Keep Calm and FAFSA On

Editor’s note: I’ll acknowledge right here that FAFSA isn’t a verb, but neither are most of the other nouns that people will shoehorn into the “Keep Calm and [Something] On” meme to suit their purposes, much as I am here. (Thank you in advance for extending me some creative grammatical license.)

As if high school seniors don’t already have enough on their plates this fall, with…

  • the start of the school year and all the academic, co-curricular, and extra-curricular activities that come with it (I’m looking at you, Homecoming);
  • the college admission process kicking into higher gear;
  • preparing for the revival of Gilmore Girls, the arrival of Luke Cage, or any of the other gifts Netflix will give us.

…we now have this:


Yes for the first time ever, you can file your FAFSA for the 2017-2018 college academic year starting on October 1 using your family’s tax returns from 2015.

Here’s the part where I refer again to the title of this blog, but this time with an addendum:

Keep calm and FAFSA on… when you are ready.

Here’s the thing… while the FAFSA goes live on October 1, that doesn’t mean you must drop everything and file for financial aid on October 1— though you might hear some chatter from well-meaning and/or freaked out classmates, parents, neighbors, or random strangers who are jumping on their financial aid applications immediately.

This is not the same as concert tickets going on sale tomorrow. You won’t find yourself out of a seat if you file your FAFSA on October 15. Or November 15. Or January 15.

More to the point, two things generally have to happen in sequence before you will even receive a financial aid offer from a college:

  1. You have to apply to that college.
  2. You have to be admitted to that college.

And considering that colleges have many different application and financial aid deadlines, we encourage you to check the websites of each of the colleges you’re considering (like Lawrence, for example) to learn when all of their deadlines fall.

Then you can start prioritizing the steps you’ll need to take to move through your own college admission process. To help with that, here are a few College Applicant Power Tips (capitalizing them makes them seem more important, somehow)…

Tip #1: Build your own college admission calendar and plug in all the important deadlines for each of your colleges.

Tip #2: On that calendar, plug in your own dates where you will get things done (e.g., draft application essay, review application essay, file FAFSA, jump for joy with admission from Lawrence, etc.)

Tip #3: Do those things you scheduled using Tip #2.

As for the FAFSA, if you haven’t yet explored the FAFSA and you happen to find cartoons with semi-funky music to be a nice, inviting way to explore unfamiliar topics, this video, compiled by our friends at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, might be a helpful start.

When you’re done watching that, you can move on to this video designed by the U.S. Department of Education (complete with soothing voice-over and calming background piano music). It provides more detail about how the FAFSA works.

When you’re ready to level up, visit the Department of Education’s FAFSA website where you can dive into way more detail about the FAFSA and, finally, file it.

You can do this.

If you run into questions, feel free to get in touch with us at Lawrence. We’re happy to help.


Balance, love, sturdy winter boots, and other things you hope your new Lawrentian finds

Editor’s note: We enlisted the help of our student workers here in the Admissions office to write a blog post summarizing, curating and—as Lawrentians often do—putting their own whimsical take on the results of a survey we sent to parents and guardians of incoming Lawrentians, asking them questions about the college search process, their hopes for (and nerves on behalf of) their students, and a handful of other curiosities. Without further introduction, we’ll hand you off to our students and your responses.  (Thanks, Katie, John, Sophie, Joe, Suzanne, Hitkarsh, and Lauren.)

Now that move-in day is behind us and classes are underway, we wanted to get back in touch with all of our parents to let you know what we learned from the parents’ survey the admissions staff conducted earlier this summer.

We read every single response to the parent surveys, and we were struck with the sheer amount of optimism we saw. Yes, there were some nerves from parents about whether their kids could successfully navigate an unfamiliar place and wake up for class on time. But almost every single response we read was tinged with an extraordinary sense of pride and delight. Many of you touted not just your students’ accolades (first chair in the orchestra, 4.0 GPA, etc), but their strength as individuals. Lawrentians—your children included—are unique, compassionate, intellectual, and multi-talented. You might even describe them (and us) as ‘buoyant.’

College is going to be an experience like none before. Our ideas are challenged, life philosophies shifted, and self-perceptions altered. What defines us as both college students and Lawrentians is our ability to adjust, grow stronger, and continue on.

But from what we can tell about your enthusiastic responses, you already knew that.

So, here’s to an exciting and inspiring next four years. (Or five, for our parents five-year, double-degree students.)

Be well and do well,

Hitkarsh Chanana ‘18
Suzanne Hones ‘17
Joe Johnson ‘17
Lauren McLester-Davis ‘18
Katie Nelson ‘17
Sophie Penniman ‘19
John Perkins ‘18


We had a great time reading your responses to the survey, and we’ve compiled some of our favorites below. (We should note that some responses have been lightly edited for length/clarity/anonymity.)

