6 Tips You Need to Conquer College Finances

6 Tips You Need to Conquer College Finances

Have a Senior?

We do!  My husband and I just worked on budgeting college finances for our second son.  I scribbled all over a piece of notebook paper, but I have a nicer tool for you to download below!  We went through this same process two years ago with our oldest, so we have a little bit of experience knowing what a student really needs AND what things really cost.

This is an exciting time for high school seniors and their families. For us parents, it is SO bittersweet.  We are happy and proud of them, but on the other hand, we are so sad that this era is soon to be over.  Whether it’s your first to go or your last, the mixed feelings are still the same.  Although I cannot imagine how much MORE sad I will be when it’s our final time. Thank goodness that is a few years down the road.  (*affiliate links below)

Tip #1

The time to do your figuring is now!  If your student hasn’t yet decided on a school, then crunch the numbers on their different choices.  This may help you to help steer them in a different direction.  College is unbelievably expensive no matter what, but especially if you have an average student who qualified for little to no merit aid.  Every college will have a Net Price Calculator.  This will help you to see the actual cost of that particular school, so look for that tab on each school’s website.

When you fill out the FAFSA, you will be given an EFC-estimated family contribution.  You should fill this out by the way. This is the amount that the government thinks you should be able to spend on your child’s college education.  Don’t get me started on how ridiculous this number is!  I will say that my son received money from his college just for filling out the FAFSA!

Ann’s friend in the Office for Student Financial Affairs-Division of Enrollment Management says, “Merit based scholarships are based on ACT/SAT scores and/or GPA and do not usually require the FAFSA.  Some colleges automatically award freshman admission scholarships and then require students to complete an application for the school and colleges’ scholarships (Engineering, Business, etc.).  Private colleges can have additional applications for students to complete.  There are colleges that require students to complete the CSS Profile along with the FAFSA.”   

Her best advice for high school students is…”to contact every school they are interested in to make sure they complete all the necessary admission, scholarship and financial aid applications before the deadlines.  Students should begin college visits and contacting the colleges their junior year of high school.

I wrote about talking budget with your college-bound senior.  This time the budget is for you parents.  Sit down with a pencil in hand, and a calculator, and your significant other if there is one.  Write down all the expenses that you know of.  Tuition, housing, dining plan, books, transportation costs, insurance etc.  (see budget tool below!)  This is a daunting task, but it needs to be done.

[A budgeting tool for 4 years of college (COA-Cost of Attendence). Fill out for each school your student is thinking about attending.]

How Much Should We Have Saved?

A general guideline is to save $2000 times(x) the child’s age.  This might get you to half of what will truly be needed.  For instance, if you have saved $2000/year for your 17 year old, then you would have $34,000.  This will not be enough, unfortunately. 

Below, see an example of a COA for the University of Missouri based on one in-state student, parent’s income of $99,999, and wanting to live on campus.  (I just did this for this post, so not sure why their program is still saying 2015-2016!)

Estimated Cost of Attendance for a year at the University of Missouri.

For the past 10 years, “tuition (for college) has risen at more than double the rate of inflation,” according to CNBC.  An average yearly budget for an in-state public college today is $25,290.  An average budget for a private college is currently $50,900 per year, and that’s not even a high-end average.  This budget typically will include tuition, fees, housing and meals, books, school supplies, and finally, personal and transportation expenses.

Tip #2

If you have kids in middle school, start the conversation now.  High school was too late we realized with our oldest.  So, we started in middle school with our number two child.  I think it has helped him to feel like we are all part of a team with these decisions which affect his future.  Honestly, we have started talking with our 7th grader about these types of things now.  He isn’t crazy about school, but we have pointed out to him that the better his grades, the more choices will be available later on down the road for him-which is a whole other blog post!

 So Now What?

