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College

But Why?

Remember when your child was going through the terrible twos and ‘but why’, was his/her favorite phrase.  As college planning professionals, hear it all the time.

  • Why do I need to save money?
  • Why does my child have to take the ACT?
  • Why does he have to take the ACT again (and again)?
  • Why can’t my child just pay for college themselves?
  • Why does college cost so much?
  • Why doesn’t my child get the same scholarship as my neighbor?
  • Why can’t my kid play Division 1 sports?
  • Why can’t my spouse handle all this admissions stuff?

Our first instinct is the parental favorite, because we said so or that’s life, however, that is not polite.  Let’s discuss why having a plan for college matters.

From the beginning Midwest College Planning has followed a simple formula:

admissions + budget= success

Let’s dive into the formula.  Admissions involves research, test scores, grades, and the student.  Budget is how much you plan on spending on college. By understanding how much you want to spend on college we can find schools that fit your wallet. Success comes when your son/daughter graduates from college.

Remember that list of Why’s? Here it is again, with answers.

  • Why do I need to save money? On average public college is $25K/year while private colleges have skyrocketed to $90K/year.  If you don’t save, how will you pay for college?
  • Why does my child have to take the ACT?  Both the ACT and SAT are good indicators for college success. During the pandemic, more and more schools opted for test-optional policy however they are shifting back to standardized testing.
  • Why does he have to take the ACT again (and again)? Practice makes perfect. Also there’s a little thing called ‘super score’.
  • Why can’t my child just pay for college themselves? Most students don’t earn enough to live on their own let alone pay for college.
  • Why does college cost so much? Check out another post for the answer.
  • Why doesn’t my child get the same scholarship as my neighbor? Schools are fickle, there are many reasons why scholarships differ from student to student, stop with the comparison and focus on finding the right school.
  • Why can’t my kid play Division 1 sports?  This is a tough one, in most cases the reason is your kid doesn’t play at the D1 level. We have those hard discussions with students and parents…until you get an offer from a D1 team, you aren’t D1.
  • Why can’t my spouse handle all this admissions stuff?  We live and breath college admissions and recruiting, there’s a really good chance, your spouse does not.

At Midwest College Planning, we help families navigate the college admissions process. We are with you from the first college visit until your child graduates with his/her first undergraduate degree. If you’d like to find out more, feel free to call 614.230.1208 and schedule a free consultation.

When it comes to college who will help?

  • Our Blog

“The Six Opinions That Actually MATTER While Your Child

Prepares For The College Years”

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 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.

Notice how we steered clear of what we call the ‘peanut  gallery’?  That’s because, you can probably name a few right off the bat from the neighbor who means well to the know-it-all at the gym.  As you move through the college planning process, you’ll soon develop an ear for the experts and the rest.

Until next month,

 

                                                                          

Transitioning to College: 3 Differences Your Child Will Experience

  • Our Blog

 

College is a whole new ball game, as they say, and students need to be prepared for the changes or they could end up on the wrong side of them.

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

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

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

Time Management

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

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

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

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

Changes in Class Size and Organization

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

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

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

Learning to Take Initiative

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

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

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

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

Until next month,

~Marc

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 1,000 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

During the pandemic more schools chose to go ‘test-optional’ however these days schools are requiring a test.  Please check the admission requirements and if tests are required, be sure to send in before your application is due.  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.

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.

 

 

Extracurriculars & College Success

Organized, Extracurricular College Prep Activities:     

What Are The Options?

For this month’s newsletter, we are pleased to present some of the extracurricular college prep options that could be worth considering for your child.  They are, after all, EXTRA-curricular.  Nothing is mandatory in this regard, but some of them could be helpful.  Costs will vary from almost nothing to rather significant, so consider all of the options available!  Remember also, if you have questions about these activities – or any others that you might come across – please feel free to give us a call.  Our years of experience in this field can offer information that is not always available to parents, and it is a pleasure for us to share insights about college preparation activities and college funding details.

