Excitement of May

The arrival of May 2022 has never been more needed than this year. Longer days and warmer days are upon us as we welcome back the likes of the Red Sox, summer sports, dance recitals, and getting the double-wide family trailer opened at the beach.

In households of soon-to-be graduating seniors, May 1 marked National Deposit Day, the day the Class of 2026 commits to enroll in college. Exciting for students and surreal for parents. The journey to find the right college to start one’s 13th year of learning and personal development is complete. All that’s left is finding a roommate, obtaining medical and legal documents, and finalizing how to pay. Congratulations to all.

If exploring higher education after high school is still being considered, maybe a different path is in order. No longer is it a one-education pathway that fits all. Exploring interests and options to achieve individual expectations and goals is the key.

May is equally important to current 11th-grade students on their threshold, 12-grade. College planning for juniors and even sophomores should be in high gear with scheduled campus visits. Campuses are alive with activities and opportunities. Schedule your on-campus visits now!!

To all the hard-working moms, thank you for your devotion and love. We celebrate you on Mother’s Day and every day!!

Have questions, we’re here to calm the waters.

Schedule a Free Consultation

Congratulations – Graduation is in sight.

But, yes, there are a few more things for parents of college-bound students; one critical – is finalizing how to pay the remaining cost to attend.

  • Step #1: Using the school’s financial aid award letter, calculate the net tuition price
    • Cost – all merit and need-based aid awarded = the net tuition price
  • Step #2: Review the financing options specific to your family’s resources – savings, gifts, investment earnings, home equity
  • Step #3: Add to the help all external scholarships awarded at graduation or from external sources.
  • Step #4: If a balance remains and no other resources are available, families can consider two credit-based loans, the Federal PLUS (Parent) Loan or an Alternative Private Education Loan (student is the borrower; parent is a co-signer).
  • Access my Financing Worksheet, which walks you through the process.

Federal Education Loan Freeze
Once again, the U.S. Department of Education (ED), at the request of the Administration, has extended the student loan payment freeze to August 31, 2022. The extension suspends loan payments, drops the interest to 0%, and offers other benefits to delinquent and defaulted student loan borrowers.
While you wait for the thaw, borrowers with private education should investigate refinancing benefits: fixed interest rate, one account, or liquidating loans faster. It is unclear what the political air will be in September, so stay tone.

National Testing
The on-again, off-again debate goes on. SAT/ACT or not. The pandemic made it almost impossible for students to take the test; high schools stopped offering Test Day, resulting in a nationwide test-optional movement at colleges and universities. Many schools are rethinking their policies and reintroducing the requirement for admission and scholarship awards. What does this mean for 11th-grade students? If you can register and sit for the test, do so. BUT suppress releasing your results. Don’t take the free offer. Tipping one’s hat too early can be a barrier to acceptance!!

Don’t Wait …. Show Your Interest
Today, college-bound 11th-grade students need to introduce themselves and work to educated schools of their interests and academic and personal talents. It’s no secret that colleges and universities purchase students’ names and information. Part of their sophisticated enrollment management plans to target prospective students. But receiving an email or glossy brochure does not define a relationship. Using digital and traditional communication methods, students need to step forward, build relationships, and raise awareness about their interests. It’s critical in today’s college recruitment environment.

Planning Checklists

9th | 10th | 11th Grades  

Five Steps to Planning and Financing 

  • Learn about costs – in/out of state, public or private, and community college.
  • Determine what you can afford – get a pre-assessment of a family’s contribution and financial aid before going shopping.
  • Learn how college makes their decisions, acceptances, waitlists, and financial aid awards
  • Shop broadly – big, small, known, and unknown; avoid the trap of the rankings
  • Create a comprehensive college plan to find the right education, at the right school for the right investment

College-Bound Seniors – 

A few more essential tasks to address to ensure a smooth start to the academic year in September.

  • Activate your NEW College Student email and ID
  • Send in your Dorm Deposit & Find a Roommate
  • Register and attend Orientation
    • Complete Outstanding Forms (Meal Plan Selection, Campus Security Policy)
    • Submit a Student Health Waiver (if the student is covered under a parent’s healthcare plan
    • Submit the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) Waiver (allows parents to retain their right to view student records after the student turns 18 years of age.
    • Health/Immunization Records
    • Submit AP/IB Test Scores (Credits)
    • Take Placement Tests (if required) + Register for Classes
  • Before leaving High School ensure your Final High School Transcript is sent
  • Research extra-curricular on and around campus
  • Work with your insurance carrier/agent if a car is going on campus
  • Shop lightly; pack for the fall
  • Enroll and be successful!

