Skip to content

Our Blog

But Why?

Remember when your child was going through the terrible twos and ‘but why’, was his/her favorite phrase.  As college planning professionals, hear it all the time.

  • Why do I need to save money?
  • Why does my child have to take the ACT?
  • Why does he have to take the ACT again (and again)?
  • Why can’t my child just pay for college themselves?
  • Why does college cost so much?
  • Why doesn’t my child get the same scholarship as my neighbor?
  • Why can’t my kid play Division 1 sports?
  • Why can’t my spouse handle all this admissions stuff?

Our first instinct is the parental favorite, because we said so or that’s life, however, that is not polite.  Let’s discuss why having a plan for college matters.

From the beginning Midwest College Planning has followed a simple formula:

admissions + budget= success

Let’s dive into the formula.  Admissions involves research, test scores, grades, and the student.  Budget is how much you plan on spending on college. By understanding how much you want to spend on college we can find schools that fit your wallet. Success comes when your son/daughter graduates from college.

Remember that list of Why’s? Here it is again, with answers.

  • Why do I need to save money? On average public college is $25K/year while private colleges have skyrocketed to $90K/year.  If you don’t save, how will you pay for college?
  • Why does my child have to take the ACT?  Both the ACT and SAT are good indicators for college success. During the pandemic, more and more schools opted for test-optional policy however they are shifting back to standardized testing.
  • Why does he have to take the ACT again (and again)? Practice makes perfect. Also there’s a little thing called ‘super score’.
  • Why can’t my child just pay for college themselves? Most students don’t earn enough to live on their own let alone pay for college.
  • Why does college cost so much? Check out another post for the answer.
  • Why doesn’t my child get the same scholarship as my neighbor? Schools are fickle, there are many reasons why scholarships differ from student to student, stop with the comparison and focus on finding the right school.
  • Why can’t my kid play Division 1 sports?  This is a tough one, in most cases the reason is your kid doesn’t play at the D1 level. We have those hard discussions with students and parents…until you get an offer from a D1 team, you aren’t D1.
  • Why can’t my spouse handle all this admissions stuff?  We live and breath college admissions and recruiting, there’s a really good chance, your spouse does not.

At Midwest College Planning, we help families navigate the college admissions process. We are with you from the first college visit until your child graduates with his/her first undergraduate degree. If you’d like to find out more, feel free to call 614.230.1208 and schedule a free consultation.

College planning by the Grade

It is time to spring into action, regardless of the weather! We are offering you a college planning guide by grade. 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?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 the 9th grade, 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. Some people are intimidated by the whole process of preparing a child to go to college. Don’t be discouraged, we are available and ready to address and guide you through the process of finding the answers to your concerns.

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.

Expand Your Support Network
Midwest College Planning 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 it’s 10th grade 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.

JUNIOR YEAR

It’s 11th grade 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.

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.

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.  We 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 12th grade 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.

Update your 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.

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!

Conversations on College

Floundering in financial aid

Conversations on College

Where are those financial aid awards?  That’s a question we have been asking.  The FAFSA Simplification has really thrown a wrench into the planning aspect of finding the college that your student can succeed and you can afford.  The latest information from the Department of Education is that the schools should begin receiving student data the first part of March.  Financial Aid Awards will most likely follow a few weeks later.  There are a few of the changes in the calculations that may impact families.

One change is multiple siblings in college.  In the past, this was taken into account in the calculations.  It is no longer a factor.  Unfortunately, this will have a profound effect on families.  We are curious to see how adjustments are made from the financial aid offices.  

Another change is for business owners and farmers.  In the past family farms and businesses with less than 100 employees were not included as a parent asset.  Unfortunately the form no longer allows for that exception.  

For divorced or separated families, the form is no longer filled out by the custodial parent but the one provides the most financial support.  This may have a devastating effect on families who may have previously qualified for financial aid.  

If you haven’t been keeping up, many schools have pushed back the commitment deadline to give families time to evaluate the awards and make the best decision.  As a reminder to our clients, be sure to keep sending us the admission letters and when you start receiving your financial aid awards send those to us. We will evaluate and go over an apples to apples comparison so you have a clear idea of how much college will cost. 

