcast, I interview Jessica Velasco, an independent college counselor who also has experience as a college admissions officer.  Jessica’s experience on both sides of the college admissions process gives us unique insight into what colleges are really looking for from their applicants.

Today we take a dive into campus visits. Jessica explains the different ways that you can visit a college campus and shares some of her tips on how to get the most out of your college visit. She details the importance of these visits, when to start making visits, what time of year to go, and what to do while on campus.


The College Checklist Podcast – Tips for Great College Visits

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About Jessica Velasco

Jessica Velasco, Founder of JLV College CounselingJessica Velasco is an independent college counselor and founder of JLV College Counseling. She started her counseling company after working in higher education for ten years. Jessica has worked in college admissions and career centers at 3 colleges, including 2 years as Director of Admissions at Northwest University, just outside of Seattle. Her experience in these positions on the “other side of the desk” make her a wealth of information to her current clients.


Show Notes

Are you enjoying The College Checklist Podcast? Let us know by leaving us a review on iTunes! Click here to review The College Checklist Podcast.

Quotable Quotes

“It is so important to go see the campus to get a feel for the college.  It’s important to see if you are going to fit in to the community.”

“Register with the admissions office and let them know what you want to see.”

“The campus visit that you make can play in to the admission decision.”

Resources Mentioned

Lightning Round Q&A

Q1: What’s your best piece of advice for families as they begin this journey?
A1: Don’t choose a college based on prestige and reputation.

Q2: What is your favorite college admissions book, blog, or tool that no family should be without?
A2: Admission Matters by Sally Springer, Jon Reider, and Marion Franck*

Q3: What should a family who is overwhelmed by the college admissions process focus on?
A3: Early on, really think about what you want and what you don’t want in a college.

Q4: What is your all-time favorite book?
A4: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee* and The Big Book of Berenstain Bears*

*These links are affiliate links through Amazon. You will not pay extra; however, we do receive a small reimbursement if you purchase through our links. Thank you for your support of The College Checklist Podcast!

Get in touch with Jessica

TCC 033 : How to Memorize SAT Vocabulary Words with Master of Memory Timothy Moser

With the PSAT and SAT right around the corner, now is the perfect time to talk about the dreaded SAT vocabulary words. And who could be better to help us learn new strategies for remembering vocabulary than the Master of Memory himself, Timothy Moser.

In this episode of The College Checklist Podcast, Timothy and I start by discussing overall strategies for memorization and the dive deeper on memorization techniques that are specific to PSAT and SAT vocabulary. We cover everything from using mind palaces to memorize phone numbers to a using unique stressed-syllable approach to memorizing vocabulary words.

We also discuss why the PSAT taken in October of the junior year of high school is so important in obtaining financial aid, the upcoming changes to the SAT, and how those changes will affect the October 2015 PSAT.

The College Checklist Podcast – How to Memorize SAT Vocabulary Words

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About Timothy Moser

Master of Memory, Timothy MoserTimothy Moser is a prolific podcaster as well as a PSAT& SAT tutor who specializes in helping students memorize vocabulary. He hosts 3 podcasts – Master of Memory, Accelerated Spanish, ACE Productivity – and tutors students through his company, Tutoring for Scholarships. He has also created 2 e-learning courses. You can learn more about them here: http://masterofmemory.com/courses/

Show Notes

Are you enjoying The College Checklist Podcast? Let us know by leaving us a review on iTunes! Click here to review The College Checklist Podcast.

Quotable Quotes

“Students who finish in the top 1% on the PSAT for their state get options for financial aid they might not have believed were possible.”

“Anytime you are studying make sure whatever you are working on will actually improve your score.”

“I was home-schooled so I was the valedictorian at my graduation.”

Strategies Mentioned

  1. Memory Palaces and How They Work 
  2. Stressed Syllables to Memorize Vocabulary for the SAT

Get in touch with Timothy

TCC 032 : The Birkman Method for Students with Arlene Kaplan

Birkman Method for Students with Arlene KaplanToday’s episode of The College Checklist Podcast delves into the value of knowing one’s self well. Though not a traditional part of the college admissions process, I believe that the more time students invest in getting to know themselves before heading off to college, the better invested their time will be in their collegiate studies. Arlene Kaplan shares with us the Birkman Method, an in-depth personality assessment that reveals your interests, your strengths, your needs, your stress behavior, and what occupations are ideal for you. It can also help our high school students identify the kind of college environment and careers in which they will thrive. (I wish I had completed one before I applied to college!)

