Admissions

To FAFSA or not to FAFSA?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pumpkin-Spiced Lattes & College Admissions

  • Our Blog

 

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

Strong GPA and Class Ranking

Overall GPA is important, but some schools will also take note of how your child did in his/her individual classes. Some high schools offer class ranking. If this is the case for your child’s high school, the college will want to take a look at this so see how s/he ranked among his/her peers.

Advanced Placement (AP) and/or Honors Classes

Taking difficult classes such as Advanced Placement or Honors classes can give a very good impression to admissions officers. However, it is actually doing well in these classes that shows the college that your child is serious about his/her academics.

Engaging in Extracurricular Activities

Colleges are looking for students who have passion, interest and drive. Participating in extracurricular activities demonstrates that the students have interests that extend outside the classroom. Developing talents and skills outside of the regular school day is something that helps to develop a well-rounded student. Remember, though, that the better schools want to see a real level of commitment and achievement in these activities – not just something that has been done to “fill in a box.”

Community Service

Taking time outside of high school life to volunteer one’s time is a special thing. If your child has done projects outside of school for any charities or did any sort of volunteer work at all, these things should be noted on the application. These are traits to demonstrate a strong character and these are the types of student’s college admissions officers would like to admit into college. It should be something that resonates with your child, so that it can be presented with honest enthusiasm.

Gathering Work Experience

Does your child have a part-time job during high school? Does s/he work during the summers? These qualities show independence, in some cases, as well as leadership and commitment. List any employment work that is applicable for your child

Standardized Testing (SAT/ACT)

There was a time that schools weighed the SAT and ACT quite heavily, and many still do, but not every school gives them the same weight these days. Regardless, however, it is advisable for your child to work hard and prepare to do as well as possible on these tests. They are still a valuable benchmark for colleges to use, and admissions officers can review these tests and compare with other test results (such as AP tests).

Strong Recommendation Letters

While a good recommendation letter can go a long way, a meaningful recommendation letter can go even further. For this reason, your child should try to secure recommendation letters from people s/he knows quite well

Demonstrate Passion And Drive

Colleges are most interested in seeing drive, interest, and passion for the activities in which an applicant is engaged. They certainly do not prefer seeing a student listing a page full of different activities with no demonstrated meaning, and without time invested to grow in those disciplines.

Growth Potential

The very best colleges and universities often go far beyond SAT scores and essays (which should be a given at the top levels). They want to determine whether your child is the type of person who learns and grows, and truly enjoys the process of learning and growing. They want to see how your child stretches him/herself

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

Pick me! College Admissions Success

                                                                                

“How To Get Colleges To Fight Over YOUR Student

For Their Incoming Freshman Class

Setting up your child for college admissions success starts now.  The Common App opened on August 1, with over 800 colleges participating.  We work with families to determine the schools and application type that will be the best.  While they might or might not be admitted to every single school to which they apply, these students find themselves in the enviable position of having multiple schools from which to choose.  In the best circumstances they may also find the schools sweetening their offers to compete for their attendance! Here are a four specific tips to consider to help your student become a pursued candidate when the time comes for college application.

Strategy 1: Academics Matter 

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

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

Strategy 2: Find (AND Develop) Talents

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

Strategy 3: Do Your Best To Nail Those Admissions Tests

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

Strategy 4: Start Correspondence With Schools… Early

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

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

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

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

 

 

How do you stack up for an admissions officer?

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

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

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

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

Let’s talk College Admissions & Funding Myths

 

“Understanding and Overcoming These MYTHS About College Funding And Admissions”

Dear Parent,

Here’s wishing you a happy holiday season with memorable times with your family and friends.  At this time of the year we find that it is a fine time for reflection on the wonderful experiences and accomplishments both this year and in years past.  For many families this includes wonderful college and university experiences that have added richness, enjoyment, and success to their family lives.  Higher education is certainly a sacrifice and a lot of effort, but there is no question that the value of it echoes over time.

