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College

Ways to save Money on College

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

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

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

Completing AP Courses

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

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

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

Community College Credit

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

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

Take Core/Elective Classes Strategically

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

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

Proper Consultation

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

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

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

Thorough Research

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

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

Express Interest

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

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

Until next month,

 

 

 

Is College Simply Worth It Any Longer?

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes It’s A Requirement!

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Achieve More Work Satisfaction

 

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

 

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

 

Confidence Booster

 

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

 

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

 

Healthier Choices

 

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

 

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

 

Positive Family Traditions

 

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

 

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

 

Until next month,

Planning for your Child’s Financial Success

“Key Ways To Avoid

College Debt And Protect Your

Student’s Future Financial Health

 

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

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

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

Old Fashioned Savings

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

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

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

«Good» Financial Aid

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

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

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

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

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

Work-Study Programs

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

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

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

Family Financial Foresight

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

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

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

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

Until next month,

Hidden Costs of College Revealed

                                                                                 

“The Hidden Costs of College

That Many People Rarely Seem to Talk About!

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

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

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

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

Group 1: Living Expenses

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

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

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

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

Group 2: Direct Academic Costs

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

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

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

Group 3: Extracurricular Costs

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

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

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

Group 4: Unnecessary Costs!

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

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

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

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

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

Until next month,

Considering Distance & Environment in College Search

  • Our Blog

 

“Location–Location–Location

The Pros (and Cons) of Distance and

Environment at YOUR Child’s College

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

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

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

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

Consideration 1: Travel Expenses

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

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

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

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

Consideration 2: Living Expenses

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

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

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

Consideration 3: Homesickness

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

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

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

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

Consideration 4: College Environment

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

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

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

 

Until next month,

 

 

 

The Admissions Wish List

What Admissions REALLY Are Looking For In Their Incoming Freshman Classes

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

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

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

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

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

The Obvious: Strong GPA and Class Ranking

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

Advanced Placement (AP) and/or Honors Classes

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

Engaging in Extracurricular Activities

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

Volunteerism

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

Gathering Work Experience

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

Standardized Testing (SAT/ACT)

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

Strong Recommendation Letters

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

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

Tailor The Admissions Essay

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

Demonstrate Passion And Drive

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

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

Growth Potential?

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

College Skills You Can Master Now

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

Dear Parents,

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

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

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

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

Time Management

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

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

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

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

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

Prioritization

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

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

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

Budgeting

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

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

Balance: School Time vs. Play Time

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

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

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

 

 

 

Financial Realities of College-how much do you share?

     

 “The Financial Realities Of College:

How Much Should YOUR Child Know Before Starting?

As summer is in full swing it may become more and more challenging for families to think about preparing for college.  We mentioned last month, planning for college is about having conversations.  Be sure to include the reality of college expense.   Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, these financial details are often ignored… and both parents and students can be guilty in this regard.  This can definitely have a detrimental  effect on their levels of financial, academic, and personal stress during the college experience.

We understand fully that preparing for college or university studies can be stressful, in many ways.  Perhaps because of this reality, there can be a tendency for people to want to ignore some of the more challenging topics related to the transition to the next level of education.  However, ignoring these topics does not make them disappear.  By the same token, if only the parents (or, more rarely, only the students) are involved in these preparations, then it is not a team effort and there can be miscommunications and problems further down the road.  Our experience has been that it is absolutely vital for parents and students to have a mutual understanding of how things are proceeding for college preparation.

For this month’s newsletter, then, we want to explain a few of the most important elements that new college students (and high school students) should understand when it comes to starting their experience in higher education.  Yes, there will be a lot of students in their peer group – far too many, in our experience – who have no idea about these things.  However, rest assured that this lack of knowledge will more than likely become something that will come back to haunt them in the end.

As college funding professionals – and people who deal with these things on a daily basis – we want to help you and your family to experience a smooth transition into and through college or university studies.  We have a special skill set and will be happy to assist in any way possible with your family’s plans in this regard.

