How To Find College That Fit On You

In trying to decide what type of college will best meet your wants and needs there are many things to consider. Listed below are some of the factors you will need to consider in deciding where you want to go to college.

Type of institution- Private or Public. College or University. Church sponsored.

Colleges can be either public or private. Public colleges are those that are supported by the state in which they are located. Many highly ranked colleges in the United States are state-supported institutions. These colleges can often provide an excellent education at a price for an in-state resident that is much less than comparable private colleges. At the early stages of your investigation, I would encourage you to consider both private and public colleges.

While private colleges frequently cost more than comparable state institutions, they often have the financial means to offer generous need-based or scholarship-based financial aid. This aid can make the cost of a private college the same or less than attending your state college.

Many of the more selective private universities and colleges have a religious affiliation. The extent of spiritual influence varies. But at the beginning of your college search, we strongly encourage you to investigate all private colleges, regardless of religious affiliation.

Academics- What courses and majors are you looking for

The most important reason for going to college is to get an education. The type of academic atmosphere and variety of courses studied is an important factor to be considered when choosing a college. Be careful, however, of choosing a college based solely on it having a particular major or field of study. Research shows that 90% of all college graduates do not major in the field of study they originally had intended. This happens for several reasons.

First, most colleges have majors in subjects you have never before studied such as political science or anthropology. Second, as you gain experience and maturity in college, your interests may change. Take time to explore your options and be realistic about your talents. Be sure to pursue a course of study that is of genuine interest to you, not just one you think might lead to a good career.

If you do have a strong interest in a particular area, such as science, it is important to evaluate a college’s facilities and offerings in those areas to make sure they have adequate resources. Remember that many smaller colleges may not offer majors in certain professional fields, such as engineering, business, or physical therapy. If you are certain of a specific field of study, be sure that the colleges and universities you are considering offer that major.

Don’t exclude a smaller college, however, simply because you think the resources may be inadequate. Remember that all of the resources of a college are available to its undergraduate students whereas at a large university, many of the specialized equipment might be reserved for graduate students only. Some of the largest producers of PhD’s in this country are small colleges.

Atmosphere- Liberal, conservative or something in between

Each college has a particular “feel”. Many factors go into creating the feel of that college’s including the responsibility the administration of the college allows the students, the competitiveness of the students with each other and the students involvement in social concerns.

Every campus will have a different feel. What is important is to determine if the campus atmosphere will be comfortable for you as a person. The best advice regarding student life is to look for an intellectual and social climate in which you will feel comfortable and challenged.

There is no substitute to visiting the college to discovery how any college feels. By talking to students, professors and administration on a campus, students can gain a better feel for that college’s culture. Also, look around as you are on the campus. What activities are putting posters up, and what are people talking about? These are just a few of the issues to look at in understanding the feel of each college

Student body and gender- Co-ed college or single sex

While most campuses now are coed there are still some all women colleges available for students to consider. The women’s colleges can be an excellent choice for the right student as they often offer not only strong academics but also strong support for women that might be lacking in similar coed colleges. And lest you fear that you will be living in a convent, almost all women’s colleges now have some sort of relationship with coed schools so men will be around even in an all women’s college.

Setting- Where do you want to live

The physical environment of the college may be very important to you. Some people prefer the variety of activities offered by a large city. However, a large city requires certain adjustments that not everyone will be comfortable with. For instance, an inner city college will often not have the classic college campus look. Rather, it will consist of high rise classes rooms and dorms.

Others want to go to college in a more rural setting. These more rural campuses will often have the classic ivy covered buildings with beautiful scenery in all directions. But the excitement of a large city will be missing from such a campus and for those students seeking big time athletics or popular concert venues may not be comfortable in such a setting. The decision of a location and campus setting comes down to the question of where you would like to spend the next four years living.

Size- Large university or small college

The following are generalizations, so if some of these areas are of concern, ask questions at the colleges you are considering:

A large university (15,000-50,000+ students) may offer a variety of academic opportunities including elaborate facilities and large libraries, as well as the stimulation of a large faculty, graduate students and undergraduates. However, housing may be more difficult to obtain, more courses may be taught by graduate students, lecture sessions may be very large, and opportunities for leadership in campus organizations may be diminished.

