Meredith Reynolds - Head Start College Blog

Archive for January, 2007

Don’t Wait to be Accepted. Find the Money Now!
January 29th, 2007

Just as important as completing a persuasive and complete application for admission is completing a persuasive and complete application for financial aid. Don’t wait until your student is accepted to try to figure out how you will pay the college bill. If you wait for the acceptance letter it will be too late. Now is the time in order to give colleges the opportunity to put together a financial aid package.
Most important first step is to go to the website of every college to which your student applied and read it carefully and thoroughly. Each college has different aid forms and deadlines. Dont hesitate to call the financial aid office if you have questions.

To follow is a list of terms you will encounter as you research the financial aid requirements of each college:

Financial Aid: A general term used to refer to all types of money awarded to student based on financial need. It can include grants, loans, work-study and scholarships.

FAFSA (Free application for federal student aid): Completing the online (or paper) FAFSA is the first step toward applying for federal financial aid at any college. Dont wait until your 2006 taxes are complete, you can begin completing it now. The site walks you through step by step and even the technically challenged like myself can get through it.

CSS Profile (College Scholarship Service): some colleges that award non-federal funds  require that this profile be completed. It is a division of the College Board who charges a family $5 registration fee and $18 to submit to each college. AGAIN check each college’s web site to see if this is necessary.

SAR (Student Aid Report): The Department of Education will send a SAR to the applicant and the colleges selected by applicant based on information provided in the FAFSA. The SAR will contain a dollar amount, EFC(Expected Family Contribution) that the family is expected to contribute to college expenses that year.

Demonstrated Need: The difference between the EFC and real cost of attending college.Some colleges are committed to meeting this difference and others are not.
Grants and Scholarships: Federal government and states have systems for granting or giving money to students with demonstrated financial need. It can be used for public or private colleges. Scholarships can also be awarded by colleges or outside sources for achievement, special talents or other particular reasons. These do not need to be repaid.

Loans: Loans must be repaid by students and/or parents and can come from federally funded loans, colleges themselves or banks. Watch the terms carefully and be proactive whenever possible to improve them.
Merit aid: Merit scholarships are awarded to students to entice them to attend the college. They do not have to be repaid.

Work-study: The federal work-study program is a way for students to earn money to help pay for college expenses. Jobs can be on or off campus, though off-campus jobs are usually related to community service. Even if your student does not qualify for work study have them seek work opportunities organized through the college as they are often more understanding of college testing schedules and vacations.

Don’t Be Misled At Your Mailbox By Colleges
January 25th, 2007

What does it really mean if I check the little box on the PSAT and SAT registration forms releasing my contact information? Put simply, it allows College Board to sell your information to colleges who may purchase all types of different lists-lists based on scores, ethnic background, address. Soon you will be receiving almost daily letters from admissions offices, viewbooks and more.

For example, both Duke and Harvard annually send mail to over 70,000 high school students who have either expressed an interest in the school or released their information to the College Board. Each targetted student will receive multiple mailings. Many of the colleges know little about the students they contact, not your GPA, not your SAT’s, they just want you to apply to their school. Guttentag, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Duke University, explains that receiving a mailing from a college doesn’t guarantee admission or even preferential treatment.

Far from discouraging the checking of the little box on PSAT or SAT registration, I encourage you to check the box, to look through the college materials that will follow, to keep those that might be of interest and to discard the others… just as you would any other catalog you receive in the mail.

Student Loan Costs Cut
January 18th, 2007

HR 5 recently passed by Congress will require interest rates on need-based student loans to be cut from 6.8% to 3.4% by 2012. At best this is a first step in reforming current higher education costs which all agree are out of control. Few students graduate from college without some college debt. Instead of buying a new car upon getting that first job, college graduates typically have between $500 and $1000 per month in student loans to repay…for the next ten years! It’s no wonder more students still live at home and are getting married later and later. Taking this one step farther, fhe exhorbitant price paid for a college degree is not just affecting college students…its could be argued that is affecting other segments of the economy– the car market, housing market and more. It’s about time Congress brought higher education costs to the national stage.

College “Wrong Carrot” for Some?
January 18th, 2007

In an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal entitled “What’s Wrong With Vocational School” Charles Murray argues that too many high school graduates are going to four-year colleges. Getting past Murray’s troubling reliance on an IQ of 100 as a cut-off of sorts for students going to a four-year college, Murray should cause parents and educators to pause and consider both the personal and societal value of alternatives to a college education. Assuming value in a vocational education is found, the obvious first step is to expose high school students (or even middle school students) to classes that expose them to the various vocations, just as high schools currently expose their students to the sciences, math, music etc. But how can we expect high schools to offer vocational classes if  their success is judged both locally and nationally by student performance on standardized tests in math, science and english to say nothing of the reality that parents often select their child’s high school based on how many graduates go on to a four-year colleges? Murray’s article correctly focuses attention on the symptom–“wrong kids” going to college, but readers should recognize the source of the problem is not the kid or the parent, but is state and federally mandated curriculum that dangles the “wrong carrot”–college for all.  In fact , a large percentage of high school students might be better off in their adult lives if they were “left behind” from college and attended vocational school.