Our kids need our help so that their future starts off without debt, or with as little debt as possible.  Your kids need to be working to save for their spending money while off at college.  Read the following staggering quote…

Since 1993, income for people 18-35 has gone from $36,000 to $33,000. It’s the first time EVER that income has gone down over such a long period (more than a year). This means: relying on college, a job, stability, retirement pension, retirement income=thing of the past. It doesn’t exist anymore. And that’s scary.”  James Altucher, The Altucher Report, Blog 10-28-16

Tip #3

The whole responsibility for college finances is on the team of parent and child.  We have saved what we could (after paying for my husband’s school debt), and divided it by 3 (we have 3 kids). The boys are responsible for the rest.  What this means for them is working for spending money, getting good grades, etc. for merit-based scholarship money, and being realistic in their college searches.  If there is still not enough money for where they would like to go, then they will have to get student loans, which we hope that they can avoid.

If you have enough saved and/or your child has earned merit scholarships enough to cover the cost of college, then your child is set.  However, if you have not got enough saved and/or your child has not earned enough or any merit-based scholarship money, then you have some decisions to make.  (Be sure that your student understands that in many, if not most situations, a certain GPA must be maintained to keep those scholarships which are awarded yearly beginning freshman year!)


 

Tell the Truth

How much you have saved or not…  How much their loan total will need to be…  How much they will possibly be making at an entry-level job at graduation–if they get one right away…  How much their loan payment will probably be a month…  How much everything else will cost…

Tip #4

Be honest with your child.  If you cannot afford the college of their choice, then you need to tell them.  My husband and I have had numerous conversations with our boys about all of this.  It gets easier each time, I promise!  It’s not easy to tell your kids that there are limits, but these conversations have made us into a stronger team as a family.  And, even though some of the information we have discussed meant a different plan for each of them, it’s been neat to see them grow and figure out what it means, or will mean, to their future.

This is not the time to shelter them.  You have raised them.  It is time to set them free.  But, don’t hide the truth from them.  It isn’t fair to them now or later if you aren’t truthful.

What To Do

If they persist in their college of choice which is out of your price range, then they will need to apply for student loans.  This is something which they should do on their own.  However, don’t just let them do this and leave it at that.  Help them with the math.  Below is a sample of the chart I drew for our conversation the other night.

Hand drawn chart for figuring out the cost of college for 4 years.

Tip #5

Figure out how much they will need to borrow and find out the interest rate.  Multiply this over the four years that they will be borrowing, and show them the total amount it will be after those 4 years including the interest.  (If the loans are unsubsidized there will be interest accruing throughout college.  If subsidized, then the interest is deferred.)

Next, find out approximately how much they would earn at graduation in the degree of their choice–if they are hired right out of college.  Then discuss the cost of living.  Include the cost of rent, groceries, insurances, cell phone, as well as money for giving the occasional gift, a meal out, and other expenses.

Now, the BIG question is this…  Can they really afford the college of their choice?  Will they make enough to cover their student loan and be able to have a life?

This is not the time to let them “figure it out” on their own!  Help them to see that this is a financial decision that could be affecting them for years to come.

FACTS from Student Loan Hero:

$1.48 trillion in US student loan debt

44.2 million Americans with student loan debt

Average monthly student loan debt payment $351 (for a borrower 20-30 years old)

The average loan amount at graduation for the grads of 2016 was $37,172, that was up 6% from the year before!  This is a staggering amount, and many graduates are surprised upon graduation by this figure.  I believe this is because no one ever explained to them the concept of interest or conveyed the true extent of the debt that they were borrowing.  They also probably have no idea of the cost of the real world because before college they were still living at home!

One more cost to think about is the cost for applications and visits.  Check out this blog post by Grown and Flown related to that.

Make a Plan

Give them some strategies to deal with future debt so that a solution can be found.  Working through college is probably a good idea no matter what.  A job will help them with time management, as well as give them some spending money.  This means that neither you or your student will have to spend on that expense in the meantime.  Work out a payment plan for the loans during college.  This will help with the final amount borrowed at graduation.  Just because the loan is in their name doesn’t mean that you cannot help with it.  Work out a plan together.

If you have more than one child, what will be fair to them all?  Can you help now?  Or maybe later, after they have all gone through school?  Decide what you can and will be able to do.  It is okay if you cannot or will not help.  You have your reasons and your own finances to worry about.  But, again, be honest and upfront about your decision.