 Be Clear From the Beginning
Culturally, we tend to have many “taboo” subjects in the US. Depending on the individual, they may range from religion to sex to money. The subject of money, in particular when it comes to higher education, can get families into deep water if not dealt with from the very beginning with honesty and clarity.
How to pay for college should be a family discussion. This is a subject that should take center stage when getting ready to choose a school. It will have a lot to do with the choices your child will be able to make about where to go. It can also have a big impact on the family for the future.
If your child has his or her heart set on a ‘dream’ school then it is important to have the discussion and have the plans in place to cover the costs of such a school. This can all be done strategically and carefully, as well, with a thorough college funding expert. No parent wants to be saddled with massive amounts of debt when looking to cover costs at a prestigious school, nor do children want to feel that they have become a burden that the family has to bear in order for them to attend school.
Communication and (early!) preparation are really the keys, here. Will the parents be covering the entire costs of college? Will it be a combination of loans for the child plus what the family is able to contribute, or can this be avoided with proper planning?  (Note: it often can.) Having clear goals from the beginning and discussing those goals openly as a family will only bode well for the future college student. Tackling those goals with an expert will make it possible to move forward with those plans smoothly and successfully.

Focusing on the “Why” of College
Unfortunately, we see that students may not fully grasp the concept of ‘why.’ In fact, many visit colleges and make decisions on whether to attend or not based on a ‘vibe’ they get at the school, or where all of their friends are planning to go. It is important to make the most informed decision possible when going to college. This starts with the ‘why’ of going to college and then extends all the way through to the ‘where’ of going to college!
Some of the things that should be discussed and explored before beginning a college search include finding out what your child’s academic motivations are. Once these are laid out, it can be easier to look at options at that point. Clarifying interests and academic goals and motivations will make choosing the right college easier and it will mostly likely be a much better return on the investment. Not every child is clear on his or her ambitions in the teen years, however. This does not mean that all is lost. If they are not sure exactly where their academic focus is you are still able to make informed decisions. If they are able to narrow their interests down to a few different areas then you can search for colleges that have strong programs in the areas where their interests lie.  All of these discussions, when completed early on, can go a long way toward making the transition to college more manageable.

How (Or How Much) To Contribute
Many parents feel guilty if they determine that their ability to completely pay for their child’s education is not possible. It is easy to find parents who have gone into massive debt in order to make their child’s dreams of a college education possible even when it puts their own financial stability in jeopardy. This is one instance where having a solid college planning expert will help to ensure that these types of dire situations can be avoided.
Parents taking stock of what is realistic and what their child’s goals are will be very important in the part of the planning process. Do the parents want their child to attend a specific school?  Even more importantly, is that school a good fit for the student?  If so, is it currently possible to send them there, considering academic and financial realities?  What other options are available?  Once these questions are asked then the parents can move forward and see what will be required in terms of their contribution.
It is also important for parents to understand that where their child goes to college is not a reflection of their parenting skills or who they are as people. Keeping their child financially secure is a major requirement for parents and placing them in a school that they cannot afford and/or will place an undue burden on their child by way of student loans is not a great way for a child to be starting out in life. Planning ahead and making prudent choices based upon real financial circumstances and careful planning with an advisor will ensure the best choice possible is made that will benefit all parties over the long run.

Managing Parental Contribution/Retirement
There is no question that paying for a child’s college education can be a big sacrifice for parents. Parents who have an average annual income of $100,000, for example, can find that college expenses for just one child run $100,000 (and that is being moderate)… which can mean that they should expect to work an extra 10+ years in order to recoup those costs. That could mean delaying retirement in most cases – or, as mentioned above, saddling kids with significant student debt.
Because of these realities, this is another area where careful and early planning can make all the difference. The right adjustments and placing money in the proper strategic places may help to prevent some of the drastic measures to which many people succumb. These are definitely things that can and should be discussed with the college planning advisor – and the earlier that happens, the better! 