We don’t have a crystal ball to see if FAFSA will improve next year, however we certainly hope they are smoother.  

When it comes to college who will help?

  • Our Blog

“The Six Opinions That Actually MATTER While Your Child

Prepares For The College Years”

Preparing for college or university studies is a competitive process, in many ways. The simple fact is that the admissions process for better institutions and programs is a competitive one, because there are almost always more applicants than available positions for desirable schools. Because of this, we find that the preparation and application process can often take on a sometimes-unpleasant “edge” that really need not be there. Of course, the simple fact that we don’t like the tone of the process does not mean that it will go away, but it also means that there is no shortage of opinions, judgments, and comments surrounding the lengthy and involved process of preparing for and applying to colleges and universities.

Because there is no shortage of opinions and input, one of the most important things that parents and college-bound students can do is to determine exactly whose opinions and input matter the most… and focus their attention and efforts exclusively on those. If a family can hone in on the voices that will truly help them to find and access the best higher education options for their situation, and essentially ignore the cacophony.

For this month’s newsletter, we are focusing these pages on the “short list” of people and groups whose thoughts on the college application process actually matter, to some degree or other. Yes, and individual student might have an additional couple of people whose opinions matter to them, and that is as it should be, but let us assure you – there is no need to take advice from the peanut gallery. As always (and as will be discussed below), if you are interested in some more personalized suggestions, please do feel free to give us a call. Because we are college funding professionals – and quite literally college application experts – we are uniquely qualified to assist with planning, and can provide the most pertinent information for your family’s college preparation efforts.

Probably the most important advice for parents from the outset is first of all, to use common sense, and secondly, to ignore the aforementioned “peanut gallery.” While the outcomes may be rather public, the college application process is a personal one, and it is important to realize that the opinions of other parents or students will be of negligible value in the long run. Always remember to focus on that long run, and not on trying to impress the people whose opinions ultimately do not matter! Some of the people whose opinions will matter, to some degree or other, include:

1) The Teachers

This can be, of course, a double-edged sword, depending on the teacher. High school teachers are in charge of the grades that determine grade point average, of course, so their opinions need to be taken into consideration. College application recommendations also tend, at least in part, to come from high school teachers. Excellent teachers, providing excellent and purposeful letters of recommendation, are an absolute godsend to any college-bound student’s applications. On the other hand, unprofessional teachers can tend to make the process significantly more challenging than it needs to be.

Regardless, the best advice for students who are preparing for higher education is to seek out the best teachers during their high school years… and to maintain cordial, appropriate relationships in all of their classes, no matter who the teacher might be. Students who can manage this will generally be able to tell which teachers have their best interests at heart, and seek out appropriate advice from them.

2) The Advisors

You will find a number of different people during the high school years that function as advisors in some capacity. There are guidance counselors and academic advisors on the classroom side of things, and then club advisors, sports coaches, artistic directors, and others involved with extracurricular activities. And of course, that partial list ignores a host of other potential advisors through such organizations as service clubs, scouting troops, church groups, and other activities that are based outside of the high school umbrella.

It is usually best to select just a couple of particular advisors to assist with the actual college admissions process itself – many schools will have the guidance counselor automatically involved in the process, but a few advisors from extracurricular activities can be helpful in offering input and support along the pathway to the college years.

3) The Student 

The interests, goals, and overall desires of the student him/herself are sometimes, sadly, completely overlooked in parental enthusiasm for the college application process. It is important to remember that a student will have the best opportunities to succeed if s/he is in a situation where s/he is excited and motivated to study.

While input from the parents is key, and certainly important, the opinions of the student need to be respected. The application process is usually a team effort, to be sure, but over the long-term the student will be the one studying and working towards his/her long-term goals. We urge parents to always keep this fact in mind.

4) The Mentor(s)

It sometimes does not seem very easy for students to find mentors in the field(s) that are of major interest – especially if they are in an area that might not dovetail with the professional work of a parent or relative. However, it is our experience that students who are willing to put their best foot forward, and perhaps even do some volunteer or internship work in some capacity, will often be able to find supportive mentors for their academic and career goals.

