Private Scholarship . . . Reality Or Fairy Tale? | Luanne Lee, CCPRS

Private scholarships – we love them and hate them. We love them because they make a good story. We hate them because for most of us they are so darn elusive and time-consuming to get!

The media loves to promote stories that have happy fairy tale endings. What’s better than a student being able to win enough money in scholarships to pay for their full tuition room and board? Sounds like a fairy tale story that will get lots of clicks. But in reality, Mark Kantrowitz, former publisher of FastWeb.com and FinAid.org, reports less than 20,000 students a year receive a completely free ride to college. Out of the millions of students who apply to college each year, what do you think your chances are?

At Your College Planning Coach we recommend your #1 priority should be researching and targeting colleges that want your student and are more likely to offer your student Financial Aid in the form of Grants and Merit Scholarships. According to College Board’s Trends in Education, 40% of all free aid money is given by colleges. Less than 11% comes from private grants/scholarships. That doesn’t sound like a good use of your time, does it? Spend your valuable time more efficiently. Once you’ve applied to those colleges that offer your student Grants and Merit Scholarships, put whatever time and effort you have into applying for private scholarships.

Please share the following tips with your student…..

  1. Applying for private scholarships to pay the bulk of your college bill is like taking on a part-time job. It will require you researching hundreds of scholarships and submitting applications and essays for dozens every year you are in college. The cost to attend in-state public flagship universities is over $25,000 a year, $50,000 per year for out-of-state-state universities. Most private scholarships are $1,000 or less and are only good for one year.
  2. There are plenty of free college scholarship websites. Some will do a better job of narrowing results to your qualifications while others will have outdated scholarships. Use a combination of websites to maximize your chances of finding scholarships. If they boast “No Essay Required” they may be a scholarship sweepstakes, a form of marketing and lead generation. It will be best to create a separate email for your scholarship searches.
  3. Check your high school counselor’s office, your parent’s workplace, and the local paper’s community section for local scholarships. You will have a better chance earning local scholarships. They aren’t as easy to find so not as many people will be applying for them.
  4. Most private scholarships will be for one year only. Pay attention to scholarships that are multi-year or allow you to apply and win more than once.
  5. Private scholarships must be declared to your college financial aid office. This can affect your financial aid award from federal and institutional sources being reduced.
  6. To get the most out of private scholarships, be organized, apply for as many as possible, as early as possible. Track deadlines, requirements, and recommendations in one place. Give yourself time to write the essays and also give your teachers plenty of time to write your letter of recommendations.

 

Every student should try to find and apply for scholarships. Just be realistic about the effort needed and the potential outcome. And remember, if you really want to make a dent finding money for college, the best time spent will be used towards targeting schools that are more likely to offer financial aid or merit scholarships. And just like the research for finding private scholarships, the earlier you start the better.

 

About Luanne Lee

Luanne Lee is a licensed College Planning Relief® specialist with over 20 years in business and personal financial services. Married to Jim for 40 years, she is a proud mother of two young adults, three grandchildren, 3 dogs and 2 cats and lives in Northern VA.

www.yourcollegeplanningcoach.com

FAFSA Season Already? Are You Ready? | Luanne Lee, CCPRS

loudounnovdechrnobleeds2016_page_29Wait a minute. It’s not January, is it? No, its September and no, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. We usually contribute a FAFSA article every year for the January issue of Virginia Woman magazine. Why are we so early this year? Although it’s no longer “breaking news,” it was announced in the spring of last year the “New FAFSA” can now be filed starting as early as October 1st of your child’s senior year instead of January 1st as in years past. Are you ready?

Why the big change? One reason is to make the process less confusing. Let’s look at what we used to do. You would file an estimated FAFSA in January, filing the final FAFSA several months later after you have filed your taxes, and then waiting several more weeks to sync your FAFSA and your federal tax return with the IRS Data Retrieval tool to then send the FINAL confirmed data the schools wanted…are you dizzy yet??

Starting in October of 2016 you will file the “New FAFSA” with the “Prior/ Prior Year” federal tax return. Which means for the incoming college class of 2017/18 you will file your child’s FAFSA using data from your (hopefully) already filed 2015 federal tax return. You will continue to use the current asset data on the day you file the FAFSA. Side bar, make sure you have a paper trail/statements of your accounts in the event of an audit.

