College

Financial Decisions that can sink your college funding plans

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“Well-Intentioned (Or Uninformed)
Financial Decisions That Can Sink
Your College Funding Plans”

 

Optimally preparing for the requirements related to future academic endeavors is no easy task… as college funding professionals who have access to the best and most accurate information regarding the admissions process, we have garnered the experience and understanding for these challenges!

However, we also know that parents can make some very damaging decisions if they make their financial decisions on their own, or if they decide to take some poor advice that would make sense under other circumstances… but NOT when considering the college financial situation. We are certain that it is important to make the best decisions with all factors being considered, and there are a number of excellent reasons for making sure that this is so.

Preparing for college funding does not always follow the traditional common sense regarding savings and planning, because simply put, the rules are different (and they tend to change a lot, making an already confusing situation even more puzzling for most people). For this reason, it makes all the sense in the world to make certain that the correct rules are being followed, and that the efforts are not going to actually turn into more of a problem later on. There are a number of things that can interfere with a family’s best efforts.

For this month’s newsletter, we are presenting some common errors made by well-meaning parents and families when managing these details. Should any questions about these college preparation subjects pop up, or other similar issues arise, please be sure to give us a call. We have all of the pertinent details in these areas and provide the beat and most current information when it comes to managing college preparation efforts.

Please make sure that you do not fall victim to these well-intentioned problems!

1. Not Understanding Exactly What The Financial Aid Offer Says

This seems like it would not be a problem, but, sadly, for many families it is. Many families will receive an aid package from a college and not fully understand the nature of the aid stated in the package. Colleges are not always very clear about making the distinctions between loans and grants and that lack of clarity can get incoming students and their parents into trouble.

Many of the packages do not fully disclose interest rates or reveal the average monthly payments, etc. This can make it very difficult for parents to understand exactly what is being offered to their child. Moreover, many parents will look at the loan offer and make the assumption that it will reduce the cost of the tuition. This is, obviously, not the case. Only grants will reduce the cost of tuition and other college fees.

This lack of clarity may or may not be intentional on the part of colleges. In many cases, mathematicians are the only ones who can fully decipher a financial aid offer and calculate the ultimate cost over time. One of the ways to solve this problems is to ask questions.

Parents should ask whether or not loans will be ‘front-loaded’ meaning that the bulk will be offered during the first year but taper off over the following years. Finding out where the loan money is originated is also important to know.

Ultimately, if it is not explicitly shown… then be sure to ask and verify the answers. It is the only safe course of action.

2. Reporting Assets Incorrectly

Many families end up ‘over-reporting.’ This means that parents will include assets on the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) that are not actually required on the application. Many parents will state their retirement assets and their home equity on the FAFSA when that is actually not a requirement on the form.

Look very carefully on the form to determine exactly what is and is not required. Or, better yet, ask for your help from your college funding counselor who can guide you in the right direction and help you optimize your situation.

3. Co-Signing for a Student Loan Without Full Understanding

Parents will often gladly co-sign on a loan for their son or daughter thinking that it will release them from any obligation to that loan. That could not be further from the truth. Any person on a loan is equally responsible for the repayment of that loan. If a son or daughter fails to make payments on the loan, then the repayment obligation automatically falls to the co-signer. For parents, that means that they are on the hook as a co-signer.

Many parents think that because they are not the primary person on the loan that it absolves them from making any payments on that loan. It just simply isn’t so.

It is important to understand exactly what is being signed – especially when it comes to student loans. Those obligations can almost never be discharged in bankruptcy, so students (and sometimes parents) will certainly be responsible for them.

4. Opting For a Private Loan Instead of a Federal Loan

Private lenders can be pretty tricky. Many interest rates that are advertised lately are as low as around 3%. Those low rates can look very attractive to prospective students and their parents. When compared to unsubsidized Stafford loans, which might be around 6 %, it  can seem that one is getting a really good deal. That does not tell the full story, however.

The main difference with private loans is that the loans are underwritten. This means that the loan must be scrutinized by an underwriter and will often require a cosigner. The rates are often a ‘come on’ and do not reflect the actual rates that will be received after going through the loan approval process.

Another drawback is that these loans are often variable. That means that after the low introductory rate, the loan will go up in interest even to the double digits. The loans also do not have the same repayment options offered to those who get federally funded loans. The repayment process is often much more strict and that can be a strain on newly graduated students who do not have the income to make the full payments required on the loan.

