May 2020
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Appealing Financial Aid Awards Due to COVID-19

The finances of many American families have changed drastically amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With high unemployment rates and many businesses closing to keep our communities safe, navigating financial aid and paying for college will look different for many households this year. If there has been a change in your family’s financial situation and the award offered in February does not reflect your finances in May, you may want to appeal the financial aid awarded through a “special circumstances” form.

Before beginning an appeal, it is best to explore the institution’s financial aid website and read their policy on appeals. Asking a college to reconsider its offer can seem overwhelming, but it is entirely possible. Enter a new virtual tool designed to streamline and simplify the process: SwiftStudent. If you receive federal aid, SwiftStudent will help you to write an appeal letter at no cost by providing templates for a variety of situations and crises. Keep in mind that SwiftStudent is a new resource, so begin with the official application for appeal through the financial aid office. SwiftStudent’s website also does the following: demystifies financial aid appeals, opens the conversation between yourself and your financial aid office, and explains what it means to ask for an award reconsideration.

If your family’s finances have changed because of COVID-19 and you need to reevaluate paying-for-college options, the counselors at the NHHEAF Network’s Center for College Planning are here to help! Call us at 800.747.2382, ext. 119 and ask to schedule a funding options appointment!

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Self-Care Spring

The stress of the COVID-19 pandemic has many of us feeling anxious, confused, and emotionally drained. If your mental health feels compromised, know that your feelings are valid and there are resources to help. Here are a few recommended by a former high school counselor:

  1. National Alliance on Mental Illness of New Hampshire (NAMI). NAMI New Hampshire’s goal is to support and advocate for Granite Staters affected by mental illness and suicide. Their website is a tremendous tool with provider contact information, available support groups, fact sheets on a variety of mental health conditions, COVID-19 resources, and contact information for their resource and crisis line.
  2. New Hampshire Community Behavioral Health Association (NHCBHA). The NHCBHA’s website is a helpful tool to find mental healthcare providers near you.
  3. Dartmouth Hitchcock’s Mental Health Resources Webpage. Dartmouth Hitchcock separates resources by town, which will provide the best point of contact for your area. Many of the resources on this list offer multiple counselors with a range of services to provide families.
  4. The Center for Disease Control’s Website on Managing Stress and Anxiety Related to COVID-19. The CDC’s website offers guidance on taking care of yourself and your community during this unprecedented time.

Before contacting a mental health practitioner, consider having a conversation with your primary care physician. Your provider will likely have a list of counselors they know well and can then make an appropriate recommendation. Additionally, if you are prescribed medication, your primary care provider will need to monitor any new medications with current medications. It is scary to talk about mental illness, but know that you are not alone and it is okay to feel your feelings. Check out this video of high school students presenting the case for “ending the stigma.”

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Building a College List

The end of junior year brings the beginning of the college search. Maybe you’ve had a “dream school” since freshman year, or maybe this is your first time considering where you envision yourself after graduation. Either way, building a college list should be on your to-do list if your post-graduation plans include college. But with the thousands of colleges and universities in the United States, creating a list can seem challenging. As you progress from the initial stages of college exploration to submitting applications this fall and winter, your list will shorten and your pathway from high school senior to college first year will become clearer.

In the early stages, it’s okay to have several colleges on your list- but remember, just because they sound interesting, it does not mean you should or need to apply. Your college list should be balanced and diverse, reflecting these three categories: probable (your cumulative GPA and test scores are higher than the average admitted student), target (your cumulative GPA and test scores are on par with the average admitted student), and reach (your cumulative GPA and test scored are slightly lower than the average admitted student). These categories will help guide your search, as well as help you decide where to apply. Important: Also select at least one college that is financially affordable for your family. This college, known as a financial safety school, should be one that you like and would want to attend.

The first half of the battle is identifying your probable, target, and reach schools – the second half is to spend time identifying your interests, skills, and needs. Through introspection, consider these factors:

  1. The type of institution -> Public, private, two-year, four-year, religious, military, technical, liberal arts, pre-professional?
  2. Size -> Large university or small liberal arts college? Seminar-style classes with 15 students or lectures with 100 students?
  3. Demographics -> Is diversity embraced on campus?
  4. Location -> Urban or rural? Close to home or far away?
  5. Academics -> Are there a variety of majors and academic programs? Is your chosen major offered?
  6. Costs -> What are the direct costs (tuition, fees, room and board) and the indirect costs (books, transportation, supplies, etc.)?
  7. Activities and experiences -> How do you want to become involved on campus? Sports, clubs, honor societies, Greek life, volunteer opportunities?
  8. Special programs -> Honors, ROTC, early graduation, or study abroad programs? Support services like the Learning Center or Accessibility Services? Professional programs like internships or co-ops?