Since you are using a prior/prior already filed tax return, there will no longer be a 3-week delay to sync up the IRS and the FAFSA Data Retrieval Tool. You can complete all of this in one sitting and submit the FAFSA to the colleges your child is applying to. Are you ready?

The purpose of all of this is so you can find out sooner rather than later what the college is going to offer for a Financial Aid Award and whether the school will be affordable or not. Reality check: do you really think filing three months earlier is going to make that much of a difference? What you should do is to already know ahead of time what is affordable, or not, what schools will be a good fit, or not, what schools will have the major you need, or not, WAY before you file the FAFSA and WAY before your son or daughter falls in love with a school that won’t be a good fit. That way you won’t waste valuable time, effort and financial resources applying to schools you can’t afford.

Another teeny weeny little wrinkle to all of this? Will your child have their list of colleges ready by October 1st? There’s no sense in submitting a FAFSA if you don’t have the schools to submit it to. There’s no sense to submit a FAFSA to schools you aren’t ready to submit applications to since they can’t make you a Financial Aid Award without your application. Are you and your child ready?

If you are NOT ready, overwhelmed, frustrated, concerned and stressed out, we understand and are here to help. If you have a college bound senior your clock is ticking. Call us today.

Now my biggest problem is what will I write about in January!

By: Luanne Lee, CCPRS
Your College Planning Coach
yourcollegeplanningcoach.com

What Is Merit Aid? | Luanne Lee, Your College Planning Coach

Va_Woman_Magazine_July_Aug_2016_Page_23‘Merit Aid’ is a Pricing Strategy to Attract the ‘Best’ Applicants Most of the nation’s 1,540 four-year private colleges and universities now offer discounts (grants, scholarships) to some applicants. These “Presidential Leadership Awards” are issued regardless of financial need.

VPs of Enrollment usually love merit aid; it’s an effective tool that enables them to offer financial incentives to the students who are, subjectively, the most attractive applicants. To fill seats and to compete with private colleges, numerous state schools are experimenting with merit aid, offering discounts to honors students or the in-state tuition rate to select out-of-state applicants.

Discounts offered in 2015 were upwards of 50% making many private colleges almost as affordable as state universities.

Be a ‘Star’: 10 Ways Your Student Can Qualify for More Merit Aid!

1. Apply to Multiple Colleges. Submit 6-10 well-balanced applications. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and it is common that your student will be seen as a star at one school but not at another.

2. Invest in an SAT / ACT Prep Course. The SAT and ACT are still the primary measure of college applicants. An SAT/ACT prep course is a solid investment that leads to a greater likelihood of acceptance, more merit aid and less of a gap in the college’s financial aid package.

3. Grades Matter. Pretend you’re a college. Would you give incentives to underachievers? When it comes to merit aid, more As are always better than fewer As.

4. Take AP Courses. More merit aid goes to students who show a willingness to be challenged. Take advanced placement, international baccalaureate, honors, and dual enrollment courses.

5. Complete Applications on Time. No college wants students who procrastinate and don’t turn in work done on time. By missing a deadline, your student creates the impression that the college is certainly not his/her first choice.

6. Interview Preparation. Know the school’s strengths. Know the names of the professors. Be able to articulate why you’re applying to the college and why it’s a good fit. A strong interview can improve the merit award.

7. Essays and Personal Recommendations. This is where you demonstrate your individuality and shine.

8. Geographical Diversity. Colleges want a diverse freshman class, and often give more merit aid to students who live out-of-state.

9. Tweak Your Major. Colleges want diverse graduates, so the intent to pursue a popular major can result in less merit aid. By pursuing a lesspopular major, the merit award is likely to rise.

10. Fill out the FAFSA Form. On the FAFSA form, students specify other colleges where they’re applying. Now, each college knows who the competitors are. This alone can significantly improve awards!

By Luanne Lee, CCPRS, Your College Planning Coach
703-928-9036
www.yourcollegeplanningcoach.com

FREE Workshops July & August Call 703-928-9036
Let us help with scholarships, FAFSA and savings plans for college tuition

The Clock is Ticking | Luanne Lee, CCPRS

LoudounMayJune2016HighResNoBleeds_Page_23Parents of HS Seniors. By now your child should have received their acceptance letters, the “thanks, but no thanks” rejection letters, or the dreaded “We’re not sure we want you until the students we offered acceptance decide to accept us or not” wait list letter! My advice? If your student received a wait list offer, print off several copies and have a family “tear it up and move on” party!! Choose a school that wants your student from the start and forget the ones that are keeping them in limbo. In 2014 UVA accepted 42 students off a 3000+ wait list. It’s NOT worth the stress or heartache!

