Plan For College

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Who is the "Group" in The College Planning Group?

Obviously Stan Ezekiel, who is the founder and most active advocate at CPG, is the person who is most known to our clients. Stan has decades of helping young students, especially Freshman and Juniors in High School, find the college that is right for them. He makes it fun and seamless for both the student and the parents.

However, Stan also relies heavily and more recently on a very special person named Kerry Vieira who has years of experience inside the college admissions offices of some major league universities.

Ms. Vieira has worked in the area of college admissions for over twelve years. She started at Simmons College, where she became an Associate Director of Admission and traveled overseas for international admissions recruitment. 

After Simmons, she worked contractually for both Suffolk University and Bentley University. For the past five years, she has been a team member at The College Planning Group (CPG). 

Her work at CPG also focuses on editing college essays and resumes, as well as conducting the workshop entitled “College Essay Bootcamp.” Presently, she also works on the Northeastern University Campus where she is the director of the World History Association. She holds a Master’s Degree in Modern European History. 


So if you have a student who is a Freshman or Junior in High School (or later), please reach out to Kerry...she is eager to help you and your student find the right school!

Email her at 

Or call today:  800-985-8569 Toll Free

Hope this helps!

The College Planning Group
Canton MA     800-985-8569

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Role of The Parents in College Planning

Why Start College Planning Early? Series    #5

Role of The Parents in College Planning

Some parents want to do everything for their child during the college planning process. They want to write the essay, fill out the applications, contact the admissions departments, etc etc. They even want to pick the college their student should attend.  Most students want to be involved and take responsibility for the choosing their college.   They will have a much better college experience if they are truly involved in the college planning process.

Too many parents it seems know the right thing to do; especially if they are college graduates, right? They graduated so they know everything about how to get in and succeed. They know their alma-mater has the best programs and campus life that their child should go there also. They are experts at college planning, even though they graduated 10 or 20 or 30 years ago...right? Actually, they are probably wrong and the student is the one that suffers during the planning process.

"Well I went to ABCU and it's the best college for my daughter" Really? What if it's is not? If they are merely bystanders in choosing the right college for them, they will not be fully committed when they arrive. Too much parental involvement will deprive them of the feeling of commitment and investment into the next 4 years of hard work. It not help them acclimate when they arrive and they will likely either quit early or take longer to finish.

So, what is the best role for parents? What can they do to make sure the college their child attends is the best for the child and gives them the best tools for a successful life? We at The College Planning Group believe that the parents should be guides, encouragers and provide gentle pressure to keep the student focused over the long process.

We also believe the earlier the parent and student start together, the smoother it will go. Starting in their Freshman Year of High School means there is less pressure and stress Senior Year and the student can enjoy the process. Parents that encourage them to start early see less stress, better communication, a more enjoyable experience, and, most importantly: The best Student / College match.

Here are some ideas on how parents can best help their child during the College Planning Process:
  • Don't assume the student will not want to participate
  • Do not write the essay for them. Read it and offer gentle comments but let it be their work.
  • Help the student start early. Freshman Year is the best time to begin for less stress and better planning.
  • Prepare finances for college. College is expensive and the student is aware of high student loan debt possibilities. Plan early with your financial advisors.
  • Don't scare the student into doing more than they can handle: High School is already hard enough. Starting early and spreading the work out over 4 years is best...Otherwise it will add pressure they do not need
  • Discuss career goals in simple terms. What are you good at? What jobs seem interesting? What challenges do you prefer? Do not ask them if they want to be a surgeon or tax accountant just yet.
  • Be open to a Gap Year. Yes, this is a possibility...especially to get your finances in line and give the child a chance to search internally for their best career path.
  • Make sure they look at local and community colleges, even if they want to go Ivy League. The financial benefits are obvious but these schools cater to undecided students who are still searching.
  • Encourage student to complete tasks before deadlines. Set rewards for completing tasks.
  • Talk with guidance counselors to learn about scholarships.
  • Parents should plan college trip logistics. Student should pick the colleges to visit but you plan travel, hotel, meals etc.

Hope this helps!

The College Planning Group
Canton MA     800-985-8569

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Why Start Early? Series Blog Post #4 TOPIC: Tips for Visiting Colleges

The "Why Start College Planning Early?" Series    #4 of 6
Tips for Visiting Colleges

When visiting a college DO NOT just go on the tour and sit in the presentation and think that you have seen the whole picture. If you do, you will only see about 1/3 of the whole college and 90% of visitors will think that is enough to decide. You deserve a much deeper, wider view of a college and here at The College Planning Group, we want to show you some ways to get it.

