Workshops and Preparation

Starting a College Planning Book Club

Activity: Starting a College Planning Book Club

Through our work with schools and school districts throughout the United States and in Bermuda we are providing important college admissions and financial aid guidance to thousands of students and parents. However, there are simply too many students and families continuing to lack access to sufficient college planning information within their schools and communities. Subsequently, we were inspired by Patrick Johnson, Director of Equity and Excellence, in the Tacoma Public Schools, and his work in creating book clubs for elementary and middle school students.

Click here to see the Tacoma Public Schools Book Club video:

We have followed Patrick’s lead and now support College Planning Book Clubs in schools, churches, and communities throughout the country to ensure that more students and families have access to important college admissions and financial aid planning information.

In addition to the foundational texts, A High School Plan for Students with College-Bound Dreams (book and workbook), used to begin each book club, we provide monthly activities to guide the reading and research of book club members. In addition to the Starting a College Planning Book Club activity that you may download to guide your efforts in starting a book club, following are some of the activities that book clubs have received during 2014 to guide their efforts.

Activity 1: A Context for the Conversation


Develop a context for the many conversations that will occur between you, the student, and your parents, teachers, counselors, coaches, mentors, tutors and anyone assisting you with conceptualizing your college-bound plans.

Guiding Questions

  • What is my plan to maximize my 2 million minutes of high school?
  • What is my anxiety level based on where I am in the college planning process?

Activity 2: My Student Profile


Develop a student profile to focus your college and financial aid research.

Guiding Questions

  • What is my current student profile?
  • How can I compare my profile to those of other students?
  • How can I use my profile to guide my scholarship research?

Activity 3: High School Graduation Requirements


Ensure that you are fully aware of your progress toward fulfilling your state high school graduation requirements and that you understand the requirements for state sources of financial aid.

Guiding Questions

  • What are my state’s high school graduation requirements?
  • What are the course requirements for admission into the state university system?

Activity 4: Self-assessment—My Gifts and Talents


Perform a self-assessment of your gifts and talents and identify those areas that may be further developed during high school to qualify for merit-based scholarships or to expand your college admission opportunities.

Guiding Questions

  • What are my gifts and talents and am I working hard enough to develop them to the level necessary to influence college admissions and scholarship opportunities?
  • Am I maximizing opportunities within my school and community to develop my gifts, earn recognition, and serve in leadership roles?

Activity 5: Whom Do I Need on My Team?


Determine the college planning support you currently have or will need.

Guiding Questions

  • How competitive will it be to gain admission into top colleges?
  • How much work will be required to develop a high quality college application package?
  • Who are the people or what are the programs from which I will require support?

Activity 6: Developing My College List


Develop a list of colleges that will provide the context for your college planning activities and conversations.

Guiding Questions

  • What type of college, i.e., large institutions, liberal arts, highly competitive, special focus schools (e.g., visual arts, music, theatre arts, HBCUs, military service academies, etc.) community colleges, or technical schools would I like to attend?
  • Where can I research information about the colleges on my list and identify similar types of colleges?
  • What are the benefits of pre-college programs, Honors Colleges, and Study Abroad programs?

Activity 7: Self-reflection and Self-assessment


Engage in a self-reflective and honest self-assessment of your level of competitiveness in the college admissions and scholarship application processes.

Guiding Questions

  • How do I compare to the type of students who apply to the colleges on my list?
  • What is the Common Data Set?

Activity 8: AP, IB, and Dual/Joint Enrollment


  • Understanding the impact of Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), and Dual/Joint Enrollment on college admissions.
  • Understanding how to research the potential tuition savings of AP, IB, and Dual/Joint Enrollment classes.

Guiding Questions

  • What are the AP, IB, and Dual/Joint Enrollment options at my high school?
  • Which program is most closely aligned with my college and career aspirations?
  • What are the potential tuition savings for each program?

Activity 9: Course Work and Teacher/Counselor Evaluations


  • Developing your high school course schedule.
  • Identifying what will be required to receive the highest teacher/counselor evaluations.

Guiding Questions

  • What level of course work is expected by the colleges and universities to which I am planning to apply?
  • What type of academic assistance is available to support my enrollment in the classes I am planning to take?
  • What personal qualities will my teacher and counselor be evaluating?

Additional college planning book club activities will be posted as they are released.

Click here to download the Starting a Book Club Activity…

How to Reach Latino and Migrant Families

2013 National GEAR UP Conference

I am grateful to all of the participants who thought it important enough to engage in the conversation regarding strategies to more effectively reach, encourage, and assist Latino and Migrant families in conceptualizing their college-bound plans. I am also grateful for the very kind and insightful evaluations of my session.