Next, keep an eye out for the all-important Financial Aid Award offers. Some of you would have received some offer of a merit scholarship or grant with the acceptance letter. Most of you didn’t and are wondering where the Award offers are. Depending on the school, the Estimated Awards will be coming in over the next month or so. When they eventually do arrive, in your students email inbox, 99% of you will be looking at those Award letters and will start mumbling, cursing, crying, or yelling for hubby to open up a bottle of wine!

As I write this article in the 1st week of April I am already getting weekly calls, and soon it will be daily, from parents trying to make sense of what they are looking at. Yes, the award letters can be confusing and sometimes a bit vague. Once you figure out what is being offered, and what isn’t, that is when the confusion really sinks in and what prompts the calls I get.

You can’t understand why your super bright, very accomplished 4.385 GPA student, 2160 SAT score, Honor Society member, school athlete, debate team member, etc., is only being offered Stafford loans, the PLUS, which stands for Parent Loan for Undergraduate Student, or what I commonly refer to as Predatory Lending by our U.S. government, a paltry amount of Work Study, IF yes was answered for the work study question on the FAFSA, and nothing else! Where are the Scholarships and Grants?? Surely there must be a mistake?! Believe me, when I tell you it’s not a mistake the tone of the phone call quickly turns from teary upset to teary anger! Now the stress really starts as you realize what you thought you had saved for college is nowhere near enough for 1 year, never mind 4! “What do we do? Do we take out loans? Can we even qualify? How can we possibly explain to our child we can’t afford to send them to their dream school??” This is the time of year MY day finishes with some extra time with the kick boxing bag, because I’m angry, too. Why? Because so many of these heart breaking phone calls could have been averted!

If you are the parent of a HS Junior, Sophomore, Freshmen or Middle School student…YOUR clock is ticking, too! Don’t put your alarm clock on snooze for too long! Call us today so in a few years you will be calling me with tears of joy after receiving awards of acceptance and merit scholarships instead of tears of anger!!

By Luanne Lee, CCPRS
www.YourCollegePlanningCoach.com

Everything Is Political… Including Your College Plan | By Luanne Lee, CCPRS

LoudounJanFeb2016HR_Page_33One of the more interesting (and overlooked) differences of the Obama vs. Romney presidential election of 2012 was related to income taxes… and Financial Aid:

  • President Obama paid income taxes of 20% on income of $3 Million.
  • Mitt Romney paid much less, 14% on income of $21 Million.

Even though he out-earned President Obama 7-to-1, Romney paid a lower tax rate than his opponent. President Obama and many Americans were angry, saying Romney didn’t pay his “fair share.” But, instead of the anger, why did we not ask how that was possible? How did Mitt pay only 14% on his income while President Obama paid 20%?

It’s a one word answer: “Specialist.”

Romney had tax and legal experts to advise him on how to legally cut his taxes, ensuring his legal and accounting bills were in the hundreds of thousands. But that “expensive” advice saved him millions. Not so expensive when you consider his return on investment, is it? I am the Specialist in my field: College Financial Planning. My advice contains specialized knowledge that, if implemented, can save you thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars. My clients typically see a return on their investment in the 5:1 range, meaning that if they invest $2,500-$5,000 they see a payoff (grants, scholarships) that multiplies their initial investment.

For example, if you are a high net worth business owner, I may point out overlooked “tax scholarship” strategies that your CPA overlooked because
they do not understand the interrelationship between the Dep’t of Ed financial aid rules and the IRS tax code. Or, if a family has saved money in the “wrong” places, and I show them why, how and where to shelter those funds, increasing eligibility by $10,000, $15,000, even $20,000, per year.

After helping your child pick the right career-major-school (in that precise order) they eliminate transfers and graduate in four years instead of the
average five or six. Not only will your student flourish, but so will your wallet. Plus, through Financial Aid negotiations with colleges, it is possible to save half a year’s salary!

