Paying for College

College Fund

For those students who choose to go on to college, the big question may be “How do I pay for this?” Sometimes students have had a college fund since birth established by their parents or grandparents and may have worked and added to this fund themselves as soon as they were old enough to do so. For most students, though, this is not their reality.  Parents may or may not be able to foot the entire bill or even half of it. Many students bear this responsibility themselves. These students don’t just have a fund set aside to pay for college and must search for another plan.

Fortunately there are many options to help out and many books to help guide students and steer them towards reasonable payment plans or even finding a way to go to college for free.

Free College

One of the best known ways to go to college for free is to get grants and/or scholarships. Anyone planning on going to college should be applying for any and all of these types of things as possible. The more applications, the greater chance of finding one that will work.

Grants are often based on a person’s identifiers–such as being a woman, a minority, a Native American, etc. I’ve seen some grants based upon where one lives; for instance Hawaii. If you are unsure of what grants are out there, come in to the Fulton County Public Library and use the Grant Station to look up what’s available.

Scholarships are often based on an ability one has such as academic ability, athleticism, or a talent such as musical ability.  The library has books and of course access to the internet to help potential students search for applicable scholarships.

In Indiana, the state has a program called 21st Century Scholars. Students sign up for this program in the 7th grade and must maintain a good GPA as well as stay drug free and out of trouble. In Indiana, this is a really big deal where potential 21st Century Scholars actually have to appear before a judge and take an oath to remain drug free. For those who complete the requirements of the program, they can go to any state college or university. These students usually graduate debt free.  Hopefully other states have similar programs, although I have no information about other states.

If for whatever reason a student can’t get scholarships or grants, another excellent option is to enlist in the military and let the government foot the bill for your college degree. This option comes with the added benefit of career options as well as lifelong benefits (for retirees of the armed services), free medical and dental care, and access to veteran organizations once leaving the military.  An excellent book about this is Military Education Benefits for College: A Comprehensive Guide for Military Members, Veterans, and Their Dependents by David J. Renza, M.A. and Edmund J. Lizotte (Lt. Col., Ret.).

Blank white book w/path

College students must complete a FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid) which will help determine the amount of  free aid a student can qualify for. If you are on your way to college, follow the FAFSA link above to determine if you qualify for free money. If a student doesn’t qualify for free money, the FAFSA also helps determine the amount of student loans a student can qualify for and the linked site will walk you through the process of applying for grants and scholarships. It also provides some great advice on borrowing money if you have to.

Here are a few more books that are helpful in figuring out how to pay for college:

Paying for College without going broke

Paying for College

These books contain excellent information. The first one includes sample forms to help walk students through the FAFSA application process. The second book includes expert opinions and advice for finding the best financial packages available to students.

Although it’s much harder to do, there is always the pay as you go method. Some students do work and pay for school at the same time. If you happen to be an adult who’s already been full time in the work force, the pay as you go method is popular, but it’s not the only option. There may still be grants and scholarships you may qualify for. Among other options, your employer may be willing to foot the bill for your college classes especially if you are taking courses related to your current job. The following book will help walk an adult student through various ways to finance a college education.

501 Ways for Adult Students to Pay for College

If you are on your way to college, do you know how you will pay for it? If you’ve already been to college, how did you pay for it?




College Survival

college dorm

Reading my way through the education section of the Fulton County Public Library, I have shared books about many aspects of education. To this point all blog entries have been about mandatory educational requirements. For students going off to college after high school life is about to take a drastic change. These students are walking into unknown territory which can be exciting, thrilling, terrifying, and awkward all at the same time.

There are so many good books on this aspect of education that I couldn’t decide which few to review! Therefore, I’m going to share a couple of groups of books that I found helpful.

