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Financial Skills to Develop Now

“Financial Skills That Your Future College Student (&parent) Should Be Developing Now”

Dear Parent,

As college funding professionals it is absolutely imperative that we understand the college preparation experience from two specific perspectives.  The first is the academic admissions process itself, so that we can help students optimize their experience in higher education for the brightest future possible.  The second is the financial side of the process – without which the higher education experience is impossible to begin with!

However, we have seen time and time again that, in order for things to work optimally during the college years, the financial side of things CANNOT be left only to the parents.  It is absolutely crucial that young people gain a respect for and understanding of money, of the costs inherent to college, and of the importance of their personal role in keeping the financial ship afloat during their college years.

It is no secret that college or university in America is an expensive proposition, and it does not appear to be getting cheaper any time soon.  For this reason, the most successful students at the next level are going to be those who are able to excel academically, yes, but also those who are develop and implement good financial skills and decision-making throughout their college experiences.

We are aware that there are adults who have not learned some of these skills for themselves, or some who learned them later than others.  This reality does not change the importance of young people learning these skills and responsibilities as early as possible, so that there are not additional financial hurdles that could cause a student to be unable to finish his or her college degree due to poor money choices.  (Yes, sadly enough this does happen, and in most cases it can be avoided with some preventive work!)

Our main focus is on helping families and student to achieve their goals – this process becomes infinitely easier when the following skill set is understood and implemented early in a young person’s life.  Should there be any additional questions about the points listed in this month’s newsletter, please feel free to contact us directly.  We have many years of experience in helping families to make these processes work for themselves both in the home environment and away at school, and it is our pleasure to assist in making them work for you and for your college bound student!

1) Plan a Monthly Budget

Caring for one’s resources is an extremely vital skill. This skill can actually be learned from an early age and carried on throughout life, but it can also be learned later on if needed.  Regardless, understanding and managing one’s finances is something that will become vitally necessary while in college. The immediate level of management will depend, at least somewhat, on where your child will be living. If your child is on campus and will be participating in a meal plan at the cafeteria then budgeting for food will be less complicated, for example. However, if your child plans to live (or eventually move) off-campus then budgeting will become even more important.

No matter where s/he lives, you and your child can decide together which things s/he will be responsible for purchasing. For example, your child may want to have money set aside for entertainment or travel while you, as the parent, may want to cover all books completely. Communication and planning are the key, here.  Once you’ve decided who is responsible for what then you can move forward.

There are three things that should be considered when setting up a budget:

  1. Big Picture: What are your goals? What do you plan to do with the money you have each term or semester?
  2. The How: What will you use to manage your money? What tools or strategies work for you?
  3. The Gory Details: What are your spending habits? Do you need to adjust some habits to align with personal financial goals?

Answering these questions first will help while setting up a monthly budget.

2) Start A (GOOD!) Credit History

Getting started on a credit card for a newly minted college student can be a precarious venture for many young people.  The fact of the matter is, that a college student WILL be beginning his or her credit history with the first year of higher education… for better or for worse.  However, if the college freshman is responsible it can be an ideal time to start his or her positive credit history.

If your child is ready for a credit card then this might be just the time to get his or her credit history started. Getting this history started now will help your child down the road. When they are ready to rent an apartment or buy a car, a credit history will be generated and the longer it is with a clean record will make it easier for them to negotiate and find the best possible deals. There are many cards that have a very low credit limit, say $500, or so. This way your child can begin to work with the responsibility of paying a bill or two with the credit card and then pay it off each month to build positive credit history.

Guiding them to understand that the card is really a tool and not free money, this is the key! If they understand that it is to be used in a responsible way then this will help them stay on the right path. You can also assist by helping them set up online reminders to pay their bills so they are never late on a payment.

3) Learn to Cook at Home

If your child plans on living off campus then this will give them a taste of ‘real life’ right away. One of the great things about living on your own is the chance to cook for yourself. If your child learned cooking skills at home already then living on his or her own should be a snap. Cooking from home has so many benefits. It is healthier and saves a lot of money. There are many online tools that can help with meal prep, shopping guides, etc. There are also many videos that can give cooking basics if s/he is unsure how to get started.

Meal planning (and sharing with like-minded roommates, if possible) can also make a hectic schedule go a lot more smoothly. Between classes and studying, it can be difficult to set aside a lot of time to cook a fresh meal. If meal plans are done in advance then your child can meal prep and in just a few hours can have meals planned and ready in the fridge for a whole week. A little bit of planning goes a long way!

4) Track Expenses

Tracking expenses can be really tedious, but it’s also important. It gives your child a bird’s eye view of exactly what his or her spending habits are. There are several ways that you can track expenses. The good old-fashioned way is holding onto receipts and sorting through them at the end of the month. This is time consuming but helpful. There are also numerous apps that can link to your checking account that will file the purchases according to the names you’ve given them such as: rent, entertainment, car payment, etc.