First: Understand that the college tour and presentation are designed to get large #s of people through in an orderly fashion. For example, U Mass Boston has a population of over 16,000 students. If they want to maintain that they may need to see 4-6x that # of students on their tours...that's over 96,000 students on tours, sitting in presentations, talking to admissions etc etc...They have to make tours quick and efficient and presentations fast and packed with a lot of info. You cannot decide on a school with only these 2 events.

You can walk the campus with a chaperone. How to find one? If you know a student going there, that is best. Ask them to walk around with you and take you into classes, sports facilities, computer labs, science areas, cafeteria, and dorms. Talk to as many students as you can. Try to see as much of the campus as you can.

Compare facilities between schools. Which one has bigger and newer labs? Is the freshman dorm closer to class at one school vs another? Is the cafeteria bigger and closer at one school or another? Ask professors about their recent upgrades to equipment and supplies.

Dorm rooms tend to be all the same: small space, bunk beds, wooden desk, cinderblock walls...They must cram a lot of kids into the building. But if you can find a group of students on your "extra tour" you can ask students about bathrooms, cleaning, Wi-Fi, electricity, heat, etc etc that will help you compare each dorm.

Some other good hints:

  • Sign up for the first tour of the day. This way you can make notes of where you want to revisit later in the day. If you can be done by 10 you have 2-5 hours of extra time to see more areas.
  • The smaller the school the better chance of seeing a lot more of the school. Makes sense physically but they are often looking for more eager, creative students and if you want to walk the halls and talk to more students they often will encourage it.
  • Use existing students to help you. If you know any call them and tell them you will buy them coffee or lunch. Free food is a good strategy! If you do not know any, get to the campus early and ask some students you see if they can meet you later in the cafeteria or library or gym. If you can find a student with your major, even better.
  • Admissions folks may block you from "self-touring"...For safety and privacy concerns, you can't walk around by yourself. So,  tell admissions in advance what you want to do and they will likely help you. If you have specific requests ("I want to meet the Soccer Coach" or "I would like to see the Bio Labs" or "Can I see the library and IT Center?") tell them you need these to pick the right school. Don't try to sneak around and they will appreciate that. Email them later thanking them for their flexibility...
  • Teachers want to help! If you want to be a music major, get to the music building and knock on a teacher’s door...ask directions or a simple question about courses and they may give you 10 minutes to help you out...TIP: Get their email and thank them may be the only one out of thousands that does this and they will remember you!
  • Eat! Visit the Cafeteria and eat lunch or get coffee...bribe a student to get you in and you will be able to talk to a lot of kids who are there. Sit near a big group and introduce yourself...find out their majors and chat about campus life...if you were a student there wouldn't you be helpful to new students?
  • If you go back to a campus for a second visit, ask (in advance) if you can sit in on a class or meet with 2-3 teachers in their office to discuss classes and projects etc. If you are into sports or music, then ask to visit a practice or a game or sit in on a music class or rehearsal. Get as much time as you can with the will be spending a lot of money and years of your life there so investigate early and often!

Remember, plan ahead to get a chaperone and get as many emails as you can to thank them later. Most students will not personally thank people they meet for their time and help so you will stand out...You never know who has influence on selecting the next incoming class!

Hope this helps!

The College Planning Group
Canton MA     800-985-8569

Friday, March 17, 2017

Ensuring a Positive Social Media Image

The "Why Start College Planning Early?" Series    #3 of 6

"Ensuring a Positive Social Media Image"

News Flash: Last year hundreds of applicants were rejected by a college because of their Instagram or Facebook posts! Many more got much less scholarship money than they could have because their Social Media Image was damaging...But smart applicants can avoid this very easily: Clean up your Internet Image!

Colleges look at Social Media to understand who a student is and if they are a fit or not for their unique community. If you are a student athlete that is being considered for a large scholarship, admissions staff can find you easily on any Social Media platform and look at years of pictures and posts. If they see anything they don't like, do you think they will call you and ask about it? No...they will go to the next candidate in the pile and keep looking.

What does your Social Media say about you? Does your college resume and application contradict your FB and Twitter stream? Are you a great student on paper and on your Twitter feed or are they contradictory? Do your daily videos and pictures show a lot of partying on the weekends and skipped school days on the beach? Do you have pictures of you holding a Red Solo Cup? Everyone knows what that means and if you are under age, it's not helping your image!

Or do you use Social Media as a promotional tool to convince colleges to accept you? We are not saying that you should stage pictures in front of a church or homeless shelter or in the library to pretend you are a good person...And we are not saying that you can't show fun times or crazy adventures...Colleges like applicants that are well-rounded, mature and adventurous so show them your best sides! Your Social Media Image is you and it may need to cleaned up!

