Monday, December 25, 2006

The Season of Hope

A Limelight Exclusive

By Byron Lee

At this time of the year, we usually get thoughts from everyday people regarding holiday plans. This time, however, we thought it would be good to spotlight those who have a bit more on their plate (those who give to others, those who have turned their life around, and those who are in a transition in life) in order to provide inspiration for others.

Callie Herd is a blessed woman who believes in maximizing the quality of life. In speaking, the FedEx Information Technology Specialist repeatedly says that life is more than living "3 scores and 10" (70 years). She was inspired by the example of her World War II veteran father ("Even though he went through a lot of racism and prejudice, he still had that smiling face") and the mother who tirelessly took care of said father (along with Herd's five siblings) when he came back from the war severely disabled.

Her inspiration led her to get actively involved in community service, first through the Memphis Civil Rights Museum (there was a vast need for volunteers in the wake of author Alex Haley's death in 1992) and then through work with the Memphis Food Bank, where her citywide "Hunger Hurts" activities led to an exponential rise in the number of volunteers for the charity.

The 2-time FedEx Volunteer of the Year eventually decided to turn her attention to the plight of single parents trying to find scholarship money for their children after she was able to obtain 1 million dollars in scholarships and offers for her own children. "It would not be right for me not to share this information," says Herd, "I am my brother's keeper." Her efforts resulted in the blog, a blog that has become so well known that it has been mentioned by syndicated writer Stanley Crouch, added to the blog roll of many national websites, and voted as a finalist for "Best Site for Single Parents" by Black Web Awards.

The busy Herd views Christmas as not only a time to relax, but as a time to reflect. "My father passed in August. We usually had Christmas dinner at his house. We're still going to have dinner at his house, and reminisce about the people we have lost and be thankful that we are blessed to still be here."

As for the future, Herd believes that volunteering may provide a silver lining in the overcast skies brought on by the recent Michigan State decision that has gradually scaled back the use of race-based scholarship awards. "[The children] will be looking for volunteer hours, but they will find hope and peace in helping that elderly person who doesn't have someone to read for them, or waiting with that person as they wait for someone to feed them. Our children will learn what it means to give back to their community, and, when they get into college, they can say, 'I'm not a quota, I'm a person, and I got in here because I was just as good as everyone else.'"

Like Ms. Herd, Tedarrell Muhammad also knows the value of giving. The fellow Tennessee native, born to a hard working mother, always had a knack for selling. "I used to cut people's lawns. The housing project I lived in had a lawn cutting service, but they would only cut lawns every three weeks. People in my project wanted their lawns to look clean." His desire to make more money led him to notice the large income his manager at one of his jobs always seemed to pull down. He found out the money came from drug dealing, and he was soon working under his boss.

The fast life came to an end when one of his partners was arrested, and, as a result, Tedarrell was indicted and ended up serving time. While in prison, he made a discovery that changed his life. He heard a recording of a speech made by Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam. "I had never heard anyone speak like that."

The Nation would continue to play a role in his life once he was released. After being disillusioned with his first post-prison work experience, he worked for a plumbing company ("I used to scuba dive into swimming pools and change their pipes.") One day, he unexpectedly walked into a new occupation: "I changed a pipe, and I thought that it was a sewage pipe. I showed it to my boss, and he said 'People drink out of that.'" His boss also told Tedarrell about Everlasting Spring Water ( a bottle water company affiliated with the Nation. Tedarrell was skeptical, but he later agreed to learn more about it. He soon started his own branch of the company and, with the help of his wife, Deidre, who holds a MBA, and the assistance of former NBA player Larry Johnson, he was able to make it grow to a multi-million dollar operation. He now has warehouses in Memphis, Chicago, and Dallas, and he is looking to soon have plants in Baltimore and California. (He also plans to start distribution here in the St. Louis Area. "I'm looking for people who are willing and able to work to be successful," says Muhammad.)

Muhammad credits his faith in Islam, especially the tenets of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, with his success, professionally and personally. "I don't take anything for granted anymore. I realize the power of God. Without him, we are nothing; with him, we are everything. I know that if you work for God, he is duly bound to bless you."

