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Hello Sunshine!

June is Upon Us…Finally we have the warm weather!

Dear Families,

It has been a crazy Spring, by now many of you have cleaned out your closets, organized the pantry (twice) and are hoping to get back to get back to some sembelance of normal. We are feeling the same.  Our goal has always been to help families succeed. Like most of you, we are adjusting our daily routines, attempting a work-life balance and pushing through. Life does continue, preparing for college still has to happen. Summer is a time of relaxation and also of preparation for success!

Here are some well thought-out tips on how to proceed with your summer:

Upcoming Freshmen in College: 

Make sure you are communicating with your chosen college – both with the school itself and the students that are coming into the freshman class with you.  The school typically has an orientation that you can sign up for prior to stepping onto campus, and wow are they fun and student-centered!  Make sure you check out the opportunities at your new school now.  Also, jump on chats with other students to talk about your excitement of attending the school.  Plus, it’s always a great idea to reach out to your new roommate and start to divvy up what each of you will bring to your new home.

Parents, make sure you are connecting with your soon-to-be leaving student. Take them out for a one-on-one walk and offer guidance to them and also just listen.  This is a new era in your relationship with your child, make sure you approach it with everything you’ve got and then let them take the reins and run.

Keep track of when tuition, room and board and meal plan payments are due.

Find out when payments are due for the above-mentioned college expenses.  Talk to your College Funding Advisor about developing a plan to pay for all of these costs in the most efficient way possible.

Upcoming Seniors: 

You’ve made it to Senior Year!  Don’t let senioritis set in.  Begin to hone those skills you’ve developed towards identifying what will be a great major and career.

Schedule any SAT or ACT tests early.  That way you can still get them to schools before the Early Admission deadline if you choose to.  Also make sure your high schools know what schools you are applying to.  Check all deadlines on the college’s websites and any scholarship opportunities they may list as well.

Use your summer to gain skills for your activity list.  Take on a summer job or possibly shadow a career interest you may have.  You can list this on your applications in the fall.

Upcoming Juniors:

Take advantage of virutal college tours.  You may not be able to casually visit campuses but use this time to learn about the schools that interest you.  Look at the clubs, sports and even course catalogs.  You can always schedule a formal tour later if you find you really like the school.

Summer is a good time to study for the SAT and ACT tests. Begin taking practice tests and going over missed answers to really get a good idea on how to approach the material.

Get your financial game plan in place.  Make sure you are not at risk of having unnecessary calculations count against you in the financial aid process.  Talk with our funding advisor for ideas on how to develop a financial plan.

Upcoming Sophomores and Freshmen:

Plan to take challenging high school courses

With summer approaching, you’ll want to look forward to the next year in terms of class schedule.  When helping your student to determine his/her class schedule, make sure s/he enrolls in courses that are challenging but not beyond their ability to excel.

Think about reasons for attending college

High school is an opportunity for learning and growth in addition to preparing for college.  It is during this time that your student may discover interests or will continue to develop talents and skills s/he already may possess.

Enjoy the summer!  We hope you find these tips useful.

Until next month…

marc signature

 

College planning broken down by grade

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It is time to spring into action, regardless of the weather! Are you ready to gain new financial knowledge that will come in handy when you send your child off on his/her upcoming college journey? Some people are intimidated by the whole process of preparing a child to go to college. Don’t be discouraged, we here, at the College Planning Network are available and ready to address and guide you through the process of finding the answers to your concerns. We are experts in the field of college planning and can make the process flow smoothly for you. Because each family is different and you may have several children in different stages in school, we’ve divided the newsletter into sections organized by grade to help you go directly to the year your student is in.

FRESHMAN YEAR
If your student is in their freshman year, you might think it’s too soon to start planning ahead for college. Not so. It’s never too early to start. During this first year of high school, stress the importance of working diligently on academics. This will always pay off throughout his/her educational pursuits. Also, one thing to remember is that this is the year that grades will begin to be recorded on transcripts. Your student can start to stretch his or herself by taking classes that are challenging but still within his/her abilities. This is the best time to lay the foundation for a solid academic future.

Take interest and skills assessments
Your student is a freshman and may not yet know what s/he wants to do as a career. S/he may still not be sure once college starts. One way to find out where your student’s abilities are strongest is to take interest and skills assessments that help to match careers with the abilities that are best presented through the assessments. The Career Cruising Program is a great tool that is never too early to begin using. If you need assistance with how to use the program, please don’t hesitate to give our office a call.

Study! Study!! Study!!!
It never hurts to have those strong study skills honed early. Your student’s academics have an impact on the schools that s/he will want to attend. Doing well in school is important throughout every stage of academic development.

Have parent/student conferences to discuss college plans
College planning does not have to be the sole responsibility of the parent. In fact, having your student involved in all the stages of planning may increase the chances of success when s/he is finally reached college. Brainstorm and discuss ways to save and pay for college together as a family. Make sure you talk to your College Funding Advisor to review different savings strategies and the impact they may have on financial aid.

Expand Your Support Network
The College Planning Network is here to help and support ALL your needs in terms of financial aid and college admission planning. However, you can also find friends, teachers and school counselors who have been through the process themselves and can offer advice and first-hand knowledge of the experience. (Just remember that everyone’s individual situation is quite different.)

It’s never too early to get your financial plan together
Protect the money you’ve saved. If you have money saved outside of your company retirement plans, talk to your College Funding Advisor about possibly repositioning those assets into accounts that are not exposed to the aid formulas.

SOPHOMORE YEAR
If its sophomore year for your student, continue on the solid path started in freshman year. Or, if your student encountered setbacks during freshman year or if s/he had a difficult time adjusting in high school, reassure your student that this is a new year. Your student can always move forward regardless of any setbacks. Here are some additional things to consider for your high school sophomore.

Have your student participate in extracurricular activities and resume brainstorming
Getting involved in sports, academic clubs or the arts is a great way for your student to have a well-rounded academic background. Not only is it fun to meet others, it may also develop an interest that is there already. Have them also write down all involvement for a later resume to colleges.

Have your student explore internships and apprenticeships
Internships and apprenticeships are very valuable. It gives your student a first-hand look at possible career options and hands on job experience. It also provides an opportunity for a real connection with a mentor that could later help in the recommendation process with colleges.