A medium-sized university (5,000-15,000 students) may offer fewer majors and more modest facilities than a large university, but also may offer greater opportunities to participate in the activities of your choice.

Small colleges (under 5,000 students) usually offer smaller classes, earlier opportunities to take classes with well-known professors, and more chances for participation and leadership in campus activities. However, facilities and classes may be limited and options for activities and diversity reduced.

Location- Where do you want to spend the next 4 years

When considering the possible locations of your future colleges, consider questions such as:

How important is it for me to attend college close to home?

How much do I value attending college with students of different geographic backgrounds?

How frequently do I anticipate going home during the academic year?

How extensively does the weather affect my studies or quality of life?

Consider whether you would prefer a geographically diverse student body, or a regional community of students from more homogeneous backgrounds.

Campus life- What happens on campus when people aren’t in class

Whether you enjoy your college years will often depend on the experience of living on a college campus. Learning in college comes not only from your class work but also through interacting with your college friends, extracurricular activities, and just hanging out in the dorm. Here are some factors that can affect your college experience.

Housing Living on-campus for the first few years of their college experience is important for many students. Dormitories can become a focus of college campus life and the easiest way to meet new friends. If it is an important consideration for you, remember to ask any college in which you are interested about the availability of on-campus housing for all four years. Some colleges only have enough housing for the first year or two of the college experience.

Extracurricular activities The extracurricular activities you engage in are not only fun but can be part of your learning experience. Look at the view books of the colleges to see what activities are available. Talk to people at the colleges you are considering to find out what activities are popular on that campus. Many colleges have 100 or more groups for students with a variety of interests. Also ask about how easy it is to start a new group if you have a particular interest not currently represented on the campus.

Fraternities and Sororities The presence of a Greek system can have a dramatic effect on campus life. Ask people on campus about how the fraternities and sororities affect the social life of any college in which you are interested. Do they dominate the social scene or is it spread between many different groups? Can anyone go to a Greek party or are the limited only to certain students?

Campus Employment Many students will hold a part-time job on or off campus while enrolled full time in college. Talk to current students about the availability of jobs and what types of jobs students typically get. With budget cutbacks, some colleges are starting to limit the number of jobs available to students on campus. If you need to have a job but have to seek one off campus, think about the time involved in getting to such a job and the additional costs of transportation.

Athletics- Are big time athletics important to you.

Many students who engage in high college athletics may want to continue to play that sport in college. College students participate at three levels: intramural, club, and intercollegiate. Intramural play is most common. Intramurals allow students to compete at a variety of different levels of competition with a primary emphasis on enjoying the sport for personal fitness, relaxation, and fun. Club sport teams are usually jointly sponsored by students and the college, and may compete against other colleges’ club teams.

Intercollegiate athletics is the university equivalent of varsity-level sports. These programs are categorized by the NCAA into three divisions of varying degrees of competition: Division I, Division II, and Division III.

Selectivity- How hard is it to get into a college.

Your academic performance in a challenging, rigorous program of study is the most important factor in determining your admissibility to colleges. Admission committees value a consistent level of achievement over four years, but they also give strong weight to students who demonstrate significant improvement over the course of their academic career. While your grades are the most obvious indication of potential future success, colleges also want to see that students have challenged themselves in a competitive, demanding academic program throughout their entire high college career. The more honor and AP courses you are able to take successfully, the stronger candidate you will be. Does that mean that you should take AP courses even if the material if too difficult for you? No. But most admission committees will give more weight to a B in an AP course than an A in a much simpler course.

Standardized testing also plays a critical role in admissions. Virtually all colleges will accept either the SAT I or the ACT. Many of the highly selective colleges also require or recommend SAT II subject test. The most important thing to keep in mind for each of the colleges you are considering is their ‘middle 50%’ range of testing. While a quarter of admitted students have scores either above or below this test range, such a median range will give a general indication of the strength of the applicant pool and how you compare.