This is an exciting time, but it can be stressful.  I hear from friends that their kids won’t listen to them when trying to have this conversation.  Make a date with your child with the understanding that this is a conversation that you need to have.

Tip #6

Most learners are visual.  Figure out ahead of time which type of learner your child is, and gear your conversation in the direction that they learn best.  Use visuals.  Watch a video.  Do your homework, so that you can present the full picture.  If there is an adult in your child’s life whom they respect or will listen to better than you, then invite this person to participate.  (Of course, let them know ahead of time what the conversation will be about, and ways that they could be helpful.)

We have done this twice now, and it has been very different each time.  We have to do it once more.  I am sure it too will be different because all 3 of our boys are unique.  It’s not been easy, but it’s been really nice to be on the same page, and to work together towards their education!

Good luck!

If the first conversation doesn’t go well, try again.  It is not really a one conversation topic anyway.  Let us know how it goes for you, and what works–or doesn’t!


How to Plan a Budget with Your College-Bound Teen

How to Plan a Budget with Your College-Bound Teen

Do you have a senior in high school who’s thinking about college?

We do, and I am so glad that I have been here before so that I know what to expect!  The biggest concern for us, and many others will be all of the expenses.  Here are some things that we learned the first time around, as well as some things that I wish we had known.  *affiliate links are used below

Make sure that you and your senior are on the same page about all expenses.

There are the expenses that you know about.  There will always also be some things that come up unexpectedly; those can be dealt with as they occur.

Living expenses are a big deal.

Where will your student live?  There will be choices for housing from the actual dorms to the types of rooms.  Will they have a roommate?  Will you pay for the items that they decorate their room with or will they be expected to pay for some?  Is there a set amount you are willing to spend for this?  Also included in these type of expenses are the meal plans. Look at all of the choices and let your student know which of these is the one you are willing to pay for.  These types of expenses can be crazy expensive even with you setting limits.

Tuition and books are the other biggie.

Tuition costs are set per hour.  Your student will need books.  These can be rented or shared to save on the cost.  Another way to save is to check out the library- many schools have their textbooks available there for students to use. There are many websites that rent, including Amazon, which has worked well for both renting and purchasing for my oldest son.

Shop Amazon – Rent Textbooks – Save up to 80%


Day to day expenses for your student should be a topic for discussion.

This would be for things like a meal off of campus, personal grooming items or school supplies that run out, and new clothing or shoes.  What will you be willing to spend on these types of items?  What will you expect your student to spend of their own money, if any?

This is a good time to start planning that budget for next year.

What do you spend now on your kid for day-to-day expenses?  Does your child have a job?  Should they get one?  Are you planning on them working in college for their extra expenses?  Either way, you need to figure out what the budget will be.

There are many ways of working this out with your kids.  For our boys, we pay for school, housing with a meal plan, and books.  Anything, else is on them such as meals off of campus, fraternity, and clothes.  This means that they have worked since they were 15 during summers, and part time during school each year for their spending money.

Our oldest son was able to get a great scholarship package for his grades, ACT, BSA Eagle and Boy’s State.  We aren’t really spending much on him at all.  Our second son will have a different situation, but we have already talked with him at length about this, and he knows what the budgeted amount will be.  He will be utilizing the A+ program which I describe below.

Our state (Missouri) has a great program called the A+ Program.  If a student shows good citizenship, has the required attendance, the required GPA, and with teacher supervision tutors a peer for at least 50 hours, then they graduate with A+ requirements on their record.  (There are a few other items on the list, but these are the main ones.)  This is a great help for getting community college, and hopefully an Associate’s Degree, basically for free-except for books!  The specifics are in the link above.  You should check with your school to see about any type of program such as this for a student who does not excel in school or on standardized tests.

Discuss ALL of these expenses with as much information that you can find.

This means looking at the college website.  Open all tabs on the website pertaining to costs and scholarships.  (Look for all of the fees!  There are things like parking fees, technology fees, health insurance fees…)  Be open about what you as parents are thinking is a reasonable budget.  Be open to questions from your child.  This is a time to work together to figure out these things.  Don’t wait until they have gone to college.  This would be too late for any type of agreement since they would already be gone.  Neither side should have to assume anything!  You know what your budget is, so tell your child up front.  Your child may have some expectations as well.  This is the time to lay it all out on the table.

