The second step in the process is to implement the commitments made in “Get Real.” It is not enough to mentally commit to going to college it is also necessary to do the hard work that it takes to get there. Do not worry, you are not alone in this process. Many people are there to help you. As with “Get Real,” “Get Going” has implications for both parents and students.
Let’s face it, studying in school is a lot of hard work; especially when you have so many other interests competing for your time. Just like your parents have a job, you have a “job” called schoolwork. In order to be a stellar performer at your job, it is best to set aside blocks of time each day to get the job done. This means setting aside blocks of time to do your homework, study for tests, write papers and of course some time for leisure activities. It is also just as important that if you find yourself struggling in a subject you seek help. Teachers want you to succeed. Reach out for help if you do not understand something. And do not wait until the night before the final exam.
The biggest obstacle for most students when taking the college entrance exams is the fear factor. With so much riding on how you perform during three hours on a Saturday morning, of course if is a bit nerve-racking. Preparation is important for these tests if only to calm your nerves. You want to set aside some time to take practice tests, improve your knowledge of vocabulary, and make sure you can write a decent essay. Once you are comfortable with the test itself you will be more relaxed when taking the real one. And get to bed early the night before the test.
While studying for school and practicing for tests can sometimes feel like drudgery your extracurricular activities should be fun and socially rewarding. Join a club with students of similar interests. Try out for a sport for which you may have a special athletic aptitude. Get a job, which at your age may not be especially exciting, but savor the moment when you get your paycheck. Nothing motivates more than a little money in the bank. The only qualifier here is this; do not take on so many outside activities that if affects your school work. A little bit of outside work goes a long way on your college application.
We skipped this part in the “Get Real” section because it did not really apply if you do not want to go to college. In addition to all the work outlined above you will also have to figure out what you may want to study when you get to college and also begin evaluating colleges to see if they meet your needs. It is not necessary to figure out now that you want to be a brain surgeon or a lawyer. It would be helpful to know if you are interested in the field of medicine or the field of law. You can narrow your choices later. Once you have chosen a “field” you can then evaluate schools that meet your career objectives and also are a good fit with your personality. If you like small intimate classes the large state university may not be the best choice for you. If you want a school with a winning athletic program the state university may be the best choice for you. Find out what is important to you and choose wisely. This can be a lot of fun so approach it with a light heart.
With so much to do you have to remember that life, especially in high school, is about balance. Managing your time so that you can fit in all four of the major things you need to get done, school work, exams, extracurricular activities and evaluating colleges can be a challenge. If you do it right the payoff is an affordable college education. If you do it wrong, by emphasizing one activity over any of the others, it can lead to a really stressful high school experience. And often a need to unnecessarily pay extra for college.
If you think you might need some help click here.
While you are busy motivating your student you will also have to do a bit of background work if you want to be able to pay for your student’s education. This will require you to take the lead and not the secondary role in choosing colleges. While your student needs to evaluate colleges based on their personalities you also need to do the affordability check. You will also need to constantly remind yourself; the cost of the school is not a good indicator of whether you can afford the school.
You need first to understand how the financial aid process works. It is not just about filling out forms. It is also about your student applying to colleges with the greatest ability to provide financial aid. It is also about understanding what each school will expect you to pay for your student’s education. Each school uses its own methodology. Before your student even thinks about applying to a school figure these things out.
Expected Family Contribution. Every family will have to fill out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) for each student in the household. This application is used to determine the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) or what the college will expect you to pay out of your own pocket before they allocate any aid. This can be a moving target at each school depending on how the school chooses to calculate this number.
Percent of Need Met. Each school will take the total cost of attending and subtract the EFC to determine your need; the amount of money you will need in financial aid to attend. Some schools will meet 100% of your need. Others will meet 30% of your need. It is important to know what each school’s policy is when it comes to meeting your need.
Mix of Financial Aid. While it is impressive when a school tells you it will meet 100% of your need, it will not be impressive if all of this need is met in the form of loans. You need to find out what the likely mix of financial aid, loans versus grants and scholarships, will be at each school. Some schools are very generous with their money. Others are not so generous. Make sure your student applies to schools that are very generous with their “free money.”
Merit Money. While most money for financial aid is need-based, there are many schools that will have extra money based on the scholastic aptitude or special skills of a student. If your student is especially bright or talented in some areas you may be allocated some extra money to motivate your student to attend. It is important to have some of these schools on your list.
The Bottom Line. To determine the bottom line you should add the EFC, unmet need, and loans together. This will reflect your real out-of-pocket cost. Once this is done it is important to discuss this number with your student so they can understand why you may have to rule out some colleges and universities. Expensive private universities are often more affordable than state universities after you calculate the bottom line. Do not rule any school out until you know what it will really cost you.
There is nothing worse than your student getting excited about a college, going through the application process, getting accepted, and then you figure out you really cannot afford the school. You should not have to dip into your retirement savings, take a second mortgage on your home, or take on expensive “parent” loans to pay for your student’s education, if you go through this process correctly. Having a financial aid plan in place can save you thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars.
If you think you may need some help, click here.