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Ways to save Money on College

The sooner students start thinking about and preparing for their efforts in higher education, the easier it can be to plan for success.  This  true not only when it comes to academics, but also (and especially) when it comes to the financial side of things.  Preparing for college or university studies is a process that ideally starts long before the first day of college on an autumn day (usually) at the age of eighteen.  In fact, the best-prepared students have often found intelligent ways to prepare and affect their college experience even several years in advance.  We think that this is highly advisable, because it can positively boost the student’s academic experience as well as saving their family a significant amount of money over the long run!

How is that possible?  Well, by seeking out ways to shorten their required stay in college or university, a student can shave of a semester (or even more) of tuition, fees, and living expenses from the overall college bill.  This can add up to tens of thousands of dollars in many cases!  This year, there are some motivated students who are graduating from high school and heading off to college… where they will begin as college students with advanced standing, when based on their accumulated college credits.

For this month’s newsletter, we are providing parents and students with some practical and important thoughts and suggestions on how to shorten the amount of time spent (and paid for) in college, but leading to the same degree for which other students will have to work longer… and yes, other students will wind up paying more tuition for the same piece of paper at graduation.  Please remember that as college funding professionals – with expert insights into the entire process of higher education – we are especially qualified to offer this type of important information for the benefit of your college preparation and planning.  Your child’s circumstances can certainly benefit from an individual analysis.

Completing AP Courses

When your child is in high school, s/he can already begin to make headway in college. If you are child qualifies or is able to choose to take Advanced Placement classes, this is a great way to begin to earn college credit while still attending high school.  Many colleges and universities will allow AP credit to take the place of required “core” classes during freshman year.  In this case, a bit of extra effort during the high school years can have a big payoff later!

Another way that students may sometimes earn college credit is to take International Baccalaureate classes, if available in your area.  Completing college credit in this manner, and doing so in advance, can also provide some flexibility when it comes time for a student to choose a major. AP and IB classes are high-level high school courses, and they also give your child a taste of what to expect in college or university classes.

There is no guarantee that AP or IB coursework will be accepted at the next level, so it is always important to review individual school policies on these types of classes.  However, there can be no question than the increased level of academic rigor pays dividends when college days begin in earnest.

Community College Credit

There are some community colleges that will allow high school students to take their college-level courses.  If this is available for your student, and the community college credits are accepted at a university, it can save a ton of time and money. Many core classes can be taken at a community college and they will almost always be much less expensive than university classes. It may be a good option if your child is unsure about which direction to go during college. Taking some core classes in community college would buy additional time in college for determining a major course of study and/or a career for the future.

Usually community college credit is accepted as transfer credit at public universities within the same state or region, which can be a tremendous benefit for students who are interested in these schools.  Some highly motivated students have actually graduated high school with an Associate’s degree in hand, meaning that in the right circumstances they can theoretically start university with junior status!  Talk about saving time and money over the long run…

Take Core/Elective Classes Strategically

OK, so it is clear that not every student is able to make a firm decision regarding a major right away. That is just fine. One way to combat the threat of losing time due to indecision is for freshmen to focus on completing any remaining “core curriculum” classes during the freshman year in order to stay on track and make sure the basic requirements for graduation are being met.

Remember also that students can use electives to “test out” different fields of specific interest that could become a major.  Even if he or she decides to go in a different direction, the elective then still fills the space of a course for graduation later.

Proper Consultation

One way to be able to assist your child in getting through college quickly and smoothly is for your child to meet regularly with his or her college academic advisor.  Each school will have its own requirements for graduation, and the academic advisor can often offer valuable insights into the best way forward – therefore, it is important that they develop a plan together. Your child specifically should let the advisor know that it is very important to him or her to graduate within four years (or less, if possible).

Of course, as mentioned above, many students enter college unsure of which major to choose. That is ok, but meeting with an advisor early on to prepare and develop a plan is helpful to turn that undecided time into productive time. An advisor can offer guidance on what courses to take that will help to point your child in the right direction. They will know which courses are appropriate to consider to and take that will help to develop their passions. They can also connect them with other older students or faculty members will be able to offer additional guidance and understanding that might be helpful coming from a peer.

Not all academic advisors are helpful, but many are, so this is an important resource to investigate during the early college stages.  Also, many schools will have specific advisors for particular careers, such as pre-law, pre-medicine, or pre-business studies.  Students who are interested in these professions should always seek input from the experts so they do not miss any requirements for their professional schools!