Just as incoming college freshman have done all of their lives, they must get prepared for “back to school.” Unlike they’ve done all of their lives, this time “back to school” not only means new clothes, shoes, and school supplies, it also means dorm or apartment supplies. This can be overwhelming for some students. Fortunately, those who have gone before them are full of advice. Some even write books like:

The Everything College Survival Book    Ready for College

The Everything College Checklist Book

These books all contain the types of information you might expect in a college preparedness book: how to study, how to manage time, how to strive for balance with a study schedule and a social life, finding friends, getting involved in campus life, etc. All of the above books have great information of this type and all would be helpful if you happen to be entering college for the first time.

Let’s face it though, there can be college situations that are well awkward to deal with. A student may be living with a total stranger or strangers who may be very different from anyone he or she has ever known. There are books to help both parents and students through this new environment. A parent wants to make sure their college student is as safe as possible while away at college and may have questions that could be awkward and embarrassing for the student. A college student may encounter very awkward situations in the dorm, with roommates in an apartment, or on campus. The following two books are recommended for such happenings:

Sex, Drugs and Flunking Out

The Naked Roommate

Both of these books will answer questions that you may not feel comfortable asking and/or help a student and parent to navigate sticky situations when one must speak up. They can at times be both funny and serious.

There can be a dark underside of college as evidenced by this book:

The Shadow Scholar

This is an interesting and eye opening book. While the majority of college students do their own work, we need to be asking some serious questions about our colleges and universities. The book is entertaining and funny, but brings up many valid points as well.

If you went to college, did you have some awkward moments? Did you have any surprising roommates?



College Entry / Graduate Tests


In the United States certain tests and test scores are required for college admission. The most popular of these tests seem to be the Scholastic Aptitude Test (better known as the SAT) and the American College Testing (better known as the ACT). Interesting facts about both tests can be learned by following the above links to Wikipedia and reading about them. Students must pay to take these all important tests and the most common test takers are Juniors and Seniors in high school. As you might expect there can be tremendous pressure on students to perform well on these tests. Obviously the higher a student scores on the test(s) the better chance of getting into the college or university of his/her choice.

Because of the importance of these tests, it is becoming even more important for students to prepare for them. Obviously by paying attention in their high school courses and maintaining a high GPA, this increases the likelihood of doing well on the tests. However, if a student wants to get higher scores on the tests, he/she must find other ways to study for them. This is where Fulton County Public Library can help. The library has all sorts of study resources. Some of the ones I checked out to peruse are:

Barron's SAT

Inside the SAT

There are many more of these types of books. Some have actual practice tests that you would use a pencil and a piece of paper to practice with. Some have have CD Roms that are tutorial or that allow you to take the “online” version of the test for practice. You can even find kits to help you study. I found this one:

Picture These SAT WORDS in a Flash

This particular kit has 200 vocabulary flash cards. The kit makes a humorous pun using a vocabulary word and illustrates it with a funny picture. Here is an example:


The flip side of the card has the definition of the vocabulary word and three examples of its use in a sentence.

There are resources for students with Learning Disabilities:

SAT Strategies for Students with Learning Disabilities

There are very similar resources for the ACT as well. Below is just one example:

Cracking the ACT

As you can see (and possibly as you may have noted previously), this study resource is an older 2016 edition. Many libraries are beginning to move away from this sort of dated material due to many resources going digital, but Fulton County Public Library does order some things like this upon patron request. Even dated study guides can still help you to study. You would see similar types of questions if you try to stay within a couple years of the current year.

The library closest to you may have quiet zones or even rooms available for students to come and study, do the practice test, or in some cases allow students to come and take the actual test with a proctor provided by the library (all services offered by Fulton County Public Library). This is particularly an increasing event with graduate students. Thanks to technology some students are able to take their tests almost anywhere on computer (which the library can also provide if needed),  monitored by camera and an onsite proctor who views the test taker remotely. Libraries and technology are definitely merging.

Getting through college entrance exams is a huge accomplishment, but what comes next? Some students have an idea of what they would like to study in college, but many do not. For those students who don’t yet know what they want to be when they grow up, there are books like:

Book of Majors

Again, these may be somewhat dated sitting on library shelves, but similar (and more up to date) online resources are available. The ideas remain basically the same. There may be majors of interest the student hasn’t considered and what major a student wants to pursue may influence the college choice. Obviously a student has to go where the course of study is offered.

