The subject of getting into college – everyone’s got an opinion
December 17, 2015

Ian Welham  the subject of getting into college.

Dear Friends,

Nothing brings out rumor, innuendo and hearsay more than the subject of getting into college.

Everyone’s got an opinion – each wackier and more uninformed than the next.

Unchecked rumors are what cause families to apply for early decision when they shouldn’t… apply to 27 colleges… get hammered on the college bill because they were told there was no point to applying for financial aid.

When the gossip wheel gets turning — neighbors chitchatting, teens yakking — the distorted facts pile up on top of each other, obscuring truth and reason.

The problem is, hear enough pabulum, and you can find yourself starting to believe it.

Case in point: One of our brightest and most accomplished seniors applied to 10 elite colleges, three by early acceptance. This student is a gem; I won’t be surprised if she gets accepted at all 10 schools. But for some reason, she was late to hear from her early-action schools. As the days went by and her friends’ acceptance letters continued to arrive while her mailbox remained empty, doubt began to creep in. Listening to the speculation of prying parents and the views of well-meaning but clueless friends, she began to wonder, “Did I do something wrong on the application?”… “Were my essays off the mark?”… “Did I choose the wrong teachers to write recommendations?”

It was around this point that I asked her what she thought her chances were at her first early-action school (a very competitive university). “Around 50-50,” was her reply.

Long story short: Her acceptance envelope eventually arrived. Not only was she accepted, but also the admissions department congratulated her for being among the top 5% of all applicants (this school attracts over 30,000 applications).

I thought, if this cream-of-the-crop student can be convinced that she was a barely middle-of-the-road candidate, it could happen to anyone.

My advice: beware the scuttlebutt. Be vigilant against the rumors… If you’ve done the work and followed our guidance, you’re going to be fine.

Warmest wishes,

Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor


When being well rounded doesn’t pay
December 15, 2015

Ian Welham  being well rounded doesn’t pay.


Have you ever visited a college for an official visit? At most universities, the process goes like this:

Step 1: the Director of Admission or Assist. Director of Admission gives a speech.
Step 2: some students and/or professors are brought in and they give a speech.
Step 3: question & answer session.
Step 4: one or more student guides are brought in and the visitors are assigned guides and off you go on the tour.

I’ve certainly seen my share of colleges, and during the Q & A session there’s one question that always seems to be asked. Usually it’s a Mom (with her son or daughter cringing beside her) who raises her hand and inquires, “Is it better to get a ‘B’ in an Honors Course or an ‘A’ in a regular course?

Usually the Director of Admission will start in with the answer and often the audience will finish the sentence… “It’s better to get an ‘A’ in the Honors course.”

One question that’s less frequently asked — and usually stumps the audience when it is — is this: Is it better to be a well-rounded student or to have a single special skill?

It’s a common myth that colleges and universities seek well-rounded applicants. While true to some extent, the fact is, you have a better chance of getting accepted if you have a unique or special skill that distinguishes you from other applicants. That’s because there are hundreds of thousands of well-rounded kids out there. But there are very few kids who play the vibraphone in a jazz band at the Village Vanguard, for example.

Think about it: Every incoming freshmen class is a mini community. What does that community need? It needs dancers and debaters, newspaper editors, long jumpers, tuba players, glee club members, etc., etc. — not a whole bunch of generalists.

If you have a special skill or talent, what’s the best way to communicate that to a prospective college? For starters, include it on your application; and also talk about it in your essay, personal statement, and if possible, during an interview. In addition, you can ask your coach/teacher/mentor to write one of your letters of recommendation.

Sometimes parents ask: Should we include newspaper articles or citations that highlight the talent? I suggest caution here. For one thing, admissions officers don’t have lots of time to read extra information beyond what’s requested. And even though Grandma Jones may think it’s a big deal to be mentioned in the local town paper, the college admissions officer probably won’t.


Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor


A Summer Job That Pays $500/day
December 11, 2015

Ian Welham  on a summer job for students


Here’s a common question I usually get in the Springtime:

“What should my child do this summer to improve her resume for college?”

Actually, the question is usually phrased more like this: “Is Lauren better off doing an algae census on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef or calculating the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?”

I’ll answer that question with a question of my own.