College Preparation Camps

One of the most enjoyable ways for some students to prepare for college is by heading to a college prep camp. These types of college camps are plentiful, can have a variety of areas of interest, and they are a wonderful opportunity for kids to gather together with other like-minded future college students and learn all about getting into college.  Some kids go once, some go more than once, and of course some never go at all.

Many of these camps offer classes around personal statement writing, SAT/ACT prep, and finding the right college. These camps are often located in beautiful and scenic areas. While there are classes offered, there are still many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and have fun. The students get to work hard and play hard.

There are also pre-college enrichment camps. These camps are focused on giving high school students the ‘college experience.’ These camps are located on various college campuses. The camps give students a chance to see what it will like to live on a college campus. This can make the transition from home life to college life a lot easier.

In addition to getting a ‘feel’ for a college, students can discover what different cities are like. These type of enrichment camps are provided by colleges large and small and all over the country. Your child would get to know what it was like to manage a big city or see what a smaller town might have to offer.

Another advantage is that students can meet other students from all over the world.

University Tours/Visits

College prep is certainly not all studying for SATs and essay writing. One of the most exciting aspects of preparing for college is getting to visit the campuses of prospective colleges and universities. This is the ideal opportunity to learn first-hand what the university your child may attend is really like. Here are some tips to make the most of a university or college campus visit:

  • Don’t wait to discuss it – College may seem like it is a long-away goal for many, but it comes much more quickly than we think. The high school years are busy, full of activities and studying. Schedules fill up fast. Begin to discuss early on where your child might like to go to college. It can begin as early as elementary school.
  • Make it a two for one – Taking time out to visit colleges can be costly and time-consuming. If you are planning a family vacation, maybe schedule in a road trip that could cover visiting several colleges at the same time. This would allow you to have some relaxing downtime, but would also provide the opportunity to visit some campuses that are on your child’s list.
  • Leverage the internet – It may not be physically and financially possible to visit all the campuses in which your child may have interest. That’s ok! You can do virtual tours of many colleges. While it’s not as good as the real thing, it’s a very valuable tool to get a look at what campuses look like and what they have to offer.
  • Chat it up with other students – While on a campus visit, find a student who would be willing to sit down and answer questions about the college or university. Students currently attending a school are an extremely valuable resource. It may also be worth your while to speak to several different students. As we are all individual, one person’s experience may not fully reflect what the university or college is all about it. It would be a good idea to gather several different perspectives.
  • Reach out to different departments – Your child may already know what s/he would like to study while in college. This is a great opportunity to get a closer look at the school or department in which s/he will be spending most of his/her time. You could even ask if it would be all right to sit in on a lecture. Many professors would have no problem at all with it.
  • Check out student life – The student center and cafeteria may be place where your child will spend a good amount of time. It’s a good idea to check out both places to see what they offer and if it’s a place where your child would be comfortable.
  • Security – Campus safety is an issue on every college or university campus. You can ask to find out what campus safety measures are in place. It is imperative that students feel safe, so it is a good idea to learn whether or not campus safety is given the full attention it deserves.
  • Visit the financial aid office – Ask to make an appointment with a financial aid officer. You could also go in with a list of prepared questions. Each school offers different types of aid so it’s worth your while to sit down with a financial aid advisor to find out what sorts of options would be available to your child.
  • Check out the campus paper – Each college has a campus paper. This is a fun and easy way to get to know a college better. You will get to know what issues are currently being discussed on campus and what areas are most important to the students.
  • Take a lot of pictures – You may want to put your amateur photographer skills to the test when visiting a college campus. There are so many things to see and it’s nearly impossible to remember them all. Taking a lot of pictures will give you the visual reminders of what you liked about that particular college or university.

Internships

Once your child is in school, s/he will have to take a lot of classes towards a degree that will put them on the path of their career. However, if your child already knows (or has a pretty good idea) what s/he would like to do right now, an internship can be an excellent way to discover the ins and outs of an industry first hand.  It can also be a great leg up when applying for specialized college or university programs later.

