Ask Joe College - A Service of the Center for College Planning
Blog entries are prepared by the College Counselors of The NHHEAF Network
Ask Joe College

Commencement Speakers – One Final Piece of Advice

Commencement is a time for celebration.  You’ve survived the rigors of college and finally earned your degree.  Now it’s time for the mortarboard (okay, the cap!) and the gown.  Commencements also usually feature someone with some “real-world” experience to share words of wisdom, some humor and to send you off on as your begin the next chapter in your life.  

Colleges often have commencement speakers you know.  For instance, Jennifer Lee, director of this year’s hit movie Frozen, is scheduled to speak at UNH’s commencement on May 17.  Jennifer is actually an alumnae of UNH!

And here are some other colleges and their commencement speakers:

Dillard University: First Lady Michelle Obama.
Franklin & Marshall College: George Stephanopoulos, and anchor of ABC's "Good Morning America."
Miami University, in Ohio: Forest Whitaker, the actor.
Middlebury College: Diana Nyad, the swimmer.
Saint Anselm College: Bob Schieffer, anchor and moderator of "Face the Nation."
University of California at Irvine: President Obama.

Who knows who will come speak at your commencement!

TruFit Good Citizen Scholarship!

To all those students that keep saying they’ve applied for every scholarship out there, you now have one more to try!

To help students manage the cost of college and reward them for their volunteer efforts, RBS Citizens Financial Group (RBSCFG) is offering the TruFit Good Citizen Scholarship. Now in its fourth year, RBSCFG will award a total of $50,000 in college scholarships to students who demonstrate good citizenship through community volunteerism and leadership.

The application period for the TruFit Good Citizen Scholarship for college begins on Tuesday, April 15 and run through May 6, 2014 or until 2,000 applications have been received, whichever occurs first. Winners will be announced this summer.

A total of 10 college scholarships of $5,000 each will be awarded to U.S. residents who are 16-years of age or older and are attending or accepted to a federally accredited four-year college, university or graduate program for the Fall 2014 semester, located in one of the following regions:

• Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont (1 winner)
• Massachusetts (1 winner)
• Pennsylvania (1 winner)
• New York (1 winner)
• Rhode Island (1 winner)
• California (1 winner)
• Florida (1 winner)
• Ohio and Michigan (1 winner)
• All other US states not listed above (2 winners)

For more information, and to apply, please visit or

Keep applying for scholarships; it’s not over yet!!

Want to Attend a College Fair? Mark Your Calendars for April 26!!

College fairs are a great opportunity to learn a little about a bunch of colleges in a fairly short amount of time.  If you haven’t had a chance to attend one this Spring, or you’re looking for another one to go to, then I’ve got the college fair for you! 

April 26, 2014, from noon until 3 p.m., McIntyre Ski Area is hosting a college fair and have invited local New England colleges.  They are located at 50 Chalet Court in Manchester, NH.  For more information, visit

For a list of questions to ask college admissions representatives at a college fair, click here

And remember, the Center for College Planning is here to help with all of your college planning needs.  Call 888.7.GRADUATE, ext. 119 to schedule your FREE 60 minute planning appointment with one of our college counselors.

Keep college searching,

Scholarship Opportunity for CURRENT College Students!

The New Hampshire Sheep and Wool Growers' Association offers The Bruce Clement Post-Secondary Education Scholarship for $1500!

Eligibility:   Open to any New Hampshire resident who has:

• Completed at least one year at a post-secondary educational institution
• Not received this scholarship in the past
• An affiliation with sheep through 4-H, FFA, Young Farmers, New Hampshire Sheep and Wool Growers' Association, or is majoring in a field that will benefit the sheep industry                         

Application Process Includes:

• Application submission postmarked by June 1, 2014
• Completion and submission of the application found on their website (Cannot be hand written)
• A transcript from the applicant's most recently-completed year with a minimum GPA of 2.5.
• Three letters of recommendation dated within the last six months
• Two non-relative references with name, address and phone number, who can be called by the scholarship committee.
• An interview will be held at the NH Farm Bureau Office, 295 Sheep Davis Road, Concord with the New Hampshire Sheep and Wool Growers' Scholarship Committee  (Time to be announced)

Selection Criteria:
• Past involvement and/or future plans for involvement in the sheep industry
• Volunteer service to the sheep industry or other agricultural efforts including youth involvement in agricultural programs
• Review of current transcript, letters of recommendation and references

For more information and to view and submit their application, visit

Best of luck,

Award Letters Got You Confused?