~   ~   ~   ~

Some General Do's for Social Media:

·         * Make sure you tag the college often...They can see if you include the College Name in your posts

·         * Like the College Social pages, add them to your incoming feeds, follow the college Social Media Site, re-tweet their posts and add your own positive comments
 ·         * School Clubs: Post pics and vids from competitions and meetings.
Community Activism: Post from the food pantry showing co-workers. If cleaning a local park on weekends, make a FB event and invite all. Making care packages for soldiers or flood victims? Selfie that!
Sports: Live FB feed from meets / games with peers (Parents can help video from the stands)
Hobbies: If it fits with your desired major, post away! If not leave it out.
o   Good Example: If you are a big gamer or Cos-Player or like computers and are going into art, theater, design or graphics etc., then post plenty of events, projects and group photos at festivals or conventions. Show how much you love it...colleges want passion in their students!
o   Bad Example: Hoping to get into a top Nursing Program? Don't post party pics on Facebook from 3AM. Hoping to score a big scholarship for accounting at an Ivy School? Don't flood Instagram with only

Some smart "College Planning-Friendly" posts for your Social Media Feeds:

·         Visiting a College
o   Pictures in front of the College Sign wearing a school hoodie
o   Selfies with the tour guide or Dept Head in a classroom
o   Use comments like:
§  "I love (Tag College Name)! I love their engineering program and their dorms are so nice"
§  "Met some great people at (Tag College Name)...I want to go here so bad!"
§  "Fingers crossed that I get into (Tag College Name)! This would be a great fit for me!"
o   Even if you visit multiple colleges, still post about each unique in your comments. The college admissions staff will likely see your multiple visits as a sign you are serious about college and even consider more financial aid to sway your view of them.

·         Sports Teams
o   Sports show teamwork, dedication, personal achievement and focus: Post often showing progress and the fun you are having
o   Win 11th or 4th or even 1st place? Post it with your award!
o   Videos of you competing can be casual or professional: If you are hoping for sports scholarship, then post higher-quality, edited content
o   Selfies with the team on and off the field
o   Use comments like:
§  "(Tag College Name) has a pretty good sports program...can't wait to go there to show my skills"
§  "I definitely will go to all the games at (Tag College Name)...Looking forward to going in the fall"

·         Work Time
o   If you have a job, college admissions staff will view you as a young adult that is organized, reliable, hard-working and responsible. Posting from work will help your image
o   Have customers post positive testimonials about you, tagging your name so it shows up on your feeds. Twitter is great for viral messages
o   Pictures of the staff with you in the middle are great memories and if you comment about how much fun you are having while working hard, that is even better
o   Use comments like:
§  "Working late tonight...Making money so I can go to (Tag College Name)"
§  "Here I am at work with my favorite customers...I hope I can get a job on campus at (Tag College Name) like this!"

You get the idea...put yourself in the shoes of a College Admissions Director and ask yourself: "Will my Social Media help me get into college or not?" If Yes, bravo...keep it positive and you will do fine. But if it is No, you may want to delete some sketchy posts or maybe even delete your entire existing account and start fresh.

Hope this helps!

The College Planning Group
Canton MA     800-985-8569

Tuesday, February 28, 2017


"Start your Student Resume Early"

Why have a Student Resume? When should you start? Who will read it 2+ years before you start applying to college? What should be on it? 
  • Here are some answers and other tips:

    ·         We recommend starting as soon as possible so you don't forget anything that you accomplish during your early years of High School.
    ·         What should be on it?
    o    School Projects: Colleges want students that start and finish projects on their own and on teams. How did you demonstrate good teamwork and initiative on your Freshman or Sophomore Science Fair project? Did you talk to experts outside of school or in industry?
    o    School Extra-Curriculars: Robotics Team? Debate Team? Vocal Chorus? These are all great indicators of a hard-working student that will thrive in college...will colleges give you more money to attract you? Perhaps they will so list everything you did after school.
    o    Work that relates to your college field: If you don't know what you want to study in college, list your work in terms of how it shows your responsibility, work ethic and reliability. The money is nice but the admissions department likes hard workers.
    o    Summer camps: If you want to go to music school and you went to a music camp that's great but any camp experience adds to your resume. What did you learn? Did you work in teams or lead a group? Did you demonstrate maturity or problem solving skills in games?
    o    Boy / Girl Scouting: These programs, as well as church-based groups, produce some of the most mature and responsible young adults and colleges want to know you participated, even if you stopped before the top ranks to change your focus on a higher priority. Colleges wany well-rounded students in their population..
    o    Sports: Even if you were not the captain, all organized sports show ability to work on a team, have personal initiative, self-awareness and confidence and goal-centered focus. Colleges also want a lot of healthy students that are involved in all their activities because that attracts other students etc. List every position and # of years.
    o    Civic Programs: Churches and Social Groups offer opportunities to travel, work on socially-significant projects, help others in need, learn about other cultures and educate yourself outside of school. Colleges offer similar programs like Study Abroad, Consortium School Work and Team Projects...they want students that can handle travel, living on their own, being in a new environment, meeting new people, helping others and being a leader...If you have this on your resume, they will want to meet you!
    ·         TIP: When you go on a college tour, have one ready to hand to the organizer or Admissions Manager...most students will bring nothing and leave no impression whatsoever...take every opportunity to make them remember you.