Muhammad also views black entrepreneurship and black support as the keys to the advancement of both the black community and of society as a whole. "We should empower each other and support each other. That is what we are here to do: empower ourselves, our families, our people, and then, the world."

With regard to this holiday season, Muhammad, whose company donated water to a Native American reservation in Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, says, "We believe in giving all year round. We donate and help people out all year round. I view [the season] mainly as an opportunity to spend time with family."

Andre Anderson also cherishes time with family. Anderson is known for his fashionable wardrobe, his effortless way of making lasting impressions with strangers, and his occasionally ribald sense of humor (which always contains heartfelt advice). Very few people know, however, what this man has been though.

His demeanor had roots in his childhood identity as the class clown. He was always able to draw attention to himself quickly. However, he was soon engaging in drug abuse, which led to criminal activity to feed his habit, which led to incarceration.

At his sentencing, Anderson had a thought that forced him to see the error of his ways. "I thought of my mother being in a casket before I got released. As me and the other guys were getting loaded into the bullpen, I prayed and asked 'Lord, please don't let that happen.'"

From the moment he entered prison, Anderson was a model citizen. The road to making the institution see the method behind his madness was rather difficult: "The facility that I was in did not have anger management or drug rehabilitation programs. I did not want to leave that institution not knowing anything more than I did when I went in, so I wrote grievances to state representatives. I would get a violation and get locked into solitary confinement for 30, 60, 90 days, but I got so many positive responses from the representatives that [the prison staff] had to respect me." Anderson eventually received recognition for doing work to unite prisoners across racial and gang affiliation lines.

Anderson credits his Christian faith for bringing him through his incarceration. "By me realizing that Jesus died in order for me to live, I realized that there was a better way. I started studying and educating myself."

Anderson says that this time of year gives him the opportunity to spend time with his large, loving, extended family. "Even when I was doing wrong, they never turned their back on me. I can't let them know enough how much I appreciate their love." Giving his mother special acknowledgement, he says, "My mother is a women who is strong. When I was chemically dependent, I was not only bringing myself down, I was bringing her down, as well. But when I was out in the streets, she was praying for me. God took all of those prayers and saved me. I give my mother her flowers today, while she's living."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Nominated as Finalist for Best Site for Single Parents

Best Site for Single Parents

Vote from now until October 20, 2006 at Black Web Awards

Select the following categories below:
Knowledge and Education:
Best E-letter for Knowledge: newsletter

Best Author Site:

Best Site for Single Parents:


To view a list of all Finalist, click the link below:

List of All Finalists

Please spread the word to others so that they may vote before the October 20, 2006 deadline.

Stanley Crouch, Syndicated Writer for NY Daily Post

Stanley Crouch of the New York Daily News promoted my blog in his syndicated column for NY Daily News on today, September 14, 2006. For someone of his stature to feel that my blog on College Preparation ( should be read or use as a college resource is beyond words that I can't express. I will always be grateful that he felt that information is worthy of this type of exposure. Also one of Mr. Couch goal is to educate African Americans and other Minorities on how to get information on how to prepare for college or get scholarships, etc. I am currently getting hits from the New York area and hopefully many will be hitting the site from all over the country.

The URL to the article is listed below:

New York Daily News Article

Brief Bio on Stanley Couch:

Stanley Crouch is a columnist, novelist, essayist, critic and television commentator. He has served since 1987 as an artistic consultant at Lincoln Center and is a co-founder of the department known as Jazz at Lincoln Center. In 1993, he received both the Jean Stein Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a MacArthur Foundation grant. He is now working on a biography of Charlie Parker.

Overview of NY Daily News:

The Daily News of New York City is the 7th largest daily newspaper in the United States with a circulation of 795,000.[1] The paper, the first U.S. daily printed in tabloid form, first rolled off the printing presses in 1919. It is owned and run by Mortimer Zuckerman.