5. Saving “Too Much”

The old adage, “A penny saved is a penny earned,” takes on an even stronger meaning when it comes to college funding – and the rules for college funding can even turn this saying right on its ear. Let’s say, for example, that your child has worked hard over many vacations and has $10,000 saved in a savings account under his or her name. That is just terrific, right? Well, maybe… but not so fast.

About 20% of those hard earned savings could well be added to the EFC (or Estimated Family Contribution) when the fed begins calculating eligibility for aid… which can often mean that the overall amount of financial aid eligibility is actually adversely affected by the student’s own hard work and savings!

Now, there are other strategies to help work around this sort of situation legally, including continuing to save for your child’s education – but it may be worth looking into doing so under a parent’s name in another bank account. This is definitely a case where a chat with a professional college funding advisor can make a huge difference.

As you can see, making wise and prudent decisions regarding higher education financial planning – as well as college application strategies – can be an extremely challenging endeavor. It only makes sense to approach this effort teamed up with a college funding professional. Doing so allows families to understand and select the optimal strategies that correspond to their own financial and academic situations, meaning that the chances of success (both financially and academically) will climb.
All of the actions discussed in this month’s newsletter are not rare – they happen each and every year to unsuspecting college-bound kids and their parents – and we view it as part of our professional responsibility to assist families in avoiding these problems, as well and many others like them. We have a number of tools to assist in this effort.
One of our most dynamic and effective options for the education of parents with high school kids who will attend college is through in-person attendance at one of our College Funding Workshops. These presentations are moderated and instructed by some of the finest college funding professionals available. We see these workshops as a dedicated, in-person option for parents who wish to inform themselves with the best informational set about all manner of financial “dos and don’ts,” as well as governmental regulations related to their family and their higher education planning.

Our  workshops have no admission cost, and are being held in larger venues to allow for social distancing.  If you don’t want to venture out quite yet, we have a short virtual talk which runs daily. Despite having no admission fee for attendance, we must make certain that each event has a group size that manages both space limits and our experiences with creating a successful learning environment. Because of this, we insist on advance reservations for the best possible planning and delivery of a quality event. Thank you for understanding.

Until next month

 

How do you stack up for an admissions officer?

Do you wonder how you stack up for an admissions officer? Well rounded and grounded students are what they want, how do you stack up?

A survey conducted by Money.com found the following attributes/traits to be critical in the admissions process.

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

Transitioning to College: 3 Differences Your Child Will Experience

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Dear Parent,

We are now fill swing back into the school year after the end-of-year break, and most students are not experiencing very many surprises at this point.  The school year often can tend to assume a feeling of sameness and even drudgery for students during the long stretch run after the holidays – other students can take the same situation and find a level of comfort in the continuity of how things run at school through this period.  It rather all depends on how the student views the high school experience, in many ways.

However, one thing to keep in mind – especially as high school continues into the junior and senior years – is that this sameness and continuity WILL NOT persist once a college-bound student reaches his goal and begins attending college or university.  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 actually 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 actually 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 that 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 that faced earlier generations, but there are others that 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.

We urge you to prepare as much as possible for each eventuality, and if you need any clues or tips on how to manage them, remember that your College Funding Advisor is just a phone call or email away.  Remember that we deal with these elements each and every year and will be happy to provide insights, advice, or strategize with families who have students approaching the college years.  Here are some of the most important things that students these days will notice as they make the jump to college or university life.

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 for 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 clearly demonstrates that the student is required to attend class or be faced with the 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 own 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 literally 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 really 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 what their hand 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.

This breadth of knowledge allows us to be uniquely qualified for helping families with their college preparation, and if we may be so bold as to say so, helps to make us one of the most valuable resources available for parents and students during the pre-college years.  We have a wide variety of programs and educational plans in place to help parents with the financial part of the college question.

Among our more successful educational options for providing this crucial information directly to the parents of high school kids is via our popular College Funding Workshops.  These workshop presentations are delivered live by experienced College Funding Professionals, and they target the families of today’s college-bound students with the most current information available.  Based on responses from our past attendees, these workshops do an excellent job of providing the most pertinent information that parents definitely need throughout this crucial time of college preparation.