Partners Corner 

Thoughts and Interests from Joanne Light – Parenting Empowerment Coach
Former Vice President of Enrollment Services, North Shore Community College

As parents, tweens, teens, and teachers contemplate a relief from pandemic issues and restrictions, they are also experiencing more stress. Stress is a result of uncertainty and anxiety and right now there is no shortage of causes of that. World unrest, school challenges, financial challenges, relationship challenges – all felt and seen.

However, personal stress is plaguing our tweens and teens in greater proportions. They are facing challenges and worries about identity, social interactions, academic pressure, and future unknowns. So since the world is unpredictable, let’s talk about stress management. First kids need to be aware of their stress and how it makes them physically feel – the racing heart, tightening chest, sweating, and mood changes.

Teenagers’ brains are fast developing, and the fight or flight part of their brain is producing hormones that lead to physical symptoms. They prepare to react to the “danger”. The rational part of their brain is not fully developed, so they may, unless in a calm state, overreact to the “danger” which may be an argument with a parent, an upcoming test, a slight by a friend, an unfinished college application, etc.
Some stress can be a good thing as it motivates planning, practicing, and resilience. Chronic stress, however, for your teen or for you is unsustainable.

There are choices for our kids in coping with their stress, and we parents can model stress management and guide them to make healthy choices. Talk to them openly about healthy vs unhealthy choices. Healthy choices will enable them to gain control and resolve their concerns and minimize some of the stress. The unhealthy choices – drugs, alcohol, poor eating, self-harm, risky sexual behavior, etc. only lead to poor academic performance, regrets, and lower self-esteem. And, of course, more stress.
I will be writing more to suggest creating stress management plans for your kids and for your family. Very important, however, is the example you set in managing your own stress.
Breathe, breathe, breathe…
Visit https://joannehlight.com/ to learn more

This is a new section where we will be featuring information from our colleagues and friends. Individuals who are outside of our lane, but linked through their wonderful work. Trusted partners.

Trends, changes, and things on the horizon

  • Read about the pros and cons of taking a Gap Year. – Bottom line, have a PLAN Gap Year 
  • Mental health issues on campuses are real – especially for student-athletes
  • SAT changes are coming for 2024 – increased access, digital versus paper,  shorter questions.
  • New FAFSA rules and guidelines will affect 2023-2024, starting Oct 1
  • Always good reading at Grown and Flown; Lessons to learn, conversations before going to college.



College Planning Workshop – LIVE & In-Person – Free

Free workshop for parents of high school students

Topics to cover include

  • How the pandemic has changed the way colleges evaluate and recruit students
  • What not to do with retirement savings
  • How to create a plan to find, select, and pay for school.
  • There will be ample time for questions!!

Where: Wakefield Recreation Center
When – Two choices – May 17th and 25th from 7 PM to 8 PM
Sponsored by Pivotal College Years  Register 


The PCY Workshop Series is now available! SMALL online classes with the experts. Topics covering Getting Started, Applications, Essays, and MORE…Register today! https://www.eventbrite.com/o/pivotal-college-years-15529534…

Check out the robust online library of information covering a wide range of topics, before, during, and after college. Resources include videos, PDF downloads, Workbooks – College Essays, Hunting for Scholarship, and other reference information on everything college. College Planning shouldn’t be complicated, intimidating, or expensive.
Use PCY30 for a free trial – Learn more

For you, your clients, and employees!


Get College Going

When you need that one-to-one support. We advise and guide parents; coach and counsel students.  We’re industry experts and parents, just like many of you.

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One Month to Go – May 1st Approaches

One Month to Go – May 1st Approaches

Gardens are returning to their luster, greenhouses are restocking, and the grower in all of us is ready to plant some seeds.

Families of high school seniors are on the doorstep of closing out their journey. May 1st, National Deposit Day is just around the corner, and crunch time is upon them. Big decisions, exciting decisions are just a few weeks away.

Those in the wings, 9th, 10th, and 11th-grade students and their parents, are activity working and may be experiencing a little anxiety.  The business of college planning does not take a break.  The journey to find the right education, for the right reason, at the right school, and for the best investment is a 360o experience.