Overall, what I am trying to say each of you is: If someone such as Stanley Couch could go to my College Prep blog and see how it can make a differences in many African Americans and other Minorities lives, then you too could circulate the information to your friends, email buddies, church members, add to your youth links, etc. The information on the blog is priceless. It only require you to read and make use of. The sad thing is many African American don't know how to get on the College Preparation Timelines and they rely on others to say "do it now" and when they don't have that link to others, they get left behind. Let us stop relying on others, but in turn rely on ourselves. I know my blog works and I have results from my children and alot of other students/parents, so let us use it. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

African American Students Preparing for College and Scholarships

Why Community Service?

The students and parents need to know “Why Community Service is important to their or children growth.” Why is it important to care about their fellowman and how they can make the world a better place? The students need to know what a recruiter or college looks for in the selection process for students to attend their school. The students need to know the meaning of Community Service and not say I do it because I was told to. Many students lose valuable points needed in the college/scholarship selection process because they didn’t perform any or enough community service hours or didn’t become part of a volunteer entity. A volunteer entity can be describe as belonging to an organization or program that concentrate on providing community service opportunities for youths or students. An example is Youth United Way, NAACP Youth Program, Girl/Boy Scouts, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, etc.

Parents need to know what it takes to prepare their students for college and how others parents achieve the task and what they did for their children in the process. Many times the “we” process are left out in college preparation and the finger is pointed at the “child” or “guidance”. I beg to differ and say that “you” as being the parent/child, because no one should have control of your destiny but you. If you put the time and energy that it takes to be on a proper timeline and obtain knowledge, you should be more than equip to handle the “Road of College Preparation and Acceptance”.

One of the key words in Community Service is that it leads to “Diversity”. Why is Diversity important in Community Service you may ask? It is because Diversity brings about a change in how we interact with other races/cultures. It is important to come out of your safe environment and mingle with other racial and ethnic groups. In the end the hope is to make the world better and to stop looking at stereotypes but rather individuals. Also a college wants to know that if you are place in an environment that is not what you are use to, how will you react? Will you be able to cope or will you be a problem student? The answer is that you should be able to adapt to your environment regardless of where you are from. We must learn to accept each other differences and not assume a person character is solely base on the myths of what is said about a particular race or ethnic group.

Community Service is not something that a child does every 3-4 hours every blue moon, but is a commitment that he/she will give back to the betterment of the community. Students normally perform Community Service hours from the 9th – 12th grade and if mature enough can start earlier. It is important that when students write their essay for college or private scholarships that they can provide the essence of what Community Service has meant to them. The essay should not be a summary of what hours he/she has accumulated. Also when the student selects a person to provide a reference letter to the scholarship/selection community, he/she should be able to write an award winning letter on his/her character and accomplishments. If the reference doesn’t know you, then they can only write a form letter. As an fyi, competing for a scholarship is similar to a “beauty pageant” without the beauty. It is very demanding and competitive and they look at essays, personal statements and references closely. Sometimes Community Service can be the deciding factor in a person getting accepted or a scholarship.

Overall it is very important to take Community Service seriously. How much you put in is going to determine what you get out.

Below is an idea of what is involve in writing or providing community service feedback for a scholarship. (Please note every child has a different contribution and it is up to them to express it in a meaningful way.) The personal statement below allowed my daughter to be a recipient of the 2005 Chevrolet Excellence in Education Award.

After high school, I will attend college and major in Psychology with a concentration in Pre-Law. I also plan on attending graduate school where my career goal is to become a lawyer. As a lawyer, I plan on using my skills to provide free legal services to the needy and low-income by offering myself to the community. I would like to also set-up a GED program that will allow inmates to seek their high school, equivalent diploma and to train them for jobs and to enroll in college. The way that my school experiences, academics, extracurricular activities, outside activities, and work experience are shaping my educational and career goals are as follows:

I am currently a member of Youth United Way and Bridge Builders. In Youth United Way, I am the Community Service Chairperson along with serving on the Board of Directors. My responsibilities as the chair are to create/lead community service projects for the volunteers of Youth United Way and to oversee that they have sign-up/register for volunteer opportunities. I also volunteer to work at Soup kitchens. I will be the student project lead for the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners at a local church soup kitchen. One of my responsibilities is to register student volunteers for the event. I will be the lead person over the student volunteers during the event. I also will have to make sure that the dinners are flowing properly and that the people are served and make them feel welcome. In addition, I am also a member of the Bridge Builders program its goal is to bring youth from different backgrounds together to promote understanding. It also promotes to develop a group of future leaders that could work together to address common problems. Bridge Builders has team builders to help teach diversity, some of the volunteering consists of soup kitchens, boxing foods for the needy/homeless, programs held to get the youth community involved, etc.