Scholarships in a nutshell.
January 16th, 2007

What to ask about scholarships.
Keep these questions in mind:    

  • What is the maximum scholarship award?
  • Is the scholarship one-time or can it be renewed?
  • What’s required for renewal?
  • Is the scholarship based on merit or need, or a combination?
  • How does the scholarship define merit?
  • Does the scholarship require admission to a certain college program?
  • Is full-time enrollment required to get and keep the scholarship?
  • What are the other requirements, if any?
  • Is an essay required?
  • Are recommendation letters required?
  • What is the deadline?
  • How does the college treat “outside” scholarships? Some schools let students combine outside scholarships with financial aid from the college with no impact on a student’s financial-aid package. Others will reduce the package if you get outside scholarships. Check with the college.


A thought for today…and tomorrow!
January 16th, 2007

When dealing with kids…”believe in them and help them believe in themselves”. (source unknown)

Be a parent who opens college “paths” for your high school student.
January 16th, 2007

  1. Assume your student will attend college.


  1. Expose your student to positive aspects of attending college.
      • Share anecdotes about fun you had in college.
      • Identify long-time friends from college.
      • Suggest that your student visit overnight a cousin or friend to experience first-hand college life.


        1. Develop self-confidence/independence in your student.
            • Encourage your student to go away from home to camp or other program.
            • Expose your student to a low- risk, new activity of interest where their abilities are untested.
            • Gradually increase independence and responsibility around home.


                  1. Give your student tangible goals.
                  2. Expose your student to a variety of colleges through formal and informal visits. Research the high school classes and grades earned by students who attend the college and share them with your student. Be factual. This is not the time to motivate your student with exaggerated GPA’s or SAT’s.
                  3. Know how your student is doing in high school between report cards. Few opportunities can top a daily dinner conversation, but much can be learned from the impromptu conversation in the car or at the refrigerator. Don’t discount value of Back-to-School Night or Open House just because it’s high school.
                  4. Support your student through application process. Successfully completing 10-12 applications is  is a logistical marathon for students and parents. Work as a team monitoring deadlines, keeping track of status of each application. This is not, for example, the time to “prove” your student is a procrastinator.
                  5. Reach consensus. It’s a stressful time. Students need to know their parents support their college choices.

      Martin Luther King Day: UC Riverside Most Diverse UC Campus
      January 15th, 2007

      According to statistics quoted in Los Angeles Times article (January 15, 2007), “Diversity  works at UC Riverside”,  UC  Riverside has the highest percentage of  African Americans of any of the 10 campuses and highest percentage of Latinos of any campus with the exception of the new Merced campus which has slightly more Latinos. UCLA and Berkeley continue to struggle to attract minorities while UC Riverside stands as one of the most ethnically diverse research universities in the country.

      UC Riverside Chancellor France A. Cordova, hailed as the first Latina chancellor of UC system, leads the university reaching out to minority applicants, giving financial aid packages to promising students, offering summer programs to give high school students a chance to experience life on campus and creating race based programs to assist minority students.

      As quoted in the LA Times article:

      “We are not UC rejects,” says Samantha Wilson, 19, a white student who chose Riverside because of its diversity. “We are UC on the rise.”

      Despite these successes there are challenges to overcome. Some students report that the school could do more to bring students of various ethnic backgrounds together. Others suggest there is too much emphasis on racial identity and not enough on integration. Even if true, hats off to UC Riverside, Chancellor Cordova, staff and students at UC Riverside for taking important first steps to attract college student-bodies that reflect the diversity of our state.

      About Meredith Reynolds
      January 7th, 2007


      Meredith Reynolds, Founder of Head Start College.        


      Over twenty years of experience in the education field.

      • She designed and supervised field piloting of an innovative on-line college counseling program working one-on-one with over 750 students, teachers, counselors and administrators. Relying on her input, a second version of the product was developed to support diverse students at high schools across the country.
      • She was elected to serve three terms (12 years) as a member of the La Canada Unified School District Governing Board charged with overseeing the operations of this highly competitive district.
      • She was appointed to two terms (6 years) as a member of the City of La Canada Flintridge’s Parks and Recreation Commission responsible for provision of facilities and coordination of programs
      • She currently is also an attorney for K-12 public school districts with her primary area of practice student and personnel matters.


      Completed seven years of higher education.          


      • Stanford University (1976) B.A. Economics [Phi Beta Kappa].
      • Stanford Law School (1976) completed first year.
      • University of Pittsburgh School of Law (1980) J.D.
      • Pennsylvania Bar Association (1980) member.    
      • California Bar Association (1983) member.


      Mother of three children.

      • Jim Reynolds (2005 B.A. Oberlin College)
      • Brittany Reynolds (2006 B.A. Bucknell University)
      • Alexandra Reynolds (sophomore, University of Denver)            

      Welcome to HeadStart College!
      January 7th, 2007

      Welcome to the HeadStart College blog! Check back soon for advice about how to prepare for the college admissions process.

      Perhaps most important for the entire family, the Head Start College program paces students to complete their applications by Thanksgiving.


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