There are different types of internships, as well. Some are paid and some are not. It really depends on the industry and the particular company or organization. Getting an up close and personal perspective on how certain businesses are run will be extremely valuable to your child as s/he decides which career path best suits him or her.

Internships can also add a lot of weight to a college application. Acquiring and completing an internship shows prospective colleges that your child is motivated and disciplined. These are seen as valuable characteristics to any college admissions officer.

While many internships are available to college students, high school students can still find opportunities. A quick internet search can provide resources to different industries and areas where your child might find a position.

 

When looking at the above options – and many others targeted toward college-bound high school kids – it is important to look at all of the individual variables before making a decision as to what it right for your child.  We operate the same way.  We make college financial and application services the foundation of our work, and help families prepare for the best college options based on all of the important academic, personal, and financial details.  This requires us to make personalized education the core of our activities.

Until next month,
marc signature

College & Organization

  • Our Blog

Dear Parent,

We would like to wish a Happy New Year to you and your family… we hope that this coming year of 2023 is one of great success and happiness, and that there are many opportunities for you to take great strides toward accomplishing the academic dreams of your college-bound high school student. 

Of course, each new year brings your child closer and closer to the day when he or she will graduate from high school and head off to an exciting new life as a college or university freshman… and time certainly does not seem to be slowing down at this stage of the process!  If anything, as we work with tomorrow’s college students, it seems that things are speeding up exponentially as we do so.

One of the things that we have noticed over our years in this field of college preparation is that the students and families that tend to see the most success are often the students and families who grasp the importance of organization as they approach high school performance, college application, college financial preparation, and nearly every other element of the higher education process.

Now, rest assured, we are fully aware that some people just seem to have an “organizational gene” and they thrive on having everything “just so…” and other people are more challenged in that regard.  Honestly, it is our experience that this sort of predisposition can be a benefit, but in the long run it really does not matter –  as long as students and families can follow instructions and have a desire to make the right steps, organizational skills CAN be taught… and learned!  We see it each and every year.

Along those lines, we have a series of tools in place to help with the organizational elements of college preparation and application, and we are definitely the experts in helping families with the management of these important tasks as well as preparing financially for the college years.  But why do we bother?

We bother because it matters to us.  The future success of your college-bound student, as well as the ability of your family to be able to make these dreams happen financially, are precisely the things that make the difference in everything that we do as college funding advisors.  It is what we do.

Bearing that in mind, this month’s newsletter will focus specifically on the importance of organization in college preparation at all levels, both academic and with applications, as well as introducing some of the things that we make available to help families of all types to be optimally prepared for the coming realities of college application and college financial preparation.  We hope that this will be a key in either cementing your resolve to organize the process, or to spark your interest in making it a reality for your family and your student.

1. Organizational Skills In High School

 Ideally, tomorrow’s college students should start developing some excellent organizational skills during the high school years.  Now, we know that some parents (OK… many parents) will take a look at the state of their child’s bedroom and shrink away in despair at that idea, but let us remind you that it is a PROCESS, and developing these organizational skills takes some time for many young people.  The most important thing is that it happens, and this can be a huge benefit academically and in their future college career.

For most students, seeing a modicum of increased success by planning a project well helps to instill a desire to continue in that vein… even if it is not always consistent at the outset.  A series of rewards and assistance in the process can make a big difference early on, and the results will begin to speak for themselves.  Once a college-bound student – who is usually interested in his or her Grade Point Average – can see what organizing a project does for the end result, it can serve as a huge motivating factor.

There is no one correct way to organize high school academics.  Some people swear by technology and smart phones.  Others prefer to use a more old-school method of writing in a notebook or planner.  It really does not matter which way works best for your child, as long as the process is in place.  Regardless, the main thing is that the overall process gets started, and that the positive results instill a desire for increased organization. 