Probably the most important element of this part of college preparation can be boiled down to “communication!”  When people do not know exactly what is expected of them (financially, or in any other facet of life) then they are much more likely to make significant mistakes.  This is even more apparent when it comes to young people who are just starting out on their own – at college, or anywhere else… the more things can be clarified and communicated, the more likely they are to be able to manage these expectations successfully.

Until next month,

Use High School to Prepare for College

It can be a tough job for both parents and college-bound high school students when it comes to preparing optimally for future academic endeavors. As college funding professionals with detailed knowledge into the admissions process, we recognize that all elements of the subject can be stressful and challenging from beginning to end!  However, the challenges related to college preparation can be effectively managed with some planning and insights in advance – and there is not doubt that it increases if college details are ignored throughout the high school years.  This is why we are here to help!

We find that one of the best things that parents and high school students can do to make their eventual transition into the college years as smooth as possible is to manage their high school experience in a specific way.  Students who try to view the high school years as an actual “college-prep” period will find that there are a lot of helpful parts to their high school experience, if they are willing to take advantage of them.  By the same token, parents will also find that the high school years are their own absolute best opportunity to prepare for college financial and asset management.  Working together, the high school experience can be more than just a chance for the student to get a diploma – it can be a perfect opportunity for the entire family to be optimally prepared for the college years.

The good news is that it generally does not require a lot of extra effort to turn the normal high school experience into a terrific college preparation period.  It does require some planning, and students cannot necessarily run on auto-pilot as much… and parents need to be actively engaged in the process to make the financial end work properly.  But the challenge is definitely doable, and we are the experts in helping families to make this kind of an invaluable high school experience a reality.

For this month’s newsletter, we are dedicating these pages to help you understand why these preparations are important, and how to make them happen.  Remember, if you have any questions about these important college preparation subjects, we urge you to give us a call.  College funding and application professionals are experienced and knowledgeable in these areas and can offer tailor-made explanations, planning, and information when it comes to these important college preparation efforts.

  1. Investigate Early College Credit Options

One great way for students to get a head start on their college experience is to look for opportunities to earn college credits while still attending high school.  There can be a variety of options, and they are all worth looking into.  Some schools will offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses than can actually count for future credit at many colleges and universities.  Of course, these courses presuppose that the student has demonstrated some strong aptitude in the subject matter, and are not available to every single student who expresses interest – but if the chance is there, and the student has the interest and the academic chops to handle it, then it can be a terrific alternative to the rank and file coursework.

Another possibility for some students, depending on locality and arrangements, is the completion of individual college courses during high school.  This is sometimes on a special agreement with a local community college or public university, but it can be a great way for students to get their feet wet early on, and even get a jump on completing some of their core curriculum classes at the next level before they have ever officially matriculated as a college freshman!

These options can make sense academically, putting the student ahead of the curve and building confidence early on… but it can also make a lot of sense financially.  You see, courses that a student completes before setting foot on campus are courses that will not show up on the college tuition bill later, and on that front every little bit helps!  If a student can shave off as much as a term or semester from the eventual course of their undergraduate degree, then the amount of tuition saved can be pretty darned significant.

     2. Seek Out Academic and Extracurricular Experiences

            High school is a great time in a young person’s life, but there are many instances where students will feel pressure (whether external or internal) to follow the proverbial “path of least resistance.”  Advance Placement courses are not the only way for students to excel, and can sometimes be the wrong choice for a student due to academic interest, motivation, or other considerations.

            It is vital for students to seek out opportunities to truly discover what their interests are, what experiences inspire them the most, and to begin to develop an understanding of what they want out of life.  Of course, those answers will often not come completely during the high school years, while there will be other students who may have known since they were five years old that they wanted to become a pilot, or an architect, or a doctor. 

