April Showers

April is the gateway to the Spring

 

April marks a time when parents of high school seniors find themselves coming closer to the end of the journey. It’s time for congratulations and the push for a final decisions-getting to yes. There is also plenty of work still ahead for high school sophomores and juniors with eyes on the class of 2023, 2024. Scrambling seniors, transfer students, and individuals in the workplace considering a September enrollment (or sooner), April is your month too.

I’m In, What’s Next

Two critical documents now sit on the kitchen table in most high school seniors’ homes, the Acceptance and Financial Aid Award Letter. They are both tied to the conversation, I’m In, but each carries different but critical communications.

Acceptance Letters

The letter welcomes a senior to the incoming class of 2021-2022 and congratulates the Student for their hard work. The content acknowledges merit-academic, performing arts, and other talent-related scholarships. Offers to join the honors college or a specific program of study may also be identified. It seals the deal-the ticket to becoming a first-year student.

Financial Aid Award Letter

Here the college or university will communicate their offer to assist with tuition assistance. The Financial Aid Award Letter outlines need-based grants from the college/university, federal and state aid, self-help loans, and work-study. Some external scholarships may also appear on the Award Letter. The Award letter details the net cost, also referred to as the educational cost gap owed to the school.

Comparing Offers

Eyes focus on the numbers, cost, scholarships, loans, and the gap. Although some offers look the same, many can be slightly different. So, how do they compare? Is one school heavier on scholarships while another has none? Or is there a mixture; free aid, scholarships, need-based grants, or self-help (work and loans) funding? As shown below, how the sticker price becomes the actual price may differ by how much the school can and will invest in you.

Don’t Wait for the Bill – Are you ready to Pay?  

They will be arriving in July, if not sooner. What will you use? Will it be a monthly payment plan, alternative private student loan, savings, or a combination. What is the debt tolerance level if borrowing is the only resource? Knowing how to pay the bill is the final step to saying yes.

Getting to Yes

Ultimately choosing a college requires evaluating the Student and their family’s goals, needs, and expectations. The answer lies within five critical fits – academic, personal, emotional, affordable, and career-focused. The school’s educational and social environment must answer these fit questions give a student the right vibe. If the answer is yes, then were off to college. Send the deposit. 

Sophomores, Juniors, Transfer, and Returning Students

No, I haven’t forgotten you. Your tasks and activities should be in high gear, working on creating and managing the college plan. A plan outlines who, what, when, and how to navigate the journey. The journey to find the right match for a student. Oh no, plan? Here are six core parts of a successful college plan:

  1. Understand college costs and how to pay the bill.
  2. Which college options might be the best for my Student.
  3. Responsibilities, who will do what when.
  4. Defining the Admissions and Financial Aid Strategy
  5. Developing a relationship with a college.
  6. Uncovering resources and put them to work for my Student.

Whether you’re a family three years away or knocking on the door, creating and executing a college plan is key to being organized, on track, and successfully navigating the journey of making a wise college decision for students and their families.

Consult an Independent College Counselor

Need help calming the waters, getting started, or just answering questions. An experienced independent college counselor can help parents help their students. They listen, focus on needs and expectations, and help students manage a realistic and holistic college plan. Plus, you get the peace of mind that a professional is on the team 100% of the time.

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Planning Saves…

Planning Saves…

Planning saves time, reduces stress, and creates harmony within a household.

 

College planning is now upon us. When high school juniors and their parents begin the journey, they ultimately find the student joining the incoming class 2022 at the college of their choice. This is an exciting time, occasionally a nerve-racking time culminating with a student opening the door to their next educational experience.

When asked how to start, my answer is always, create a college plan, a comprehensive plan.  A college plan provides peace of mind to all participating in the student’s journey to find their right match. A plan provides clarity, aids with communication, and keeps everyone moving forward, supporting students in reaching their educational goals after high school.

A Good Plan Should Include?
  1. Tools to assist a student and their family determine their college financing capabilities and financial needs. College is an expensive investment, so students and their parents must be under costs, financing, and debt tolerance.  Information essential to the search and selection process, a process well known for every who has purchased their first home.
  2. A process to create a broad view of colleges and universities options that, when narrowed, becomes the student’s pool of right-fit schools. A group of schools checks the boxes for goals and needs and challenges students to exceed their high school accomplishments and achievements.
  3. Structure to help keep students, their parents, and other family members organized and accountable.  The college experience can be complicated and overwhelming, and for busy households, the structure offered through a college plan is essential.  Important for students with heavy in and out of school commitments, parents who travel, and divorced or separated parents. Surprises typically lead to heightened anxiety and frequently miss opportunities.
  4. Provide resources and tools to navigate the journey during unprecedented times. Resources and tools are both conventional and new to support a student and their family through the search, selection, and financing processes. Students and parents today need help with alternative methods to accomplish critical tasks in the absence of college high school visits, college fairs, and virtual worlds.
  5. The guidance and direction need to connect multiple components, and stages into one efficiently managed holistic college enrollment experience.

