Start the Clock – High School Juniors!

Pivotal time of the year, definitely!

Parents, mom’s of high school juniors, if not already, the college planning experience should be started! College admissions and financial aid is a complex and competitive process. Here are five considerations to add to the “going to college” experience.

Know Your Affordability

Equal to finding one’s educational path after high school is understanding college cost. How will one pay the college bill? Getting in is essential, but having a plan to pay is critical.

The average annual cost of tuition and fees for private four-year college in 2017-2018 (College Board) was $34,740 while $9,970 for a state resident at a public college. But, add in room and board, transportation and personal expenses and the true annual cost of attending is closer to $52,000 (private) and $25,00 (public).

A college search must start with understanding college costs and a realistic idea as to how educational cost will be paid. How much has the family saved to cover college cost? How will we handle one student, not to mention multiple students in college? What is the expectation for scholarships and financial aid and will we be eligible? How much will we be expected to pay? These questions along with others need to be asked and addressed early college planning conversations. Understanding cost and how to make an affordable college choice is critical to the overall college experience.

Understand Your Student

There are many factors that go into searching for and selecting a student’s educational path after high school. Should a student follow a traditional four-year institutional path, maybe community college first or even go to work and feel out the real world.

The junior year is a pivotal time to evaluate a student’s readiness and interest to continue their education after high school.  Today, the pressure associated with going to college and incurring debt, just because everyone goes, should no long be the accepted norm. Yes, education after high school is important for gaining financial and social stability, however, there are multiple paths to follow. Education is a lifelong pursuit and the choice of a path that meets a student’s academic and personal talents (and interest) needs to be championed and supported by educators, business leaders and society!

Understanding your junior (scrambling senior) is difficult enough. Guiding one through the education-work conversation can be numbing.  However, parents today need to stop the train and have an open, no judgmental conversations. Junior year for sure, but even earlier is better. Works with one’s hands, driven by design, creative writer, can fix anything, loves science are just a few of the discovery questions that might reveal a path to follow. Liberal arts, economics, electrical apprentice or even an entry level banker while attending courses part-time. Grades, rank, testing, sports and leadership fill in the gaps regarding questioning interest. As parents (Dad of four) we want our students to be successful, however, success after high school can be defined as attending college, entering a trade or a combination of earning and learning. Once we understand our student, we explore the educational paths open to pursue after high school.

 Learn the Financial Side

Set on going to college. Fantastic. Remember, we already asked you to consider how will you pay and what is your affordability limit. However, understanding how scholarships, grants and need-based financial aid works is another essential part of a student and family finding an affordable choice. All three are vital to helping pay the bill, but each have their own criteria, eligibility and spoiler alert, many not be available to everyone.  Financial aid, specifically need-based aid, plays a key role in helping students and families meet college cost. Parents of current sophomore and juniors need to spend quality time learning how financial aid is determined, what is a families what financial information reporting “base year” and the impact of the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Equal to where a student wants to attend is how will the bill get paid. Learning the financial side will shed a great deal of information to answer the question.

 Don’t Underestimate the Power of a Plan

The junior year is the pivotal point when students and family begin to the process of determine a high school student’s educational path after graduation. Will it be traditional, four-year degree program, attending community college or starting working first?

Consider Mom’s College Planning Checklist. Designed for Mom (sorry Dad), to help map out the steps necessary to finding, selecting and determining an affordable educational path for their student after high school. The plan should include month to month tasks, deadlines, touring campuses, test taking and completing financial aid forms. A comprehensive plan can be obtained when working with Get College Going, however, Mom’s Plan, will keep everyone on track and harmony in the household.

 Watch the Clock

Time can be your enemy or your savior. The typical college planning – enrollment timeline starts in December of a junior’s high school year and can run on average for 18 months. Now, 18 months sounds like a long time, however, academic, social, athletic/dance/performing arts, and other activities can make the time disappear in the blink of an eye. The power of planning is critical to finding an affordable educational path after high school.

Ask for Help

We are only scratching the surface with the advice provide in this piece. College planning can be a complex and sometimes overwhelming period in a student and family’s life. Ask for help. Students stay connected to your parents. Plus, collectively, ask friends, extended family members, the high school guidance department. And, if you need to, ask for independent professional assistance. Learn, Explore & Question!