Now that you have taken the time to visit our foundation website, please take time to read some of the other blog entries pertaining to working with demographic subgroups, college planning, and scholarship research.

Below are some of the blog entries I believe you will find helpful in your work.

The research pertaining to the anti-deficit framework that I referenced is by University of Pennsylvania Professor, Shaun Harper, Black Male Success in Higher Education.Click here to read my blog entry…

My references to the “college knowledge gap” and some of the research-based challenges facing students from lower income backgrounds are outlined in my blog entry “Informing Low-Income Students About Their College Options.”

The California Opportunity Report: Roadblocks to College provides other useful research information to more fully understand how to be “research-responsive” to the needs of students living in poverty, Hispanic, African-American, and migrant families.

My blog entry, “Gates Millennium Scholars Scholarship” provides more insight into the program and why it is so important that students who meet the eligibility criteria learn about the program as early as possible during their education so that they have the opportunity to earn the GPA and to engage in the type of leadership activities that will make them competitive candidates.

One of the best kept secrets and greatest opportunities for students of color and students from lower income backgrounds are “Diversity Weekends.” My blog entry outlines a variety of Diversity Weekends hosted on the campuses of some of the most selective colleges in the country. Many of the schools provide free transportation, housing, and meals for invited students. These opportunities go the heart of my presentation, i.e., anti-deficit thinking. If you begin from the premise that your students are not performing well enough to be invited to such weekends, then you will miss the importance of talking to them about the opportunity. The goal is share the opportunity and to inspire them to make themselves into a competitive candidate for such opportunities. Click to go to the category on my blog…

Keep in mind that the three keys I spoke about regarding student and family engagement are Inspiration, Information, and Strategies. Your pursuit of these keys should assist you in identifying the consultants, speakers, and messengers who can inspire your students and parents, inform them of what must be done to navigate their way through the very complicated college admissions and financial aid processes, and provide them with the strategies to make the right college match and acquire the necessary financial aid to pay for college.

Finally,click here to download a pdf file of today’s PowerPoint…

Keep in touch and I wish you the best in serving the needs of students and families in your program.

Show Me The Money

Over the past several weeks, I have been presenting information from my newest book Show Me The Money: Scholarships, Financial Aid, and Making the Right College Choice. Based on audiences responses, all indications are that the new book will greatly assist parents and students in understanding how my complete college planning series of books (i.e., Middle School College Planning Series and High School College Planning Series), are connected. For many years, my college planning and financial aid workshops have been largely attended by high school seniors and their parents. However, it is elementary students and parents; and middle school students and parents, who need to begin their college and financial aid plan so that when students become high school seniors they are in a position to access the billions of dollars in available grants and scholarships.

As a result of the presentations, parents of elementary school students left with a better understand of how their child’s elementary school foundation, Multiple Intelligences, and Personality Type can be used to begin positioning their children for college scholarships. Parents of middle school students left with a better understanding of how their child’s middle school activities and coursework can position their children for college scholarships. I believe that all parents left with a better understanding of how to maximize their child’s four years of high school to complete their college admissions and financial aid plan.

Click here to download an overview of the presentation and the critical areas discussed. Visit the Rising Sun Publishing website ( to place your pre-order for the book or email Rising Sun Publishing at for quantity discounts.




Ferguson-Florrisant School District and SCABSE Presentations

During the past week, I had opportunities to speak to political and community leaders, school district personnel, and parents in the Ferguson-Florrisant School District. I am appreciative of the hospitality extended by Superintendent, Dr. Art McCoy, II, his staff, and District Community and Parent Engagement Facilitator, Ms. Ellenmaria Wilcock.

I also had the opportunity to address attendees at the opening of the SCABSE Conference in Myrtle Beach, SC and to conduct a workshop on the content of my newest book. I am appreciative of the hospitality extended by Dr. Zona Jefferson, conference chair, and SCABSE President, Mr. Nathaniel Haynes, Jr.

Following are links to the research and presentation information for each of my presentations:

The primary focus of these presentations was to sensitize educators, parents, and policy makers to the importance of gathering, examining, and being responsive to subgroup data. Whether conceptualizing strategies to increase student achievement, expand course enrollment, increase college readiness, or identify college scholarships, we must respond to the unique needs of students and families.