After looking at your academic performance and your test scores, most selective colleges will then look at subjective factors such as your recommendations, your essays and your extracurricular activities. The amount of weight given to these subjective factors varies from college to college.

Financial aid- If I do get in, how am I going to pay for the college.

Financial aid may consist of grants or scholarships, loans and work study. Grants and scholarships are money that does not need to be repaid while loans need to be repaid. Work study is generally a job offered on the campus of the college offering the financial aid although it may also be a job off campus.

There are two basic types of financial aid; need based aid and merit based aid. Need based aid is given by all colleges to students who have need. Anyone who can’t pay the full cost of the college has need.

A form called the Free Application for Federal Student Assistance (FAFSA) determines the amount of need for federal grants and scholarships. Many highly selective colleges also require a form known as the Profile form The FAFSA form is filled out after January 1 of the year the student will first attend college.

Merit-based aid includes scholarships typically for students who have good grades or have some other special talent such as athletic or musical talent. Most highly selective colleges offer little or no merit-based aid.

In looking at colleges you should ignore the cost of the college. Yes, you read that right. Ignore the stated cost of the college when you are first deciding which colleges to investigate further. Many of the most expensive private colleges meet 100% of the students need while cheaper public colleges usually meet less than 100% of the need. This means that for many students it can be cheaper to go to an expensive private college than to attend a cheaper state school. Until you know what percent of need the college meets, don’t eliminate a college from consideration just because it is expensive.

 

Benefit Choose The Right College For You

If you are a high school senior or junior making decisions about the college you will attend and your goal is to graduate with a good job, you should think about a few issues that are seldom discussed. Since the cumulative effect of your choices can greatly impact the number of employers that will want to interview you in your senior year of college, wise students carefully think about each decision.

When evaluating colleges, most students and parents consider factors such as:

– Accreditation
– Admission Requirements
– Grant/Scholarship Money
– Tuition, Room & Board
– Size, Location and Environment
– Distance from Home
– Safety and Security
– Class Size
– Dorms
– Medical Facilities
– Campus Activities, Entertainment & Sports
– Gut Feelings

Although those college selection factors are important, there are other considerations that should also be evaluated. Here are a few things that may affect your chances for finding a good job when you graduate.

Reputation Of The College– Students should apply to the best colleges they can afford, colleges with a good reputation in their field of interest. A good college reputation will help when you begin to look for a job. Even if you are still uncertain about your major, keep in mind that nationally known and respected colleges tend to be more attractive to many employers. You will have to decide whether graduating from a college that is highly respected in your field, is worth the financial sacrifice.

Questions: Is there a two-year or lower cost four-year college that you can attend for the first two years and then transfer to a better college? Have you considered working full time and attending college at night or on weekends, as a way to afford a college with a good reputation in your area of interest?

Job Search Preparation and Employment Assistance – There will be great variations in the quality and quantity of people, training and services that colleges provide to students in the critical areas of job search preparation and employment. Some colleges recognize the importance of job search preparation, accomplishments and work experience. Other colleges don’t even help very much with the senior year job search.

Since your goal is to graduate from college with a good job, a great deal of weight should be given to colleges that aggressively support and encourage each student’s job search preparation efforts through ongoing training, coaching and job identification. A short meeting with someone in Career Services in the senior year of college is totally inadequate for any student who hopes to land a good job.

Questions: How many people work in the Career Services Office, as compared to the total number of students? Does the freshman orientation program emphasize preparation and planning for the end goal? Does the college recognize that preparation for the senior year job search starts in the freshman year and continues throughout the college experience? How much job search training and personal attention will students receive each year? How many employers visited the campus last year to recruit students in your specific field of study? How does the college help seniors find jobs in their own field? Have the college leaders created a campus culture that truly helps students find good jobs? Does the college maintain a close relationship with alumni who can help students find good jobs? Do your professors and instructors serve as consultants to employers or belong to associations in your field? Do they introduce students to their industry contacts?

Active Student Participation – Employers love students who can present them with a list of significant accomplishments. Getting involved with on-campus and off-campus activities is a good way to demonstrate student capabilities and successes.

