College

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)

     

“Cost-Saving Strategies For College

That You Can Begin To Implement NOW

We do not rest, however, and if you have followed our blogs in the past for even just a short time, you probably are aware that we believe there is no wrong time for us to introduce and discuss some of the most important cost-saving elements for tomorrow’s college students.

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.

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!

Paying for college starts by understanding your budget and planning for the future.  

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,

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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,

marc signature

 

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!

**********

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!

**********
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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Extracurriculars & College Success

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Organized, Extracurricular College Prep Activities:     

What Are The Options?

 

Dear Parent,

The parents of college-bound high schoolers can sometimes find themselves dealing with uncertainty when it comes to preparing for the college years… and as college funding professionals we are fully aware that the subject can often feel like a somewhat overwhelming one.  This is true regardless of how early a family begins to manage the overall process.  Of course, the day-to-day realities, requirements, and overall importance of schoolwork, activities, and grades are usually pretty clear, at least when it comes to the basics.  But what about extracurricular activities for optimizing college preparation?

Well, there are definitely many options out there for families.  The simple fact, however, is that not all of them are created equally – some may be very helpful, others could be marginally worthwhile, and many others could be a waste of time and money.  Remember that most parents are very interested in the future of their children, and often willing to invest heavily in the process of creating improving their advantages, and this creates an enormous market offering all sorts of “college-prep” opportunities.

The fact is that it is important to evaluate which activities are going to bring a lasting positive effect for the child, and also to remember that each student has a different and unique set of abilities, talents, and needs that should be addressed.  Because of this, it is nearly impossible to make blanket recommendations for students who wish to attend college after they graduate from high school.  What might make a great difference for one kid could be essentially worthless for another.

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.

Among our most popular educational activities for parents are our in-person College Funding Workshops, offered by experienced college funding professionals.  These workshops serve as an excellent way for parents to become informed regarding financial preparation and the diverse requirements related to their child’s academic future at the next level.

The live workshops are free of any admission cost, and we make sure to schedule them at times that will work for most parents.  However, because of space requirements and optimal group learning size, we do require an advance reservation for those who would like to attend.  For more details about upcoming College Funding Workshops in your area, or to make a reservation, please call our helpful workshop team at 614.934-1515.

Aside from the workshops, we also publish a helpful report covering the details surrounding funding for higher education.  This report was prepared and updated specifically for the parents of college-bound students and is a great resource for an understanding of the current college financial situation.  The report is called “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College,” and like the workshops, it is also free of any obligation.  To receive a copy of “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College,” our staff members will be happy to help you at 614.934.1515. They will be able to place a copy of it into the mail for you right away.  Thank you for your interest!

Until next month,
marc signature

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

 

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,

College Skills You Can Master Now

      

 

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

 

 

 

Dear Parents,

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

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

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

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

As always, if we can help in providing additional or personalized assistance in this regard, please contact us directly.  We have years of experience and may be able to offer insights and suggestions that have worked with other young people in similar circumstances. We want your child to succeed in college and achieve his/her goals, and are pleased to do what we can to help with that process.

Time Management

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

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

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

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

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

Prioritization

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

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

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

Budgeting

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

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

Balance: School Time vs. Play Time

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

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

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

We are happy to bring you these monthly newsletters, and trust that they provide important information for the families of college bound students.  In addition to the newsletters, however, we have also created other strategies for helping the parents of high school students as they grapple with the challenge of financial management of their child’s college education.  We find that one of the most effective methods for us as professionally to manage this process is via live, in-person, College Funding Workshops. These workshops provide the most recent and helpful information with regard to college funding, and it comes to you directly from some of the finest college funding experts available.  We make sure that the parents who attend these meetings receive the most important and up-to-date advice with regard to their child’s future in higher education.  We go out of our way to be sure that any new legal changes or policy alterations are mentioned, as well, because these are details that can definitely affect the financial realities of families with kids who are eyeing a college education.

We do need to clarify that although these workshops are completely free of charge, we have found that it is necessary for us to take advance reservations in order to keep the learning environment optimal and keep each workshop group to a manageable size.  If you wish to get some additional details about the upcoming College Funding Workshops in your part of town, please place a quick call to our workshop staff 614-934-1515.  They can provide you with details about the focus of our workshops, upcoming dates and times, workshop locations, as well as any other questions you might have.  Naturally, if you already know that you would like to attend an upcoming workshop, we can also help you to make a reservation that will best fit in your schedule.

To add to our listing of educational offerings, we are proud to also publish an excellent report for parents who wish to immerse themselves in some of the most valuable college-related financial details – things that have a direct bearing on their family’s fiscal wellbeing.  Our report is titled “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College” and we offer it without any cost or obligation.  To receive a personal copy of our “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College” report, please call us at 614-934-1515 and we will be happy to send one out to you immediately.

Until next month,

 

 

Early Strategies for College Funding

 

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

Dear Parents,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tip 1: File The FAFSA Early

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

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

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

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

Tip 2: Make Wise Money Decisions

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

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

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

Tip 3: Explain Yourself – If You Need To

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

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

Tip 4: Spend Some Money – But Not Too Much

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

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

Tip 5: Pay Attention To Your Assets

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

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

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

Tip 6: Be Honest!

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

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

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

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

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

Until next month,