            The point of high school is not to pigeonhole a student into a specific academic track prematurely, but rather to offer a chance for learning and growth, as well as an opportunity to demonstrate abilities, talents, and interests.  This can only really happen if the high school experience is treated appropriately, and not viewed as sheer drudgery to be endured only until graduation springs a student onward to the thrills of university life. 

Yes, we all know that high school can be rough at times, and we all have memories of certain classes that were… well, yes, probably sheer drudgery… but we are convinced that it is important to seek out whatever intriguing and inspiring options can be found in the high school experience.  Some semesters this may be more challenging than others, due to different teachers or social pressures or family challenges, whatever the case my be, but it is well worth the effort to seek out the best things that a high school has to offer.  This includes academic offerings, clubs, sports, theater, community involvement – really, anything that interests and inspires your child to a higher level.

     3. Communicate With Counselors Regularly

            There can certainly be a benefit derived from keeping the lines of communication open with high school and college counselors.  While the individual value can depend a lot on the counselor himself or herself, there are basic college preparatory courses and requirements with which most counselors are quite well-versed.  It is important for college-bound kids to be familiar with these tidbits, even if some guidance counselors do not have a lot to offer beyond that (which is sadly sometimes the case).  Maintaining a respectful and cordial relationship with these counselors can only help later when it comes time for letters of recommendation or paperwork for college application, regardless of how much or how little a specific counselor has to offer.

            With this in mind, as College Funding and Admissions Professionals, we also view ourselves as counselors in this arena, and we know that we bring the most up-to-date and actionable information for both college-bound students and their parents.  We have access to the information about the schools that interest your child, no matter where in the country they might be located.  We are the most reliable experts in managing the college funding challenges.  We really are here to help with all aspects of the college preparation experience.

            As you know, higher education financial planning and college application services stand at the very foundation of our work as college funding professionals.  This leads us to an ultimate goal of assisting parents in seeking the very best strategies for the management of their financial circumstances, as well as the proper utilization of assets to create the best situation possible with regard to the college options for the academic future.  This entire process works best, very simply put, if the parents are well-prepared ahead of time, with a clear set of guidelines to help along the way to preparation for their student’s future college and university years… as well as the attending college and university expenses!

 

 

 

Creating that perfect match between student & school

        

We know that the parents of a college-bound student can sometimes worry a little bit about the college selection process, and as time goes on it can also become a little bit (or more than a little bit!) stressful for high school students, themselves.  How can one be sure that he or she is applying to the “right” schools, let alone choosing one once the acceptances have rolled in?!  Is it really all about the rankings in some news magazine, or how can a family feel comfortable with the choices made about college or university education?

One thing that we want to mention right from the get-go, however, is that “national rankings” are utterly arbitrary and should play a very tiny role in the decision-making process (if any at all, actually).  The simple fact is that a “number one” ranked school in some magazine could actually be the worst possible location for a student to end up, even if he or she is fully academically qualified for admission there!  On the other hand, it could also work out great, which is why it is vitally important to match up students with the schools that will work best for them.

This is not to disparage the colleges and universities that are traditional academic powerhouses, of course.  Everyone knows about the Ivy League schools, for instance, and the Stanfords, Cal Techs, University of Chicagos are not hurting for applicants because they are world-class institutions.  They have a lot to offer the right students.  Other schools (also excellent in their own rights) may be better, or worse fits, depending on the individual.  As professionals in this field, we are happy to provide some tips on how to decide what constitutes a good fit.

 

How Does Your Child Learn Best?

Learning style is really important when determining what kind of college or university a student should attend. It is important from the outset to understand that everyone learns differently. Some people may prefer to learn by reading. Others like to learn aurally. Some students thrive in a large classroom setting, while the thought of a packed auditorium class could make others cringe. It is a very personal thing.