The workshops are always organized purposefully for locations and times (with evening and weekend times available) that tend to work well for parents. There are never any admission fees charged for the workshops, but we do require a reservation in order to optimize the learning environment and maintain safety standards.  To reserve a place in one of the upcoming workshops, or if you have any questions about the workshops themselves, please simply place a call to our office staff.  Our phone number is (614) 934-1515 and our staff will be happy to help you further.

Our workshops are certainly a wonderful option for gaining information, but we also recognize that some parents will wish to read up on the foundational aspects of college funding preparation for themselves.  With this fact in mind, we have prepared a wonderful written report that provides a strong, basic overview of this crucial information.  Our report deals with the most important points regarding financial requirements and planning for parents of college-bound students, and we are justifiably proud of the way that it covers the process in an understandable manner.

Our report is titled “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College,” and we are happy to offer it as a free resource to learn the basics regarding the financial requirements for a college or university education.  To receive your own no-obligation copy of this valuable “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College” report in the mail, you can simply request one from our staff at (614)934-1515. We appreciate your interest and it will be our pleasure to send out a copy to you right away.

Until next month,

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College Planning 101: the ‘B’ word(Budget)

  • Our Blog

     

“Cost-Saving Strategies For College

That You Can Begin To Implement NOW

Dear Parent,

The school year is continuing on unabated, of course, and there are plenty of activities and schoolwork and other extracurriculars keeping most high school students busier than ever these days.  We do not rest, however, and if you have followed our newsletters in the past for even just a short time, you probably are aware that we believe there is no BAD time for us to introduce and discuss some of the most important cost-saving elements for tomorrow’s college students.  It is what we are passionate about and what we do best, after all.

Some of these things involve proper financial planning and a good understanding of the college funding process – but others are skills that can – and should – be mastered by parents and students as early as possible, to make the costs of college more manageable no matter where a child ends up going to school.

Getting through the undergraduate degree is a big undertaking, there is no question about it, and it is also a significant financial challenge with the current cost of higher education.  However, we have become experts in recognizing ways that these costs can be best managed and even minimized in many cases, and we are eager to share these tips with families of future college students.

With these tips in mind, we have decided to focus this month’s newsletter on some important tactics that have application during the college years, but also can be very helpful with family finances – especially as the college years’ approach and the financial burden of higher education appears on the horizon.

We have a good take on these things because we are college funding experts – and a lot of experience in watching college students and their families manage the college years.  If, after reading this month’s newsletter, there are any lingering questions or concerns about your family’s personal situation, feel free to contact us at any time.  Remember, we are specifically qualified in planning and managing this enormous event in your family’s lives, and we are able to offer the most valuable and suitable information for your family’s preparations for the coming years of higher education.

Strategy 1: Tallying Pooled Resources

If your child will be receiving funds from grandparents, aunts and uncles, employment, or other sources while in college, it is important to create a budget including all of these amounts.  When this is done then everyone is made aware and everyone is on the same page. Include all sources of income from grandma’s birthday money to income from a summer job. These sources should all be included in the budget to get a clearer picture of what there is to work with. Here’s a comprehensive to further assist with what should be included as part of the budget:

  • All income received: This income should include the money that your child will have once at school, any relief given from the financial aid package and any money that comes in regularly to your child.
  • Monthly income: If there are funds that are coming in from a part-time job or other sources on a monthly basis, include these funds.

Strategy 2: Creating a Budget

Yes, we are not afraid to mention the dreaded “B-word” in our newsletters.  Managing college finances can ONLY be effectively done when a budget is created and followed – trust us, we have seen this simple fact played out both ways (for better and for worse) many, many times.  When creating the budget, it’s important to include the following items:

  • Overall Income: All income listed above which includes all income received and any monthly or income that comes in on a regular basis.
  • Discretionary Income: This is ‘fun’ money. It’s important to have fun while in college. The point is often that too many college students have TOO much fun and blow the money they receive while in college, and end up in bad financial circumstances. Students should learn to set some aside just for having fun, manage it well, and be sure to not go beyond it.
  • Necessities: Items that are absolutes while in college. These include books, computer, etc.
  • Wants: There are always nice things that can make college life a bit easier. These items can go in the ‘wants’ category.
  • Fixed Expenses: Include all expenses that occur on a monthly basis.
  • Variable Expenses: Include all expenses that occur but vary from month to month.
  • Savings: Even in college, there should be money set aside that is an emergency fund or simply savings for a rainy day. Include this amount that is done in the beginning or on a regular basis.