What did you enjoy about the college search process?

  • I loved learning more about our daughter. I found out that she’s a listmaker, she’s an airline schedule-checker, a communicator, and that she really does a good job of managing her time.
  • I enjoyed watching my son get excited about his future, and watching as he imagined himself on campus. I will say that the football coaches at LU were top notch. They made my son feel so special, and I think they sealed the deal for him.
  • Watching him figure it out. We supported him in deciding what was important for him: small size/relationship with professors, strong sciences, rural/small town. It all came from his own sense of himself. That made me happy.
  • To be honest, the whole process lends itself to stress. Which college to pick, will they be accepted, monetary questions, etc. I think that getting accepted was the most enjoyable part. 🙂

What is your student’s biggest achievement so far?

  • [Our student] was chosen to represent [our] tribe at the 2014 White House Tribal Nations Conference. 40 young people were chosen from over 500 different tribes to attend in Washington D.C.
  • She has been a terrific friend to others, honest and genuine and caring, and I am very proud of her for that achievement.
  • Besides getting into Lawrence and the Conservatory? I’d say it’s the fact that she’s pursuing her dream of being a professional musician.
  • The list is endless, but one big general achievement comes to mind: that she set her mind on college in the US when she was 11.
  • She has developed into a young adult who is empathetic, caring, and optimistic about her role in the world. Yes, she excelled in school, music, and speech–but her development as a human has been really cool to witness.

We all hope for the best… about what are you most hopeful for your student at Lawrence?

  • That he blossoms. That he tries new things. That he finds things to get passionate about. That he finds a supportive community to help him do these things.
  • That they will grow more as an individual and continue to strengthen their voice for advocacy. I would like them to find a place with like minds that support them, but also that push them to think beyond their current limits.
  • I hope that LU offers her an opportunity to do some dabbling and to develop into the full Renaissance woman I know she is….I hope it will help her see beyond herself.
  • I hope he finds a professor that will inspire and challenge him to maximize what he is capable of.
  • I hope she continues on her path of being a leader by example and learns from the people around her.
  • I hope Lawrence will draw out the best my child has to offer the world and that he will understand the rights and responsibilities that come with a degree from Lawrence.

What are you nervous about?

  • That he will love Wisconsin and never live close to us again!
  • I hope her physical and mental health stay strong, and that she finds balance.
  • I’m actually not nervous. I’m excited. Really. Truly. I think our daughter’s going to do cool and exciting things, stuff she’s never even thought of before! I cannot WAIT to see what she’ll do! Oh wait — I’m aleetle nervous about her Dad and I — we’re about to be empty nesters!
  • Letting go of my first born. I know LU is a rigorous program, and I want him to find balance and know that we love and support him every step of the way.

What is your favorite thing about Lawrence?

  • That you look at education in a holistic manner; not just regurgitating information and data, but teaching students how to think for themselves in an ever-evolving society.
  • We love LU.  The close-knit family atmosphere of the campus, the low student to teacher ratio, that individual attention, and the fact that everyone is extremely helpful.
  • The staff has been phenomenal.  From the staff in the admissions office to the LU football staff, I cannot say enough for how they have gone above and beyond.  I feel like my child is already part of the Lawrence University Family.
  • My favorite thing about Lawrence is my conservatory student can still get an outstanding liberal arts education. People often ask me what kind of living can he make if he majors in euphonium performance? The answer is simple – what kind of life will he have if he does not?
  • The community just feels right – smart, caring, interesting, engaged – all without being pretentious.
  • We all think Lawrence will give him the best opportunity to be the very best version of himself.

A new (and expanded) supporting cast for Lawrentians

It’s September again.

(As if you didn’t know that already.)

To get the year kicked off properly, we could playfully link to a certain Earth, Wind and Fire song like we did last year at this time (you’re welcome) before cutting to the chase of yet another ritual that seems to be the job of admissions folks: trumpeting the virtues of our class of newest students while slyly promoting the virtues of our own institution.

We’ll let our new student profile do that job for us. Suffice it to say, like generations of Lawrentians before them, they’re delightful, talented, driven, and eager to meet the challenges you would expect from one of the Colleges That Change Lives.

(See what we did there?)

Speaking of meeting challenges, our newest Lawrentians will have even more supporters than they usually do with the addition of four new colleagues, three of them in brand-new positions at Lawrence:

Kimberly Barrett, our new Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion and Associate Dean of the Faculty (yes, she has one of the longest titles on campus), will be working “to promote learning, student development, social justice, and diversity” among students, faculty, and staff at Lawrence University as well as in the greater Appleton area.