Tracking expenses is a great way to see exactly where your child is spending his or her  money. It is difficult to make adjustments and changes if s/he is unsure of where the money is going every month. This way, s/he has a clear idea of which areas are working really well and which areas could use some improvement.

5) “Do I Really Need This?”

This can be difficult for young adults and regular adults alike. Being on your own requires a lot of discipline and that is not always the easiest thing when someone is out of the house for the first time and are no longer under the direct guidance of a parent or guardian. It is important, however, to begin to develop the habits of self-discipline and self control.

There are many things in life that may look like a need (especially if we are to listen to marketers and advertisers!) but in reality they are actually a want. Delaying gratification and living without for a while can develop character in a young person. One question your child can ask whenever s/he is about to make a purchase is, “Is this a need or a want?” If it’s a want then it is important to have the maturity to be able to re-think the purchase again.

6) Keep the Future in View

There are so many changes happening when your child begins college. S/he is likely away from home for the first time. S/he is in a new place. S/he will have to make decisions about her life on her own. These are huge things! That is why it is so important to begin early, ideally before college, to encourage your child to begin with the end in mind.

Encourage them to have their own financial goals. It could be to save for a game or event or something smaller than that, but give them the incentive to see beyond the current moment. If they understand that their choices today impact their tomorrow then they may be more thoughtful and mindful in the decisions that they make.

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            Some of these tasks might seem more challenging than others for some people, but we have seen the efficacy of them in making the college experience work financially for young people and their families year after year.  There is no question that they are an important part of the process of becoming an independent young person and setting the foundation for a bright future after the college years have ended.

We publish these monthly newsletters as part of our commitment to assist the parents of college-bound high school students with an understanding of the money side of college readiness.  Among our most effective tools – not to mention one that is frequently utilized – is our offering of live College Funding Workshops.  Our College Funding Workshops feature the best college funding professionals available and provide insights into the most important information regarding the financial details of preparation for the costs inherent to higher education today.

We plan and present our workshops without charging an admission fee to those who attend, but please bear in mind that reservations are required in order for us to maintain an optimal workshop environment for all attendees.  If you would like more details about upcoming College Funding Workshops in this area, please give a call to our workshop team at 614-934-1515.  This toll-free number will provide you with the necessary information regarding times, dates, locations, and any other workshop questions you might have.

Aside from the workshops, you may also be intrigued with our college funding report.  The report is called “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College.” We are pleased to send out a copy to parents who request it, and just like the workshops there is no cost or obligation.  To receive “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College,” give us a ring at 614-934-1515 and we will send a copy out to you right away.

Until next month,

Early Strategies for College Funding

 

“Playing the ‘Long Game’ –  Early Strategies That Pay Off In College Funding

Dear Parents,

One of the things that we hear from a number of parents over and over again – especially as the time comes for their child to graduate from high school and head off to college – is the refrain “I get the feeling that we REALLY should have started this whole thing sooner.”  Unfortunately, in many cases, we tend to have to agree with them.  If experience teaches us anything through working on college funding year after year, it is that the earlier a family gets started on things, the more favorably things seem to end up as the college years begin!

That is not to say that we cannot assist families who have procrastinated a bit (or a lot), but there is no question that things can sometimes get a lot more complicated and challenging in those cases.  We endeavor to help all families who seek our assistance, but it can be a big relief on all sides if families have decided to start early and “play the long game” when it comes to preparing for the money side of their child’s college experience.

It should be pretty clear that college costs are definitely not on the decline in the United States, so with that reality in mind, it is becoming increasingly important for folks to start their college funding process as early as possible.  Undergraduate student loans will be at 5.05% and Parent Plus loans will be at 7.6% as of July 1, 2018.

Over time, we have learned a number of aspects of the college preparation equation that can be started early on – and also have seen how families can benefit from making the decision to stay ahead of the game by starting early.  The “long game” can include elements that extend throughout the high school years, or even before, and other elements that need to be started as early as possible, but within a specific window of time.

In an ongoing quest to help with this effort, this month’s newsletter covers a number of different things that families can consider as part of their planning for a college future for their kids.  Some of them may be things that you can consider now, others will apply directly to the year in which a child applies for college and financial aid, but all of them are important.

One thing you will note is that we make frequent reference to consulting with a College Funding Advisor – and this is because these things require a firm grasp of the process.  There are families who can manage without our help, and some certainly do.  However, we have a track record of dealing successfully with these financial elements and optimizing them for families in a way that most people cannot.  Should you have any specific questions about the tips below, please do not hesitate to call us.  We will be happy to help in any way that we can.

Tip 1: File The FAFSA Early

The old saying that “the early bird gets the worm” bears particular weight when it comes to financial aid. There have been new and positive changes regarding the FAFSA in the past year. For one thing, parents are now able to file on October 1st rather than waiting until January 1st. This new rule will make it infinitely easier for parents applying for next year to get a start on their financial aid process and stay ahead of the game.