Having made it this far, a student has passed college entry exams and chosen a major (hopefully). Now it’s time to think about if a student wants to try to “Clep out” of a particular class. There are, of course, books to help students study for these tests as well. CLEP stands for College Level Examination Program.

CLEP Study Guide

There are usually requirement classes in college. For instance, most colleges require some basic math or English courses. If a student is strong in a particular area, he or she may opt to take the CLEP exam. If passed, the student gets credit for the class without having to actually take it. This can save both time and money if the student successfully CLEPs out of classes.

After a student has jumped through all of the hoops and tests and has actually finished college, he or she will then decide whether or not to pursue graduate school. If the answer to that question is yes then, of course, there will be more studying and another test. Study materials can still be found at the library to help study for the Graduate Record Exam (better known as the GRE). A few examples of these types of books are below:

6 GRE Practice Tests


After completing the GRE, students will decide whether or not to pursue a Doctorate program. Testing, working on a thesis, and the actual coursework is generally quite unique to the area of study. However, the library can still help by providing a place to study, ordering specialized books or acquiring them through the consortium.

Learning is a lifelong process and we never stop learning. The next time that you need or want to study a particular topic/subject, the library will be there to help accommodate your needs, even if they are unique.

Did you have to take any of the tests mentioned? Did you know the library had these study resources? Have you used these types of resources from your library?



True (School) Stories!

US graduatesSchools across the US have primarily one purpose – to prepare students for what comes after high school. Not every student has the same plan after high school. Success doesn’t necessarily mean that every student goes on to college, although that may be a goal for many students. Some students may be ready to enter the workforce immediately after high school. There are many options.

What happens when students spend time in high school varies tremendously. Students are affected by such things as location of their high schools. Small rural high schools are vastly different from inner city high schools in a large metropolis. Other factors that may vary are socioeconomic status of the students, whether students attend a public or private school, extracurricular opportunities, and types of support staff offered at a given school just to name a few things.

One thing that is true for all students in high school across this great land is that they are all part of intricate stories playing out in our high schools.  Many teachers write books about their own teaching experiences such as Ed Boland did in The Battle for Room 314.: My Year of Hope and Despair in a New York City High School.

The Battle for Room 314

Boland was intricately involved in the world of fundraising. He had a passion to raise money for disadvantaged students and in part through his efforts many disadvantaged students were given opportunities of a lifetime. Many went on to Ivy League schools and successful careers. At some point, Boland wasn’t satisfied with just fundraising and decided he actually wanted to teach disadvantaged students. This book differs from others of it’s type in which a first year teacher takes over a classroom and wins educational victories. In Boland’s case, this is a story of an idealistic first year teacher meeting reality head on and trying to figure out how to navigate through a broken educational system that is seriously failing students. For anyone wishing to get a big dose of reality of what American high school is like in our large cities, this is the book for you.

The next story I came to was very different. In light of all of the recent school shootings, this is a heart wrenching book worth taking a look at. It is written by the mother of  Dylan Klebold, one of the two shooters from Columbine High School. This mother agonizes over what went wrong.

A Mother's Reckoning

Dylan Klebold and Eric shot and killed 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School. They also wounded 24 other people before taking their own lives. Dylan’s mother was as horrified as everyone else but had the added stigma of being a shooter’s mother. For about 16 years, Sue Klebold poured over all of Dylan’s possessions looking for clues as to how (or if) she had missed warning signs. How could her child be involved in something so horrific? Could she have stopped it? Sue lived with grief and shame and shares how she began to come to grips with what happened.

I did not personally know anyone at Columbine, but I do personally know some of Rachel Scott’s family. Rachel was one of the first victims. She was shot for her faith, making her one of the first American Christian martyrs. There is a movie about the Columbine shootings and shows how Rachel became a victim. I highly recommend the movie I’m Not Ashamed.