Remember that most students who can slide by with decent (or even very good) grades in high school while procrastinating often find that such actions have a rather dire effect on their academic performance at the next level of their education… so help your student to start now, the earlier the better.

2. Organizing The College Application Process

This is an organizational effort that far too many families do not think about until they are knee deep in the process, and trying to dig themselves out of a confusing mess!  Going into the college application season without an organizational plan can be frustrating, yes, but it can also actually be disastrous. 

All it takes is one missed deadline at a dream school to actually submarine a student’s acceptance or financial aid offer, and we are sorry to report that this literally happens each and every year.  Imagine a student working so hard and diligently for four years of high school, and then having a dream crash and burn because of something as silly as a missed deadline!  For this reason, as well as several others, we seriously recommend having a separate application calendar for the management of the entire college application process – and it should be one of those large-sized wall calendars, ideally. 

It is also important for students to have an organized application strategy, so that he or she is applying to the best schools for his or her interests, background, goals, and personality.  All of these types of details are available to students, but they can only be optimally managed in advance when you work with an expert who knows the process, the specifics about each school that interests your child, and their admissions statistics.  Obviously, as professionals in this area, we are uniquely well-equipped in this regard and are happy to assist with the organizational elements of college application.

Having a well-managed application process can actually lead to more acceptances, and it can help families to obtain the very best financial aid offers, as well.  It really does make a difference.


3. Successfully Managing The Money Side Of Things

The bulk of the financial preparation for higher education naturally usually falls to the parents, since very few high school kids are able to fund a college education on their own and most forward-thinking parents want to help their children to stay out of student debt as much as possible.  With this reality in mind, it is absolutely vital for parents to start their organization of finances with an eye toward college costs as early as possible.

Some parents (or grandparents, for that matter) will start a college funding account for a child at a very young age, and some families even manage to save some money in that account over the years leading up to high school.  Many, alas, do not.  But regardless, this is NOT the kind of organization that we are talking about when we discuss college funding organization.  The subject is far too detailed and multi-faceted (not to mention, too expensive) to be effectively managed with a simple savings account!

We keep our fingers on the pulse of the ever-changing college funding scene and are uniquely qualified to help families manage their fiscal decisions in the years leading up to college to optimize their efforts.  And yes, ideally, we mean in the years (plural) leading up to college.  While we are able to help families from almost any circumstance, even later in the game, our hands are definitely somewhat tied when parents do not decide to plan until the last year of high school.  By that point, many of the tried-and-true options available to families are no longer available.  So yes, in this case, the early bird gets the worm… or at least, access to more worms. 

With that in mind, we can detail the best options available to parents, and help them to organize these efforts to maximum effect as the college years approach.  An organized and knowledgeable strategy is the most effective way for a family to prepare for the college years, and we are able to detail each step of the process so that there is no need to feel overwhelmed.  Simply contact us at your convenience and we can show you how.

If parents and students are willing to take the steps necessary to organize themselves in preparation for the future college and university experience, they will often find that they are much more successful in their endeavors than those people who did not do so.  As students approach their application process, we have a number of services available to help them select schools for which they are ideally suited, as well as assisting them in organizing and managing the entire process from application to admission letter.

 

 

            Until next month,

Parenting Tips to help your Kid Succeed in College

  • Our Blog

“Top Parenting Tips That Will  Help With College Admissions, Funding, And Academic Success”

This month let’s focus on some basic tips that not only help your son or daughter with college readiness but are critical life lessons: personal responsibility, financial common sense, emotional intelligence, and the importance of planning.

CREATE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY

One of the most important things surrounding college readiness is the development of personal responsibility in a student.  Some parents these days tend to intervene with astonishing regularity in high school affairs (academic, social, and otherwise) – this can certainly be counterproductive at the high school level, but it is extremely damaging at the college and university level.

At college, students are required to manage their academic affairs effectively with their professors and classmates.  They are required to be timely and reliable with their assignments, and to exhibit an appropriate level of integrity in their work.  There is no room for outside entanglements with parents at the college level, and it is the job of the student to manage these things properly.