Because of my dedication to giving back to the community, I would like to develop a service project that I would implement, to better the lives of Memphians. The project would be a GED, literacy, and mentoring (GLM) program. This program is necessary for that child or adult that cannot read, the teenager that dropped out of school because he/she did not meet graduation requirements, or the person fresh out of jail that wants to take the GED and make a difference in their life. There are not a lot of programs that offer these types of services, but if I can be a pioneer, hopefully others will follow in my footsteps. In performing my communities’ services duties, I have witness many situations where if only the student/child had the proper education, maybe their path would have gone positive instead of negative. It is my goal to give hope to all people. I think that if we all took a part in the process that the world would be a better place to live.

Overall, being so involved in community services has allowed me to see that what I do has an impact on others. I can not blame those who didn’t make it totally, but in order to ensure that they don’t suffer from the negative of society that I must also assist in teaching them the proper way to treat each other and for them to value life. Also, by me giving back to my community, I will show that I care about my fellowman and want life to be better for everyone and not just those who made it. It is my hope that this will cause a chain reaction throughout the world and that the future will be full of happiness.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Rhodes College Tuition Deduction

Rhodes College in Memphis, TN has started a Tuition Deduction for African Americans wanting to attend. The policy is that they will meet 100% of demonstrated financial need for all accepted African American students. That information is based on the FAFSA and CSS Profile. Accepted African American students will be awarded a financial aid package that covers everything that the family is not able to pay, with limited self help. This cost includes Tuition, Room and Board and the average loan amount was $2650 for the first year. Rhodes has some students enrolled who have an estimated family contribution of $0. Those students receive an aid package that covers everything. This opportunity is given to both in-state and out-of-state African American students.

If a student is a full pay African American student, they are treated just like our other full pay students. The student is still eligible for merit based scholarships and may receive some need based aid. That is all handled on a case by case basis.

Rhodes cost about $35,000 to attend per year (this is including tuition and room/board.)

This is a great opportunity for students to see college life first hand and to see if they would like to attend a school such as Rhodes. The URL for Rhodes is:

You can go to the followingURL to get additional information on Rhodes:
Rhodes at a Glance

Rhodes has a Dual Degree Engineering program whichallows you to attend Rhodes for 3 years and then Washington University in St. Louis for the last 2years. (see URL: Engineering for additional details). Currently you can apply online for enrollment free.

If you have additional questions, please feel free to call Rhodes College at 901-843-3000.

Saturday, February 25, 2006


by Callie Herd

Many ask me why I send out emails and share information the way that I do. I have learned over the years what it means to give back to your community and to see the rejoicing, happiness, hope and love that result.

I started my journey of community service in the early 1990's. I always volunteered but never to this degree. I looked deep inside of me to find my purpose and how I could make a difference.

I first started volunteering with the Art Services group at FedEx. One of the activities I took on was at the National Civil Rights Museum. I soon became the lead coordinator that represented FedEx. After the death of Alex Haley in February of 1992, my dedication as a volunteer was tested. With the help of a community services representative, we issued a call for volunteers. Within two hours, we received over 100 calls—more than enough to assist with the events the National Civil Rights Museum arranged to commemorate Alex Haley.

