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Free admissions workshops set to guide students in selecting college

WILLMAR -- A series of free workshops to help high school students and their families choose and apply to colleges begins Monday.

Todd Johnson, a Willmar lawyer with a college admissions consulting business, will present the workshops, which are open to the public. Each workshop will be held from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Willmar Public Library's second-floor meeting room.

Johnson volunteers his time to help students in Willmar and west central Minnesota.

Through his consulting bu-siness, Johnson works with students and families across the country.

The series of workshops begins with "Applying to College," geared to high school seniors.

On Oct. 4, "I haven't started yet," will address "seniors who haven't done anything," Johnson said.

It's late to be starting the process, he said, but there is still time for seniors to find the right school and take the right tests to apply.

Other workshops target different audiences. Over the course of the series, students and parents will find out how to apply for financial aid and how to write application essays.

One workshop will address the common mistakes students and families make in choosing a college.

It's important for families to understand how financial aid works and how to choose a school, Johnson said.

"It's a lot of money to spend without knowing what you're doing," he said.

In the past, Johnson has held a small college fair at Willmar Senior High in the spring, but he no longer plans to do that because the turnout was not very high.

He does recommend that students looking for a college should consider going to the National College Fair on Oct. 6 and 7 at the Minneapolis Convention Center or the Minnesota Education Fair at Ridgewater College on Oct. 14.

For more information about the programs, contact Johnson at 320-262-9955 or

This is a list of the college admissions meetings scheduled through April:

Sept. 20 -- "Applying to College," for seniors. It provides information about the application process, when to apply, which application to use and how to get the best recommendation. Also tips on writing college application essays.

Oct. 4 -- "I Haven't Started Yet," for seniors. Information will be available about finding the right college fast, basic financial aid, which tests to take and applications.

Oct. 18 -- "Selective College Admissions," for freshmen, sophomores, juniors. Topics include how hard it is to get into a selective college, importance of early planning, what activities and classes selective colleges like to see.

Nov. 1 -- "Finding the Right College," for sophomores and juniors. A presentation about when to start the search for a college, things to consider in choosing a college and the 25 most common mistakes made in choosing a college.

Jan. 10, 2011 -- "The FAFSA: Everything You Need to Know," for seniors. Johnson will review of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and answers to audience questions.

Feb. 7, 2011 -- "Finding the Right College," for sophomores and juniors. This is a repeat of the Nov. 1 presentation.

Feb. 14, 2011 -- "ACT/SAT: What You Need to Know about the Tests," for sophomores and juniors. Topics include test preparation, which test to take, which test score to send and the best test prep. Also addresses whether students need to take the tests.

March 7, 2011 -- "Financial Aid and Scholarships," for sophomores and juniors. A preparatory session about how financial aid works, where to find scholarships, what to ask colleges about financial aid. Also a talk about how choosing the right college can save thousands of dollars.

April 11, 2011 -- "What Parents of Freshmen and Sophomores Need to Know about College." This includes advice about what classes to take, activities in and out of school, understanding basic financial aid. Participants will receive a timeline for college admissions covering all four years.