It is also important to note that there are schools that distribute aid money on a first-come, first-served basis. They will continue to distribute until those funds are totally exhausted. Additionally, there are currently seven states that currently have a first-come, first-served financial aid policy for state aid. These states are Alaska, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Vermont, and Washington.

If you are submitting early, this can mean that you need to use some estimates on your application.  Because of this, you simply need to go into the website later to update the estimated information with the more accurate numbers as soon as you have them. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool, however, is also available to insert current data without the need for you to enter and update the information manually.

There are also some schools that will want to use the additional “CSS Profile” form to assess financial aid eligibility. This application requires more information than is necessary for completing the FAFSA. The CSS Profile will also sometimes have a deadline that is different than the FAFSA, depending on the school. Because of this, it is important to check all the details for each school very carefully.

Tip 2: Make Wise Money Decisions

When the FAFSA formulas are applied to your child’s assets, the government can and will assume that a significant portion of your child’s funds are eligible for use for college. The rate at which the assets held by the parents is assessed is maxed out at a much lower rate. Because of this, family funds should be managed in a beneficial way so that they are not placed in the formula and unduly assessed at a much higher rate.

This is something that your college funding advisor can discuss with you, and his or her advice can make a huge difference!  He or she will be able to explain which options are the most beneficial for you and your child, and which will affect your bottom line most favorably.  Learning where funds can be placed and protected will frequently allow a college student to maintain some assets intact while at the same time making him or her eligible for a more substantial financial aid offer.

If your child is very young then you can save in parental savings accounts instead of accounts set up in your child’s name. This will further protect your child’s funds when it comes time for those funds to be assessed in the financial aid formulas.  Discuss these details with your College Funding Advisor for best results.

Tip 3: Explain Yourself – If You Need To

Unexpected things can happen in life – an accident, a death in the family, a divorce, an illness. These are all things that can occur and can cause a disturbance in one’s life and may result in the need to explain extenuating financial or personal circumstances. If you are the main breadwinner in the family and were unexpectedly injured and it required a long recovery period away from work then this is something that could be explained on your FAFSA application. There are many questions on the application on the form but there isn’t a section that is labeled “Extenuating Circumstances.”

For example, if you or your spouse were laid off from work then you could explain this to them in a detailed letter. It is important to provide as much documentation as possible to bolster your claims for consideration. For example, a notice from your company detailing recent layoffs would be the right type of backup information that would be useful to be included.

Tip 4: Spend Some Money – But Not Too Much

Having a lot of money in your savings account is always a good thing!  Well, OK, except for when you are applying for financial aid with the FAFSA. Since the assets will be assessed at the time of filing, sometimes it’s a good idea to whittle some of those assets down so that you have a lower asset base to be assessed when you file. If you have credit card debt, this would a good time to pay it off. Or, you could pay more towards your mortgage. There are a number of options available, and it is good to discuss them with a College Funding Advisor to see which best suits your situation.

Remember that there is a considerable amount that can be sheltered in the formula before it is assessed (approximately $50,000) so this tip is most worthwhile for those who spend a lot and save a lot.

Tip 5: Pay Attention To Your Assets

There are many things that must be reported on your FAFSA. But, not EVERYTHING needs to be reported. For example, bank and brokerage accounts, CDs, mutual funds, college savings plans, stocks and bonds, real estate and other types of investments are included in the reportable assets category.

There are, however, quite a number of non-reportable assets that may provide some much needed flexibility. These non-reportable assets are the equity in your home, annuities, IRAs, 401k plans and other accounts like that and a small business that is owned and operated by your family.

If you have some concerns, you could consider moving some assets over to the non-reportable category. This, of course, can be discussed in detail with your College Planning Advisor who will be able to show you the best ways those assets can be strategically placed in order to maximize your ability to receive aid.

Tip 6: Be Honest!

There are many ways to strategize and plan the best ways to maximize your child’s financial aid benefits. However, being dishonest in any way on the FAFSA form is definitely not the way to do it. Misreporting, misleading or lying about assets or income is a type of fraud and can result in a fine of up to $20,000.

In addition to the fine, any financial aid rewards are forfeited and there is even a possibility of prison time. Needless to say, it is just not worth the risk and it is definitely not the right thing to do. Working with a trusted advisor will result in the best results and will give you peace of mind at the same time.

We have other ways of helping the parents of college-bound students to learn important details regarding the fiscal preparations for college or university studies.  One way we manage this is via our in-person College Funding Workshops.  These workshops, featuring information directly from the finest college funding professionals around, offer a wonderful service to those who are seeking pertinent details regarding the costs of higher education.  These presentations are kept both timely and focused, with current information that is abreast of any recent changes that can affect rising college students and their families.

Our workshops do not require any entrance fee, but to keep groups to a manageable size we do insist on reservations in advance.  If you would like to know more about upcoming College Funding Workshops near you, please contact our workshop crew at 614-934-1515.  These helpful folks can provide all the necessary information about content, workshop locations, scheduling, or any other workshop questions.  They can also assist with reservations, should you wish to make one.