High school (and even junior high school) are the perfect time to develop these skills and a high level of reliability and responsibility.  Teachers will appreciate the effort, certainly, and the level of stress for a family goes down considerably as high school students become more and more responsible as young adults.

We are huge proponents of students being responsible, not only academically, but also financially, which leads to our next tip…

LEARN FINANCIAL COMMON SENSE

Even the best-laid college financial plans can be completely and utterly destroyed if a brand new college student does not know have a clue about how to manage his or her money properly.  We have (unfortunately) seen this happen more times than we care to remember, so trust us when we say… this is vitally important!

Each and every year there are students – even gifted, intelligent students – who undermine their academic futures with a simple inability to manage a budget.  Bear in mind that there are plenty of adults who have similar problems, but for this reason it is all the more important for students to learn these skills in high school, or even well before that.

Students who can keep a budget will find that they are also able to function at the college level without the financial stress that plagues so many families during the years of higher education.  That can honestly, in and of itself, improve a grade point average pretty significantly!

There is also little doubt that being able to organize, plan, and stick to a budget demonstrates a level of maturity that spills over to academic work at the next level.  This is a skill, and it is something that can be learned… far too many schools no longer offer training in this, so if it is not available in your school district then it could be a very good idea to seek other resources to get these skills in place!  It will serve a student well both during his or her college education, and later in life, as well.

DEVELOP EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

Emotional intelligence may not be one of the standard skills taught in high school, but it is an incredibly important characteristic to have in one’s life – especially when entering the college years. Having a high emotional intelligence is something that should also be developed along with other parts of a child’s academic and extracurricular life.

The ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions, not to mention the emotions of others, is not only crucial in interpersonal relationships and college success, it is also a vital life skill. When it comes down to it, we are all in relationships, and this reality expands dramatically throughout high school and into college and university experiences. Relationships need to be maintained and nurtured throughout our lives. Navigating emotions, self-awareness and an understanding of the motivations and emotions of others can be critically useful in business and interpersonally. It affects the choices a person makes and offers important tools that are important for any highly effective and inspirational leader.

While some believe you are born with a certain degree of emotional intelligence, it can also a set of skills that can (and should) be learned during the teen years. Just like any other type of knowledge, emotional intelligence can be learned and developed experience and personal interactions, which must be a part of the educational process.  Most importantly, emotional intelligence is a huge part of maturity – which is one of the key elements of success in college and beyond.

AND ONCE AGAIN… START EARLY!

When they say that it’s never too early to prepare your child for college, it is partially true. While showing a powerpoint slideshow of all of your personal top-tier colleges while your child is in the crib may seem like a good idea, that actually may be a *little* early. However, it IS a good idea to get a jump start on prepping your child for college at the beginning of his or her adolescence.

Adolescence is a great time because your child’s curiosity about the future is just beginning to blossom. Questions about life and the world can become topics of conversation for the average 10 or 11 year old. Colleges are interested in nurturing future leaders. If your child is curious about how the world works and what the future holds for him or her, then it is imperative to properly nurture that curiosity.

Recently, a group of incoming Ivy League freshmen were interviewed regarding preparing for the rigors of college, and also were asked to share what advice they had to share with younger students. The response was overwhelmingly, “start early.” Managing high school academics and activities can be difficult. Applying for college can be difficult. It is an advantage to start as early as possible getting acquainted with the process, helping your child establish clear goals, and finding help where it is needed.

Again, the ways that different families will go about instilling these skills and abilities in young people may vary significantly, but the proof is ultimately in the pudding, as they say.  The most important thing is that any college-bound student is able to function appropriately and successfully at the next level.  This builds a foundation for his or her future both during studies and afterward.

We have a keen interest in helping students and their parents to be well prepared in every way for the rigors and challenges inherent to higher education.  Because of this, we make it our business to provide appropriate educational and informational avenues that help families to be extremely well prepared for this important step.

