Wednesday, August 29, 2018

How You Can Help Your Child Learn More to Earn More Scholarships

Many studies have been completed which prove music lessons are beneficial to learning. They build connections in the brain which are needed to understand and retain information. Studying music is especially helpful for math, science and the learning of languages.

My own study wasn’t about music. It was about how to earn more scholarship money for college. What I found, however, was that taking music lessons at a young age is a powerful indicator of future success in earning scholarships. You can read details about this in Chapter 3 of my book, Free College available on Amazon.

Since states have drained money from education in the last three or four decades in the U.S., how can you make sure your child reaps the benefits provided by studying music? Check out the community college in your community. If you’re not on their mailing list, call and ask to be added, so you can receive their quarterly mailings. They provide many classes for all age groups, including music lessons for children. They are low in cost, but high in quality.

In addition to classes at local colleges, many city parks and recreation departments provide lessons. They too send out mailings, but information is also available online. Their courses cover all age groups and many subjects, including music lessons. It doesn't matter which instrument a child learns. They all provide the same mental benefit, but pick one that is being taught locally, and your child likes.

Finally, if all else fails, visit your local music store and ask if they give lessons. Most of them do. These lessons are more expensive, but students will receive more personal attention. My daughter saw Itzhak Perlman play the violin on television when she was three. She harassed me for six months before I relented and called a local music shop to ask how old a child must be in order to take violin lessons. The owner explained eleven was a good age to start. I asked, “What about three and highly motivated?” Luckily, their violin teacher also taught Kindergarten, and agreed to teach her.

You are reading from the blog,, where we empower families with knowledge to navigate the path to higher education without the burden of excessive loans.


For more information, you’ll want my book, Free College, CLICK HERE. It teaches families how to help their kids become more successful in school, college, and life.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no cost to you.

Photo Credit: Google Images

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

“Many Hands Make Light Work” John Heywood

As most parents of college prep students know, doing well in high school is critical if students wish to earn lots of scholarship money for college. It also entails a great deal of effort. While researching successful scholarship winners for my book, Free College, I discovered these students have a strategy for lightening the load. They use study groups and/or study buddies. In Chapter 8 of Free College, you can read the stories of several of these students.

While on Twitter, I look for people who have expertise in the topics included in my book, so I may share what they know with families of future college students. One such person is Melodieann Whiteley, retired US navy cryptologist, network marketer and author of Getting To Yes. She has a great deal of experience in working with groups. Because of her knowledge and familiarity with teamwork, I asked her to share some of her insights in a guest post for my blog, Although what she has written is aimed at college students, every word applies to high school students as well.

Do You Want to Succeed in College?  Create a Study Group

According to those who have been there before, the key to success in law or business school is getting in with the right study group.  These partners not only give you buddies to study with, they keep you accountable and on-task.  If you let yourself down, you let down the whole group.

I would actually take that a bit further.  I believe that a study group is invaluable no matter your field of study.  Finding accountability partners can be key to a successful college experience.  A good study group can support your efforts, help you brainstorm problems, and keep you on schedule.  The right study group can mean the difference between passing and failing.

How is this possible?  I was a college student once upon a time.  And though it has been quite a few years, I remember what it was like.  I doubt that the mentality of the average college student has changed drastically in that time.  I remember…

I remember needing to prepare for an upcoming exam.  But there was a party happening that night.  Or something interesting on television.  Or maybe I just got caught up chatting with friends in the lounge.  And before you knew it, study time had come and gone.  And I was left pulling the well-known “all-nighter” to ensure that I passed the exam.  I may have had fun doing all these things, but I paid for it with lack of sleep, increased stress and most likely a lower grade than if I had been well-prepared.

But a study group can help prevent procrastination.  Because most groups meet a specific time, there is a commitment in place.  An appointment to meet.  And if you are late, or skip the group altogether, the other group members should hold you accountable.  So while I may have wanted to really go to that party, knowing I would have to face my fellow group members and explain was enough to make me reconsider.

I remember my Philosophy class.  I was a science major.  Philosophy?  Why did I need that?  Because I was attending a Catholic college that felt all students should take at least one philosophy class.  And so there I was reading Kant, Plato and Descartes and being thoroughly bored and confused. 