Some sample expenses for freshman year could be:  car payment and insurance, gas, cell phone, fun money for going out, groceries (for dorm room, also toiletries as they run out), clothing, student loan payments, credit card…  What is your child responsible for now?  Will it be the same when they are gone at college?  If you would like it to be different than what it is now, then now is the time to change things!

Check out our budget planner for you and your soon-to-be college student to fill out together.

All things considered, starting these discussions sooner than later is best.  This can be a fun time to figure things out together, and to make decisions as a team.

Good luck to you all!  Let us know how this goes for you!

 

 

 

 

The Truth About College and Student Loan Debt

The Truth About College and Student Loan Debt

There are many reasons that you should be making plans for the future.

Does your child’s future include college?  One big reason to begin making plans for college is MONEY!!! Something else to think about is that your child’s future will greatly be affected by the choices he or she makes today.   These two factors were at the top of the list while our oldest son was deciding on a college.

42 MILLION students owe $1.3 TRILLION in student debt!!!!

This number is astronomical already and is growing with each semester.  Make decisions based on the amount of money that you have saved (or not), the choice of a major, and what is the likelihood of earning enough income to make a decent living when college is finished.

Approximately 70 % of graduates with Bachelors degrees leave school with some amount of debt…

Be very careful when reading the fine print on the documents that each school provides.  If we hadn’t paid attention to our son’s financial package information, we would have accepted a student loan.  It was right there in black and white, but if I hadn’t been checking through each item, I would have missed this line item.  I now know to look for it each semester and draw a line through it.  Just because something is written down on proposed tuition paperwork does not mean that you, the consumer, need to utilize it.  Look everything over very carefully!

Loan payments upon graduation can be more than your rent payments…

This is a very depressing reality!  Make sure that you know approximately what a starting level employee in your child’s field of study will earn.  It may not be enough money to live on when including loan payments.  Find someone who has recently graduated in the field that your child has chosen, and find out this what they get on their paycheck, so that you can discuss this with your student.  This way each of you are aware as he or she moves toward their future. Making a good choice in the beginning of college is crucial.

The cost of college skyrockets after the first 4 years, so switching majors can really be a financial setback if done after the sophomore year.

College grads in 2001 earned 10% more than they do now

This is because the cost of living has increased so much, and many items that were once much more affordable such as healthcare, are now no longer fitting into even a reasonable budget.  This can be super frustrating for today’s graduates because how can they get ahead if they are already behind?!

2 out of 3 students graduating won’t find an adequate job, meaning one that would pay for a reasonable living as well as enough extra for loan payments…  This goes along with what was said earlier.  The fewer loans, the easier life will be moving forward.  Read here.

More than two thirds of student loan borrowers were surprised by some aspect of their loan…

Student loan debt.

(Student loan debt amounts are staggering.)

 

If loans must be taken out, then really pay attention to the total. Parents may not be paying much attention to this because they know their student will ultimately be responsible for this amount. This is not reasonable or fair.  Please take care to be honest with your child about what you can and cannot afford from the very beginning.  That is where the conversation needs to begin.  And, please don’t wait until your student’s senior year!

31 % of students who dropped out of college referred to finances as a reason…

This is, in part, because parents did not want to admit that they couldn’t afford the school that the child wanted to attend.  Please know that even though this might be embarrassing to have to admit, it will be so much worse if your child has to drop out because of something that could have been prevented by honesty in the first place.

Real life happens!  We had my husband’s student loans to pay off.  Then real life happened, as in we had bills to pay…  We don’t have that much saved in the way of college funds for our boys, and they know that good grades etc. will really help with getting good financial packages from schools.

It has helped that we have been honest and realistic about their choices about where they can go and what we can afford to pay.  We have also been very upfront with them about the fact that they are in charge of all their spending money once they are at school as well.