Have your student enroll in a summer enrichment program
These programs are developed to give students exposure to a variety of fields. Developed by specialists, children can enroll in several different courses during their session to provide an overview of career and interest areas.

Go over the PLAN results
If your student took the PLAN put out by ACT, in their sophomore year, it is a good idea to go over the results and identify the areas that are in need of improvement. Be sure to incorporate extra help in those areas and plan your student’s next academic year accordingly. This can ultimately help them improve their score on the ACT. Make sure your student uses the College Planning Network SAT/ACT Prep Courses as they’ve proven over and over to get great results!

Protect your money!
You’ve worked hard for your money. Protect that money by working with your College Funding Advisor. They can help you implement strategies so that your savings does not increase your Expected Family Contribution.

JUNIOR YEAR
It’s junior year for your student. What a terrific time this is! S/he has already completed 2 years of high school and if there have been weak areas that need to be strengthened; this is the time to have it corrected. You’ll notice the momentum picking up here. Things will get busier so stay on top of all of the activities. Here are some other items to add to your list, as well.

Consider having your student earn college credit
One way to make things easier for your student while in college is to complete some classes while still in high school. These courses can be taken through Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, Post-Secondary Enrollment Options and College in the Schools programs.

Have your student narrow down possible career options
If your student has shown interest in several areas, have him/her narrow down the fields and investigate the type of education that is needed. Talking to people in the fields your student is interested in is another way to find out how they got to where they are. A good ongoing resource tool is the Career Cruising Program. Your student should definitely review these results and brainstorm ideas with their CPN Student Mentoring session.

Start Researching the Schools Websites
If your student has already narrowed down his/her school list, this is a good time to really dig in and equest admissions forms. You can’t start too early on this paperwork and most people put it off until the very end. Don’t be one of them!

Have your student take the ACT and/or SAT
It’s still not too late to register for the ACT and/or SAT. They are still offering exams until June. Register now, if you want your student to take these exams. And definitely use the College Planning Network SAT/ACT Prep Courses to help increase their scores! It’s a great resource that is available any time right on your family’s College Planning Network webpage.

Get your financial game plan in place!
Guard the money you’ve worked so hard to put away. You want to protect what you’ve saved for your student. Your College Funding Advisor can help you implement strategies so that your savings does not increase your Expected Family Contribution. They can also help you develop a plan on how you are going to pay your out-of-pocket college costs in the most efficient way.

SENIOR YEAR
It’s senior year and your student is almost done! S/he has been through the rigors of 3 years of high school and is now near completing the final year. What an accomplishment! This year has probably been very busy thus far. Here are a few things to think of as your student finishes this last year.

Create a resume
Now is the time to fine-tune your resume. This will come in handy now for colleges and later for a job search. Go over work history, activities; in and out of school, leadership, service and any other awards or recognitions they have received. Jot them down in a resume format that looks crisp and clean. We can help you with how to present yourself through your resume!

Have your student look for summer employment
Having your student find work in the summer time is one of many ways for him/her to learn to value of work and earning their own money. These skills will be useful in many areas of his/her life and can be valuable in college, as well. Your student can use the money earned to save for his/her college expenses, too.

Stay focused!
Most students are so ready to just be done with high school at this time. Make sure you check in with your student to ensure they are still doing well in his/her classes.

Keep your money safe from Financial Aid Formulas
Your College Funding Advisor is there to help protect the money you’ve worked so hard to put away for this important occasion. Make sure you talk to them about any potential strategies you can take advantage of.

College planning for your student can be a daunting task. Navigating the many responsibilities required in this process may make you feel like you need your own personal assistant. That’s why we are here. We can be the guide to assist you in creating, developing and implementing your own unique college plan.

Best wishes, and until next month, have a joyous start to spring!

How do you stack up?

A survey conducted by Money.com found the following attributes/traits to be critical in the admissions process.

  1. A rigorous high school curriculum that challenges the student and may include AP or IB classes.
  2. Grades that represent a strong effort and an upward trend. However, slightly lower grades in a rigorous program are preferred to all A’s in less challenging coursework.
  3. Solid scores on standardized tests (ACT, SAT). These should be consistent with high school performance.
  4. A well-written essay that provides insight into the student’s unique personality, values, and goals. The application essay should be thoughtful and highly personal. It should demonstrate careful and well-constructed writing.
  5. Passionate involvement in a few in- or out-of-school activities. Commitment and depth are valued over minimal involvement in a large number of activities.
  6. Demonstrated leadership and initiative in extracurricular activities. Students who arrive on campus prepared to lead clubs and activities are highly desirable.
  7. Personal characteristics that will contribute to a diverse and interesting student body. Many colleges seek to develop a freshman class that is diverse: geographically, culturally, ethnically, economically, and politically.
  8. Letters of recommendation from teachers and guidance counselors that give evidence of integrity, special skills, positive character traits, and an interest in learning.
  9. Special talents that will contribute to the college’s student life program. Colleges like to know what you intend to bring to campus, as well as what you’ll take from your college experience.

COVID Response

It's business as usual

Goodness, where do we start?  

First of all, we are working from home, but it is definitely a business as usual approach.  From the beginning, Midwest College Planning has been working with families virtually. The safety of our employees and families comes first.  We will be available by phone, no in-person meetings until further notice.

Our workshops and speaking engagements have been cancelled or postponed.  We will offer virtual college talks daily. 

Here’s a breakdown for current families:

  • Seniors: Finish strong, this isn’t the ending you wanted but don’t let it de-rail your success.  Check emails and admission portals for updated information.
  • Juniors: Step up for leadership roles during class and club elections.  Study for ACT/SAT and keep on top of current school work.  
  • Sophomores: Plan for summer, get involved in your community. Sign up for the ACT/SAT test.
  • Freshmen:  Start your resume, this will come in handy as you build out your activities.
  • Parents: Plannng doesn’t stop with the pandemic.  Things are a little different now, but that tuition bill will be due eventually.

 

If you need help figuring out college, please reach out and call us at 614-934-1515.  

Transitioning to College: 3 Differences Your Child Will Experience

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Dear Parent,

We are now fill swing back into the school year after the end-of-year break, and most students are not experiencing very many surprises at this point.  The school year often can tend to assume a feeling of sameness and even drudgery for students during the long stretch run after the holidays – other students can take the same situation and find a level of comfort in the continuity of how things run at school through this period.  It rather all depends on how the student views the high school experience, in many ways.