Aside from the workshops, we also provide a written report for parents who prefer to receive their college financial information in written form.  We have titled this report “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College.” Just like the workshops, it is available to all parents free of any cost or obligation.  To receive a copy of “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College,” you can call a member of our team at 614-934-1515 and we will send one to you right away.

Until next month,

 

 

 

Financial Aid Eligibility and Family Finances

“Important Money Decisions That
Can Dramatically Affect Both
Aid Eligibility And Family Finances”

Dear Parent,

As the academic year drags on it can seem unending to students who find themselves in a seemingly endless cycle of tests and quizzes and papers and projects. The purpose of all this work, at least for those forward-thinking students who have an eye firmly fixed toward attending college or university after graduation, is naturally to continue the educational experience at the next level. However, there is a lot more knowledge that is needed to optimize this opportunity than just the class work they are completing in high school.

As college funding professionals, when it comes to fully preparing for a child’s higher education – starting with applications and admissions processes, all the way down to the details of financial preparation for the college years – we are duty-bound to remind families of the best ways to focus on both ends of this process.

Honing in on the financial aspect of college preparation involved a significant amount of different types of planning. Families who fail to do so, whether it is because they are unfamiliar with the process, or because they simply did not get around to it, will usually end up costing themselves a significant amount of money and stress in the long run. Because of this, we take our work extremely seriously.

Because the completion of a degree is a vital springboard to a young person’s success, we deem it important to help families understand the overall consequences of their financial decisions in the years leading up to high school graduation and college. You see, there are a lot of potential mistakes that families can make during the high school years that would not seem like a problem at all – UNTIL they are viewed through the lens of college financial aid and preparation! Then, suddenly, a seemingly benign financial decision can have some quite significant consequences, indeed.

With this in mind, we are using this month’s newsletter to focus on some of the more important financial decisions that can have an effect on college aid eligibility and family finances throughout the years of higher education. Remember that circumstances can vary somewhat from family to family, based on income, family size, and other considerations, so the best thing to do when reviewing money decisions in the high school years can often be to discuss them with an expert on college funding.

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1. FAFSA Filing and Income Tax Return

Many people assume that one cannot file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) without having first completed their income tax form. This is not the case. One is able to estimate their taxes so they are able to compete and file the FAFSA. It is actually very important to file the form as soon as possible because aid eligibility is determined on a first come, first served basis. One has the opportunity to update the tax details on the application as soon as the tax return has been fully completed.

2. Remarrying and Its Consequences on Aid

Single parents who plan on having their son or daughter having a high eligibility for aid for school may be in for a big surprise if they marry shortly before their child applies for college. The income for the new spouse will now be taken into consideration even if the plan was that the new spouse would not assume any financial responsibility for the child.

According to the Higher Education Act that came into effect in 1965, parents who have remarried must include the income of their newly married spouse and that income will be factored into the aid eligibility of the child. Not being aware of this law if a parent is counting on receiving a lot of aid may come as a shock. This is important to know and may help when making decisions about timing for big events.

3. NOT Applying For Aid (Because You Think You Won’t Be Eligible)

If you are one of the fortunate folks who are financially stable and secure, that is wonderful! The thing that you might not be aware of, however, is that your child may still be eligible for financial aid during the college years. This may only be an unsubsidized Stafford loan but this can make much more financial sense than any private loan, most of which are often loaded with more risk and higher interest rates.

4. NOT Listing Extenuating Circumstances

Life is nothing if not unpredictable, and the unforeseen can happen at any time. Someone in the family could have an accident. Or you could experience the death of a loved one. The loss of a job could be both emotionally and financially devastating. Many families who are hit by difficult circumstances feel embarrassed or unwilling to share details with their child’s future university. The important thing to know is that colleges are not staffed with insensitive robots who do not have any feelings or consideration for others.

If there have been extenuating circumstances that have occurred in your family, it is important to strongly consider sharing them with the college financial aid officer. In light of the new information, the school may want to reconsider or adjust your child’s aid package – after all, they are also vested in having their student body attend and graduate. Should you need assistance with the best way to manage this communication with an institution, a college funding advisor will certainly be able to help.

5. Buying a Vacation Home

If you are planning on buying a vacation home or other similar property, you may want to consider waiting just a few years until after college. This is because making such a purchase at the wrong time could adversely impact your child’s financial aid eligibility. Colleges will frequently look at recent purchases, like an additional vacation home, as “extra liquid assets.” This could severely affect the amount of money that your child could be eligible to receive, so it is important to make these kinds of major purchases on the proper timeline.

6. Taking Out an Equity Loan

Taking out an equity loan may seem like the right choice in the short term, but this could have a deleterious effect on your child’s ability to receive funds. Regardless of where the money comes from, these extra funds will appear to the financial aid officers as if there’s a substantial amount of cash ‘lying around’ and your child could be penalized for it as a result. This happens if the funds are taken out in a lump sum and added to the checking account. If you want to take out an equity loan, you could consider an equity line of credit – which is more akin to a credit card.