One learning style is not necessarily better than another. They are simply different, and generally people learn in various ways.  Granted, the more flexible your child can be in adapting to learning environments, the easier the transition will be at the next level.  However, understanding how teaching is conducted within the universities and colleges you and your child are researching is an important piece of information when determining whether or not that school will be a good match over the long term.

It is a good idea to have your child determine his or her learning style early on, so that the retention of information while in high school, and later in college, will be at an optimal level. You may discover that your child learns well with a mixture of styles, while some students may have one style dominating the others.

Having this vital information will help your child when choosing a college or university and also when tailoring his or her class schedule. Certain departments or teachers may teach in a particular way that may be just right for the way your child learns.

Location, Location, Location!

In the real estate business, they often say that “location is everything.” Well, the fact of the matter is that it means a lot when choosing a college, as well. The location of the college can be just as important as which college it is. For example, if your child was born and raised in southern Florida but has his sights on a college in Michigan, he may be in for a big surprise once the weather turns in December and January.  That is not to say that it cannot be overcome.  Students are, of course, often quite adaptable, but if this shock in temperature and culture may be too much for your son to handle then it’s best to look for a college in a different location.

The type of campus is also something very important to consider. For instance, would your child prefer a rural, urban or suburban campus. They all have their advantages and disadvantages, and it really depends on what your child is looking for and in which environment would s/he be the most comfortable.

Rural campuses are located in a country setting. They are peaceful and have a lot of experiences to offer being surrounded by natural beauty. Most rural campuses are self-contained and this means that most students live on campus. This can create a sense of belonging and community for your child if that is important to him or her. Many rural campuses have ready access to the outdoors and this may be of particular importance if your child has an interest in agriculture or the environmental sciences.

Urban campuses are also very appealing for the right kind of student. They are located in cities and have all the social and cultural advantages that cities have to offer. This can mean ready access to cultural sites, museums, and of course businesses. Urban campuses can often tend to be spread throughout a city and may not be completely self-contained like rural campuses. Students often live either in dorms or in apartments near campus. Students also usually need to use public transportation.

Suburban campuses are usually located in smaller cities or larger towns that are close to bigger cities. The nice thing about suburban campuses is that they offer a mixture of both urban and rural features. They have more access to the outdoors than would be found in an urban setting. They are often self-contained so students can have a real sense of that campus community. And, depending on how large the city or town is, it may have a good public transportation system.  The real question is… which type of institution is going to be the best fit for your child’s interests?

What to Study?

What your child wants to study has a lot to do with where they will want to go to school. A liberal arts college is a great choice, but if they don’t have a strong program in the area in which your child has an interest – or if your child is interested in a very specific type of program that is only offered in a few locations – then a liberal arts school may not be the right fit.

If your child has an interest in engineering then choosing a school with a stellar fine arts program but less than stellar engineering program wouldn’t make sense. Finding out where a student’s interests lie can take a little time, and there is no guarantee that a young person will know what he or she wants to study before matriculating, so sometimes it is important to view this decision a bit more flexibly.

Taking some steps to find out what stimulates and excites them will make it easier to find a school and program that is a great fit.  A few of the general questions to be answered might be along these lines:

  • What does your child love to do?
  • What is your child especially good at?
  • Which areas or fields are they interested in?

Some tips could be that your child shadows a person who has a job that he or she is interested in.  Or, a young person can sometimes complete an internship at a several places to get a closer idea regarding a field that may be of interest. Narrowing interests will make it a lot easier when choosing a college.

In the end, however, it’s not a deal breaker. If your child is not sure before attending college, things can still turn out just fine. Finding an excellent liberal arts college or university with good overall programs will serve them well as they decide along their college journey.  Remember also that for many professional programs (law, medicine, etc.), the specialized training takes place in the years after undergraduate training – the main point for kids interested in these fields is to be performing at a high academic level so that he or she can gain admission, if that turns out to be the direction for a future career!

Until next month,

~Marc Ziegler