 

 

How Procrastination Affects Admissions and Financial Aid

“Five Ways That Procrastination
Can Undermine Both College Admissions
And College Funding

Dear Parent,

One of the most important elements of college preparation – both for admissions and for college funding – is simply being prepared in advance for the process. Even the best-laid plans are not fail-safe if they are implemented too late in the game, and this is a reality that we see year after year, time and time again in this business. For this reason, we are constantly encouraging students and their families to start their college preparations early on, so that they can be best prepared for every eventuality.

There is no question that it is a big job, however, and this is probably one of the biggest reasons that people can tend to put off their action steps until deadlines approach – and as we have seen many times, at this point it is often simply too late to have a significantly positive effect on the outcomes of applications and financial preparations.

As college funding advisors who understand the ins and outs of the application and financial aid processes, we stand ready to serve families with college-bound kids, and we also know exactly what steps need to be taken at each stage of the high school years. The simple fact is that ignoring these steps early on can have a deleterious effect on a young person’s college opportunities, both through the admissions cycle and through the realities of college funding.

We have decided this month to share some of the pitfalls that can be avoided by proper planning and preparation in advance, in the hopes that more families will take the steps needed to avoid procrastination and create the best options for their child’s experience in higher education. The good news is that this sort of preparation, when undertaken properly, dramatically lowers the workload for both parents and students later in the high school years. The better prepared a family is for college, both academically and financially, the more options are available after high school – and the less they will stress out during the senior year of high school! Starting early is honestly not that difficult, if you know what you are trying to accomplish and what you are trying to avoid, so we urge you to have a look at these viable and vital reasons to avoid procrastinating college preparation.

Should you happen to have any questions, of course we are always ready to assist – because it is certain that procrastination of these important steps can definitely come back to bite a family later!

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Not Starting The Process Early Enough

When a child is born, to the minds of the parents he or she is perfect, and represents all the best possibilities in the world. At that time, however, it’s often difficult for new parents to imagine that in only 18 short years, that baby will be heading off to college. Planning early will be the best decision a parent can make concerning his college funding.

It is no secret that, in many areas, college costs are spiraling out of control and they are overwhelming to many parents. One of the first things that parents can do is calculate what they think will be needed for college for their child. This can give a rough estimate on what needs to be saved each month. However, it is a good idea to have some reasonable input from a knowledgeable source before planning with these numbers.

With that said, this amount is not hard and fast. It’s there to give an indication. The point is, parents should start planning as early as possible for college, and the best way to do that is through consultation with a College Funding Advisor. Frankly, most people do not start really working on this when their child is small, but it certainly can make a huge difference later.

As the old Chinese proverb goes, however “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago… the second best time is now.” So if you have a college bound child – now is the time to take some positive steps!

Not Strategically Moving Assets Soon Enough

Retirement assets will usually (hopefully!) take decades to deplete. However, college funding will usually be used up in a narrow time frame – usually within 5 years, unless graduate or professional school is involved. This shortened amount of time means that one does not have the flexibility to ‘ride it out’ in the event of a major market fluctuation like they would a regular retirement account. This is one big reason that there are different types of college funding options to consider.

When it comes to preparing your child for college, having access to educational funds is vitally important. Regular, high-risk investments might be able to tolerate the ups and downs when one does not need access to the money in the near future. However, it is a good idea to discuss college funding options with an expert to find options with the most stability. If one procrastinates then those funds may not be there when they are needed.

Waiting Too Long to Apply for Aid

Filling out the FAFSA is not exactly something any parent looks forward to. However, waiting too long to fill out these types of forms, or simply getting them turned in by the posted deadlines may be a serious mistake. Many schools have a much earlier deadline than FAFSA’s and that could make it impossible to qualify for most financial aid.

The FAFSA form takes approximately 30 minutes to fill out. It is a good idea to simply do it as soon as possible to avoid have any complications with acquiring aid for the coming school year. It is also something that should be discussed with an expert to make sure nothing is missed and all of the information is properly completed.

