College Applications

Getting Your Degree with Minimal Student Debt

by Laura Pearson

While you’re in college, you’ll probably be racking up knowledge as well as debt. But getting your degree doesn’t have to spell long-term, insurmountable financial troubles. Courtesy of Inspiring Test Preparation, here are some ways you can start reducing the economic burden of your education even before you step off the graduation stage.

Work While You Learn

With work-study arrangements, you may be able to go right from class to your job without ever leaving campus. When filing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), indicate that you’d like to participate in your school’s work-study program. The U.S. Department of Education will assess your financial situation and award you work-study hours, which can be fulfilled at on-campus jobs related to your major. You may also be able to work at private companies that partner with your school’s program.

As long as your schedule allows, you aren’t limited to your work-study job; you can also pick up another gig or internship for some extra cash. If you can swing it, a good idea may be to have your school’s financial aid office direct all of your work-study income directly to your student loans, and then use the money from your other job for living expenses while you’re in school.

Handle Your Loans With Care

Depending on what type of student loans you have, your options for repayment will vary. If you have privately held loans, your interest rate will most likely be higher, but so will your borrowing limit. Private loans also often reward you if you have excellent credit. These types of loans may be a good option if you need a substantial amount of money for your future education, such as medical or law school. However, private loans are typically more expensive than public loans, and you won’t have the protections federally backed student loans offer.

Conversely, public loans are administered through the federal government. There are caps on how much you can borrow, however. The interest rates are set by Congress and are usually much lower than private loans. Additionally, public loans have flexible repayment terms that can range from 10 to 25 years. You also have the option to consolidate multiple loans into one loan for a single monthly payment.

As a general rule, take advantage of public loans first, and then use private loans if necessary to cover any financial gaps.

One Degree, Many Options

Gone are the days of needing to live in a dorm and attend classes in a brick-and-mortar building. Now, you can earn a degree from an accredited institution online at your own pace. Attending college online can be very helpful in minimizing potential student debt. The flexible schedule allows you to continue working and the fix, upfront pricing prevents unknown expenses from being an issue.

You may also qualify for scholarships based on your academic or financial standing. Additionally, use resources such as SlugBooks to compare textbook prices to ensure you’re getting the best deal. Not all online degree programs are equal, so do your research to ensure you receive a high-quality, accredited education.

Think Ahead to Get Ahead

While it’s certainly expensive, a college degree almost always yields a positive return on investment. Set yourself up for financial success early so you can get the most out of school.

At Inspiring Test Preparation, we help students achieve improved results on admissions tests by demystifying the tests. For more information, please visit our website or contact us today!


Best Passion Project Ideas for High School Students

byline Jonathan Pizzutti

In an increasingly competitive college admissions landscape, high school students are looking for better ways to stand out from the crowd to get into their target schools.

Many are finding that the best way to maximize your chances of acceptance is through a passion project. A passion project lets you take a passion that you have and turn it into something impactful that you can showcase on your college application to demonstrate your interests, your initiative, and your ability to make a difference.

A passion project can be anything that you want it to be, but here are a few of your best options.

Start a Business

College admission officers love students who are entrepreneurial. Starting a business shows that you are a leader and have the practical skills to create something that other people value. Your business can be in any area (tutoring, marketing, etc.), but it is often recommended that you find a way to run your venture online to have more opportunities to scale. And once you start your business, you will find yourself learning a lot of knowledge and skills that will give you a better idea of what you want to study and what career path you want to pursue.

Develop an App

Technology is powerful, which makes those who can use it very powerful. Developing an app demonstrates that you are the type of person who can come up with an idea and create a piece of technology that improves people’s lives. And if you are worried that you are not a tech savvy enough to build an app, there are plenty of “no code” development platforms that allow you to build highly sophisticated apps without as high of a learning curve, and no one will know the difference. Plus, creating an app opens you up to a whole new world of technology which can lead to plenty of great professional opportunities as well.