Getting to Yes

Finding a college starts with setting goals, identifying needs, and understanding expectations, which are realistic and authentic. It is a process of meeting admission and financial aid administrators, visiting campuses, speaking with students and faculty, and looking at the surroundings. It’s students performing a little self-evaluation on what might be one’s academic interest and families questioning where they can afford college.

Seniors and their families that have traveled this exciting journey are now reaching the end. In my private practice, I ask all students to consider five categories. Compare the final choices to determine which one checks all the boxes using the categories. It’s time to say yes to the college.

Which school will provide a student with the chance to?

  • Grow academically, technically, and personally, bringing them to the next level, prepare for graduate school, or enter the workforce
  • Provide an environment to meet personal needs; remain healthy, in mind, body, and soul
  • Make introductions to individuals who share one’s passion for learning and socialization
  • Be affordable with the right financial support to minimize personal debt level
  • Offer internships, access to alumni, and foster completion – graduate in four years
Comparing Offers is Critical

April is also when the eyes of students and families turn to finalize strategies to finance college. Comparing offers is critical, and sometimes, the first choice is the most expensive. Many award letters look the same; however, a deeper examination reveals differences. How do they compare? As shown in the chart, looking deeper into the configuration of the awards, differences do exist. Although the sticker price is never the actual price, what are the contributing awards that make up the net price?

Note: If an award letter includes a Federal PLUS Loan, which is a credit-based loan, this loan is not a guaranteed award. A separate application and approval process is required.   

 Don’t Wait for the Bill – Are You Ready to Pay?

They will be arriving in July, if not sooner. What is your financing strategy? Will it be a monthly payment plan, alternative private student loan, savings, or a combination? What is the debt tolerance level if borrowing is the only resource? Email team@pivotalcollegeyears.com receive a free copy of the Pivotal College Year’s College Funding Workbook.

9th | 10th | 11th Grades – No, I Haven’t Forgotten You

What is the WHY for attending college after high school? Your tasks and activities to answer the question should be in high gear. Enrolling students in challenging curricula for strong grades (GPA), curating personal development, reviewing testing strategies, exploring talent, and investing to give back or work should all be on the table. Here are six core parts of a successful college plan:

  1. Understand college costs, tuition assistance works, and what will is expected – financially.
  2. Learn the supply and demand side of higher education?
  3. Work on student development; academic, personal, talent, and civic.
  4. Don’t fall to social pressures; celebrate the authenticity and needs of the student.
  5. Define and map out the Admissions and Financial Aid Strategy
  6. Be known as a student of interest, especially to schools of interest.

Don’t wait for the plan to come to you. Seek out the guidance, advice, and resources to create and manage a successful college plan. A click of your fingers – and it’s the senior year!

Consult an Independent Education Advisor

Everything begins with a conversation. Need help calming the waters, getting started, or just answering questions. We’re here to listen, focus on needs and expectations, and help students and families manage realistic and holistic college planning, before, during, and after college. PLUS, we’re parents just like you!

Four Leaf Clover – Nah – All About Planning

Know how the industry works

Rank, GPA, academic rigor, test scores, athletics, dance, and part-time work are many of the components that make up a high school student’s resume. As parents, we work hard to guide our students to become their best, authentic selves. We motivate with rewards, encourage hard work academically, and become good citizens.

So why does a student with a stellar resume find themselves deferred or waitlisted at their dream college? Or, receive little or no tuition assistance, scholarships, or need-based grants? The answer is, it is not always about the student.

In a previous article, pre-qualifying your college costs, we discussed how important it is for families to understand their financial capabilities before starting their college search. We do not go house shopping before we know our budget, college searching should be no different.

Equally important is knowing that higher education institutions are a business with specific needs and wants. Many are controlled by internal and external influencers and business factors. Sometimes these are in direct conflict with the consumer looking and hoping to buy (enroll).

How do these factors affect the outcome of the college planning experience?

Supply and Demand – selective institutions reported dramatic increases in their incoming applications pool during the pandemic. Increases due to amended admissions policies, heavy brand marketing, and consumer behavior. But 60K applications for 3100 enrollment seats. To overcome the disappointment of a waitlist or a denial, families need to expand their reach by including a larger pool of smaller to medium size residential colleges and universities. Their offerings, academic and personal make dreams come true.

