All posts by samclaug

About samclaug

Owner of a college planning business that assists students and parents through the college and grad school admissions and financial aid process. Sharon holds a MEd in Adult Education, has over 20 years of experience as a College Admissions and Financial Aid administrator. She has taught ESL, GED and Adult Basic Education.

What’s It’s Like To Do An Internship In France?

For those in college or grad school contemplating studying and doing an internship in France check out the YouTube video from “Unintentionally Frenchified”. Kate completed her graduate degree in France and did two internships. She gives great advice and insight in to looking for internships and what they are like as an American expat. Unintentionally Frenchified


Fellowship Opportunities in Urban Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks – THE DIRT

Dumbarton Oaks, a Harvard University research institute, library, museum, and garden in Washington, D.C., has a number of fellowships open to landscape architecture academia and practitioners focused on race, democracy, and urban landscapes. For those who seek to conduct innovative research while social distancing in a more inspired setting — a serene garden designed by…
— Read on


Congratulations!! You’re a high school senior and planning for college!!

How exactly are you going to be sure you make the right decision, if you can’t do the normal college search activities like college visits, open houses, staying in the dorms and sitting in on a class? Admittedly some of those options are off the table in  their traditional format this fall and probably next spring.

But high school guidance offices and college admissions offices are working hard to give you the best opportunities to get to know the colleges you are considering.

College visits to high schools have gone virtual via Zoom or Google Meet. Admissions offices are holding virtual admissions & financial aid 

Panels, discussions, admission in to online classes and even online College Fairs. I attended the Massachusetts State Universities’ College Fair last week via Zoom. I registered and selected the universities I wanted to talk to. When I entered the Zoom event, I just clicked on the logo of the university I wanted to talk to and asked my questions (or typed them in the chat). 

Some colleges are offering virtual live tours with student tour guides as well. There  are a few colleges and universities that are offering drive-through campus visits. While others are opening up limited in person campus visits: only 4 a day and only one student & one guest per visit.

In addition, here is a great website I  have been recommending  to my clients for years for  virtual college tours. 

So while COVID-19 has changed the manner in which students and families can get to know and get a feel for colleges, there are many opportunities to interact with college staff and students and to “see” the colleges and universities you are considering for your educational home for the next four years!


As high school seniors and recent college grads begin their college or grad school planning, one question I am getting from clients is, “What about the SAT/ACT? Do I have to take it?” or “Should I take the graduate exam?” Although the College Entrance Exams (SAT & ACT) or any number of Graduate Entrance Exams, (GRE,GMAT,LSAT,or MCAT anyone??) are not exactly extinct, the current environment has crippled the industry’s ability to schedule the tests and many colleges and grad schools are suspending the requirement for the 2021-2022 admissions cycle.

On the undergraduate level, colleges have been stepping away from requiring SAT or ACT test scores as part of the admissions process and making them optional  for over the last 10 to 15 years or so. In addition, each year colleges and universities are dropping the requirement all together. This trend has been a reaction to accusations that the tests are racially and socio-economically biased.  Enter COVID-19 and starting last Spring the College Board, which offers the SAT and ETS which offers the ACT, have had to cancel close test sites and cancel tests.The National Center for Fair & Open Testing ( states the two-thirds of US colleges and universities are test optional or test-blind for fall of  2021 applicants.

Similarly the many graduate schools have also decided to suspend the requirement to submit graduate exams as part of the graduate school admissions process for the 2021-2022 admissions cycle. 

There are exceptions of course, especially in some competitive fields such as nursing, both on the undergrad and grad level.

If the undergraduate college or university graduate program to which you are applying is test optional, before you make your decision regarding scheduling your test there are a few things to consider.

  1. Do you or a family member have a health issue that makes you at risk for contracting COVID-19?
  2. Is the college test optional?
  3. Is the college test-blind? Meaning, if you take and submit your test scores will they be included in your application review or not?
  4. If students take the exam and you don’t, will you be at a disadvantage?
  5. What are the safety precautions being taken at the testing site?
  6. If you don’t take the exam, what can you do to strengthen your admissions application?

For a list of colleges that are test optional go to:

Textbook Cost Trauma & How to Reduce Your Cost

I’m a day late with this week’s question, but I wanted to get it in as students will be dealing with purchasing textbooks for the first time with in the next few weeks and these are very handy tips.

This week’s Ask Me Anything question is about the cost of college textbooks: College textbooks are so expensive. Are there ways to help me spend less on books?

Sticker shock is a reality for college freshmen and their parents when it comes to textbook prices . A recent US News article quoted a survey by the College Board which found that on average students pay $1290 per year for textbooks.

There are a number of ways to offset the cost of textbooks. Some are long-standing options and some are a result of the digital age.

Students can search for used books at their campus store or online via Amazon, Chegg and other online textbook resellers. Before you buy a used book, consider if a new book is best for your needs. For example: A used copy of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer makes sense. But a used copy of a science or business law textbook might not be a good option. You may want to check with your professor before going the used book route.

Your college library may also have reserved copies of required textbooks available. Note that there may be limitations on taking reserved books from the library.

Digital options include renting or buying downloadable copies textbooks. At some colleges there is also the possibility of Open Educational Resources (OER) which are online textbooks that are free to use. Also check to see if your college has a booksellers discount. A number of colleges partner with, which offers students substantial discounts on e-textbooks.

You may also want to reach out to your college financial aid office, as book advances from your financial aid may be available or there may be book scholarships you can apply for.

While textbook prices may overwhelm you, there are many options available depending on your needs.


For tonight’s Ask Me Anything Thursday I’ve decided to share a situation I ran in to this week with a client.

I received a referral to a woman whose daughter is in college and will be a senior in the fall. The woman was frantic, because she just received her daughter’s fall tuition bill for over $20,000 and realized that her accountant had not filed her daughter’s FAFSA for the upcoming academic year. The daughter had lost out on a $8k (per semester) departmental scholarship based on her major , other university scholarships and some federal financial aid, as a result of this.

I walked the daughter through the FAFSA online application and reviewed her award from the previous year. I assured her and her mother that her PELL Grant and loan eligibility would not be impacted by the late filing. Any state scholarship/grant was lost and the renewal of her institutional scholarships is uncertain. Campus based financial aid, whether federal, state or institutional are awarded on a first come first served basis until the funds are fully expended.

I gave them strategies for dealing with the college bill for worst case scenarios. My hope is that this family can manage to pay the fall and spring college bills. I am going to monitor this situation with them to get them as much as I can to meet the financial aid that was awarded last year, so the young lady can graduate next Spring as planned.

This situation points out two very good lessons.

1) Apply EARLY and STAY ON TOP of your financial aid application process.

2) DO NOT have your accountant, CPA, or financial planner complete your FAFSA or CSS Profile. It is NOT their area of expertise.

In my years as a Director of Financial Aid, I could always tell when an accountant or CPA completed a FAFSA for a family, based on the errors that were made. I read the federal regs that govern the FAFSA, the state regs that govern state scholarships and grants, and kept up with changes to them. An accountant or CPA does do any of that. It’s not their job. And as this situation shows it can lead to financial disaster for the family and jeopardize the student’s ability to graduate.