Create a Social Campaign

Who doesn’t want to accept a student who will make the world a better place? If you have a cause or an issue that you care about, creating a social campaign might be the right choice for you. Whether you want to enter the nonprofit world or not, launching a campaign teaches you about organizational operations, advocacy tactics, and social issues. And again, if you are able to run your campaign using technology, you will have the chance to have a much greater impact and even touch the lives of people around the world.

How to Build a Passion Project

Knowing that you should do a passion project and actually doing one successfully are two entirely different things.

Thankfully, there is a solution here.

PrepX is a college prep company that offers online bootcamps and advising specifically on how to build a passion project that you can leverage for college and career success. They work with students on creating all the passion project ideas above in their various bootcamps and can help you build any other idea that you can think of through one-on-one coaching.

You can check out what PrepX has to offer here.


What are the SAT Question and Answer Service and ACT Test Information Release?

From time to time students will be confused by their performance on their SAT or ACT.  They will say: “I don’t understand why my English score dropped”, or “I thought I aced the math, what happened”?

To better understand test performance, both College Board and ACT provide a service that allows you to purchase a copy of the test you took.  This service is not available for all test dates, but in 2020-21, SAT is releasing the tests for October, March and May, and ACT is releasing the tests for December, April, and June.

Both services provide you a clean copy of the test, your answers, and the correct answers.  I highly recommend you order the test if you wish to do further test preparation.  This can be done when you register for your test or after you get your scores.  You have up to five months after your test date to order the SAT; you have six months to order the ACT.

The name of College Board’s service is the Question and Answer Service.  (Do not confuse this with the Answer Verification Service available for all test dates and described on the same page).  Click here to find out more.

The equivalent product from ACT is called the Test Information Release.  To order your ACT test, click this link for further instructions.

For insight on why scores can fluctuate, read this article that discusses variability in the ACT Science scores.

For questions, write Kate Dalby at kvs@katedalby.com


New! Virtual Fireside Chat with Dr. Sybil Gohari, Founder of Admissions Company

Join Dr. Sybil Gohari, founder of Admissions Company, for a virtual Fireside Chat on College Admissions on Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020 at 7 pm. This event is sponsored by Kate Dalby, owner of Inspiring Test Preparation. Contact Dr. Gohari directly to sign up at info@admissions.company. Seating is limited.

Dr. Gohari brings over a decade of experience as an educator and entrepreneur; she spends her time at the intersection of academia and technology. She has taught at the University of Maryland, College Park; American University; George Washington University; and Georgetown University.

She founded Admissions Company to harness the proprietary method rooted in data and analytics, to not only help students significantly increase their chances of gaining admission to competitive schools but to determine the optimal schools for their individual needs and interests. Admissions Company complements its use of big data with a deep reservoir of expertise to guide students from an early point in the admissions process.

Dr. Gohari graduated from the American University Magna Cum Laude, with a degree in Art History, where she was also a division I lacrosse player. She went on to earn her Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, College Park.


At Home TJ Math Drills

When clients call for advice to get into TJ, the first thing I do is have them take a one hour at-home math test to see how strong the student’s problem solving skills are.  My test is extremely predictive: a poor score means acceptance to TJ is nil unless the student takes action to improve basic math skills.

To address the deficit, we conduct math drills for 7th graders on Tuesday evenings during the spring and summer.  The students come in, sit for a timed 25 question test, and then we review the problems that gave them difficulty.  This is an excellent method for improving math test taking skills and over the years it has made a dramatic difference, in conjunction with our comprehensive TJ prep class and SIS workshop, in enhancing their admissions outcomes.

Unfortunately hurdles abound for parents trying to get to our drill classes.

> I can’t get there on a weekday evening.
> It is too far.
> There is too much traffic.
> I’m too busy.
> The drill class is at dinner time.
> She has sports conflicts.
> He has a test.
> He has after school activities.

Fortunately we are working on a solution.  We have started math drills at home project and have launched our first drill.

We have four drills scheduled so far.

Drill #1 average difficulty
Drill #2 higher difficulty – recommended if you did well on drill #1
Drill #3 average difficult – recommended if you did poorly on drill #1
Drill #4 higher difficulty – recommended if you did poorly on drill #2

We will continue making drills if there is a demand for the videos.

To find out more, click here.