Monday, May 7, 2012

Book Review - If I Knew Then, What I Know Now! College and Financial Aid Planning From A Parent's Perspective

About the Book
College and the financial aid planning process should start as early in a child’s life as possible. It can be a frustrating and complicated puzzle, and parents often have no idea where to begin or how to help their children get through it.

If I Knew Then What I Know Now! College & Financial Aid Planning From A Parent’s Perspective (Pendium Publishing) by Cynthia Hammond Davis, is the true story of her struggle to find help putting all of the pieces of the college search, financial aid, scholarships, athletics and extracurricular activities together.

After experiencing first-hand how complex this journey can be, Davis decided to combine her findings and include them in a book to help other parents and students with early college awareness. This book acts as a priceless guide to help parents understand their role as well as offering basic tips on how they can assist their children through the process as efficiently as possible.

Want to know where a lot of scholarship money can be found? Want to find out how your child may be able to attend an out-of-state college while paying in-state tuition costs? Want advice that will save time during the college admission process? Answers to these questions and more can be found in this book – outlined in a short, simple, and to the point approach.

Davis believes that there is nothing to prepare parents on how and where to begin and they struggle through trying to help their children, just as she did, and it was through trial and error she learned how to get to the right information. In her instructive book, she is very candid about mistakes she made along the way in hopes of helping other parents avoid making those same mistakes.

Cynthia Hammond Davis is a College and Career Advisor, Founder/Executive Director of The Light of the City, Inc., a nonprofit organization, and President of CollegeAndCareerAdvice.Com. She is the radio talk show host of her own Saturday morning talk show, “The College and Career Information Hour,” and an in-demand public and motivational speaker.

As a college and financial aid advisor since 2001, she has helped many parents and students get through the process, resulting in their receiving scholarship offers that total over $1 million collectively each year. What Cynthia Hammond Davis does, she does with the passion of someone who truly cares about her work and about helping students to become tomorrow’s professionals.

College is one of the most expensive things parents can plan for their children and now they don’t have to waste countless hours doing their own research – Davis has done it for them. All they need to do is read the book!

My Take on the Book
As a college admissions professional, I have read many books and written one myself, so I am always looking for other books that will make the college selection and planning process easier for parents and children alike. This was a great book that brought together the great experience of the author with practical tips that can help many parents to de-mystify the college preparation process. There are some wonderful hidden gems within the book, and what is best is that the book itself is short and to the point so you are not having to sift through 300-400 pages trying to find exactly what you need, but instead the book is laid out in an easy to follow and understand way that makes perfect sense! All-in-all this was a great book for anyone looking to start the college planning process.

All opinions expressed in this review are my own and not influenced in any way by the company.  Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Please refer to this site's Disclaimer  for more information. I have been compensated or given a product free of charge, but that does not impact my views or opinions

Friday, May 4, 2012

Book Review - Say This, NOT That to Your Professor

About the Book
A Washington college professor is shaking up the world of education and helping students get better grades like never before. Using a progressive teaching style that breaks down barriers, Ellen Bremen, a tenured professor of Communication Studies at Highline Community College just outside of Seattle, Washington is teaching students things that no one ever dreamed of telling students before.

“Succeeding in college,” she says, “is not just about studying day and night to get good grades on the tests. The real key is learning how to talk with professors, so that you express exactly what you need in order to learn, and then deliver what they are asking for. Communicate your goals and intentions, not your remorse. ”

Students wonder, "How can I get better grades?" Many students go all the way through college and never figure out that what they really need to learn is how to effectively and professionally communicate with professors, people who work in the institutions, and other students.

In reality, most professors feel frustrated by the way students bungle communication over class-related issues. Sadly, those same professors won’t take the time or believe it is their responsibility to enlighten students about how the interaction could have been improved.

Ellen Bremen’s amazing new book Say This, NOT That to Your Professor: 36 Talking Tips for College Success cuts through the fog and offers up hard hitting advice and tactics that focus directly on exactly what students must say in the encounters they have at school. Ellen Bremen, in fact, makes it easy by telling them exactly what to say… and what not to say. Here are just some of the numerous, invaluable golden nuggets of advice contained in her book:

“It's not what you do! It's what you say and what you don't say.”