7. Managing Grandma’s Loan/Gift

Grandmas and Grandpas are wonderful. They have been known to do special and meaningful things for their grandchildren, such as providing sums of cash to help assist with college expenses. These gifts of cash, however, can have a detrimental effect on loan eligibility – especially if given at the wrong time. Unfortunately, depending on the circumstances, gifts from family members can make it substantially more difficult to receive aid.

However, if the grandparent decides to loan funds for college, they can usually do so without creating difficulties. They cannot, however, simply ‘call’ it a loan. It must be an official loan and they will need to charge current market interest rates on the loan. These funds, also, must be spent prior to the signing of the loan application. Failing to do so would result in the funds being included as an asset belonging to the student. This can be a complicated circumstance, and a college funding advisor can be extremely helpful in determining how to proceed with the generosity of relatives!

8. Including Retirement Assets

The FAFSA form will ask for the net worth of investments. They do not need to know about the assets in IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts), 401(k), 403(b) or other pension plans. Parents who list these assets not understanding that this information is not required could seriously damage their child’s chances for receiving ‘need-’based’ financial aid funds.

9. Including Home Equity

The home equity on your primary residence is not a requirement on the FAFSA as a declaration of assets. If parents do include this information on the form this could seriously affect the ability of a student to receive needed aid. However, there are some schools (around 200) – mainly private institutions – that will ask for such information on their institutional aid forms. For this reason, it is best to do the research on the particular schools that your child will be applying to and then you can decide how to move forward. Once again, a college funding advisor can be a godsend in these kinds of circumstances.

As you can see, there are a number of considerations that can play a role in properly preparing for the college years with regard to family finances. If you would like some personal assistance in that regard, especially with consideration of your individual circumstances, we would be happy to help however we can.
In addition to our monthly newsletters, like this one, one of the key ways that we endeavor to assist the parents of high school kids in learning the details about financial preparation for higher education is with our highly-regarded, live College Funding Workshops. These workshops, which offer in-person contact with a number of the finest college funding professionals in the area, are designed to offer more in-depth knowledge to parents who wish to understand the financial elements and considerations with regard to their preparations for their child’s future college or university education. The important details provided at these workshops are always kept current (not to mention accurate with regard to the ever-changing laws and requirements), and we are extremely proud of them!
The workshops are available without any obligations or fees for attendees, but because of logistical considerations we do insist on advance reservations. If you would like more information about any College Funding Workshops planned for your area, you can call the workshop staff members t614-934-1515.
The members of this crew will be happy to assist with further details regarding upcoming times and dates, workshop locations, or any other considerations you might have about future workshop events. Of course, they can also assist you with a reservation, should you already know that you would like to attend.
Additionally, we have published a special report for parents who are in search of detailed written information regarding the best preparations for managing college funding. The report is titled “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College” and just like the workshops, we send it out to parents absolutely free of cost or obligation. In order to receive your very own copy of “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College,” you can simply call our staff at 614-934-1515. We will be more than happy to send one out to you without delay.
Happy Spring!
Until next month,

Higher education does count, if you do it right

 

Dear Parent,

One of the trends that we have noticed in the past few years is a growing uncertainty among some  with regard to the idea of higher education in general.  There are a number of folks who seem to have “fallen out of love” with the very idea of college or university studies for their children, and even the parents of some highly motivated and intelligent high school youngsters have begun to ask themselves some hard questions about the inherent value of an expensive undergraduate degree.

Well, as proud professionals when it comes to all of the details surrounding the preparations for higher education, we are able to view this issue from an inside perspective.  We see the entire college experience beginning years before admission and the freshman year even begin for a student, and we follow them through each semester leading right up to the day of their graduation – further, we also track the post-college efforts of our clientele as they begin their careers or head off to graduate or professional schools.  We are proud of their accomplishments and learn from the experiences of each individual.

So, with all of this insight gained, we are able to confidently reassure parents and high school students that graduating from college or university remains one of THE most important springboards to success for young people today.  (Note that we used the term “graduating” and not simply “attending.”  Finishing the process matters, as does how one goes about the process of getting there!)

Yes, college is expensive – and getting more expensive.  Yes, it is an investment of time – and we never have enough of that.  Yes, there are schools that would be a poor fit for some students – even prestigious schools can be a terrible place for some kids to study.  Yes, there are kids who have rough experiences at college – and the news media breathlessly report on a litany of other unseemly situations that can arise during the college years, as well.

We are keenly aware of all of these challenges, as they affect us directly.  Yet there is absolutely no question that a family and a student who are well prepared, who select the right school for the right reasons, and manage the processes of application, study, and graduation intelligently will be setting their child up for a bright future.  In this month’s newsletter we are pleased to report on just a few of the many reasons that obtaining a college degree remains important.