From this event, FedEx approached me to be the chair of the first Civil Affairs Corporate Neighbors Team. Never before in my life had I led anything in this capacity; but they believed in me and gave me the opportunity. Our "Dream Team of Community Services" focused on humanitarian projects. I chaired this team for three years and received the Federal Express Volunteer of the Year Award for 1993 and 1994. Our team changed the way FedEx employees looked at the United Way Memphis Food Bank Operation Feed Campaign. I chaired over 200 coordinators; we were the #1 team for Memphis. We focused the campaign on over 20,000 Memphis employees. We placed the campaign on a new level and became the #1 Corporate Neighbor Team during that period. We also had the first FedEx Family Day at the National Civil Rights Museum. After serving as chairperson, I continued to work with Civic Affairs as a volunteer and this past summer, I worked as a coordinator for the Operation Feed Campaign. Our department won "Most Creative Campaign" within FedEx.

Currently, my venture in community services has been with preparing high school students for college. We should seriously look at our current situation, come together and know that "it takes a Village" to bring our children on a positive path and to have hope for a better tomorrow. Sharing my information with others won't hamper anything that belongs to my child. In essence, what is meant for her, she will receive. My hope is that we all start sharing and looking out for one another.

I have a host of friends and associates. We share and circulate information to others. We must always seek to find the reason or our purpose in life. We must also follow through on information and never assume that opportunities are over until we research them.

Currently I have a purpose to help students/parents learn how to seek things for themselves and set their goals for the better things in life. We should always look at our options and never limit ourselves. In the end, life challenges will always go to the person who thinks he/she can.

Copyright © 2004 by Callie Herd

Sunday, February 12, 2006


Preparing for college is a major task. Many times we go in search of but, without guidance or knowledge we sometimes begin the road too late or we don’t know which direction to go. I have prepared an overview on college preparation. The most crucial period for this preparation is from the 9th to 12th grade. It is during this period that a student’s overall GPA is created. The GPA determines the student class rank. Also it is while in this phase of the student’s life that he/she may start building up his/her volunteer hours. These hours are used to determine the student’s community service involvement. These and other factors determine the student’s college readiness and if he/she will be able to obtain entrance or scholarships to attend a University or College of his or her choice.

With this in mind, I decided to create a college preparation packet for parents and students to use as a guide to assist them in preparing for college and obtaining various college opportunities. This information was gathered over the years from me preparing my oldest son and daughter for college. I used various sources and individuals to gain this information. It didn’t happen overnight, but through my determination to know, it was received openly.

I feel very blessed in that many individuals have assisted me on this road and I have followed many paths to get here. I also developed this packet because I wanted to make the path for obtaining knowledge on how to prepare for college easy for any child or parent seeking answers. I also wanted to make sure that this information is shared with whomever wants to use it and help students anywhere get the information needed to prepare properly.

I ask that you share this information with others as I share with you. We must realize that we grow when all of us grow. So let us remember that in order for us to make it, it will take a village. I do know and believe that knowledge is power and that we must continue to be our brother keepers and spread the word as far as we can.

Now I am ready to take you on the guide to college preparation success. Please note this guide is not used to say that you will get the college or scholarship(s) of your choice, but rather a way to help you be successful in your endeavor. Always remember to trust God completely and then go for your dreams or destiny. You can achieve whatever you want if you believe and have faith in yourself that God will see you through.


Callie Herd

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Tips for the Single Parent

Many times Single Parents get left out of the loop when they are filling out the financial portion of the college application, CSS Profile, or FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) for registering their child(ren) for college. I would like to provide the following tips:

Tip 1: FAFSA Report or CSS Profile

If you do not agree with your FAFSA report or CSS Profile, you can appeal or file a financial hardship with the individual college/university. In many cases, forms such as the FAFSA or CSS Profile do not provide an accurate picture or account of a family's financial situation. If you disagree with their assessment of your financial situation, you can submit a financial hardship letter with the college or university and provided them additional information on your financial status. This will allow the college/university to review your financial aid application and then you can try to get them to adjust your previous financial award packet. For instance, if the FAFSA SAR report states you can pay an EFC (Eligible Family Contribution) of $10,000 per year, but you know that your current financial situation won't allow you to pay that type of money per year. You can write a letter of financial hardship showing the reason why you can't pay the money. Also, it will show what impact it would have on your current income and obligations if you do. Please note this is done on a case by case basis and it is up to the college or university if they want to adjust your award letter. This is normally approved via the Director of Financial Aid or Financial Aid committee.

