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.