An Institutions Financial Status – colleges and universities rely on tuition, fees, and indirect revenue from housing, athletic events, and on-campus consumer purchases. Swings in enrollment, on/off-campus, and the pandemic can result in belt-tightening, and course redirections. The financial status of an institution should always be on the radar, just like at home.

FIT – academic, personal, social, and financial are the categories that produce the answer yes. College and universities have their fit, which can mirror or be very different from a student and their family. Mastering the FIT can depend on how a student’s achievements, personal accomplishments, and authentic self, align with institutional needs.

Costs – achieving one’s educational goals within one’s financial means is the art of affordability.  Knowing how the sticker price becomes the consumer price at every college is part of the buying process. Understanding the impact of tuition assistance, scholarships, need-based, and self-help aid is essential. Knowing how and when to request more can balance the affordability equation.

Emotional Purchase – investing in one’s education is a personal and financial commitment, one of life’s biggest. Such a purchase requires the gathering of information, research, evaluation, and even consultation with a knowledgeable adviser (a shameless plug). Students should not be left to figure it out, a trend I see in my private practice that can have disastrous results. Families do not purchase $350,000 homes at a first glance, selecting a college or university should not be any different.

Planning – the high school class of 2022 is on the last leg of their journey approaching the decision-making deadline of May 1st.  High school 10th and 11th-grade students are right behind. Students and parents are encouraged to create their college plan following realistic goals and expectations while keeping a keen eye on the needs, of the student and higher education institutions.

Fairies and good luck charms – raised in an Irish household, grandparents delighted us with stories and tales. But behind every tall tale was the question, what if the luck of the wee people doesn’t work? What’s the Plan? A question this contributor asks all of his students and families. Need Plan B.

Have a question, concern, or an AHA moment, call, text [617-240-7350] or email tom@getcollegegoing.com

CALMING THE WATERS – Are you feeling a sense of college paralysis? Anxious? As a parent of four, having spent a career working with families, college, and university administrators, I understand the complexity of planning for life after high school.

Have a question, concern, or an AHA moment, call, text [617-240-7350] or email tom@getcollegegoing.com

Looking for college planning support during these uncertain times, consider Pivotal College Years. Pivotal College Years, is online college planning library of resource, offering educational information, valuable workbooks, downloadable reference documents, and resources before, during, and after college. Use PCY30Days to access the College Planning Portal for Families   Everything you need before, during, and after college in one place!

Ready – Set – FAFSA

Determining how to pay for college, all post-high school education programs is critical. Savings, scholarships, need-based aid, and other tuition assistance all play a role in determining how to meet educational costs. Financial aid is available to help supplement a family’s ability to meet the cost of attending a four-year, two-year community college, trade and professional school, full-time or part-time.

October marks the start of the application filing period and the completion of the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). This vital process is part of determining a family’s eligibility for need-based financial aid, including grants, loans, work-study, and many private scholarships.

Financial Need

Complete the form, hit submit, and the FAFSA® process calculates the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is an amount of money estimated that a family could contribute to the cost of college.

Cost of Education minus Expected Family Contribution = Demonstrated Financial Need

Many families may feel that the EFC does not represent their ability to finance the cost of college, financial resources available. For many, it does help illustrate the initial cost to a family and is an essential step in finding an affordable educational path after high school.

Affordable College Choice

As illustrated below, three schools with different or similar costs offer varying tuition assistance packages, including scholarships and need-based financial aid.  The EFC remains the same; however, the final net price may be different.

It’s essential to consider a range of college options. Each will evaluate a student’s interest and potential compared to their enrollment needs. If interested will offer their investment of tuition assistance in the hopes, a family will select them. The broader the range, the greater the options.

Determining affordability begins with filing the FAFSA

Download the FAFSA Checklist

Clues and Cues to College Planning


The Fall has arrived, school is in full gear, and student activities are filling up the house calendar. It is the time for college planning. Parents of high school juniors and seniors begin the countless hours of managing their student’s journey of selecting the education to career path after high school. Stressful and overwhelming for many, especially for first-time families. Here are some thoughts that might help with the experience:

Create a college plan – dream location, academic, and personal fit, cost, budget, and affordability are just a few of the many areas of the plan. Financing, expectations, goals, and capabilities are fundamental to finding the right college choice.

