How does it feel to be accepted to college?

Do you want to feel like this in the fall?  You need to work on your applications this summer.


Five things that can keep you out of college

What are five things that could keep you out of college? Here from Jordan Goldman founder of Unigo moderates The Wall Street Journal’s special event “Inside The College Admissions Office.” Panelists include the Deans of Admissions from Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, Williams College, Wesleyan University, Bryn Mawr College, Grinnell College, Marquette

Do People Rat Out Applicants to Admissions?

In mid-April 2017, 10 high school seniors received some unwelcome news: Their acceptances to Harvard, perhaps the most coveted prize in the nationwide college admissions tourney, had been suddenly revoked over content they’d shared online.

The offending material — a series of jokes and memes that mocked suicide, child abuse, and the Holocaust — was posted in an invitation-only chat that had spun off from Harvard’s Facebook group for incoming freshmen. But the forum proved to be less private than its participants assumed, and when word got back to university administrators, they quickly rescinded admission.

It’s a cautionary tale that reflects prevailing trends in education and technology, as top-flight colleges have become increasingly selective and social media platforms have found enthusiastic constituencies among teenagers with spotty judgment. Experts say internet infractions like bullying, sexting, and off-color humor can become major obstacles to entry at the most prestigious schools. And admissions officers aren’t always the first to notice these transgressions — sometimes, it’s sharp-elbowed fellow applicants who tip them off.

“Social media is public, to a large extent, and you’re dealing with individuals who are 16 or 17 years old when they start an application process,” says Yariv Alpher, executive director for market research at Kaplan Test Prep. “What I think is important for kids and parents to be aware of is that what you put out there, is out there. It might be perceived as a very negative thing to someone who might hold a lot of weight over your life.”

Each year, Alpher surveys more than 350 admissions officers on their approach to students’ social media output. In this year’s poll, 35 percent said they checked personal accounts; one-quarter of those said they did so “often” in order to make admissions decisions. Those numbers have climbed persistently over the 10 years the poll has been conducted.

While 47 percent of the cyber snoops said they’d discovered information that had helped applicants’ chances — accomplishments they’d left off their records, for instance, or online art portfolios — 42 percent said the opposite, citing unbecoming statements and evidence of misbehavior. One anonymous administrator complained of some “really questionable language” on a high schooler’s Twitter account: “It wasn’t quite racist, but it showed a cluelessness that you’d expect of a privileged student who hadn’t seen much of the world.”

This spring’s withdrawn acceptances aren’t the first electronic chat fiasco to ensnare admitted students at Harvard. Last year, a group from the newly accepted class of 2020 traded racist jokes and poked at feminism on Microsoft’s GroupMe mobile app. Though the school did not discipline the students involved, Dean of Admissions William Fitzsimmons posted an official response describing himself as “troubled and disappointed” by the incident.

Cutthroat classmates

Peter Osgood, director of admissions at California’s highly selective Harvey Mudd College, says these types of revelations are precisely why he doesn’t venture online. “I don’t chase that stuff down, and very rarely does our staff do that,” he says. While cautioning that he doesn’t speak for his employer, he worries that digging too deep for additional information could intrude on the private lives of adolescents still coming into their own.

“Some of these young people — they’re young, all right? They haven’t gone to college yet, they don’t have the maturity, they’re still evolving. Some of them are trying to be cool or funny,” he says.

Occasionally, though, colleges don’t have the option of averting their gaze. In the blood sport of application season, when highly ranked institutions rarely admit more than one student from the same high school, some students try to even the odds by anonymously maligning their classmates. An intercepted photo of underage drinking, or a crass Gchat transcript, could be enough to sink a competitor’s chances.

“There’s an aspect of one student informing on another,” says Alpher. “We’ve heard from admissions officers that they’ve received a negative tip from one applicant about another applicant. You could almost think of it as admissions sabotage: ‘Hey, you might want to check out so-and-so.’ ”

The most famous such example occurred in 2013, when poison pen letters were sent to several colleges alleging misconduct against a senior from New York City’s ultra-posh Horace Mann School. But the phenomenon had already attracted the concern of admissions officers nationwide.

A 2008 Chicago Tribune article on admissions sabotage featured representatives from elite schools such as Ohio State University, Notre Dame, and the University of Chicago debating whether to put stock in accusatory letters that sometimes looked more like blackmail notes than official correspondence. “If it is more competitive than before, then perhaps more of it is going on,” said one. “People are willing to lie in order to do better in what they consider to be a difficult competition.”