Questions: Does the college and the local area offer students a wide array of opportunities to participate in campus, community, work and leisure activities where students can accumulate a list of successes and impressive accomplishments? Will the student take advantage of these opportunities to work and participate?

Your College Major – Not all college majors lead to good jobs. However, most students will do better when they select something they do well at and enjoy. Therefore, students should do some research and identify colleges that have a good reputation in their field of interest.

Even though a college has a good overall reputation and offers 60 – 80 different majors, not every major offered is of the same quality or has the same reputation among employers. When a college has a great reputation in a given field, more employers will seek out, interview and hire students from that college. Wise students take the time to find out which colleges have the best reputation in their field of interest before they make their final college selection.

Questions: Does you college major lead to a good job? With the major you’ve selected, what kind of jobs are you most likely to obtain when you graduate? Which employers offer those jobs? What do those employers want and expect from students interviewing for those jobs? What should you do during the college years to get prepared for those jobs and those interviews?

Your College Minor – Many students don’t give much thought to their college minor. However, it is important for students to select a minor that will support or compliment their college major. When a minor is directly aligned with their major, it tends to strengthen a student’s expertise, especially in technical areas. Some students choose a business minor, recognizing that there is a business component to every field. All businesses need people who have technical expertise in that field, but can also run the business as managers and hold positions in sales, marketing, customer service and human resources, etc.

Questions: Which college minors will best support and compliment the selected major? Would it make sense to minor in business so as to open a broader array of employment opportunities in the field of interest?

Feeling comfortable with your field of study is extremely important. However, graduating with a good job is also important. That’s why savvy students think about each college selection factor and concern from an employment point of view. Why not select a college that will help you find a good job?

 

Passing Grade At College

Parents and students are experiencing college costs that are straining nearly every family budget. In order to cover those costs, families are being forced to make the very tough choices and huge sacrifices that will affect them for the next twenty or thirty years. And yet, year after year, most colleges continue to raise tuition by five, six or even seven percent. With parents receiving low or no pay increases in this bad economy, those tuition increases don’t seem right.

If the truth be known, the goals of college parents can be quite different from the goals of colleges and their leaders. Because that difference can be large, it is starting to become a problem for some parents and their college-age children. So, let’s get it out in the open. What exactly do parents want and expect from colleges today? Parents want colleges to:

Minimize Tuition, Room and Meal Costs – Parents want colleges to do everything possible to keep their costs down. Since many families have two and three children, it is becoming the norm for them to spend huge sums of money to put their children through college. Now that the cost of a college education has grown to between $100,000 and $200,000 for each child, can anybody blame parents for being concerned about costs?

Maximize Scholarship and Grant Money – When students receive scholarship and grant money, the need for college loans and family sacrifices is reduced. Parents want colleges to provide more grant and scholarship money to students. They believe that it’s time for colleges to work harder and get more creative, in order to help students with their college expenses.

Parents do not consider college loans to be financial aid. They see loans as huge, nearly life-long, financial burdens disguised as financial aid. That’s why parents ask, “Why is it that colleges often have three, four or even six people working in the financial aid office helping with parent and student loans, but not even one person is dedicated to uncovering and obtaining money that doesn’t have to be paid back?”

In the current economy, even student loan money has become harder to find. That’s why there is no better time for colleges to greatly expand their efforts to identify more sources of student aid money in the form of grants and scholarships. There is no reason why colleges can’t assemble a list of the sources that current and former students have previously uncovered and then expand that list through their own efforts. It’s time!

Help Students Discover Their Direction – Parents want their children’s hopes and dreams to come true. However, while some students are already clear about their direction in life, many are still trying to find a path to follow. Since few students can afford to stay in college for five or six years while they explore the possibilities, colleges must help them.

Although undecided students may not know exactly what they want, an effective counselor can help to narrow the field of choice. That’s because students do know the things they’ve liked and disliked in the past. They also know where they’ve been the most successful and least successful. Students know if they like science and math or prefer english and history. They know if they are shy and reserved or fun loving and outgoing. They know if they are good at sports or prefer intellectual pursuits. They know if they prefer to lead or a follow. They know if they have exceptional communication skills or not. The best counselors can help sift through the clutter a bring clarity to confusion. For many students, great counselors seem to perform miracles.