A college plan is not merely a checklist managed through software. It is an ever-changing process that must be easily adapted based on external forces, unpredicted changes, and the student and their family’s underlining needs. It requires open, two-way communication with participation at all levels. A college plan should spark questions and helps dismay myths.

Consult an Independent College Counselor

An experienced college counselor (can’t fault me for banging my own horn) can help a student and their family develops and manage a customized college plan. A plan that meets individual needs, expectations, and capabilities. A college counselor can cut the stress of the process considerably by layout clear timelines and ensuring the student and parents invest in submitting the strongest application possible. Using a holistic lens, a good counselor will connect all aspects of the college experience, finding, enrolling, and financing the right college to career choice.

Schedule a free consultation and receive a customized plan for your student and family!

Knowing How the Industry Works

Knowing How the Industry Works

Rank, GPA, academic rigor, test scores, sports, dance, and part-time work are many of the components that make up a high school student’s resume. As parents, we work hard to guide our students to become their best, authentic selves. We motivate our students with rewards if they work hard academically and become good citizens.

So why does a student with a stellar resume find themselves deferred or waitlisted at their dream college? Do they receive little or no tuition assistance, scholarships, or need-based grants if they are accepted? The answer is, it is not always about the student.

In a previous article, Pre-qualifying For College Costs, we discussed how important it is for students/parents to know their financial numbers before starting their college search. Equally important is knowing that higher education institutions are businesses. Not unlike students and their families, colleges and universities have their needs and wants. As a business, higher educational institution must manage their needs and wants against hundreds of influencers and business factors. Sometimes these are in direct conflict with the consumer group they are trying to serve.

How do these factors affect students/parents and their college choices?

ð       Supply and Demand – selective institutions are reporting dramatic increases in their incoming applications pool while others are down. Changes are partly due to amended admissions policies, heavy brand marketing, and continued societal pressures: But 60K applications for 3100 enrollment seats.  With over 4200 degree-granting colleges and universities in the US, students and parents need to shop as consumers and explore a broad view of all options, offerings, and possibilities.

ð       Revenue – college and universities rely on tuition and fees and indirect revenue from housing, athletic events, and on-campus consumer purchases. Swings in enrollment, on/off-campus learning, and other concerns due to the pandemic may result in belt-tightening. The financial status of an institution should always be on the radar, just like at home.

ð       FIT – is the academic, personal and financial match that all students and parents strive for during the college planning process. As previously noted, college and universities have their fit, which can mirror a student or be very different. Mastering the FIT can depend on how achievements, personal accomplishments, and authentic self-align with the needs. Results can be surprising and very rewarding.

ð       Costs – achieving educational goals within the realm of one’s financial means is the art of affordability.  Knowing how the sticker price becomes the consumer price is every college consumer’s challenge. Understanding the impact of tuition assistance, scholarships, need-based, and self-help aid is essential to the affordability equation.

ð       Emotional Purchasing – investing in one’s education is a personal and monetary commitment, a big one. Relying on information gathered, research, consultation with knowledgeable advisers, and yes, a time-tested pros and cons process a student and family can make a wise personal and financial decision.

The incoming class of 2022 are on their journey now. Students and parents are encouraged to create their college plan on realistic goals and expectations while keeping a keen eye on the needs, the student and higher education institutions.

Letter for Santa

Letter for Santa

Dear Santa – 2020

I hope that you, Mrs. Claus, the Elves, and everyone at the North Pole are good. Is Rudolph healthy? I hope the reindeer are going to be able to fly. You know, Santa, I am worried. Do you think you will bring gifts to all the children? Can you leave the North Pole? What about needing to be tested as you travel on X-Mas eve? I’m worried my grandmother says we are in a hot state, and I don’t think she refers to the weather.

It’s been a rough year Santa. They won’t let me go to school. My mom and dad call it being remote. My sister and brother are in high school, and they are hybrid. It’s fun; we all do our homework together. My mother helps me with my English class; she says dad can’t spell. Next week I think my sister and brother are going with my grandfather to check out colleges. They said there is not a campus tour, but he will drive them around the school.

Santa, I have tried to be good this year. It hasn’t been easy. If I’m on the naughty list, it’s because my brother teases me. Need to get him back. I know many people are suffering, worse than me. I only need a few things. Maybe you can get some gifts for others:

Here are a few ideas.

  1. My brother needs a new weight set. He wants to lift at home for football.
  2. My dad says my new cousin needs a 529 plan to save for college.
  3. My sister likes architecture; maybe you can bring her a 3D printer
  4. A Dunks gift card for my cousin Pete; there are a couple on his campus.
  5. Microphone for my dad, says he is going to be a podcaster soon
  6. Membership to Pivotal College Years – it’s free to all subscribers
  7. New tires for our car, my brother is going to commute to college next year.
  8. For me, a tool belt, I want to go to vocational school and become a carpenter.
  9. A vacation for my mother; my dad says the CEO needs some TLC.
  10. Peace and goodwill!!

Thank you, Santa. Please do your best to help all the boys and girls…even my nasty cousin.  Everyone is trying their best. My grandmother says 2021 will be better.