On day ONE after you've gone over the syllabus and any introductory material, go right up to the professor and say, "I am trying to get an A (or B, C, whatever) in this class. Can I meet with you to create a plan?"

During the meeting: You say "Do you review work in advance? How early would you like me to submit that? How would you like me to turn it in? Can I deliver it in person? Or by e-mail?

As the term continues: "I would like to meet with you to discuss how my grades are going.” Or “Do I have any missing grades?” Or, well in advance of the term ending—not a week before the term ends: “I’m at a 2.5 and striving for a 3.0. I’ve calculated that if I achieve ____ on these upcoming assignments, I can achieve this goal. Can we schedule some checkpoints to see how I’m doing?”

Too few students even check their grades during the term! What if your professor accidentally transposed a number or, worse, entered a zero?

What should students never say?

"Why'd you GIVE me that grade?" (Grades are earned, never given!)

"But I worked SO hard!" (Your prof can't grade you for effort... unfortunately)

"I really NEEDED to get a 4.0 in this class!"... in week 10 (Then you should have had a grade goal conversation in week 1 when you and your prof could have actually hatched a plan!).

How do students handle the two peskiest, but common, everyday college issues? Late work and absences! 

Use a Three Step Approach:

  1. Know your prof's policy ahead of time by reading the syllabus; 
  2. Formulate your own plan based on the policy and figure out if you can stomach the existing penalty/consequences; 
  3. Approach your prof with a proactive proposal: "Professor, I've had a situation arise that caused me to be late with my work/absent. This was unavoidable. I reviewed the syllabus and understand that I will face __________ penalty. I've figured out how this affects my standing in the class. I see that you covered Chapter 6 and 7, and I will be responsible for those on my own. I will have my assignment to you on X date. Are you comfortable with this timeline/plan?" 
Never give an excuse: The reasons don't matter. Your prof cares about you, but time is short and needs to solve your problem.

Never ask your prof to go over everything you missed. You wouldn't ask your clergy to redo a sermon for you in your living room, right?

Don't force your prof to be reactive. You have a far better chance for a creative solution and for latitude if you are proactive!

How to not make your professors cringe: Two common clueless statements students make: 

"Did I miss anything important today?” Hours of research and planning goes into prepping for a class session. Even days that may seem "boring" or uneventful are taken seriously by your prof.

Instead, say this:

"Professor, I have to miss next Thursday and I apologize for that. I've tried to keep my absences to a minimum (only say this if it's true). I looked at the schedule and I see you're covering Chapter 11 that night. I know we're taking our quiz a few days later. I believe I'll be able to stay on track. Is there anything I'm not thinking about that may be covered? I'd be glad to do the research on my own or ask a classmate to help me with notes."

“Will this be on the test?” Look at the title of your course. There is bound to be material that will be on a test, and some that won't be on a test. But, really, if you walked in on the first day of class and your prof said, "Okay, class, everything you need to know is on page 4, 8, 12, 15, 16-19, 22, 24, 30, 35-42, and review all of the chapters in section 3 of your text. You can leave now," would you really be happy? Believe it or not, you wouldn't feel like you were learning very much.... and you'd feel short-changed in your education.

Instead, say this: "Professor, I see we have a couple of major tests coming up. I'll be working on my own study guides, but I'm also wondering if you'll be giving us a study guide or offering a review session in class?"

How students can survive the things professors do wrong 

"This class is boring!" Students have a right to be engaged in their classes, even if they don't feel entertained. What can you do? Talk to the prof privately and say, "I'm struggling with the format of this class." (Often lecture format is the culprit). Then, make some concrete suggestions:

"Could we:
-allow some group discussion?
-add a question-and-answer period after each section?
-ask questions during your lecture? (most profs will take questions during a lecture, but the prof could possibly add questions or quick "are you getting it?" checks into the PowerPoint material)
-submit anonymous questions before class that you can answer during class?
-do activities related to the material?
-assign a section to students and allowing them to present the material?
-or any of your own ideas ... think of a teacher whose class you enjoyed and in which you learned a great deal

And there’s much more. Say This, NOT That to Your Professor is the first book that is totally devoted to the student-prof dynamic.

