Ask the Patch Pro: Experts Answer Your College Prep Questions

Our panel of experts are waiting in the comments to offer advice to help high school students and parents prepare for college.

Welcome to Ask the Patch Pro, where each week we tackle a different topic and open up the comment section for questions. Our team of experts stop in to help you out and answer your questions.

This week we're talking all about preparing for college. Patch wants to help you find the answers to your questions, but we needed some help.

We've compiled a team of experts to help us out. Meet the experts:

  • Carol Otis: ACT/SAT Tutor 
  • Julie Kampschroeder: Pattonville High School College Counselor
  • Pam Hopkins: Barat Academy Director of College Counseling 
  • Mary Jo Grimm: St. Charles Community College Student Outreach Coordinator
  • Jennedy Abellard: Rockwood Summit High School College and Career Specialist 
  • Jeff Buckman: Eureka High School College Specialist

If you have a college preparation related question, ask below in our comment section and one of our experts will answer! 

If you consider yourself a local expert and would like to be added to the list, let us know! jordan.lanham@patch.com


Tina October 25, 2012 at 12:37 PM
My son is a Senior this year and is leaning towards ROTC. He is filling out the Scholarship application now. How do I make sure he understands the commitment he will be making? Is one school better than another for the ROTC program in Missouri-Public or Private?
Tina October 25, 2012 at 12:43 PM
My son says he wants to become a Marine biologist and work with whales. I don't want to discourage him but I don't feel his grades have shown that he could succeed in a biology degree in college. And the fact that here is much of a market for a Marinie biologist out there. How do I encourage him to think of other options without discouraging him ? I feel college is too expensive to go after a dream that has no chance of becoming a reality. I don't want to break his spirit to try though.
Jo October 25, 2012 at 01:58 PM
What should I be looking dor in a good ACT/SAT tutor? What questions should I ask to determine how qualified they are? Since it is so costly I would like my son to get most benefit out of his time.
susan madden October 25, 2012 at 02:05 PM
My son will be a junior next year and has an IEP since kindergarten with emphasis in writing/comprehension. What is available for him to prep for the ACT/SAT or is available for him at the time of testing to help him.
Mary Jo Grimm October 25, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Hi Tina, Well I have two suggestions for you and your son. I would recommend the community college for a semester or two to see if he can be successful. A community college is much more reasonable financially and size-wise...plus your son can start on his general education requirements which he needs wherever he goes or whatever he does. If he decides Marine Biology is for him, Southeast Missouri State has a major in that so after he gets his Associates Degree, he could transfer to Southeast and continue on. Best of luck to you both! Mary Jo
Ms K October 25, 2012 at 02:29 PM
In my 24 years as an educator, I have not heard the various ROTC programs ranked against one another, so all of them should be strong. I suggest focusing more on the military branch that he is interested in, then pick a campus based on his major. The ROTC instructors should be able to give him a contact of a former student he can email regarding the seriousness of his committment to the service upon college graduation.
Ms K October 25, 2012 at 02:32 PM
If you are the same Tina from the above question, then your son wants to attend college in MO. There will be a conflict trying to find a reputable college in our state with a strong Marine Biology program. (MO State has a program where students go down south for a sememster, but that is not the same as being on the coast every semester for research) He also needs to understand he will not be working in the Midwest upon graduation. I would consider having these conversations with him first and then move on to the quesiton of job security. Go to www.bls.gov for information on job growth/pay etc. for any career.
Ms K October 25, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Many tutors are able to give you statistics from past clients. I suggest asking prior students in your area about their experiences with tutors. Local high school counselors usually have lists of tutors they can share with you if you ask them for it. I would suggest using the free services at your school district before spending hundreds/thousands of dollars out of your own pocket.
Ms K October 25, 2012 at 02:42 PM
You will have to fill out paperwork from ACT/SAT in advance to find out if they will give him extended time on the tests. Start the process in August of his junior year as it can take some time to complete. You can download the forms at www.act.org and www.collegeboard.com. Once you complete your portion of the paperwork, meet with his counselor to determine the next step. Test prep will probably be the exact same as other students at the test will be the same, he just may receive extra time to complete the test.