About half of all college graduates are living paycheck to paycheck and many have had to resort to living with parents or grandparents…

I think back to when I first graduated.  I truly lived paycheck to paycheck.  I paid a little more in rent than I should have, but it was in a safe neighborhood, and that was important to me living in a big city for the first time in my life. I literally lived on about $1.00 a day after all my expenses were paid.  I lived on pasta and tuna at night, and knew to the ounce how much salad I could put in my container to stay at less than $2.00 each day for lunch in the cafeteria. I couldn’t afford to buy enough groceries for both dinners and lunches.  I ate a lot of oatmeal!  I didn’t even have any furniture, and I slept on an air mattress for months.

Here’s my question… Are kids today willing to do that?

I came from a nice home with most everything I wanted as I was growing up.  But, I was READY to grow up and move on.  I’m not sure about today’s young graduates when it comes time to move on.  Parents make it really easy for them to stay home.  But, here’s the thing. Getting a couple of roommates and striking it out on their own-even if they are super poor– is probably the best thing that we can do for our kids.  At the very least, help them out at first, but work out a plan with your child for how they will gradually move out and on:)

I read a story the other day about mother giraffes.  As soon as her baby struggles to his feet, the mom knocks him down.  The baby struggles up again.  Mom knocks him down again.  It happens again and again.  Is the mom being mean?  No!  Because, guess what? Pretty soon the little guy gets stronger and stronger and more sturdy.  And, then, he can stand on his own with no struggling or wobbling. He has learned, and she has done her job by preparing him.

24% of Millenials who attend college think that their loans will be “forgiven”…

Loan forgiveness is very rare.  It is NOT something these kids should be counting on at all.  Their plan needs to be to work, work, and work some more maybe at a main job with 2 or 3 side hustles to get their loans paid down.  The real world is manageable, but our kids need to have a plan and be mentally strong and able to handle it by being prepared.

Don’t let these numbers scare you!!

Now is definitely the time to start the process of preparing your child to go to college to get a great education and graduate with little to NO debt. You have to get into the mindset that this is a challenge that can be met. Be proactive. You and your child have to be on the same page or at least supportive of each other’s efforts. Take the time to get informed. Do some research. You can start now wherever you are, however old your child is. The sooner the better!

How about you?  What is your history about getting started on your own?  Are you helping your kids?  Do you have any good ideas for the rest of us?

FAFSA: What You Need to Know Right Now!

FAFSA: What You Need to Know Right Now!

 

Why fill out the FAFSA?

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  Your child’s college career could hinge on this one form. Fill out the FAFSA!  Even if you think you won’t qualify, fill it out.   The FAFSA will determine whether or not your student will receive Federal Student Aid, it will ALSO determine any monies he or she will receive from the schools that they apply to as well.  Most schools will require you to fill this out, so do it right away. In other words, the information that is provided when filling out this form could help your family to get more money from different colleges! (Read our post on applying for colleges)

It is very important that you fill this out for many reasons.  The due date is October 1, more on that below…

–The main purpose of the FAFSA is to determine your EFC.  This is an acronym for the Expected Family Contribution.  This is a number determined by your answers on the FAFSA.  It is a calculated number that the government thinks that your family should be able to pay towards your child’s college.  The number we received would work if both my husband and I each had full time, high paying jobs, and we lived on pork and beans every night, and never did anything that cost any money!  In other words, don’t expect for your EFC to be realistic!  This is a whole other blog post topic!

When to fill out the FAFSA:

–You need to fill out the FAFSA–no matter what!  And, fill it out in a timely manner.  In other words, do this by the due date, again, the date is October 1.  This is a suggested due date, however, all of these scholarship packages will be determined by this information, so don’t delay too much longer.  Yes, it does determine the need based federal aid money for students who need it.  But, it also helps schools determine the money that they give out for merit based aid.  This is FREE money for your student.  Schools give out the money on a first come, first serve basis, so if you want any chance of merit based aid, fill that puppy out.  

 

–The FAFSA is NOT JUST for need based aid.  We thought about not filling it out because we knew that we would not qualify for the need based aid.  But, by just filling out the FAFSA, my son receives $1000 off of his yearly tuition.  Even if he qualified for no other scholarships, they reward this amount for filling out the form!  So, check with your child’s college and see if there is a similar situation.  Aid is often determined by the numbers that you put on this form.   