These opportunities might be listed online, in newspapers, or through school offices and clubs… but sometimes it is as simple as calling or emailing a business, hospital, or other institutions and asking. Many young people have been able to meet and work with influential mentors in all sorts of fields by having the gumption to ask.

5) The Admissions Officials

When it comes right down to it, the people who have the most pull in the college and university admissions process are the admissions officials at each school. They are the ones whose opinions of an application will matter the most. Take their published and posted information (areas of emphasis, deadlines, rules) seriously. Understand that different colleges have different admissions officials with different requirements or areas of focus. And certainly, should you ever interact with them, treat them with friendliness and respect – which is pretty good advice for most personal interactions, actually!

6) The College Funding/Admissions Advisors

Naturally, we cannot allow a list like this one to head off to the parents of college-bound high school students without reminding you about what we do, and how we can help in this process. The families and students we work with in the college funding and admissions processes certainly find themselves in a very enviable situation, because we are wholly invested in their success. We are professionals and we have nothing else in mind aside from helping students gain admission to the best college or university for their future interests, and helping parents to manage the financial aspects of making that a reality.

Notice how we steered clear of what we call the ‘peanut  gallery’?  That’s because, you can probably name a few right off the bat from the neighbor who means well to the know-it-all at the gym.  As you move through the college planning process, you’ll soon develop an ear for the experts and the rest.

Until next month,

 

                                                                          

Resolutions Kept= College Success

Welcome to 2024! 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.

A quick update on the FAFSA.  We will begin submitting the FAFSA this week. We were waiting until the system was out of the soft landing stage, but that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon.  If we need anything, Lisa will reach out. 

We are here to support your financial and academic goals.

Transitioning to College: 3 Differences Your Child Will Experience

  • Our Blog

 

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 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 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 who 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 who faced earlier generations, but others 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.

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 of 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 demonstrates that the student is required to attend class or be faced with 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 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 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 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 want their hands 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.

Until next month,

~Marc

Avoiding Unemployment After Graduation

  • Our Blog

“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 end. Whatever the ultimate decision about future careers might be, of course, parents have another sizable pile of responsibilities.

 

A Hitch in Financial Aid

 

There’s a hitch in the financial aid process this year, to be honest, it is a bit of a mess. The Department of Education is updating the process. The change started a few years ago and it is taking a bit longer than anticipated to complete.  As of today, the FAFSA will be available sometime in December.  The new design will be streamlined.  We have asked our clients to get us the necessary information by October 15.

One change in the process is the required verification for FSA usernames.  Previously usernames could be created as the form was being submitted, now there is a verification period of at least 3 days. Until we see the actual forms and calculations we will not know the full impact of the changes.  It has been suggested that businesses and farms may be affected.  The most significant change may affect divorced/separated parents.  Previously the form was filled out based on where the majority of time was spent, it has been proposed that it will take in account the parent who provided more financial support.

There are a number of schools that require a CSS-Profile.  Please note, those schools are typically more selective.  The CSS-Profile is available through the college board website and requires information from both the custodial and noncustodial parents. The form is a deep dive into the financials of the family. Along with the CSS-Profile, there is often a request for additional verification or information that comes via the IDOC.  The IDOC is also managed by the college board website.  There is a fee for the submission of the CSS-Profile report of $25 for first and an additional $16 for each additional school.

With regards to deadlines, schools are making slight adjustments in deadlines.  FAFSA may be due by January 15 but the CSS Profile may have a November deadline.  We are asking our families to turn in their school list by October 15 so we can meet deadlines.  Our senior families will be receiving an email and mailer later this week to clarify next steps.

Pick me! College Admissions Success

                                                                                

“How To Get Colleges To Fight Over YOUR Student

For Their Incoming Freshman Class

Setting up your child for college admissions success starts now.  The Common App opened on August 1, with over 1,000 colleges participating.  We work with families to determine the schools and application type that will be the best.  While they might or might not be admitted to every single school to which they apply, these students find themselves in the enviable position of having multiple schools from which to choose.  In the best circumstances they may also find the schools sweetening their offers to compete for their attendance! Here are a four specific tips to consider to help your student become a pursued candidate when the time comes for college application.