Turn to resources – schedule and meet with your School Counselor – their role, expertise, and knowledge are valuable parts in determining options and how they will assist through ongoing one-to-one counseling and coaching meetings.

What’s expected – understand the rules, deadlines, admissions requirements, financial aid eligibility, and everything in between. How does a 4-year school differ from a 2-year, community college, or technical school? Be a sponge asking questions and inquiring why.

Learn about college cost – education after high school should be considered an investment. It is critical to understand how college costs differ, private ($56,000) versus public ($29,000), in-state,  out-of-state, and what it means to a graduating student’s ROI.

Cast a broad search of potential schools that match a student’s profile and aspirations. Draw on academic strengths, talent (athletic and performing arts), and personal desires to create a list of schools that challenge your student. Use online resources to build a list of college options that can be evaluated by visiting campuses, speaking with admission representatives, and learning about possibilities.

Seek out financial aid – should I apply, make too much money, I’ll never qualify are myths and misunderstandings—everyone tuition assistance, including the possibility of need-based financial aid. Designed to help supplement a family’s ability to meet college costs, need-based financial aid, when added to savings, scholarships, and other resources can lessen the financial burden. But one will never know until they complete and file the FAFSA – Free Application for Student Aid

Finally, communication is vital – as the parent of four and worked with countless other parents; communication is the key to finding the right education to career choice. Everyone involved needs to be on the same page, understanding expectations, deadlines, tasks, and the PLAN.

Download your free College Planning Overview and get a start on finding the right education match after high school!

Never Ends – Always Planning

Love July …. Although we have had a few warm days already, you have to love July. Time to kick back, grab some vacation time, walk the beach, or sit poolside. For families of high school and college-aged students, the summer offers no rest from the critical tasks and activities associated with post-high school and college-related activities.

Top Nine Summer Tasks Not to Miss

1 – Learn the Admissions and Financial Aid Process – whether your oldest and first or fourth like me, learn the rules, terminology, and your parent of four like me. The pandemic changed the landscape, but it is coming back fast; rules, and processes

2 – Map Out the Timeline – digitalize the checklist of activities, tasks, responsibilities within the household – keep everyone accountable; it’s not just mom’s job!

3 – Don’t Waste the Junior to Senior Summer – colleges are open for businesses, sign up, and attend tours. Get out on the road. Investigate, explore, ask questions and learn.

4 – Raising Your Hand – register, text, email, and call. Let your schools know you are interested in them. The college hasn’t had time to find you!

5- Start the Essay and Common Application – senior year will be hectic – start now!!

6 – Gap Year – if you were one of the many students who elected to delay entering college this year, make it a good year. But read the fine print. Be cautious. Each school has its own rules and policies regarding deferring, taking a semester or year off. Contact your school and learn the rules!

7 – Keep the Pedal Down on Scholarships – Every dollar earned is a dollar not borrowed.

8 – Be Independent – learn to drive, volunteer, talk to college students, get a job, stay active – middle, high school, or college-age, pick one and join your community.

9 – Increasing Tuition Assistance – two important factors guide this, your student, and the needs of a college. Understanding the dynamics of a school and why they award scholarships, need-based aid, tuition discounts, and other resources is key. Not the two programs administered by the Feds or even your state and local providers. Moving this and moving that, prior to understanding the college-student matching game can lead to unwise changes.

Social Media – love it or hate it, it’s part of our framework and many daily lives. For colleges and universities, it is another item on their admission checklist – post offer to attend. Right now, many institutions across the county are examining Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter pages of their incoming class of 2021. They are reviewing social media pages to ensure that individuals who have accepted an offer to attend have not crossed the social media line. I advise all of my families to be cautious. Don’t let eighteen years of building a solid image and personal character get tainted by one social media post.

Remember – No Planning is Poor Planning 

CALMING THE WATERS – Are you feeling anxious? Have questions? As a parent of four, I understand the complexing of planning a student’s journey after high school. If you’re looking for clarity and insights to your questions reach out. . No Pitch!

Find us, follow up and learn more at https://linktr.ee/getcollegegoing – 617-240-7350 or email at tom@getcollegegoing.com.

Not ready for an adviser in your life, consider the online college planning portal Pivotal College Years. A low-cost, robust subscription resource center at the click of a mouse or palm your hand. EVERYTHING college before, during, and after, in one place.- College Planning Portal for Families