However, one thing to keep in mind – especially as high school continues into the junior and senior years – is that this sameness and continuity WILL NOT persist once a college-bound student reaches his goal and begins attending college or university.  College is a whole new ball game, as they say, and students need to be prepared for the changes or they could end up on the wrong side of them.

Keeping that important reality in mind, this month’s newsletter focuses on some of the biggest changes that face tomorrow’s college freshmen as they make the transition into the world of higher education.  When a student and his or her parents have taken the time to become aware of what to expect at the next level, and especially when they have actually put some time and effort into preparing to manage these important new realities that are inherent to college or university studies, the chances of a successful start – not to mention a successful finish – for this crucial educational experience increase dramatically.

Sadly, our experience shows that students who ignore these significant lifestyle and organizational changes until they are actually happening are often among those who end up struggling academically (and even socially at times).  Without wanting to seem too dramatic, we also see that these students are frequently those that find themselves in danger of failing or dropping out of college entirely.  So really, there can be no question about whether or not this stuff ultimately matters!

Without any further delay, then, here are some of the biggest changes that today’s students face when making the big leap from high school to college studies… many of them may sound familiar to those that faced earlier generations, but there are others that have come along fairly recently.  Things change in some regards, and things remain similar in other regards, and finding the balance between them is important when dealing with these kinds of coming-of-age generational gaps.

We urge you to prepare as much as possible for each eventuality, and if you need any clues or tips on how to manage them, remember that your College Funding Advisor is just a phone call or email away.  Remember that we deal with these elements each and every year and will be happy to provide insights, advice, or strategize with families who have students approaching the college years.  Here are some of the most important things that students these days will notice as they make the jump to college or university life.

Time Management

In high school, students are expected – nay, required – to go to every class, every single day. When a class is missed, there must be an excused absence. Classes that are missed or skipped by students can result in serious repercussions. Detention is the usual consequence for skipping class in high school, although there can be other forms of punishment, as well. Having had high school detention may not go on the high school transcript, but it does go on the full student record. Interestingly, this record can be requested by the college… it does not happen very often, but it is possible.

It does not necessarily reflect favorably on the student if there are “red flags” in that regard, so it is better to be on the safe side of things.  Regardless, this set of rules clearly demonstrates that the student is required to attend class or be faced with the disciplinary consequences for not doing so.

Conversely, in college, no one will be checking (or, frankly, care) whether or not your child attends class. Attending class at the next level is exclusively the responsibility of the student.  Attendance may or may not be taken, depending on the class, but the consequences are delayed and generally come strictly in the gradebook.  Attending lectures and assimilating the information and knowledge is wholly dependent on the student’s initiative to go and participate. This is, of course, a major shift in personal responsibility. While some students thrive under those circumstances, many others can tend to falter when suddenly given the duty of managing their own time and schedule – especially if this development occurs unexpectedly.

When students are fully aware of and prepared for this drastic change in personal responsibility, they can more fully take advantage of the education they are receiving. Young people who are unprepared often waste time and money because they do not completely comprehend that their lack of responsibility for their own learning is only hurting them and the ramifications have further reaching effects than simply in-school detention.

Changes in Class Size and Organization

High school classes can usually reach a maximum of approximately 35 students. Compare that to college, where some lecture halls can seat literally hundreds of students at a time. This difference can be a shock to high school students who are used to and expecting more individualized attention. In classes where there are hundreds of students, it is simply impossible for a professor to accommodate and give personalized attention to that many students.

There are often graduate students who serve as teaching assistants, but these can vary in quality (many are excellent, but some are pretty darned awful) and it can really place the onus on the new college student to navigate his or her way into the best learning options both in lecture and in office hours, etc.  Incoming college students will also need to prepare for the need to take excellent notes and listen attentively, because not doing so could result in the loss of important information.  This is also good information to know for students who prefer a smaller class experience. Private schools often tend to be smaller and therefore can provide the more intimate and individualized experience some students desire.

This is something to consider before applying to any set of colleges and universities. In general, the bigger the college, the bigger the class size!  That may or may not be something that affects your child one way or the other, but it is important to remember when planning.

Learning to Take Initiative

College is not the place for students who need or what their hand held. Higher education requires that students begin to grow up and take responsibility for themselves, and this can sometimes be a significant challenge for those who are not adequately prepared. One of the ways that students will need to do this is by taking initiative for themselves.

While in high school, a student who may be struggling in a subject or class would likely be approached by the teacher to establish some kind of protocol for assisting the student to better learn the material. This might be letting the parents know about the difficulty the student is having, or working personally with the child to help him or her better grasp the material.

This approach generally does not happen in college. If the student in a college class is having difficulty in the class, the student is responsible for seeking out and choosing appropriate measures to better master the material. This could entail approaching the teacher and letting him or her know that there is a lag in assimilating the subject matter. The teacher and student could then strategize together about what measures could be taken going forward that could help the student better learn the subject material. Once again, however, the onus for this process remains with the student. If the student does not take the initiative to better grasp the material or make it known to the professor that he or she is having difficulty then the risk increases of failing the class.

As we mentioned above, students who are preparing for their college years will do well to consider these altered circumstances well before the time comes for them to head off to their freshman year experience.  Yes, many high schools will take a strong role in helping college-bound kids to understand, develop, and implement strategies in this regard – but others may not.  For this reason, we are pleased to work with parents and students on any of the details surrounding the college preparation and application processes.  We have years of experience and knowledge in this regard, as well as helping parents to prepare financially for their significant part of the overall college burden.

This breadth of knowledge allows us to be uniquely qualified for helping families with their college preparation, and if we may be so bold as to say so, helps to make us one of the most valuable resources available for parents and students during the pre-college years.  We have a wide variety of programs and educational plans in place to help parents with the financial part of the college question.

Among our more successful educational options for providing this crucial information directly to the parents of high school kids is via our popular College Funding Workshops.  These workshop presentations are delivered live by experienced College Funding Professionals, and they target the families of today’s college-bound students with the most current information available.  Based on responses from our past attendees, these workshops do an excellent job of providing the most pertinent information that parents definitely need throughout this crucial time of college preparation.