With that in mind, this month’s newsletter emphasizes some of the elements of “commonly held wisdom” about college that turn out not to be true at all!  These myths about college funding and admissions seem to persist for a variety of reasons.  Some of them might have been true (or partially true) many years ago, but times have changed.  Others might have affected one person (or a very few people), but unfounded rumors about their prevalence seem to persist.  Still others have no real basis in fact whatsoever, but get passed around by people who do not know the details themselves.  However they get started however, we view it as our responsibility to make sure the truth is available!  After all, college admissions and funding issues affect EVERY college bound student to some degree or other…

We hope that as these myths and rumors are put to rest, you will feel free to pass good information on to other parents… and should other questions or suspicious bits of information arise in the future, please feel free to use us (your College Funding Professional) as a sounding board for the most up to date information – as well as how this information might directly affect your student and your family.

Without further ado, then, allow us to tackle a few of the most common myths and rumors that seem to persist from year to year to year – obviously, if we find ourselves running into them each and every college cycle, then we are pretty sure that many of you parents (and students) will see them, as well.  With this information, and any other questions we might be able to answer for you in an individual setting, you will be well on your way to managing the college admissions and funding process with a healthy set of facts and knowledge…

And knowledge, in this case as well as many others, is definitely powerful! 

MYTH 1. “Everyone Graduates With Student Debt”

Absolutely NOT!  The simple truth is that not everyone graduates with student debt. It is quite common, to be sure, especially in the current financial circumstances… but there are plenty of possibilities for a student to leave college without the burden of student debt. There are always some fortunate (intelligent, well-organized) students and parents who manage to finish the college years without it. It is not necessarily easy, but with the proper advice and planning it is absolutely possible.

If your child is an excellent student, there will always be additional options available. Your child can apply for scholarships for part of the cost. High GPAs and standardized test scores may also make your child eligible for some scholarships and grants directly from the school to which s/he is applying. Applying to the right schools and having strong academic scores will certainly help to make your child a very attractive applicant. Schools will then often be willing to do what they can to attract your child and that can translate, in some cases, to a full-ride – although these scholarships are rare.

In some cases, your child may go to a school that is not his or her first choice in favor of a package that provides more aid. If leaving school without a mountain of debt is a high priority for you and your child then this may be a suitable choice.  However, your College Funding Advisor can often help to mitigate these types of circumstances if families start the process early enough!

MYTH 2. “Going To College Is Just About Gaining Book-Smarts”

This may have been true at one time, when education was for education’s sake (for better and for worse) but the reality is these days that higher education is also a business. Colleges want to ensure their investment in any student is a solid one. They also want to make sure they are solvent. This can mean higher and higher tuition costs and fees. While this can seem disheartening at first glance, it can also be empowering for prospective students.

Just like any business, consumers have leverage over businesses. If they do not like something, they can always take their business elsewhere. This is a tack that can be used when applying to colleges. If your child is an excellent student and/or an intriguing applicant, it is completely acceptable to pit one school against the other in order to amass the most amount of aid. It is good business for colleges to find the brightest students, so they will do what is necessary to make it worth your child’s while to attend their college.  Your College Funding Advisor is well versed in the best strategies for making this work to your student’s advantage.

MYTH 3. “College Is Always Really Expensive”

Well, we will be the first to admit that higher education CAN be really expensive… but it doesn’t have to be, and it does not have to lead to debt, as indicated above. If one is willing to get creative and ‘think outside the box’ then getting a college education without breaking the bank is not only possible, it’s probable.

For example, if your child is taking AP classes in high school more often than not, these classes will count as college classes and your child can actually earn some college credit while in high school. Each college and university is different so it would be worth your while to do the research as to what classes will be accepted as credit and so forth.  We will be pleased to assist in that if necessary.

For students, applying to a diverse group of schools is a smart choice. It will broaden the options for your child and the types of award packages they will receive. This means more choices and more freedom for your child to choose the one that is the best fit.  The better the offer from the financial aid office at each school, the smaller the bill becomes!

MYTH 4. “Private Schools Are Expensive – My Child Can’t Attend One”

Private schools usually ARE expensive – at least, the sticker shock is high – but, as we’ve previously elaborated, it doesn’t have to be. The list price for private schools can be shocking to most, but it is rarely what students end up actually having to pay. Private schools often cost more off the top, sure, but private schools also almost always have more money to give to their incoming students. In fact, depending on your child’s academic and extracurricular credentials, s/he could pay less at a fancy private institution than an in-state school.

