College Planning – Finding the Right College – The First Time

Which Way To CollegeFinding the right college can be a daunting task, but it can be very expensive if you do NOT find the right college the first time around. Most students that transfer out after one or two semesters at a college find that they take an extra one to three semesters to finish their college education. At the cost of $5,000 to $30,000 per semester, it makes great sense to perform a methodical and cost-effective search before deciding on a college.

Here are a few suggestion to make your search go smoother. First start with a broad search on the internet and at your high school guidance department. Select your criteria for distance from home, state or private school, field of study and any extracurricular or athletic programs that you want available. This should provide a list of 20 to 75 schools.

Next you will want to visit these college web sites and take their virtual tour if available. While on their site, be sure to take note of their estimated cost of attendance, usually in the admission or financial aid section. Start a handwritten or computer spreadsheet to keep track of these items and start comparing the colleges. Make sure to compare each college for the same categories, so you get a fair comparison.

Once you have the list narrowed to your top 10 “best fit” colleges that meet your needs and financial situation, it is time to start the formal search process. This will include visiting the college campus for an open house or a campus tour to further narrow the field. Be sure to rate and rank each school that you visit on the same scale so that a fair comparison can be made.

Next, take your top three or four schools and develop your contacts list at the school. Then arrange for overnight visits and ultimately make your final selection. During these overnight visits you will get an accurate look at the campus life, classroom and dormitory atmospheres. Make a specific point of visiting the library, dining halls and intramural activities that interest you.

Take notes about the things that you like and dislike the most at each college campus. There will almost always be one college that stands out as the best fit. Congratulations, you just methodically saved time and money. If you follow these steps, you will have a rewarding college experience and enjoy your life on campus.

Summary:

We all know how important a college education can be. For most families, other than buying a house, it can be the biggest investment they will make. Do your research, compare your choices, narrow them down and then take them for a test drive. You are guaranteed to save time, money and reduce the stress about making a wrong choice.

To learn more about College Planning, Financial Aid and other relevant topics, check out my Amazon Author Page.

To Maximize Financial Aid – High School Preparation Is a Must

College AidFor most families, the cost of their child’s college education will be one of the biggest expenses that they will incur during their working years. With the price tag of a four-year education ranging between $20,000 up to $240,000 or more per child, the impact on your financial well-being can be significant.

It is important to prepare for this expense in a variety of ways, but one that is commonly overlooked is the pre-college phase that happens during the high school years.

Freshman year in high school is a great time to begin thinking about college and the financial aid process. It is important that your student prepares themselves in the areas that will make them appeal to college admissions and financial aid departments.

What follows in this section is a brief overview of some of the steps that your student should be taking in an effort to get off to a good start. These steps are based on past students that have achieved success in college and obtaining maximum financial aid and scholarships.

Start by finding a club to join. Look for something that interests you, but don’t worry if you have no great experience or talents to offer at first. The whole purpose of these clubs is to help interested students develop skills for the future and show them the qualities of leadership and social interaction.

Next, begin looking into your school’s music, drama or athletic programs. By now you may have already been involved in some of these areas and have grown comfortable with your specific talents that you possess. Try to extend your comfort zone and experiment with school programs that you have not been involved with before. Showing colleges a diverse array of involvement and interests can be great when it comes time for applications and financial aid.

As you enter your sophomore year in high school, start investigating how you can get involved in community service projects and other local volunteer efforts. Giving back to your school, your town and your community can be a great opportunity to build valuable skills for future success in any field that you choose to explore as a career.

As you progress through high school, your goal is to begin preparing an impressive college resume, one that will be able to help you display your accomplishments, talents and specific skills. To discover more information about the high school preparation process and how it can make your financial aid efforts more effective, visit these topics and other books by this author on his Amazon Author Page.

College Reality Check – What Students And Parents Need To Know – Before They Go

College Reality CheckAs the father of five recent college graduates and a financial adviser for over 30 years, I have had first hand knowledge of the following realities of college. If you are preparing to send a student to college in the next few years, be sure to review these items and keep your eyes open.

The adjustment period:

Your student will go through an adjustment period before they make meaningful progress in college. It could last a week, a month or even longer, but they need this time to get comfortable with the new college experience. So be patient, let it happen and be supportive.