Linda Morgan-Clement, our new Julie Esch Hurvis Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life, officially joins the Lawrence community this week to provide spiritual leadership, foster religious sensitivity, and connect the Lawrence community through campus ceremonies, religious traditions, interfaith services and celebrations.

Monita Mohammadian Gray, our new Dean for Academic Success, rejoins Lawrence to lead our brand-new Center for Academic Success, dedicated to helping Lawrentians thrive in their academic lives and reach their full potential in their lives at and after Lawrence. If her name looks familiar to you, it’s because she was an admission officer for Lawrence from 1996 through 2005. (We’re thrilled to have her back!)

Christyn Abaray, our Director of Athletics, has been at Lawrence since the spring term last year, so this is the start of her first full academic year in the role. A former D-III All-American student athlete herself, Christyn is working to ensure that our student athletes experience success in academics and competition.





All the Tools for Success Under One Roof

Kate Frost is one of Lawrence’s Associate Deans of Academic Services. She works with students in a variety of capacities – from transitioning to college, to facing challenges, to life After Lawrence – to ensure their college experience is a meaningful and productive one. She wrote this post for us in 2014, but it has such good, timeless stuff in it that we want to share it with you again.

(You can learn more about the Center for Academic Success and other services it provides here.)

“The first few weeks of my freshman year were awful,” a student recently told me.  “I came into college feeling relatively confident about my ability to be successful because I’d done really well in high school.  I was at the top of my class.  But then I failed my first calculus quiz.  And I just started to unravel.”

In the Center for Academic Success, stories like this are not uncommon.  Facing challenge can be especially difficult for incoming students, many of whom have experienced high levels of success in the past.  Struggle can feel like failure.  And failure can make us feel like we are unraveling.

Like my colleagues, I understand that students are much more complex than a quiz score or even a GPA.  Students need different kinds of support in order to reach their academic goals.  They need choices.  And it helps if those choices are easy to find and easy to access.

We recently reorganized our entire center with this in mind.  The Center for Academic Success is now the home to all of the following, all in one place!

Tutoring.  Peer tutoring has been a strong part of what we do for many, many years.  About 80% of our students will have utilized the services of a tutor during their time at Lawrence, which says a great deal about the quality of the peer tutors we employ (and we employ over 200 of them!)  The culture here enforces the idea that tutoring is not just for students who are struggling.  Students at Lawrence understand that there is wisdom in strengthening skills at any level.

Academic Accommodations/Accessibility Services.  We recently added a new coordinator position that focuses almost exclusively on providing accommodations/accessibility services.  We understand that having the appropriate support in place, in and out of the classroom, can make all the difference for students who have physical or sensory limitations, attention or cognitive processing deficits, learning disabilities, or physical or mental health conditions.  .

Academic Skills Building.  We offer workshops and individual sessions on academic skills like time management, organization, critical reading, note-taking, effective study and exam preparation.  We also provide online tools which are available to students at any time.

Academic Counseling.  Sometimes students are feeling challenged but need help unpacking the problem.  One-on-one academic counseling allows us to understand a student’s experience more deeply in order to help them find the resources that would be most useful.  We provide cognitive and affective strategies that allow students to develop coping strategies they can continue to use in the future.  We also suggest other resources on campus that might be helpful to students.

Success Course.  We offer a for-credit, discussion-based course called Investigating Academic Success:  Cognitive and Affective theories in practice in which we provide more in depth analyses of current, evidence-based success theory.  Students then have opportunities to apply those theories to their own lives.  Emphasis is on self-awareness, effective problem solving, increasing motivation, development of appropriate coping strategies, and lifelong learning.  Students tell us the course increases their resiliency by giving them better strategies to use when they face challenges.

English as a Second Language.  ESL courses are offered each term to support students’ study at Lawrence.  A limited number of directed study and tutorial courses are also available for students interesting in pursuing a specific goal in a one-on-one or small group class.  The Center also provides ESL tutoring for students seeking assistance with their English language skills.

We even also have a lounge, a lending library, and a computer lab available for students!

I asked that student who felt she started to unravel freshman year what advice she would give a new first year student now that she has been here a while.

“Don’t wait to get the help.  I’m not kidding!  I had no idea so much help was available here.  When you feel the first thread start to come loose, head over!”

Kate Frost
Associate Dean of Academic Services

What Batman can teach us about college success

Kate Frost is one of Lawrence’s Associate Deans of Academic Success. She works with students in a variety of capacities – from transitioning to college, to facing challenges, to life After Lawrence – to ensure their college experience is a meaningful and productive one. She wrote this post for us in 2014, but it has such good, timeless stuff in it that we want to share it with you again.

(You can learn more about the Center for Academic Success and other services it provides here.)