Did you read Wednesday’s blog?

In it, I discussed how colleges give much higher aid packages to students who score well on standardized tests such as SAT and ACT.

I showed how raising your combined reading and math SAT scores from 1150 to 1300 takes you from zero aid to $5,000 to $10,000/year at Miami (OH) University. And how improving your ACT score from 28 to 32 could mean $11,000/year in extra merit aid.

Are you wondering what this has to do with a summer job?

Everything, actually.

Unless your child has signed on to hike the Appalachian Trail barefoot or invent an alternate fuel source, she is more likely to be earning minimum wage making milkshakes at Frostee Freeze.

A more profitable use of her time might be to take an ACT or SAT prep course. If you can increase your aid package by $5,000 a year, that’s $20,000 in your/her pocket over a four-year college career.

Where else can an 18-year-old earn $20,000 over the summer?

Most kids work about 8 weeks during the summer. $20,000 divided by 8 weeks is $2,500/week, or $500 a day.

Sure beats Frostee Free milkshakes — and those painful ice cream headaches.


Ian “The Professor” Welham


College gives $10,000 to improve your SAT score
December 9, 2015

Ian Welham talks about SAT/ACT Classes


Sometimes we make things more complicated than they have to be.

Want colleges to offer you more money?

Have your student raise his/her SAT or ACT test scores.

Works every time. In fact, there’s no surer way to increase your aid offer.

For example, let’s take a look at Miami University (Oxford, OH), an excellent school – especially for engineering, business and sciences. Here’s how much they award in merit scholarships based on test scores. (Assumptions: the student has a high school GPA of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale and is pursuing a rigorous course load.)

ACT SAT*         SCHOLARSHIP           AMOUNT** (non-Ohio resident)

26-27                  1170-1240                       Up to $4,000 per year

28-29                  1250-1320                      $5,000 – $11,000 per year

30-31                   1330-1390                      $7,000 – $15,000 per year

32+                       1400+                            $16,000 – $30,000 per year

* Miami uses the best composite score for ACT and the best Critical Reading and Math scores for SAT.

* Based on 2013-2014 cost of tuition. Merit aid is separate from and in addition to federal financial aid.

Let’s say you raise your SAT score from 1150 to 1300. That’s only 150 points, but it takes you from zero dollars in merit aid to $5,000 – $10,000 per year in free money. Over four years that adds up to $20,000 – $40,000.

Boost your ACT score from 28 to 32, and you could gain $11,000 a year in additional funds. That’s $44,000 over four years.

Even going from 28 to 30 is likely to be worth $8,000 – $10,000 over your college career.

Any way you look at it, it quickly becomes clear that even modest increases in test scores translate to higher aid awards.

And this is true, not just at Miami, but at most major colleges and universities.

So… the single most important thing you can do to get more money from colleges is to improve your test scores.

Parents ask me all the time: Which test prep do I think is best?

Here’s my answer: There are many excellent choices out there, but there’s no one “right” way for all kids. You have to know your child, how they learn best, and what best fits their schedule.

Are they self-starters or do they need hand holding? Do they need a teacher to keep them focused? Are they busy with extracurricular activities or can they attend a class every Tuesday, say, for 14 weeks?

Also, what can you afford? Are you prepared to pay $150/hour for one-on-one tutoring? $800 for a Kaplan or Princeton Review course? Or are you looking to spend less?

There are lots of choices out there.

CCPS offers SAT/ACT test prep to accommodate different learning styles, schedules and budgets.

1. live, teacher-led, real-time sessions online
3. private one-on-one tutoring

For more details, contact

Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101

P.S. Hundreds of students have taken our SAT and ACT prep classes. Typically students see an improvement of 3-4 points on the ACT and 140 – 180 points on the SAT.


What to ask when visiting colleges
December 1, 2015

Ian Welham on what to ask when visiting colleges.


When I go on college tours, here are some of the questions I typically hear asked:

Where is the rock-climbing wall?

What percentage of freshmen students gets basketball tickets?

Do you have Chipotle?

When is Spring Break?

Gloria Cordes Larson is the president of Bentley University in Waltham, Mass. Here are some questions she recommends you ask:

At what point will your school offer me career planning programs and services?

