The College Whisperer™ | Navigating The Road To College

What High School Juniors (and even Sophs) Should Be Doing Now!

January 10, 2023
While most high school seniors are wading through admission decisions, pondering their college fate before the admission gods, and parents are contemplating just how they're going to pay for it all, high school juniors (and to a lesser extent - if at all, Sophomores), waiting in the wings, are busy, er, ah, um, busy doing, hmmm... What exactly are high school juniors busy doing?
Dollars to doughnuts (who says that anymore?), while juniors -- and the parents of same -- may have much on their respective plates, preparing for the madness of college applications and admissions (and we mean seriously preparing, folks) isn't likely a side dish, or so much as a snack at this moment. 

Chances are, the old, "wait til next year" (gee, it is next year), or, at least, until the junior year of high school is over, is in play. 

Too bad, for this is precisely the time when high school juniors (and their parental units) should not only be thinking of college, but actively putting plans in place -- as well as setting the wheels in motion -- to jump start college admissions.

Yes, now -- not August 1, 2023 when Common App for 2023-24 goes live -- is the time for high school sophs to take action!

 what can sophomores do, aside from planning for junior prom and downloading the latest App on their iPhones? Well, here's a short (and by no means all-inclusive) list:

1. Keep Up Your Grades. This is first and foremost on the "To Do" list. For all the talk about grades not meaning what they used to, guess what? They do and they will. If your grades are up there, keep it going. If they need improvement, hit the books. It will be too late midway through your senior year to say, "Uh, oh! I should have put more effort into Chemistry." And believe us when we say that raising that GPA becomes more difficult with each passing semester. Think a tenth of a point doesn't matter? Think Olympics. That squeaker that beat out the other guy by 1/100th of a point makes all the difference in the world!

2. Plan A Rigorous Course-load for Junior and Senior Year. Sorry, but junior and certainly, senior years of high school are no time to slack off. Basket Weaving 101 is out. College level courses (for which you might actually score college credit) are in. [Think "Dual Enrollment," if the high school offers same.] That's not to say you should be loading up on five or six APs. In fact, we advise against that. You should, however, make a strong academic showing, challenging yourself, and demonstrating to college admissions officers that you've got what it takes to succeed once inside those ivy-covered gates.

3. *Take the ACT and the SAT Once. Then, if you're not satisfied with your score, take the exam on which you scored higher, relatively, again. In preparation, while those prep courses may provide a good foundation, and private tutors can help shore up weak spots and give you focus, nothing beats practice, practice, practice. [If possible, complete all standardized tests during the Junior year.]

*Most colleges have gone "Test-Optional" this year, and many will dispense with the test next year as well. The SAT Writing section is gone, as are the Subject Tests, the so-called SATII. This means that you need not submit test scores in order for your application to be considered, and the lack of test scores will not adversely impact upon the consideration of your application. Check websites of colleges you may be interested in for specific test requirements. For a complete list of Test-Optional colleges, visit

4. Get To Know Your Guidance Counselor. How many times have you met (virtually, or otherwise) with your Guidance Counselor this year? Once? Twice? Not at all? Reach out to your Guidance Counselor. The Guidance office is a gold mine, and yet, it is all too easy to simply pass over this resource on your way to the Kitchen Islands. Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Stir some interest in Guidance and your efforts are likely to pay off, big time.

5. Set Up A Dedicated Email Address for College Stuff. Nothing worse than missing an important email from a college, your college advisor, a scholarship, or who knows what because you're getting email from everyone (friends, the Nigerian counsel, the folks who sell the little blue pill, "you may already be a winner..."), while the email from college goes to Junk mail. [Suggestion: Set up a Gmail account, such as Use this email for all of your college-related accounts.]

6. Start Searching and Applying for College Scholarships. Sure, it's tough enough to get high schoolers (let alone those already in college and footing that hefty tuition bill) to apply for scholarships. Still, there's lots of FREE money out there, if you know where to look for it and how to go after it. And the best news is that many scholarship opportunities are available to high school juniors, and some for high school sophomores and freshmen. Strike while the iron is just getting warmed up (and your classmates are consumed by that barely visible zit on their chins). Good places to start? Try scholarship search engines such as FastwebMeritAidNicheCollege and Chegg. [They can also help you get started on your college searches.]