As I write this, I am preparing to send my second (and last) child off to college. Like so many parents, I am grappling with how quickly we got to this point. I recently came across a picture of her taken on the first day of kindergarten.  She was wearing a bright pink backpack that was nearly as big as she was. Her sweet little face reflected a complex combination of excitement and nervousness.  I remember thinking at the time that I was feeling much the same way! Was she ready? Was I ready?

No doubt, we’ve both learned a lot since then.  But it occurs to me as we get closer to freshman year that we’ve managed to circle around to that same place.  We shopped yesterday for a new backpack (more size-appropriate and not pink).  When she tried it on in the store and looked in the mirror our eyes met, and I know we were both thinking the same thing.  Are we ready for this?

As the parents of college students, we worry about whether or not our kids have what they need. Have we thought of everything they could possibly need for their dorm room? Do they have all their books and school supplies? Do they know where to get their meals or wash their clothes? Do they have enough money? But we also worry about less tangible things:  Are they ready to handle the challenges that come with being a college student? What happens when they need something and we’re not there?

I can’t help but feel that – at least in this one area – I have a slight advantage. I work with college students every day of my professional life. I have watched this journey unfold for thousands of freshmen over the years (including one of my own). And I have learned to trust in their capacity for change and growth, even when they doubt it themselves. I believe my kid can do this. And I believe your kid can, too.

Of course, we all hope our child’s journey will go smoothly. But in college, as in life, they will inevitably face challenges and disappointments. Those of us who work closely with transitioning students know well that how students view the challenges they face significantly impacts their success – in and out of the classroom. And there are simple, easy ways parents can positively impact their children’s ability to handle difficult times.

The research backs me up on this. As parents, we tend to think of our role in our child’s college experience in practical terms; it’s hard not to think of it that way when you’re on your fourth trip to Bed, Bath & Beyond!  But there are also some less concrete things we can do to set our students up for success during their college years.

Help your student understand that struggle and challenge are normal parts of a college experience (and life).

As seasoned adults, we understand struggle and growth go hand in hand. It’s a natural part of life. But, in my line of work, it is not uncommon to meet students who feel strongly that struggle means they simply do not have the ability to succeed. They feel it is a sign of failure, which they perceive as something very negative. And, worse, they feel they must hide the fact they are struggling so no one else discovers what they believe is a weakness. Understanding that challenge and failure are things we all face in times of growth will help students develop the resiliency they need to be successful. If your student knows that their experience is normal, they are more likely to press on.

You may remember this Michael Jordan commercial from a few years back.  He explains in clear terms that he has encountered more than his fair share of failures, but he believes those challenges are what made him so successful.  It is so hard for students to understand sometimes, but failure and success inextricably intertwined.

Encourage “interdependence.”

We spend much of parenthood preparing our students to be independent.  We work hard to make sure they can take care of themselves once they head off on their own. But I often find that students internalize our messages about independence as “if I ask for help when I need it, it means I’m weak.” In fact, they will actively resist seeking out the very resources that could help them overcome the challenges they face. I tell students that what we mean when we stress independence is not that we feel they need to handle everything on their own. We simply mean “we don’t want you to be dependent.” These are two very different ideas!

We want our kids to learn how to solve their own problems so they will be able to take care of themselves. But utilizing resources is one of the ways we build the skills we need to succeed. We learn from others – professors, academic advisors, housing professionals, tutors, peer leaders, counselors, and student success coordinators, for example. Talking with these folks provides a solid pathway to success and in no way signals weakness.

Did you see Batman Begins?  Remember the scene where Bruce Wayne consults with Fox about getting his Batman suit? Fox provides the information and the resources Bruce needs to become the superhero we all know and love. The funny thing is that no one thinks Bruce Wayne is a failure for using the resources available to him. In fact, we all think he’s a brilliant superhero for thinking of Fox and all the technology available in his department. Why is it, then, that our students hold themselves to a higher standard?  Why do they think that asking for help is a sign of weakness?

When we emphasize independence, we run the risk of being misunderstood, which means students don’t get the support they need and deserve. If you can help your child to understand that everyone uses resources to be successful, they will begin to develop the skills they need to face and overcome the obstacles they encounter during their years at Lawrence. Encourage them to be interdependent.

I know better than to tell you not to worry about your student.  I remember asking my mom shortly after my first child was born, “When do you stop worrying about them so much?” She chuckled knowingly and simply said “You don’t.” Will I worry about my own freshman in a few weeks? Absolutely. But it helps to know that she is capable of the kind of change and growth necessary to make it a successful year. Our students are headed into one of the most impactful experiences of their lives. Together, we can help them overcome the obstacles they will face and ultimately find success.

– Kate Frost, Student Success Coordinator