I'm Not Ashamed

Years before Columbine ever happened, I was working as a Special Education teacher in a Middle School. One of my students was labeled Learning Disabled/Gifted. He was a very bright student who had some academic struggles. Rex (obviously not his real name) was also a very troubled young man. He was extremely bright-and had absolutely no conscience. I remember telling other teachers that Rex was either going to end up a multi-billionaire or in jail. He was the type of student who was bored easily and would try inappropriate things just to see if he could get away with them. His plots could be elaborate. Though I tried not to show it, I always had one eye on Rex. I was tipped off by another student  that Rex was planning something during a school dance–one that I happened to be chaperoning. I knew Rex…I informed the administration about his possible plot during the dance, and sure enough all adult eyes were on him that evening and an unloaded gun was confiscated from him at the dance. Thankfully no students were harmed during this incident and Rex was disarmed easily. I do not know if he brought ammo with him, but his offense was enough to get him expelled from the school. It was actually quite sad. I lost track of Rex but it would not surprise me at all if he ended up a career criminal. Rather than actually chaperoning the dance that night, I ended up doing all sorts of paperwork trying to get Rex placed in a different school where hopefully he could also get in depth emotional help.

Do you have a true school story you’d like to share? Do you have a favorite true school story?





Primary Education

Books and Apple

In the United States, there isn’t a national curriculum like in many other countries. Curriculums, in general, are left up to the discretion of each individual state. States set educational standards that are used to design curriculums, but that also allow school districts to have some input as to what the children are taught.  Click this link to find out about Educational Standards in Indiana.

Although there is no national curriculum in the United States, there is fairly consistent thought on what things should be taught at what grade level. Whether there should be a national curriculum is a serious debate for another day. Today, I’m just interested in discussing some of the books offered at the Fulton County Public Library that can be used to help design curriculums.  This is true if you homeschool, teach in a public or private school, or even just are looking to incorporate good materials into your grade level or subject matter. Some parents may just want to use these materials to supplement their children’s learning experiences.

When I was learning how to teach and also when my children were in school there was a lot of talk about the “Dumbing Down of America.” An internet search of this topic will turn up all sorts of interesting hits. For my purposes here, I will suffice it to say that what our children are currently learning in school isn’t necessarily what we (or the generations before us) were taught.  Sometimes this fact is understandable due to updated information that made previous information irrelevant. For example, we no longer teach children that the earth is a flat plane which ships could sail off of if they got too close to the edge. Due to advances in Science, we can now confidently teach that the Earth is a spherical object in space and that ships will not sail off the edges of the Earth, but can in fact safely sail around the world. However, in other instances there is concern that we are intentionally not teaching students information that hasn’t changed and that actually should still be taught. This type of information may include aspects of history, economics, mathematics, and many other topics. This has led to all sorts of conspiracy theories which I couldn’t even begin touch on in one post, but I will just say that I think there is some room for concern. I’m not promoting conspiracy theories, just the need to be aware of what is and isn’t being taught.

One way to know how much subject matter has changed is by frequently reviewing older textbooks or educational  type books. That is why I am a big fan of book series such as The Core Knowledge Series and similar type series. These books are titled things like What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know.

What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know

These books go up at least through the 6th grade and it’s a fascinating thing to use one of these older books (c. 1990’s) to compare to your child’s current school books. Although in the US schooling is compulsory, it’s still a parent’s responsibility to ensure their child receives the best education possible and there may be times when you will fill the need to “fill in the gaps.”

Even a school cannot teach literally everything. I believe that the very best teachers teach students how to learn by giving them the skills to find information on their own. They need to know how to use resource materials and where to find those resource materials. Good teachers also instill in students a love of learning.

Libraries such as Fulton County Public Library and other similar libraries are great learning resources. Libraries perform a vital function by protecting books by preventing censorship. For instance where would you go to get an older textbook? Many are now out of print and though you may stumble on one in a used book store, your luck at finding one would be much better at a library.

There are times when community members might challenge a book from a school district–or even from a library. What would happen if all of those challenged books were suddenly banned and/or destroyed?