Julie Reynolds Lynch October 25, 2012 at 02:53 PM
My son is a senior and we have received conflicting information regarding when to fill out the FAFSA and how it fits in the timeline with the actual school application. One place told us they need the FAFSA answer before the student applies to college; another told us college applications are due in the fall and to do the FAFSA second since it can't be completed until Jan 1st and after you do your 2012 income taxes.
Mary Jo Grimm October 25, 2012 at 03:30 PM
The FAFSA for the 2013/2014 school year cannot be completed until January 1 or after and since it is based on your income, you will need your W2's to complete the FAFSA. You are correct - schools have different deadlines. At St. Charles Community College, our priority deadline is June 1st. That is a liberal deadline and many schools need your completed FAFSA before that. Different high schools offer workshops to help with the FAFSA, called FAFSA Frenzy. We are holding a FAFSA Frenzy on February 17th from 2-4pm in our Technology Building. They are free and it would be best if you have applied and received your PIN number before you attend.
Maria Fister October 25, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Do you have any suggestions for adults (29 years old) going to college for the first time? Do they still look at act scores, high school transcripts, ect? And is it difficult to take out student loans with bad credit or are there any "easy" scholarship options?
Mary Jo Grimm October 25, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Good News - the federal government doesn't do a credit check to get a student loan so your credit rating has no bearing. We have Returning Learner Workshops for people just like you and the next one is Novermber 5, 6 and 7th. They are free and go through everything from admissions to financial aid and scholarships and you will meet current Returning Learners who serve as mentors. Go to www.stchas.edu/returning learners for more information.
Ms.Abellard October 25, 2012 at 05:33 PM
I would seriously consider the community college to ease back into the college atmosphere without a major financial liability. They will not have strict requirements in terms of GPA or ACT, but will use a placement test to see where the student needs to begin and serve them from there. Be aware of for-profit institutions that entice non-traditional students with fast-track degrees at a hefty price.
Carol otis October 25, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Carol Otis Jo...I am a retired Rockwood teacher and now tutor students for these tests. My usual reply to people feeling the need for test prep help ( and will be paying for it) is to take the test once before tutoring. Until your student takes the test, he will not know what his strengths and weaknesses are on the particular test. His scores should help you decide what kind of help he needs. You can then spend $ on his weak skills first..math, science, reading, English. Students who readily ask questions in class do better than quiet students who are hesitant to ask questions in a group setting. The hesitant student often does better with individual tutoring because they can get all their questions answered. Make sure whoever you decide to work with is certified in the areas needed : math, science, etc. so he can teach content as well as test taking skills .
Pam Hopkins October 25, 2012 at 08:23 PM
I don't know there is a good way for a student to understand the total impact of an ROTC commitment until he is in the program. Talk with students that are in ROTC programs and visit the colleges in which your son is has interest. For ROTC scholarships it depends on which branch as each does it a little different. From my understanding ROTC scholarships are usually awarded to students to attend public colleges as the tuition is cheaper than private. However, that doesn't mean a ROTC branch won't work with him if he is looking at a private college.
Maria Fister October 25, 2012 at 10:00 PM
I was leaning towards Lindenwood because I'm going into music ed. and ministry and you can audition for a scholarship there. I may start at the community college and transfer though. We'll see! Thanks!
Pam Hopkins October 25, 2012 at 11:16 PM
Depending on your son's exact diagnosis and what ACT will approve, he may have the opportunity to take the test broken up over multiple days with extended time or take it using a DVD to listen to the test. His special ed. teacher or counselor must complete this paperwork and it is found on ACT's website. They can also help you determine which accommodations he will need to be successful on the ACT. There are various accommodations for students with disabilities. As for test prep I would recommend a group test prep such as the Cambridge program at St. Charles Comm. College. It a cheaper one, then once your son has taken the ACT focus on the area(s) he is weakest in on the ACT.
