Season of Change – Things to Do

October is a month when a lot of things begin to happen. We welcome the arrival of crisp air, pumpkins, and earlier sunsets in the Fall. I look forward to Halloween, football under the lights, college fairs, and adding a vest to break the chill.

For families of high school students, especially those in 11th grade, October ushers in the thought of planning for post-high school, the 13th year. College, work, apprenticeship, or a combination. Twelve-grade families, it is an all-hands-on-deck push to complete applications, admission, and financial aid with an eye on September of 2023. For parents of college-age students, October is a time to check in on first marks and adjustments to being away.

Last month I took you into the weeds of this important to the college planning process. This month we’re looking at dates, deadlines, and events on the October calendar.


Wednesday, October 12th – PSAT Test Day

The preliminary SAT and National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) is administered nationally on one Wednesday in October. High schools work with the College Board to administer the test in Massachusetts and across the six-state region. Scanning a sampling of MA, NH, and ME high schools, students will take the PSAT on Wednesday, October 12. All students are encouraged to take the test to set a benchmark for future testing and as a qualifier for the National Merit Scholarship. Check with your high school to confirm the date for your school system. Homeschooling families are eligible to sit for the test at the town/city high school. Note: Saturday, October 15th is an alternative date

Saturday, October 1 – FAFSA Application Opens

The Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) is the universal application that ALL students and families considering attending or returning in September of 2023 must file to be eligible for need-based financial aid. Whether a student is considering undergraduate, graduate, a 4YR college or university, Community College, or a qualified trade and professional school, completing and filing the FAFSA is a must. We have published a FAFSA Checklist outlining the steps to take and the information required to complete the application in the Resource section of our website. It only takes 45 minutes to complete – Don’t leave valuable financial aid on the table.
Download a copy of the 2023-2024 FAFSA Checklist get started.

November 1st | 5th | 15th –  Early Action Application Deadlines

Students planning on submitting their application for admissions using the Early Action timeline should be working to gather all necessary documentation to meet the deadline. Check with your specific college for admission requirements and dates. Be aware, I am not an Early Decision advisor. It limits choice and technically is a binding agreement process. Early action accomplishes the same, early consideration but without the stress of a binding agreement. Regular admission deadlines are in January and February. To be ready, you need:

⊗ Fully Loaded Application – the Common Application or school specific app
⊗ Dashboard loaded with school choices
⊗ Authentic well written essay
⊗ Responses to school specific Supplemental Writing (Questions)
⊗ Recommendations
⊗ High School Resume (if wishing to upload)
⊗ Fee Waiver – if eligible
⊗ Credit Card – pay the fee


High School College Fairs

Meeting and speaking with a college Admission Representative is an important experience for all high school students and their families, especially those in 11th grade. When you can’t get to a college to take a tour or meet on campus with an Admission Counselor, attending a College Fair is a great alternative. Representatives participate in local high school mini-fairs or regional events throughout the Fall. Students should listen to daily announcements or check the Guidance Department’s website to learn who & when are colleges coming to the school. Learn more about virtual fairs sponsored by NACAC

College Open House

High school seniors and families working to narrow their college selection should consider attending an Open House. Schools that are on the top of the list or not yet visited are prime choices. Need help narrowing the list, attend an Open House. Open House events are typically held on Saturdays and they are all-hands-on-deck events. You’ll have a chance to meet and speak with school administrators, faculty, and coaching staff, attend seminars, visit classrooms and speak with students. Check the college website for dates and times.

Family (Parent) Weekend

First-year and returning college-age students have been on campus for more than 30 days. Parents of newly anointed college students will find attending their student’s Family (Parent) Weekend event helpful. A weekend devoted to helping parents learn more about what their student is experiencing and the role they can play in helping their student be successful. As the dad of four, my wife and I always enjoyed attending these events with our younger students. We connected with other parents, listened for clues as to how our student was doing, and of course, went to dinner. Check the college website for dates and times.