Arlene and I are friends and when she showed me the Birkman Method, I immediately saw the practical value it would have for college-bound students. Shortly after recording this episode, I completed the assessment myself and learned a great deal about myself in the process. I even share those insights at the end of the episode, so be sure to stick around to see the practical application this can have in your student’s (or maybe even your own) life.

The College Checklist Podcast – The Birkman Method for Students

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About Arlene Kaplan

Arlene Kaplan, Birkman Method Senior ConsultantArlene Kaplan is the founder of AK Consulting. Arlene helps her clients make critical career and personal decisions so they can take action with confidence. Her practice is rooted in a really interesting assessment called the Birkman Method. Arlene consults with clients virtually, helping them identify their natural strengths and passions and untangle the roots of some of the stresses in their lives. Arlene has a Masters in Human Resources/Organization Development from the University of San Francisco and a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Dance Performance from Ohio State University.

Show Notes

Are you enjoying the College Checklist Podcast? Let us know by leaving us a review on iTunes! Click here to review The College Checklist Podcast.

Quotable Quotes

“We are each unique and if we understand ourselves we can make something happen that works for us.”

“There are several colleges that use the Birkman Method for their students.”

“It should not close down options but provide focus.”

Get in touch with Arlene

If you’re interested in taking a Birkman Assessment with Arlene, be sure to mention that you heard her on The College Checklist Podcast for a special offer!

TCC 031 : Scholarship 411 with Sam and Max from Scholarship Superhero

Scholarship 411 with ScholarshipSuperhero.com

Are you looking for the latest scholarship 411? In this episode of The College Checklist Podcast, I chat with Sam and Max from ScholarshipSuperhero.com. Sam and Max provide tips on how to find (and win) scholarship dollars.  In today’s day and age of expensive “sticker prices” for college tuition, private scholarships are an excellent way to reduce the out-of-pocket expenses for a college-bound family. Sam and Max certainly walk the scholarship walk so they can talk the talk/ Sam just graduated college and Max has only a few credits left. As recent university students, their insights into the scholarship search process are up-to-date and practical.


The College Checklist Podcast – Scholarship 411

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About Sam and Max

Sam and Max are the founders of ScholarshipSuperhero.com. They offer various services to support students who are applying for scholarships. Together, they help students wade through all of the scholarship 411 available – first cutting straight to the best scholarship fits and then helping their clients win those awards. Sam is a recent graduate from NYU’s Tisch School of the Art. Max is a senior who will be graduating from NYU with a concentration in behavioral finance. Both Sam and Max have won scholarship money which helped to significantly defray their college costs


Show Notes

Are you enjoying the College Checklist Podcast? Let us know by leaving us a review on iTunes! Click here to review The College Checklist Podcast.

Resources MentioneD

Quotable Quotes

“The PSAT is just as important as the SAT in obtaining scholarship dollars.”

“The average tuition right now for a state school is $23K a year and double that for a private university.”

“75% of students have taken out student loans.  The average student leaves school $30K in debt.”

Lightning Round Q&A

Q1: What’s your best piece of advice for families as they begin this journey?
A1:  Break down the cost of college and understand how you are going to pay for it.

Q2: What is your favorite college admissions book, blog, or tool that no family should be without?
A2: ScholarshipSuperhero.com and CollegeConfidential.com

Q3: What should a family who is overwhelmed by the college admissions process focus on?
A3:  Focus on what you want out of college.

Q4: What is your all-time favorite book?
A4: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass*, The Autobiography of Malcolm X*, Speak with Distinction by Edith Skinner*, and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn*

*These links are affiliate links through Amazon. You will not pay extra; however, we do receive a small reimbursement if you purchase through our links. Thank you for your support of The College Checklist Podcast!