What percentage of students completes an internship (or two), and when can I expect to participate in my first one? Are they financed?

What are some examples of the places recent alumni have gone to work or graduate school?

Will I have the opportunity to study abroad? Where does your school have strong global partnerships?

How does this school partner with professionals working in the marketplace?

Does your school offer service-learning programs? Can I put these credits toward my degree?

In an interview with the New York Times, President Cordes Larson said this: “What is most important is that you feel prepared after your college years to build a fulfilling career and meaningful life.”

I couldn’t agree more.


Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101


Lies in Your Financial Aid Letter?
November 23, 2015

Ian Welham asks are there  “Lies in Your Financial Aid Letter?


In the hierarchy of obfuscation, Mark Twain said, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

Clearly, Mr. Clemens didn’t know about college financial aid letters, which are currently arriving in the mailboxes of high school seniors. To say the least, thy can be tricky.

Of course they’re not supposed to be. Colleges are supposed to play nice and follow a government standard called the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet.

In short, the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet is designed to make crystal clear:

  • what’s a loan (money you have to repay with interest) vs. what’s a grant (free money you don’t have to pay back)
  • the actual amount you’re expected to pay out of your own pocket
  • when a grant or scholarship is for one year vs. all four years

Presently, the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet is voluntary. And fewer than one third of the nation’s colleges and universities have adopted it, reports The Washington Post.

Unless and until law requires all colleges to play by Financial Aid Shopping Sheet rules, I suggest you read your financial aid letters as if Snidely Whiplash wrote them. Perhaps you might want to wear protective clothing.

Here are some sleights of hand to watch out for:

Sticker Price Shenanigans – I’ve seen financial aid award letters that leave out important costs. Or their allowance for textbooks and/or transportation is unreasonably low. Make sure to triple check all numbers provided by the college. Some will try to focus your attention on the amount of aid you will be receiving. Certainly good information to know; but just as if you’re buying a house or a car, you want an accurate number for the total cost. Otherwise, how can you know how to properly budget, and even if the college is affordable?

Mixing Loans with Grants – A loan does not decrease college costs. It increases the total cost you will pay (due to interest payments). Therefore, it does not belong in the same category as grants and scholarships. By mixing in loans with grants and scholarships, colleges give the impression that the loan is reducing the family’s costs. Some readers might even believe the loan doesn’t require repayment at all. Well, it most certainly does (and it can’t be discharged like other loans). It’s my contention that all loans should be listed separately from “free money,” and loans should include their interest rates, fees and payment schedule. On 99% of financial aid award letters, you’ll see no reference to loans requiring payback or costing extra.

Nothing but Net – What’s the difference between “net cost” and “net price?” Could be thousands of dollars. Most financial aid letters calculate net cost, while what really matters is net price. Net cost is the difference between the total cost of attendance and the total financial aid package. But since the total financial aid package includes loans — which do not reduce college costs — your actual cost of college will often be much higher than the number listed on your award letter. Net price subtracts just the free money (grants, scholarships, etc.) from the cost of attendance. It more accurately reflects the amount a family has to use from savings, income, borrowing, etc., to pay the college bill.

Watch These Grants Disappear – A diamond may be forever, but a grant is not. Many schools provide a juicy aid package for freshman year, only to take it away in subsequent years (after your student is settled in on campus). Parents are shocked when they realize they’ve fallen victim to a bait-and-switch tactic. And according to The Washington Post, “about half of all colleges practice front-loading of grants.”

The Private Scholarship Gotcha – Here’s another thing colleges forget to disclose. If your student works hard to earn a private scholarship, the college will reduce your aid package by the amount of the scholarship. In other words, if you get a $2,000 scholarship from the Rotary Club, the college will take away $2,000 of aid they originally promised. They can choose to reduce loans, or they can choose to reduce grants. Option A: If the private scholarship replaces loans, this is a good thing; your net cost goes down. Sadly, this is not as common as Option B: If the private scholarship replaces free money from the college, your student is no better off for having earned a scholarship. The university, however, is thrilled because you’ve done them a tremendous favor. They can give “your” money to another student. And it’s my experience that the colleges don’t send a thank-you note.

Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101


People Disagree With Us
November 16, 2015

Ian Welham “People disagree with us.”


College planning should start with the 40-year career in mind first, then work backwards to finding appropriate majors and right-fit colleges.

Not everyone agrees. Many argue that college is our one-and-only chance in life to “find ourselves,” and that the real point of college is intellectual exploration. A valid viewpoint, certainly.

In fact, this very debate played out in a recent Wall Street Journal article (“Today’s Anxious Freshmen Declare Majors Faster Than Their Elders”). The article points out that skyrocketing tuition costs and student debt, coupled with a soft economy, has made today’s college students more career focused.

“People don’t go to college anymore to be fulfilled or to gain life perspective; they go to get a great job,” said Jon Boeckenstedt, associate vice president for enrollment and marketing at DePaul University in Chicago.

Indeed, at DePaul, the percentage of freshmen with undeclared majors fell from 31% to 16% over the past seven years. At Rollins College, 13% of first-year students were undeclared this year, versus 31% in 2006-07. At the University of Denver, the percentage of undeclared freshmen has declined more than 80% during the last 20 years. Today it stands at just 6%.

David Spight, the assistant dean for academic advising and career counseling at the University of Texas at Austin, cautions that freshmen may be too young to declare a major. “How do you know that you don’t want to major in anthropology, if you’ve never taken an anthropology class?” he asks.

I can’t help but wonder what my grandfather would have thought about this debate. I would love to have seen the look on his face if I ever suggested him writing a check for $200,000 for me or my sister to “find ourselves.”

I think about a friend who, back in the 1970’s, told his parents he was thinking about switching majors from engineering to liberal arts. His mother — who had never graduated high school — and his father — who never attended college — replied that they looked in the Help Wanted section and couldn’t find any job descriptions that started with “liberal arts.”

I think about our client Jim Coyle, who’s President of the Gateway Chamber of Commerce. Jim is an expert on particular areas of ancient Middle Eastern history. But he was also wise enough to earn degrees in economics. It’s his economics knowledge that he’s parlayed into a successful career. Jim is still fascinated by, and still actively studies, ancient history. But he doesn’t rely on that for his livelihood.

I don’t want readers to think I’m against intellectual exploration. College is a wonderful place to expand your mind, broaden your thinking, and explore new ideas. I’m all for learning about anthropology. But at top colleges today, each course hour costs upwards of $2,000. At that rate, a 3-credit anthropology course runs $6,000.

For $130 at, you can take an anthropology course with one of America’s foremost anthropology professors. And have enough left over to sponsor an archaeological dig.


Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101


a Must-Read NY Times Article
November 11, 2015

Ian Welham gives you a must read NY Times Article


Don’t know if you saw this or not. Last week, Frank Bruni wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times about college admissions.

His eloquent article is called, “How to Survive the College Admissions Madness.” In my opinion it’s a must-read — definitely worth your time. You can find it at:

The message is evergreen. But it’s especially noteworthy given the time of year, as students are starting to hear thumbs up or thumbs down from colleges.

For students who have their hopes dashed, it’s easy to feel like a failure. Mr. Bruni’s message: A yes or no from an elite college is NOT “the conclusive measure of a young person’s worth,” nor is it a harbinger of things to come.

And anyone who thinks so is missing the point.

As proof, the author looked up the undergraduate colleges of the chief executives of the top 10 corporations in the Fortune 500. Here are the schools: University of Arkansas; University of Texas; University of California, Davis; University of Nebraska; Auburn; Texas A&M; Kettering University; University of Kansas; University of Missouri, St. Louis; and Dartmouth College.

Eight out of 10 state schools.

I’d like to quote more from the article, but instead, I’ll just encourage you to read it.

For those too busy to read the article, I want you to at least see a letter included in the piece. The letter was written by a Mom and Dad from Long Island before their high school senior started hearing from colleges. Here’s their letter.

Dear Matt,

On the night before you receive your first college response, we wanted to let you know that we could not be any prouder of you than we are today. Whether or not you get accepted does not determine how proud we are of everything you have accomplished and the wonderful person you have become. That will not change based on what admissions officers decide about your future. We will celebrate with joy wherever you get accepted – and the happier you are with those responses, the happier we will be. But your worth as a person, a student and our son is not diminished or influenced in the least by what these colleges have decided.