The workshops are always organized purposefully for locations and times (with evening and weekend times available) that tend to work well for parents. There are never any admission fees charged for the workshops, but we do require a reservation in order to optimize the learning environment and maintain safety standards.  To reserve a place in one of the upcoming workshops, or if you have any questions about the workshops themselves, please simply place a call to our office staff.  Our phone number is (614) 934-1515 and our staff will be happy to help you further.

Our workshops are certainly a wonderful option for gaining information, but we also recognize that some parents will wish to read up on the foundational aspects of college funding preparation for themselves.  With this fact in mind, we have prepared a wonderful written report that provides a strong, basic overview of this crucial information.  Our report deals with the most important points regarding financial requirements and planning for parents of college-bound students, and we are justifiably proud of the way that it covers the process in an understandable manner.

Our report is titled “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College,” and we are happy to offer it as a free resource to learn the basics regarding the financial requirements for a college or university education.  To receive your own no-obligation copy of this valuable “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College” report in the mail, you can simply request one from our staff at (614)934-1515. We appreciate your interest and it will be our pleasure to send out a copy to you right away.

Until next month,

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College Planning 101: the ‘B’ word(Budget)

  • Our Blog

     

“Cost-Saving Strategies For College

That You Can Begin To Implement NOW

Dear Parent,

The school year is continuing on unabated, of course, and there are plenty of activities and schoolwork and other extracurriculars keeping most high school students busier than ever these days.  We do not rest, however, and if you have followed our newsletters in the past for even just a short time, you probably are aware that we believe there is no BAD time for us to introduce and discuss some of the most important cost-saving elements for tomorrow’s college students.  It is what we are passionate about and what we do best, after all.

Some of these things involve proper financial planning and a good understanding of the college funding process – but others are skills that can – and should – be mastered by parents and students as early as possible, to make the costs of college more manageable no matter where a child ends up going to school.

Getting through the undergraduate degree is a big undertaking, there is no question about it, and it is also a significant financial challenge with the current cost of higher education.  However, we have become experts in recognizing ways that these costs can be best managed and even minimized in many cases, and we are eager to share these tips with families of future college students.

With these tips in mind, we have decided to focus this month’s newsletter on some important tactics that have application during the college years, but also can be very helpful with family finances – especially as the college years’ approach and the financial burden of higher education appears on the horizon.

We have a good take on these things because we are college funding experts – and a lot of experience in watching college students and their families manage the college years.  If, after reading this month’s newsletter, there are any lingering questions or concerns about your family’s personal situation, feel free to contact us at any time.  Remember, we are specifically qualified in planning and managing this enormous event in your family’s lives, and we are able to offer the most valuable and suitable information for your family’s preparations for the coming years of higher education.

Strategy 1: Tallying Pooled Resources

If your child will be receiving funds from grandparents, aunts and uncles, employment, or other sources while in college, it is important to create a budget including all of these amounts.  When this is done then everyone is made aware and everyone is on the same page. Include all sources of income from grandma’s birthday money to income from a summer job. These sources should all be included in the budget to get a clearer picture of what there is to work with. Here’s a comprehensive to further assist with what should be included as part of the budget:

  • All income received: This income should include the money that your child will have once at school, any relief given from the financial aid package and any money that comes in regularly to your child.
  • Monthly income: If there are funds that are coming in from a part-time job or other sources on a monthly basis, include these funds.

Strategy 2: Creating a Budget

Yes, we are not afraid to mention the dreaded “B-word” in our newsletters.  Managing college finances can ONLY be effectively done when a budget is created and followed – trust us, we have seen this simple fact played out both ways (for better and for worse) many, many times.  When creating the budget, it’s important to include the following items:

  • Overall Income: All income listed above which includes all income received and any monthly or income that comes in on a regular basis.
  • Discretionary Income: This is ‘fun’ money. It’s important to have fun while in college. The point is often that too many college students have TOO much fun and blow the money they receive while in college, and end up in bad financial circumstances. Students should learn to set some aside just for having fun, manage it well, and be sure to not go beyond it.
  • Necessities: Items that are absolutes while in college. These include books, computer, etc.
  • Wants: There are always nice things that can make college life a bit easier. These items can go in the ‘wants’ category.
  • Fixed Expenses: Include all expenses that occur on a monthly basis.
  • Variable Expenses: Include all expenses that occur but vary from month to month.
  • Savings: Even in college, there should be money set aside that is an emergency fund or simply savings for a rainy day. Include this amount that is done in the beginning or on a regular basis.

Strategy 3: Saving Money in Unexpected Ways

There are numerous ways to cut costs while in college. Here are some ways to painlessly cut costs without sacrificing fun or depriving oneself.

  • Purchase used textbooks or, better yet, rent them if possible. This option is available at many universities and can save considerably on costs. College textbook prices have simply gone through the roof in most cases!
  • Set a designated amount aside for fast food or restaurant meals per week, if needed, and cook the rest at home. Alternatively, utilize a dining plan which can also save time and money.
  • Set money aside for needed purchases and/or fun purchases.
  • Avoid late fees on credit cards or other bills by always paying on time.
  • Don’t purchase cable television. Instead watch shows on a computer.
  • Use eBay, craigslist, or other online resources to sell unwanted or unused items.
  • Look for campus activities to socialize, etc. There are often movie nights, campus museums, etc. that can be utilized instead of spending a lot of money going out.
  • Skip Starbucks and make coffee/tea/hot chocolate at home. There will be significant savings!
  • If a loan is necessary, make sure that it’s only related to college expenses.
  • Bike around campus! At most colleges and universities, there is really no need for a car.

Strategy 4: Re-think The “Four Year Experience”

I hope there’s no misunderstanding from this heading. This is not to mean AT ALL that one should miss out on college, or not complete a bachelor’s degree. Quite the opposite, in fact. We fully support and base our efforts around students completing a four-year degree in the most successful and expedited manner possible.

 

While the average time spent in college is creeping ever higher (to our chagrin), there are still some motivated and organized students who complete a 4-year degree in as little as three years – and looking at the annual costs of college, that saves families and students a significant amount of money!  It also allows graduates to enter into the workforce earlier, or move on to graduate or professional training earlier, which means that the overall financial benefit from early graduation is magnified even further.