Get in touch with Sam and Max

TCC 030 : What Is A Gap Year with Sandy Furth

What is a Gap Year with Sandy FurthIf you’ve every found yourself at a dinner party with other college-bound families and heard the term Gap Year, it may have left you scratching your head. I know in high school I was confused wondering, what is a gap year? I mean, what is it exactly. Is it a year off or is there a set Gap Year program to pay for and attend? Do I have to travel internationally or are there Gap Year programs in the United States? And what will I be doing as a part of the program? Does a program have to have a specific focus? Are there ones that will point me in the right direction for a career by allowing me to sample different industries? And how a Gap Year affect my chances of getting into college?

Seriously! What is a Gap Year?

Although they’ve been around a while, if you haven’t heard of Gap Year programs, you’re not alone! In this episode of The College Checklist Podcast, Sandy Furth and I discuss information regarding Gap Year programs.  Sandy details the background, benefits, and impact of a Gap Year on the college admission process.

Wonder no more! Your Gap Year questions will be answered here!


The College Checklist Podcast – What Is A Gap Year?

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About Sandy Furth

Sandy FurthSandy Furth is an independent and international educational consultant and founder of World Student Support. Sandy’s practice helps families identify appropriate schools and programs that meet the specific needs of their student, internationally or in the United States. Sandy has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of New Mexico, Master’s degree from the University of Utah, and a teaching certificate (Educationally Handicapped) from the University of Colorado/Denver. In addition, she has her College Counseling Certificate from UCLA. Sandy has taught for over twenty years in Colorado, Malaysia, Japan, and England.


Show Notes

Are you enjoying the College Checklist Podcast? Let us know by leaving us a review on iTunes! Click here to review The College Checklist Podcast

Resources MentioneD

Quotable Quotes

“A gap year is ‘time on’ or ‘time in between’ to pursue a passion or pursuit a student might not have time to pursue while in school.”

“A gap year needs to be structured with a goal in mind.”

“Students come back with more of a goal of what they want to do in life.  They experience a little bit of the real world before they step out in to the real world.”

Lightning Round Q&A

Q1: What’s your best piece of advice for families as they begin this journey?
A1: Getting in to a college is the beginning. Taking advantage of everything the college has to offer is the goal.

Q2: What is your favorite college admissions book, blog, or tool that no family should be without?
A2: The College Finder by Dr. Steven R Antonoff* and College Match by Dr. Steven R Antonoff*

Q3: What should a family who is overwhelmed by the college admissions process focus on?
A3: Take a deep breath, you will find the right fit

Q4: What is your all-time favorite book?
A4: College Unbound by Jeffery Selingo* and Doing School by Denise Clark Pope*

*These links are affiliate links through Amazon. You will not pay extra; however, we do receive a small reimbursement if you purchase through our links. Thank you for your support of The College Checklist Podcast!

Get in touch with Sandy

TCC 029 : A Walk with the College Essay Guy, Ethan Sawyer

Quote from The College Essay Guy, Ethan SawyerIn this episode of The College Checklist Podcast, I chat with the College Essay Guy, Ethan Sawyer. Ethan shares his passion for preparing students to write their essays.  This episode focuses mainly on the Why Us essay, which is required by many colleges, but delves into tips and strategies that could work for almost any college essay. Ethan provides excellent ideas and a unique, refreshing perspective on the college essay in general.


The College Checklist Podcast – A Walk with the College Essay Guy

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About Ethan Sawyer

Ethan Sawyer, The College Essay Guy

Ethan Sawyer – the College Essay Guy – has been helping students write their college admissions essays more than ten years. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, UC Irvine, and holds two counseling certifications, one from UC Irvine and one from the Interchange Counseling Institute. Ethan is also an active member of the Western Association of College Admissions Counselors (WACAC) and the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC).


Show Notes

Are you enjoying the College Checklist Podcast? Let us know by leaving us a review on iTunes! Click here to review The College Checklist Podcast.

Quotable Quotes

“I’m like a mid-wife.  The essay is going to be written whether I’m there or not.  I try to make the process as painless as possible.”

“The biggest benefit of the “why us” essay is for the student as it helps them determine if they really want to go to that college.”

“The college is looking for what makes you different.”

“Tell the school why you were meant for each other.”

Lightning Round Q&A

Q1: What’s your best piece of advice for families as they begin this journey?
A1: Get help. Parts of the college admissions process require specific expertise.

