Keep Calm and FAFSA On, 2017

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 next season of Stranger Things to drop on Netflix;

…we now have a bunch of emails and social media posts reminding us that October 1 is the go-live date for the 2018-19 FAFSA (which means that you can now file your FAFSA for the 2018-2019 college academic year starting on October 1 using your family’s tax returns from 2016).

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 is now live, that doesn’t mean you must drop everything and file for financial aid now—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 today. 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 animations with a soothing voice-over and a calming piano to be a nice, inviting way to explore unfamiliar topics, we recommend this video, designed by the U.S. Department of Education.

When you’re ready to file your own FAFSA, 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.


With 99% placement within six months of graduating, Lawrentians have been reporting good news for the past several years.

The better news is that Lawrentians do well in their careers long after that, by many measures:

But they didn’t just get there by themselves. Support, encouragement, and guidance by their professors is a major trajectory-changer.

(And there’s research to support it.)

In surveys of thousands of college graduates, Gallup finds that those who report “being emotionally supported during college are two times more likely to be engaged in their work and thriving in their well-being later in life.” This support comes from having a professor or a mentor who:

  1. makes students excited about learning;
  2. cares about me as a person;
  3. who encourages my goals and dreams.

With one of the lowest student-to-faculty ratios in the country (8.5 to 1), average class sizes of 15, and hundreds of one-on-one courses available to you, Lawrence provides an environment where you will engage with your professors at a level few colleges in the world can offer.

From your first day of Freshman Studies through the completion of your Senior Experience—and long after you graduate—your Lawrence professors are deeply invested in your success, whatever form that might take for you as an individual.

Because of highly engaged professors, Lawrentians are “being well and doing well” in their lives. (It’s one of the reasons Lawrentians invite their professors to attend their alumni reunions every year as special guests.)

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.

The waiting… ugh, the WAITING!

You’ve probably caught on by now that there is a LOT of waiting in the college admission process:

  1. Colleges (and parents) waiting for students to submit applications.
  2. Students (and parents) waiting for schools to respond with offers of admission.
  3. And now, colleges (and parents) waiting for students to make a final college selection.

As impatiently as you may have been waiting for “the big envelope” from us, we now find ourselves on pins and needles (where does that oh-so-appropriate metaphor come from?) wondering which admitted students will respond with the great news that they will be enrolling at our schools.

If you’ve read the previous “Mom blogs” you know that I have three kids—two who have already gone through this process and a third going through it right now as a senior in high school. As the older two approached their final college selection decisions in the spring of their senior years, I experienced some combination of the following, sometimes all at once:

Part of me was anxious to see what their final decision would be… their seeming lack of urgency with this decision helped stoke this particular fire. (See “impatience” below.)

I found many moments (often while folding their laundry or tripping over sports equipment left in the middle of the hallway) when I wondered how much my heart would ache when they finally did leave. Didn’t I just read them bedtime stories last night?

I also discovered that during spring of their senior years these wonderful budding adults became, I’ll admit, a bit insufferable. I knew—at least intellectually—their moodiness and/or ambivalence might have been a response to their own concern about their final college decisions and all the emotion wrapped up with high school ending. But, really, I think we all had short fuses in those last weeks leading up to decision day.

I worried – too much – about whether they would make the “wisest” decision possible. (Translation: would they make the decision I thought would be wisest for them?)

I also learned that I have to follow the same advice that I’ve been giving to parents of college-bound kids for years: it’s not all about you. (It sounds really nice when I give that advice, but it stinks when I have to follow it myself.) Although I knew each of my kids would ultimately make a selection, I quickly discovered that their decision-making methods were very different from each other—and certainly quite different from mine.

My oldest daughter? A methodical list-maker, she devised a 5-point, multiple-category rating system to score each of her schools. It made perfect sense to her, but she didn’t share the results with anyone in our family for several weeks. It needed to settle in her mind before she shared it with anybody else. I was standing in the grocery store checkout line when she called me to “reveal” her decision – I will never forget it, and I presume neither will the checkout clerk, who might have been a bit surprised when I burst into tears for no apparent reason.

My son? Where his older sister trusted “data,” he embraced his inner Obi-Wan Kenobi and trusted “his feelings.” We made return visits to his top three colleges. (This was, if I’m being honest, at my insistence). It was a less scientific process, and the factors he considered were far more superfluous than I thought appropriate:

  • One return visit involved a 5-hour drive (one way) and resulted in a 2-block walk, on our way to the admissions office, at which point he turned to me and said, “This isn’t the one, Mom.” (A FIVE-HOUR DRIVE… PLUS TWO BLOCKS?!) This may come as a shock, but I’m a bit stubborn, which is why I demanded that he go through all the activities the admissions office had so carefully planned for him. (In hindsight, we should have trusted his feelings and gotten back in the car. His feelings were right.)
  • Another visit revealed that the campus was really WAY too close to the stadiums of professional sports teams that were arch rivals of the Chicago sports teams he had grown up rooting for. “Mom, I don’t think I could spend 4 years surrounded by the crazies that cheer for these teams.” My head almost flew right off my body when I heard this one. But his feelings were right.
  • At last, it was the third visit (why couldn’t it have been the first one?) that confirmed itself as “the one.” (I’m resisting the urge to make a Goldilocks “just right” connection here.)

