Local lawyer volunteers advice on college admissions

WILLMAR -- A series of meetings about choosing and applying to colleges will begin Monday in Willmar. Todd Johnson will speak about applying to college from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday at the second floor meeting room at the Willmar Public Library. ...

Todd Johnson, a lawyer and college admissions consultant, speaks to parents and students at a college fair April 6 at Willmar Senior High School. Tribune file photo

WILLMAR -- A series of meetings about choosing and applying to colleges will begin Monday in Willmar.

Todd Johnson will speak about applying to college from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday at the second floor meeting room at the Willmar Public Library. The series of meetings is free and open to the public.

Johnson is a Willmar lawyer who also has a college admissions consulting business. He volunteers his services to students in the Willmar area and provides the series and a spring college fair free of charge.

The first meeting about applying to college is geared to high school seniors and their parents, but the series includes meetings to provide information to freshmen, sophomores and juniors, too.

Johnson has expanded the series over past years. He has added more information about students considering attending selective colleges and will provide some presentations twice to make them available to more people.


Information about college applications and essays has been added.

"Before, I really didn't discuss the application," he said.

Application essays are very important, "and most kids don't have a clue about how to write a college essay," he said. The essay should have a different style from the writing normally done in school and should tell a college something about the person submitting it, he added.

Johnson said he often recommends that students still deciding about a college attend the National College Fair Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

"That's a great way for students to see lots of schools," he said. However, with more than 400 schools represented, it's a good idea to go there with some type of plan.

People who would like advice about the fair may contact him, Johnson said. His cell phone number is 320-262-9955. Information about the fair is available at .

Johnson may also be reached at

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


Sept. 21 -- "Applying to College," for seniors. It includes the application process, when to apply, which application to use and how to get the best recommendation. Also tips on writing college application essays.

Sept. 28 -- "I Haven't Started Yet: Finding the Right College Fast," for seniors. Topics are finding the right college, basic financial aid, which tests to take, applications.

Oct. 5 -- "Selective College Admissions," for freshmen to 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.

Oct. 19 -- "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 in choosing a college.

Jan. 11, 2010 -- "The FAFSA: Everything You Need to Know," for seniors. A review of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and answers to audience questions.

Feb. 8, 2010 -- "Finding the Right College," for sophomores and juniors. A repeat of the Oct. 19 presentation.

Feb. 15, 2010 -- "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 8, 2010 -- "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 2010 -- "Willmar Annual College Fair," date to be announced later. For freshmen to juniors, the college fair from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Willmar Senior High cafeteria will feature 20 or more colleges from around Minnesota and surrounding states. Johnson will also do a financial aid presentation similar to the March 8 presentation.

April 12, 2010 -- "What Parents of Freshmen and Sophomores Need to Know about College." 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.

In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: or phone 320-214-4340
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