Thorough Research

Having realistic expectations is important when your child goes to a college or university. It is also important to know if the university or college that your child will be attending is committed to his or her success. If you and your child visit colleges, it may not be a bad idea to go to the admissions office – or even faculty in a field of your child’s interest – and seek out a chat with one of the staff. You can ask them directly what their rates of graduation within 4 years are and if they are unwilling or unclear about it then that might give you some pause.

It does not necessarily mean that it is not a good institution, but it may deserve additional research. Most colleges do not post these rates so in order to uncover graduation rates and related information, parents often need to ask directly. Having a low rate of graduation within 4 years could mean a variety of things. If there are a great number of students who only go to school on a part-time basis, then this might be a red flag.  This is a great time for us to remind you that your college funding advisor can also provide loads of valuable information regarding these details, which can be enormously valuable in selecting which school to attend.

Express Interest

Another way to help your child to stay on track is to express your interest in their education. Parents who express their desire for their child to have a meaningful college experience are more likely to have children who are also vested in their college experience, as well. It is important not to become extreme “helicopter parents,” which serves no positive purpose in the educational process, and no parents should insert themselves into tasks that students are fully capable of doing for themselves.  However, parents can communicate their interest and their wishes for a helpful and meaningful college education to their child. Educators have noticed that the students who have the best outcomes are ones who come from households where the parents are vested in their college experience and want them to succeed.

Bear in mind that it may not be possible for every student to implement every suggestion listed above – some students may not have a firm grasp on exactly what they want to study as early as others, for example, and other students may not have access to college credit courses in the area where they attend high school.  However, we make it our goal to assist our students in finding the best options for their speedy success in higher education.  If even a couple of the suggestions listed above can be implemented – and there are others, as well – then the chances are good that a student will begin to cut down the amount of time (and money) spent on completing a college degree.

Until next month,

 

 

 

Is College Simply Worth It Any Longer?

This is an interesting time in our modern world, and we live in a period when many people are questioning the “prevailing wisdom” on a number of topics.  College is no exception.  There are a great many things that we tend to hear time and again, especially as we College Funding Professionals keep our ear to the ground and our eyes on the horizon of higher education.  One of these recent ideas includes some occasional grumblings that for modern young people, a college or university education is simply not worth it any more… that higher education will only offer someone an expensive piece of paper to hang on a wall, and that it is no longer the key to a brighter future.

Now obviously, WE don’t believe this – not for a nanosecond – but we hear it.  And we are secure enough to also freely acknowledge that there are some very real reasons that certain groups of misinformed (or even embittered) people might start to buy into it.

With that in mind, let’s be frank… young people today who attend college or university without properly planning for their educations can often end up in circumstances that are less than ideal – as do their parents, who are usually on the hook for the bill.  There is no doubt about that.  Very few people go through the effort and expense of college hoping to land a really lousy, dead-end job, or even no job at all.  Tragically, it happens.  However, that sad reality usually has a heck of a lot more to do with a family’s overall lack of advanced planning (academically, professionally, and financially) before college even began, than it does with the inherent value of college and university training itself.

For a variety of excellent reasons, we remain firmly convinced that there is a great and ever increasing need for well-planned, organized, higher education in this modern world – and this reality is one of the things that keeps us so excited and motivated to help families achieve their goals for the education of their children.

This month’s newsletter, then, is focused on outlining the reasons that support the value of college and university studies in today’s environment.  Some of these ideas will be extremely practical, others will be more philosophical, but all of them will clearly demonstrate that a well thought-out, properly-planned, and intelligently-organized college education is one of the best investments that we can make – for ourselves, yes, but also for our communities, our nation, and our world at large.

Sometimes It’s A Requirement!

America is a country where much value is placed on a college education. It’s often associated with part of the American Dream and it becomes an expectation of many parents. There are, however, some exceptions out there.  We find that many of these exceptions are mentioned by people who have become disenchanted with the concept of higher education. Some famous, very wealthy people did not end up getting a college degree for one reason or another, including Steve Jobs, Dave Thomas, and Michael Dell, just to name a few.

 

While there are some rare possibilities for some highly motivated and highly intelligent folks out there who want to have a go at in the entrepreneurial realm, it is also important to look at the (much longer) list of people who succeeded with a college degree (or several) in hand!