Comparing the deadlines for all of the colleges and universities your child is interested in applying for and making doubly sure that all of the financial information is ready to go when filling out the FAFSA will pay dividends if done early. Of course, that will also assume that parents need to have their taxes prepared and filed so that all of the information is ready and can be provided on the appropriate forms. Whatever you do, do not miss these deadlines!

Forgetting the FAFSA is Required Every Year

Just because parents have dutifully filled out the FAFSA one time does NOT mean all is well in that regard moving forward to the following years. Your child’s eligibility for financial aid from one year, unfortunately, will not necessarily carry over to the following year. Each year’s decision is based on new financial information, so the form must be filled out each and every year of college. Remember that family circumstances can change from year to year and those changes may affect eligibility.

If your child is still in college then a form will need to be filled out for the following year. It’s just as simple as that. On the good side, if you have a College Funding Advisor – then you also have a built-in reminder service!

Not Curbing Procrastination Habits Early

Procrastinating high school students almost invariably will become procrastinating college students. Habits take time to form and if procrastinating to get things done while in high school is how things were accomplished, there is a very reasonable worry that the same behavior will continue at the next level. High school is often demanding and rigorous, but not nearly as much as students will see in college. The college or university life lacks the automatic structure of parents, as well as attendance requirement from high school. Students who don’t show up to class and/or procrastinate doing their course work don’t just get a bad grade, they’re wasting a lot of money!

For this reason, it is vital to curb procrastinating ways sooner rather than later, and high school is the place to get that done. If distractions are a problem, find a space that is free from distractions. Create a place where your child can study that is calm and will allow him or her to focus without being tempted to turn on the TV or  the internet.

Staying focused, being disciplined and meeting deadlines is extremely important not just for getting into college, but for everything that will come after college!

For the latest information on college planning, admissions, and financial aid; follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Until next month,

marc signature

 

 

Optimize College Education for Real World Work Environment

 

“Top Ways To Optimize College Education For

The Real World Work Environment

There is a lot of work and sustained effort that goes into getting a young high school student through to graduation and accepted into a good college or university… and that is only the beginning of the story.  Once arriving on campus at his or her dream institution, college freshmen soon learn that they are facing a whole new set of exciting challenges at the next level of their education!

One of the most important things that we do as advisors is help families and students to optimize their efforts – both during high school AND during college – to make sure that they are prepared for the next steps on their journey to an excellent education and a rewarding career of their choosing.  Yes, a huge chunk of this preparation is financial, but we are also extremely well-versed in how to make the college experience a successful one.

You see, getting through high school and into college is a great accomplishment, but it does not mean very much in the long run if the student becomes one of the roughly 32% of college freshmen who do not graduate with a bachelor’s degree.  That is a statistic that, unfortunately, is not going away.

Equally important, however, is the sad fact that even many students who do graduate are quite poorly prepared to seek jobs in their fields of interest.  Yes, many students have dutifully checked all of the boxes for graduation and receiving a diploma, which is great, but they have not focused on optimizing their college degree to help them afterward in the real world work environment.

With this sobering reality in mind, we have chosen to focus this month’s newsletter on some important steps that students can plan to take to make their college years truly preparation for entering the workforce.  Young people who are able to prepare themselves well for their future careers will usually be able to avoid many of the frustrations that new graduates often face – having a diploma in hand, but not being able to find a rewarding job is an ever-increasing and disturbing reality!

After your review of this month’s newsletter, should you have any particular questions or concerns about how you’re your student can best prepare for the college years (and thereafter), please so feel free to contact us at your convenience.  We are also able to assist with all of the financial elements involved with preparing for these college years, and the information we offer can boost your family’s preparations for all aspects related to the upcoming years of your child’s higher education.      

1) Begin With The End In Mind    

While some college students enter their higher education experience with a clear idea of what they want to pursue as a career, there are many more who finish high school and enter into the next level without any particular direction in mind.  Neither path is necessarily better than the other, but those who enter with more of an “open slate” should endeavor to take advantage of some of the important opportunities to increase their academic performance early on as well as their marketability for later.