That administrator was William Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s dean of admissions.

The best defense

The natural response to a treacherous online landscape might be for parents to impose a social media blackout. But that’s no solution, says John David, a Florida-based public relations consultant and columnist. One of the main recommendations from his recently published book, How to Protect (or Destroy) Your Reputation Online, is to maintain a consistent — and carefully controlled — internet brand. Otherwise, a student is at risk of becoming a blank slate to outside observers, quickly defined by one negative story.

“If that happens, the only thing that’s up is negative,” he says. “There’s no social media page that shows that this is a nice, normal kid. It could be bullying, it could be revenge porn, it could be a hate blog. You may have this desire to circle the wagons and cover your kid — but at some point, they’re going to be out on their own, operating in the world.”

The strategy of pre-emptive branding has led to the creation of specialty reputation-scrubbing software named … BrandYourself. There are also reports of some college applicants maintaining multiple Facebook accounts for the benefit of admissions office voyeurs. David, a 25-year PR veteran, laments that manicuring a personal image is vastly more difficult now that most of the country carries cellphones in their pockets.

“We all make mistakes. We all do things we’re not proud of. We all lose our temper,” he says. “I went to a major university, was in a fraternity, and I did plenty of stuff that I’m not wholly proud of. Nothing terrible, nothing illegal, but I’m glad it’s not coming up when I’m being checked out by a prospective client.”

Though Harvard drew a firm line on internet offenses, some university authorities take a longer view. Harvey Mudd’s Osgood, who compares social media lapses to an unsightly tattoo that can’t be removed, recalls an incident in which his college’s admissions office considered revoking the acceptance of a student who’d made indelicate remarks that were easy to trace.

“He was trying to show off, and he was a little immature about it. And we had a conversation with him, and he said, ‘That’s not really the way I am, I was just trying to make friends and said things that were a little outrageous,’ ” he says. “He took it to heart, and being called out by the college really got him to wake up a little bit. He grew from that and became a really great citizen here.”

Whether he ever sent a ribald meme is another story.

By KEVIN MAHNKEN for July 11, 2017

The 12 Most Prestigious Competitions for High School Students

See the student that won the Intel Science Competition

High school students here are the 12 most prestigious and well-respected competitions. These offer significant financial prizes and will make you more desirable to the most selective and prestigious universities.  More importantly by competing you will develop the skills in research, learning, diverse thought, critical thinking and communication that all colleges and employers desire.

  1. AAN Neuroscience Research Prize.Students investigating problems concerning the brain or the nervous system are invited to compete for monetary prizes as well as all expenses paid trips to the AAN Annual Meeting, to present their work during a scientific poster session.
  2. Davidson Fellows.This prestigious scholarship annually awards up to $50,000 to students, 18 and under, who have completed a “significant” piece of work in one of eight categories including Engineering, Mathematics, Science, Literature, Music, Technology, Philosophy, and Outside the Box.
  3. Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge.Participants work in teams of 2 to 5 members to develop solutions to some of the world’s most complex problems. Finalist teams compete for seed funding grants, investment opportunities, patent support, business services and scholarships.
  4. ExploraVision.  Jointly sponsored by Toshiba and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), ExploraVision encourages collaboration by restricting the competition to group projects.  Although all participants win gifts and discounts, the top four teams receive US Savings Bonds worth $10,000 for each student.
  5. Google Science Fair.Beginning with online submissions, this competition invites young scientists from all over the world to compete for up to $50,000 in scholarships as well as a trip to the Galapagos Islands sponsored by National Geographic.  Finalists are invited to Google Headquarters to present their projects before expert judges.  To receive information on future competitions, sign-up on the Google Science Fair website.
  6. Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.The Intel ISEF is possibly the world’s largest international pre-college science competition, providing an annual forum for over 1,800 high school students from countries all over the world who compete for approximately $4 million in awards.  Competition begins at the high school level and culminates at the International Science and Engineering Fair, held each year in different cities around the country.
  7. International BioGENEius Challenge.This competition is designed to recognize outstanding research in biotechnology. Finalists showcase their talent and research before a prestigious panel of expert biotech judges and have the opportunity to win cash awards.
  8. Microsoft Imagine Cup.  Imagine Cup is a global competition for computer science students who team up to use their creativity, passion and knowledge of technology to create applications and compete for cash, travel and prizes. Sign upon line to get notified when the 2018 season begins.
  9. MIT THINK Scholars Program.The THINK Scholars program is an initiative that promotes science, technology, engineering and mathematics by supporting and funding projects developed by high school students. Finalists receive all-expenses paid trips to MIT to attend XFair (MIT’s spring tech symposium) and winners receive up to $1000 to build their projects.  Additional scholarship prizes are also available.
  10. National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.Individual students compete for scholarships and recognition by presenting the results of their original research before a panel of judges and an audience of their peers. Regional scholarships as well as eight national top awards of up to $12,000 are among the prizes available.  Different regions/states run on different schedules.
  11. Regeneron Science Talent Search.The Regeneron Science Talent Search invites the nation’s best and brightest young scientists to present original research to nationally recognized professional scientists. Open only to high school seniors, 40 finalists are selected to come to Washington DC and compete for the top award of $250,000. The competition will open on August 1.All applications will be due on November 15.
  12. Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology.Since 1999, the Siemens Foundation, has provided young scientists with opportunities to win scholarships ranging from $1000 to $100,000 for original research in team and individual categories.