What I am saying is this: College is expensive. But NOT hiring a Specialist can be even more costly.

I offer a 30 minute “Pick My Brain” College Readiness phone consultation for $75.00. Honestly, I used to offer this for free, but I found people equate
free to a “sales pitch” or nothing of value. This 30-minute phone call can easily save you thousands in mistakes, which I think is a pretty good return
on investment, don’t you? Who should jump on this offer? Any busy parent with children in eighth through eleventh grade who thinks: we make too much or too little, are we too early or too late, you have saved or you haven’t, or you may feel helpless and confused and you don’t know where to start…

That’s exactly why we should chat! Call us to schedule your “Pick My Brain” College Check-up Call today!

Your College Planning Coach, Luanne Lee
703.928.9036

P.S. We can talk about picking schools, choosing a major that will actually help your child succeed after college, scholarships, loans, grants and other
financial aid, or personal finance questions… you name it, it’s your call. The clock is ticking!

Everything Is Political… Including Your College Plan | Luanne Lee, CCPRS

LoudounJanFeb2016HR_Page_33One of the more interesting (and overlooked) differences of the Obama vs. Romney presidential election of 2012 was related to income taxes… and Financial Aid:

• President Obama paid income taxes of 20% on income of $3 Million.
• Mitt Romney paid much less, 14% on income of $21 Million.

Even though he out-earned President Obama 7-to-1, Romney paid a lower tax rate than his opponent.

President Obama and many Americans were angry, saying Romney didn’t pay his “fair share.” But, instead of the anger, why did we not ask how that was possible? How did Mitt pay only 14% on his income while President Obama paid 20%? It’s a one word answer: “Specialist.”

Romney had tax and legal experts to advise him on how to legally cut his taxes, ensuring his legal and accounting bills were in the hundreds of thousands. But that “expensive” advice saved him millions. Not so expensive when you consider his return on investment, is it?

I am the Specialist in my field: College Financial Planning. My advice contains specialized knowledge that, if implemented, can save you thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars. My clients typically see a return on their investment in the 5:1 range, meaning that if they invest $2,500-$5,000 they see a payoff (grants, scholarships) that multiplies their initial investment.

For example, if you are a high net worth business owner, I may point out overlooked “tax scholarship” strategies that your CPA overlooked because they do not understand the interrelationship between the Dep’t of Ed financial aid rules and the IRS tax code. Or, if a family has saved money in the “wrong” places, and I show them why, how and where to shelter those funds, increasing eligibility by $10,000, $15,000, even $20,000, per year.

After helping your child pick the right career-major-school (in that precise order) they eliminate transfers and graduate in four years instead of the average five or six. Not only will your student flourish, but so will your wallet. Plus, through Financial Aid negotiations with colleges, it is possible to save half a year’s salary!

What I am saying is this: College is expensive. But NOT hiring a Specialist can be even more costly. I offer a 30 minute “Pick My Brain” College readiness phone consultation for $75.00. Honestly, I used to offer this for free, but I found people equate free to a “sales pitch” or nothing of value. This 30-minute phone call can easily save you thousands in mistakes, which I think is a pretty good return on investment, don’t you?

Who should jump on this offer? Any busy parent with children in eighth through eleventh grade who thinks: we make too much or too little, are we too early or too late, you have saved or you haven’t, or you may feel helpless and confused and you don’t know where to start… That’s exactly why we should chat! Call us to schedule your “Pick My Brain” College Check-up Call today!

By: Your College Planning Coach, Luanne Lee 703.928.9036

P.S. We can talk about picking schools, choosing a major that will actually help your child succeed after college, scholarships, loans, grants and other
financial aid, or personal finance questions… you name it, it’s your call. The clock is ticking!

College Preparation Countdown Checklist! | Luanne Lee

LoudounJulAug2015_Page_27#8. Send In Your Forms

  • Complete housing and health forms.
  • Take subject placement tests.
  • Answer roommate preference surveys.
  • Apply for student loans.

#7. Keep a Close Eye on Things

  • READ, keep and make copies of everything the college sends you; don’t ignore anything.
  • Make sure you have submitted your end-of-year transcript. Then check your secure college web portal to make sure it was received. Athletes: send and confirm with the NCAA. On a wait list? Check your status.

#6. Submit Your A.P. Scores

  • If you have AP scores to send go to the College Board and send them from there.