Libraries will protect books in their collection by defending their right to exist. I don’t have to agree with every single book in a library in order to respect it’s right to be there. I do not personally agree with censorship efforts even though there are books that I wish were not in the collection. If I object to say the Koran in my library and successfully get it removed, I wonder how long it would be until someone else objected to the Bible in my library? Censorship is not the answer, education is. Children need to be taught critical thinking skills and how to evaluate information objectively. As I’ve mentioned before, I am a Christian, but I invite people to objectively examine the Bible. I also think that there may be reasons I need to examine what’s in the Koran.

Libraries usually have a “Banned Book Week” to draw attention to books that have been challenged.  Below is a previous display of banned or challenged books at Fulton County Public Library.  Libraries have protected these and many other books over the years. Banned book week  is usually the end of September into October–thus the somewhat Halloweenish theme. During this time period, patrons are encouraged to read the “banned books.”

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Though that might have seemed like a bit of a tangent, my point was that libraries will protect even old text books so that patrons like all of you Dewey Hop readers can go and compare them to current text books and make up your own minds as to whether or not schools (or other institutions) are censoring information to lead-or mislead- in a particular direction. Education and critical thinking skills are vital.

In addition to finding curriculum content information, there are also resource books available designed to help enhance the actual teaching of concepts. Here are just a few books of this nature available at the library:

A+ Activities For First Grade

Glues, Brews, and Goos

Phonics Patterns

Do you think the US has a problem with censorship? Do you have ideas to help prevent censorship?



Career Paths

Career Paths

One of the primary objectives of educating our children is to prepare them for a career path. There are choices other than going to college after high school.While college is certainly an acceptable path to a career, it isn’t the only path.

In this post, I would like to highlight a series of books called Success Without College by Robert F. Wilson, et al. There are many books in this series. Here are some of the ones I perused.

Careers with AnimalsCareers in Art and Graphic Design Careers in Cosmotology Careers in the Food Service Industry

Careers in HealthcareCareers in the Law

Carreers in sports, fitness, and recreation

This is a series of books that the reader doesn’t necessarily have to read word for word. Written on about a 5th grade reading level, the books can be used as reference books to find specific information. There is good information and guidance in each book. This series could be used easily in middle or high schools as well as for adults.

In addition to the Success Without College series, I also ran across a Careers For series by McGraw Hill. This series also has various authors. Of the three books I perused in this series, two were written by Jan Godlberg and one was written by Marjorie Eberts and Margaret Gisler. These are the books I checked out:

Careers For 002.JPG

This series is similar to the previous one. However, this series has the added goal of helping people find ways to be paid for pursuing their passions. These books would be appropriate for almost any age.

Did you choose a career without college? Do you know successful people who opted out of college and went right into a career?

Classroom Management


Teachers may be highly educated and up to date on all the latest teaching techniques, but without proper classroom management students will not be learning up to their potential. In The Everything Classroom Management Book by Eric Groves, Sr., classroom management is discussed in depth. Being a former teacher, I still found this book very impressive.

The Everything Classroom Management Book

One day a fellow coworker  at the Fulton County Public Library (also a former teacher and principal) passed by and saw this book laying on my desk. He stopped to look at it and even he was very impressed with it. If there are any first year teachers or aspiring teachers out there I would highly recommend this book for you. Veteran teachers will also find it useful. Filled with content about organization, time savers, and everyday routines this book is already impressive. However, the book goes far beyond the expected. Other topics discussed include legal issues, building relationships, job protection, and alternative careers in the education field.

The next book I came to was The Laughing Classroom: Everyone’s Guide to Teaching with Humor and Play by Dianna Loomans and Karen Kolberg.

The Laughing Classroom

This is a book that basically describes creating a classroom where learning can occur through humor and laughter. To outsiders, these classrooms can sometimes appear out of order, this may be when students are learning the most. It’s important to engage students to hold their interest and this is the primary objective of this book.There are many activities / lessons in this book to help promote humor and laughter in the classroom. This would be a good resource for teachers and others who work with children.