With that said, we are aware that not every high school student will go on to attend college – over 30% of American high school graduates will not immediately enroll, and that number may actually be trending upward.  Further, however, we also track the statistics regarding students who begin college ill-prepared and end up dropping out or having trouble, and we make it our business to help families and college students to avoid suffering these types of unfortunate circumstances altogether.

Our main focus is not on the overall statistics, however.  No, our professional focus remains where it should be – squarely on the families who rely on us to help them optimally prepare for their child’s success at the next level of education.  Here are just a few of the reasons that this next level of training is of the utmost importance for the development and growth of a successful future for today’s young people.

Reason 1: Critical Thinking and Responsibility

One of the most important reasons that attending college can make a huge difference in the life of a young person is their development of critical thinking skills.  The amount of reading and study, if taken seriously, can expand these skills and assist a young person in obtaining a better understanding of the world around them.

Critical thinking, however, is more than just exposure to ideas and thoughts.  Students who actually learn to think critically – especially in an academic environment – will be able to develop a voice for themselves, and be able to specifically determine and define why they accept or reject certain ideas, ranging from politics to social structures to artistic endeavors.

Furthermore, college allows young people to learn how to develop these skills and take responsibility for their actions.  This is a vital skill that can only help them in their future careers at all levels.

Reason 2: College Life Can Be Amazing!

The college experience can be one of the most thrilling and exciting times in a young person’s life, intellectually, developmentally, interpersonally, and in many other ways.  To miss out on this learning experience – or perhaps even worse, to start the process and have it fizzle out – is really unfortunate.  There are other ways for people to learn, certainly, but very few offer the experiences of a first-rate college education that has been planned for success from the very beginning.

Some families have generations who have attended the same university, creating a legacy that is meaningful to them.  Others have proud high school graduates who are the first in their family to be able to attend college.  Regardless of the circumstance, young people are right to look to their college years with enthusiasm and excitement.

Reason 3: College as a Prerequisite

Any American high school student who is interested in pursuing a career in medicine, law, dentistry, or other prestigious professions will absolutely be required to attend college before beginning with their next level of specialized studies.  In fact, in order to even have a chance at admission, they will need to perform at a high level academically, as well as prepare to take admissions exams specific to their area of interest.  (No, we are sorry to report that when it comes to these types of professions, taking the SAT and/or ACT did not signal the end of standardized testing for your child!)

These challenging and specialized tests, such as the MCAT for medical school, the DAT for dental school, and the LSAT for law school, serve to examine higher level academic preparation that are accomplished during the undergraduate years of pre-professional studies.  The initial level of preparation for these tests comes through completion of the academic prerequisite courses.  There really is no other track to training in these careers in the United States, and it is a highly competitive process.

With that in mind, the earlier a student is able to determine his or her interest in one of these professions, the more streamlined the process becomes.  Deciding on a professional academic track later on during college does not close the door, so to speak, but there is no question that it does often add some additional academic hoops to jump through – depending on the courses already taken earlier.

The bottom line here is that in order to become a doctor, a lawyer, a dentist, etc. – a student is going to have to plan on multiple years of post-high school education at a very high level.  There is no other pathway available!  Even “combined degree” programs (such as BA/JD, BS/MD, etc.), which are offered to exceptionally motivated high school students, will include the completion of a bachelor’s degree as part of the academic package – the degrees are just completed over a shorter period of time.

Reason 4: Proper Preparation Avoids Disappointment

Many of the criticisms that are currently aimed at higher education point to the large numbers of students who either drop out of college, or those who actually muddle through to complete a degree and then have no idea what to do with it (and often no job to go along with it, either!).

Well, we certainly agree that these are outcomes that should be avoided – however, the good news is that they CAN be avoided, and we are pleased help families along a trek through higher education that shows them specifically how to skirt these types of pitfalls along the way.  It is not even close to enough for a young person to work hard in high school, gain admission to a great college, and then just think that things will somehow “work themselves out” from there… but often, that appears to be the mindset of many people.

In order to get through the process optimally, and without enormous amounts of student debt, the process needs to be planned in advance as much as possible.  Now, this planning process can still leave substantial “wiggle-room” for students who are not yet sure what they want to do career-wise, but it is absolutely imperative that the college years be prepared for in a way that will set families and students up for success and not for twisting in the wind.

In order to avoid disappointment in the college experience, it needs to be fully understood at the outset.  We are here to assist with that process as early as a family is willing to begin thinking about it… and quite honestly, it is almost never too early!

We are pleased to assist families in helping their high school kids prepare for their time in college, and we really do work with both the parents (on the financial side of things) and the students (on the preparation, academics, and application process) to make things run smoothly as possible.

In addition to our monthly newsletters, we have a strong focus on helping the parents of college-bound students to better understand the financial aspects of college preparation.  One of our best tools – and one of the most popular – would have to be our College Funding Workshops.  These workshops offer live, in-person interaction with some of the finest college funding professionals around.  They also offer vital information for parents who specific and up-to-date information about the financial implications of their student’s upcoming experiences in higher education.