#5. Register for Orientation Programs

  • It used to be that orientation wasn’t a big deal, but now colleges want to help integrate you into the college community with “pre-orientation programs” that offer an exciting and inspiring start to your first year. Your school might have BBQs, camping trips and so on. Take part in pre-orientation as you will make friends based on doing things together rather than by virtue of living in the same dorm.

#4. The Roommate(s) 

  • Speak with your roommate(s) about each other and include a range of topics to secure a happy living situation. For instance, is your roommate a night owl? If you dare, inquire as to their hygiene habits. How often laundry will be done and if there are any “fragrance issues,” like Febreeze type products. Who will bring/share things like entertainment equipment, a cube refrigerator, etc. You only need one.

#3. Parents Are Happy But Bummed, Too

  • Your parents know their life is going to dramatically change. They want you to start to take care of things, but often feel the need to micromanage. A firm, “Mom, I’ve got this handled,” will help them as well as you. Do what you can to not argue. Cut them some slack and realize that through your excitement, they are sad to see you leaving home.

#2. You Can Start College Today

  • Start learning to do your laundry now. It’s not all that difficult. After all, you got into college! If you have already received your class schedule and you have an 8 am class, start practicing getting up by yourself before you arrive on campus. It works better if you go to bed by 10 or 11 pm. Sleep is good (and there will always be another party).

#1. You Will Get Homesick

  • Even the most independent college student can miss his parents. Focus on things other than yourself and keep busy with clubs, sports, events, even community service. You’re not the only freshman on campus who is homesick; make friends by being a friend. Thanksgiving break will seem like an eternity and homesickness tends to bloom about a month before. The good news is by the end of Christmas Break, you’ll be happy to go back to campus. By spring break, you’ll be dying to go back to school. Now, go have a great summer! You deserve it. Well Done!

Reality Check | Luanne Lee | YOUR COLLEGE PLANNING COACH

LWM_MJ15_web_Page_29Spring! The time of year we all look forward to. It’s the end of winter with warmer weather, longer days, green grass and flowers blooming. Spring is also the time of year I start getting “the phone calls.” The calls I dread each year that start out with “Hi Luanne, so-and-so said if anyone can help us you can.” These calls all start out with the same stressful tone and I’m left to deliver the unfortunate reality of college-planning-gone-wrong to a range of parental emotions that include disbelief, dismay, and ultimately anger.

Allow me to share:

My 4.2 GPA, 2080 SAT, all AP classes, son/daughter didn’t get accepted at UVA/Tech/JMU…WHY?? Or…They got accepted, but the Financial Aid Award only offers loans! Where is the aid? Where are the scholarships we expected for our bright child? Or…We only applied to state schools because the privates are SO expensive!

Reality: The competition is fierce! In the 2014/15 school year UVA received 31,021 applications, 8997 were accepted, 3706 enrolled. At Virginia Tech 20,744 applied, 15,067 were accepted, 5,474 enrolled. At James Madison 22,550 applied, 14,823 were accepted, 4,358 enrolled. Approximately 30% of enrolled students were international or out of state students.

Reality: At most state schools the largest piece of the Financial Aid pie is in Federal Loans. The only Grant Aid received is when there is financial need and that is when you have an AGI of less than $35K.

Reality: Private schools had a 47% average discount rate in 2014. Private schools offer Merit Scholarships. Private school students graduate in 4 years 62% more than state schools.

The school says since we didn’t file the FAFSA we will pay full price. We didn’t file because our guidance counselor/CPA/Financial Advisor/ work buddy/neighbor told us we make too much money to qualify so why bother.

Reality: Make sure the advice you take is coming from someone who specializes in college planning. Everyone should file the FAFSA, no matter what their income. The FAFSA is the gateway to all Financial Aid, both Need and Merit Aid.

My star athlete (soccer/lacrosse/baseball/football/track, etc.) didn’t receive any athletic scholarships!

Reality: Athletic scholarships are highly misunderstood. Most athletic scholarships are shared amongst many and nowhere near your expectations.

I have a 529 plan. Isn’t that supposed to cover everything?

Reality: Many parents confuse 529 plans and the state prepaid tuition plan. The prepaid tuition plan ONLY covers tuition and mandatory fees at a state school. Room, board, books, transportation and other fees are not covered. Plus, if a 529 plan loses 20% in stock market volatility, it can be very
underfunded. Unfortunately, I find this very common.