Thankfully, one of the members of my study group loved philosophy!  And he was more than willing to share with the rest.  So instead of spending time reading and rereading something that held no interest for me other than the fact that it was required and I wanted to pass, I was able to learn quickly simply by having my friend explain what I did not understand.  

So a study group helped me learn something faster and more thoroughly than if I had tried to learn it on my own.

I would like to say that it also instilled in me a love for – or at least an interest in – philosophy…but I’d be lying.

Which brings me to the next way a study group can be beneficial.

While I am still not an avid reader of Aristotle or David Hume, the time spent in my study group did help me see many things from a new point of view.  While philosophy as a whole was not of interest to me, many of the subjects that came up for discussion during class were.  And I had a very strong opinion on them based on my small town experience.  But discussing these subjects with others with very different backgrounds and experiences often made me see things from a new perspective.  As we would discuss the material from class, all of these different viewpoints became part of the discussion.  And I was forced to think about and sometimes defend my position.  When you are asked to give actual reasons, backed up with facts, for a particular position, you tend to study the topic much more thoroughly.

And so a study group can help you develop your critical thinking skills, increase your verbal communication skills, and cause you to make a more in-depth study of the subject.

There are many more reasons that study groups are beneficial.  You can learn new skills.  Fill in gaps in your learning.  Hone your people skills.  That is if you find the right group.  Not all groups are created equal.  It’s important to make sure you fill the group with the right people.

Here’s what to look for in your own study group:
A variety of skills and experiences:  The best groups have members with varied skills, backgrounds, and interest.  That way they can all advise each other and provide different perspectives on the same topics.  If everyone has exactly the same backgrounds, you may have a lot in common, but you won’t be able to brainstorm as effectively. 

Similar commitment level.  The most important element may very well be a common level of commitment to your goals, whatever they may be.  If one member is a little lax and the others are all gung ho, the mismatch will soon drive everyone crazy and may cause bad feelings. 

Regular meeting times. Make a regular weekly or even daily appointment and keep it! Nothing will submarine a group faster than no-shows or constantly changing meeting times.

Structured meetings.  No I don’t mean scripted down to the last minute with an agenda.  But at least having a time limit on off-topic discussions or how long each member can talk will ensure no one hogs the whole time – or never shares his or her questions and ideas at all.

Resource sharing.  One of the most valuable roles in a study group is the sharing of recommendations and referrals.  Are you especially close to the Congressman back home who is looking for summer clerks?  Is your mom, the lawyer, interested having an intern?  Your study group friends may be looking for exactly that! 

One final thing to keep in mind is that study groups, like friendships, are created differently.  Some will last a semester or two.  Some may last only a few weeks or months.  I belong to a virtual mastermind that is comprised of several friends from my old college study groups.  (Yes, even my philosophy-loving friend!)  We kept in touch over the years and with the advent of social media and technology, now meet via Zoom every week to discuss our businesses!  Be ready to let your group go if it’s no longer meeting your needs.  It will be hard, but if it’s not helping you further your goals, it may be time to study by yourself.

You are reading from the blog,, where we empower families with knowledge to navigate the path to higher education without the burden of excessive loans.


For more information, you’ll want my book, Free College, CLICK HERE. It teaches families how to help their kids become more successful in school, college, and life.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no cost to you.

Photo Credit: Melodieann Whitely

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Teach Your Kids to Outwork “Smart”

At the end of my junior year in high school, I had to fill out a form requesting classes for my senior year. I decided to take it easy and requested Senior English, French IV, German III, Spanish II, P.E. (required at the time) and Contemporary American Problems. The last one was the easier class which fulfilled the senior civics requirement. I could have signed up for International Relations, but it was harder.

Since languages were no problem for me, this schedule was a dream. What I didn’t know, however, was after three days in CAP I would be losing my mind. The teacher asked for volunteers to define democracy. They couldn’t. I knew if I stayed in the class I would lose it, so I made an appointment to see my counselor.

