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To FAFSA or not to FAFSA?

The FAFSA opened up this morning and we’d like to take this time to go over a few basics of financial aid.   First we will talk background, next process and finally some general guidelines.  

The FAFSA started back in 1965 as part of the higher education act.    It is a standardized approach for institutions to structure need-based aid.  From the FAFSA federal loans and grants are offered.  The loans are broken down by parent and student.  Student loans are further divided in to subsidized and unsubsidized.  If you consider taking the loan, note there is a process to apply as well as have the funds sent to the school.   

The FAFSA process starts with the FSA IDs.  A parent and the student need to create FSA IDs.  This involves entering basic information, setting up security questions and verification.  Take your time, if you don’t completely create a FSA ID, you won’t be able to begin the FAFSA.  One of the most frequent questions is why does  parent need an FSA ID for each child?  The parent creates one FSA ID which can be used for different children who also have their own unique FSA ID.   

The FAFSA is available via an app or on the web.  Before you begin gather the necessary information:

  •  Parent Federal Tax Forms & Supporting Documents
  • Student Federal Tax Forms & Supporting Documents
  • Account balances for liquid assets (checking/saving accounts) , investments and basic property information.

Here are things we have found useful.  Always create a save key, that way you don’t have to finish it all at once.  Read each question carefully.  Be sure to your mobile phone number as a way to access your FSA ID so when you forget that password next year, it will be easier.  And most importantly, fill out the FAFSA even if you don’t qualify for need-based aid because there are some schools who may require it for merit aid.  
 

Pumpkin-Spiced Lattes & College Admissions

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Nothings says Fall like pumpkin-spiced lattes and college admissions.  Of course, this fall is a bit different.  It seems like we have kids going to school virtually, in person or a hybrid version of both.   Instead of fall open houses, colleges are having webinars and zoom admission events.  We are here to help you figure the admissions process.  Our goal this month is to break down some of the components in the admission process to better help your family. 

Strong GPA and Class Ranking

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.

Engaging in Extracurricular Activities

Colleges are looking for students who have passion, interest and drive. Participating in extracurricular activities demonstrates that the students have interests that extend outside the classroom. 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.”

Community Service

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. 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

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).

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

Demonstrate Passion And Drive

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.

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

We recommend grabbing that pumpkin spiced latte and sitting down to talk with your son/daughter about college admissions.  We’ve got another post devoted to admissions

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 800 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

We understand that the ACT/SAT tests are up in the air this application season.  Please check the admission requirements and if you are proud of your test score, by all means let the school know by sending your scores.  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.

Wonder if you stack up to admissions?  Here’s a link to an article.

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.

 

 

Financial Decisions that can sink your college funding plans

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“Well-Intentioned (Or Uninformed)
Financial Decisions That Can Sink
Your College Funding Plans”

 

Optimally preparing for the requirements related to future academic endeavors is no easy task… as college funding professionals who have access to the best and most accurate information regarding the admissions process, we have garnered the experience and understanding for these challenges!

However, we also know that parents can make some very damaging decisions if they make their financial decisions on their own, or if they decide to take some poor advice that would make sense under other circumstances… but NOT when considering the college financial situation. We are certain that it is important to make the best decisions with all factors being considered, and there are a number of excellent reasons for making sure that this is so.

Preparing for college funding does not always follow the traditional common sense regarding savings and planning, because simply put, the rules are different (and they tend to change a lot, making an already confusing situation even more puzzling for most people). For this reason, it makes all the sense in the world to make certain that the correct rules are being followed, and that the efforts are not going to actually turn into more of a problem later on. There are a number of things that can interfere with a family’s best efforts.

For this month’s newsletter, we are presenting some common errors made by well-meaning parents and families when managing these details. Should any questions about these college preparation subjects pop up, or other similar issues arise, please be sure to give us a call. We have all of the pertinent details in these areas and provide the beat and most current information when it comes to managing college preparation efforts.

Please make sure that you do not fall victim to these well-intentioned problems!