 

–After the FAFSA due date has arrived, each college starts rewarding their merit based aid.  This is determined by the FAFSA, GPA, and various other factors such as ACT/SAT scores and strength of resumes.  This is where hard work during high school; both in class and out will really help!  Your student will start to hear back from colleges after they have applied.  Each school will send out letters of acceptance and denial.  

 

–In acceptance letters, colleges will include their financial aid package.  These could just be estimates, so read carefully.  Keep track of all offers, and use them to get colleges to compete with each other to get your student to attend their particular school.  A financial aid package can be appealed and should be, if your child really wants one school, but got a better package from another, let their favored school know.  This is expected and it can work!  

 

–As your child finishes up the first semester of their senior year in high school, send updates of their GPA and resume to each school for which they have applied.  It is still early in the game, and this can help with a better financial aid package.  If a life changing experience  has occurred, such as:  divorce, a death in the family or some sort of accident, let the college know.  This is information schools need that could make a difference to the bottom line!

 

How to fill out the FAFSA:

 

–FIRST, go to Fafsa.ed.gov and create a FSA ID for both you and your child.  Then, fill out the FAFSA4caster.  This will give you an idea of how to fill out the actual form when it is time.  It will also give you an idea of all of the information you will need for filling out the dang thing!  You will need your federal tax information, social security number, W2s, and any asset information.   Filling out the 4caster will give you an idea of aid eligibility for decision making.  Do this now, as in after you finish reading this blog post.   

 

–SECOND, when you are ready, log back into the FAFSA website, and get this form filled out so that you can submit it right on the due date which is OCTOBER 1.  It is a process, and not something that you want to think that you can do quickly some evening!  Take your time.  

 

–DO NOT make any errors on the FAFSA!  Triple check and then check again that you have entered everything on the form correctly.  Have your spouse or significant other check it as well, a new pair of eyes can catch mistakes that you have overlooked the first 3 times that you checked for mistakes.  Mistakes will lead to delays in your child receiving financial aid.  

 

–Your child does not have to decide on a school at the time that you fill out the FAFSA, but fill it out anyway ON TIME or soon thereafter.***  Once you have filled out the FAFSA for your oldest, then you will have to continue to re-submit yearly.  (This is so that the government can check your child’s eligibility status, which will change if your finances change or you have more than one kid in college!) There is a renewal option with some categories which will be pre-populated, but check all of this information carefully and make sure that it is all up-to-date.  Most of the new info needed will be based on taxes paid.  

 

Once the FAFSA is filled out, be sure that the colleges of choice are notified that you have submitted the complete form.  This is also a good time to check each college’s website for admissions requirements and scholarship opportunities at the school.  You really need to dig for this information sometimes, but is worth the extra effort.  Every penny that your child is given by the college, is one less penny out of your pocket, or your child’s!

 

***If you plan on attending college from July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018, you will need to submit the FAFSA from October 1, 2016- June 30, 2018 using income from 2015.  Moving forward, the suggested submission date from here on out, will be October 1 of each year.

 

Another form you might need to fill out is the CSS Profile. https://student.collegeboard.org/css-financial-aid-profile.  This asks for lots more information than the FAFSA, but is necessary for many private colleges.  This is how they decide to distribute their non-federal aid, in other words, merit based aid.  It is $25 for the first college you have to submit this to, and $16 for each college after.  (I will say, we didn’t have to do this for my son who is attending a private school.  He received a much larger financial aid package from this private school than the local state school–many thousands more, so filling this out might be helpful, if they require it.  Make sure it’s necessary before filling it out though.)

I will say that, in my opinion, getting student loans may not be worth it in the end. Is a gap year for better finances an option?  Outside scholarships are great, but start looking before your senior year.  Weigh all of your options and do the math.  Will your major and work experience by the end of college provide you hopefully with a job that will give you the income needed to pay back your loans?  Student loans are a whole other blog post as well because they are terrible things to start your life with after college.

 

So, that is the low down on the FAFSA.  It is not something to ignore or forget.  It will make a difference to what you and your family will have to pay.