She took one look at the change I requested and anger clouded her face. “What were you thinking? Did you want to ‘slack off’ in your senior year?” She reached for the file listing available spaces in International Relations classes. There were several teachers teaching this subject. She placed me in Mr. Thomas’ class. I left the office chagrined.

When I opened the door to Mr. Thomas’ class, I recognized many of the other seniors already seated there. Six of them were the geniuses in my graduating class. I knew at that moment my counselor was teaching me a lesson. Mr. Thomas graded on a curve, and with these other students in the class, I would have to work very hard to maintain a decent grade. I was ticked off. I swore to myself I would show her!

I did show her, but she showed me too. I never worked so hard in my life, but did extremely well on each test. At the end of the school year, Mr. Thomas put our grades on the board. There were five A’s. But since there were six geniuses in the class, I was curious which one of them had screwed up. I knew he must have been embarrassed. Our report cards were passed out to us, and I looked down at mine. I was surprised to see I had earned an A. One of the “brains” in the class raised his hand and asked who had the fifth A, (only four of them had earned one). He pointed at me. The smart kids were shocked to learn I was one of them.

This was a valuable lesson. You can actually outwork “smart”. I was no longer angry at my counselor. Many years later I enrolled in an MBA program. I was the only student who had been a non-business undergrad major. I was also the only one to be paying for my degree. The others had all been business majors and worked in business. Their companies paid their tuition.

When it came time for our graduate level Statistics course, I knew they would all find it far easier than I would. I didn’t have Stat in high school or college. They did. So when the class started, and I was overwhelmed, I joined two study groups. Still, the class was horrible for me. It took on average, four hours for me to complete each problem we were given for homework. After finishing a problem and checking the answers in the back of the text, I found most of them were wrong, and I had to start over.

But this hard work paid off. After the class was complete and grades were distributed, I saw my results were better than several others in the class. They were frustrated. Many of them earned C’s, while I had received an A. They complained to the professor that I didn’t know anything about statistics when we started. He replied, “Well, she does now.” Yes, I did. I outworked them, just like in high school.

Teach your children not to fear the intelligence or skills of others in their classes. Competition can bring out the best in them. They can outwork smart. All it takes is focus, determination and a willingness to work hard.

You are reading from the blog,, where we empower families with knowledge to navigate the path to higher education without the burden of excessive loans.


For more information, you’ll want my book, Free College, CLICK HERE. It teaches families how to help their kids become more successful in school, college, and life.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no cost to you.

Photo Credit: Google Images

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Do This Now to Earn More Scholarships

The new school year has either started or is about to, depending upon where you live. There’s one thing you can do the first two weeks of school which will significantly increase your chances of winning more scholarship money for college. It’s so easy, it might seem insignificant, but it isn’t. In my study, I found all students who earned full-ride scholarships to the college of their choice had learned the name of their high school counselor and the expert on all things college during the first few weeks of their freshman year. They also followed through, and made friends with these very important people. 

If you’re a freshman pay attention to find out the name of your counselor immediately. It’s easy. Just look at your registration materials. The name is probably written there. If it isn’t, ask someone in the office. No one will mind. They answer questions like this all the time. It’s part of their job description. Then ask someone who has been on the campus at least a year (a sophomore, junior or teacher) the name of the resident college expert at your high school. You may be lucky, and she’s your counselor. If not, no problem.

The next step is to find a way to meet these people. If one or both of them visit one of your classes the first week of school, then you’re in business. Before they leave, walk up and introduce yourself. Just smile, tell them your name and that you’re interested in learning how to earn lots of scholarships for college. He will be happy you did this, and smile back at you. If he sticks out his hand, take it and smile while you shake it. This is how you make a great impression and enlist help.

If you’re not a freshman, and you didn’t do this when you were, then you’re behind all those students who knew to make this a priority. They have already earned a place in the mind of their counselor for a positive reason. Counselors deal with many students for negative reasons. Someone did something wrong, and they have to deal with it.  It makes a counselor’s day when they have a positive interaction with a student. Be that student.

Make an appointment to see your counselor and the expert on all things college at your school. You won’t need much time. You can see one or both of them for a few minutes after or before school. Introduce yourself. Tell them you are planning on going to college and need their help. You want to take the courses which will help you be accepted to college and earn lots of scholarship money. Tell them you'll do whatever it takes, because your family isn’t rich, and you don’t want to take out student loans.