If cutting costs are a priority for your college student then one very effective way to do this is to complete advanced placement credit in high school, complete junior college credits during high school (if that option is offered where you live), take summer classes between academic years, or in some cases even head first to another less expensive institution, and then apply to transfer to the desired four-year university afterwards.

There will always be general classes that are a requirement for most universities. These classes can be taken at a community or junior college for significantly less money, as long as the acceptability of the credits is cleared in advance, of course! It can sometimes be a wise choice, financially, to use community college – or even an associate’s degree, in some cases – as part of the foundation for undergraduate education.  After all, the bachelor’s degree only has the name of one school on it!

This month’s newsletter is a combination of both common sense and new information, depending on each family’s background.  But regardless, we are here to assist in making these plans a reality and in assisting with the application, admission, and financial preparation for college and university studies.  As experts in these areas, we manage this important series of tasks in a number of ways.

One important ways that we are proud to assist the parents of college-bound high school students, especially as they wish to understand more about the fiscal preparation for higher education, is by providing live College Funding Workshops.  These events, which feature face-to-face presentations by some of the finest college funding people around, offer a wonderful service to parents who want to learn more about properly preparing themselves for the financial implications of their child’s future college or university studies.  The information is always accurate and timely, and it makes a huge difference for parents!

These workshops are free of charge for all participants, but in light of our seating limits and our desire to maintain a good learning environment during the workshops themselves, we do require attendees to make an advance reservation.  If you have any questions about College Funding Workshops coming up in your area, just give our workshop staff a call at 614.934.1515.  They will be very happy to answer any questions regarding locations, schedules, and any other workshop-related information.  Naturally, they also take reservations, if you have already decided that you wish to come.

In addition to the workshops, we have published a helpful report that is specifically for those parents who are seeking pertinent information regarding management and planning for college costs.  We produced this report especially with the parents of tomorrow’s college and university students in mind, and its title is “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College.” As is the case with the workshops, we provide it free of charge and with no obligation.  To receive your own personal copy of “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College,” you can just place a call to our staff at 614.934.1515 and they will be very happy to send one out to you immediately.

Until next month,

Let’s talk College Admissions & Funding Myths

 

“Understanding and Overcoming These MYTHS About College Funding And Admissions”

Dear Parent,

Here’s wishing you a happy holiday season with memorable times with your family and friends.  At this time of the year we find that it is a fine time for reflection on the wonderful experiences and accomplishments both this year and in years past.  For many families this includes wonderful college and university experiences that have added richness, enjoyment, and success to their family lives.  Higher education is certainly a sacrifice and a lot of effort, but there is no question that the value of it echoes over time.

With that in mind, this month’s newsletter emphasizes some of the elements of “commonly held wisdom” about college that turn out not to be true at all!  These myths about college funding and admissions seem to persist for a variety of reasons.  Some of them might have been true (or partially true) many years ago, but times have changed.  Others might have affected one person (or a very few people), but unfounded rumors about their prevalence seem to persist.  Still others have no real basis in fact whatsoever, but get passed around by people who do not know the details themselves.  However they get started however, we view it as our responsibility to make sure the truth is available!  After all, college admissions and funding issues affect EVERY college bound student to some degree or other…

We hope that as these myths and rumors are put to rest, you will feel free to pass good information on to other parents… and should other questions or suspicious bits of information arise in the future, please feel free to use us (your College Funding Professional) as a sounding board for the most up to date information – as well as how this information might directly affect your student and your family.

Without further ado, then, allow us to tackle a few of the most common myths and rumors that seem to persist from year to year to year – obviously, if we find ourselves running into them each and every college cycle, then we are pretty sure that many of you parents (and students) will see them, as well.  With this information, and any other questions we might be able to answer for you in an individual setting, you will be well on your way to managing the college admissions and funding process with a healthy set of facts and knowledge…

And knowledge, in this case as well as many others, is definitely powerful! 

MYTH 1. “Everyone Graduates With Student Debt”

Absolutely NOT!  The simple truth is that not everyone graduates with student debt. It is quite common, to be sure, especially in the current financial circumstances… but there are plenty of possibilities for a student to leave college without the burden of student debt. There are always some fortunate (intelligent, well-organized) students and parents who manage to finish the college years without it. It is not necessarily easy, but with the proper advice and planning it is absolutely possible.

If your child is an excellent student, there will always be additional options available. Your child can apply for scholarships for part of the cost. High GPAs and standardized test scores may also make your child eligible for some scholarships and grants directly from the school to which s/he is applying. Applying to the right schools and having strong academic scores will certainly help to make your child a very attractive applicant. Schools will then often be willing to do what they can to attract your child and that can translate, in some cases, to a full-ride – although these scholarships are rare.

In some cases, your child may go to a school that is not his or her first choice in favor of a package that provides more aid. If leaving school without a mountain of debt is a high priority for you and your child then this may be a suitable choice.  However, your College Funding Advisor can often help to mitigate these types of circumstances if families start the process early enough!

MYTH 2. “Going To College Is Just About Gaining Book-Smarts”

This may have been true at one time, when education was for education’s sake (for better and for worse) but the reality is these days that higher education is also a business. Colleges want to ensure their investment in any student is a solid one. They also want to make sure they are solvent. This can mean higher and higher tuition costs and fees. While this can seem disheartening at first glance, it can also be empowering for prospective students.

Just like any business, consumers have leverage over businesses. If they do not like something, they can always take their business elsewhere. This is a tack that can be used when applying to colleges. If your child is an excellent student and/or an intriguing applicant, it is completely acceptable to pit one school against the other in order to amass the most amount of aid. It is good business for colleges to find the brightest students, so they will do what is necessary to make it worth your child’s while to attend their college.  Your College Funding Advisor is well versed in the best strategies for making this work to your student’s advantage.

MYTH 3. “College Is Always Really Expensive”

Well, we will be the first to admit that higher education CAN be really expensive… but it doesn’t have to be, and it does not have to lead to debt, as indicated above. If one is willing to get creative and ‘think outside the box’ then getting a college education without breaking the bank is not only possible, it’s probable.

For example, if your child is taking AP classes in high school more often than not, these classes will count as college classes and your child can actually earn some college credit while in high school. Each college and university is different so it would be worth your while to do the research as to what classes will be accepted as credit and so forth.  We will be pleased to assist in that if necessary.