Tip 2: Non-custodial Parent Waivers:

If you are a single parent and do not want to consider the income of the Non-custodial Parent when they evaluate your family contribution, you can ask for a Non-custodial Parent waiver from the college or university. If approved, the college or university will not consider the income of the Non-custodial Parent, but rather the Custodial Parent only. You must contact each college/university on the process for applying for the waiver. Also, if you plan on asking for a Non-custodial Parent Waiver from a college or university, you don't have to include that non-custodial parent information on your FASFA, CSS Profile or college application information.

Tip 3: Denial Letters:

If you have been denied acceptance because of your GPA/test results and not because they had an overflow of students to apply, you might be able to still submit a letter asking them to consider you or your child for enrollment at the college or university. Many times you will have to talk to the Director of Admissions or the President in smaller colleges to prove why your child should be consider to attend the college/university. Many colleges/universities have allowance for special circumstances. One of your arguments could be to show the improvements that your child has made over the last one-two years of high school. Showing that the child is focus and can maintain the requirements to keep the grades required attending and graduating from the college/university.

Tip 4: Visiting the College/University

I advise anyone who has a college or university that they are seriously considering to make an appointment to visit the college or university prior to making your selection or trying to sell the case of why you or your child should be admitted or provided additional financial assistance. One college director from a prestige college told me that it makes a difference when the parent comes in person to make a case for financial assistance. Overall, you should seek and believe in the impossible and to not give up until the "fat lady sings".

Tip 5: Waivering College Application Fees

If you would like for your child to apply for more than one college and you can't afford the applications fee you can do the following:

1. If your child is on free or reduce lunch you can ask your school for a waiver of fees, if the school allows waivers. Please verify with the college/university if they allow for waivers of fees.

2. If you have a financial hardship you can check with the college/university to see the procedure for getting a waiver.

Tip 6: Scheduled a One on One Meeting with the Guidance Counselor

It is important that you take the "we" approach in your child's future. Although many schools have a big meeting with the parents, students and gudiance counselor to go over college preparation and what is expected in the process. The parent along with the child needs to scheduled a one-on-one at the beginning of the school year. The meeting will allow you and your child to answer any questions or concerns you may have.

There is already a pre-determined college timeline process and you must be on their time and not yours.

Please don't leave the meeting still needing answers, if you can't get them all schedule another meeting in the future.

Remember what you put in the preparation process will determine what you get out.

College Prep Timeline

High School Freshman


Map out the classes you’ll need to take for the next four years in preparation for college admissions.
Take the most challenging course of study available.
Join clubs and activities in your area of interest.
Meet with your school’s guidance counselor to discuss courses and extracurricular activities.
Start building relationships with teachers, counselors and activity supervisors. This will help you obtain recommendations for college later.
Select a volunteer organization you'd like to get involved with.
Become familiar with the standardized tests you need to take.
Begin to discuss college costs parents/guardians.
Meet with your school's guidance counselor to discuss plans for summer and next fall.
Apply for summer jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities.

High School Sophomores


Begin taking on leadership roles in clubs and activities.
Begin thinking about potential colleges to attend.
Sign up for FastWeb’s College Search to find the right school for you.
Register with find scholarship money.
Make an appointment to talk with your guidance counselor.
Strengthen relationships with teachers, counselors and activity advisors. This will help you obtain recommendations for college later.
Become familiar with the standardized tests you need to take.
Attend college fairs and speak to on-campus college representatives.
Research summer programs for college prep.


Begin to discuss college costs with parents/guardians.
Meet with your school's guidance counselor to discuss plans for summer and next fall.

High School Juniors


Take the most challenging academic schedule you can.
It shows admissions officers that you're ready for a competitive college environment.
Research prospective colleges. Sign up for FastWeb’s College Search to find the right school for you.
Attend college fairs and speak to on-campus college representatives.
Register, prepare for and take the PSAT/NMSQT.
Begin studying for the SAT or ACT.
Register with find scholarship money.
Take leadership roles in clubs, activities and volunteer organizations.
Begin to consider which teachers, advisors or employers you might use for college recommendations.
Explore financial aid options with your parents/guardians.