Students work with professors every single day and yet there is no readily available handbook available anywhere that takes the mystery out of how to behave so you achieve success on campus.

This book tells students exactly the words to say in person. There is no alternative that is effective. The students can't text it in, Facebook it in, or even phone it in with professors. Like it or not, most of the essential communication that leads to success in college has to be done face-to-face.

About the Author 
A 14-year classroom veteran, Ellen Bremen is tenured faculty in the Communication Studies department at Highline Community College. She has previously taught at Darton College, University of Nevada Las Vegas, and the College of Southern Nevada.

Ellen has received national recognition for teaching innovation by the Sloan-Consortium (2011), the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development and the National Council of Instructional Administrators (2003). She received degrees in Post-Secondary Education and Communication. Ellen blogs as The Chatty Professor.

My Take on the Book 
As someone that has worked in higher education for some time, I can honestly say that this book does offer some great insights into what you should and should not do when it comes to interacting with your professors. Some of the points are common sense (if you have attended college in the past), but there are also some real hidden gems in the book as well which made me say, yes, this author really know what she is talking about. What I loved most about the book was that the author is a professor and she is sharing her own experiences in the classroom with the reader, and this type of experience is so valuable for all readers to know as it is this experience that makes the book as valuable as it is. The book has a light tone, but it is very heavy in details and  information and is truly a resource that any current college student or soon-to-be college student should read!

All opinions expressed in this review are my own and not influenced in any way by the company.  Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Please refer to this site's Disclaimer  for more information. I have been compensated or given a product free of charge, but that does not impact my views or opinions.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tips for Parents and Students for College ACT Test Success from Virtual Nerd Expert Tutor Leo Shmuylovich

The ACT college entrance exam is is administered many times throughout the year and many students are feeling extremely pressured as this test can be the deciding factor as to which college or university they will attend.  Test-taking anxiety and high stress levels are common this time of year and expert tutor and co-founder of the “Parent Tested Parent Approved” interactive tutoring website Virtual Nerd, Leo Shmuylovich, is here to help. Leo offers the following steps for successful ACT testing:

1)        GUESSING IS OK - First and foremost, remember that there is NO PENALTY for guessing. No matter what, make sure you at fill in a bubble for every single question. That means you have to make sure that you leave yourself enough time to bubble in an answer on every question (even the ones you didn't have time to read).

2)        ELIMINATE WRONG ANSWERS- You’ll have a better chance at guessing right if you first eliminate some answers, so when you a read a question, read the answers too! You’ll be surprised how many answers you can eliminate if you just take the time to read them over and apply them to the problem. Process of elimination is a technique that tutors really focus on for ACT and SAT.

3)        PLUG ANSWERS CHOICES INTO THE QUESTION - One way to get intuition about eliminating answer choices is to plug in every single answer in a math problem and check to see if it works. So if the problem is asking you to solve for a variable in an equation, just plug in the different answers and the one that works is the right answer! When you’re taking the test there are some tricks to plugging in the answer choices, and ACT tutors love teaching those to students. The key though is to get comfortable working with the answer choices, because then you’re not just taking the test, but you’re taking the test apart!

4)        FOCUS ON CHARTS AND DIAGRAMS - Diagrams and charts are also really important parts of the ACT. If you have a geometry problem without a diagram, then drawing one yourself, and keeping it to scale, can be a great trick for quickly figuring out the problem. If there is a diagram already drawn, use the diagram to estimate what they’re asking about. On the ACT, diagrams are almost always to scale. When you see a chart or graph, especially in the science section, you should get excited, because for the most part the problems in that section will be based completely on just interpreting the chart or the graph. You can basically skip the written description! ACT tutors often tell their students that 1/3 of the science section can be completely mastered if you just get good at interpreting charts and graphs. So when you’re practicing the science section, focus on charts!