Aid packages from private schools often tend to be heftier than those from public schools. Making it known to the admissions officers that your child is seriously comparing other colleges may prompt them to increase an aid package. It’s not a guarantee, but as we indicated above, it is a tactic that you can use. An aid package received is not written in stone. You can always respectfully have the financial aid office review a package in light of new information, or when comparing it to another aid package that is similar but slightly more competitive. It never hurts to ask, and you never know what will happen. Your child may just get into a great private school at a super price!

MYTH 5. “If You Make Enough Money, Don’t File Financial Aid Forms”

Regardless of your financial circumstances, it is always a good idea to fill out financial aid forms. There are several reasons for this. For example, if you do not apply, you will not receive any aid. Now that seems quite simplistic, however, if circumstances change while your child is in school and a need were to suddenly arise, s/he would not be eligible for any aid because there would be no forms on file.  It is better to be safe than sorry!

Also, even if your child is able to attend school without any need-based aid, is s/he has qualified for scholarships, those funds will not be released unless there are financial aid forms on file. So, while it may seem unnecessary if you are in the fortunate circumstance of being able to send your child to school without the need of extra aid, you never know what can happen in the future. It is better to take the time to file those financial aid forms, and we are happy to assist.

 

Parents and college-bound students will run into more incorrect details than just these, of course, but it is for precisely that reason that we are pleased to make ourselves available for consultations and individual questions.  Feel free to ask us about any details surrounding your child’s college application process, as well as how parents can best tackle the financial questions surrounding this enormous step.

Parents often find that their jobs in the overall higher education process are every bit as challenging as the students applying for and attending their dream schools!  We make it our business to apply our knowledge and educational skills to help simplify both the parental tasks and the student efforts.

One of our most successful teaching options for the delivery of this vital information to parents is through our excellent College Funding Workshops.  These are live workshops delivered by certified College Funding Professionals specifically for the parents of today’s college-bound students.  According to feedback from our attendees, these presentations really deliver the informational goods when it comes to providing an introduction to the college funding information parents need.

We always schedule our workshops at locations and times (including evening and weekend options) that will mesh with parents and their busy schedules. While we refuse to charge any admission costs for workshop attendance, an advance reservation is required for safety and planning purposes.  If you have questions or would like more information, or to reserve a seat for one of upcoming dates, please just call our office.

While the workshops are a great option, we also know that some parents are more likely to want to digest the basics for college funding preparation on their own.  Because of this fact, and because there are always some parents who simply cannot attend a workshop, we publish a written report which also introduces this information.  The publication covers the financial education needs of today’s parents of college bound kids, and it really does introduce the college funding process in an excellent and easily understandable way.

The report is called “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College,” and each year parents report that it is an outstanding resource for learning the basics for funding a future college or university education.  To receive a free copy of the “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College” report, which is also free of charge or obligation, give our team a ring at 614.934.1515. We will be very pleased to put a copy of it into the mail for you immediately.

Happy Holidays!

Until next month,

marc signature

The Admissions Wish List

  • Our Blog

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!

As you consider the topics mentioned in this month’s newsletter, we hope that the information can help your student to strengthen his or her future college applications. Remember, should questions arise, we are ready and able to help with all aspects of the application process, admissions decisions, and fiscal organization for higher education. It is what we do, and we are more than pleased to assist in the procedures.
We also devote a lot of time and effort to education for families as the college years approach. One key service that we are pleased to provide for the parents of college-bound kids – with an eye on the financial aspects required – are our excellent, in-person College Funding Workshops. Imagine, a live presentation provided by the best college funding professionals available in the area, providing and informational service to families regarding the money side of their child’s upcoming college or university years. It is a terrific opportunity that invariably provides vital information for the parents in attendance.
While the workshops themselves are free of charge for attendees, because of seating requirements and workshop logistics, it is necessary for us to require reservations in advance for admission. If you would like more information about the next College Funding Workshops planned for your region, our workshop staff is awaiting your call at 614-934-1515. Any questions about general workshop content, locations, and schedules can be placed with our team members. They will also be happy to take a reservation, of course, or help you decide on a location and date if required.
Aside from these workshops, we also have published a written report for parents who seek the most up-to-date information about the management of and preparation for college expenses. The report was created specifically for the parents of rising college and university students, and it is called “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College.” Just like the workshops, we offer this report absolutely free of charge and without any sort of obligation. For your own free copy of “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College,” simply direct your request to our staff at 614-934-1515 and we will get it out to you right away.
Until next month,