 

Remember also that there are many professions that absolutely require the successful completion of formal education and training in order to be considered for employment.  People who enter these are often among the most respected and successful professionals in our society.  Just some of these fields include:

 

  • Medicine – Physicians (and other professionals) in the medical realm cannot simply ‘skip school and work hard’ and then expect to find a job in the field of health care. There are stringent requirements in order to receive a license, and in order to be considered employable… and that’s a very good thing for the populace! One can easily imagine that a prospective patient might get pretty nervous if the biography for his or her physician read something like this: “Dr. So-and-so skipped out on college and medical school, and sort of just tinkered around in his garage until he figured it out.”

 

  • Engineering – Back in the day, one could parlay experience in the field (usually through the military if it was civil engineering) into a job in the private sector. Those days are gone. One now needs a solid, bona-fide engineering degree in order to be taken seriously in the field of engineering, and these programs are competitive.

 

  • Law – There is no other pathway to bar certification and a rewarding career in law, besides completing an undergraduate degree and then graduating from law school… and then passing the bar exam for the state in which one wishes to practice, of course. That is the only option!

 

  • Finance – While not all jobs in the financial realm require a college education, many do. If one wants to go into the investment arena, a college education is almost always a must. This sector enjoys a lot of growth opportunities, but for leadership roles an advanced degree in business (like an MBA) can make a huge difference, as well.

 

Achieve More Work Satisfaction

 

A study done by The College Board online resource showed that college graduates are more likely to be ‘very satisfied’ with their jobs. In fact, the study shows that college graduates are 9% happier in their jobs than counterparts who had completed a lesser amount of formal education.

 

It might seem taboo to talk about these days, but it is also possible that college graduates tend to move “up the ladder” socially in life more easily and more quickly that those who do not have any formal education.  College teaches social skills in addition to bringing academic knowledge, and it can also foster social, professional, and mentoring relationships that bring dividends for a lifetime.

 

Confidence Booster

 

Let’s face it… the very process of learning makes you smarter. It, also, apparently makes you more confident, as well. Studies have shown that those who have gone through college and came out the other end with a degree tend to have more confidence than those who did not finish or never went to college at all.

 

It is not an easy thing to finish a college degree. This comes with a sense of accomplishment and it should! Setting a goal and seeing it to the end can be incredibly rewarding. The study showed that college degree holders were more likely to handle mental challenges, and they are even shown to have a deeper level of satisfaction while in the process of doing it.

 

Healthier Choices

 

While having a college degree will often give one a feeling of self-confidence, apparently it helps to make one healthier, as well.  Many studies show that college graduates tend to be healthier than those who do not have a degree. Higher socio-economic status, which is often linked to higher education, has been shown worldwide to be connected with increased health, wellness and a longer life expectancy.

 

College graduates also may make healthier food choices. This could be a result of the information learned while in college, or just an openness or willingness to seek out accurate and important information related to health in general. Having completed a college degree is often correlated to making better choices as it relates to health habits. This includes eating, exercise, and other matters related to public health. Finally, people with a higher level of education are more likely to exercise and less likely to engage in smoking or other risky health behaviors.

 

Positive Family Traditions

 

It’s always nice when generations of children can follow in positive footsteps. That is another terrific and lesser-known benefit of going on to college and getting a degree. Children of parents who attended college are far more likely to go to college than children who have parents without a college degree. Studies have also shown that children of college graduates tend to have a better quality of life and also go on to get college degrees.  Children of college graduates often tend to do better in school, as well. Some studies show that their test scores can trend higher and they may also have better grades. It is possible that these students may be generally more motivated because of their own parents’ academic backgrounds and successes.

 

They also tend to get into college easier because the parents are able to guide them through the process and emphasize the importance of education along the way.  Most importantly, however, regardless of whether or not a parent ever attended college him/herself – it is never too late to start a positive new academic family tradition!

 

Until next month,

Planning for your Child’s Financial Success

“Key Ways To Avoid

College Debt And Protect Your

Student’s Future Financial Health

 

We often talk of securing your student’s future financial health.  There is no question that student debt is increasing to staggering amounts for an enormous amount of college students. Often the case whether these students graduate or not, remember, because the debt does not disappear if a student drops out of college.   This can have a sobering effect on young people who are just getting started in life. We focus on this because we have seen how proper planning with regard to the financial aspect of college preparation can save both college students and their parents from incurring unnecessary debt, even at “expensive private schools.”  A debt-free start to a career post-college is one of the most important advantages that we can offer to a young person.

College debt is now being viewed by far too many people as a “normal part” of the educational process.  Far too many families think nothing of racking up tens of thousands of dollars (or even more than that!) in pursuit of a college degree.  We could not disagree more!  There are ways to avoid college debt.

