September 28th, 2015

College Search Have You Stressed?

KEEPCALMWhen I think back to my senior year of high school and the college entrance process, I can still feel the pangs of anxiety that dominated those many months. The college search and application process consists of several steps, each of which are equally daunting, and it required a lot of time, research, and my high school counselor’s number on speed dial for me to navigate successfully to the end.

For parents, the process can be equally foreboding. You want to help your child find the right school, boost their scores, and secure a first-rate financial aid package, but as the years change, so do the forms, test versions, and applications.

In order to help parents steer through these murky waters, we have formed partnerships with programs that will assist you in each step of the college entrance process for free just by using your Cecil County library card. By following the Test Prep and Scholarships link under the Digital Library tab above, you can find tools to combat the three main stressors: finding the right school, getting in, and paying for it.


Finding the Right College

On the Test Prep and Scholarships section of our website, there is a link for the College and Scholarship Search Database. Choose the College Prep tab and then scholarship search to use this incredible resource where your child can input their preferences and generate a list of potential schools. There are specific searches for students looking at nursing schools and distance learning programs, and a more general search for undergraduate institutions. You can be as general or specific as you like when choosing your preferences, as the website allows you to pick everything from school size, location, and tuition to options such as intramural sports, majors, and study abroad opportunities. Once your list is generated, you can easily compare schools at a glance and follow the links for an in-depth look at each institution.


Getting In

Okay, so now your child knows what schools they would like to apply to, but they need to take their dreaded entrance exams. The Test Prep and Scholarships page has a wealth of test prep resources as well.

You may have heard about or considered signing your child up for SAT/ACT classes offered through companies such as Kaplan and Sylvan Learning Centers. While these courses seem like a great way to help boost your child’s scores, you have probably realized that they can be quite costly, ranging from $750 to over $3,000, and they are not offered in Cecil County. Fortunately, we offer programs that allow your child to enroll in SAT/ACT courses with their library card for free.

From the College and Scholarship Search Database link, there is a free SAT/ACT course that allows you to choose between short, medium, and full-length versions and that starts with a diagnostic quiz to asses your child’s strengths and weaknesses. This resource is perfect for the student taking their test in a few months or even a few days, and it also offers three full-length practice tests and automatic essay scoring.

If you are looking for something even more personal, the Gale Online Courses link will take you to a program where you can access two free, online, instructor-led courses for the SAT/ACT that run for a duration of six weeks and are comprised of weekly lessons, practice exercises, and quizzes. These courses allow you to interact with a real instructor and have all  your questions answered without emptying your wallet.

If your child is more of a paper and pencil person or wants to practice the test-taking strategies they will use on exam day, they can also download printable copies of SAT practice tests from the Khan Academy link. If your child is an underclassman, never fear; this link also includes a practice version of the new SAT that will launch in March of 2016. You have to create a Khan Academy account to access this page, but don’t worry: it’s free!


Paying for College

All right, so now your child has found their dream schools, secured stellar SAT scores, and is excitedly anticipating those acceptance letters, but how in the world are you going to pay for it?

The College and Scholarship Search Database has several tools to help you make smart financial decisions.  In the Scholarship Search section, your child can input their interests, extracurricular activities, parents’ occupations, and more to generate a list of available scholarships. This list shows the student the award amount, due date, and requirements, such as essays or letters of recommendation, all at a glance.

This same database also offers great resources for parents. There is a College Savings Calculator that helps you to assess your savings plan based on tuition, fees, and expected growth and an Award Analyzer that allows you to compare financial aid award letters from various institutions. This tool will take into consideration components such as grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study to help you figure out where you are really getting the best deal.


We have compiled these resources in one convenient spot to help guide you through the entire college entrance process. Our goal is to help Cecil County’s teens achieve their goals and to save you time, money, and your sanity throughout this stressful period. We are always available in the branches and over the phone to help with college-related questions, and we look forward to hearing your success stories this spring. So, parents, stay calm, use these tools, and remember, it will all pay off in the end.

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September 16th, 2014

Listen Up!

listeningOne of the most often asked questions by parents at the library is how to help their child be a stronger reader. Like books, struggling readers come in all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and cultures. A child’s ability to read is a result of various factors, and may sometimes be influenced by a language barrier, medical condition, or learning disability.

Trained educators know that early intervention can make a world of difference for a child. Many techniques and strategies, some not involving letters or words at all, can dramatically increase a child’s ability to read. One technique is utilizing audio books.

Audio books are CD’s or other forms of digitized media, on which stories are recorded as a person (or sometimes a cast of readers) reads them. The reader’s voices of these books bring characters to life, and the readers adjust the tone, speed, and volume of their voices to dramatize the story to the fullest potential. Many adults love audio books. We listen to them on long commutes back and forth to work. We listen to them while we clean our houses.

Somewhere out there, though, there is a feeling that children must physically read books. That listening to them is somehow cheating; not beneficial. In most cases, that is just not true.
Listening to audio books is actually one technique that can make a dramatic difference in a child’s ability to read. Listening to an audio book, while reading the book simultaneously, is even better! Studies show that listening to a story being read, while reading along, improves comprehension and fluency.

This is where your local library steps in.

Did you know that the Cecil County Public Library has entire collections of audio books for children?  We have audio books for beginning readers, like the popular Bob Books series available as a CD Book, where the CD is packaged directly with the book. Cecil County Public Library offers several CD Book titles in our EZ Reader section, like titles from Cynthia Rylant’s series “Henry and Mudge,” or “Fox in Socks,” by Dr. Seuss.

Classic favorites by award-winning authors, as well as new titles, are available in our picture book area.  Maybe a child in your life would like reading along, while listening to, a book by Kevin Henkes or Patricia Polacco! More challenging CD Books are available in our chapter book areas. We encourage you to check out the book with the CD Book, and listen as you read. We carry a slew of popular titles and series in CD Book format, from Junie B. Jones and  Magic Tree House, to 39 Clues, Little House on the Prairie, and Harry Potter (just to name a few). Why not listen to a children’s book on your way to school or sports practice?

For technology-hungry families, have you considered downloading audiobooks? CCPL has thousands of titles, click here.
Whether you are looking for strategies to help a struggling reader, or just a new way to enjoy a great book, try out an audio book and let us know about your experience the next time you stop by!

What’s your favorite audiobook?

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