These workshops are available without any tuition or cost to attendees, but because of space requirements we insist on advance reservations for attendance. This also helps us to keep an effective learning environment for each group.  For more information about future College Funding Workshops in your town, simply reach out to our workshop staff 614-934-1515.  They will have more details about locations, topics covered, specific time and dates, or other details.  Of course, they are also able to assist with making reservations, for those who wish to attend soon.

You may also be interested in reading our published report, which was written specifically for parents seeking strategies and insights with regard to future college expenses.  We have titled this report “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College.” Just like the workshops, we send this report to parents by request and it is always completely free of any cost or obligation.  If you wish to peruse your own copy of “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College,” simply call our team at 614-934-1515 and they will be happy to place one in the mail for you immediately.

Until next month,

Startling College Facts for Friday the 13th

  • Our Blog

For the past 10 years Sallie Mae and a global research firm (Ipsos) have looked at how America pays for college.  In the 2017 report it was found that students and parents are likely to be sharing the cost of education.  84% of students expect to repaying their student loans and furthermore 21% feel responsible for repaying the loans their parent has taken out.

Another startling fact is that 9 out of 10 families want their child to have a college education but only 4 out of 10 have a plan to pay for it.

Now let’s talk numbers:

  • $1.45 trillion in total U.S. student loan debt
  • 44.2 million Americans with student loan debt
  • Student loan delinquency rate of 11.2% (90+ days delinquent or in default)
  • Average monthly student loan payment (for borrower aged 20 to 30 years): $351
  • Median monthly student loan payment (for borrower aged 20 to 30 years): $203

((Data via federalreserve.gov, WSJ, newyorkfed.org and and clevelandfed.org)

One of the reasons we offer the free workshops and speak at events  is to get the conversations started.  We have found a sort of disbelief when we talk prices of schools and standards to even be considered for acceptance to a preferred school.   Marc will give you an estimate of what your EFC (expected family contribution) that way you have a starting point.  Y’all will discuss the various kinds of aid plus go over the college process. He’ll go over our services, perhaps there will be a fit or if not, you leave will a better idea of the college process.

Please call 614.934.1515 to schedule your free consultation

From the Sallie Mae and Ipsos 2017 Study

For more information:

How_America_Pays_for_College_2017_Infographic

Staying True to your Financial Plan

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By now many of our clients have figured out how to pay for college and in some cases have created a financial plan so that by the time the student graduates, 75% or more of the expenses have been paid.  How about you? Are you sticking with your plan?  Follow thru and accountability are essential for success.  Part of our service is to be that voice of reason to keep you on track.

When was the last time we reviewed your budget?  Time has a way of getting away and it is easy to procrastinate.  We are here to help. We will go over your numbers, check in on your retirement plans and in general catch up. Our goal is to develop a long-term relationship because as you know, clients are like family.  We want to see you succeed.

To schedule a budget review, policy update or in general catch up, email Lisa to schedule an appointment.

 

A Must Read for College-bound Athletes

I ran across this article and feel it is not only relevant but enlightening.

Dear Prospective Student-Athlete,

I received your introductory two-line email and read through it. I must say your first sentence was painfully familiar as you introduced yourself by first name only. I assumed if you were trying to make an impression that you would have paid more attention to punctuation, but my assumption appears incorrect. While your opening email failed to identify your last name, what year in school you are, where you are from, or what position you play, you managed to include your most pressing question as to whether our team is “giving out scholarships”.

A week later, I received a second email with full color resume attachment including your action photos, and a variety of links to related newspaper articles. Each of these items were compiled in an orderly fashion and sent out directly from both your parents’ emails.

While it took a bit to thumb through the long list of your impressive extracurricular activities, please thank your parents for putting this packet together and understand that it would have been far more beneficial for our staff to speak to you personally by way of an old school phone call. As my staff sent correspondence to your personal email, we have received only a return from your parents apologizing and explaining that you are simply “too busy to answer”.

As a word of advice, while many college coaches support parental enthusiasm, initiative taken by the athlete is crucial if you are serious about connecting with a quality program. Our staff explained to your parents that we would prefer to connect with you directly, but they continue to respond on your behalf. This will be a red flag for any coach, so please be aware of this feedback being a possibility from any of your other options.

When you visited the campus with your parents, the first thing I noticed is that they did most of the talking for you. However, when you did speak, you were openly correcting and verbally scolding them when you deemed their information sharing inaccurate. As a coach, an athlete who displays disrespect, especially to their parents, is a red flag in the recruiting game of analysis and observation.

As we toured the campus I took copious mental notes including a short ponder on how you were too busy for a returned phone call or email to our staff yet, your email-ready smartphone was all but attached to your hand the entire unofficial visit.

Upon your departure, our staff reviewed your stats, strength numbers and transcripts. All are impressive, but of course we had to see you compete. Unfortunately, the highlight film you left us with that was edited to perfection to omit mistakes, was unhelpful.