Because of the importance of this task, we have decided to devote this month’s newsletter to some of the many opportunities and strategies that we employ wherever and whenever possible to specifically help students and their families avoid student debt while they complete their years of higher education.  Of course, the individual situations can be extremely different for each family, depending on a vast variety of considerations, so when it comes to avoiding college debt there is really no better partner than a college funding advisor… your resident expert on all details related to the management college costs.

Old Fashioned Savings

There is something to be said for all of those students who take the initiative to work during the summer vacation – or even during the school year in some cases – in order to save up money for their future college education.  Perhaps surprisingly, aside from obviously applauding their excellent work ethic and forethought regarding college preparation, the other thing that is to be said is: BE CAREFUL!

Yes, even with something as seemingly benign as saving money for college, students need to be aware and recognize that they really need to obtain good advice and keep a close eye on their savings.  This is because there are actually strict federal limitations on the amount of money that a student can earn and put away toward college before it begins to adversely affect their eligibility for college financial aid!

There are many, many good things that can come from being willing to work and save for college.  The lessons that can be learned from that experience can play a huge role in their future successes later on in life.  But we urge you to confer with a qualified college funding advisor so that you know how much of their hard-earned savings can go toward college, so as to avoid disappointment later.

«Good» Financial Aid

Student financial aid sometimes can get a bad reputation in some circles when people only focus on the student loan side of things.  Well, as we mentioned above, student loans for college are something that we very purposefully aim to avoid! However, it is important to understand that there are many different elements to student financial aid and they are NOT all detrimental to the future money management of a young college student.

Without sugar-coating things, student loans are, quite simply, loans… which means that these funds need to be paid back after college graduation (with interest, as well).  The fact that student loans are so prevalent in America does not in any way mean that they are a good idea!    In July federal student loan rates will increase to 5.05% for undergraduate loans and 7.6% for the parent plus loans.

On the other hand, student aid in the form of grants are what we like to call «free money» because they DO NOT need to be repaid after graduation.  Grants may be given to a student for a variety of reasons ranging from financial need, to the encouragement of higher education among certain groups, to students who are service veterans, etc.  The amount of money can vary, sometimes substantially, but regardless, they do not need to be repaid!

Scholarships are another – perhaps better-known – form of «free money» that are offered to a student directly because of his or her high performance and/or promise in academics, athletics, the arts, or other areas.  Like grants, they also can vary in size from relatively small sums (which still look great on a resumé, by the way) to the so-called «full-ride» scholarships which cover all – or nearly all – costs!

While grants and scholarships are great, and it is gratifying to receive one or more of them, the simple fact is that most students will find that it is NOT possible to fully fund their college education based on these sources of « gift aid ».  Because of this, it is extremely important to look at all of the college funding options available in order to avoid racking up student debt during the college years.

Work-Study Programs

Some students are scared away from «Work-Study» programs either because they are afraid that they will have no life away from class and an on-campus job, or because they have heard some (usually unsubstantiated) rumors about students being forced to work at terrible jobs at their college or university.

In actuality, there can be some truly inspiring and exciting options available to students who are willing to look for them.  Work-Study is a program that offers students financial aid based on their willingness to work on campus in some capacity.  Students who start the process early enough can find work options in departments that are of great interest to them, which can lead to experience in their area of study, not to mention valuable working interactions with faculty members and professors.

Even those who come later to the process and accept more menial positions will often find that the hours are flexible (or sensibly planned) and that a part-time job can be a great opportunity to have a regular, temporary escape from the stressors of college… and one that helps to keep them out of student debt, to boot !

Family Financial Foresight

One of the most important ways for students and their families to avoid student debt is by implementing a solid and well-thought-out financial plan – preferably as early as possible – with the insight of a college funding advisor.

A college funding professional can help with all aspects oft he college application and funding process, including the optimized planning of financial decisions – because remember, these decisions, many of which will not seem to have anything to do with college at all – will directly affect aid determinations in the future.

Determining a timeline for college applications and admissions can also help with the overall (and ever-increasing) cost of the admissions process, and a similar timeline covering major financial decisions and management can literally save families thousands of dollars within a very short period of time.

Because of this, we always recommend seeking insights from someone who knows all of the details surrounding the college process best, and someone who specializes directly in these areas.  We have seen it pay dividends and assist in the fulfillment of college dreams time and time again, so there is no question in our minds that it is an important step to take.  We certainly urge the families of future college students to begin early with this all-important process, regardless of current circumstances !