1. Not Understanding Exactly What The Financial Aid Offer Says

This seems like it would not be a problem, but, sadly, for many families it is. Many families will receive an aid package from a college and not fully understand the nature of the aid stated in the package. Colleges are not always very clear about making the distinctions between loans and grants and that lack of clarity can get incoming students and their parents into trouble.

Many of the packages do not fully disclose interest rates or reveal the average monthly payments, etc. This can make it very difficult for parents to understand exactly what is being offered to their child. Moreover, many parents will look at the loan offer and make the assumption that it will reduce the cost of the tuition. This is, obviously, not the case. Only grants will reduce the cost of tuition and other college fees.

This lack of clarity may or may not be intentional on the part of colleges. In many cases, mathematicians are the only ones who can fully decipher a financial aid offer and calculate the ultimate cost over time. One of the ways to solve this problems is to ask questions.

Parents should ask whether or not loans will be ‘front-loaded’ meaning that the bulk will be offered during the first year but taper off over the following years. Finding out where the loan money is originated is also important to know.

Ultimately, if it is not explicitly shown… then be sure to ask and verify the answers. It is the only safe course of action.

2. Reporting Assets Incorrectly

Many families end up ‘over-reporting.’ This means that parents will include assets on the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) that are not actually required on the application. Many parents will state their retirement assets and their home equity on the FAFSA when that is actually not a requirement on the form.

Look very carefully on the form to determine exactly what is and is not required. Or, better yet, ask for your help from your college funding counselor who can guide you in the right direction and help you optimize your situation.

3. Co-Signing for a Student Loan Without Full Understanding

Parents will often gladly co-sign on a loan for their son or daughter thinking that it will release them from any obligation to that loan. That could not be further from the truth. Any person on a loan is equally responsible for the repayment of that loan. If a son or daughter fails to make payments on the loan, then the repayment obligation automatically falls to the co-signer. For parents, that means that they are on the hook as a co-signer.

Many parents think that because they are not the primary person on the loan that it absolves them from making any payments on that loan. It just simply isn’t so.

It is important to understand exactly what is being signed – especially when it comes to student loans. Those obligations can almost never be discharged in bankruptcy, so students (and sometimes parents) will certainly be responsible for them.

4. Opting For a Private Loan Instead of a Federal Loan

Private lenders can be pretty tricky. Many interest rates that are advertised lately are as low as around 3%. Those low rates can look very attractive to prospective students and their parents. When compared to unsubsidized Stafford loans, which might be around 6 %, it  can seem that one is getting a really good deal. That does not tell the full story, however.

The main difference with private loans is that the loans are underwritten. This means that the loan must be scrutinized by an underwriter and will often require a cosigner. The rates are often a ‘come on’ and do not reflect the actual rates that will be received after going through the loan approval process.

Another drawback is that these loans are often variable. That means that after the low introductory rate, the loan will go up in interest even to the double digits. The loans also do not have the same repayment options offered to those who get federally funded loans. The repayment process is often much more strict and that can be a strain on newly graduated students who do not have the income to make the full payments required on the loan.

5. Saving “Too Much”

The old adage, “A penny saved is a penny earned,” takes on an even stronger meaning when it comes to college funding – and the rules for college funding can even turn this saying right on its ear. Let’s say, for example, that your child has worked hard over many vacations and has $10,000 saved in a savings account under his or her name. That is just terrific, right? Well, maybe… but not so fast.

About 20% of those hard earned savings could well be added to the EFC (or Estimated Family Contribution) when the fed begins calculating eligibility for aid… which can often mean that the overall amount of financial aid eligibility is actually adversely affected by the student’s own hard work and savings!

Now, there are other strategies to help work around this sort of situation legally, including continuing to save for your child’s education – but it may be worth looking into doing so under a parent’s name in another bank account. This is definitely a case where a chat with a professional college funding advisor can make a huge difference.