Strategy 1: Academics Matter 

It should come as no surprise that schools are going to want to see academic performance when it comes time to apply.  Kids who have been working hard on their schoolwork in high school – and have earned the grades to show for it – will often move up significantly in the admissions cycle of colleges and universities.

The bottom line is that students in high school need to take their high school transcript seriously.  If they do, it will serve them well in the future.  If there is anything that we can do to assist in making this foundation of your child’s college application as solid as possible, please let us know.

Strategy 2: Find (AND Develop) Talents

The most important thing is for students to actively seek the things that they can do well, and find their talents.  This can come through school, through extra-curricular activities, through community activities, or even through their own reading and/or research.  Granted, sometimes finding these talents comes quite easily.  Other times it can turn into a bit of a longer search.  Because of this, it is important to start early and identify some of these areas of emphasis as soon as possible.

Strategy 3: Do Your Best To Nail Those Admissions Tests

During the pandemic more schools chose to go ‘test-optional’ however these days schools are requiring a test.  Please check the admission requirements and if tests are required, be sure to send in before your application is due.  For underclassman, please sign up for the tests multiple times.

Strategy 4: Start Correspondence With Schools… Early

As soon as a high school student has come up with a preliminary list of colleges and universities that interest him/her, it is a good idea to request information from the institutions directly.  It can also be helpful to contact specific departments at these colleges or universities, especially if there are areas of academic interest that the student might wish to pursue after high school.

These early contacts can definitely pay dividends later, especially since a student can become a “known entity” by the time the college application period rolls around. Departments may have scholarship opportunities, and may also have some input that can be of value for admissions committees.

Midwest College Planning is here to help with turning these plans into a reality – and when the time comes we are ready and experienced in working with applications, admissions questions, and all elements of financial awareness regarding the college and university years.  We are here to help navigate the college admissions process for your student’s success.

 

 

Searching for the Right College or University?

“How To Find The Right College Or University

For Your Child…And His/Her Interests”

Dear Parent,

We are pleased in this month’s newsletter to focus on something that counts among the most exciting parts of the college preparation process. Yes, it is actually true – not ALL of the preparation for college is stressful! In fact, if you work with a good college funding advisor it can become an exciting and inspiring time, indeed.

With this in mind, we are pleased to provide you this month with some of our most valuable and helpful tips for selecting the optimal college or university for your child’s higher education experience. We have seen, through years of experience in the college application and funding processes, that many families seem to get a bit bogged down in what can become a highly competitive process, in a number ways.

It can be very easy for some students (and their parents) to focus in on such things as college rankings by news magazines, or the most competitive institutions, or even the old (and resoundingly ridiculous) debate regarding the inherent value of public and private schools. We are here to urge parents and high school students to make their college application decisions based on the things that truly matter… and also to be prepared both academically and financially, so that the best options available for a rising college freshman do not exceed the college budget!

There are some things that are undeniably important for the selection of a future alma mater – and then there are some other things that might seem important at the outset, but really matter very little in the long run. In addition, some of the things that might seem to influence a college decision in the early stages can actually turn out to lead a student away from his or her ideal program of study.

With that in mind, please review these important topics both now and as the time comes to decide on a college. They are important, and we see this each and every year in our work as college funding professionals – and remember that the selection of an application list (not to mention where your son or daughter actually attends school) are among the most important part of your family’s college preparation experience.

**********

Selecting The Right Kind of College

Finding the right college can seem overwhelming at first, but breaking down the criteria according to your child’s interests and strengths can make the task completely doable. One of the first criteria to consider is the type of college. Along with thousands of colleges and universities, there are also currently around 1,500 junior/community colleges in the United States, so there is certainly not a lack of options! A lot of the options will be determined, of course, by how well your child performed in high school, on entrance exams like the SAT or ACT, and other variables. Colleges and universities have the cachet and offer excellent training, but there are some instances where a good junior or community college can work out well for a student – while allowing him/her to complete core credits that will transfer to many 4-year institutions later.

At the 4-year school level, there are also decisions between liberal arts schools, specialized institutes, full universities, arts conservatories, and technological institutions. With that in mind, some vital questions to consider will be:

1. Does my child want to go to a four-year or a two-year college?
Now, if your child wants to only go to a 2-year college or community college, or begin there and continue at a 4-year school afterward, then they should understand that they will receive an associate’s (2-year) degree. At a four-year college, they will receive a bachelor’s (4-year) degree. Depending on what their plans are for after college, they should consider what will be most useful and marketable when they plan to enter the workforce. In general, of course, graduates with well-planned out careers will make more with a higher degree.