Strategy 3: Saving Money in Unexpected Ways

There are numerous ways to cut costs while in college. Here are some ways to painlessly cut costs without sacrificing fun or depriving oneself.

  • Purchase used textbooks or, better yet, rent them if possible. This option is available at many universities and can save considerably on costs. College textbook prices have simply gone through the roof in most cases!
  • Set a designated amount aside for fast food or restaurant meals per week, if needed, and cook the rest at home. Alternatively, utilize a dining plan which can also save time and money.
  • Set money aside for needed purchases and/or fun purchases.
  • Avoid late fees on credit cards or other bills by always paying on time.
  • Don’t purchase cable television. Instead watch shows on a computer.
  • Use eBay, craigslist, or other online resources to sell unwanted or unused items.
  • Look for campus activities to socialize, etc. There are often movie nights, campus museums, etc. that can be utilized instead of spending a lot of money going out.
  • Skip Starbucks and make coffee/tea/hot chocolate at home. There will be significant savings!
  • If a loan is necessary, make sure that it’s only related to college expenses.
  • Bike around campus! At most colleges and universities, there is really no need for a car.

Strategy 4: Re-think The “Four Year Experience”

I hope there’s no misunderstanding from this heading. This is not to mean AT ALL that one should miss out on college, or not complete a bachelor’s degree. Quite the opposite, in fact. We fully support and base our efforts around students completing a four-year degree in the most successful and expedited manner possible.

 

While the average time spent in college is creeping ever higher (to our chagrin), there are still some motivated and organized students who complete a 4-year degree in as little as three years – and looking at the annual costs of college, that saves families and students a significant amount of money!  It also allows graduates to enter into the workforce earlier, or move on to graduate or professional training earlier, which means that the overall financial benefit from early graduation is magnified even further.

If cutting costs are a priority for your college student then one very effective way to do this is to complete advanced placement credit in high school, complete junior college credits during high school (if that option is offered where you live), take summer classes between academic years, or in some cases even head first to another less expensive institution, and then apply to transfer to the desired four-year university afterwards.

There will always be general classes that are a requirement for most universities. These classes can be taken at a community or junior college for significantly less money, as long as the acceptability of the credits is cleared in advance, of course! It can sometimes be a wise choice, financially, to use community college – or even an associate’s degree, in some cases – as part of the foundation for undergraduate education.  After all, the bachelor’s degree only has the name of one school on it!

This month’s newsletter is a combination of both common sense and new information, depending on each family’s background.  But regardless, we are here to assist in making these plans a reality and in assisting with the application, admission, and financial preparation for college and university studies.  As experts in these areas, we manage this important series of tasks in a number of ways.

One important ways that we are proud to assist the parents of college-bound high school students, especially as they wish to understand more about the fiscal preparation for higher education, is by providing live College Funding Workshops.  These events, which feature face-to-face presentations by some of the finest college funding people around, offer a wonderful service to parents who want to learn more about properly preparing themselves for the financial implications of their child’s future college or university studies.  The information is always accurate and timely, and it makes a huge difference for parents!

These workshops are free of charge for all participants, but in light of our seating limits and our desire to maintain a good learning environment during the workshops themselves, we do require attendees to make an advance reservation.  If you have any questions about College Funding Workshops coming up in your area, just give our workshop staff a call at 614.934.1515.  They will be very happy to answer any questions regarding locations, schedules, and any other workshop-related information.  Naturally, they also take reservations, if you have already decided that you wish to come.

In addition to the workshops, we have published a helpful report that is specifically for those parents who are seeking pertinent information regarding management and planning for college costs.  We produced this report especially with the parents of tomorrow’s college and university students in mind, and its title is “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College.” As is the case with the workshops, we provide it free of charge and with no obligation.  To receive your own personal copy of “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College,” you can just place a call to our staff at 614.934.1515 and they will be very happy to send one out to you immediately.

Until next month,

Let’s talk College Admissions & Funding Myths

 

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

Dear Parent,

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

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

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

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

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

MYTH 1. “Everyone Graduates With Student Debt”

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

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

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

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

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

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

MYTH 3. “College Is Always Really Expensive”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Holidays!