You’re not alone!!  Right now, students across the country are receiving their college acceptances (yay!!), and their financial aid award packages from their schools.  While some stuff is easier to understand, such as all free money (grants and scholarships) from the college or government is great, the harder task is trying to figure out what it all means.

We came across this article from The Wall Street Journal that does a great job explaining the benefits of truly analyzing each college’s offer of aid before making that all important acceptance decision.  Just because one college offers more free money, it doesn’t make that school the natural logical choice for acceptance.  Another college could have offered less overall free money, but still have a lower out-of-pocket cost to the family since it may have a lower initial cost.  First impressions can be deceiving.  Figuring out the true out-of-pocket cost for each college will give you a better understanding of the differences between the financial aid offers and can help you make your college selection.

Want more information about the various federal student aid programs and helpful hints to understand your financial aid award packages?  The Center for College Planning is here to help!  Check out our pre-recorded webinar, “Understanding the Award Letter” on our NHHEAF youtube channel, or come to our Concord office and attend our in-person workshop on April 15.  Pre-registration for the workshop is required.  Click here to register.

You can also schedule an appointment to meet individually with one of our college counselors.  We offer FREE 60 minute appointments in our Concord office.  Call 888.7.GRADUATE, ext. 119 to schedule yours.

May 1(the National Candidate Deadline) is quickly approaching.  You need to make your decision and send in your deposit to your college of choice by this date.  Best of luck as you navigate these packages.

Your future awaits,

Interested in Attending College in Canada?

Thinking about going to a college in Canada and want some more information?  Consider attending the first Canadian College Fair in New Hampshire!!  It’s taking place on April 9, 2014 from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at Hanover High School!  The night will begin with a short presentation in the Hanover High School Auditorium followed by the College Fair portion in the Atrium.

While there may be more colleges in attendance, the following schools have confirmed their participation:

Acadia University, Nova Scotia  - Bishop’s University, Quebec - Carleton University, Ontario - Concordia University, Quebec - Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia - Huron College at Western University, Ontario - McGill University, Quebec - Mt. Allison University, Nova Scotia - Nova Scotia College of Art & Design, Nova Scotia - Queen’s University, Ontario - St. Thomas University, New Brunswick - University of Guelph, Ontario - University of New Brunswick, New Brunswick - University of Regina, Saskatchewan - University of Toronto, Ontario - York University, Ontario

And remember, the Center for College Planning would love to help you in your college search!  Call 888.7.GRADUATE, ext. 119 to schedule your FREE 60 minute college planning appointment with one of our college counselors.

Keep college searching!

Changes to the SAT


Some of you may have heard that there are big changes coming for the SAT in the Spring of 2016.  While we don’t know exactly what the SAT will look like, they have released some information.

What we know so far:

• Each student receiving a fee waiver to take the SAT will be directly sent 4 college admission fee waivers.  This is designed to make sure students know they have the option of applying to college and the fees will not be a barrier.
• College Board has partnered with the Khan Academy for FREE on-line individual style test preparation.
• New SAT redesign items include:
• The essay section will be optional and scored separately.
• The scale score will return to 1600 (currently 2400! Because of the essay section)
• No more penalties for wrong answers.
• The test will be approximately 3 hours plus additional time for the optional essay.
• The test will be available online is selected test locations.

(Courtesy of National College Access Network –

These are some pretty big changes and have been designed to help students from all economic backgrounds have access to test preparation and college.  As we learn more about the impending changes, we will share that information with you.  In the meantime, please keep in mind that these changes do not take effect until 2016, and the current SAT format will be utilized until then.

To view the current list of SAT test dates and registration deadlines, visit  And to view our pre-recorded “Know the Score” webinar outlining the current SAT format including some test examples, click here.

And remember our college counselors would love to help you navigate your college process.  Call 888.7.GRADUATE, ext. 119 to schedule your free college planning appointment with one of our college counselors.