For students, applying to a diverse group of schools is a smart choice. It will broaden the options for your child and the types of award packages they will receive. This means more choices and more freedom for your child to choose the one that is the best fit.  The better the offer from the financial aid office at each school, the smaller the bill becomes!

MYTH 4. “Private Schools Are Expensive – My Child Can’t Attend One”

Private schools usually ARE expensive – at least, the sticker shock is high – but, as we’ve previously elaborated, it doesn’t have to be. The list price for private schools can be shocking to most, but it is rarely what students end up actually having to pay. Private schools often cost more off the top, sure, but private schools also almost always have more money to give to their incoming students. In fact, depending on your child’s academic and extracurricular credentials, s/he could pay less at a fancy private institution than an in-state school.

Aid packages from private schools often tend to be heftier than those from public schools. Making it known to the admissions officers that your child is seriously comparing other colleges may prompt them to increase an aid package. It’s not a guarantee, but as we indicated above, it is a tactic that you can use. An aid package received is not written in stone. You can always respectfully have the financial aid office review a package in light of new information, or when comparing it to another aid package that is similar but slightly more competitive. It never hurts to ask, and you never know what will happen. Your child may just get into a great private school at a super price!

MYTH 5. “If You Make Enough Money, Don’t File Financial Aid Forms”

Regardless of your financial circumstances, it is always a good idea to fill out financial aid forms. There are several reasons for this. For example, if you do not apply, you will not receive any aid. Now that seems quite simplistic, however, if circumstances change while your child is in school and a need were to suddenly arise, s/he would not be eligible for any aid because there would be no forms on file.  It is better to be safe than sorry!

Also, even if your child is able to attend school without any need-based aid, is s/he has qualified for scholarships, those funds will not be released unless there are financial aid forms on file. So, while it may seem unnecessary if you are in the fortunate circumstance of being able to send your child to school without the need of extra aid, you never know what can happen in the future. It is better to take the time to file those financial aid forms, and we are happy to assist.

 

Parents and college-bound students will run into more incorrect details than just these, of course, but it is for precisely that reason that we are pleased to make ourselves available for consultations and individual questions.  Feel free to ask us about any details surrounding your child’s college application process, as well as how parents can best tackle the financial questions surrounding this enormous step.

Parents often find that their jobs in the overall higher education process are every bit as challenging as the students applying for and attending their dream schools!  We make it our business to apply our knowledge and educational skills to help simplify both the parental tasks and the student efforts.

One of our most successful teaching options for the delivery of this vital information to parents is through our excellent College Funding Workshops.  These are live workshops delivered by certified College Funding Professionals specifically for the parents of today’s college-bound students.  According to feedback from our attendees, these presentations really deliver the informational goods when it comes to providing an introduction to the college funding information parents need.

We always schedule our workshops at locations and times (including evening and weekend options) that will mesh with parents and their busy schedules. While we refuse to charge any admission costs for workshop attendance, an advance reservation is required for safety and planning purposes.  If you have questions or would like more information, or to reserve a seat for one of upcoming dates, please just call our office.

While the workshops are a great option, we also know that some parents are more likely to want to digest the basics for college funding preparation on their own.  Because of this fact, and because there are always some parents who simply cannot attend a workshop, we publish a written report which also introduces this information.  The publication covers the financial education needs of today’s parents of college bound kids, and it really does introduce the college funding process in an excellent and easily understandable way.

The report is called “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College,” and each year parents report that it is an outstanding resource for learning the basics for funding a future college or university education.  To receive a free copy of the “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College” report, which is also free of charge or obligation, give our team a ring at 614.934.1515. We will be very pleased to put a copy of it into the mail for you immediately.

Happy Holidays!

Until next month,

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Avoiding Unemployment After Graduation

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“How To Link College Studies to Actual JOBS – Avoiding Unemployment After Graduation

One of the biggest challenges facing many college and university students today is not necessarily the substantial work of higher education itself – but the fear of what comes after graduation!  This is especially worrisome in a current economic climate which has large numbers of college students facing unemployment (or, equally as concerning, UNDER-employment) after the completion of their university studies.  After all, one of the main points of higher education is to prepare a young person for a brighter professional future.  Nobody – neither parent nor college student – really wants to finish a hard-earned degree and be forced back into living with parents or working at a dead-end job.

With that in mind, this month’s newsletter is focused on practical suggestions for your student that will affect both his or her future college career, as well as parlaying that educational experience into gainful employment once the degree is completed.  Entering college with this type of thought process in mind – even if a student does not know what to major in at the outset – can make all the difference for developing professional options after graduation.

It is important to remember that the undergraduate years of college or university last, ideally, four years – which is the same amount of time that a student spends in high school!  Just as parents often have to marvel at how quickly the years of high school pass, there really is no slow-down once the years of higher education begin.  In fact, in our experience, they can even seem to speed up a little!  This is, of course, all the more reason to be prepared for the important steps that come afterward.

This month’s newsletter will offer some things to consider – and equally as importantly, some things to avoid – when it comes to making the most long-term use of a college education.  We definitely see and understand the big picture when it comes to higher education, including the conceptual and social importance, as well as the practical elements that lead to a fulfilling and successful career afterward.  College is a big step, and it is important to be prepared for it – as well as all of the steps that come thereafter.

 Interests And Course Selection

In the past, we discussed majors and minors in some depth, but the topic is also extremely important in this regard.  Yes, there are traditionally “marketable” majors that tend to have good hiring prospects after graduation – but that does not mean that all students should be pigeon-holed into an accounting program (as an example) just to make sure they get a job.  For some students that would be a terrific option, if they have an appropriate skill set and interests in that field.  For others, however, that major and career field would be sheer drudgery, and there are much better options.  There are also, of course, majors that have significantly fewer (traditional) jobs on offer, so it is important to be aware of this.

This can be one area in which a double-major can serve a student well.  People who are gifted (and passionate about) a field with some less-promising job prospects can often piggy-back that interest with another field.  Combining unrelated fields (such as a foreign language and pre-professional studies, or music and sciences, or arts and business/marketing) can not only lead to more job options later, but also can increase the quality and breadth of undergraduate education.  There is definitely a market for people who create interesting academic backgrounds and skill sets, and there is no reason not to pursue them!