Until next month,

marc signature

Parenting Tips to help your Kid Succeed in College

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

Dear Parent,

The overall success of a college bound high student, as well as his or her success in the years of higher education, comes down to a variety of elements.  Some of them are well within our sphere of influence as College Funding Professionals and many of them really are not.  There are elements that will affect a student’s success that are tied into how well that child is able to adapt to the college environment, his or her maturity level, and a myriad of other things that need to be in place – or at least in a well-developing stage – when a college-bound student graduates from high school.

This month’s newsletter emphasizes some of these important elements that will quite literally affect the trajectory of a young person’s life in college and beyond.  Granted, we recognize that it is not our place to tell parents how to achieve these goals, and that is certainly not our intent.  There are plenty of parenting resources and experts available to help in that regard.  However a family comes to help young people develop the skills necessary for success in college, the simple fact remains that students who have these skills and levels of maturity will outperform their peers who are lacking in this regard in almost every instance.

We urge parents to take a look at these tips, and consider the best ways to implement strategies that will help their students to excel in these areas.  We are always pleased to review them with parents and college-bound students to show how these things can make a huge difference over the long haul when it comes to college admissions, success, and even funding.  With this information, as well as any other queries that we might be able to answer face-to-face, families will find themselves to be well-situated when it comes to preparing young people for the college experience.

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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.

Among our more exciting teaching options for this type of pertinent and timely information are our popular College Funding Workshops.  These live presentations are offered by certified College Funding Professionals and are targeted specifically to the parents of the college-bound high school students of today.  Attendees agree quite uniformly that these presentations offer a high yield of valuable information regarding the college funding details that families truly need in their college preparations.

We make it a point to schedule workshops so that parents are able to attend, even with work and other full schedules. We never charge an admission fee for workshop attendance, but for planning purposes and to prevent overcrowding we do require a reservation in advance.  For additional information, or if you wish to save a seat for an upcoming workshop, simply call our office (614) 934-1515.

We are convinced that our workshops are a great resource, but we are also aware that it is easier for some parents to learn about the basics for college funding preparation away from such a setting, for whatever reason.  Therefore, to make sure that the information is available readily to as many parents as possible, we also publish a written report covering similar information.  This publication also reviews the financial elements important for the families of today’s college-bound young people.

Our report is titled “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College,” and it is a consistently excellent and valuable resource for covering the basic elements regarding the financial requirements for college or university education.  For a no-obligation copy of the “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College” report, simply give our office a call at 614.934.1515.  We will be delighted to put a copy into the mail for you right away.

Until next month,

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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 peruse 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!

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As you are aware, college financial planning and application services are the key elements of our efforts as college funding professionals. It is our overarching goal to help parents discover and implement the most beneficial strategies with regard to their personal circumstances, both financially and academically. This is the best way for us to optimize the college future of any young person who wants to attend college or university. We have found year after year that the best results come for families and students who have prepared themselves well ahead of the college game, so to speak.
One of our best educational options that we offer to the parents of college-bound high school students is found through attendance at our outstanding, live College Funding Workshop program. These workshops are presented live by some of the best college funding professionals anywhere. The presentations are offered via a special, face-to-face appearance to parents who wish to be better informed about the most important details regarding rules, regulations, and financial requirements related to their high school student’s academic future.
These workshops are invariably offered without any admission cost or obligation, and we make sure to plan the workshops at times that make sense for busy parents (including some evening and weekend options). However, please note that while there are no admissions charges for the workshops, we are dedicated to keeping each audience to a size that allows for a good learning environment. Because of this we do require advance reservations for admission, and we appreciate your understanding this condition.
For additional information with regard to College Funding Workshops coming up in your area, simply place a call to our helpful workshop team at 614.934.1515. They will be able to assist with the pertinent details about locations, schedules, and even some more details about the workshops themselves if you have any questions. Of course, they can also arrange a reservation for upcoming workshops, if you already know that you want to secure a seat for one coming up in your area.

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

Until next month,

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College: 10 Reasons it is so Expensive

Let’s talk college and why it is so expensive. After 10+ years in the business I want to share my perspective on why there is such a staggering amount of student loan debt. In no particular order, here is my list:

  1. Parents are not saving money (new houses, cars, etc)
  2. Kids are not saving money (think about Starbucks)
  3. Choice between creating a legacy or living a lifestyle
  4. Skipping the talk about finances before applying to a college
  5. Forgetting that attending school is a privilege not an entitlement
  6. Parents not saying ‘no’ or making excuses
  7. Loss of opportunity by kids–take the standardized tests, meet with college reps, market yourself, study, etc
  8. Yes, your child is wonderful but…..where’s the right school
  9. Labels do not pay the bills, focus on outcome
  10. Say no if the school does not make sense socially, academically or financially. It’s okay.