7. Take A Look At Colleges. It may be a bit early to pack up the car and head off on a road trip to colleges across the nation, but heck, with the Internet, you can -- and should -- take a virtual tour of almost every college (University of Guam, anyone?) without having to get out of your PJs (like you were ever planning on doing that, anyway :-) or leaving the comfort (and pile of dirty clothes) of your bedroom. Virtual tours are available -- and FREE -- any time of day or night, at websites such as and (because was already taken :-). Check 'em out before you spend the time, money, and face masks to head out to campus! [And when you do head out to campus, let them know you're coming. Schedule a tour (typically via the college's website). Meet with an admissions rep. Sit in on a class. Stay overnight in a dorm room. And, by all means, try the food. Remember, Mom won't be cooking for you while you're away at college! Okay, maybe she will. Still, you might get hungry between classes.] Want to get a rough guesstimate of your "chances" of gaining admission to a particular college or university? Visit [Also a great place to begin to build your college list, along with and College Board's Big Future.] 

Have an idea of the colleges to which you would like to apply? Visit their websites. Check out the admissions criteria, application deadlines, programs, costs, and the like.

8. Look Over (And actually start  The Common App. While there may be changes to Common App before you are ready to submit your applications, you can still get a pretty good idea as to form and format, which will help you prepare, organize and gather data and information needed to complete the required forms. Also, Common App will "rollover" and save data from the 2022-23 application to the 2023-24 version, and again to the 2024-25 edition. So high school juniors and sophs )even freshmen, if so inclined) can actually start their Common Applications now. [HINT: When the 2023-24 version is unveiled August 1, 2023, be sure to read the instructions and content carefully, as certain critical aspects may have changed!]

9. Create Your Resume On Naviance. Yes, during the college application process, you will be building that Resume, over and over and over again. Start with the Resume on Naviance (for those high schools utilizing this platform), found under the About Me section, My Stuff. Include everything you have done, in and out of school, academic, sports, clubs, community service, etc., from the 9th Grade on. Yes. Yes. I know. Other than the occasional visit to the bathroom, activities in the time of Covid-19 have been limited, to say the least. Dig deep. Volunteer virtually. Join an online club. Seek and ye shall find. The world is opening up once again!

10. Avoid The College Fiscal Cliff. While we will discuss financing college education more in-depth at another time, it is critical that a plan to pay for college be put in place as early in the game as possible. [By "early" we mean right out of the womb!] That said, it's never too late to start saving -- and keep saving -- for college. For starters, think 529 Plan!

11. Get Involved and Stay Involved! Nothing speaks of a student's character like involvement in the community. Nothing. And saying, "woulda, shoulda, coulda" in your senior year just doesn't cut it! Yes, you may be active on the playing field, but there's so much more to the game of life than Lacrosse and Track. Volunteer. Roll up your sleeves. No such thing as "once and done." Make a commitment to a single activity that in some way improves your community. It will be so much more than a resume builder (which is another topic for another post). 

12. Give Some Thought to Your Personal Statement. The "Topic of Your Choice" made a return in the 2017-18 version of Common App, and continues to be a crowd favorite. The 2022-23 Common App Essay prompts added some new flavor, hoping to bring some positivity to what has been a rather dismal time in college life. You should be thinking about -- if not putting pen to paper (paper?) the essay, creating a brief outline, and developing a theme that -- within the context of the stated topics and the confines of 650 words -- will tell college admissions who you are and what you will bring to campus, other than those boxer shorts and that 72" HDTV. Keep it simple. Write about what you know (YOU!) and what you are passionate about. And don't stress out. It's only an essay! 

13. Hone A Unique Talent, Skill or Interest. You never know when a college may be in desperate need of a bassoon player, baton twirler, or robotics whiz. Then, too, there may be a scholarship in there for you -- sometimes even a full ride. If you've got it, flaunt it!

14. Speak With An Independent College Planning Counselor. [Hey. If we don't toot our own horn, who will? :-)] Back in the day, when words like "competitive" and "selective" were not in the college admissions vernacular, you could go down that long, if not sometimes lonely road to college admissions alone. No Sherpa Guide was necessary. Today, having a college counselor -- your own personal guru who knows the detours, side roads and rock falls of the application and admissions process, is no longer a luxury. And who better than yours truly, The College Whisperer to personally guide you through the jungle of college applications and financial aid mazes? 

So, what are you waiting for, you high school juniors/sophs (and parents thereof)? College is closer than it appears in the rear view mirror. Let's get started! 

Plan. Prepare. Prevail!
- - -


Just Because You've Applied To College...

October 27, 2022

. . .Doesn't Mean There's Not More To Be Done!

If there's one thing that's true about the college application/admissions/financial aid process, it’s that IT AIN'T OVER UNTIL IT'S OVER! Soooooooooooo...