For example, starting college with a full slate of required courses can be a great way to buy some time and to free up the later years of university for more specialized academic work (which can also be helpful when internships and other opportunities arise).  It is also a good way to get one’s feet wet at the college level, while gaining experience in learning how one can best manage the academic rigors that will define their GPA and other credentials – this can be managed best on a personal level, because what works for one student may NOT have the same effect for another student.

Of course, new college students who are beginning college with a pretty good idea of their future career already will also be required to take this barrage of mandatory coursework that is needed for graduation.  These students will often also do well to take these classes in a planned manner that will best mesh with their degree requirements.  In fact, some students may find that courses which mesh well with their major can also fit into some of the predetermined general requirements, so consultation with a good academic advisor can make a huge difference in planning their courses.

2) Work With GOOD Academic Advisors

 Let’s focus on an important adjective from the last sentence of the previous paragraph.  A GOOD academic advisor is worth his or her weight in gold, with platinum lining.  Now, what actually defines a good academic advisor can vary depending on the person with whom you are speaking.  We tend to define a good academic advisor as someone – whether working directly for a college or university, or not – who offers the best and most accurate advice to budding students in a particular field.

Many universities and colleges will have someone assigned to students almost at random (or, more accurately, often by the first initial of the last name).  Now, while these individuals will definitely be able to offer a full spectrum of insights into which classes will meet which graduation requirements (and this is a very important detail, to be sure!), they may NOT be the best people to speak with about entering a particular career field after graduation has come and gone – or have knowledge about details for those entering a particular professional training track, such as medicine, law, or business school.

Be aware that most schools will have specific offices to help serve the particular needs of students who are entering these highly competitive fields, and a good advisor in these areas is an enormous help in the challenging process of application, interviewing, and admission to professional schools after college.  It can also be a good idea to seek out advice from someone who is working directly in a student’s field of interest, to get insights and recommendations for the academic path.  The most important thing is to gain accurate and timely information, regardless of the source!

3) Do Not Ignore “Minor” Things

While most students will be focused on selecting their college major (or even, for the extremely motivated, a double major!), it is often overlooked that students can also choose a related – or even completely unrelated – subject for a minor area of study.  These are areas of academic emphasis that will require fewer classes than a second major, but are still then part of their academic credentials upon graduation.

Some students (and parents) will tend to look down on minor emphases as something “unworthy” of effort, but they can be extremely valuable in many cases.  For example, one can complete a minor by simply taking a steady regimen of a favorite foreign language, or a secondary subject of interest, or even by completing course prerequisites for professional schools!  (For example, pre-med students often find that they qualify for a minor in Chemistry simply by completing the pre-medical chemistry and organic chemistry requirements, and perhaps one or two other related classes over the course of four years).  Minors can be completed in almost any field of interest, and can add to the college experience and to the credentials of any graduate later on in his or her life.

One thing that a minor offers is an opportunity to show that a student has broad interests and abilities, and if their minor is in something that can provide practical experience as well (such as speaking Spanish, French, or Russian… or computer programming… or anything else), then that looks great on a resume later.

4) Diversify Your Options

 One of the things that we are quick to recommend to students is that they work hard toward their goals, while also diversifying their goals to a reasonable degree.  This means planning and working toward a specific graduate school or career, for example, but also being able to seek alternate pathways to their goals.

In general, success does not come along a straight line, and many students will find divergent pathways to their goals, or even new goals that emerge completely unexpectedly over time during and after their college years.  The more open students are to exploring and finding out what options exist for them in their lives, both academically and professionally, the more they are likely to discover enriching and exciting opportunities that they might not have even known about earlier in their lives.

For this reason, we urge students to make exciting plans, aim high, and always keep their eyes open for the opportunities that tend to arise over time – but are only seen if one is actually willing to be looking for them.

Until next month,

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,