2. Does my child have special talents or interests influencing his/her college selection?
As seen above in the listing of different types of 4-year schools, there are options for kids who are gifted in a variety of fields, from the sciences to the arts and almost everywhere in between. Because of this, it is important to see where your child sees his/her future career, and to determine the best possible location for him/her to pursue a higher education to achieve these goals.

3. Does my child want to go to a private or a public college?
As we have noted above, this is often a moot point, even though the private college or public college decision is a difficult choice for many. Many parents and students rule private colleges out immediately out of hand because they believe them to be far more expensive than public colleges. However, this is not always the case. Many private colleges actually provide a great deal more aid than public ones due to their private funding and support from generous alumni, etc.

For this reason, it is important to do your homework and not necessarily exclude private colleges simply because of ‘sticker shock.’ Private colleges have the reputation of being more selective, as well. This is also not the case across the board. It really depends on the school and one shouldn’t limit their possibilities based on faulty assumptions. For this reason, it is important to look at the education being offered, and get a full story on the actual cost of attendance for each school – whether public or private. Remember also that your college funding advisor can help you get a complete breakdown of these actual costs.

Do NOT Underestimate The Location!

Location is a major consideration for many incoming students – and for their parents, as well. In fact, many students and their families may find that it is one of their main considerations. If this is the case, it does offer an easy way to narrow down options for colleges.

There are several things to consider when choosing a college location:

1. Does my child like an urban setting?
An urban setting can be a wonderful college experience for many reasons. If your child has an interest in culture, urban colleges offer a variety of cultural opportunities. There are many museums, theatres, orchestras, and galleries that can offer inspiration to any budding artist. Most colleges set in cities are spread out throughout the city so often the city is the campus. This can be exciting to students who like to experience the busy pace and offerings only found in a city environment.

2. Does my child prefer a suburban setting?
A suburban setting can be nearly ideal. It is usually close to a major metropolitan city, but not directly in it. There is access to outdoor activities and also opportunities to get to the city for other events. These colleges are usually self-contained which is nice for students who prefer to have a feeling of community within the college.

3. Does my child like to stay in a rural environment?
Rural colleges can provide a terrific college life for the incoming student. These campuses are often self-contained so one really gets a ‘feel’ of what the community and college feel like. If your child has an interest in agriculture, a rural college may be just the place for him or her. Outdoor activities are plentiful in rural colleges so if your child has a passion for the outdoors then a rural setting may be a good choice.

Choosing What to Study

Choosing a major is very important because it determines what your child’s primary educational focus will be. The nice thing to know is that there is (usually) no immediate rush to choose a major. Many incoming students believe that they need to have their major chosen prior to entering college. It’s simply not true! One can even change his or her major midstream if the need arises, although this can add to the length of study in many cases.

However, if your child needs some guidance to get started on thinking of his or her major, here are some questions to consider:

1. What are your child’s favorite subjects in school?
Does your child have a blast in math class? Does physics come easily to him or her? These are just some questions to mull over while your child is deciding on what major(s) to choose college. The classes where they show the most aptitude may also be ones they might want to pursue in college. If their aptitude and enthusiasm for the subject are aligned then moving in that direction for a major seems absolutely the right choice.

2. Does your child have an interest in different subjects?
The nice thing about college is that one does not have to focus entirely on one area. One can double major or do a major and a minor in two different areas. This is a great option for those students who have strong interests in different fields.

**********
Bearing these topics in mind as the high school years pass, and as your student begins to consider and research different colleges and universities, can help to make the process significantly less stressful. Looking at the things that really matter, and focusing on how to prepare your child to succeed at the next level, will also help to keep a lot of the background noise to a minimum. If you ever find that you are in need of insights or assistance along these lines, please remember that we as college funding and application experts not only will have proper answers, but we are always willing to help!

Want to stay up to date on college admissions and planning?  Follow us on Facebook.
Until next month,