If you attended any of the presentations and you would like to email me with questions, please do so at:

Presentation Download

The following links are to the presentations delivered recently at the Texas State-wide Parent Involvement Conference. I thoroughly appreciated the opportunity to speak to parents, educators, and community volunteers regarding the college and scholarship opportunities for Texas students.

Click here to download the PDF file of the slides referred to during the College Planning for Middle School Students presentation

Click here to download the PDF file of the slides referred to during the Overcoming the Roadblocks to College presentation

Choosing the Right Summer Programs

The college-planning workshop, “Choosing the Right Summer Programs” hosted by the Turner Chapel AME Church Education Ministry is taken from the book, “A High School Plan for Students with College-Bound Dreams”:

“Your experiences, such as where you have traveled, the type of communities where you have lived, the organizations with which you have been involved with, and the programs or camps in which you have participated contribute to your intangibles (p. 101). The summer months between 8th grade and your senior year of high school should not be squandered. Take advantage of the many opportunities to explore your talents, interests, and abilities. Some of the many opportunities that you may explore, experience, or become involved in are:

  • Traveling
  • Working in a meaningful job related to an area of interest or through an internship
  • Participating in a summer learning opportunity in an academic, artistic, or community service
  • Participating in pre-college summer camps/programs
  • Participating in a AAU, USATF, or club sport
  • Participating in summer practice for a high school sport such as football, cross country, lacrosse, soccer, swimming, etc.
  • Volunteering as a counselor, life guard, coach, or art instructor at a parks and recreation, Boys & Girls Club, or community program
  • Taking some of your non-academic classes or electives in summer school to open your schedule for more honors or advanced classes during the regular school year

There are many summer enrichment, internship, and college program opportunities. The first two stops are your high school counselor’s office and the web. Research programs related to your areas of interest and utilize the opportunity to increase your academic or athletic skills. Try to concentrate first and foremost on those areas that related directly to your college interests, whether in your major field or study or in sports that you intend to pursue on the college level (pp 163-164).”

The workshop also expanded parents’ and students’ understanding of the importance of taking advantage of summer program and enrichment opportunities to enhance students’ résumés and expand students’ gifts. To begin identifying summer program opportunities, do an Internet search of your area of interest, e.g., music summer programs, sports camps, pre-college programs.

Click onto the follow images for links to some of the many summer program opportunities shared in the workshop.


Scholarship Step Show and College Resource Fair

The Athens Alumni National Pan-Hellenic Council, Inc., and Project Safe, Inc., have partnered to address the impact of domestic violence on children. AANPHC will host its 9th Youth Scholarship Step Show and College Recruitment and Resource Fair on Saturday, March 3, 2012 at the Classic Center, 300 North Thomas Street, in Athens, Georgia.

Partners for this event to include the University of Georgia Undergraduate Admissions Office, Athens Technical College, Clarke County School District, Oconee County School District, Jackson County School District, Jefferson City School District, the Northwestern Baptist Association No. 1, Athens-Clarke County Government, the Athens Area Human Relations Council, In Touch Management Group, Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney Ken Mauldin, Clarke County Juvenile Court, the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, Clarke County Solicitor C. R. Chisholm, and others. Feel free to contact chairman Marvin J. Nunnally at, (706) 338-9301, or e-mail:

The College Recruitment and Resource Fair runs from 11AM until 3 PM and is free to the public.

The Step Show is $12 in advance and $15 at door and begins at 5 PM.

FAFSA, Scholarship, and Financial Aid

Teamwork is Key

On Sunday, January 29, 2012 I presented a FAFSA, Scholarships, and Financial Aid workshop at Turner Chapel AME Church in Marietta, Georgia. Joining me in the presentation was Tyrone Smith of Pathway Educational Service. Due to the enormous amount of information presented during the workshop, I have highlighted some of the critical areas of information, together with links to important websites. As illustrated on the above slide, the financial aid opportunities that high school seniors have, is largely reflective of the broad range of planning and support received throughout their elementary-through-high school journey:

  • How effectively did they research the colleges they applied to?
  • Did they prepare a quality application package?
  • Did they have access to mentors and guidance counselors?
  • Did they write impressive college and scholarship essays?
  • Were they involved in impressive leadership activities?
  • Were they well prepared for interviews?
  • Did they perform well academically and were they well-prepared for their SAT or ACT exams?

These are some of the many areas of support and guidance that we have provided to students to prepare them for college admission and for identifying the necessary financial support to pay for college.