Among Friends: Classrooms Where Caring and Learning Prevail by Joan Dalton and Marilyn Watson promotes a teaching philosophy of building relationships among students and teachers. When students feel a sense of inclusion (no outcasts) they are better able to learn and want each other to succeed.

Among Friends

This philosophy is very similar to The Big Idea by Dennis Littky with Samantha Grabelle which was discussed in my previous post Educational Product.

There is so much that needs to be happening in the classroom environment before any learning can occur. These books will certainly point educators in the right direction.

What do you remember about classroom atmospheres when you were in school? If you’ve been in a classroom recently, how do the classroom atmospheres compare now to when you were in school?


370 Education


After spending over a year exploring the 360’s (Social Problems & Social Services), I am finally ready to move on to the 370’s, Education. Education is a constantly changing field with many subtopics. Being a former teacher myself I am excited to see what the Fulton County Public Library has to offer in this category.

All of us would probably agree that a good quality education is important. Most of us would agree that our educational system is not perfect and can always be improved. Some of the first books I encountered in this section do indeed have an emphasis on improving what happens in the classroom. In theory parents, teachers, and students should all be working together to get the most out of our educational system. With limited resources and funding, America’s teachers have to be creative and that is exactly what I found to be true in I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything for Our Kids by Kyle Schwartz.

I Wish My Teacher Knew

Ms. Schwartz is an elementary school teacher who emphasizes building relationships with students and their families. She believes this helps bridge the gap between school and home as well as establish trust between teachers, students, classmates, and parents. As a first year teacher Ms. Schwartz explained to her class that she wanted to get to know them better. She had the simple idea to use a sentence starter, “I wish my teacher knew…” and have her students finish it. The wide range of answers that students came up with totally astounded Kyle Schwatz and she has used this idea in her classroom ever since. She also shared the idea on social media and it went viral as other teachers across the country picked up on it. This simple idea has helped teachers across the country be able to connect better with their students, adjust lessons to fit individual needs, combat hunger and poverty as well as many other tough topics. If you are a teacher or if you teach informally in any capacity, I suggest that you read this book.

When I was teaching, I did something similar in my classrooms. All of my students kept a journal. They could write what ever they wanted to in their journals. This was an ungraded communication between me and my students. When my students entered my room the first thing they did was get their journals out of the journal basket and write in them. Often the students wrote notes to me which I answered every day.  My students thought it was cool to be passing notes with the teacher. Like Ms. Schwartz’s  students, my students brought up all sorts of topics. The only journal rules were that there were to be no bad words (most of my students were middle schoolers) and that they had to write at least one sentence everyday. The majority of my students wrote much more than one sentence. This gave purpose to their writing and they didn’t feel intimidated because they were not graded (although I did correct their spelling). This also gave me the opportunity to interact privately each day with every student I had. Often problems were solved this way. Sometimes students made suggestions and other times they just wanted to tell me that their cat had kittens. The students felt “heard.” At other times I could simply let an individual student know what I appreciated about him or her.

Equally as important as the idea of students communicating with teachers is the need for teachers to communicate with parents. The next book is similar to the previous one except that in this book the emphasis is on teachers wishing parents knew various things.

What America's Teachers Wish Parents Knew

Though this is an older book, I still think it is beneficial for parents to read it. Much of the information in this book is still very relevant. Successful students usually have cooperating adults in their lives.  I recommend this book for parents of school aged children.

I wish I could say that there is a third book about what parents wish teachers knew, but I could find no such book. (For all of you authors out there, here is another topic wide open for you). I searched the Fulton County Public Library for such a book and could not find one. Then I broadened my search to Evergreen (our statewide library consortium) and could not locate this type of book there either. I’m sure that we have books encouraging parents to communicate with teachers but not a simplified one like the previous two books.

Did you have teachers who communicated with you in writing? If you were a teacher how did you communicate individually with your students? Thinking about your favorite teachers, was their communication style something that sticks out in your mind?