Students who begin college without a major in mind, and that is a LOT of them, can still make wise decisions about their major selection by determining where their interests lie.  That is the most important thing, because it is vital for students to know what they are truly passionate about, and how they would choose to spend their working years in the future.  Once those things are known, then a foundation can be put into place for developing the beginnings of a career plan that will function during the years of undergraduate study.

Of course, the best thing is to have some of those decisions made during the high school years.  Not everyone will do so, naturally, but college-bound students who leave high school with some of these types of answers will often find themselves in a better situation for career planning in the early stages of college or university.

Graduate and Professional Studies

Obtaining a graduate degree can be a two-edged sword.  On the one hand, it can definitely lead to job prospects and a rewarding career if managed correctly.  On the other hand, if pursued as a stop-gap measure to avoid unemployment, graduate school can also simply increase student loans and delay the inevitable.  It is vitally important for graduate degrees to be pursued with a firm plan in mind!

There is also a semantic difference between graduate school and professional school, but it can go well beyond the definitions.  Graduate school is traditionally a program leading to a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Sciences (MS) degree, or a doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree.  The job market for these types of degrees varies wildly according to industry and academic fluctuations.  Professional schools are usually specialized degree programs such law school (JD), business school (MBA), or medical school (MD or DO).

While it has long been traditionally accepted that professional schools offer the most post-graduate career options, which are expected to be more lucrative than graduate school, this is NOT always the case.  The modern world provides a broad mix of exciting careers, and it is up to the student to determine which resonate most keenly with his or her interests and skills – and to determine whether the additional expense of graduate school or professional school will be worthwhile down the road.

Summer (and Mid-Year) Internships

One absolutely great way for students to determine what makes the most sense for their post-college careers is to seek out internships with college affiliated (or even non-affiliated) companies.  These can be managed over a summer, or even in some cases during the school year.   (Interested students should always ask whether or not they can receive credit for an internship, as well!)

Some internships are paid, and others are not, but in our opinion that element should never be used as the determining factor for the selection of an internship.  The experience gleaned from a well-placed internship can be absolutely vital for determining whether or not a field truly appeals to your student.  Far too often students make a decision that affects their future without first-hand information about what that chosen career looks like in reality.  Having some actual experience can make all the difference in that regard.

Not only is the information from these experiences valuable, of course, but students who perform well during internships are often placed first in line for hiring programs after graduation at the companies who already know them well.  All in all, it can definitely be worthwhile to look for internships that fit with a student’s interests and career goals… whether they come through the college or university, or whether the student finds the internship individually, the value can be striking.

Whatever You Do: Begin With The End In Mind

The earlier students begin considering their interests, their passions, their goals, and their options, the better off they will be.  As college funding and admissions experts, we are pleased to offer a number of programs and tools to assist college-bound students in that regard.  It is truly that important.  Young men and women who arrive on college campuses with these vital bits of information – even if they are not entirely complete and/or ready to decide on a pathway for their education on Day One – will truly be miles ahead of their classmates in the long run.

The mindset taken toward the college or university experience will be one thing that will make a huge difference.  Far too many students view college itself as the goal, and forget that there will be a whole lot of life thereafter!  If the process of higher education is truly seen as an opportunity to develop interests and skills, and to create an enjoyable career post-graduation, then students will tend to excel both in school and in their post-college endeWhatever the ultimate decision about future careers might be, of course, parents have another sizable pile of responsibilities.

The question of college funding is one that simply does not go away.  For this reason, advice from a college funding advisor can make all the difference in managing the financial details of this exciting but often overwhelming process.  As experts in the field, we can provide the current and specific details required to make the process of college application, matriculation, and financial management both successful and manageable!

One of the most effective methods we have for delivering this information to parents is through our College Funding Workshops.  These presentations are delivered to the parents of college-bound students and they are prepared by college funding professionals who are experts in this area.  These workshops are a source of the most current and valuable information regarding the challenges surrounding higher education funding for tomorrow’s college students. We would be very pleased to welcome you to any one of the upcoming College Funding Workshops scheduled in your area.

We make sure to schedule these workshops with a focus of the schedules of parents, and we choose times and locations that make the most sense in that regard… this includes evening and weekend workshops, as well.  While we do not charge any admission fees, we must insist on seat reservations in advance, so that an optimal learning environment and safety considerations are maintained.  We are happy to answer any questions about these presentations, of course.  To reserve a seat for an upcoming workshop, please simply call our office.  Our workshop crew will be more than happy to answer any questions and assist you with a reservation.  The  number to contact us is 614-934-1515.

We are duly proud of our workshops, and they are invaluable, but we also recognize that some parents prefer to manage the basic elements of college funding preparation themselves.  Because of this, we have published a tremendous written report covering this information.  This report covers the fundamentals of financial education with a focus on the needs of parents with college-bound high school kids, and it covers the process of college funding in an extremely clear – and current – package.

Our report is called Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College,” and experience has shown it to be a wonderful tool for understanding the financial elements surrounding the completion of a college or university degree.  To receive your own free copy of the “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College” report, simply place a call to our offices at 614.934.1515.  It will be our pleasure to send a copy of the report to you through mail immediately.

Strategies for a better deal

“Real-World Negotiating Strategies To Help You Negotiate A Better College Deal For you Child”

Dear Parent,

Here’s hoping that the adjustment into the school year and the Fall season have been smooth and happy for both your high school student and your family.  It is truly a significant transition virtually each and every year during high school, and there is no question that this transition grows exponentially bigger and more challenging when students make the jump from their high school years to their college or university years!

 We often find that when it comes to college application and college funding issues, many parents and families feel extremely uncomfortable and out of their depth in dealing with the colleges and universities to which their high school student applies.  This is natural, certainly, but it does not have to be that way.  In fact, it is because of this tendency that it is even more important for parents to gain a measure of confidence and comfort in dealing with institutions of higher learning.

The more parents know about the processes related to college admissions and financial aid issues, the better prepared they will be to manage the experience to the benefit of their student and their financial bottom line.  That is, frankly speaking, one of the reasons that we do what we do. As professional college funding advisors, we are uniquely qualified to help parents learn what they need to make wise decisions and maximize the educational options for their high school student, and to make positive financial decisions as well.