As you can see, making wise and prudent decisions regarding higher education financial planning – as well as college application strategies – can be an extremely challenging endeavor. It only makes sense to approach this effort teamed up with a college funding professional. Doing so allows families to understand and select the optimal strategies that correspond to their own financial and academic situations, meaning that the chances of success (both financially and academically) will climb.
All of the actions discussed in this month’s newsletter are not rare – they happen each and every year to unsuspecting college-bound kids and their parents – and we view it as part of our professional responsibility to assist families in avoiding these problems, as well and many others like them. We have a number of tools to assist in this effort.
One of our most dynamic and effective options for the education of parents with high school kids who will attend college is through in-person attendance at one of our College Funding Workshops. These presentations are moderated and instructed by some of the finest college funding professionals available. We see these workshops as a dedicated, in-person option for parents who wish to inform themselves with the best informational set about all manner of financial “dos and don’ts,” as well as governmental regulations related to their family and their higher education planning.

Our  workshops have no admission cost, and are being held in larger venues to allow for social distancing.  If you don’t want to venture out quite yet, we have a short virtual talk which runs daily. Despite having no admission fee for attendance, we must make certain that each event has a group size that manages both space limits and our experiences with creating a successful learning environment. Because of this, we insist on advance reservations for the best possible planning and delivery of a quality event. Thank you for understanding.

Until next month

 

Hello Sunshine!

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

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

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

Upcoming Freshmen in College: 

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Seniors: 

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

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

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

Upcoming Juniors:

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

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

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

Upcoming Sophomores and Freshmen:

Plan to take challenging high school courses

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

Think about reasons for attending college

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

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

Until next month…

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College planning by the Grade

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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? Some people are intimidated by the whole process of preparing a child to go to college. Don’t be discouraged, we here, at the College Planning Network are available and ready to address and guide you through the process of finding the answers to your concerns. We are experts in the field of college planning and can make the process flow smoothly for you. Because each family is different and you may have several children in different stages in school, we’ve divided the newsletter into sections organized by grade to help you go directly to the year your student is in.

FRESHMAN YEAR
If your student is in the9th 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. The Career Cruising Program is a great tool that is never too early to begin using. If you need assistance with how to use the program, please don’t hesitate to give our office a call.

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

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

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

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

SOPHOMORE YEAR
If 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.

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

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

JUNIOR YEAR
It’s 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. Talking to people in the fields your student is interested in is another way to find out how they got to where they are. A good ongoing resource tool is the Career Cruising Program. Your student should definitely review these results and brainstorm ideas with their CPN Student Mentoring session.

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

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

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

SENIOR YEAR
It’s 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you stack up for an admissions officer?

Do you wonder how you stack up for college admission success?

Well rounded and grounded students are what they want, how do you stack up?  A survey conducted by Money.com found the following attributes/traits to be critical for college admissions success.

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

It’s not too late to embrace a few changes to ensure college admissions success.

COVID Response

It's business as usual

.First of all, our COVID response is that we are working from home, but it is definitely a business as usual approach.  From the beginning, Midwest College Planning has been working with families virtually. The safety of our employees and families comes first.  We will be available by phone, no in-person meetings until further notice. Our workshops and speaking engagements have been cancelled or postponed.  We will offer virtual college talks daily.  

Here’s a breakdown for current families:

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

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

Transitioning to College: 3 Differences Your Child Will Experience

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Dear Parent,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time Management

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

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

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

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

Changes in Class Size and Organization

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

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

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

Learning to Take Initiative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next month,

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

     

“Cost-Saving Strategies For College

That You Can Begin To Implement NOW

We do not rest, however, and if you have followed our blogs in the past for even just a short time, you probably are aware that we believe there is no wrong time for us to introduce and discuss some of the most important cost-saving elements for tomorrow’s college students.

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

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

Strategy 1: Tallying Pooled Resources

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

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

Strategy 2: Creating a Budget

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

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

Strategy 3: Saving Money in Unexpected Ways

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

Paying for college starts by understanding your budget and planning for the future.