5)        TIME MANAGEMENT IS KEY - There are also some tips to keep in mind for time-management. One of the best things for time management is to stay calm as you take the test, and that’s why I always recommend that students practice without time restrictions. That way they are able to focus on the test and can overcome their fear of it. Then, we can add time pressure back in gradually, and that helps deal with issues of time management. Also, it’s a good idea to skip around the test, and pick off the questions that are easiest for you to do. If something is taking too long, try to eliminate an answer choice and just move on to other stuff. You can always come back at the end, and remember, don’t leave any question behind, bubble in every question!

6)        SEEK HELP IN WEAK AREAS- So far these tips have been all about cracking the test, dissecting it and using its tricks and structure to your advantage. It’s important to remember though that the test does rely on some basic math and science knowledge. As you practice taking tests, keep track of the problems that you find confusing, problems where the math was tricky or hard to remember. Make sure you seek out help for those topics, and strengthen your math and science foundations. Tutors and teachers can help you with this, and a lot of online resources exist as well that can help you strengthen your fundamentals and be fully prepared for the ACT!

Leo Shmuylovich just completed his Ph.D in Physics from Washington University in St. Louis. He is currently on a year leave from medical school to help launch the company he co-founded, Virtual Nerd ( He has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University, having graduated Magna Cum Laude in three years—and he was named a Merrill Presidential Scholar, one of the university’s highest honors. As a tutor and lecturer for The Princeton Review, he taught MCAT Physics and Biology classes, as well as SAT Math classes, to hundreds of students. He’s also worked individually with students on SAT, SAT II, AP exams, and science and math courses at both the high school and college level.


All opinions expressed in this review are my own and not influenced in any way by the company.  Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Please refer to this site's Terms of Use  for more information. I have been compensated or given a product free of charge, but that does not impact my views or opinions.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Book Review - The College Roommate from Hell — Skills and Strategies for Surviving With a Problem Roommate

About the Book
All across the country, incoming college freshman are getting ready to move away from home for the first time. For many of these new college students, moving away from home means living with a roommate for the first time as well. Some students choose to live on-campus, while others choose off-campus housing. With either scenario, living with a roommate is a big adjustment. 

Of course, every incoming freshman hopes to find a friend as his or her roommate, but not every situation will be ideal. A lot of problems may occur because both roommates simply need to take the time to understand one another. Moving away from home for the first time is exciting but is also a big change. Taking the time to resolves issues between you and your roommate can positively affect your transition to college

If you find yourself not getting along with a roommate or you want to learn more about coping with a roommate before moving away, at Atlantic Publishing Company, we have a book for that. 

The College Roommate From Hell — Skills and Strategies for Surviving With a Problem Roommate covers everything you need to know about how to understand and fix any problems with a troublesome roommate. This comprehensive guide will teach you what to expect before moving, how to approach your roommate once you move in, roommate survival skills, cultural and social differences, how to deal with a serious problem, and how to understand a spectrum of personalities. 

This book includes interviews with students that had roommate problems and discusses how they were solved. Before giving up on your roommate and spending a semester or more in an undesirable situation, read The College Roommate From Hell. After doing so, you will know you are not alone, have viable strategies for dealing with problems, and feel more comfortable approaching any issue you may have with a roommate.

My Take on the Book 
As a person who has worked in residence life on a college campus this book covers many of the common problems that students who have roommates face while in college and beyond. What was nice about the book though was that it provided the reader with practical tips to work on turning around roommate relationships toward positive outcomes. The reason I like this is that every housing staff member is taught to help roommates to work through their conflicts and not to just move roommate assignments, so it is to the benefit of all who are going to be having a roommate to read this and learn some of the things that might drive you nuts and how to deal with them.

I could tell by reading through this book that it would have helped many past college students that had to deal with challenging roommate situations. Full of great resources and appendices, the book was an easy, instructional read that would be a great gift for the new college student (but they need to read it!).
If this book sounds like something you would like on your own bookshelf, you can find it on Amazon!

All opinions expressed in this review are my own and not influenced in any way by the company.  Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Please refer to this site's Terms of Use  for more information. I have been compensated or given a product free of charge, but that does not impact my views or opinions.