A good college funding advisor can help parents with their communication and interactions with the colleges and universities, and we also know the important clues and strategies for negotiating with institutions to maximize the options and the benefits for your child. 

With that in mind, we are pleased to provide a quick overview of some of the most helpful elements to negotiating and communicating with decision makers at the schools to which your child will eventually apply.  For more information, of course, or for any clarifications on the topics we introduce below, please do not hesitate to give us a quick call or schedule an appointment.  We are always pleased to be of assistance in this important time in the lives of rising college students and their families.

As you are no doubt aware, a tough economy not only affects families, but it can affect colleges and their endowments, as well. While tuition costs seem to skyrocket, one of the reasons for the swollen prices may include a shrinking endowment leaving less money available for incoming college freshman classes.

With that said, it does not mean that your family is doomed to automatically pay the “sticker price” for tuition when looking at different colleges and universities. The quoted prices – especially for private or out-of-state schools – can be a shock… but what many parents don’t know is that there are several things that can be done to minimize that shock and engage in negotiations and strategic communications that will almost invariably result in a lower overall price of attendance for your student.

Pitting Schools Against Each Other

Many parents may not think about playing schools against one another, but it can be very effective. It can be difficult to take that mindset when there are schools that your student especially wants to attend.  However, an offer from a second or third choice school (or even lower!) can be taken directly to a first choice school in order to garner more aid.

This tactic is also especially useful for merit-based scholarships. If your child is applying to colleges and universities that are well-funded and your child has strong academic achievements then there is no reason not to try to earn more for their hard-earned accomplishments! There are some parents who have managed to obtain over $200,000 in merit-based aid for their children. It can definitely be done, and your college funding advisor can provide more details on how to make this a reality for your child.

It is good to remember that while the sticker price for private colleges can cause some initial dismay, they will often have a lot more free money to hand out since they are receiving money from alumni, endowments, and private sources unrelated to government coffers. Remember that some colleges and universities have been known to cut the tuition by as much as 45% under the right situation.

Reveal Changed Circumstances

Your child does not necessarily need to be a budding Rhodes Scholar in order to receive additional aid from a college. There are other ways to receive additional aid – and it can happen when situations change within a family for a variety of reasons. Life happens, and many college administrators understand this. When circumstances have changed within a family situation such as a job loss, divorce, or illness, make sure to document this and send it to the college for additional consideration. More often than not, administrators will increase aid offers in light of changed circumstances.

College administrators often have a lot of flexibility when it comes to how they distribute loans and grants. If your child is a star pianist or was the school newspaper editor, you can use those experiences as leverage to try and obtain additional grants or aid.

Simply Ask

When your child receives his/her award letter it is an exciting time, but if you find that the offer is not exactly what you were hoping for, it is time to organize your information and write a polite letter back to the Financial Aid office asking them to reconsider the aid package and see if they will increase the aid.

You should first understand how each school works. Not every school will have an official form letter to request, but some schools have an appeals process already in place. Go through the proper channels and state your position and why you would like additional aid. It will not bode well for you if there is any embellishment. It’s best to simply state your family situation and why additional aid would be necessary.

Again, your college funding advisor is well-versed in how to manage these requests and can help you to know the right tack to take with each different school.

Be Clear

It might seem like common sense, but it vital to remember that college administrators are not omniscient.  They may be unaware of circumstances for each student, so it is important to simply lay out the facts to financial aid workers. Going on and on about how excited you are that your child was accepted to the school, and so forth, is something they hear often and does not necessarily help your case. Simply state what your current circumstances are and why you feel you are in need of, and/or deserving of, an aid package reconsideration.

Request Information About Work-Study, Grants and Scholarships

In addition to asking for a reduced tuition amount, you could also request information about scholarships, grants and work-study opportunities. When requesting consideration for scholarships, this might be the appropriate opportunity to toot your child’s horn. Include the reasons why your child would be an asset to the school, why he or she will make an excellent alum for the school, and why he or she deserves consideration for specific scholarships. Schools will certainly go the extra mile to attract the right candidates to their institution. Presenting your child as one of those candidates will often help you get you what you’re asking for.

Try To Play It Cool!

Just like any negotiation, there is a bit of a dance involved in the process of dealing with schools. It is important to be strategic in communication with the schools. For example, if your child receives an offer from a second choice school, parents should usually not immediately run to the first choice school to talk up the offer – this can seem anxious and could work against your student in the long run.

Parents might choose to wait a little while before contacting the first choice school for a better aid offer. If they have an idea that they are the first choice school they will sometimes be less likely to increase an aid package. Talk with your college funding advisor about how to play it cool and see what happens!

Overall, it is important for your student to end up at one of the best options available for his or her future academic experience.  The process is a challenging one, in some regards, especially for families that enter the negotiation process without key information to make them successful (or even worse, refuse to even begin any negotiations, and just accept whatever is offered).  

Regardless, parents will invariably find that professional advice from a college funding advisor can be of enormous help when it comes to negotiating a college future successfully and in a timely manner.  As professionals in this area, we are delighted to be able to offer our expertise, since it is truly worthwhile for the families we serve. The fact that our clients see more success in their negotiations, as well as finding the process significantly smoother to manage, makes us even happier.

One of the most exciting ways that we offer this information is through our College Funding Workshops.  These presentations are live workshops for the parents of college-bound high school students, and are offered by insightful college funding professionals.  They provide the most current and up-to-date details with regard to the higher education challenges facing tomorrow’s college students. We would be happy to see you at an upcoming workshop in your neighborhood.

If you have questions or want some additional information or details about these workshops, or if would like to reserve a seat for an upcoming date, just call our office.  We do require reservations in advance, due to space and practical limitations, but there is never any admission fee for our workshops.  Our workshop crew will be pleased to assist you further if you call our toll-free number at 614-934-1515.

We also have published a written report introducing an overview of this very important information.  Our work covers the essential financial education needs of high school parents with children who want to attend college, and it reviews the college funding experience in one current and easy-to-follow FREE report.   We have given this valuable report the title “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College,” and it is a terrific reference for parents when it comes to understanding the foundations of paying for a college or university degree in the near future.  For a free copy of the “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College” report, send an email to info@midwestcollegeplanning.com  We will send out a free copy to you without delay.

Until next month,

~Marc