Ep. 16 How to Start College Planning and the Black Kids College Project

VICTORYTamara Marie Jones is a tenacious parent who thought about college planning early and “treated it like a business”. Listen to this episode as she shares her story of getting both of her children into college, how she helped her son transfer to another college and gives tips for parents going through the journey of college planning.  She also shares her motivation for turning all of her experience into the Black Kids College Project.

Tamara’s tips:

  • Do not take a “hands-off model” approach to the college planning process. Too risky to leave it to chance. Risk is far too great to leave it to your child.
  • Start out by developing a strong action plan and make sure you and your child have a “shared vision” about their educational future.
  • Focus on the students’ uniqueness.
  • Consider schools out of your geographic region – small private colleges give large sums of grant/aid monies in their packages. Broaden your scope.
  • Start with your what your kid reads in middle school. Take a career inventory to find out what they are interested in.
  • Suggestion to apply to schools where your child is at the top of the test score & GPA range that the school accepts. This makes them more of a “coveted applicant”.
  • Start the college planning process by having a dialogue with college admissions counselors in the 11th grade (Parent & Child). Create touch points.
  • Find out about the “common data set” for the colleges of your choice. A PDF document that contains information about the college, college graduation rates and contains specifics of what admissions counselors care about. Keep track of this data for each school by using an excel spreadsheet. The parent would use the info to rank the school as a “reach, match or just right” for their child.

[spp-tweet tweet=”Demonstrated interest increases your childs’ chance of merit aid and admission”]

Links in this episode:


Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Black Kids College Project

George C. Brooks Scholarship – (University of Missouri)

Raise Me Scholarships (as early as 9th grade!)

Sponsors for Educational Opportunities – SEO Career (Internship Portal)

College Confidential

Fast Web

How to contact Tamara:


Black Kids College Project FACEBOOK Page

Twitter – @blackkidscollegeproj



Ep. 15 What it Takes to Be a Gates Millennium Scholar

Gates Millennium Scholar

Gates Millennium Scholar

In this episode, we talk with Gates Millennium Scholar Amanda Mims.  She is an alumna of the program and one of their most vocal ambassadors.  She talks about her journey to be a Gates Millennium Scholar and we profile this success story to highlight what it takes to make it to the top.  2016 is the last year of the funding for this program and we encourage you to share this information with everyone you know and have them apply.  Don’t miss out on this great opportunity!

Links mentioned in this episode:

Gates Millennium Scholars Program

Tougaloo College

The University of Southern Mississippi



Ep. 14 When & HOW to Start Saving for College?


Saving for College

Saving for College

In today’s interview, we talk with Felicia Gopaul, a certified financial planner, about when and how to start saving for college. We discuss saving vehicles or instruments such as 529 Plans as well as other funding resources.

Ms. Gopaul talks about how traditional financial planners might be familiar with saving for college but don’t usually have the expertise in college admission and many are retiring themselves.  Find someone who has taken additional training to gain specific knowledge and experience in this area.

She talks in great detail about 529 plans, stresses the importance of saving for college and gives these tips:

  1. Ensure that when you withdraw the funds that you are using the monies for necessary expenses such as tuition, books, computer etc… or face the possibility of a 10% penalty;
  2. Ask you tax professional about other education deductions or download the IRS Publication #970;
  3. Although the 529 plans are made payable to the student, anyone can start a 529 plan;
  4. If you are a grandparent who started a 529 plan and don’t use the funds for necessary expenses, the income can be viewed as a “gift” to the child and may hurt their chances for financial aid.
  5. In order to minimize the impact, it is all about the timing.  If you are someone other than the child’s parent, pay for the last year of college.
  6. It also depends on what type of school the child is applying to.  Some colleges require additional information about assets of other family members on the CSS Profile (which is in addition to the FASFA form).

[spp-tweet tweet=”If you don’t Save it, you will have to BORROW it!”]

Felicia has two podcasts: The College Experts Talk Podcast and Career 100 Podcast.  She leaves us with a few words of wisdom for those students and parents looking for scholarships for college:

  • Start looking early, such as junior year;
  • Look for scholarships like it’s your job;
  • Use the net price calculator on each school’s website or a universal one – CLICK HERE;
  • Start having the conversation with your child about what you can actually afford before they start looking at colleges.

[spp-tweet tweet=”Look for Scholarships like it’s your JOB!”]