It comes down to having the tough conversations as a family. Often times, it’s simply a matter of everyone sitting down and talking. Review your budget, see how much you have saved for college and then look for ways to save more. We joke in our seminars that SAVE is the new 4 letter word, but it is a foreign concept to most families.

It would be easy to begin a rant, but that isn’t going to solve anything. Attend one of our free workshops, sign up for that free consultation and by all means, start saving.

All the best,

~Marc

 

Steps to Effectively Use High School to Prepare for College

Dear Parent,

            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.

            Doing so will help the high school experience to serve as a springboard to bigger and better things at the college or university level, and hopefully help to convey and nurture a love of learning and growth that will last a lifetime, as well as providing a financially viable and fulfilling professional future.

     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.

            We also recommend good communication with the colleges and universities that are of the highest interest to your student, as well as obtaining a firm understanding of the requirements for specific programs to which they wish to apply.  Remember, especially for private schools or institutions in other parts of the nation, local high schools simply may not have access to the information about the programs that your child desires!  Even within the same major or area of academic emphasis, there can be differences between the requirements of different colleges and universities, so these things need to be carefully investigated beforehand.

            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!

            One of our most popular educational offerings for the parents of college-bound high school kids is attendance at our live College Funding Workshops, which are presented by some of the best college funding professionals around.  We prepare and deliver these workshops as a special, face-to-face forum for parents who would like to become better informed with regard to the details surrounding the monetary requirements and regulations pertaining to their child’s higher education future. 

            Our live workshops are always completely free of any admission cost – and we make it a point to go out of our way in organizing the workshops at times and dates that make sense for most parents.  This will always include a number of evening and/or weekend options.  While we have no admission charge for these events, however, we are required to maintain a group size that falls within space limitations and an optimized learning environment.  This invariably means that we much insist on advance reservations for admission.  We certainly thank you in advance for understanding this requirement.

           If you would like more information regarding the upcoming College Funding Workshops in your area, please simply call someone from our terrific workshop team at 614-934-1515.  These team members will be pleased to provide all of the necessary details about scheduling, workshop locations, and even some more specifics about the workshops themselves if you have questions.  Naturally, they can also help you out with a reservation for an upcoming workshop to be held around your area, if you know that you are already interested in coming and would like to secure a seat.

            Aside from our workshops, we have also created an informational report that focuses on the important details surrounding the management of higher education costs.  This report was created with the parents of college-bound students in mind, and discusses the most vital topics surrounding current issues in college funding.  Parents frequently contact us with praise regarding the pertinence and usefulness of this report, which we call “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College.” Just like the workshops, we offer this report without any cost or obligation.  To receive your own copy of “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College,” just place a call to one of our staff members at 614-934-1515 and we will email you a copy.

        

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 2019 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.

For parents, we are likewise well-prepared.  As a part of our long-standing educational effort, we offer live College Funding Workshops for the parents of tomorrow’s college students.  These detailed programs are presented in-person by some of the very best college funding professionals, and help address the needs of parents who are preparing themselves for future higher education costs.  To fit your schedule, we schedule these workshops at the times which tend to work best for parents, including evenings and weekends due to work conflicts. We never charge an admission fee to the workshops, but space limitations and presentation quality dictate that we must require an advance reservation.

For details about the upcoming College Funding Workshops in your area, simply talk with someone from our workshop team at 614-934-1515.  We have all of the schedule updates, answers to any questions about future locations, and assistance with more information about the workshops themselves.  Our friendly staff will also be happy to assist you in making a reservation for any one of the workshops scheduled in your area.

We have also published an outstanding written report about the financial elements of funding a future college or university education.  This report has been specifically created for parents and discusses a number of important details about the college funding maze.  We are quite pleased with this report, which is called “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College.” This report, like the workshop, is also available free of any cost or obligation.  It offers some great insights into the financial preparation required before the college or university years, as well as covering facts about the financial aid process. 

Simply email info@midwestcollegeplanning.com to request the report.

            Until next month,