Loan Debt Forgiveness and PSLF Program

Although the White House and Secretary of Education have announced the creation of a program that will impact upwards of 813,000 MA residents, as I write this article (9/21/2022) we are still receiving guidelines piecemeal. What we do know is that borrowers with Federal Student Loan debt will be eligible for $10,000 ($20K if a Pell Grant recipient) based on income requirements. We have also learned that a separate Application will be required, available in mid-October and due by December 31, 2022. Adjustments to loan balances will be issued in early 2023. In the meantime, individuals who feel they may be eligible based ensure their account is up to date with their loan servicer and at

If you feel you are eligible under the PSLF provisions, file your application electronically now.  There is a temporary limited PSLF Application deadline in place until 10/31/2022.

Note of Caution – DO NOT fall prey to the robocalling scam offerings. Their smooth-talking easy to handle service can lead one down the wrong path.

Tis the Season

The joy of the holiday season is upon us all. Excitement and anticipation of the holiday season, the arrival of snow, and waiting to hear the reindeer land on the roof are what make December a wonderful time. For many, it is the exchanging of gifts, words of happiness exchanged with family, and blessings for those missing or silent.

The excitement holds for high school seniors and those restarting the education pathways. Anticipating the arrival of college admission decisions, offers of acceptance, and a merit scholarship can be more challenging than waiting to hear if one made the naughty or nice list. Hanging such notice on the refrigerator door can silence the age-old question, where are you going to college? The holiday break is also when college students return from campus, many for the first time since departing home. Parents await the arrival in hopes of good tidings and joy.

As we go to print, Admissions Departments at college and universities throughout New England and across the country are like Santa and his elves, busy at work making decisions on who will be part of the incoming Class of 2022. Counselors will be burning the midnight oil reviewing hundreds of applications, essays, and recommendations to deliver the all-important communication; Congratulations, you’ve been accepted! Keep listening for the bell!

May 2022 Graduates

What’s ahead – What’s the Plan?

Journey Beyond High school – College, work, blend of both, what’s the discussion at the dining room table. I currently have three groups of seniors in my private practice, all graduating in May of 2022, all following their paths of interest. They’re college-bound, attending an apprenticeship, and entering a technology position in the workforce. Today, the education to career pathway is opening up new options to meet the demands of family’s and society. As the Class of 2022 will tell you, whatever the direction, it’s essential to have a plan.

Exiting College – the graduating class of 2022 is gearing up for the most exciting time of a student college life, the Spring semester.  Now and through the Spring semester, soon-to-be college graduates should take the time to kick start their job search and create a preliminary financial budget. Walking across the stage with a job in hand makes graduating even sweeter. Start networking, schedule information conversations, and seek out introductions to the hiring manager. Also, remember,  if you financed your college experience through education loans, repayment begins six (6) months after you graduate!!

Have You Completed Your FAFSA?

If been writing about the FAFSA for the last few months. So, I’ll ask again. Have you completed and filed your FAFSA?
If you graduate high school this May 2022 and plan to continue your education at a 4YR college or university, Community College, Trade and Professional school, and need help with financing, completing the FAFSA is a must. If you are applying for scholarships or might have some skin in the game (take a low-interest federal loan) to pay tuition, room, board, and other costs, the FAFSA is a must for you. It takes 30minutes…The door opener to year 13th of your education journey!!

My First Semester Was a Blast

But what about your grades?

For sure, the holiday break is a time when new, first-year college students return home for the winter break anticipating good food, long naps, and reconnecting with friends. I’ve navigated the “how are you doing” conversation more than once as the parent of four. What I’ve learned (the hard way) is we need to have patience.  Yes, it is incredibly vital to know how the new college student is doing, especially if assistance is necessary; however, cracking the shell may require time. Trust me. You can watch and listen to nonverbal, but try to avoid the Q & A session on the travels home from campus. They’re with you till January.

Check List, Road Trips, and Crunching the Number                                                                 

High school juniors and their parents have lots to do at this mid-point of the academic year. Consider these:

  • Checking academic progress and seeking out extra help in a subject where potential can grow
  • Discussing the world of opportunities; thoughts on the post-high school journey
  • Sharpening the financing pencil; education savings, need for tuition assistance and credit
  • Building, narrowing, and investigating college options, virtually and on the road

Take the Early Planning Quiz

Not to be forgotten, parents of middle school, ninth and tenth grades should be taking the time to begin road testing plans for the future. It is amazing how fast the calendar turns and before you know it, it’s cap and gown time. Are you ready? Take a short quiz.

