Junior Year Justice…. College Prep and What Counts to get in! | Your College Planning Coach

LWMSeptOct2014-Final_Page_29One’s junior year of high school is by far the year that counts – a lot!!!! Colleges are most interested in YOU Especially if you are a Junior preparing to go to college in less than 2 years…YIKES!

Uhhh… you WILL need reference letters and more. No matter which college you apply to, schools are looking for a solid GPA and to see that you have taken the most challenging courses you could. Most colleges want to see decent SAT or ACT scores as well. Also, there is more to applying to college besides grades and scores, so being the bright college bound student I know you to be, you’ll pay extra attention to this checklist and bump your chances of getting in to a college that will be the right fit for you to accomplish your dreams!

You’re Not Late (But Don’t Procrastinate) If you haven’t begun the admissions process, you’re not so behind that should you freak out. However, you do need to get the ball rolling. Doing something, even just checking out a few college web sites, is a constructive first step. Look to compare academic requirements; find out if there are opportunities for undergraduate research; do they have intramural sports; what’s the deal on studying abroad; etc.

Here is some advice I know you will find useful:

Lay it Out Few of us like doing things where we have little or no experience. It’s hard to demonstrate competency and confidence when attempting things the first time around. Shopping for colleges isn’t so easy when you have thousands of options and aren’t sure of what you want. The quest can seem completely overwhelming. This may come as a shock to you, but not all moms and dads are skilled carpenters, electricians or plumbers. We need to sit down with a cup of coffee, read the instructions, these days we watch a YouTube video (maybe 10 times like me) before taking on the job. Then and only then will we proceed to fix the leaky faucet, change the light fixture in the bathroom, or build a bookcase for your bedroom. So, do some prep work. The more you can organize what you need before starting the college admissions process, the easier life will be. For example, select your SAT/ACT test date, then study for it. At many colleges, a few extra points can mean the difference between getting a scholarship or not. If you’re shooting for a seat at an elite college, you can also expect to complete SAT Subject Tests at the end of your junior year. If a college recommends that you take a few but doesn’t require that you do, what they really mean is that they are expecting you to take them. Then check your calendar, and make plans with your parents to visit a few colleges during the year. So you can get a sense of what’s out there, look at a broad range of types: big, small, public, private, city or country.

How Important Are After School Activities? Other than taking the most challenging courses your high school offers, it’s a good time to evaluate what you do outside the classroom. Don’t stay in activities just because you think they would look good on a resume. It’s way better if you choose one or two extracurricular activities that you’re enthusiastic and passionate about. Most colleges are looking for well-rounded students, not just the student with their nose in a book! Ultimately, you will need a plan of action and smart money moves to make those four years of college the perfect fit. Call us.703.928.9036.

By Luanne Lee, CCPRS


A Spring and Summer To Do List for College Bound High School Students

college checklistThe 2013/14 school year has been one for the books! It seemed like winter would never end and now it seems like the school year will never end! We are all ready for a nice relaxing break for the summer, but, if you are the parents of high school students who have goals for college one day we have lots to do to prepare for a successful transition from high school to college.

Grade 9:
• Meet with your guidance counselor now to choose the right courses in the fall, especially those math and AP classes the college admissions officers want to see!
• Seek summer employment or volunteer work in a field that may be related to future career interests.

Grade 10:
• Check with your guidance counselor if you should take SAT subject tests in June. Review your math skills over the summer to prepare for SAT/ACT tests in the fall.
• Spend time this summer researching private scholarship requirements and writing essays

Grade 11:
• Meet with your counselor to plan senior year courses with college and graduation requirements in mind.
• Your private scholarship search and writing essays should be a major part of your summer schedule.
• College admissions committees will be interested in how you spent your summer. Look for educational opportunities, internships and keep up your community involvement and volunteer hours.
• Schedule college visits, interviews and engage in social media with the colleges at the top of your list.
• Clean up your Facebook page and other social media platforms!
Grade 12:
• As the acceptance letters roll in make sure you stay on top of notifications, requirements and deadlines by checking into your college student portal daily.
• Continue to apply for private scholarships.
• THANK your guidance counselors and teachers who provided recommendations and guidance. Share your plans and acceptance news with them…they truly do care!

**All grades should seek summer employment, internship opportunities and volunteer work in a field that may be related to future career interests.

–  Luanne Lee, CCPRS

College Planning Starts Now: 5 Common FAFSA Mistakes to Avoid

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 2.15.08 PMJanuary is the month that millions of families disclose their financial data to the Department of Education through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Given that the FAFSA has been called the gateway to financial aid, and considering the ever-increasing costs of college, it is imperative to minimize mistakes in completing it. Here are five common FAFSA errors to avoid.

1. Failing to Submit Because of High Income

Many times families will not complete or submit the FAFSA, believing they make too much money to qualify. Income is only one of seven factors used to determine aid eligibility; always complete the FAFSA regardless of income.

2. Waiting Too Long to Submit

A mistake many make is to wait until they have all of their financial documents in place, and taxes done, before submitting their FAFSA. Since some money is on a first-come, first-served basis, it is imperative to submit as early in January as possible with estimates of your finances (which the Department of Education fully expects).

3. Submitting Incorrect Info for Divorced Parents

In a divorce situation, whose financial information is used? It is the income and assets of the household (including step-parent info) in which the students spends the majority of their time and receives the majority of financial support.

4. Understating Income

If you contribute to a 401(k), 403(b), or any other pre-tax retirement account, you must add back any contributions in the previous year to your income for FAFSA purposes. This in effect produces a higher FAFSA income than what might be shown on your tax return.

5. Overstating Assets

Many families mistakenly include retirement assets and home equity as part of their investments or net worth, when in fact neither should be included here.

And last but not least, please be sure to complete the correct FAFSA application. Remember to complete the FAFSA for the year your student will be in college for the upcoming fall school year, NOT the school year they are currently in. This is a huge, but common mistake. Make this one and your student will receive no aid in the following Fall. Let’s start off 2014 the right way for our local businesses!

To signup for a workshop, meet one-on-one or just ask questions contact us today at: 703-928-9036 or luanne@yourcollegeplanningcoach.com www.yourcollegeplanningcoach.com

Luanne Lee is a licensed College Planning Relief® specialist with over 20 years in business and personal financial services. She is a proud mother of two young adults, two grandchildren, 3 dogs and 2 cats in the country near Loudoun.

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