Students are on their own:

College professors will NOT be there to hold your hand or make you go to class. If you pass or fail, it is up to you to put in the effort. This is the time that students need to develop self-discipline, time management and social communication skills. If you do this well, your college experience will go smoother and be much more successful.

Students have lots of free time:

New students need to find ways to fill this free time with constructive activities. Video games and partying are not constructive. Join a campus club or intramural sport. Schedule a regular workout at the gym. Make meals a social time with some new friends. And don’t forget to visit your professors. If you have questions or need some extra help, make an appointment. If your teachers know your name, it can only help your grades.

Students will change their major at least once:

Don’t allow this to derail your graduation schedule. Make sure you get credit for any high school AP classes taken and consider taking CLEP exams for additional college credit. These will help you get ahead of schedule. Also consider taking 18 credit hours each semester. Most colleges do NOT charge extra for taking six classes instead of five. Keep on pace to graduate early or on time.

Students will attend parties and will be exposed to alcohol, sex and drugs:

Unfortunately it is part of college life, so accept it, talk about it and try to be supportive. Make sure to discuss safety, date rape, sexually transmitted diseases, underage drinking and knowing what is in your drink at all times. Remind them that walking in groups around campus is safer than getting into a car filled with partying college students. Stress moderation, be upfront, share your values and trust they will make good decisions.

Students will spend their parents money on non essentials:

Video games, iPods, movies and many other items are purchased every year with money that should pay for textbooks or meals. Talk to your student before they go… let them know that education funds should be used for education needs only.

College campus life is like being on a vacation:

No one is forcing their daily agenda. Students decide what to do, or not to do. Campus dining halls offer hundreds of items daily with “all you can eat” privileges. Recreation activities include everything from volleyball to scuba diving. There are clubs for photography, computers and hundreds of other activities. Is it any wonder some students never want to graduate?

Students will gain weight… especially freshman:

That infamous “Freshman 15” is a reality for many students. The quantity and variety of food alone will add pounds. The dining hall dessert bar, with dozens of choices each meal are sure to entice many students. With fried food and alcohol consumption added into the picture, it gets even tougher. Talk with your student about good eating habits, regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight.

The college doesn’t care if you finish on time:

It is financially better for them is you spend five or six years to get your degree. It is your responsibility to keep on track. Make sure that you know which classes you need to stay on pace. After each semester, meet with your student adviser to make sure you are up to speed.

Finally – You will NOT be fully prepared for the working world upon graduation:

Your diploma will open some doors, but you will learn more in your first six months “on the job” than you did in your entire four (or more) years of college.

To learn more about these topics and other books by this author, click here to visit his Amazon Author Page.

Cutting College Costs To Reduce Education Debt

High college costs

With today’s high cost of a college education, students and parents are accumulating higher and higher education debt loads. The average student now graduates with student loans totaling over $26,000 according to the most recent statistics. And parents are taking other loans in the form of PLUS loans, home equity and 401K loans that are also be used to pay for the college education.

Hope and Solutions.

Most families are focusing on ways to get federal, state and university financial aid programs to pay more of the bill for their education, but in reality, these sources are limited.

The other side of the dilemma is often overlooked by students and families. This is the expense reduction and cost savings side of the equation. For many students, if they take an active and aggressive approach to reducing expenses, they can get the same high quality education and college experience for less and with substantially less loans.

Lets look at the multitude of ways that you can begin reversing the direction of your cash outflow by learning the specific areas of savings that any student, on any college campus, in any state can begin using to turn the tides and save money.

College Savings Start Early.

One of the biggest ways to waste money in college is the selection of the wrong college. If a student changes colleges after one or two semesters, it almost always lengthens their college career from four years to four and a half, or even six years. This can cost thousands of dollars extra. So a thorough college search, including open houses, campus tour and visitation programs may cost a couple hundred dollars up front, but will save thousands if your student graduates on time or even early.

Also the cost of college applications is no small matter when many cost between $15 – $65 each just to apply. Following the right college search guidelines, you will find many universities willing to provide a FREE application as a reward for your efforts.

College Freshman Savings.

This area starts with proper planning and knowledge of the strategies and inner workings of the college campus. Everything from textbooks, meal plans and campus housing arrangements leave many cost saving options hidden to those that are unaware of their existence. I am always amazed at how many students eventually find this information by their third or fourth year, then realize how much they could have saved during their first two or three years, if they had only known.

Second, Third and Fourth Year Savings.