 

Fill the FAFSA out every year because financial aid is determined yearly.

*One note, it is NOT due by October 1.  However, that is the first day that it will be accepted.  Don’t wait to get around to it.  It is something you need to make time for very soon.  It is true that schools will give out monies based on the fact that the FAFSA is submitted.  Many schools have already started accepting students.  Scholarship packages will be assigned based on this information, so don’t delay too much:)

 

Here are a couple of resources that  you can visit for more information.

www.studentaid.gov/fafsa

 

https://blog.ed.gov/2015/12/parents-guide-completing-fafsa/

 

www.usnews.com/education/blogs/student-loan-ranger/2015/02/05/5-myths-about-parent-information-on-the-fafsa

 

www.forbes.com/sites/robertfarrington/2014/04/10/eight-financial-aid-secrets-that-parents-and-students-need-to-know/#75892dd16bc6

 

Now, go fill it out!!

Let us know how it goes!

 

Time to Apply for Colleges-Quick How-to’s

Time to Apply for Colleges-Quick How-to’s

Time to apply to colleges!

It is now time to think about applying for colleges.  

They are all sending information to prospective students via email and snail mail.  It is such fun to receive all of this!  

So, where to start, you ask.  Throw away any that you know that you are not interested in.  This will eliminate over half of what you receive.  Either in your trash can or email trash.  Do not get behind on this because your stack will grow and your inbox will get to be overwhelming.  

Next, prioritize the rest in the order in which the due dates fall.  Some will be immediate, others not for awhile.  Some have an early decision date which is binding, others have early decision which is non-binding.  Some have rolling decision dates, which means that you have more time.  

For the applications which you have decided to fill out, look on each college’s website.  What is their tuition package?  What sorts of scholarships are available?  Is there a tiered fee structure?  Where do you fall in all of that?  This might help to eliminate more from your stack. One more thing to look at as far as applications, is whether or not they charge an application fee.  These can add up, so be sure that if you spend that money, it is really somewhere that you can see yourself going to for the next 4 years.

Fill out the FAFSA The due date is October 1.  Do not wait until the first to fill it out!  It takes hours to get it all filled in, doublechecked and completed!

Register for the ACT and/or SAT again, if those scores are something which you are wanting to improve upon.  You can still apply for colleges, you will just have to update the score for them either yourself or via the test center.  

Some schools ask for the ACT composite score.  This is the score of each subtest which is then divided by the number of subtests.  Your composite score and each test score (English, mathematics, reading, science) range from 1 (low) to 36 (high) is the average of your four test scores, rounded to the nearest whole number. Fractions less than one-half are rounded down; fractions one-half or more are rounded up. 

Another ACT score that a school may ask for is the superscore.  This is made up of your best subscores regardless of test date. Be sure to send in all your test scores for consideration.  This creates a new superscore using only your highest numbers.  Not all schools will ask for either of these, but look out for these options.

Next you need to write some essays.  These can be tweaked for each situation as needed. One essay that you need to write is, “What are your plans for the future”.  Most schools want to know this information in some form or another.  It is a good way for you to actually think about this and get your thoughts in order.   Be sure when filling out all of this information and writing these essays to be honest. There will be questions that will cause you to really have to think, and there will be others that seem ridiculous.  Most questions are asked for a certain reason, so think and answer carefully.  

There are some fees and costs involved.  Check out this blog post by Grown and Flown for examples of what you might be facing.

One final tip.  Go back to each college’s website.  Look carefully through each tab.  Search through student life, take a virtual tour of the campus, look at the available clubs and activities.  Google the nearby town to find out information about the size and what is available to do outside of school since it is where you may be living.  

Do everything that you can to inform yourself about this college as a possibility, so that when it comes time to really decide where you will end up, you are ready and have all the pertinent facts.