  1. Are you saving for college at the pace needed to cover costs?
  2. What financing strategies – moves might apply to your family now, and in the next six months?
  3. What post-HS education pathway is your student leaning towards now?
  4. Is it time to boost academics through tutoring – academic coaching?
  5. How much is known about tuition assistance, and how it works at the college level?
    Take the complete quiz – start here

 Managing a Workforce

A lesser-known provision created through the CARES Act signed into law in March 2020 allows an employer to make up to $5,250 in student loan payments for an employee annually. Funds traditionally tied to tuition benefits for new educational courses can now shift in this new direction. Until 2025, funds reallocated to help employees with education loan debt are considered tax-free and excluded from employer payroll tax. So if you’re struggling to hire or retain employees, this might be your differentiator.

Finally, in this season of giving, let’s all make a donation or two to a local non-profit or organization helping our citizens, next door or around the US.


Thanksgiving Break

Time to Reconnect

Time for family gatherings, a delicious spread, conversation, and giving thanks for all of our blessings. While we are celebrating, it can also be stressful for high school students immersed in planning their journey after high school and college students who have experienced their first semester. Parents need to have their best listening skills turned on to monitor their student’s behavior and when appropriate ask questions gently to determine if everything is going well. Academics, health, and emotions. Whether they’re living at home or returning, prepare a little and have happy turkey daybreak.

 Unfreeze my Loan Payment

We are inching closer to the January 2022 deadline for borrowers of Federal Education Loans to return to repayment. In March of 2020, the Administration suspended payments for all federal loans and temporarily reduced interest rates to zero. The freeze will end on January 31, 2022. So it is time to pull out the budget, update the numbers and prepare to restart your loan payment. Need help? Contact your current loan servicer to learn ore your options or

 Gateway to Tuition Assistance

Last year approximately thirty-five (35%) of eligible families did not complete and file the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). Some may have voluntarily decided to go off to work or the service after high school. If a family selected not to continue their education journey due to cost, completing and filing the FAFSA just might have been the answer. The FAFSA is used to help determine a wide range of financial aid and tuition assistance from sources including schools, private scholarship providers, and others. Completing it can answer the question, is a post-secondary education affordable to me. Don’t leave money on the table.


 Senior Year 

  • Attend an Open House – on-campus all hands-on deck events showcasing the college, conversations with faculty, coaches, and your admissions admission events. Check the school websites, register and attend. Remember – visiting, evaluating, and comparing does not end until it’s time to say yes to the college choice.
  • Common Application and Essay – many peers and friends may have hit the early application deadlines, but for 50% or more students, the regular admission deadline in January is right for them. Gather up your documentation, essay and submit your applications.
  •  Are You Still Thinking? – Pathways to education after high school are not always the traditional way, and families should consider the path best suited for the student based on interest, goals, and financial resources.
  • Engage Your Admission Representative – two students of equal character and academic profile. One has developed a relationship, shared thoughts on attending, and their talents and treasures…. who might get selected?  – Don’t be an unknown applicant!

Junior Year

  • Curating a College List – the evaluation of college possibilities should be well underway. Matching goals and expectations with a broad range of choices is the key. Don’t fall prey to the selective school vortex!
  •  Visiting Campuses – take advantage of campus access by scheduling a tour or attending an information session to learn about admissions requirements and other campus offerings.
  •  Run The Numbers – understanding the rules of the road can reduce anxiety and stress. Learn how financial aid is calculated, awarded, and is part of the bigger picture, tuition assistance. Calculate your expected family contribution (EFC), and build it into your college shopping process.
  •  What’s the Plan? –  understanding the goals post-high school and outlining the process in a comprehensive plan is essential. Deadlines, tasks, and responsibilities for all to know to make for a happy household!!

 Freshman and Sophomore Years

Perfect time to be preparing for the pivotal year, the junior year, when academic and personal readiness turns to thoughts about post-high school goals as well as a family’s ability to pay for college. Lots to learn, research and questions. Information is power.