    ·         TIP: Always have 5-10 resumes on you while visiting a never know who you will meet or who will want one. If you visit a Science Lab class, and the department head stops in to sell the schools BS in Sciences and Technology, why not say hello and hand him your resume with a red circle around your Science Summer Camp experience? Connection made! You say that sounds far-fetched and she will just throw it away? Try it and see...

    ·         TIP: In your interview, give them the resume immediately before they ask you a question. That way you will stand a better chance that the first question will be "What did you like about your Summer Camp experience in Nashville?" rather than "What can you tell me about your favorite math class?" The resume will focus on you and what you want to say, not what they like to ask.

    ·         TIP: When looking for Letters of Reference your resume can be used to find many unusual sources of valuable references: When you visited the local manufacturing company for your Freshman project or helped run a training session at Soccer Camp who was in charge? Did you meet with an author to write a paper in Junior Year? A reference from a top business manager or owner of a sports camp or a known literary figure is a big catch that will set you apart from the group.

    Call us today to see some great examples of Student Resumes that helped students just like you get into college and attract more Grants, Loans and Scholarships...

The College Planning Group
Canton MA     800-985-8569

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

NEW College Planning Timeline for 2017!

We just updated our College Planning Timeline for 2017!

If you have a student in 9th to 12th grade then you likely have a lot of questions about planning for college...You can now get a FREE College Planning Timeline from The College Planning Group that will give you a step-by-step guide from Fall of Freshman Year to even after your student gets to college...


Some of the highlights:

  • It reviews PSAT and SAT Prep schedules and planning (So you dont miss the test date!)
  • How and When to ask for Letters of Reference (Early and Often!)
  • New FAFSA Regulations! (What month is it due again?)
  • When to start your Resume (you will be surprised!)
  • Parent Tips and Tasks (No you don't have to write the essays!)
  • And much more!

So click here to get yours:

Or here: 

The College Planning Group
Canton MA     800-985-8569

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

New College Financial Planning Seminar

New College Financial Planning Seminar

Feb 8, 2017 7PM Canton MA

Canton Public Library, 786 Washington St., Canton, MA 02021

Register Today:

The College Planning Group
Canton MA     800-985-8569

Focus on College Planning / Courses / Grades as Freshman

"Why Start College Planning Early Series" Article 1 of 6:

Focus on College Planning / Courses / Grades as Freshman

When is the best time to begin College Planning? Some say Junior Year or even Sophomore Year to give the student time to acclimate to High School. They recommend "let the young student navigate the first 1-2 years of High School without the added pressure of College Planning"...But this only adds to the mounting pressure and could negatively impact finding the right college.
Starting your College Planning in Freshman Year has many benefits to consider:
  • It makes the last 2 years of high school much easier on the student, the parents and the family.
  • Having good study habits that have been cultivated during the first 2 years makes the last 2 go smoothly
  • The Senior Year schedule is planned and predictable, this is the preferred option instead over cramming in classes that are a larger jump in difficulty.
  • You can visit more colleges in 3 summers versus 1 and you are not sacrificing all the shorter breaks: Summer road trips are less stressful and the better weather makes for better family experiences.  It is suggested that once the preferred colleges are selected, visiting when colleges are in session is very beneficial.
  • Teachers can help plan all 4 years of courses and help adjust if detours arise. Imagine knowing that the basics and foundation is planned out and the student has electives decided early.
  • High School Guidance Counselors will learn your student's personality better and will create a more collaborative and helpful environment...they have hundreds of kids to help and yours will stand out.
  • Parents can be involved in homework and study planning and arrange home life to support this
  • Don't forget Summer Work and Vacation Learning opportunities: 3 summers of productive job experience and specialty college prep classes versus 1 or 2 summers.
  • Some of the better College Planners will only charge 1 fee for all the College Planning activities...get 4 years of help for 1 fixed fee!