Until next month,

Hidden Costs of College Revealed

                                                                                 

“The Hidden Costs of College

That Many People Rarely Seem to Talk About!

One of the biggest surprises that seems to blindside a lot of parents (and their college-bound kids) is a breakdown of the overall costs of college these days.  It is no secret that tuition costs are rising, and with the increase in cost of living the total bill can be something that puts a large lump into a lot of parents’ throats, no matter how much money their family takes home in salary each year.

However, completing that college or university degree is an important goal, so it is vital to have a keen grasp on the overall costs so that proper and sufficient preparation can be made in advance.  Let there be no doubt about it, paying for college these days represents a significant financial challenge, and it is important to understand all of the potential costs in advance, so no huge surprises crop up later.

In an effort to help families prepare, we are focusing this month’s newsletter on some groups of education costs that tend to really add up during the college years, although we find that some families either grossly underestimate (or even sometimes completely overlook) them in looking ahead to their child’s years pursuing higher education.

We recognize these things because we see them regularly as college funding experts – and if our experience can assist with your family’s personal college funding circumstances, please do not hesitate to contact us at any time.  We have managed this type of monumental event in other families’ lives, and we can proffer the most suitable information for your family’s college preparations, as well.

Group 1: Living Expenses

Yes, of course, most people are quite well aware that there are living expenses at most colleges and universities (while places like the military service academies are a rare exception, for example).  However, what can be surprising is just how quickly these costs can add up – especially when a college student changes living circumstances between semesters or academic years, as an example.

It simply does not take very long at all for costs like off-campus rent, restaurant or take-out food costs, mobile phone bills, and others to add up and put a serious strain on the semester budget.  Remember that schools will give an estimated cost for living expenses, but these estimations can vary wildly in their accuracy and their expectations, which may or may not represent those of your family and/or your student.  Your list of expenses may not match up with the school’s anticipated list of expenses, and it is infrequent that the differences work out to the advantage of the parents, in our experience!

Of course, the school has direct control over the costs for a dorm or apartment on campus, and the on campus cafeteria food plans are also not going to come as a surprise to those in charge at the college or university, since they are part of the organization making the price lists.  But wow, once you start factoring in off-campus or unrelated expenses?  Well, that is one time when things can certainly start to add up to real money in a hurry.

For this reason, any changes in living arrangements during the undergraduate years should be gone over extremely carefully, and not made in haste if it is at all avoidable.  Budgets are generally set in advance for an academic year, so making a change between terms or semesters can also create some unintended – but very real – challenges with the cash flow.  Regardless, remember that a chat with your college funding advisor can be extremely helpful when it comes to reviewing and planning for the full spectrum of living expenses at your child’s college or university of choice – and any changes that may come around during the college years, as well.

Group 2: Direct Academic Costs

We hope this does not come as a surprise, but no… tuition costs are not the ONLY academic fees involved in higher education!  Yes, it is the largest one in most cases, but there are a number of additional potential costs that can wreak havoc with the finances if they are not reviewed in advance and taken into full consideration.

Students who are interested in studying the sciences, or taking a series of pre-medical coursework, especially classes with extensive laboratory components, will find that “Lab Fees” are added to the regular tuition costs.  Even students who are only taking a required science class as a graduation requirement will often find Lab Fees or other course fees tacked on to their tuition bill.  Schools have to calculate in extra costs for lab materials and lab instructors for these types of courses, and they pass those costs directly on to the consumer… meaning, the student!

Students who find themselves having challenges in a certain area may also wish to avail themselves of outside tutoring, which is usually at an additional cost to tuition, as well.  Some schools will have peer tutoring available, which is great in principle, but the quality of the academic help can vary substantially depending on who is available.

Group 3: Extracurricular Costs

Many universities and colleges offer a wide variety of outside educational activities for their students, which can be absolutely wonderful opportunities for learning, growth, development, and even future careers and job options.  Many of these optional activities also can tend to significantly drive up the overall costs for a student while in college, as well.

A few of these options can be exchange programs with other universities, foreign language immersion programs (in a foreign country, with program and travel and living costs!), special training options at industry or government programs, etc.  Clubs and other organizations will also add to the costs for a semester or academic year, sometimes quite substantially, so these things need to be discussed in advance whenever possible.

With this type of expenditure in mind, it is important to look ahead and see what offerings might be of interest to your child during his or her studies – both in the classroom and outside of the study hall – especially considering his or her interests, and try to plan for these types of costs in the academic budget.

Group 4: Unnecessary Costs!