Research Your Colleges

Take advantage of the many opportunities to research the colleges and universities you are applying to. Beginning with the colleges’ website, identify such important information as:

  • Financial aid policies, e.g., need-based, institutional grants and scholarships
  • Financial aid deadlines and requirements, i.e., FAFSA, CSS Financial Profile, institutional scholarships
  • Tuition, room and board, and fees
  • COA

Websites and free assistance that will assist with your research:

Keys to Financial Aid:

  • Submit your paperwork on time, even if you have to estimate
  • Develop a quality scholarship package, i.e., résumé, transcript, essays, recommendation letters, awards, and community service
  • Scholarships, Grants, Work-Study, Federal Loans [Private Loans—Loans of Last Resort!]

Read more about how you can increase your chances of being accepted, and, qualify for the necessary financial aid…


Building Faith-based Partnerships

One of the most pressing challenges in communities, both in the U.S. and abroad, is closing the achievement gap between Black males and their counterparts from other demographic groups. Our partnership with the Turner Chapel AME Church Education Ministry has yielded some important and impressive successes that other communities can learn from. Pictured above are students whom we begin working with to prepare for the Georgia Criterion-Reference Competency Testing (CRCT). Through such early interventions, our students will not only be better prepared to be admitted into college, they will be prepared to succeed in college.

Through our strategies, we have been able to:

  • Create an institutional focus on student achievement
  • Establish expectations and publicly celebrate student achievement
  • Inspire students to establish personal achievement goals
  • Provide support mechanisms for students to achieve their goals
  • Empower experts to lead
  • Build partnerships to expand
  • Engage in continual debriefing/preplanning to assess and revise strategies

These strategies have resulted in a broad range of programs, initiatives, and support mechanisms for students in elementary school through college:

  1. A biannual celebration of student achievement for students in grades K – 12 earning a 3.0 GPA or higher we have successfully raised academic expectations and parent awareness of the importance of tracking their child’s grades semester to semester, and from year to year. We offer special award for the male and female students in grades 6 – 12 who have the highest overall GPA.
  2. Georgia CRCT (Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests) Prep for students in grades 3 – 8 through our partnerships with High Points Learning (online math tutorial) and Pathways Educational Services (math teachers/tutors).
  3. A comprehensive series of college-planning workshops outlining the importance of course selection, academic rigor, school choice, summer programs, enrichment opportunities, college research, essay writing, interviewing, scholarships, financial aid, completing the FAFSA, and the importance of community service.
  4. SAT Prep and college tours through our partnership with Pathways Educational Services to expose students to college campuses, college admissions officers, and the type of SAT and ACT scores that colleges are looking for in applicant pool.
  5. An annual college fair with over 50 colleges and universities represented. HBCUs, state colleges and universities, Ivy League, Technical Colleges, and the U.S. Service Academies are all represented so that our students can learn firsthand what it will take to prepare for college.
  6. A leadership program for high school students, the Education Ministry Youth Ambassadors. This program is designed to ensure they develop the presentation, public speaking, and leadership skills that will make them competitive candidates for the most selective colleges and universities.
  7. A high school graduation celebration for our high school seniors, who attend public and private secondary schools in as many as 8 different school districts. We recognize, celebrate, pray, and bless them with financial awards as we send them off to a broad range of institutions of higher education (HBCU, Ivy League, State Colleges and Universities, Military Academies, and Liberal Arts Colleges).
  8. An Adopt-a-Grad program where we remain connected to our college students. They are invited to participate on our annual college panel, relied upon to mentor students enrolling at their college or university, and are provided with scholarship and internship opportunities.

We are not relying on a “Program,” but a set of “Strategies.” These strategies have yielded extraordinary results. Our students have participated in a board range of enrichment and pre-college summer programs, received full scholarships to a broad range of colleges and universities, have been recognized as National Merit and Gates Millennium Scholars. Our students have earned near perfect scores on the Georgia Writing Assessment, CRCT, SAT, and ACT.

These strategies provide a comprehensive model that any faith-based or community organization can model. Schools cannot do it alone. Based on the 2011 ACT results, nearly 8 out of 10 of all high school seniors took the ACT with aspirations of attending a 4-year college of university. However, less than 4 out of 10 were considered “college ready” in each of the subject areas tested. For Black students, only 4 out of 100 were college ready.

Please contact us to learn how your church or community organization can develop such strategies to meet the needs of students and families in your local community.

(678) 395-5825 or email

Download Faith-based PowerPoint Slides

Download the Collaborative Conference for Student Achievement Presentation…

Click here for videos of some of these initiatives …

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