There are many more but you may want to consider starting your College Planning in the students Freshman year. When the student arrives at college, they will be more prepared, relaxed and enthusiastic knowing they are at the right school for the right reasons!

> Look for the next Article in our ongoing "Why Start College Planning Early Series"...

The College Planning Group
Canton MA     800-985-8569

Monday, January 16, 2017

Announcing our 2017 Focus: Why Start College Planning Early?

Along with our regularly scheduled blog posts with quick updates, college news and insider tips, we have created a 6-Part Early College Planning Series that will span the next few weeks...

"Why Start College Planning Early?"

In other words: Why families of Freshman and Sophomore High School students should start College Planning now...And not wait until Senior year...? Lots of reasons!

Here are some of the main points we will cover:

  • Focus on HS Grades as Freshman
  • Focus on Course Selection Early
  • Why start Resume early?
  • College Financial Plans need time
  • Must Have: Attractive Social Media Landscape
  • Tour Colleges Early
  • Essays done sooner = better message
  • Start Earlier = Better College Fit
And many others...Stay tuned!

The College Planning Group
Canton MA     800-985-8569

Monday, October 3, 2016

Changes to the FAFSA-- Part 3---Common Questions

A Few Common Questions We Are Asked Each Year

When will the federal government distribute my financial aid for the upcoming school year?
ANSWER: Your college is the one that disburse (pay out), your financial aid, not the federal government. Since each school has a different timeline for awarding aid, you’ll have to call your school’s financial aid office to find out the specific date.

What can I do to get more financial aid?
ANSWER: A lot of students get disappointed when they see their financial aid offer and don’t receive the amount or type of aid they were hoping for. Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), is calculated using the information that you provided on the FAFSA. The amount of federal student aid you qualify for uses a formula that calculates your need and was established by law.  Of course, that amount can change every year, depending on a number of factors. Also, some states and schools offer financial aid of their own, called institutional aid. Some of that aid is need-based, other types are merit-based, and some of that aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. We recommend you talk to a competent college consultant to find out how you can increase your chances of getting the most aid possible or talk to your school directly, but don’t expect much help from the colleges

I want free money -  Not more loans
ANSWER: Everyone wants free money!  There are several grants offered by the Federal government, includes the Federal Pell Grant, which are “need-based”, meaning you must have certain level of financial need to qualify. Your school will use your FAFSA information to determine whether you qualify for these grants.  Colleges and universities will also distribute scholarships out based off of merit (high ACT/SAT test scores and GPA), or special talents. If you do not qualify for federal need-based aid or merit or special talent scholarships you’re just out of luck.

Why am I considered "dependent" when I'm 21, don't live at home, and my parents don't pay for my bills/living expenses?

ANSWER:  Living on your own doesn’t make you an independent student for purposes of the FAFSA.  FAFSA dependency guidelines are set by Congress and are different from those of the IRS. This is why even if your parent’s don’t claim you on their taxes, you still won’t be considered independent unless you can meet one of the 13 questions in Step Three of the FAFSA form.

Why should I complete the FAFSA when I know my family’s income is too high to qualify for need-based financial aid?

ANSWER:  This is a common mistake many families make. There are many colleges and universities will refrain from giving out merit-based and special talent scholarships to individual students without first completing the FAFSA form. Even though you may not qualify for need-based aid you could qualify for merit-based aid. Therefore, everyone should complete the FAFSA.

If I want to discuss the potential of receiving merit-based scholarships do I talked to financial aid or the admissions department?

ANSWER:  The Financial Aid Office of a college handles need-based financial aid, but the Admissions Office administers all merit-based financial aid.

Is our EFC really what the college expects us to pay?

ANSWER:  Families often confuse the meaning of their EFC (Expected Family Contribution) calculation as derived from the FAFSA form. The federal government as well as the colleges are NOT saying that your EFC represents what you can comfortably afford/write the check for.
They’re saying that based on the federal formula (called the Federal Methodology), it’s what they expect you to pay (minimally), notwithstanding merit scholarships. Realize that they have defined the phrase to be EXPECTED Family Contribution, not AFFORDABLE Family Contribution.
Adding to the confusion of this term (EFC) is the fact that very few colleges limit a family’s out-of-pocket costs to the EFC calculation! We see many cases where a family has an EFC in the $15K-ish range, yet their “Financial Aid Award” package consists of nothing but loans in excess of $30K, even $40K in some instances.