How to contact Felecia Gopaul:

Twitter – @FeliciaGopaul

Linked In Profile

Facebook Page – College Funding Resources



Ep. 13 Which Colleges Require You Take the 50-Minute SAT Essay?

50 minute SAT essay test

50 minute SAT essay test

In this episode, we discuss current events in the college admission industry. There were two articles of interest, the first one from a Washington, D.C. news site (examiner .com) that talked about which colleges would be requiring that students take the “optional” 50 minute SAT essay.   As if the testing changes were not confusing enough. Many schools have a “wait and see” attitude towards the new SAT, its’ sub-scores and how they will be interpreting that information. Other schools have made a definite policy decision whether or not they are requiring the optional writing section. The ACT and COLLEGE BOARD have charts on their websites with the colleges that have reported to them about this issue.

The other article from Forbes.com unveiled a little known fact that FAFSA and the ACT report to the individual colleges where they are “ranked” on your application or test. This information is critical to the schools who are always looking for an indication of how a student perceives them. Unknowingly to you, they may make critical decisions on your admission with this information. You may not have intended it the way it is being interpreted. The suggestion for a resolution is to list your schools on the FAFSA or the ACT in alphabetical order.

SCHOLARSHIP SPOTLIGHT: The CHOBANI Scholarship $5,000 awarded annually (non-renewable) given by New York Women in Communications, Inc.

Other Links discussed:

PSAT – National Merit Scholarships Qualifying Test

Scholly App (in ITunes)

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., National Education Foundation

Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. Foundation



Ep. 12 What College Bound Students & Parents Should REALLY Know About the Prevalence of Campus Sexual Assaults

Campus Sexual AssaultsThis episode is a interview with Ursula Johnson who is a licensed therapist and has been in the sexual violence prevention field for over 20 years.  Fortunately for her daughter, she knew the “right questions to ask” colleges about how prevalent campus sexual assaults are to ensure her child’s safety.

Campus sexual Assaults

What is Rape Culture?

She begins with sharing her college planning tips for parents:

  • Start looking early at schools, preferably in their sophomore year;
  • Make the High School Counselor work for you, its’ their job;
  • Have the “financial talk” with your child before they begin looking at specific schools
  • If they are considering a minor, will they be able to graduate “on-time”?

Ursula then cites some very sobering statistics about sexual assault such as “every two minutes a woman is raped”; “1 in 6 young men will be a victim of sexual assault”; and [spp-tweet tweet=””sexual violence is the #1 underreported crime”.  “]

She also highlights how some campuses goto great lengths to hid this information from the general public about campus sexual assaults which may tarnish their schools’ reputation and affect enrollment. One example is a story about the University of Notre Dame and their “history” of campus sexual assault cases that are not handled properly and the victim in this one instance was being harassed by friends of the accuser. As a result she committed suicide.  (The Huffington Post ran a story earlier this year about the movie “The Hunting Ground”. Read the story here.)

Another similar story happened at Amherst College and their “notorious policies” that benefit the alleged rapists as opposed to the victims of campus sexual assault. The victim himself felt “victimized” and committed suicide. (Read The Huffington Post story here.)

Ursula commented that (in the state of NJ), every county has a sexual violation prevention program/rape crisis center.  Go there (in the county of the schools your are considering) and ask them about the statistics on the college campuses in their area.

Here are Ursula’s top tips for college bound students:

  1. Don’t leave your drink unattended.
  2. Go out with Friends you trust.
  3. If your friend tell you something like this happened to them, BELIEVE THEM & Don’t Judge!
  4. Ask if the college has a Title IX Administrator
  5. Ask security during your next college visit what they would do if something happens.
  6. Parents should read the student handbook


Resources mentioned in this episode:

The President’s Task Force on Sexual Assault




USA Today Article

Dr. David Lisak Interview

Ursula’s contact info:

Twitter: @hearthetruth

Email (to talk with someone) – ucantellmeyourstory@gmail.com


Ep. 11 The Role of the High School Counselor: Are There Other Options For YOU?

Jul 31 2015_43Today’s interview is with a woman who has over 25+ years of experience in the role of the high school counselor, college administration and now as a college and career coach with her own business. www.collegeandcareermatters.com

Dr. Tawna Schmidt talks at length about the role of the highs school counselor, how their “additional” responsibilities keep them from helping students and how to maximize this relationship.