 Transfer & Re-Enter – skies the limit and schools, have you on their radar. Scholarships are now available for transfers, and companies have ways to support their workforce financially. Time is now.

 Refi to Manage Debt

Exiting college with educational debt student loans is all the rage. Washington is talking about it and so too are almost every digital and print media outlet. College debt is the result of many things, too many to list here. If you’re carrying excessive debt, high-interest rates, and need assistance, especially with private, education refinancing can help. Turn to a refinancing lender or independent organizations like AAA Northeast to learn how refinancing can help.

 Calming the Waters

Have a question. We’re happy to provide our insights and answers. Never a pitch or a teaser. Follow us, learn more, or connect at

If you find our information helpful and know others in your community or workplace who can benefit, please feel free to share our newsletter.

Meet and Greet – December 2, 2021, 4 PM to 8 PM – Route One BNG Expo, Springhill Suites Hotel, RT One North, Peabody

Hello September

Hello September

Leaders of many major colleges and universities announced this week, May 18th that their campuses would once again have students attending classes and living in dorms. Ithaca College, Boston College,  Notre Dame, among many, are planning to be open for business this Fall. Modifications will be part of the openings with conditions geared to protect the wellbeing of students while allowing for in-person learning.

For students and families, this is welcoming news. As recent as last week, 64% of incoming and returning college students surveyed by The Chronicle of Higher Education indicated a strong desire to be back on campus. For parents, questions remain, many associated with the health of students as well as the cost to attend. Those related to social distancing and the use of masks will need to be defined; the return to campus will likely mean that cost will remain. Adjustments associated with financial aid appeals tied to COVID-19 and a family’s ability to meet tuition costs should remain ongoing; however, students and families need to prepare for the arrival of the first-semester college bill.

Students attending institutions where online learning will continue through the fall semester should be contacting their college or university to confirm college costs.

Paying the Bill

Due to the current pandemic, students and families should be analyzing their plan to pay the college bill. Parents should investigate all concerns related to changes in employment, income, and other credit-related needs that could affect consumer borrowing.

In 2008, the last time we experienced an economic credit concern, many educational lenders pulled out of the private student loan marketplace.   Many families experienced a ripple effect causing problems over secure critical resources to assist with meeting college costs.

We do not anticipate this happening as a result of COVID-19; Credit criteria, lender access, and overall availability of resources may be subject to change in the coming months.

Students and families who may require financing resources should calculate their net educational costs, gap, and, if needed, complete education loan applications early. Federal and private education loans are common resources used by first-year and returning college students/families. Students and families should consult with their college or universities financial aid website for information on the use of educational loans

Health Insurance: Students who will continue under the family health insurance plan should sign and submit a WAIVER to avoid being charged by the school.  

 COVID-19 Community Commitment: FREE Until 2021

Whether you are a Student, Parent or Educator looking for college planning support in uncertain times, Pivotal College Years is making the College Planning Portal for Families FREE to EVERYONE. EVERYTHING you need for college planning in one place.

Seasons of Change

Seasons of Change

As the summer quickly comes to an end it marks the return to school for high school students and the start of new careers for recent graduates. In this posting we offer some information, guidance and direction for not only high school students excited with the thoughts of starting a new school’s year, fall sports and reconnecting with classmates but also for those enrolled in college and exiting with education loan debt. We break the piece down into three categories, Before, During and After College. A little something for everyone!!


  • Freshman & Sophomores – as the newest to the campus your activities should be geared towards establishing a strong foundation. Study habits and time management are two fundamentals to tackle while getting one’s bearings.
    • Parents – If were talking college post high school it is important at this early junction to begin to learn about college cost and how to finance a 2-4-year college degree.
  • Juniors – this is the pivotal year! Academics, academics and a lot of personal development. Junior year is the time when serious college planning Searching, visiting and evaluating college options need to begin as early as October of the Junior year.
    • Parents – as your prospective college bound student opens up the doors to his/her college panning, you too must begin to evaluate the ability to finance a $30-$50,000 annual cost of education. The conversation, what is realistic based on family financial resources is critical.
  • Seniors – if college after high school is the desired path, seniors need to be on high readiness to begin the semester strong, academically. It is also critical to maintain commitment to athletic and performing art responsibilities and other activities. returning will turn into a scramble as college selections, application deadlines and other parts of the college acceptance and financial aid process will be front and center.
    • Parents – completion of the Student Aid Applications (FAFSA) and other college forms will require 100% of your attention. Calculating and understanding the Net Tuition Costs for the finalist of the college search is a must.