Pam Hopkins October 25, 2012 at 11:24 PM
Your son will need to submit college applications and be accepted, before he can be awarded financial aid. You want to submit the FAFSA as soon as you can after Jan. 1 with your 2012 tax information. Once your son has been accepted and you have submitted the FAFSA he will receive a financial aid award letter usually beginning in March, but colleges have various timelines for sending out award letters. At that point you can compare dollar amount that each college will offer your son to help make a decision.
flyoverland October 25, 2012 at 11:51 PM
Is there any way for someone who was dumb enough to actually save the entire amount my child will need for college to get anything off the college's list price? I see people who used to have a lot more money than me who blew it all and now are getting breaks on tuition, etc. I have been told I shouldn't even bother applying for any breaks.
Pam Hopkins October 26, 2012 at 12:13 AM
Your child can qualify for scholarships based on academic, service or athletics from colleges. Your savings generally won't affect scholarships as many are awarded before the FAFSA is completed. With that being said at some colleges there are a few scholarships that rely on the FAFSA information. Check with each college your child is applying to for admission. I always recommend completing the FAFSA even though you think your child won't qualify for any of the federal grants. College financial aid offices can't help you if you don't apply. One never knows when family financial circumstances may change.
Mary Jo Grimm October 26, 2012 at 12:16 AM
There are no 'breaks' in tuition as far as I know...if someone had alot of money and blew it, they should fill out the FAFSA to see if the government will give him any money as it is income based. After earning a college degree, then he would be rich again, and hopefully not blow it again.
Jordan Lanham October 26, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Thanks for all the questions everyone! And thank you to our local experts for weighing in!
Carol otis October 26, 2012 at 01:57 AM
Carol Otis. Be sure to check with your child's high school college counselor. Also, credit unions and big employers often offer scholarships to children and grandchildren of members/employees. There are several good publications at the local libraries that list scholarships and who they are available to. Network with folks you know to find out about other scholarship opportunities.
Ray Antonacci October 26, 2012 at 01:42 PM
The community college recommendation is GREAT. This will help the both of you determine what his level of commitment is. If he still wants to be a marine biologist after two years of community college than I say go for it! I am one of those people who got a degree then spent the last 20 years in an occupation outside of what I studied. I do, however, use my EDUCATION. Things he will learn in college will help him throughout his life no matter what he ends up doing. Things like critical thinking and how to construct an argument are examples of things I learned in college that I use every day. Even though you don't see Marine Biologist "Help Wanted" signs all over town does not mean they are non existent. I would think this is one of those occupations where networking is key to finding a job.
The College Scholarship Process October 26, 2012 at 02:36 PM
A free list of local scholarship opportunities for St. Louis area students can be found at www.CSOrganizer.com
Jeff Buckman October 31, 2012 at 07:37 PM
I am assuming both you and your son have sat down with the ROTC Commander at the college, which will discuss the requirements of the program, commitment, logistics, etc. After that discussion, if your son is still choosing ROTC, then he needs to focus on which college is the best fit for him regarding academics, atmosphere, etc. He might also look at the size of the ROTC program per school as well. Does he want larger or smaller? (pro's and con's to both). And in my previous work at a private college, I can say that cost should not be a factor, as the total cost of attendance will likely be covered between the government and the school.
Jeff Buckman October 31, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Depending on the type of degree you want to pursue, most local four-year colleges have online classes or a School of Professional Studies (for those non-traditional students). I second Ms. Abellard's statement about community college. It's a great way to get the basic courses completed at a great price. Financial aid (loans) are available, but you would need to file the FAFSA to see which one(s) for which you qualify. Definitely go visit the college or colleges you are considering and they will let you know the best decision for your case.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something