Which bring us to what might be your family’s current experience (and mine, yet again). Whether your child is a list-maker, a dart-thrower, a gut-truster, or some other kind of decision-maker, remember that this process is ultimately about your child.

(OK, it’s about you, too… but I trust you know what I mean.)

The May 1 National Candidates Reply Date is approaching where students nationwide will deliver their “yays” and “nays.”

We’re waiting…

(Ugh, the WAITING!)

May the decision lead your children to colleges that fit them well, wherever that may be.

“Finding Nemo” and Wisconsin Winters (yes, there is a connection)

Editor’s note: We enlisted the help of our summer tour guides 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, Daniel, Jenny, Patsy, Jake, Katie, and Anh.)

Before you read this, you should know that we are not parents. We’ve babysat, we’ve tutored, and we’ve played with some kids in our time—but that is obviously not the same thing as being a parent.

Regardless, here we are, writing a blog for all of you—parents of our newest Lawrentians!

While we were reading your responses to the parent survey we sent out earlier this summer, we tried to figure out how we could best relate to you. Oddly enough, the first thing to pop into our heads was a scene from the 2003* Pixar film, Finding Nemo, between Nemo’s father, Marlin, and Dory, the memory-challenged blue tang:

Marlin: I promised I’d never let anything happen to him [Nemo].
Dory: Hmm. That’s a funny thing to promise.
Marlin: What?
Dory: Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.

*Most of our incoming Lawrentians would have been between six to eight years old when that first came out.

The world is full of harrowing masses of jelly fish, shadowy drop-offs, and terrifying barracudas. And there are lots of things parents can worry about when their students head off to college: everything from pressure for academic success to student debt to laundry. Many of you mentioned [these worries] in your comments. However, many of you also told us about how strong your students are. They have overcome challenges and worked hard. And we know, as you do, that they are capable of so many great things, here at Lawrence and beyond.

On behalf of your students, we’d like to thank you for all you’ve done to prepare them for their college years—and on behalf of Lawrence, we’d like to assure you that we’re continually working to make our little corner of the ocean a safe place where students can grow and be challenged, both academically and personally. We can’t promise nothing will happen. Things will happen—good things, bad things, confusing things, comforting things. And when they do, you can join the Lawrence community in congratulating, sympathizing with, understanding, and growing right alongside your student.

Let the adventure begin!

Daniel Bernstein, ’17
Jenny Hanrahan, ’18
Patsy Kealey, ’16
Jake Lueck, ’17
Katie Nelson, ’17
Anh Ta, ’18

Thanks for reading! We enjoyed reading every single one of your responses, and here you can check out some of our favorites:

What did you enjoy about the college search process?

  • She became more of who she is rather than trying to fit a mold of who she should be.
  • It was a time of forced togetherness. My son actually wanted my thoughts and advice and we engaged on a deeper level as a result.
  • I enjoyed seeing the process unfold for my son…it is such a big decision and so personal, and I feel like I got to know my son better as a result.
  • The process in general is not enjoyable… but a necessity. The most enjoyable part is when you are done.
  • A surprise at the mailbox each day. Seeing the many possibilities out there.
  • The on-campus visits. That was the time when you could [see] your child growing in front of your eyes. Before that, college was simply hypothetical, but meeting her peers who had already made the transition was magic.
  • Watching you[r] child find [their] place and people.

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

  • I would like [my daughter] to be able to try new things, experience courses that will expand her knowledge. I want her to love learning again!
  • That he will continue to flourish on the LU campus by making lifetime friends, excelling academically/intellectually with guidance from engaged faculty and staff, and continue to learn about himself to find his passion(s) in this life.
  • That she will find her intellectual passion and build a solid knowledge base to achieve all that she aspires to.
  • My biggest hope is that her intellectual curiosity will be fostered, encouraged, and challenged by her community of Lawrence professors and classmates.
  • I hope Lawrence pushes him to “find” and challenge himself to be all he can be.

What are you nervous about?

  • Not nervous at all—I know this girl is ready to fly!
  • That he will be terribly disorganized, forgetful and (for a couple of months) cold.
  • The basics—eating, sleeping, getting to class, etc.
  • That he will miss us (parents) and that he won’t miss us…
  • …that she will end up living in Wisconsin for the rest of her life. That she will be far away from me because of the connections she builds at college.

What is your favorite thing about Lawrence?

  • There seems to be a “you be you, I’ll be me, and we are all cool with that” [culture].
  • Soon it will be the fact that my daughter is there.
  • It specializes in the individual… Lawrence seems to be saying “you’re one of us now, we watch out for each other. [We’re] there to help, sometimes even to push you to make sure you thrive.”
  • Its eclectic and bright student body and talented faculty that have chosen to teach undergrads are definitely a huge plus.
  • Mental diversity (many different approaches to learning/teaching and ways of thinking).
  • It feels like it is a family. The philosophy doesn’t seem to be that the incoming freshmen are adults, but “beginning adults” who need some guidance.
  • The people—students, professors, conservatory staff, admissions personnel and the president. We have been impressed with the intelligence, passion and warmth displayed by all.
  • The sense of community—and the sense of humor! Lawrence says it like it is—and in a fun way!!!
  • That she feels at home there.