The ultimate heart breaker: Luanne, we have a junior and sophomore in college. We have had a job loss/medical emergency/ lost money in the market/ death of a parent or some unprepared for life event. We have continued to overfund our retirement, pay extra to our mortgage, used up our savings and have run out of resources. How can we tell our children they have to drop out?

Reality: Too often I find these parents turned down the student Stafford Subsidized loans that carry a 0% interest rate with no payments while the kids are in school because “We didn’t want our children to have college debt” The mortgage lender won’t let them access the extra equity in their mortgage because now they can’t qualify (to get their own money). They can’t/shouldn’t borrow from the 401K. They have given all of their extra money, and control, to bankers who can say NO! Life happens! Plan for the worst, look at the reality of your finances and plan strategically.  When money is tight, 2 years at Community College can save many families $40,000 or more per student on a 4 year degree. The most expensive part about college? Starting and not being able to finish!

There are plenty of other situations I have encountered, especially during this time of the year when college expenses hit home, literally. Be sure to follow the advice of a person who specializes in college planning and you can avoid many of these pitfalls in your childrens’ educations.

By Luanne Lee, CCPRS
YOUR COLLEGE PLANNING COACH
www.yourcollegeplanningcoach.com

MOM…DAD…I GOT ACCEPTED!! | YOUR COLLEGE PLANNING COACH

LWMMarchApril2015small_Page_19If you walk the halls of any high school right now you will hear the familiar buzz in shouts and whispers… Dude, “I got accepted.” “Dude I got deferred.” “Dude, they REJECTED me.” “Dude…they o ered me $10K in scholarships.” You observe students walking alone and silent down the halls. They haven’t heard any news yet and don’t want to admit it to their friends. The stress level is incredibly high this time of year for high school seniors
waiting for those college acceptance letters. Yes, those college noti cations are coming in, acceptance, wait list deferrals and the dreaded, “Thank you for your interest, we are sorry to inform you…” rejection letters. If your student receives a rejection or deferral please tell them don’t take it personally.

With the Common App and the increased numbers of students applying to college these days, your student’s application is one in tens of thousands with similar grades and scores. The competition is  erce. But, let’s say your student got accepted to one of the 10 schools they applied to. Everyone in the house is giddy with excitement and relief. Johnny is going to college!!

You filed the FAFSA. Your EFC number looks awfully big and expensive. It can’t be just for 1 year, right?? BUT, since your 4.0, 2050 SAT/29 ACT score son was ACCEPTED surely there will be scholarships and grants o ered! You call the college and are told the Financial Aid AWARD letters will be coming in a few weeks.

You feel SO much better since an AWARD letter sounds very promising, right?

Fast forward several weeks to the arrival of the Award letter. You see the dollar  gures broken up in columns and at  first glance things look pretty good. You take a closer look and suddenly realize the Stafford and PLUS offerings are loans, the EFC is what you are expected to pay out of pocket for just the 1st year, you don’t see any grants offered and only a small $2000 scholarship that won’t be renewed after the 1st year. The excitement you
had when the acceptance letters came in is now tempered with concern about how to send Maddy or Scott to college after all. The stress has now moved from the halls of the high school directly to your family kitchen table.

You thought you saved enough but now you aren’t sure. You consider borrowing from retirement accounts or taking on education loans. This starts a cycle of debt for both parents and students that could be a problem for decades. Plus, this is only child #1 and you have two younger children to pay for, too.

Since the cost of attending even the a state university can be close to $100K, especially if the graduating statistics are six years instead of four, you must start both college funding and planning much earlier than ever. Finding out what it takes for your student to stand out from the rest of the applicants, selecting the right schools for your student,  nding the savings options that will help (not hinder) the Financial Aid process… all of this and more takes planning and time. College has turned into big business and will be one of the most expensive purchases for your family.

If you spend a little more time planning for college in the early years than you do on annual family vacations you will  nd you can avert many of the problems some of today’s families are experiencing and still afford to take those family vacations while the kids are in college instead of taking on a second job to help pay for it all.

By Luanne Lee, CCPRS, YOUR COLLEGE PLANNING COACH
www.YourCollegePlanningCoach.com
703-928-9036

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

 

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