If it does not go your way, you’ll take a different route to get where you want. There is not a single college in this country that would not be lucky to have you, and you are capable of succeeding at any of them.

We love you as deep as the ocean, as high as the sky, all the way around the world and back again – and to wherever you are headed.

Mom and Dad

The rest of the article is just as good. Here’s the link:


Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101


Hi, I’m Ed – What’s your major?
November 6, 2015

Ian Welham says “Hi, I’m Ed – What’s your major?”


Plymouth State University in New Hampshire offers a Health and Human Performance major that includes backpacking through the White Mountains or kayaking off the Baja coast. Students study personal relationships, philosophy and theory, as well as the administration of outdoor programs.

The University of Connecticut offers Puppet Arts as a major.

In 2010, Jordan “The Great Jordini” Goldklang became Indiana University’s first graduate majoring in magic.

At Carnegie Mellon University, you can major in playing the bagpipes.

Interesting majors, all. How practical they are, I’m not sure. At the very least, I’m guessing they’re not on the same earning scale as engineering, computer science, economics or finance, for example.

How much consideration are you giving to your child’s major? How much time has your child spent talking to his or her guidance counselor about it? I’m guessing very little. Yet if you look at college (as you should) as a 40-year decision instead of a 4-year decision…

In many ways the major you choose is more important than the college you choose.

Recently we started using a new assessment to help students find economically-sound careers and majors that are a scientific best fit. The test measures behaviors, interests, personality, needs, and stress factors. It’s remarkably accurate and reveals how you’re hard-wired — what makes you tick.

NASA, the World Bank, IBM, Procter & Gamble, and other leading companies use it to uncover an individual’s success triggers – what tasks and work environment are most likely to help an individual not just succeed, but thrive.

We’ve adapted it to help students zero in on careers that match their unique interests and talents, and give them real-world marketable skills.

And better job prospects than, say, a puppet arts major.

We’re not trying to pigeon-hole students, or pressure them to make a lifelong decision at an early age. But rather, to help them make good choices that will pay off in both college and career success.

If you’re curious to see how it works, check out the video I made at:

Stay warm,
Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101


Easy Scholarships
November 3, 2015

Ian Welham gives you Easy Scholarships


I recently met a student who said he needed a scholarship to be able to go to college. He asked if I could help him.

I started listing a few scholarships I knew. To each one, he shook his head. After three or four no’s I asked what the problem was.

“I don’t want to write an essay,” he declared.

His answer caught me off guard. To expect an organization or individual to give you money — thousands of dollars — and not be willing to put a few words down on paper seems a bit, I don’t know… unreasonable, perhaps?

Evidently, my thinking is a bit antediluvian. Live and learn.

So… I kept my editorial comments to myself and dutifully went looking for easy scholarships that don’t require essays. Here are a few I came across:

1.) U.S. Bank Scholarship – Each year, U.S. Bank gives away thirty-six $1,000 scholarships. Here are the requirements:

  • United States citizen
  • High school student or college undergrad

That’s it. If you can meet those requirements, there are no other qualifications required. Applications are drawn at random. Application details get released in early March at:

2.) $1,000 Weekly Scholarship – Book publisher Chegg gives away a weekly scholarship – actually several scholarships. Also available to all high school and college undergraduates. All that’s required is filling out a short form about yourself and answering an unusual question in 280 characters or less (each week it’s a different question). You can apply every week. Start at:

3.) What’s in a Name? – If your last name is Zolp, congratulations. You qualify for full tuition for 4 years at Loyola University in Chicago. If it’s Gatling, you can get up to $18,000 at NC State. You can go to Texas A&M for free if your last name is Scarpinato. If your surname is Baxendale, Hudson, Thayer, Downer or Bright, Harvard has money for you.

Speaking of scholarships, last week I wrote about a new service we’re offering that one enthusiastic parent critiqued as, “Better than a $100,000 scholarship.”

I did an audio recording explaining all about it and posted in on the website. If you missed it, you can still have a listen here:

Stay warm,
Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101


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Ian R. Welham, Certified College Planning Advisor  -  Tel: 973.467.0101