Keep Guidance in the Loop 
-- Let your Guidance Counselor know where you've applied. Ask that transcripts, Letters of Recommendation, the all-important Guidance Report be transmitted to all schools (make sure Naviance is updated, and any forms required by Guidance are completed and returned).

Read Your Emails 
-- This is the primary mode of communication used by colleges. They may be asking you for additional information, supplemental material, or any number of things that could impact upon your admission and/or financial aid.

Access Your College Web Portals
 -- Colleges ask you to create web portals for a reason: So you may log on and get additional information, complete forms, check your status, find and accept (or decline) your financial aid awards, and so much more. Check the web portal for every college you've applied and/or have been accepted to and do so often!

Complete College-Specific Forms
 -- Many schools have their own forms for financial aid, housing preferences, meal plans, etc. Be sure to fill them out and submit accordingly. [Another reason to visit your web portals regularly.]

Submit The FAFSA
 (and NYS* TAP Application, if applying to a college, public or private, in New York). If not already done, prepare and submit before year end to maximize financial aid awards. [Some schools require the CSS Profile in addition to the FAFSA. Check college websites for requirements, deadlines, etc.]

NYS also offers the Excelsior Scholarship, for students attending a SUNY or CUNY college, and an Enhanced Tuition Award, for those attending participating private colleges in NY. If you meet the eligibility requirements, APPLY when applications for 2023-24 become available.

Review and Compare Financial Aid Awards from All Colleges
 -- Financial aid is typically awarded in the spring for the following academic year. Who is offering what? Most schools offer a combo of scholarships, grants, Work-Study, and loans. See what offers work best for your situation. And never be afraid to negotiate a financial aid award. The worst they can do is say, "no!"

You Have Until May 1 (sometimes later) To Say "I'm Coming"
 -- You don't have to wait until the last minute, but... Wait at least until you have all acceptances and financial aid awards in hand before you accept an offer of admission. The best financial aid offers, and the only viable means to negotiate, come while you still hold all the cards! [Remember: Acceptance and housing deposits are usually non-refundable. And, no, it is not wise (or ethical) to accept an offer of admission to more than one college!]

Once You Decide On A College... 
Congrats! Let them know you are all in. Formally accept the offer of admission (again, see that web portal). Complete and submit all necessary documentation (web portal). Accept (or decline) your financial aid awards (umm, web portal). Read all emails as well as any online instructions as may be received through your web portal (are you detecting a pattern here?). CELEBRATE!

If You Accept Student Loans...
 Student MUST complete online counseling at (using STUDENT FSA ID) AND complete a Master Promissory Note (MPN). ParentPLUS Loan? Must be applied for at (using PARENT FSA ID), with an MPN submitted by parent. 

Keep on Searching And Applying For Those Scholarships
 -- Until there are no tuition bills on the horizon, apply, apply, APPLY. There is money out there just waiting for you to get your hands on it! Fastweb. Niche. Unigo. To name but a few of the legit college scholarship websites.

Above all, keep in mind that you never have
 to go it alone. Ever! At COLLEGE CONNECTION we are, as always, here to help! Call (516-345-8766). Email ( Tweet ( Send a smoke signal (smoke signal rates may apply). Open your windows and shout (that won't get my attention, but you will feel better :-). 


Now Comes FAFSA Time!

October 26, 2022


The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is required by every college for consideration of financial aid, including Federal Student Loans and Grants, college-specific need-based aid, and, in many instances, merit-based awards.

The FAFSA for the 2023-24 school year is now available. Regardless of State or college deadlines, the FAFSA should be completed and submitted as early in the process as possible in order to maximize financial aid, particularly school-based awards.

For those filing the FAFSA on their own, or simply interested in getting a better understanding of how the FAFSA works, here is a useful resource:

Filing The FAFSA | A Step-By-Step Guide

Whether you prepare and file the FAFSA on your own, or entrust same to our care, both the student and one custodial parent will need FSA-IDs (Usernames and Passwords), this to log in to the FAFSA Application, and then to sign and submit the FAFSA.

Create the FSA-IDs HERE.

If you would like an assist in preparing and/or submitting the FAFSA, or other financial aid forms, give a holler. 516-345-8766. Or email College Connection at We are always here to help!



Got College Plans? Get A College Plan!

October 25, 2022

COLLEGE CONNECTION, Home of The College Whisperer and Official Sponsor of College Admission Success, offers comprehensive college planning and counseling. Guidance and support in choosing a college, getting in to college, and finding the money to pay for college, all while taking the stress, the worry, the frustration and the madness out of college applications and admissions.