Q2: What is your favorite college admissions book, blog, or tool that no family should be without?
A2:  CollegeExpress.com and CollegeEssayGuy.com

Q3: What should a family who is overwhelmed by the college admissions process focus on?
A3:  Take time to pause and check in with each other. Focus on the long term goal.

Q4: What is your all-time favorite book?
A4: The Brother’s Karamozov by Fyodor Dostoyevski*

*These links are affiliate links through Amazon. You will not pay extra; however, we do receive a small reimbursement if you purchase through our links. Thank you for your support of The College Checklist Podcast!

Get in touch with Ethan

TCC 028 : Find the College Major That is Right for You with Kat Clowes

“The book learning is not enough.  Spend time really investigating the fields you think you want to go in to.” -Kat ClowesIn this episode of The College Checklist Podcast, I chat with Kat Clowes of March Consulting and The College March PodcastKat describes her journey to becoming an educational consultant. She also talks about her passion for helping students find out what they want to do and how to achieve it by picking the right college major from the very beginning of their journey. If you’re looking for a college major that perfectly matches your passions and strengths, this episode is for you!


The College Checklist Podcast – Find the College Major That is Right for You

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About Kat Clowes

Kat Clowes - My March Consulting and the College March PodcastKat Clowes is the founder and CEO of March Consulting and host of the College March Podcast. She has a BA in Communications from Santa Clara University, an MBA from Mount Saint Mary’s College with an emphasis in entrepreneurship, and a post-graduate certificate in Independent Educational Consulting from UC Irvine. She has had unparalleled success with her students in the past 3 years, and loves teaching her students how to find the college major that best fits their passions, and how to market themselves and become entrepreneurs in their own lives. Kat also consults and mentors young professionals as they start up their own businesses.


Show Notes

Are you enjoying the College Checklist Podcast? Let us know by leaving us a review on iTunes! Click here to review The College Checklist Podcast

Quotable Quotes

“It is not a good idea to go to college not really knowing what you are going to do with your four years.”

“Book learning is not enough.  Spend time really investigating the fields you think you want to go in to.”

“You have to be more entrepreneurial about your career.  It is possible to design your own career.”

Lightning Round Q&A

Q1: What’s your best piece of advice for families as they begin this journey?
A1: Know yourself.  Know why you are going to college.

Q2: What is your favorite college admissions book, blog, or tool that no family should be without?
A2:  Hire an educational consultant.

Q3: What should a family who is overwhelmed by the college admissions process focus on?
A3:  Keep organized.  Use and educational consultant or go to the source for information. Call the colleges you are interested in and ask questions.

Q4: What is your all-time favorite book?
A4: The Iliad* and The Odyssey*

*These links are affiliate links through Amazon. You will not pay extra; however, we do receive a small reimbursement if you purchase through our links. Thank you for your support of The College Checklist Podcast!

Get in touch with Kat

TCC 027 : Personal Branding and the College Admissions Process with Arfan Qureshi

Arfan Qureshi on The College Checklist Podcast In this episode of The College Checklist Podcast, I talk with Arfan Qureshi about personal branding and its role in the college admissions process. We discuss why branding is important, especially for college-bound high school students. Arfan places a heavy emphasis on the importance of networking in the branding and college admissions process. He also explains how students can develop their brand by addressing these four questions:

    1. What is my natural advantage?
    2. Who is my audience?
    3. How can I demonstrate expertise?
    4. Who do I need to network with?

Arfan and I agree that branding absolutely can and should be applied as a part of the college admissions process. An added bonus, branding can continue to be developed throughout college to help students successfully enter the job market upon graduation.


The College Checklist Podcast – Personal Branding and the College Admissions Process

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About Arfan Qureshi

Arfan QureshiArfan Qureshi is a branding expert and the host of the Lion Sage Podcast. Arfan is passionate about helping young people define their personal brand and believes that brand building is an organic, long-term strategy. While it can be helpful during the college adnissions process, it will be helpful far beyond graduation. Arfan holds a master’s degree in Social and Personality Psychology and an undergraduate degree in Computer Science and Mathematics.  He currently serves as the Senior Manager of Leadership and Organization Development at The Hershey Company, where he is responsible for managing Leadership and Organization Development consulting services across the global enterprise.