You’ll be surprised at the results. If you smile and say hi (be sure to mention his/her name), whenever you pass by your counselor in the halls, he will be reminded of your goals. Pay attention to any announcements about college or scholarships in the school’s bulletin or newsletter. See your counselor if and when you need help. Meet all deadlines, and you’ll find your counselor is your knowledgeable partner on your road to free college.

You are reading from the blog,, where we empower families with knowledge to navigate the path to higher education without the burden of excessive loans.


For more information, you’ll want my book, Free College, CLICK HERE. It teaches families how to help their kids become more successful in school, college, and life.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no cost to you.

Photo Credit: Google Images

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

How to Win the College Scholarship Lottery

Winning a college scholarship and winning the lottery have several things in common. In order to win the lottery, you have to buy a ticket. For college scholarships, you have to apply. Unlike the lottery, however, when you apply for more scholarships, you up the odds of winning.

In the lottery, your ticket has to have all six numbers correct in order to win the big money prize offered in the draw. You don’t have to do the picking; you can allow the computer to select the numbers for you. Then you pay either one or two dollars, depending upon the lottery you’re playing. Buying more than one ticket doesn’t really help you, since the odds of winning are remote at best.

If you’re hoping to win a college scholarship, there are far more than six things you have to do correctly. Like picking numbers in the lottery, doing some of the right things can earn a high school graduate some scholarship money. But if you want the big prize, a full-ride scholarship, you have to do them all. Unlike the lottery, there’s no guessing required. In my research of successful high school scholarship winners, I discovered the twenty secret actions that result in winning more free cash for college.  

The first three are known to most high school students and their parents. Students must complete the hardest classes (Honors, Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate) offered at their school in their areas of strength while maintaining a high grade point average. Second, they need to complete all of the A-G college requirements. These requirements contain a specific number of years certain subjects must be taken while in high school. Many students complete A-F, but fail to take advanced foreign language, mathematics or science classes. Fulfilling the G requirement sets scholarship applicants apart from the masses. Third, students must take and do well on the ACT or SAT tests.

The other seventeen strategies needed to successfully complete the lottery-like task of winning a college scholarship are the ones most often unknown to parents and students. They may seem innocuous when explained, but are founded in research. Families of graduates who earned the most scholarship money made habits of these activities. One surprising behavior is one we could all do. It requires only the decision to do it and a little effort on our parts, but no special talent.

I found every student who won significant scholarship money ate a complete, nutritious breakfast daily. One way or another, a parent or the student woke up early enough to prepare a full breakfast. This was not a fruit smoothie, granola bar or bowl of cereal. It was a meal. The components varied by culture and the likes or dislikes of the family, but they all included the nutrients recommended by experts. Each family’s breakfast included protein, fruit, whole grains and dairy (or a substitute for those who were lactose intolerant). This family breakfast tradition began while the child was little and continued through high school. Although no college asked applicants if they ate breakfast daily, all winners of significant amounts of scholarship money did so.

An action that seems more like a strategy than a tradition was taken at the beginning of the freshmen year of high school. The most successful scholarship winners made it a point to meet and befriend his/her high school counselor soon after entering the freshman year. They also asked around and discovered which counselor on campus was the “resident expert” on all things college. They made friends with this individual too. Students who earned less scholarship money for college didn’t take this action. They learned too late this was a mistake.

There are fifteen more tasks covered in my book Free College. All are based on research. Over 1,500 students were surveyed, questioned, interviewed or observed while researching my book. The twenty actions I discovered cover preschool through high school. Families who learn them when their children are still young will find them easier to adopt. Students whose families help them prepare to become the ideal scholarship or grant winner are more relaxed and have less stress. They are more able to enjoy their senior year in high school.

You are reading from the blog,, where we empower families with knowledge to navigate the path to higher education without the burden of excessive loans.


For more information, you’ll want my book, Free College, CLICK HERE. It teaches families how to help their kids become more successful in school, college, and life.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no cost to you.

Photo Credit: Google Images