Apply for scholarships.
Visit prospective colleges during spring break.
SAT is offered in March. Get all current school year test dates.
Continue discussing college costs and options with your parents/guardians.
Put together your resume including academic record, extracurricular activities, honors and volunteer work.


Check academic requirements for your prospective schools. Summer is the best time to fill any gaps.
ACT is offered in April. Get all current school year test dates.
SAT is offered in May. Get all current school year test dates.


College visits to prospective colleges.
Be sure to talk with current students about the school.
Athletes should register with the NCAA Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse at the end of the academic year.
Request applications and brochures from your top colleges.
Get started on college application essays writing sample drafts.
Take some time out to prepare for your standardized tests.

High School Seniors

June – August (after Junior Year)

Need to tour the colleges you are interested in attending.
Use following URL to perform college searches:
You may also go to US News Best College at:


Request applications and brochures from your target colleges.
Sign up for FastWeb's. The website is .
Don’t forget to get the application from your local college.
Create a folders and a filing system for your target schools.
Make a list of application requirements (essays, transcripts, ect).
Note the application deadline on each file folder.
Record the local and/or 800 number for each school.
Schedule college interviews with prospective schools.
Set up a budget for college application costs – they can add up.
Check to see if you can get waivers on your application fees.
Request letters of recommendation with a 2-week notice.
Make sure that the letters are grammatically correct.
Make sure letters are positive.
Work on application essays.
Make sure that you are unique and different.
Create your business cards to be handout.
Make sure that you include your college choices on your ACT/SAT.
Find and apply for as many scholarships as you can.


Talk to your parents about college cost.
Decide how much you can afford.
Explore your options for funding.
Request transcripts sent to your target schools.
SAT is offered in October. ACT is offered in October.
ACT URL/website is:
SAT URL/website info is:


If you're applying Early Action or Early Decision, get your application in
this month.
Keep copies of all applications and forms sent to colleges.
Request test scores sent to colleges.
Make sure that everything that is required in the application/scholarship
packet has been done and sent off.


Work on college applications!
SAT is offered in December. ACT is offered in December.


File or apply for FAFSA after January 1.
Check with your prospective colleges about additional financial aid
application forms and requirements.
Send mid-year reports to colleges, if necessary.
Verify that colleges have received your applications.
Send thank-you notes to your recommendation sources.


Review the SAR (Student Aid Report) to make sure it is


Check the mail for admissions letters and financial aid awards.
Compare your admissions offers. Ask your guidance counselor to help
you weigh your options.
Contact financial aid office if you have any special financial aid
If waitlisted, notify the admissions office if you're still interested.
Plan your summer internship, job or program.


Notify (in writing) the schools you have decided not to attend.
Make sure you've received the necessary forms for housing, health
insurance, financial aid, etc.
Pursue additional student loan options.
Notify colleges of any private scholarship awards.


Have your final transcripts sent to your new school.
Research banking options near your college.
Double-check any final deadlines for housing, financial aid, etc.
Set up a projected first-year college budget.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Help Your Aspiring College Student!!

Question: What Should Parents Be Doing In Regard To The Application Process

Black Excel (BE) Founder: Parents have asked me this or a variation of this question for as long as I have been formerly counseling students. Sadly, a majority of those who have inquired over the years had no idea what they should be doing or had misconceptions about their role. The unfortunate truth is that large numbers of our students, are "picking their colleges" and handling the "application process" by themselves. Parental involvement, far too often, is minimal. For example, it's not usual to meet aspiring students who are applying to colleges who are gathering college applications and filling them out without help at home. A parent might know that their child is "applying to college," encouraging it, but is not hands-on at all. Clearly, many parents assume that their child and/or a grade adviser is "taking care of it." It's an alarming pattern that I often see. That said, I am saddened to say that many parents have never looked at or critiqued the personal essays that are required with many applications. The essay is a portent force in "Getting in," particularly to a "first choice" school. I can't say this enough: Parents should be involved in the process, playing a substantial role.