Your preferences on these factors will help you to narrow results on college search engines like College Navigator or Big Future, designed to help students learn more about colleges and universities. If you have already created an account with the College Board for the SAT and test preparation, you can save your college list to that same account. These free tools, alongside admissions websites, will help you to explore your options and create a list of schools you would like to learn more about. Also have your cumulative GPA and standardized test scores near-by when using these tools; these numbers will identify probable, target, and reach schools.

Ready to put together your college list? Our college counselors are available for individual college prep appointments. During these virtual appointments we outline the college admissions process, create a working list of colleges to visit, and identify your next steps. Call 888.747.2382, ext. 119 for a FREE appointment.

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Major Spotlight – The Liberal Arts and its Value in Times of Crisis

In recent years, earning a college degree has become synonymous with student debt. With the majority of American college students graduating with an average of $29,000 in loans, more students are exploring career majors with gusto. Professional or career majors in health science, accounting, computer science, or engineering will prepare you for a fulfilling career, while the liberal arts will enhance your skills as a thinker, a communicator, and a problem-solver. This is why many colleges and universities require classes outside your major. Classes in the liberal arts – natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and arts – allow for students to experience a liberal education, which is a concept dating back to Medieval Europe.

In the world of education, “liberal” does not refer to politics, but rather an education that is broad, inclusive, and far-reaching. Courses in the liberal arts are designed to prepare students for change, adaptability, and complexity – skills that are transferrable to any career path and guide us through times of uncertainty or fear. Before dismissing required classes in the liberal arts, like Public Speaking or German 101, recognize that the goal is to provide a broad skill set in communication and critical thinking, while growing a sense of social responsibility. In times of crisis, like the COVID-19 pandemic, the liberal arts encourage us to support our communities, communicate calmly and concisely with one another to find creative resolutions to collective problems, and learn to adapt to the changes in our lives.

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Looking to kick start the college admissions process this summer? Our Summer Boot Camp workshops bring rising high school seniors from across the state to our Concord campus to begin the college admissions process. We offer an Admissions Workshop, where we will help students work on his or her own college admissions process, and a College Essay Workshop, which allows students to begin or revise the all-important college essay. Both workshops are held in a relaxed, small group setting with the support of our college counselors. Please call 888.747.2382, ext. 119 to register. The cost is $25.00 per workshop.

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Meet the Destination College Speech Contest Winners

Selected from over fifty applicants, this year’s Destination College Speech Contest winners wowed the judging panel with not only the spot-on content of their speeches, but also with their relatability, character, and poise. Each year New Hampshire high school seniors are encouraged to submit a three to five (3 to 5) minute speech about their path to college and navigating the college admissions process. They are encouraged to share their best advice for the state’s high school juniors who are preparing for their college selection journey.

In previous years, our winners have shared the stage with New Hampshire’s governor, the president of the Destination College host campus, and the CEO of NHHEAF at the annual event. As the keynote speaker, they have delivered their speech (bright and early in the morning!) to open the college planning day. This year has been different for our Destination College Speech Contest Winners. With the COVID-19 pandemic, DC has been reimagined into a virtual event. Our winners will be recording their speeches to share with NH high school juniors. They will also sit on our Student Panel, a workshop which will be offered as a live webinar on May 27th at 5 p.m. p.m. for juniors to get advice about the admissions process, learn about life on campus, and ask questions of the panelists. Registration is coming soon, and will be required to join us live.

We are pleased to introduce our Destination College 2020 Speech Contest winners!

DC Speech contest winner

Jack Gasdia, Alvirne High School

Jack Gasdia is a senior at Alvirne High School in Hudson, New Hampshire. In high school, he was actively involved in his school's music program, as well as Model U.N., Class Act, Debate, DECA, and other programs. This fall, he'll be attending the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University to study International Politics, and he hopes to someday pursue a career in that field. He wishes all prospective college applicants and their families well during the exciting time that is the admissions process and leaves this main piece of advice: take this experience as an opportunity to learn about yourself and pick the place that will be the best fit for you!

DC Speech contest winner

Michelle Freeman, Campbell High School

I’m Michelle Freeman, and I’m going to be studying bioengineering at Northeastern University! In high school, I was very involved in cross country and track, and I’m looking to continue to participate in a club running team in college. Some fun facts about me are that I’m left-handed and fluent in Russian.

My #1 piece of advice for the college application process is to start EARLY. It’s so easy to put off college applications, but starting early helps tremendously.



Do the spring and summer months get you excited to work outside in your garden? If your interest in horticulture influenced you to pursue it as a degree, check out this scholarship from the Horticultural Research Institute. The Timothy and Palmer W. Bigelow Jr. Scholarship is a $3,000 award to a resident of New England with a GPA of at least 2.25 and a demonstrated interest in the nursery industry. The deadline to apply is Sunday, May 31, 2020.