Once a week I try to review some book related to college in order to lend some guidance to a field that has become completely overrun. So many people are writing test guides and college help books that it is easy to buy a product which is not useful and which will be occupying space on your bookshelf for years, mocking your bad judgment.
We all have heard the saying, Failing to plan is planning to fail. Wisely, we nod our heads but fail to realize its full meaning: Planning is key to success! If you want to do well in college, you must recognize your destination (e.g. a job, degree, or career) and plan how to get there. Surprisingly, your college planning should start even before college. While you are still in high school, you should begin plotting your course. You must choose the right school, pick your degree, apply to a college, and pursue scholarships and grants. High school is the time to lay the foundation for successful college completion.
Many high school students understand the need for planning, but they do not know where to start. What needs to be done? What is a good school? All these questions and more need to be answered to enable a student to plan properly. Gearing Up To Finance A College Education by Cathy Gullo is the perfect book to help high school students prepare for college. This book will lead them through all the steps necessary in order to thrive in college.
Who is Cathy Gullo?
Before I start reviewing the book itself, you might wonder, Who is Cathy Gullo, and what are her qualifications? From what I can tell, she seems to be extremely qualified. She has worked with high school and college students for over thirty years. After starting out as a high school English teacher, she spent ten years as a guidance counselor in the Birmingham Public School System. During this time, Cathy Gullo helped coordinate testing and scholarships for her students. With that experience to guide her, Cathy Gullo founded Scholarship Consultant Services in 1992 and set out on her own to continue helping students flourish during the high school/college transition time. Since that time, she has continued in the same business and has been privately consulting now for seventeen years.
Planning For College
Starting out, this book provides a brief overview of what a college-bound students plan should look like. According to her timeline, an enterprising high school student should start planning for college while they are still in 9th grade! Obviously, at this time there is not much to do, but you should start evaluating career options, participating in extracurricular activities, and a little more. By the time you are a senior in high school, however, you should have shifted into high gear (remember, the book is called Gearing Up ). During your senior year you should complete the following projects: look and apply for scholarships and grants, apply to your chosen colleges, re-take the SAT/ACT tests, and much more. These beginning chapters will help you establish a basic framework for your college plan.
Choosing A College
Gearing Up To Finance A College Education also has a short guide to help you choose a college. In this part, Cathy Gullo provides ten tips to help you make the most of your college tours. In addition, a College Selection Worksheet is provided in the second part of the chapter. This will help you evaluate different colleges based on questions such as financial aid available, total costs, admission requirements, and college accreditation. My one complaint with this section is the length. Very little information is provided to help people evaluate their college choices. In future editions of this book, I hope to see this section expanded.
[Update: Since this review’s publication, the author has contacted me explaining why the choosing a college section is so short. She chose to make this chapter be a short, introductory guide to choosing a college. Later, in part of chapter seven, she expands more on the topic of college evaluation. After reading her explanation, I can understand why the book’s layout makes sense. At the same time, I do think that a simpler layout would be useful to an uninformed reader who has not read the explanation.]
Applying at College
This book provides some excellent information on the college application process. Cathy Gullo explains how to make your application form stand out, how to perform well during interviews, and how to write you application essay. Many of the tips for your application form are common sense, but they are important to review. For example, she mentions proofreading your applications. This is important because, as she says, your application is the first time the review committees see you.
Later in the book, the chapter on interviewing provides some excellent example questions to help you be ready to answer promptly and intelligently. In addition, this book provides some good pointers to help you appear more professional. For example, dont wear a watch during the interview because it can make you look disinterested or worried.
Finally, Cathy Gullo supplies some outstanding information to help you learn to write essays well. Many of these tips are useful for every type of writing assignment from the SAT essay to the college application essay. For example, she explains the necessity of a focused, organized essay. Choosing one topic and sticking with it, rather than rambling on about unrelated subjects, will make your essay stand out. This section also helps clarify some common grammatical errors.
Getting Financial Aid
Unless your parents are independently wealthy, you will probably have to depend on large amounts of financial aid to pay for your education. Gearing Up To Finance a College Education has a chapter on financial aid. This section of the book explains how and where to get scholarships, grants, and loans. The information on scholarships and grants is useful and important, but I was disappointed that they even suggested loans as an option. As far as I am concerned, getting a loan in very rarely worthwhile. In almost every case, loans drag a student down for years after they finish college.
Getting back to the part on scholarships and grants though, this book really does have excellent tips. For instance, they explain that participating in extracurricular activities increases your chance of winning a scholarship (assuming that you keep your grades up). This is an often-overlooked key that will help you secure more free money for college.
Who Is This Book For?
I would recommend Gearing Up To Finance a College Education to all high school students and their parents. It will be useful to the student by helping him understand what he needs to do, and it will help the parents to encourage their child to prepare well for college.