The typical counselor to student ratio (1:250) is an indication that these professionals are overwhelmed with their current duties but they are the first contact most students have with the college admission process.

Helpful resources:

Occupational Outlook Handbook

FREE Guide for Parents/Student: Top 19 Financial Aid Questions to Ask



Ep.10 Utilizing an Academic Life Coach for Your College Bound Student

We welcome to The College Money Maze Podcast a guest expert and fellow podcaster – Gretchen Wegner. She is a co-host of the College Prep Podcast and is also an Academic Life Coach.

Gretchen WegnerGretchen is an Academic Life Coach and Creativity Consultant that specializes in the “Anti-Boring” approach to studying and creating better life skills. She is fascinated with the

interplay between our brains and our bodies and uses her theatrical experience in her coaching with students. She talks at great length about the difference between a “tutor” vs. “academic life coach”.

[spp-tweet tweet=”

TWEET THIS: Perfectionism and Procrastination are two sides of the same coin.

-Gretchen Wegner


Her tips for not-stressing out on the admissions tests:

  • Create a routine & reward system for yourself
  • Study groups are always helpful
  • Take as many practice tests as possible
  • Check out the YouTube channel for Megan Dorsey (her co-host on the College Prep Podcast) for other tips on the SAT & ACT – MEGAN DORSEY

Links to contact her and her resources:


Anti-Boring Technique Course



Ep. 9 Financial Aid 101

Today’s episode is a brief talk on Financial Aid 101. What is Financial Aid and how can it help YOU? Financial aid is a source of money that can help you pay for college. Some forms of financial aid needs to be paid back or earned and some aid is a gift. We discuss the process of applying for Federal Financial Aid through the FAFSA form and submitting it. This is a FREE form and it is the gateway to the type of aid available:

financial aid


Grants & Scholarships (money you don’t need to pay back)

Work-study jobs – paid, part-time work, usually on campus

Loans – money you DO need to pay back, can be deferred until you graduate

The college admission process can be quite complex and the confusion usually starts right here with financial aid. You only need to apply once per year and your take the results to the school(s) that you will be attending in order to calculate your TOTAL COLLEGE COSTS. The prior College Money Maze episode discussed all of the various factors that can make up the TOTAL COLLEGE COSTS. Check it out here.

Another source of financial assistance that is provided by the State of New Jersey (and other state departments of higher education) is the Education Opportunity Fund (EOF). This is a need-based grant awarded to students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds who attend colleges and universities on the undergraduate and graduate level.

Since we are originally from NJ, we also discuss many of the schools in NJ, how they are categorized and use them as examples. We have a lively discussion about the different TYPE of colleges and universities in NJ and how they are characterized. I am also providing a link to an article by CNN about the University of Phoenix who is under a federal investigation.

New Jersey Department of Higher Education

NJ Higher Education Student Assistance Authority

NJ Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF)




Ep. 8 Have You Calculated ALL Your College Costs?

College Costs


This is the first of many conversations that we will have on the subject of college costs. We define common terms as well as give real-time examples from specific institutions about “hidden” college costs.

We also talk briefly about what you may bring with you as a first-year student and what expenses to watch out for. The sample schools that we discuss are:

Kean University Net Price Calculator

Penn State University

Rutgers University Office of Financial Aide

Seton Hall University

Other Links:

College Board’s Net Price Calculator

U.S. Department of Education Net Price Calculator Center

U.S. New & World Report Net Price Calculator

Federal Student Aid – U.S. Department of Education (Expected Family Contribution)




Ep. 7 College Visit: University of Delaware


University of Delaware with Charlie and our college tour guide, courtesy of a Soror from Chi Theta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.

College Street Sign: Lovett Ave - University of Delaware

College Street Sign: Lovett Ave – University of Delaware

In this episode, we provide our review of the University of Delaware. This was our second college visit and we compare and contrast this institution with the previous one.  This was their Discovery Day and it was well attended. We went on a campus tour. Our lovely tourguide was a student who happen to be a Soror of mine from Chi Theta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.

In the caption of the photo above with myself and Charlie, notice the street sign – Lovett Ave.  Hmmm………. that might be a good sign that this street has my families last name. COINCIDENCE???  Tell me your thoughts below, leave us a comment.

Leave us a comment below to tell us what you think about this episode. Join our FACEBOOK COMMUNITY – The College Money Maze Community – to get first access to the scholarships and resources that are posted.



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