After freshman year, more options become available to the average student. Unfortunately, the guidance given to upper-class students in these areas is almost nonexistent. Once the college has hooked a freshman, they spend very little effort to keep your business.

But that can be easily corrected if you are armed with the knowledge of what needs to be done. You have to take the initiative, see the right people, call the right departments and request the right forms to see any of these available savings or increased aid added to your bottom line. Most students never even apply because it isn’t openly advertised.

The Final Area… For Many.

Many students desire, or are compelled, to attend graduate school to get a job. The college is more than happy to accept your payment for these classes by check, credit card or student loan, if you are so inclined to continue handing it over.

But for those students that learn the right strategies and set them up in advance, they can usually get the college to pay for some or all of their graduate study and save tens of thousands of dollars or more in the process. In many cases you can get money from the college and get money from local businesses or future employers that will gladly help to advance your education in return for paid employment opportunities during your studies or upon graduation.

Summary:

The key with all these savings is to know what they are and find out how to start them before your opportunity is lost. To learn more about these strategies and discover additional ways to cut the cost of your college education, click here to visit my Amazon Author Page. Congratulations… your savings begin here. http://www.amazon.com/Keith-D.-Maderer/e/B0045KGSC0/

Let Uncle Sam Help With College

Uncle Sam Education

With the ever increasing cost of a college education, many students are finding alternate ways to pay for college. Take a look at how Uncle Sam is willing to help those that seek assistance by serving their country.

If you have considered college, but were not sure how to pay for it, you may want to consider the military for a few years. The educational opportunities can be well worth the time, especially during a tough job market.

By serving as little as six months in the military on active duty, you can qualify for 50 percent military education benefits. If you serve 36 months or more, you qualify for 100 percent benefits.

Below you will find six programs that allow the U.S. government to help pay for your college education.

1. U.S. Military Academies: It is an extremely competitive process to gain an appointment to one of the these academies. You need excellent SAT scores, a congressional nomination and must be interviewed by a military panel. Being an exceptional athlete can be an additional asset if you are interested in this route.

If accepted, you will receive a four-year education at no cost as well as paycheck while you are in school. Your tuition, room, board and military training are all included in your package. These institutions offer some of the best education and leadership programs in the world. Their facilities, equipment, technology and personnel are on the cutting edge.

2. R.O.T.C. Programs: The military also offers up to a four year scholarship for tuition and fees through the Reserve Officers Training Corps. (ROTC). These scholarships cover everything except room and board, but you will receive a monthly stipend (around $200) while you are in the program.

Upon graduation, you will be obliged to serve in the military for up to eight years. This can be four years of active duty and 4 years in the reserves. You will be commissioned as an officer and receive full military pay and benefits during your active duty. This requirement is something that every candidate for ROTC needs to be comfortable with, before they sign on.

3. The G.I. Bill: For those that chose to serve their country before college or leave one of the military academy preparatory schools before graduating, there are some great benefits available. If you served as little as 90 days of active duty before being honorably discharged, you qualify for a 40 percent benefit and six months will get you 50 percent education benefits.

If you serve 36 months or more on active duty, you qualify for 100 percent of all education benefits. This means that you can receive up to 100 percent of the most expensive in-state undergraduate tuition at a public school, plus a monthly housing allowance and up to $1,000 per year for books and supplies.

DANTES – College Credit-By-Exam Programs: The Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) program allows military personnel to receive college credit by taking exams instead of the traditional college classroom studies. There are three types of exams being offered through this program. They are called CLEP, DSST and ECE. We will look briefly at each one below.

4. College Level Examination Program (CLEP): There are a total of 35 exams that can be taken and each is equivalent to a three credit hour college course, but some may cover six credit hours. They are computer based tests and generally are all multiple choice. If you pass, you get the credit, but if you fail, you cannot take the same exam again for 180 days. DANTES will pay the exam fee, but participants may have to pay a $15 to $25 registration fee. The current cost to take the each exam is $80.

5. DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST): These are an extensive series of exams that are comparable to the final exams in undergraduate courses. Passing the exam will normally qualify for the same three college credit as if you had taken the class.

6. Excelsior College Exams (ECE): Most of the ECE exams are objective multiple choice, but some are entirely essay. All tests examine not only the facts and terms, but also the application of essential concepts and skills. These exams will qualify for between three and eight credit hours upon successfully passing the exam.