“Hope Starts Here” Scholarship

The NH Coalition to End Homelessness “Hope Starts Here” Scholarship Fund provides financial support to students currently living in NH who have experienced homelessness during their school career, have a desire to continue their education beyond high school, and have demonstrated academic achievement.  Since 2009, the fund has helped underprivileged students achieve their dream of attaining higher education.

To be eligible for the scholarship, applicants must meet the following criteria:

1. Applicant must be under the age of 21 prior to the scholarship due date;
2. Applicant must be currently residing in NH at the time of applying for the scholarship;
3. Applicant must be actively pursuing post-secondary education;
4. Applicant must be homeless or have been homeless at any time during their school attendance.
Parameters on homeless status are defined by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act (see below).

According to the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act, a person is considered homeless who “lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate night-time residence.” This includes people living in shelters, cars, motels/hotels, campgrounds, or places not meant for human habitation. The definition includes children and youth who are living with friends or relatives temporarily (doubled-up or sharing the housing of others) because they lack permanent housing.

Applications are due May 1, 2014.  For more information, and the application, please visit


Peters of Nashua Scholarship!

The Peters of Nashua Scholarship is open to all graduating high school seniors living in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. To enter, send a 500 word, typed essay about the person in your life that influenced you most and how they impacted you.  Submit your essay to “Peters of Nashua Scholarship Contest”, C/O Peters of Nashua, 300 Amherst Street, Nashua, NH 03063, or email your entry to no later than May 31st, 2014.  All entries must include your name, address, email address, phone number and name of college you will be attending.  Peters of Nashua will select 3 winning entries.

1st Prize $1500 Scholarship
2nd Prize $1000 Scholarship
3rd Prize $  500 Scholarship

Scholarship finalists will be interviewed to determine the winners of each prize level. All scholarship winners will be notified in writing no later than June 27th, 2014. 

For more information, please visit

Best of luck,

Need-Blind Vs. Need-Aware

Have you been out touring colleges and wondered what Admission’s offices have meant when they spouted the terms “need-blind” and “need-aware” or “need-sensitive”?  Do you know what the terms mean?  Do you know which category your student’s colleges of interest fall into?

Many colleges have a “need-blind” admissions policy (as noted on their college websites, Harvard, Brown and the University of New Hampshire all utilize this method).  In simple terms, the colleges promise not to consider the applicant’s or family’s ability to pay for that college.  Admissions decisions and scholarship awards (if offered at that college) are based solely on the merits of the student’s application and overall ability to thrive at that school.  Finances only come into play once the student has been accepted to the college.  At this point, the financial aid office will be alerted that the student has been accepted and they will begin to review the financial aid applications and award the student monies based on their financial information.  At that point, students and families must make the decision to accept or decline the offer of aid and admission to the college.

More and more colleges are becoming “need-aware” or “need-sensitive”  (as noted on their college websites, colleges that utilize these methods include George Washington University and Clark University).  These colleges are utilizing student and family finances as part of their admissions process.  Some colleges are using this approach for all applicants and some will only consider a family’s ability to pay for the college once the college has spent their allotted financial aid budget. Either way, these colleges may be factoring in the family’s finances as part of their acceptance decision.

Many families ask, “Can a college do that?”  “Can they look at a family’s finances before a student is even accepted?”  And the answer is, yes, they can.  They can’t choose to utilize this information for one family and not another, but if their policy is “need-aware” or “need-sensitive”, then they absolutely can factor family finances into their decision.  On the same token, if they are “need-blind”, then they cannot use family finances to sway their admissions decision one way or the other.

So what do you do?  Find out what approach your student’s colleges take.  Look on their admissions pages and/or call their office.  They will disclose their policy to you. 

My suggestion?  Make sure to apply to a few colleges that are “need-blind” if you plan to use financial aid, and some “need-aware” schools if you know you won’t be asking for financial assistance.  Part of diversifying the colleges your student applies to does involve their overall cost to the family.  “Need-blind” versus “need-aware” or “need-sensitive” is just one more variable to consider.

To meet in person with one of our college counselors at our Concord office, call 888.7.GRADUATE, ext. 119.

Keep asking questions!