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Workshop to help navigate through the college application process

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By Kirsten Laskey

Getting into college is tough. “It’s a question of demographics,” said Dr. Whitney Laughlin of Rubin Education Services. More young people, 70-75 percent, are going to college and more are looking at a small number of top schools in the U.S., which is creating a bottleneck, she said.To add to the situation, the government is providing less financial aid. As a result, Laughlin is offering some assistance to college-bound students and their families by hosting a workshop from 7-8:30 p.m. Jan. 22 at Fuller Lodge. During her workshop, she will introduce participants to her approach for helping college-bound students and their families.“My goal is to do two things,” she said. “(For them) to go to schools that are good matches for them and schools they can afford.“It’s getting into the college of your choice and if finances are a factor, getting into a school you can afford,” Laughlin said.Her approach to accomplish these two objectives is very personalized to each client. However, the first thing she has all clients to do is fill out an interest and value survey and a questionnaire. Laughlin also meets with students and reviews the data from the survey and questionnaire.She also meets with parents but prefers to interview college-bound students first and alone because they tend to censor themselves when their parents are near.Additionally, Laughlin looks at students’ areas of interests and strengths and attempts to locate schools that reflect those interests. Test scores are also considered.With all this information, Laughlin then creates a summary letter to help students find the best college or university for them.To make sure the university or college is affordable, Laughlin said she calculates the family’s expected contribution, which she said, is usually higher than what the family is willing to pay.Unfortunately, she said financial aid is based on what the family is able to pay – not willing to pay.To help with costs, Laughlin said she looks at schools based on students’ needs and on merit aid.“My approach is very holistic,” she said. “I really try to work with the whole picture and do what’s best for the kids and families.”Bob Walsh, whose daughter, Brianna used Laughlin’s services, said they learned a lot from the experience.For instance, they learned the importance of starting the college process early and not to wait until the last year of high school. It allows the family to visit schools, and have enough time to complete the college application process.They also learned being a senior in high school does not mean students can slack off. Colleges like students who have academically engaging schedules during their senior year.“(She) just help us try to navigate through the maze of finding a good school that’s a good fit for the students and affordable to the family,” Walsh said.Laughlin has experience in this area. In addition to working at Rubin Education Services in Santa Fe, a full-service educational consulting firm, Laughlin has worked at numerous colleges and universities including serving as a director of college counseling at Verde Valley School in Arizona and Albuquerque Academy. She also worked in the admission office at Harvard and runs a nonprofit called College Horizons, which helps Native American students go to college and graduate school.It was her own personal experience that led Laughlin into this field of work. “For me, personally, I was somebody who didn’t get guidance,” she said. As a result, Laughlin said she went to college but transferred to another school.She added she also really enjoys working with teenagers. “I have a very strong conviction that if somebody worked hard, they have the right to go on to a school (that’s good for them) regardless of ability to pay,” Laughlin said.The workshop is free to public. To reserve a spot in the workshop, call Laughlin at 505-690-9054.