5 Positive Parenting Techniques

5 Positive Parenting Techniques

Chapter 1

(Affiliate links are included in this post)

I’m in the process of reading  U Thrive: How to Succeed in College (and Life) Daniel Lerner and Alan Schlechter, MD. They teach a course at NYU on the “Science of Happiness” which is one of the most sought after courses on campus.  It’s a “how to” guide on how to thrive in college and beyond.  Yes, positive psychology is all around us and it’s probably because our culture is thirsty for it.  But let me say, by page 30, I was hooked.  This book really should be used in our schools. But, schools don’t really have a class on how to be happy, so it falls on us, the parents.  And as you know, parenting is the hardest job ever and there is no real “how to” book. So, even though this book is focusing on thriving in college, it is definitely transferable to parenting. While reading, I thought to myself  “I wish I knew this when I was my kids were younger”.  Wait I still can!  Even though my kids are 23, and 19 and I’m in my early 50’s, I can honestly say, this book can really help everyone, no matter what stage of life you’re in.  I don’t think it’s ever too late to be better at your relationships. So as I read this book, I’ll let you know my “takeaways”! Here’s are the first 5 from Chapter 1.

Raise Your Mood

Raise your mood before every opportunity or challenge by thinking about something positive for 30 seconds.  I told my daughter, Kelly, to try this before taking her tests during finals week.  She looked at me kinda weird and asked why?  I quoted from pg. 18 “Positive emotions prime you to perform your best”.  In the book, they continue, “Good feelings are a fantastic learning aid:  they help you retain more information and stay on the ball in group discussions; they improve your test scores and your grades; they boost resilience and help you deal with stress more effectively”.  So Kelly tried it, she thought of a funny memory that made her laugh and thought about it before she took a test.  Kelly told me, “it was so much easier, I wasn’t focusing on how hard it was going to be.  I just breezed through it.  And it felt good!”  The end result- she got a B on her math test. It worked.

Focus on the Good!

Tell your kids 3 things they did well and 3 places to grow (or less according to Kelly).  In the book, they detail a story of a student who only heard negative feedback from his theatre professor.  The student had a hard time believing in anything he was doing well.  He had lost his confidence.  Lerner and Schlecter (authors of the book), suggested to the student to ask his teacher to tell him what he was doing right. The professor agreed. Then, the student started his own peer group to share feedback on 3 things they were doing well and 3 things to work on.  Hmm. Could I do this as a parent? Sure, and would have, but I can tell you I didn’t.  I was always asking my girls, “Hey did you do this?”. I was focused on what they may have missed not what they did well. Ugh. I had focused on what they could have done better, which unfortunately doesn’t recognize what they were/are doing well.  So, my takeaway on this is no matter where you are in your parenting journey, focus on 3 good things and according to my daughter only 1 or 2 things where they can grow. Much better message!

Write Down Why You’re Grateful

Write down daily what you’re grateful for and why they matter. The theory behind the gratitude is it “qualifies” your positive emotions which can translate to higher GPA, better social relationships, better sleep and less depression. When you make a habit to scan for the good things during your day, it rewires your brain. So keep a journal or a gratitude jar and slips of paper next to your bed. Write down 3 things that bring joy that day and put them in the jar. This is what I do, and I’m looking forward to seeing to the end of the year when I can reflect on all the things that brought me happiness.  Or if you like to write, try this journal-The Five Minute Journal: A Happier You in 5 Minutes a Day. I’ve been using it and love it too. Great reviews!


Random Acts of Kindness

Perform Random Acts of Kindness Consciously (pg. 29)- A little difference here in that you are thinking about what you can do nice for someone else AHEAD of time. This act gives you a boost of happiness that can last for months.  It isn’t about being proud of yourself as it is to focus on how it made you feel- ask yourself “What did I do today that was kind and how did it feel?”.  Replay the scene in your head.

What Makes You Happy?

Pay attention to what makes you happy. This is such a great idea! We can all do this but for those of you with younger teens, ask them what they’re interested in. This is a crucial step in figuring out a potential career. Have them experiment with different classes, extra-curricular activities or even job shadow. And for us moms, it’s never too late to pay attention to what lights you up.  This is one of the reasons why I wanted to start a blog.  I have a B.A. in Communications and never did anything with it.  This blog allows me to rekindle my skills and learn how it’s done today. So what makes you happy? What makes you feel good or what activities do participate in that you don’t even notice that time has passed?