Despite my reservations, I made the trip to watch your game live so I could determine if your resume matched your talent. After observing only a few minutes of the team warm-up, I noted that you were clearly the most gifted on your squad. However, your talent was unfortunately overshadowed by the lack of energy and effort you displayed.

At halftime, the team huddled up and as always when observing recruits, I honed in carefully on your demeanor and body language. I watched you walk in the opposite direction of your teammates and take a seat on the bench away from the group. You did not return to the team circle until prompted by your assistant coach. As the head coach spoke, I observed you break off into a private conversation with another teammate, rather than offering the coach your attention.

In the second half, when you scored I noticed you waited for the other players to huddle around you and celebrate. In contrast, when a teammate scored, you retreated to your position without acknowledging or congratulating them.

You added much depth in the scoring category with some impressive runs but when you made mistakes you became vocal and eager to point out where your teammates needed to improve. You had moments of greatness but they were followed by sporadic lulls of half-hearted effort.

As you are the team captain, I found it disappointing that you did not contribute to the post game team discussion. I watched as your mother brought over snacks and saw that you made no effort to assist her in bringing those large containers of cupcakes from the bleachers out to your 40 other teammates. Last, as the rest of the team broke the field down and put equipment away, you found a quiet spot on the empty bench to text on your phone.

Perhaps as a high school-age athlete, these are behaviors you are simply unaware of. In a world where you are being taught the X’s and O’s of mastering a sport, so much practice and dialogue in character building is diminishing. I realize that you have been told repeatedly by many of your previous coaches that you are amazing in your sport. However, players like you, with similar demeanor are a dime a dozen.

Since you have been a star in your sport for quite a while with coaches and parents who have clearly allowed these details to slip through the cracks also, you are not entirely to blame. However, please bear in mind, none of this makes you a bad person only potentially, a bad teammate. The attributes I am judging you on happen to be far more important than any of your trophies, all-star selections or travel team accolades.

There is no doubt you are talented. However, from my experience, here are the 10 things I know about athletes like you.

1. Your incredible talent is the same talent that in your sophomore year of college will suddenly suffer an ego blow when a new freshman arrives with equal or greater talent. Battling your feeling of ownership over your position and feeling threatened is inevitable.

2. Rather than working hard to better your game, you are more likely to be the athlete that is constantly comparing your success to others rather than focusing on growth for yourself. This will become a tedious and exhausting process for your coaches and team to constantly have to reassure you of your self worth and value.

3. As those around you put in the work, rather than be grateful to be surrounded by a committed group of individuals who share common goals, you are more likely to resent them and seek out allies to split the team support in half and create locker room chatter.

4. In the event you see time on the bench you may not be emotionally prepared, willing to engage or support the teammate who is starting over you. Also, it is likely you will find it challenging to support the success your team obtains when they win without you on the field.

5. When you become unhappy with your own performance you are more likely to blame your coach, teammates or anyone other than yourself.

6. Since your previous coaches and adult guidance have fallen short in emphasizing the importance of accountability, you will likely be that much more of a challenge for our staff and program to work with.

7. Aside from your time in college, the end goal of being a student-athlete is to get a degree while playing a sport you love. If your goal as an athlete-student is to get a starting position while earning a degree you tolerate, your goals will be out of alignment with the program from the start.

8. Athletes who truly work for their program become stronger people who work well with others and are able to admit their weaknesses in order to improve. If I am forced to spend your first two years of college trying to catch you up on late lessons of being accountable and respectful, it is probable you will spend your second two years resenting me which ultimately leads to an ambush of bad senior exit interview feedback.

9. Athletes are treasured in the workforce and therefore, you are likely to land a job after you graduate. However, if you fail to get along with those in our program you are prone to carrying this over into your professional life. If you are unhappy with your boss or coworker you will be more likely to find yourself unequipped to work through your problem without soliciting complaining or quitting.

10. By choosing not to recruit you, I am saving my team culture. On the bright side, perhaps if you are rejected this will be your first opportunity to face adversity and grow from it.

I recognize that it is possible you could change with guidance by coming to our program. However, the investment on my end presents high risk to the health of team morale, my livelihood and sanity. In my younger coaching years I believed far too often that many like you were capable of transformation. Over time, without consistent support from the powers that be, I have lost my fair share of those battles and have watched colleagues lose their jobs when athletes like you are unsatisfied. I am a great coach who takes so much of my success and failure home with me at night and am actively making the choice to choose ethics and attitude over talent.

Today I crossed you off my list as a potential recruit despite your obvious talent. Over the thousands of hours I have spent away from my family recruiting, answering emails, calls, official visits, watching game film and logging contacts and evaluations, I have learned from my mistakes. As a result, although the athlete playing right next to you has half the stats and three quarters of your speed, they are supportive, determined and selfless. This kind of athlete, will be our next signee.

Please take these words and advice into consideration and I wish you all the best.

Coach

Source: Fearless Coaching, An Open Letter May 16, 2016.