Show Notes

In this episode of The College Checklist Podcast you will learn about:

  • Personal branding and how you can develop your own personal brand.
  • How 4 questions can guide your branding journey
  • How personal branding will help in your college admissions process
  • Why networking is one of the most important things you can do to develop your brand

Are you enjoying the College Checklist Podcast? Let us know by leaving us a review on iTunes! Click here to review The College Checklist Podcast

Resources Mentioned

I also mentioned that I’d include my favorite business books that I think are highly applicable to the college journey. These are the 2 I would read with my college-bound student.

Quotable Quotes

“It is never too early to be networking”

“Almost anybody will say yes to an informational interview.  This allows you to network with almost anyone.”

Lightning Round Q&A

Q1: What’s your best piece of advice for families as they begin this journey?
A1: This is a journey. Take time to explore.

Q2: What is your favorite college admissions book, blog, or tool that no family should be without?
A2: Brand Against the Machine by John Michael Morgan*

Q3: What should a family who is overwhelmed by the college admissions process focus on?
A3: Build good habits. Be patient and be intentional.

Q4: What is your all-time favorite book?
A4: Platform by Michael Hyatt*

*These links are affiliate links through Amazon. You will not pay extra; however, we do receive a small reimbursement if you purchase through our links. Thank you for your support of The College Checklist Podcast!

Get in touch with Arfan


Action Item

I’ve said it before and Arfan repeated its importance in this show. Every college-bound student should consider networking an integral part of the college admissions process.

One of the best ways to network is to get on LinkedIn and begin strategically reaching out to leaders in the industry you are most interested in.

  1. Sign up for a free LinkedIn account.
  2. Complete your profile.
  3. Connect with Arfan and I.

TCC 026 : Comparing the Cost of College with Jimmy Becker

Calculating the Cost of CollegeIn today’s episode of The College Checklist Podcast, I interview Jimmy Becker. Jimmy is the co-founder and CEO of CostofLearning.com, a free site that helps families determine the net cost of college. Lauren and Jimmy discuss the many complexities of determining the true cost of college, as well as needs-based financial aid and the importance of endowment size at private universities in granting financial aid.


The College Checklist Podcast – Comparing the Cost of College

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About Jimmy Becker

Jimmy Becker is the co-founder and CEO of CostofLearning.com – a college net-price calculator that helps families understand the true cost of college. Jimmy has a passion for helping families navigate the complexities of the college financial process. He has taught financial literacy and financial aid workshops to high school and college students. He holds an undergraduate degree in Economics from Brown University and an MBA from the Yale School of Management.


Show Notes

In this episode of The College Checklist Podcast you will learn about:

    • A free cost of college net price calculator
    • Why out-of-state state schools are often more expensive than private universities
    • How endowment money affects the net cost of college
    • Common mistakes families make when calculating the cost of college

Are you enjoying the College Checklist Podcast? Let us know by leaving us a review on iTunes! Click here to review The College Checklist Podcast

Resources Mentioned

Quotable Quotes

“Students and families are taking on too much debt.  Part of the reason is they don’t understand what they are signing up for.”

“Generally speaking, the pricing does not change much from year to year. It is reasonable to start thinking about this sophomore year and certainly getting serious about it by the 11th grade.”

“Out-of-state state universities are usually the most expensive if financial aid is a key criteria.”

LiGhtning Round Q&A

Q1: What’s your best piece of advice for families as they begin this journey?
A1:

    1. Get an estimate of your EFC (Estimated Family Contribution). [Click here for an EFC calculator.]
    2. Submit your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form as early as possible.
    3. Parents – set expectations with your kids as early as possible.
    4. Be wary of out-of-state state universities.
    5. Consider less exclusive colleges, you might get more financial aid

Q2: What is your favorite college admissions book, blog, or tool that no family should be without?
A2: The Cost of Learning Blog

Q3: What should a family who is overwhelmed by the college admissions process focus on?
A3: Follow the tips from Q1.

Q4: What is your all-time favorite book?
A4: Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond*, Flash Boys by Michael Lewis*, and Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty*

*These links are affiliate links through Amazon. You will not pay extra; however, we do receive a small reimbursement if you purchase through our links. Thank you for your support of The College Checklist Podcast!

Get in touch with Jimmy