At COLLEGE CONNECTION, we’ve not only got your back, we’ve got your best moves forward! 

From college matching to admission strategies, application enhancement to essay development, there is a difference between simply applying to college and actually getting in. That difference is COLLEGE CONNECTION!

Remember, there’s more to applying to college than filling in the blanks on Common App, and more to getting your hands on the money to pay for college than just submitting FAFSA.

So, before the college admissions and financial aid process gets to you, you need to get to us -- COLLEGE CONNECTION!

Call for a FREE telephone consultation. 516-345-8766.   
Visit us on the web at


It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year...

December 23, 2021

...To Search And Apply For College Scholarships!

While the best time to begin to look for college scholarships was yesterday, the second best time is right now.

Sooooooo, to get you started, here's a short list of scholarship search engines. Sign up. Complete all profiles. Search. And apply, apply, APPLY!

Keep in mind that most scholarships are little more than sweepstakes and contests (all legit on these sites), and take little more effort than completing a simple form. Sure, you can (and should) go for the big money where you qualify. But remember, $500 here and $100 there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money!

There's tons of FREE money out there. Go out and get some for yourself.

Yes, as with anything else worth doing, the process takes a bit of effort and lots of time. And no, I can't guarantee that you'll score enough in scholarships to pay for four years of tuition, room, and board. But I can guarantee that, if you don't apply, you won't get one red cent. As the old saying goes, "You gotta be in it to win it!"

Best of luck in your scholarship search.

Seth Bykofsky
The College Whisperer


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What High School Juniors (and even Sophs) Should Be Doing Now

December 21, 2021
At COLLEGE CONNECTION, we help you navigate the college application, admissions, and financial aid maze. We welcome the opportunity to work with you, should you choose to use our College Planning & Counseling Services.
Meanwhile, you can get a jump start on those college plans.

It's not too early to start planning and preparing for college. In fact, the time is just right...

READ, High School Juniors, This Is Your Moment!

Questions? Concerns? Leftover Mallomars? Give a holler. We are always here to help. 


College Connection Nominated As Best College Advisor

October 14, 2021

Who knew? Well, we surmise our clients gave us away. More than a quarter of a century helping students, and their parents, successfully navigate the college application, admissions, and financial aid mazes. So thank you, one and all! [PLEASE CLICK ON LOGO ABOVE TO VOTE EARLY AND OFTEN! :-)]

As for those who have yet to wade into the treacherous waters that are the college admissions game... Whether you're planning for college, applying to college, paying for college, or just thinking about college, COLLEGE CONNECTION, home of The College Whisperer ™, is here to help.

Give us a call at 516-345-8766 for a FREE telephone consultation. And let's get started down that long and winding road (oh, the mixed metaphors :-) to college!



Today, Long Island. Tomorrow, The World!

August 11, 2021

For the 7th Consecutive year, College Connection, Long Island's premier college planning and counseling service, has been voted BEST in the category of COLLEGE PLANNING & COUNSELING by readers of Blank Slate Media's publications in Nassau County, NY. 

Check out all categories at BEST OF NASSAU COUNTY for complete list of First Place winners.

Of course, as we always say about those BESTS -- whether colleges, pizza, bagels, or running shoes -- BEST FOR WHOM?

Well, in this instance, whether you're applying to college, planning for college, paying for college, or just thinking about college, COLLEGE CONNECTION has your back, and your best moves forward.

But please, don't just take our word for it. See what our clients have to say. [Click HERE for testimonials.]

Call us today at 516-345-8766 for a FREE telephone consultation. Check out our new virtual Plans and reasonable rates, designed to successfully guide you through the college application, admissions, and financial aid mazes without stress on your psyche or strain on your wallet.

Thank you for the accolades, your votes, and your recognition, as we continue to strive to be the very best in college planning and counseling for our most important clients - YOU!



January 28, 2021
Yes, you can (and should) take virtual tours of colleges when you can't otherwise visit campus in person. They're fun. They're informative. And you don't even have to get out of your pajamas (not that you were planning on doing that, anyway).

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Only The Best!

September 1, 2020


And while that and $2.75 may only get us on the NYC subway (maybe), it will get you the very best in comprehensive college planning, counseling & support.

College Matching | Admission Strategies

Application Enhancement | Essay Development

Scholarship & Financial Aid Sourcing

Free Telephone Consultation – 516-345-8766 | Virtual Sessions

*Best In College Planning & Counseling | Blank Slate Media, Long Island, NY

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