Yes, it is true… the very presence of this group in our newsletter DOES mean that there are costs that many people pay for higher education that are completely and utterly unnecessary.  Often, these costs are due to poor planning or incomplete preparation, and the assistance of a college funding professional can make all of the difference in that regard.  Here are a few examples of frequent costs that people take upon themselves that could be avoided in many, many of the cases we see.

Paying for extra terms, semesters, or even years of tuition, for example, is almost always something that can be avoided with proper planning and focused student performance.  However, the average time that students spend in their undergraduate studies seems to be extending well beyond four years pretty regularly, which means that the schools are able to sock away more and more tuition from students who could have (and very often should have) graduated long ago.  As long as they can keep filling the classes, of course, the schools will usually be happy to keep taking tuition money!

Unbudgeted recreational costs can add up in a hurry, and we have seen cases where undisciplined students have blown substantial college funds on their “social life” and literally run out of money before the end of a term or semester.  Preparation is key, and it is important to include (and follow!) a budget with money for recreation planned into the overall cost.

Even costs like food can come back to unnecessarily bite students (and their parents) later, if a student does not have a well-organized food plan at the college level – there is a huge difference between a pre-paid, on-campus plan with the cafeterias, and unmanaged spending on take-out Thai food and pizzas, so there must be an understanding and a realistic plan in place to avoid running up a food bill that decimates the financial plan for the whole academic year.

Understanding all of the expected costs helps families prepare in ways that can avoid the unnecessary hits to the wallet that many others will experience.  We are well-versed in these issues and will be pleased to assist you should you so desire – just let us know if we can help out in any way!

Until next month,

Finding the Fit

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Roses are red, violets are blue, Midwest College Planning is here to help you find the fit! 

Welcome to February, this month we are focusing on love. We love the process of finding the school that fits the student academically, socially, and financially. We cherish that ‘aha’ moment when the hard work pays off for the family.

Finding the fit academically requires research. By talking with the student about his/her goals we draft an initial list of schools. The student is asked to research, develop pros and cons and then we meet. This process is repeated and refined until the student has approximately 7 to 12 schools that fit with the academic goals.  We also focus on building a student’s resume to make sure he/she ticks the boxes for an admissions officer. 

Finding the fit socially is more intuitive. During the refining of the academic research, the student broadens the requirements to extracurricular. Topics like internships, weekend fun and food are discussed. This is where students with a wildcard like sports, theatre and leadership may focus their time connecting with coaches and professors. 

Finding the fit financially is hard. For most families this falls on the parents. We start by asking parents to complete a budget sheet. Then we ask the sometimes tough question: how will you pay for college.  College is expensive. As we are working with the family we need to understand the family dynamics.

Finding a school that fits academically, socially and financially takes time and commitment. We here to help you every step of the journey.  

Feel free to call and schedule a free consultation 614.230.1208

Resolutions Kept= College Success

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

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

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

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

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

We are here to support your financial and academic goals.

Considering Distance & Environment in College Search

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“Location–Location–Location

The Pros (and Cons) of Distance and

Environment at YOUR Child’s College

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

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

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

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

Consideration 1: Travel Expenses

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

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

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

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

Consideration 2: Living Expenses

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

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

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

Consideration 3: Homesickness

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

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

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

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

Consideration 4: College Environment

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

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

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

 

Until next month,

 

 

 

Benefit of staying motivated for college while in high school

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“Top Tips For Remaining‘College-Motivated’

During TheHigh School Years

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

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

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

Tip 1) Focus On Specifics

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

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

Tip 2) Stay Positive

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

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

Tip 3) Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize!

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

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

Tip 4) Swallow Pride – Ask For Help When Needed

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

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

Tip 5) Set Goals

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

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

Tip 6) Take Time to Reassess

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

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


 

The Admissions Wish List

What Admissions REALLY Are Looking For In Their Incoming Freshman Classes

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

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

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

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

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

The Obvious: Strong GPA and Class Ranking

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

Advanced Placement (AP) and/or Honors Classes

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

Engaging in Extracurricular Activities

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

Volunteerism

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

Gathering Work Experience

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

Standardized Testing (SAT/ACT)

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

Strong Recommendation Letters

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

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

Tailor The Admissions Essay

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

Demonstrate Passion And Drive

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

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

Growth Potential?

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

College Skills You Can Master Now

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

Dear Parents,

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

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

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

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

Time Management

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

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

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

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

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

Prioritization

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

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

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

Budgeting

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

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

Balance: School Time vs. Play Time

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

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

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