Question: What Specifically Should Parents Be Doing?

BE Founder: When I begun helping students the first rule that I established for my group was that *we* would "counsel as it was "a son or daughter." Nothing less. I didn't let my child fend for herself. She was ready and capable, but the "next step" for her was as important as my prior career moves. That was my attitude. Over the years I've had the opportunity to speak to many parents of other cultures. Well, guess what? They often treat the college process in regard to their child (picking schools, readying an application, critiquing the necessary essays), as if it's "life and death." Literally. I can't phantom why a parent of color (or anyone) should be on the sidelines or asleep If this is one of our child's major life's decisions, why shouldn't we be in playing a substantial role? Specific instructions? *Help gather college materials (Catalogs and applications) Why not? *Review your child's college applications, noting requirements and deadlines. *Review your child's written comments about extracurricular activities, awards, special achievements, whatever. Can your child's approach and presentation be improved? (Why not provide blank paper or dummy copies to create drafts?) *Read and/or listen to your child’s essay in progress? Is it effective? Does it present your child to his or her best advantage? Why do all these? Or lend a helping and encouraging hand? Because the application will serve as your child's "personal profile," and it's a key step in the evaluation process from an admission's committee perspective. Step Into The Light !! Some things you should be discussing with your child: Where to apply (rankings, state, private, HBCUs), size ("Big Pond or Little Pond"), location (Urban, rural), the "social scene" (diversity issues), money matters, tours, college visits (open houses, orientations), graduation rates and retention facts, academic environment (study intensity, support systems). In a nutshell, there should be ongoing dialogue. "Do you spend more time talking to car dealers at dealerships, than you do helping your child get into college? The answer should be 'NO!' "

Question: "Shouldn't my child be responsible and mature in regard to handling his or her college business. And, if not, isn't it his or her life?"

BE Founder: Even the most capable, inspired, and talented student needs backup and mentoring. For our folks, I am sad to say, the "rules of engagement" (that is, what to do for maximum impact and to beat the odds), is not readily available or known. Misconceptions abound about college and the "admissions process." One expert says it's "a logistical challenge." He also adds, "This isn't the time to allow your child to learn from his mistakes." I agree. You all know the saying, "you can lead a horse to water..." I believe you should lead your child "to water" and, if necessary, push him or her out in a boat. You'll be surprised how many "lackadaisical" or "unfocused" chidden, will then begin to peddle. Parents should get involved.

Question: But what about students without capable parents, guardians, mentors, and/or resources?

BE Founder: Yes, there are many students who are going it alone, for whatever reason. It's a fact. Over the years I have worked with hundreds of "first generation" college bound students. Often, in their homes, there is little experience or knowledge about the process. In many single parent homes, daunting odds stare the family in the face. Making matters worse, some grade advisors have unmanageable caseloads (1 counselor for 500+ students is not usual for some urban high schools). Honestly, there are college advisors who are not that good. Many know little about HBCUs, for example. Others route smart students to "average" or "mediocre" schools, and give students who "need a second chance" virtually no counseling or support. The solution? It's important to point students and parents who need help to resources like Black Excel: The College Help Network. There's a wealth of info at the website ( (See my bio below). Also my college guide, has been hailed as "counseling tutorial" and "motivational force." The noted gateways are invaluable.

Question: What about future editions of this newsletter?

BE Founder: In the next edition I will talk about "Picking Colleges" and in follow-up issues I will discuss "Aid and Scholarships," the SAT, essay strategies, other pivotal topics. The overall theme of all these newsletters will be to give you info on how to present your child/student to "Best Advantage" during the admissions process. You'll; learn how to "Get the Money," "Get into your First Choice school," and more.

Bio on Isaac Black ============== Isaac Black is the Founder of Black Excel: The College Help Network ( He is also the author of the "Black Excel African American Student's College Guide" (John Wiley & Sons), available at and Black Expressions Book Club (Heritage and Culture section)* and major bookstores.