Please let Mrs. Claus know we are thinking of her. I know she must miss you on Christmas Eve. Maybe you can make it up to her in New Year!

Wishing All a Joyous and Safe Holiday Season…

Ps….Santa, If you hear of any little boys and girls struggling to get their college planning started, worried about finding their best college match, or their parents are stressed about paying for college, please tell them Get College Going can help. Counseling, coaching, and peace of mind for students and parents; before, during, and after college.

Looking Forward….……as of today

Looking Forward….……as of today

Thanksgiving Week, No Time to Pause the College Planning Button

 

The Fall is usually an exciting month for high school & college students as they return to the classroom and campus activities.  This year, life is just a little different. Covid-19 and its domino effects on the education system,  social interaction, and athletics programs have made for a very turbulent and stressful time. As a parent of four, now working adults, I continue to ask myself, what if I was parenting right now. What would I do? Answer- keep to the plan moving forward.

Sticking to the plan, one focused on goals and expectations, is the best medicine for dealing with uncertainty.  High school and college-age students and those who recently entered the workforce are better equipped to pivot and adjust when dealing with the unexpected before, during, and after college. Here are a few time-sensitive tasks and action items that should be part of this month’s plan.

HS Seniors

  • Deadlines – Application deadlines for high school seniors is now upon us. Admissions and financial aid applications are available, ready for completion and submissions. Getting in and paying for college are driven by two essential applications, the Common App and the FAFSA. Each critical, each requiring time and attention to be completed and filed timely.
    • Students electing to apply EARLY should have sent in their Common Application by now. Students who are holding off or still making their final choices are now looking at December 1- through February 1, 2021 deadlines.

NOTE: Colleges are waiting for applications; if ready, don’t wait for future deadlines-file them now.

  • The FAFSA, the Free Application for Student Aid, should be completed and submitted as early as possible. The Application launches the process of determining a student and family’s eligibility for need-based financial aid. Aid provided from sources including colleges and universities, federal and state, and external sources (employers, civic/community/philanthropic organizations).

Note: All students with an eye on attending college in September of 2021 need to complete the FAFSA.

  • Compare and Evaluate – a continuous process that leads to making a final college selection. For some students and their families, it is immediate; for others, additional time to analyze offers before saying yes. The process can include revisiting a campus, the academic curriculum, and the student life scene, which might change one’s perception and impact one’s goals and expectations over time. Evaluating and questioning is common and can be healthy. A life change event like enrolling in college should answer the question, is this the right one for me? Academic, social, emotional, and financial. Will the college I select set me on my path? Deposit Day is May 1, 2021.

HS Juniors

  • Prequalification before Shopping – the college lists are ready, but how many students and families have evaluated the cost. College is expensive, ranging from $116,000 to $215,000, public and private in-state. Such a big-ticket purchase should first begin with a simple prequalification. Sticker price minus tuition assistance equals the net cost to the student and their family. Dreaming I can get in and hoping I can pay is a recipe for trouble, financial trouble.
  • Evaluating during a pandemic – traditional meet and greet and campus tours are out. Virtual tours, self-guided campus visits are now the play of the day. However, we will return to actual campus visits sometime this Spring, and current juniors and their parents need to be ready. Ready with their top options and the hardcore questions to be asking when finally meeting with college representatives.
  • Standing Out – Never has it been more critical for students to build relationships and raise awareness on college campuses. In these current times of canceled high school visits and college fairs, relationship building between students and college representatives is not happening. To stand out, students need to become a marketer, communicating, and engaging college. Texting, email, and phone calls are three ways a student and college representatives can connect. Waiting for college could result in lost opportunities for acceptance and financial offers. Raise your hand and say hello today!

Workforce November Checklist

  • Returning to School – COVID-19 might have dusted off the idea of returning to college to complete a degree, start a new one (BS/MS/MD) or add a professional skill. Institutions are looking to your interest and can get you started quickly. Consider your eligibility for employee reimbursement benefits, federal and institutional financial aid, or use of programs offered through MassHire and the Career Centers in Salem and Woburn.
  • Managing Educational Debt – federal student loans and some private education loan programs have been on hold during the CV-19 pandemic. But come December 31 and no additional offerings from Washington, loan payments will once again be due. Now is the time to evaluate the use of education loan refinancing to help stabilize budgets and loan payments, lock in all-time loan rates and help with the overall management of education loan debt post-CV-19. Resources are available to help with best practice decisions, including those through AAA Northeast.

CALMING THE WATERS – Are you feeling anxious? Have questions? Everything starts with a Conversation – Text, phone [617-240-7350], or email at tom@getcollegegoing.com  Follow me on FB/getcollegegoing  – Learn more at www.getcollegegoing.com

Looking for quality virtual (college planning) support during these uncertain times, Pivotal College Years, an affiliated partner of Get College Going,  and is making the College Planning Portal for Families FREE to EVERYONE until December 31, 2020. EVERYTHING college before, during, and after, in one place.