Much is happening on college campuses. New, first year students are arriving with nervousness and eyes wide open to begin their exciting college career. Welcoming parties (students and events) are there to usher in the new class and provide hands on direction. Campuses are alive with new student activities, 1st year student experience programming, sporting events and activities in the dorms.

  • Parents – resist calling and checking in on your recent drop off. Students, new to the college experience need time to adjust, explore the campus, meet new classmates and get past their jitters. Give it a week to 10 days and then text a simple message: How are you doing? How are classes and your new experience going? Parent’s Weekend, held on all college campuses near the end of September and through the first part of October will be the time to take your first pulse check of your new college student.

If you are one of thousands of students who started and stopped attending college, this is the time to consider restarting. Becoming a Transfer Student! Upwards to 20% of a colleges’ 1st/2nd year student population leave school. The good thing is for every college/university that loses a student, that same institution is looking for a transfer student. Transfer students can bounce back to community college, and hit the restart button and/or move to a school on one’s original search list. Transfer students are in high demand. If you have been thinking about hitting the button, you can do it now!!


Upper class students are returning to campus to continue their educational experience. For some fine tuning of majors will be in order and others will be seeking out assistance and guidance to ensuring they’re on track to complete their degree. Degree completion is the goals and 4 years is the target. But if you do not know for certain where one is on the completion track, one could be in for a rude awaking. And the day to pick up one’s graduation packet is not the time to learn you have one/two/a full semester of courses to take to graduate. Find out now!! Don’t get surprised!!!

Returning to campus is also the time to investigate opportunities for internships, study abroad programs and other degree enhancements programs. If you have not been to Career Services why are you waiting. Stimulate your pathway to your job now. Make Career Services your best friend!!


Graduation has been over for months; the excitement is now turned to joining the workforce and seeing what arrives in the mail (email). For many recent graduates it is a message from an education loan servicer, the agent for the Federal Government or a private lender. For it is now time to arrange for the repayment of one’s education debt. Federal Direct and Private Student Loans are about to come due. The glorious six (6) month grace period is about to expire. Check out the links below to learn your rights, responsibilities and repayment options. Then pick up the phone, open the email and say hello.

Then pick up the phone, open the email and say hello – Someone on the other end will be happy to help!!

For more information on these and other admissions, financial aid and managing education debt topics, give us a ring at Get College Going

Before, During & After – Just Thinking

Before, During & After – Just Thinking

The idea of considering college after high school is a process that all students and families will encounter. Learning the paths, a student can explore should begin in middle school and be cultivated during their high school years. Finding one’s path to college, work and financial independence is not a one size fits all quest.


Colleges and universities continue opt out of requiring SAT’s & ACT test scores for admissions. However, most institutions continue to require national testing scores when awarding merit-based scholarships. Students interested in applying for merit aid should check with their school of interest. (Colleges Test Optional/Test Optional for Merit Aid)


Colleges and universities provide more than 70% of all tuition assistance; merit scholarships and need based assistance.  Merit scholarships reward students for their high school performance (academic, athletic and performing arts) and personal character. Need based financial aid attempts to assist students and families who demonstrate financial need.  Colleges use both types of resources to encourage students to consider their institution. It is not uncommon for students and parents to appeal their offers. Tuition assistance is key to making a choice that is not only affordable but the right fit!!


Time invested – Time Rewarded!

Private philanthropic donors, companies and organizations provide scholarships to first year and returning students attending public, private and community colleges. Criteria, eligibility and deadlines vary from program to program. Listed below are several nationally recognized sites to conduct individualized searches.

Sampling of Programs: