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Resolutions Kept= College Success

Welcome to 2022! Each year we make resolutions, how many of us actually have kept those resolutions? From making healthy choices, learning a new language or adding a few thousand steps to our day, we all strive to be a bit better in the new year. Let us help you keep your financial and academic goals, we will coach you and in some cases, nag, until we get your plan solidified.

For our college planning clients: We ask that you complete the initial spreadsheet from the welcome email. We ask that student athletes complete the profile form. If you are a senior, share the admissions acceptances and financial awards. Underclassman, sign up for the next standardized test. Here are the links for ACT and SAT sites.

For our retirement and insurance folks: Let’s touch base, make sure you are staying true to plan and we have the correct contact information.

If you aren’t our client, sign up for that free consultation. Simply email or call and we will get you scheduled.

With the current state of the virus, we are meeting with fully vaccinated individuals in person, otherwise it is a phone call.

We are here to support your financial and academic goals.

Considering Distance & Environment in College Search

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“Location–Location–Location

The Pros (and Cons) of Distance and

Environment at YOUR Child’s College

One of the things that we see over and over again is that each rising college student is a distinct individual with specific needs and strengths – a school that might be perfectly suited for one student could turn out to be an extremely poor choice for another student, even if all other variables (like GPA, standardized test scores, etc.) are equal.  Because of this, it behooves families to make wise decisions when it comes to selecting a college or university, basing their choice not on external influences – such as this year’s ranking in a news magazine – but on the school’s actual overall “fit” with the individual student him/herself.

Of course, all students should seek out the best possible institutions to apply to for their educational future, but there are far more things that determine “best” than simply magazine rankings, which may be based on statistics that have no real bearing on the education at all.  One of the things that we pride ourselves on is the ability to see beyond the superficial rankings to find the real best programs, institutions, and “fit” for each high school graduate with whom we are privileged to work.

One of the major considerations when looking at a list of potential colleges and universities – and one that some families simply do NOT pay enough attention to – is the geographical location of the school with relation to home.  This can be a huge factor in not only the overall cost of a year’s education, but also in the individual ability of a student to perform as a freshman beginning his or her higher education.

Because of the importance of this consideration, we are keying this month’s article on some of the ways that distance from home – both near and far – can play an enormous role in college funding and adjusting to the first year after high school.  There are no hard and fast rules for this decision, it is something that each student must be able to decide intelligently with his or her family.  We hope that these guidelines can offer a bit of insight in that regard.

Consideration 1: Travel Expenses

Depending on where a student decides to attend school, just getting to campus can cost a significant amount of money.  A kid from the Pacific Northwest who decides to attend college in Florida, for example, will be looking at a costly airfare to and from the Sunshine State… and that assumes one round trip ticket, usually each semester, with no trips home during the academic year.  This may not be a problem in some cases, but depending on cash flow and emergency situations, just one trip home can definitely be a budget-breaker.

However, even a school that is closer to home can have hidden costs, especially if a student wants to drive (or take the bus, etc.) “just a couple of hours” home on several weekends per semester.  Gas prices can take a significant toll on a semester budget, especially if friends are going to be frequently visited – this is often a temptation when college is relatively close to home, so communication and boundaries are a must.

Another hidden cost that seems to crop up with some regularity is the additional tuition and fees for international programs or study abroad, which many institutions have set up with partner schools in Europe, Asia, South America, and elsewhere.  These are exciting and highly rewarding opportunities, to be sure, but the travel costs alone can be daunting if a strict budgetary guideline has already been set without considering such additional expenses.  Because of this, any college students who wish to take advantage of foreign study (or even partner university programs in the United States) should plan these out well in advance so that the financial elements can be included beforehand.

As long as plans are made in advance – preferably with some wiggle room worked in, and we can assist with that if need be – then there is usually no need to fear travel costs.  But our experience advises parents to remember them, and plan for them, or else they can very quickly become quite a bear!

Consideration 2: Living Expenses

Living far from home can definitely add to the overall cost of living for students who are starting at college. Yes, most schools will require freshman students to live on campus, and the set costs of room and board can appear to freeze costs at a (hopefully) manageable level.  Without a set budget, however, and the willingness and self-discipline to follow it, things can very quickly spiral out of control.  Students who are far from home will sometimes find it difficult to socialize without including food in the equation, which in and of itself is fine.  However, the fact remains that eating out is expensive and it can shoot a large hole in a semester budget.

Truth be told, however, there remains some question in our minds about whether college students who live at (or near) home and take advantage of their parents’ refrigerator are actually saving them a whole lot of money, but it is almost always less expensive than nightly splurging on pizza or other take-out foods.  The cost of living for students who live at home and attend a college nearby is almost always significantly less expensive overall than for students who are at a college even a few towns away, let alone studying in another part of the country.  However, college students who live at home during their higher education may sometimes feel that they are not having the “full college experience” so there are considerations to look at on both sides of the equation.

Remember also that costs of living can vary substantially depending on where a student’s college is located.  A university in the heart of New York City, for example (or any other large, expensive metropolis) will almost certainly have a much higher cost of living than a college located in a more rural location, even if tuition is the same at both institutions.  Of course, this does not automatically make the more expensive school a worse decision – there are far more elements that are included in making that sort of a determination – but geographical cost of living is definitely something that must be taken into serious consideration early in the college preparation process, in order to allow for optimized college financial planning.

Consideration 3: Homesickness

It is not always easy to tell in advance whether or not a new college freshman will experience a lot of homesickness during their first semester (or academic year) away.  In some cases, students have no interest at all in straying too far from the nest, and in other cases students cannot wait to spread their wings and head off into the great wild yonder!  (Of course, it is not uncommon to see that some of the students who were very anxious to get away can also experience homesickness, too.)

Students who stay at home to attend college are generally pretty immune from the homesickness bug, of course, but we have noted that even students who are staying on-campus at a college across town – or in another part of the same state – can find themselves missing a home cooked meal, or the faces of their friends and family from time to time.  A closer location makes remedying these bouts of homesickness with a quick weekend visit much more manageable, both with regard to time and expense.

On the other hand, it cannot be overlooked that college students today have access to communication options that previous generations could never have imagined.  A student who is studying thousands of miles from home – or even in another country – can Skype with family members and friends in an instant and overcome some of the challenges of homesickness at minimal cost.

The most important thing when looking at the potential costs of dealing with homesickness during college is communication and a realistic view of what will manage the challenge, should it arise.  If this is done in a sensible and honest manner, then most cases of homesickness can be dealt with without having any long-term deleterious effects on a student’s college career – or the semester budget.

Consideration 4: College Environment

It is absolutely vital that a potential college or university should fit with the lifestyle and interests of a student – because no matter HOW well a school is ranked or viewed socially, if it does not fit the needs, lifestyle, and interests of the student, there is almost zero chance that the school can provide the best education possible for that young person.

There are wonderful schools in enormous cities that can offer great opportunities to students, but if a young person is best suited to a bucolic, small college atmosphere then that BNU (“Big Name University”) might not be the best environment for his or her higher education.  This can also be the case when it comes to specific fields of study.  Some very prestigious universities might only offer a middle-of-the-road education in a certain major, whereas a smaller school could be at the very top of the field, but only truly recognized by insiders and decision makers in that arena.

These are hugely important considerations, and the physical environment, academic offerings, and even the weather can all play a part in the overall success (or failure, for that matter) of college students.  We encourage parents and students alike to discuss their preferences, their goals, and their aspirations with us to help make the best decisions possible!

 

Until next month,

 

 

 

Benefit of staying motivated for college while in high school

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“Top Tips For Remaining‘College-Motivated’

During TheHigh School Years

Even highly gifted and talented students can sometimes be tempted to “drift” a bit during the school year – in fact, intelligent kids are sometimes even more at risk because they may lack academic stimulation and challenges in some cases.  For this reason, it is important for parents and students to have an eye on the best ways to remain focused on the goals at hand, even if/when others may tend to fall by the wayside, either temporarily or (unfortunately) permanently.  There will almost always be ebbs and flows during a school year for a variety of reasons, but the students who are able to keep themselves on target with the most consistency during their high school experience are usually those who end up in the best situations when they graduate and move on to the next level.

Fortunately there are a number of excellent strategies that can help students to remain focused on their college goals throughout the year, and discovering which ones are the most effective for the college bound youngster(s) in your family can pay great dividends over the course of the high school experience.

For this month’s newsletter, we are dedicating these pages to some of the top tips for keeping a student’s eye on the college ball during their preparatory years.  If you have any specific questions about them, or would like some more personalized suggestions, please do feel free to give us a call.  As college funding professionals – and as the college application experts – we are uniquely prepared to provide details, planning, and important information that can positively affect your family’s college preparation efforts.

Tip 1) Focus On Specifics

The “specifics” are going to be different for every person depending on who they are, and where they are in school. Everyone has a set of both strengths and weaknesses. For example, one student may have difficulty staying on top of notes or materials from a certain class. One way to combat that would be to use specific actions to stay motivated on certain tasks and goals. In this case, it could be to put all the notes and materials in one place immediately after class. This would fix the problem of lost notes and materials.

Another example could be related to homework. Procrastination is virtually universal. However, if specifics are attached to certain goals then this can help to keep the student focused and motivated. One specific goal could be to finish homework prior to doing any other social activity. This takes discipline, but it is specific and can help to build motivation and confidence if followed through regularly.

Tip 2) Stay Positive

So much of life has to do with attitude. If teachers and classmates are getting a student down, there is almost always something that can be done to improve a situation.  Charles R. Swindoll once said that “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” This is true in high school and throughout life. There may be classes with less-than-stellar teachers. Maybe an illness presents itself while in school. How one reacts to these challenges can determine the ultimate trajectory of one’s success.

High school, like life in general, is not always easy.  However, keeping a positive attitude or looking for the positives within a negative situation can help one to not get mired in all of the negativity that can sap focus and motivation.

Tip 3) Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize!

It is usually pretty easy to see when there are several tasks that lie ahead, but the inclination for most people is to do the easiest thing first. However, if one prioritizes, the easiest task might (or might not) be the one that needs to be done last – or in the middle – or even not at all.

It’s important to look at the long-term goal and break down tasks and priorities accordingly. Classes that are easier may not need immediate attention, for example.  By the same token, more challenging classes may need to be prioritized first in order to stay on course and achieve the level of academic success desired. Take time for the classes that need the attention and focus efforts accordingly.

Tip 4) Swallow Pride – Ask For Help When Needed

It is not always easy to admit that one needs help. It is crucial, however, to ask for help promptly before things unravel and one gets too far behind. If there are certain areas that need attention, there is nothing wrong with requesting extra assistance or support. It is a sign of maturity and strength to know when one’s limit has been reached.

Getting even a little bit of additional support may just be what’s needed in order to stay on track and motivated.

Tip 5) Set Goals

Setting goals can be incredibly rewarding and they are a great tool to use to become and stay motivated. Here’s a well-known – but often quite effective – acronym to help high school students to set goals: Goals should be SMART.  This means S – Specific, M – Measurable, A – Attainable, R – Relevant, T – Timely.

Goals should be specific. Starting off the school year with a question about what one would like to accomplish and writing down those desires is one way to get to the specifics of one’s goal(s). Goals should also be measurable. This means that they should be created and tracked in a way that allows one to see that progress is being made. Goals should be something attainable. Big, impressive goals are great, but they should always be framed within the realm of the capabilities of the student.  Goals should be relevant to the desired outcome. Setting a goal to watch 50 classic science-fiction movies may be fascinating and fun, but it will not do much to help a failing grade in math. Goals should be set that put (and help to keep) one on a trajectory towards ultimate academic success. Finally, goals should be timely. It is a good idea to have some calendars in hand when setting goals. Create timelines and expectations for when benchmarks are to be met.  Keeping these cues in mind can help with effective goal setting each semester, and throughout the high school years.

Tip 6) Take Time to Reassess

Life happens. No matter how much one strategizes and plans, things can always get in the way to throw a kink in things. That is why it is a really good idea to regularly look at goals and see which things are working, which things are not, and determine overall whether things are moving in the right direction. If not, it may be time to make an evaluation of precisely where things stand, and whether they need to be tweaked a bit in order to stay on the right path.

Remember, assessment and reassessment are not only for before and after the process – they are also tools for constant correction throughout the high school years, and one of the things that leads to ultimate success!


 

The Admissions Wish List

What Admissions REALLY Are Looking For In Their Incoming Freshman Classes

The first term of the school year is in full swing, and students (along with their parents, in many cases) are likely looking forward to the holidays for a bit of a break. However, we college funding advisors are remaining diligently focused on preparing students and their families for all aspects of their college futures, from academics to college finances, and we are pleased to keep you updated on our findings. This is truly what we do best, after all is said and done.

One important area of focus – and something that is misunderstood by a significant number of college bound students as well as their parents – is an accurate understanding of the things that are MOST important when it comes to gaining admission to a desired college or university. Now, obviously, there can be some differences depending on which schools and institutions are being talked about, but there are also several key aspects that are almost universally important, no matter which schools are being considered.

The sooner a student is able to obtain a general understanding of these key factors, the sooner he or she will be able to implement them as a part of his or her high school education, meaning that it can pay dividends as soon as the time comes to start applying to colleges and universities for their impending step upward into higher education.

Some of these points are fairly reasonable and make good, common sense. Others might be less well-known, but they are still extremely important. Still others are simply ignored by far too many students these days, and absolutely warrant a timely reminder so that your student is not missing out on something vital for his or her college application process!

Remember, we keep our finger on the pulse of these kinds of things specifically because we are serious about being the experts in our field – we have gleaned much valuable experience in watching college students and their parents maneuver through the college application process each and every year. Upon completing your perusal of this newsletter, please do let us know if you have questions or specific worries about your family’s unique situation. We will be pleased to assist you in providing reliable information for your family’s college preparation activities at all levels for the higher education of your child.

The Obvious: Strong GPA and Class Ranking

It should go without saying that grades count. They don’t count for everything, but they count. If your child has a high GPA, this will only help to separate your child from the rest of the applicants. Overall GPA is important, but some schools will also take note of how your child did in his/her individual classes. Some high schools offer class ranking. If this is the case for your child’s high school, the college will want to take a look at this so see how s/he ranked among his/her peers.

Advanced Placement (AP) and/or Honors Classes

Taking difficult classes such as Advanced Placement or Honors classes can give a very good impression to admissions officers. However, it is actually doing well in these classes that shows the college that your child is serious about his/her academics. This demonstrates discipline and dedication, which are attributes that will help a child excel in college. International Baccalaureate or IB programs are also highly regarded, if available.

Engaging in Extracurricular Activities

It is not sufficient to merely have good grades in one’s classes. Colleges are looking for students who have passion, interest and drive. Taking extra curricular activities demonstrates that the students have interests that extend outside the classroom. The types of activities chosen will show what the students find compelling and interesting. Developing talents and skills outside of the regular school day is something that helps to develop a well-rounded student. Remember, though, that the better schools want to see a real level of commitment and achievement in these activities – not just something that has been done to “fill in a box.”

Volunteerism

Taking time outside of high school life to volunteer one’s time is a special thing. If your child has done projects outside of school for any charities or did any sort of volunteer work at all, these things should be noted on the application. These are traits to demonstrate a strong character and these are the types of student’s college admissions officers would like to admit into college. Some students have been able to work these activities into the school year, while others make them a part of their vacation time. Either way, it should be something that resonates with your child, so that it can be presented with honest enthusiasm.

Gathering Work Experience

Does your child have a part-time job during high school? Does s/he work during the summers? These qualities show independence, in some cases, as well as leadership and commitment. List any employment work that is applicable for your child. If your child had any leadership responsibilities such as managing a project, be sure to include those, as well. Any special recognitions or if there were promotions during your child’s tenure at the job, do not forget to include those. Remember, however, to discuss these activities with your College Funding Advisor, as these jobs can sometimes affect eligibility for student aid!

Standardized Testing (SAT/ACT)

There was a time that schools weighed the SAT and ACT quite heavily, and many still do, but not every school gives them the same weight these days. Regardless, however, it is advisable for your child to work hard and prepare to do as well as possible on these tests. They are still a valuable benchmark for colleges to use, and admissions officers can review these tests and compare with other test results (such as AP tests). Your College Funding Advisors can help you research the specific schools to which your child would like to apply, and determine whether they regard the SAT/ACT highly, and which tests might be required for admission.

Strong Recommendation Letters

While a good recommendation letter can go a long way, a meaningful recommendation letter can go even further. For this reason, your child should try to secure recommendation letters from people s/he knows quite well. Most colleges will ask for at least two so it would be useful to probably have three letters on hand, just in case – and some letters might be particularly helpful at certain institutions.

These recommendations need to speak to the overall character of your child, beyond a simple listing of accomplishments. The writer could be a teacher in a particular class, an extra-curricular teacher or instructor, an ecclesiastical authority, a coach, a mentor, and so forth. These letters should obviously cast your child in the best light and will be able to tell a story about your child which grades and activities – on their own – cannot.

Tailor The Admissions Essay

While it is true that a well-written essay may take some time to craft, it is well worth the effort. This is another chance that admissions officers will get to see a side of your child that grades, activities and recommendation letters can’t show, and an opportunity our child to connect with the reader on the admissions committee. Every child is unique and this is the chance for your child to show what is unique about him or her… so the essay should be reviewed for both content and for grammar well before it is ever sent out. It should also be tailored a bit to appropriately match the application to each different school on his/her list.

Demonstrate Passion And Drive

We can readily report that too many kids are pushed into a plethora of activities without ever having a chance to develop a skill or talent in a particular area. Colleges are most interested in seeing drive, interest, and passion for the activities in which an applicant is engaged. They certainly do not prefer seeing a student listing a page full of different activities with no demonstrated meaning, and without time invested to grow in those disciplines.

How can an applicant show the meaning in their activities? There are many ways. For example, if your child took band and excelled at playing the trumpet, make sure that fact (along with any special awards or engagements) is prominently displayed on the application. Or, did your child have a passion for building and was always staying late in shop class? Maybe you have a budding engineer on your hands. Be sure to let admissions officers see that your child has a solid and well-developed interest in areas that truly matter to your future college student.

Growth Potential?

The very best colleges and universities often go far beyond SAT scores and essays (which should be a given at the top levels). They want to determine whether your child is the type of person who learns and grows, and truly enjoys the process of learning and growing. They want to see how your child stretches him/herself. They want to know how your child sees him/herself as a human. They also want to see how your child wants to contribute to the world – as a potential alumnus or alumna of their institution. Show them!Until next month,

College Skills You Can Master Now

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“Proven Skills For College Success To Master NOWWhile Still In High School

Dear Parents,

Focusing as we do on preparing young people (and their families) for the realities of college education, we find that it is always important to begin preparations as early as possible.  Naturally, that plays an enormous role when it comes to financial preparation, and we do everything we can to assist parents in being prepared in that area.  However, no matter how well prepared a family is financially, it is truly all for naught if the student him/herself is not prepared for success at the college level!  Whether a student realizes it or not, the skills that get one INTO a great college or university do not always guarantee success once one arrives on campus for the infamous freshman year.

Because of this fact, we find it extremely important to help students understand what kinds of skills and abilities are most likely to help them succeed in their academic and personal efforts at the next level.  There is usually a significant amount of adaptation required when making the jump from high school to college, even in the best of circumstances, but it definitely can be accomplished!

The truth is that almost any student can master the skills that lead to outstanding performance and success in college, but we see year after year that many young people simply are not optimally prepared for the beginning of their college experience, and this can have challenging personal – as well as academically distressing – consequences.  Learning these kinds of things “on the fly” during the beginning of university studies can involve a lot more stress than actually having the majority of his or her college skills already in place and just waiting to be implemented at the next level!

In order to help students prevent a rough start at the next level, this month we are focusing our newsletter on a few of the most important skills that students should learn BEFORE ARRIVING at their college or university.  Bear in mind that some of these may come naturally, and others might be more challenging, but they are all important.  Remember also that, depending on the high school experience of an individual student, it may be a bit of a stretch to develop some of them within a certain framework of classes.  This is when it can be important to seek activities outside of the high school experience to help a young person begin to develop these skills as effectively as possible.

Time Management

Once children head off to college, they no longer are operating under their parents’ direct influence (such as it is) regarding the activities that fill their time each day. No longer do they have parents who can assist with getting them awake in the morning and out the door to an early class or other activity.  The parents are also not there to remind a college student about soccer practice or an upcoming quiz or to make sure they are making progress on a term paper. This can be a big adjustment for young people if they have not started learning the skills of time management while they are still in high school.

This is a good thing, as it is part of growing up and learning individual responsibility.

However, mastering the skills of time management will make life a lot easier and much more organized, and they will almost invariably lead to better performance at the college level, as well as a LOT less stress at the same time!  Time management skills will help your child to prioritize their time and responsibilities, which is critical when your child is suddenly the one responsible for classes, homework, activities, and commitments.

One way to manage time is to simply get into the habit of writing everything down. This can be managed with a smart phone, or even a planner or a small notebook, the main thing is to DO it!  We definitely live in a digital era, but there have been numerous studies done which detail the benefit of writing things down… on paper. Writing things down has been shown to process deeper into the brain. Of course, there are also now programs that will allow “writing” in a digital device – we do not care so much which time management tool is used by a high school and college student… what we care about is how well they implement it into their busy lives!

Frankly, it’s not even necessary to go out and spend loads of money on a device or a fancy, leather-bound planner system.  These days, many people of all ages are choosing to create their own planners that precisely meet their needs. This also allows them to be creative and this furthers deepens the processing of what they need to get done.  The main thing is to get organized and learn to use time wisely – and to start doing so NOW.  If a student thinks that he or she is busy in high school?  Just wait until college starts…

Prioritization

Prioritizing is a skill that will be very useful while in college and throughout life. Prioritizing tasks in order of importance is something that will help to maintain your child’s ability to cope with stress while in college.  It is also something that takes time to learn.

Early on, young people sometimes will tend to believe that almost any activity is productivity, but that idea will meet a quick end when managing a full-time student’s series of classes at a college or university!  The fact is that at any given moment there are things that are more important, and things that are less important, given a set of desired outcomes.  Students who have learned to prioritize their time well will be able to meet all of their deadlines with relative ease, simply because they do the most important things first.

Learning this is a process, which is one reason that it is vital to get started during high school.  It is often simply an offshoot on time management discussed above, when a student learns to recognize the most important or pressing items, manage them first, and then go on from there. Whatever is left over from the day before will go on the new list for the next day and become prioritized accordingly.

Budgeting

The dreaded “Budget” word has come back to haunt many a freshman (and parents) by destroying the college fund for an entire semester – or even a school year in some cases – and this is often due simply to the fact that most high school students are not managing their own money during high school experience… which is not a bad thing, as they are usually still with the family!

However, young people need to learn to manage money, because for almost everyone it rapidly becomes a limited resource in college.  The sooner a young person learns how to plan finances by the week and the month (not to mention the semester and the year), AND has the discipline to follow that plan, the better of his or her future will become.  That is true not just during the high school and college years, of course, but it will pay dividends throughout a lifetime after graduation and right into his or her career.

Balance: School Time vs. Play Time

After a student has learned to manage his or her time, prioritize his or her course work and other tasks, plan out (and stick with) expenses and income, and done all that needs to be done to stay on top of the academic side of college life… then we simply must mention that there should also be some time to have fun in college!

Making time for relaxation and fun is essential to having success while in college. We all know the saying about ‘all work and no play’ and what that does to Jack (and/or Jill). Well, the same thing can be said for your child, especially in the college environment. It is important for students to have “down time” and to let one’s body relax and recharge. Young people’s brains and bodies need to have time away from constantly processing and digesting new information, so it is vital to make time to do things that have nothing to do with homework or test preparation.  The thing that matters is finding the balance that allows for success in academic work, as well as a valuable and uplifting college experience.

The simple fact is that when a student is balanced it is easier (and more effective) for him or her to fully engage in the classroom… and social activities are more enjoyed and appreciated when a student knows that things are going smoothly on the academic front, as well.  Start with your high school student now so that he or she knows how to fully engage in both academic work and other activities of interest!

 

 

 

Targeting College Search to Career

Creating a Targeted Higher

Education Experience – and Career –

for your Child

Dear Parent,

As a new school year begins we must admit that we take a good (and deserved) measure of pride as we are able to observe the results of the preparations of many of the parents and high school students with whom we have worked.  As these young people are entering their years of higher education they are tackling this next endeavor in different ways, with different goals, and with their own unique set of skills and talents.  However, a strong work ethic and good skills are often not quite enough on their own.

Far too many parents view the college experience as a one-size-fits-all endeavor in which the only thing that matters is getting to the liberal arts school with “the best name” (whatever that means).  This is absolutely incorrect, and we have no qualms about saying so.  Our goal is to help students and their parents to prepare for the BEST educational (and future professional) experience possible, and this can entail looking at a significant number of different variables.

When we look at tailoring the higher education to the child (and not vice versa) we must be very aware of the ultimate goals of the student, his or her interests, and his or her strengths and weaknesses.  All of these details, and many others, will go into determining which institutions will offer the best fit for a graduating high school student.

Not all colleges and universities are the same, and not all are focused on the same end results, so we need to help families to understand what types of institutions match up best with what types of students – and what types of careers they can lead to.  With these topics in mind, we have decided to focus this month’s newsletter on looking at some of the different types of institutions that are available for students at the next level.

Please note that because we are serious about higher education, all of these options lead to the completion of a bachelor’s (or graduate, or professional) degree during the years of higher education – while some students may opt to attend different sorts of training or trade school programs, and this can be a path for a subset of each graduating class, our emphasis remains firmly on the best options in pursuing higher education.  Remember, while the liberal arts institutions are definitely an option (and a fine one) for many students, it is always worthwhile to examine all of the options available and see what matches best with your kid.

Strategy 1: Technological Universities and Institutes

Some people might read this heading and think that we are referring to local “XYZ Technical School” – not at all!  Rather, we are targeting high-profile, technical institutions throughout the country that are specifically focused on technology and the sciences.  There are many of them, and some are among the best (and sometimes that most competitive) schools in the world.

Most science-oriented students will be well aware of the virtues of such places as Cal Tech, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (the famed “MIT”), or Georgia Tech, or Carnegie Mellon.  Parents should be aware that these are truly outstanding schools, and they can be found in many different places.  Students who have an interest in chasing technological pursuits will find a specialized technical institution to be a great fit for their interests – and they often are also relieved to find that their interests are shared by other bright young people, as well.

For the best of the best schools, like those listed above, the admissions requirements are extremely high, but they are always worth understanding and working towards.  There are also similar schools that can lead to the same types of careers throughout the nation, and they can make a truly wonderful match for young people whose minds are intrigued by the right kinds of scientific and technological questions that forge our world and our collective future.

Strategy 2: “Special Focus” Institutions

This is an important option because there are young people who have skill sets and talents that might not always fit into the standard liberal arts curriculum.  The artists, for example, or the gifted musicians, or the designers also have their own outstanding corners of the higher education world.

Gifted musicians, for example, may target musical conservatories (the famed Juilliard, New England Conservatory, Manhattan School of Music, etc.) as well as the prestigious music schools at some famous universities (Indiana University, Oberlin, etc.) to receive world-class training for a career in music.  And yes, people still do have professional careers in music – these kinds of training opportunities are not a guarantee, but they offer the some of the best pathways forward.

Other types of artists or designers can attend outstanding art or design programs at institutions (Savannah College of Art and Design, Pratt Institute, Rhode Island School of Design, etc.) that are literally tailored to getting the most out of their talents and finding the best ways to utilize them in the world.  As is the case with gifted scientific students at technological schools, artistic students can find it very freeing to pursue their educations alongside other like-minded people to challenge and inspire them forward

Granted, there are certainly a number of talented students will be more comfortable with just seeking out a minor in their artistic endeavors at a liberal arts school, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that at all.  However, for those who are fully committed to developing their talents, design schools and conservatories can be an outstanding option for their educational and professional development.

Strategy 3: Academies – Not Just For Military Types!

The most obvious schools in this category are quite prestigious and are known to most people already… The Navy and Marine Corps have Naval Academy, at Annapolis, Maryland… The Army has the US Military Academy at West Point, New York… The Air Force has the Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs, Colorado.  All of these schools will usually require the recommendation of a politician and some extremely strong applications – not to mention an interest and aptitude for leadership in a military setting – in order to gain admission.

Government academies not affiliated with the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines are also an option – the US Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, and the Merchant Marine Academy in King’s Point, New York, also offer outstanding academic programs with career options in the public service.  Like the military service academies, admission to these Coast Guard and Merchant Marine programs offers a scholarship for the four years of study, with truly outstanding training and academics.

However, there are also other academies that are NOT directly related with the military, and they often have extremely intriguing options that can lead to outstanding careers both within the military and in the civilian sector.  First of all there are private military-style academies (such as The Citadel in South Carolina, or Norwich University in Vermont) where students are undergo a strict, military-styled education – and graduates may choose to pursue a commission as a military officer after graduation.

There are also a number of state-affiliated maritime academies offering training in engineering and other related fields – Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Maine Maritime Academy, SUNY Maritime College, etc. – along with practical experience en route to a bachelor’s (or even graduate) degree.

These are certainly options for someone with an interest in service in the military, yes, but as you can see there are also professional options away from the military, as well.  The educational aspects are top-notch and the job market after graduation can be excellent, as well.

Strategy 4: Combined Degree Programs

Remember also that, even within the liberal arts structure, there can be special programs that offer specialized training and options for people who have interests and talents leading them in a certain professional direction.  Many students do not have any idea what they want to do professionally after college, and that is not a big problem in most cases.  However, students who already know that they want to attend medical school, or law school, or business school (or other professional programs) can apply to enroll in combined degree programs.

These are organized programs that lead directly to a bachelor’s degree and straight into the professional training afterward, assuming a pre-set grade point average and standardized admissions test scores.  This saves time, money, and stress along the way, and can also guarantee the school a motivated student both at the undergraduate and the graduate level.

Sometimes the undergraduate degree and the professional degree will come from the same university, but there are also a number of affiliate programs where the undergraduate degree will be completed at a smaller college (usually in the local area) and the successful students then matriculate automatically at the graduate level at a larger university.  Either way, these programs are a terrific pathway into the competitive careers of law, medicine, business, etc.

Until next month,

Financial Realities of College-how much do you share?

     

 “The Financial Realities Of College:

How Much Should YOUR Child Know Before Starting?

As summer is in full swing it may become more and more challenging for families to think about preparing for college.  We mentioned last month, planning for college is about having conversations.  Be sure to include the reality of college expense.   Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, these financial details are often ignored… and both parents and students can be guilty in this regard.  This can definitely have a detrimental  effect on their levels of financial, academic, and personal stress during the college experience.

We understand fully that preparing for college or university studies can be stressful, in many ways.  Perhaps because of this reality, there can be a tendency for people to want to ignore some of the more challenging topics related to the transition to the next level of education.  However, ignoring these topics does not make them disappear.  By the same token, if only the parents (or, more rarely, only the students) are involved in these preparations, then it is not a team effort and there can be miscommunications and problems further down the road.  Our experience has been that it is absolutely vital for parents and students to have a mutual understanding of how things are proceeding for college preparation.

For this month’s newsletter, then, we want to explain a few of the most important elements that new college students (and high school students) should understand when it comes to starting their experience in higher education.  Yes, there will be a lot of students in their peer group – far too many, in our experience – who have no idea about these things.  However, rest assured that this lack of knowledge will more than likely become something that will come back to haunt them in the end.

As college funding professionals – and people who deal with these things on a daily basis – we want to help you and your family to experience a smooth transition into and through college or university studies.  We have a special skill set and will be happy to assist in any way possible with your family’s plans in this regard.

 Be Clear From the Beginning
Culturally, we tend to have many “taboo” subjects in the US. Depending on the individual, they may range from religion to sex to money. The subject of money, in particular when it comes to higher education, can get families into deep water if not dealt with from the very beginning with honesty and clarity.
How to pay for college should be a family discussion. This is a subject that should take center stage when getting ready to choose a school. It will have a lot to do with the choices your child will be able to make about where to go. It can also have a big impact on the family for the future.
If your child has his or her heart set on a ‘dream’ school then it is important to have the discussion and have the plans in place to cover the costs of such a school. This can all be done strategically and carefully, as well, with a thorough college funding expert. No parent wants to be saddled with massive amounts of debt when looking to cover costs at a prestigious school, nor do children want to feel that they have become a burden that the family has to bear in order for them to attend school.
Communication and (early!) preparation are really the keys, here. Will the parents be covering the entire costs of college? Will it be a combination of loans for the child plus what the family is able to contribute, or can this be avoided with proper planning?  (Note: it often can.) Having clear goals from the beginning and discussing those goals openly as a family will only bode well for the future college student. Tackling those goals with an expert will make it possible to move forward with those plans smoothly and successfully.

Focusing on the “Why” of College
Unfortunately, we see that students may not fully grasp the concept of ‘why.’ In fact, many visit colleges and make decisions on whether to attend or not based on a ‘vibe’ they get at the school, or where all of their friends are planning to go. It is important to make the most informed decision possible when going to college. This starts with the ‘why’ of going to college and then extends all the way through to the ‘where’ of going to college!
Some of the things that should be discussed and explored before beginning a college search include finding out what your child’s academic motivations are. Once these are laid out, it can be easier to look at options at that point. Clarifying interests and academic goals and motivations will make choosing the right college easier and it will mostly likely be a much better return on the investment. Not every child is clear on his or her ambitions in the teen years, however. This does not mean that all is lost. If they are not sure exactly where their academic focus is you are still able to make informed decisions. If they are able to narrow their interests down to a few different areas then you can search for colleges that have strong programs in the areas where their interests lie.  All of these discussions, when completed early on, can go a long way toward making the transition to college more manageable.

How (Or How Much) To Contribute
Many parents feel guilty if they determine that their ability to completely pay for their child’s education is not possible. It is easy to find parents who have gone into massive debt in order to make their child’s dreams of a college education possible even when it puts their own financial stability in jeopardy. This is one instance where having a solid college planning expert will help to ensure that these types of dire situations can be avoided.
Parents taking stock of what is realistic and what their child’s goals are will be very important in the part of the planning process. Do the parents want their child to attend a specific school?  Even more importantly, is that school a good fit for the student?  If so, is it currently possible to send them there, considering academic and financial realities?  What other options are available?  Once these questions are asked then the parents can move forward and see what will be required in terms of their contribution.
It is also important for parents to understand that where their child goes to college is not a reflection of their parenting skills or who they are as people. Keeping their child financially secure is a major requirement for parents and placing them in a school that they cannot afford and/or will place an undue burden on their child by way of student loans is not a great way for a child to be starting out in life. Planning ahead and making prudent choices based upon real financial circumstances and careful planning with an advisor will ensure the best choice possible is made that will benefit all parties over the long run.

Managing Parental Contribution/Retirement
There is no question that paying for a child’s college education can be a big sacrifice for parents. Parents who have an average annual income of $100,000, for example, can find that college expenses for just one child run $100,000 (and that is being moderate)… which can mean that they should expect to work an extra 10+ years in order to recoup those costs. That could mean delaying retirement in most cases – or, as mentioned above, saddling kids with significant student debt.
Because of these realities, this is another area where careful and early planning can make all the difference. The right adjustments and placing money in the proper strategic places may help to prevent some of the drastic measures to which many people succumb. These are definitely things that can and should be discussed with the college planning advisor – and the earlier that happens, the better! 

Probably the most important element of this part of college preparation can be boiled down to “communication!”  When people do not know exactly what is expected of them (financially, or in any other facet of life) then they are much more likely to make significant mistakes.  This is even more apparent when it comes to young people who are just starting out on their own – at college, or anywhere else… the more things can be clarified and communicated, the more likely they are to be able to manage these expectations successfully.

Until next month,

Conversations on College

Conversations on College

Conversations on College

Are you ready to have a conversation about college?  Talking about college with other parents or friends is simple, it is talking to your kids or spouse that may be tough.  This month, we want to break down those conversations on college into more manageable bits.  Students and parents (and hopefully, advisors) participate in the conversations. Let’s divide the conversations by audience.

Adults

For parents, the conversation started when that little bundle of joy arrived.  We all had the smartest baby, the one destined for greatness.  We dreamt of seeing that little one graduate from medical school, hit a home run in the World Series, and win a Nobel Peace Prize.  However after a few rounds of colic and teething, our goal became simple,  we wanted a healthy child and perhaps a good night’s sleep once in awhile.  Now that little one is in high school, it is time to start having realistic conversations on college.  

  1. How much have you saved?
  2. How much is college?
  3. Where do we even start?

At Midwest College Planning, we love having these conversations.  From the workshops to the free consultations, we talk college.  We work with parents on budgets.   We address your savings and if you need to up those savings, we have suggestions.  When it comes to the price of school, be prepared for sticker shock.  Annual pricing for public schools are coming in at around 25K while an Ivy League is over 75K.   Now, multiply those numbers by the number of children in your family.   Do you need oxygen? That’s where we come in to help.

Students

For students, the idea of college may have started back in first grade when they dreamt of becoming a teacher or perhaps it came along gradually based on course selection or interest.  Our goal is to work with kids to help them navigate the process.  Ideally we begin working with students early in high school, but we do work with rising seniors and in some cases those seniors who procrastinated and are panicked in September.  With students we stress the importance of grades, test scores and research.  Our conversations on college start with the basics:

  1. What are your grades?  
  2. What are your thoughts on location of college?  Distance and Environment
  3. What do you want to do?  
  4. What do you do for fun?

 Midwest College Planning has been helping families for over ten years. there’s not much we haven’t heard.  We find ourselves playing mediator between the students and parents.  Whether it is reminding a student to send in an application or reminding parents of their budget.    

Everyone

The news is full of stories about scholarships and ‘free rides’.  There are many schools that offer great scholarships to the top students.  The scholarships are often awarded to kids with what we call a ‘wild card.’

  1. Academics
  2. Athleticism
  3. Creative Talent
  4. Leadership
  5. Community Service

We will be honest with you, those free rides are few and far between.  Competition is tough at top schools, admission rates may be in the single digits.   Our goal is to have your family succeed.  We work with students on applying to schools that fit them academically, environmentally and socially.  We evaluate the financial aid packages and help students and parents find the school that works financially. 

This month, we are asking you to have those conversations and to remind you we do offer a free workshop where you can learn more about how we help families.  

We’re Moving!

Midwest College Planning is excited to move to our own offices! We are trading our shared space for a sweet suite of our own. We started out in 2009 in a shared office space and while it has been fun, we are looking forward to a larger space, bigger offices and dare we say windows. We are located in a small business park backing up to a metro park. Here’s our top 10 list of things to look forward to:

  1. Trees, we are tucked away in a lovely area
  2. No more elevators–we were on the second floor but due to security we couldn’t walk up stairs.
  3. Birds, you might hear if you catch us sitting outside enjoying the fresh air.
  4. Control of the thermostat, some say that thermostat control tops remote control anytime.
  5. Windows, we can see the outside world and open for fresh air.
  6. Less traffic, no longer surrounded by multi-floor office buildings   
  7. Peace and Quiet, the serene space will be quite nice
  8. New City–we are moving to Westerville, OH
  9. Easier commute, less congested area of town
  10. Skylights!

We have been fully vaccinated for a few months, if you are as well, we would love to see you at our new location.  
Please give us a little time since we need to buy chairs, desks, tables, and everything else….we have never moved so it’s an adventure.  

Our new address:  5022-A Pine Creek Dr
                                 Westerville, OH 43081

Our new phone number:  614.230.1208

Use High School to Prepare for College

It can be a tough job for both parents and college-bound high school students when it comes to preparing optimally for future academic endeavors. As college funding professionals with detailed knowledge into the admissions process, we recognize that all elements of the subject can be stressful and challenging from beginning to end!  However, the challenges related to college preparation can be effectively managed with some planning and insights in advance – and there is not doubt that it increases if college details are ignored throughout the high school years.  This is why we are here to help!

We find that one of the best things that parents and high school students can do to make their eventual transition into the college years as smooth as possible is to manage their high school experience in a specific way.  Students who try to view the high school years as an actual “college-prep” period will find that there are a lot of helpful parts to their high school experience, if they are willing to take advantage of them.  By the same token, parents will also find that the high school years are their own absolute best opportunity to prepare for college financial and asset management.  Working together, the high school experience can be more than just a chance for the student to get a diploma – it can be a perfect opportunity for the entire family to be optimally prepared for the college years.

The good news is that it generally does not require a lot of extra effort to turn the normal high school experience into a terrific college preparation period.  It does require some planning, and students cannot necessarily run on auto-pilot as much… and parents need to be actively engaged in the process to make the financial end work properly.  But the challenge is definitely doable, and we are the experts in helping families to make this kind of an invaluable high school experience a reality.

For this month’s newsletter, we are dedicating these pages to help you understand why these preparations are important, and how to make them happen.  Remember, if you have any questions about these important college preparation subjects, we urge you to give us a call.  College funding and application professionals are experienced and knowledgeable in these areas and can offer tailor-made explanations, planning, and information when it comes to these important college preparation efforts.

  1. Investigate Early College Credit Options

One great way for students to get a head start on their college experience is to look for opportunities to earn college credits while still attending high school.  There can be a variety of options, and they are all worth looking into.  Some schools will offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses than can actually count for future credit at many colleges and universities.  Of course, these courses presuppose that the student has demonstrated some strong aptitude in the subject matter, and are not available to every single student who expresses interest – but if the chance is there, and the student has the interest and the academic chops to handle it, then it can be a terrific alternative to the rank and file coursework.

Another possibility for some students, depending on locality and arrangements, is the completion of individual college courses during high school.  This is sometimes on a special agreement with a local community college or public university, but it can be a great way for students to get their feet wet early on, and even get a jump on completing some of their core curriculum classes at the next level before they have ever officially matriculated as a college freshman!

These options can make sense academically, putting the student ahead of the curve and building confidence early on… but it can also make a lot of sense financially.  You see, courses that a student completes before setting foot on campus are courses that will not show up on the college tuition bill later, and on that front every little bit helps!  If a student can shave off as much as a term or semester from the eventual course of their undergraduate degree, then the amount of tuition saved can be pretty darned significant.

     2. Seek Out Academic and Extracurricular Experiences

            High school is a great time in a young person’s life, but there are many instances where students will feel pressure (whether external or internal) to follow the proverbial “path of least resistance.”  Advance Placement courses are not the only way for students to excel, and can sometimes be the wrong choice for a student due to academic interest, motivation, or other considerations.

            It is vital for students to seek out opportunities to truly discover what their interests are, what experiences inspire them the most, and to begin to develop an understanding of what they want out of life.  Of course, those answers will often not come completely during the high school years, while there will be other students who may have known since they were five years old that they wanted to become a pilot, or an architect, or a doctor. 

            The point of high school is not to pigeonhole a student into a specific academic track prematurely, but rather to offer a chance for learning and growth, as well as an opportunity to demonstrate abilities, talents, and interests.  This can only really happen if the high school experience is treated appropriately, and not viewed as sheer drudgery to be endured only until graduation springs a student onward to the thrills of university life. 

Yes, we all know that high school can be rough at times, and we all have memories of certain classes that were… well, yes, probably sheer drudgery… but we are convinced that it is important to seek out whatever intriguing and inspiring options can be found in the high school experience.  Some semesters this may be more challenging than others, due to different teachers or social pressures or family challenges, whatever the case my be, but it is well worth the effort to seek out the best things that a high school has to offer.  This includes academic offerings, clubs, sports, theater, community involvement – really, anything that interests and inspires your child to a higher level.

     3. Communicate With Counselors Regularly

            There can certainly be a benefit derived from keeping the lines of communication open with high school and college counselors.  While the individual value can depend a lot on the counselor himself or herself, there are basic college preparatory courses and requirements with which most counselors are quite well-versed.  It is important for college-bound kids to be familiar with these tidbits, even if some guidance counselors do not have a lot to offer beyond that (which is sadly sometimes the case).  Maintaining a respectful and cordial relationship with these counselors can only help later when it comes time for letters of recommendation or paperwork for college application, regardless of how much or how little a specific counselor has to offer.

            With this in mind, as College Funding and Admissions Professionals, we also view ourselves as counselors in this arena, and we know that we bring the most up-to-date and actionable information for both college-bound students and their parents.  We have access to the information about the schools that interest your child, no matter where in the country they might be located.  We are the most reliable experts in managing the college funding challenges.  We really are here to help with all aspects of the college preparation experience.

            As you know, higher education financial planning and college application services stand at the very foundation of our work as college funding professionals.  This leads us to an ultimate goal of assisting parents in seeking the very best strategies for the management of their financial circumstances, as well as the proper utilization of assets to create the best situation possible with regard to the college options for the academic future.  This entire process works best, very simply put, if the parents are well-prepared ahead of time, with a clear set of guidelines to help along the way to preparation for their student’s future college and university years… as well as the attending college and university expenses!