When it comes to college who will help?

  • Our Blog

January 2017

“The Six Opinions That Actually MATTER While Your Child

Prepares For The College Years”

Dear Parent,

Happy New Year!

We hope that you and your family have enjoyed a wonderful holiday season, and that the transition back into school and work for the New Year is progressing smoothly. This marks the mental mid-point of the academic year for many people, even if the actual chronological mid-point comes a little later, so it is definitely a good chance to take stock of how things have gone so far in the 2016/2017 year.

When taking stock of the year – and also when making plans for the academic future of your college bound high school student – there is an inherent danger that we would like to discuss in this month’s newsletter. It is important because we see, time and time again, how many students and families are affected by it, and there is no doubt that it is rampant in nearly every high school in America…

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

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

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

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

1) The Teachers

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

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

2) The Advisors

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

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

3) The Student (!)

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

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

4) The Mentor(s)

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

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

5) The Admissions Officials

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

6) The College Funding/Admissions Advisors

Naturally, we cannot allow a list like this one to head off to the parents of college-bound high school students without reminding you about what we do, and how we can help in this process. The families and students we work with in the college funding and admissions processes certainly find themselves in a very enviable situation, because we are wholly invested in their success. We are professionals and we have nothing else in mind aside from helping students gain admission to the best college or university for their future interests, and helping parents to manage the financial aspects of making that a reality.
The beauty of this is that we have no interest in spreading misinformation (we are the experts in knowing exactly what needs to be done, and when – no guesswork!), no interest in making any student feel “less than” when compared to another student (we maintain confidentiality and truly help our students succeed, and we work with the facts as they are), and no interest in undermining his/her best efforts (on the contrary, we provide assistance on the pathway to achieving academic goals). We are, quite simply, here to assist students and parents in creating the best academic and professional future possible. If we can be of any help in that regard, please do not hesitate to give us a call.
Now, in this newsletter we rather diplomatically avoided a description of which people are part of the “peanut gallery” – but with time it becomes fairly obvious that MOST people are! If a neighbor (or relative, or acquaintance, or other parent) looks down his or her nose at a kid for attending College X instead of College Y, but the kid goes on to excel in a happy and successful career in his or her field of choice, then honestly… who was in the wrong? The peanut gallery was, of course. By the same token, if someone gives application or financial information that is incorrect, whether purposefully or as an honest mistake… who pays the price? The student and his/her family does. Let us be clear – we always aim to help our students find the best pathway to happiness and success in their higher education, and hope that we can encourage both parents and their children to keep their focus on the opinions of the small group of people who really matter in that regard.
One of the ways that we directly help parents of college-bound students to learn more about the financial side of college education is through our live College Funding Workshops, which are presented by the best college funding professionals in the area. These presentations provide a tremendous service to those parents who are interested in managing the financial side of their student’s future at the college or university level.
We charge no admission fees for these workshops, but because of space limitations and our insistence on maintaining an optimal learning environment, we have found that we must require an advance reservation for attendance. For more information about College Funding Workshops coming up in your area, please call our workshop team at 614-934-1515. They are pleased to assist with any questions regarding scheduling, locations, and other workshop-related details. They can also help you make a reservation, if you would like to attend.
We also have published an informational report that will interest parents who want more information about the management of increasing college expenses. We created this report particularly with the parents of college-bound students in mind, and it is called “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College.” Like the workshops, it is also offered without any cost or obligation. For your own copy of “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College,” call our team at 614-934-1515 and we will email one to you right away. Happy New Year!

Until next month,