Prep Talk Blog > February 2009

Obtaining a college education is becoming more expensive than ever. Many students and their families will need to rely on loans, grants, and scholarships in order to fund it. Another major tool for saving for college is a 529, which is a designated college savings plan that has major tax benefits. 

The website Freshman Fund offers a free registry for your 529 account that others can donate to (hat tip to Smart Wallet). Whether you are a parent starting a 529 account for your young child or a high school student looking for some last-minute money for college, this site offers a great way to help grow your college savings. 

How does it work? When you sign up, you submit the name of the future college student, his or her birthday, the account owner's email address, and the 529 plan information. It will then link your Freshman Fund account to your 529 account. You can also add a picture and even special events to the profile, such as birthdays or graduation dates. There are various privacy settings, so you can make the profile viewable to the public, only to registered users, or not viewable by anyone but the account owner. 

Once you have created a Freshman Fund profile for yourself or your child and linked it to the 529 account, your registry is created, much like a wedding registry. Anyone can donate directly to your 529 account through the site. You can import your address book from your email account in order to send notifications to people who may want to donate to the 529 account. You can set email reminders to go out, such as on birthdays or special holidays. If you are eager to get as much funding for college as possible, ask that your family and friends donate to your college account instead of giving traditional presents on your birthday or during the holidays. Your loved ones will be thrilled to contribute to such a good cause rather than buying a physical gift that may never be used. A 529 is less wasteful and more useful!

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For vegetarian teens, a meat-free diet isn't just good for the conscience and the body; it's also good for the wallet! Each year, an anonymous donor provides the Vegetarian Resource Group with two $5,000 scholarships for students on their way to college. While the application is a bit extensive and will take some time and work to assemble, you should certainly make the effort if you're a vegetarian looking for creative ways to pay for college!

The award money is intended for graduating high school students who promote or have promoted vegetarianism in their communities or schools. The group defines vegetarians as those who do not eat meat, fish, or fowl. You "will be judged on having shown compassion, courage, and a strong commitment to promoting a peaceful world through a vegetarian diet/lifestyle," according to the Vegetarian Resource Group.

Sound like you? In order to apply, you must submit a long list of personal information (contact information, GPA, extracurricular activities, etc.), an essay, a copy of your transcripts or report cards for the last two years, three or more recommendations including one from a teacher, and any documentation related to your promotion of the vegetarian lifestyle.

Set aside some time for the essay; you must cover 16 different topics in it, including why you are a vegetarian, how you expect to promote vegetarianism in college and after, and what vegetarian foods you would recommend to a non-vegetarian, in addition to more basic questions about your strengths, weaknesses, and goals. To learn about what is required in the essay and what other information you must submit, check out the website.

This year's scholarship is for students graduating in the spring of 2009. The deadline is February 20, 2009; applications will be accepted as long as they are postmarked on or before that date. They encourage early submission, so get to work! If you win, the money will be paid directly to your college, which must be located in the United States. This means you can't use it for fun money, but if you win, you'll be grateful for this when your tuition bill arrives!

If you have any additional questions about the scholarship, call (410) 366-8343 or email Good luck!

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Truth: You are not alone! Over 50 percent of American high school students will be the first in their immediate families to attend college. In 2008, 27 percent of college freshman from across the nation were "first generation" enrollees.

As a high school student considering your college options, you need to know that more and more students, like you, are the first in their families to enroll in college! Most colleges and universities invite the campus diversity that first generation students bring.

As the first in my family to attend college myself, I have a few pieces of advice to help you on your college planning journey:
Mythbuster: "Since no one in my family has gone to college, I am not college material."
    * You are college material. If you're committed to maintaining good grades in the most challenging high school courses that you have available and working hard on acing the SAT or ACT, then there is no reason why you won't be a great candidate for getting in to college.

    * Part of the reason why first generation students face a difficult time in the college planning process is that it is "uncharted territory" for your family. Luckily, you and your family have great resources available through your high school guidance counselor and online college planning programs like My College Options®.

    * Ask for help! There are no barriers that cannot be overcome with a little (or a lot) of hard work. If you show that you are committed to pursuing your college future, you will find that you have a lot of people on your side. Your high school guidance counselor, the My College Options® team and your future college admissions officer are committed to helping you attend college.

    * Search for the type of college that meets your needs. If you make yourself a good candidate for admission through good grades, great course selections and satisfactory ACT/SAT scores, you can find a college that works for you. Remember, the cost of college is important, but there are financial aid and scholarships available that will help you and your family afford a college education.

If you have questions, don't hesitate to email or post a comment! We look forward to hearing from you.

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For roughly 80% of U.S. high school students: this myth is false!

I have good news for you, my college bound friends: a recent study published on debunks the highly publicized urban myth that most students get cut from their top college choices. But according to Lucie Lapovsky, a higher education consultant and researcher, the average American high school student is applying to 3.71 colleges and getting accepted to 2.99.

What does this mean for you?

First, cast your net wide my friends and don't limit your college search out of fear of rejection. According to the article De-Hyping College Admissions (Or trying to, Anyway), less than 10% of U.S.

I know that it is hard not to buy into the myth with so many articles and blogs screaming about high stakes college competition and giving dire accounts of students applying and getting rejected to their top college choices.  But first, have a look at the numbers in Lapovsky's study: colleges are so selective that students have a hard time gaining admission. For the most part, the acceptance odds are in your favor that you will get in as long as you're qualified.

Proportion of Students Accepted by Their First-Choice College


Percent Accepted at First Choice
(Including Off Wait List)
All students 88
Asian/Pacific Islander 80
African American 84
White 90
Hispanic 84
All other 83

When you think about the popularity of college search websites like, the numbers start to make more sense. Colleges come to My College Options® to find prospective students who are also coming to look for them. When students build or update a profile, colleges are on alert to introduce themselves to their potential "matches" for admission. Obviously, the college admissions process is a two-way street and the vast majority of colleges are motivated to find students who are interested in them and likely to matriculate if accepted.

My advice: Expand your college search and try to introduce yourself to colleges that may not have the most brand exposure or the highest number of applicants. Don't limit yourself based upon sensational reports of high stakes admissions. Remember, there are big bucks in scaring students and their families into thinking that they have to hire a team of experts or buy a stack of books in order to gain acceptance to their top college choices.

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If you haven't hired the services of an admissions coach or a test preparation tutor, a "Do-It-Yourself" attitude may go a long way in achieving your college admission goals!

Fortunately, we live in the information age and free resources are not difficult to find.  Recently the Chief of The Wall Street Journal's San Francisco Bureau, Stephen Kreider Yoder, co-wrote an article with his son, Isaac Yoder, discussing their thoughts on hiring professionals to help in the test preparation and college admissions process.

According to the article, Isaac Yoder watched his friends work with SAT prep coaches and decided to prepare himself for the test using free materials available from his school library and online SAT prep resources. In the end, Isaac and his father were very proud of his SAT test scores and even more pleased with his self-reliant "DIY" (Do-It-Yourself) path to success.

Certainly, coaches and tutors can be very helpful in helping students pursue excellence in many areas including college entrance test preparation and college planning. But if you find yourself like Isaac , working through ACT/SAT preparation or the college admissions process without professional help, you should know that you are not alone.

Here are some great online resources that will help you prepare like a pro:

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Do you think it's fair if college admissions professionals "google" you or look at your Facebook profile during the admissions process?
Yes. If it's out there, it's fair game.
No. If it's not part of my official application package, it shouldn't be considered.
I don't know.
The poll is closed.


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Please email us at to find out if your institution is doing everything it can to reach qualified, prospective students. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Don Munce