New Tax Code will Impact Alimony


Of the changes in the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), one major one is the elimination of the deduction for alimony for the payor spouse in divorce agreements executed after December 31, 2018. These provisions could have a significant impact on divorces currently in process and will certainly change the landscape for all future divorces. The new rule won’t affect anyone already paying alimony. In addition, the payee spouse will no longer have to include alimony as income.  These changes to the individual income tax are scheduled to expire at the end of 2025 (referred to as the provision’s sunset), if they are not changed by a new law before then.

Some of the effects from these alimony changes are not readily determinable. Oftentimes ex-spouses who receive alimony have been able to negotiate increased payments because that payment will reduce the tax liability of the ex-spouse paying the alimony.  So, will the elimination of the alimony tax deduction now reduce the bargaining power of the ex-spouse receiving the alimony payments? The idea behind providing an above-the-line deduction to those paying alimony was that it made sense to shift the income tax liability from the (generally) higher income payor spouse to the lower income payee spouse. Divorce experts worry the change will make negotiations tougher and lead to less spousal support as cash goes to taxes instead.

Why did the government change this part of the code?  Although payor spouses do, in most cases, claim a deduction for alimony paid, many payee spouses did not actually report the alimony payments in gross income as was required by the law, leading to millions of dollars escaping tax.

Because this new provision is set to sunset at the end of 2025, it’s unclear what could happen to the agreements that are executed during the seven years that the alimony deduction is eliminated.  Will there be an opportunity for parties to go back to the negotiating table? And how will judges handle matrimonial cases in light of the new law?

Given the generally contentious nature of alimony agreements, as well as costs involved, this may not be practical, thereby resulting in headaches for many. Parties should engage a tax professional to help decipher the tax consequences. Every divorce agreement, prenuptial agreement and post-nuptial agreement should address the consequences of the new law, be completed (i.e., executed) prior to 12/31/18 if that is preferable, and contemplate the possible change and sunset of the provision.

Written by Alan T. Huberman, CPA, MST a Partner at BlumShapiro. Alan specializes in assisting individuals and businesses with complex tax situations.

Direct 617.658.5220

How The New Tax Plan Could Hurt Graduate Students

The new tax law introduced by the House Republicans could have a negative impact on universities, graduate students and individuals with student loans.

The way the current law works, the graduate student receives tuition waivers in exchange for teaching classes or doing research.  The money is paid directly from the university on behalf of the graduate student by the university and is not counted as income or subject to income tax on the students annual tax returns.

Under the new bill, the money that is paid for tuition for the benefit of the graduate student would be counted as income and subject to income taxes on the student’s tax return.  Basically, the student would be paying taxes on money they never receive.

As these students work towards Ph. D’s or towards their graduate degree the university typically pays them a stipend in exchange for their work in research and as a teaching assistant. This stipend is treated as taxable income currently and in the new House tax bill.

There are many schools speaking out on this as they are concerned about how this House bill will impact students and faculty.  Making higher education more costly for students may reduce the long term benefits of investing in graduate students.

There is also talk of eliminating the student loan interest deduction.  Currently individuals making less than $80,000 and paying back student loans are able to deduct up to $2,500 of student loan interest paid.

Another benefit in jeopardy of being taken away from students and their employers is tax free education assistance.  In the new proposal, if an employer pays for an employee’s education directly to the university or otherwise, the student will be required to pick this amount up as taxable income.

At this point we shall wait and see how it plays out.

Jill Treeful, CPA


phone: 781-449-3346


Harvard Admits a Freshman Class and Whites are the Minority

For the first time in its nearly 400-year history, Harvard has admitted a majority nonwhite class, The Boston Globe reported.

Official figures released by the college show that the entering class of 2021 is:

• 22.2% Asian American 

• 14.6% African American

• 11.6% Hispanic or Latino 

• 2.5% Native American or Pacific Islander 

Of the entering freshman class, 50.8% are from minority groups, an increase from the 47.3% figure last year, The Globe reported.

The news comes just as the Department of Justice indicated it planned to review a complaint of discrimination at Harvard University related to its admissions process.

An anti-affirmative action group called Students for Fair Admissions filed a lawsuit against Harvard in 2015, alleging that the college and other Ivy League institutions use racial quotas to admit students to the detriment of more qualified Asian-American applicants. The group includes a coalition of more than 60 Asian-American groups.

How Can A High School Student Get Into Space?

The biggest challenge high school students have is to dream big.  The biggest challenge parents have is to encourage students to dream big.  Here is a great example of dreaming big. Each student needs to define what dream big means for them.  This student was able to enter space.

Why a College Student Health Care Proxy?

Often when kids go off to college, we still think of them as just that: kids.  While perhaps still fledgling in many ways as they launch into a year of independent living and academics, chances are they will turn 18 during their freshman year if they haven’t already before college begins.  Reaching 18 may not change many things in the daily life of a college student, but the newfound “adult” status now means parental rights may not be automatic.

She can’t speak for herself, who will?

In many ways it doesn’t make sense for college kids to create a full estate plan—usually they don’t own any real estate, may not even have a car, and likely have more student loan debt than assets.  One document that shouldn’t get overlooked, though, is the Health Care Proxy.  While the structure and authorities for Health Care Proxies may vary from state to state, the general idea is that in the event of incapacity, someone else has the authority to make medical care decisions on the incapacitated person’s behalf.

Does this student have a health care proxy?

Before reaching age 18, parents can automatically step in to make most health care decisions for their incapacitated child (with some exceptions), but once their child is a legal adult, parents may be required to obtain a guardianship in order to have that authority.  Establishing a guardianship may involve one or more medical evaluations of the child, reports to the Court regarding diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plan, possibly an attorney for the child, a Court hearing, and the time and expense involved in all of these steps.  Having a Health Care Proxy in place usually circumvents the necessity of a guardianship, where the adult child can choose someone to make medical decisions in the event of the child’s incapacity.

Statistically most college students will never experience an incident of medical incapacity, but certain groups may have a higher risk, such as college athletes and cheerleaders.  A Health Care Proxy is usually affordable, easy to have prepared, and offers peace of mind that parents can step in if there’s ever a medical crisis where the adult child can’t provide informed consent for medical treatment for him/herself.  You should consult with an estate planning professional to ensure that any Health Care Proxy you have prepared complies with your applicable state laws.

By Beth L. Aarons, Esq.

Skylark Law & Mediation, PC


March Madness is Choosing a College

March is a month for nail-biters – fans on edge with basketball madness and high school seniors anxiously waiting to hear from colleges. Choosing a college is a big decision, one that impacts the next four years of a student’s life and a lot of money, typically $120,000 for an in-state public college or close to $260,000 for an out-of-state or private college.

When researching colleges, families may not ask some of the most important questions – What percentage of students graduate in four years? If it takes longer than four years to graduate, that’s more than four years of tuition. UNC has a four-year graduation rate of 76% vs. Oregon with a 44% rate. Some of the other colleges that lost earlier in the tournament had even better four-year graduation rates. Bucknell’s four-year graduation rate is 86%.

Another important question is What percentage of students return for the second year? This statistic is called retention rate, and there’s a 10-point difference this year in retention rates of the colleges in the final four! Nationwide 27% of students do not return for year two. When students transfer, not all their credits are likely to transfer, thus adding to the cost of that college diploma. No one wants to pay for an extra semester or year of college at these prices.

So, remember choosing a college to attend is not the same as choosing your favorite March Madness pick.

See College Sollutions' Margaret Bolton Baudinet on CBS News.