Importantly, counselors also know that few answers reveal themselves to students who are standing still. Only when undecided students are moving, experiencing, learning and growing can they discover their unique path to future success. Therefore, early on, counselors must help the undecided students to get out there and begin to participate in campus, work and community activities. When students become involved, they give themselves the opportunity to discover the things that motivate them, the things that uncover previously unknown interests, possibilities and capabilities.

Parents want colleges to take more interest in their undecided children. Students like this need help in figuring things out. Only competent, caring and dedicated counselors can do that well. However, when undecided students turn into decided students, they can perform at the highest levels. Colleges need to help with that transition.

Provide An Outstanding Education – Parents want their children to receive the highest quality education possible. That requires exceptional instructors. When college instructors make their classes interesting, students rarely hesitate to participate, challenge a statement or ask a question. Learning becomes fun. Instructors like this not only heighten the interest of their students, they inspire them. Parents know that the quality of an instructor’s classroom performance can directly affect the performance of students.

Importantly, because of the instructor’s reputation for developing exceptional talent, the most respected employers stay in close contact with the college and visit the campus for recruitment purposes. Additionally, these instructors are able to attract leaders from the outside community to serve as mentors, networking contacts, guest speakers and sources of part-time and full-time employment opportunities.

Help Students Develop And Follow A Plan – We all know that most students will be more successful when they follow a well thought out and detailed plan that leads to their goal. However, few students are both knowledgeable and disciplined enough to develop a plan on their own. That’s why parents would like someone at the college to guide their children through the process of creating and following a comprehensive plan that is likely to lead to a great job.

Each plan should maximize the student’s career success skills, boost their self-confidence, develop their communication and leadership skills and present opportunities to meet respected and influential people through participation in campus, work and community activities. With the proper guidance, students will end up with a step-by-step, semester-by-semester plan that will almost guarantee success.

Teach Students How To Land A Good Job – More than anything else, parents want their children to graduate from college with a good paying job, so they can afford to live independently, pay their student loans and handle their own expenses. With that in mind, parents want colleges to do everything possible to prepare students for a comprehensive, senior year job search.

A great plan, along with thorough and focused preparation, is the best way to ensure job hunting success. Preparation includes academic success, research of potential employers, job hunting web sites, employment agencies and newspapers, developing a list of accomplishments that will be presented in the resume and during interviews, creating an informational network, identifying questions to ask and answer, taking practice interviews, crafting an exceptional resume and sales letter, building a relationship with references and much more.

Few students will land a great job by waiting until their senior year to get started. It takes more time than that. Colleges that don’t make a concerted effort to help students develop a job hunting plan and then guide them through the steps required for job hunting preparation are putting their students at a disadvantage, instead of giving them a competitive edge.

Provide A College-Wide Network – Parents want college leaders to call upon every possible resource, in order to provide students with the networking opportunities that will lead to information, contacts and job opportunities.

The best college networks actively include every corner of the campus community. They consist of all parents, current students, alumni, professors, administrators, local employers and community leaders. Unfortunately, few colleges aggressively strive to maximize these critical networking contacts.

Parents want their college investment to pay off for their children. That means a great job and an independent life. They don’t want to see their bright, enthusiastic, well educated graduates end up in low paying jobs that hold little promise for the future. Unfortunately, far too many college students are unprepared for their senior year job search and are forced to accept jobs that are not related to their fields of interest and don’t pay very well. They end up frustrated and disappointed. That’s not the dream that parents have for their children.

Knowledgeable parents expect colleges to do much more than simply provide students with an education and then wish them well, as they try to enter the job market. And why shouldn’t parents and students expect more than a couple of handouts at the beginning of the senior year, a list of resources posted on the career services web site, an unremarkable one page resume, an obligatory half hour meeting with a career services counselor and visiting employers who are only looking for candidates in other fields? Everyone knows that it takes much more than that to land a good job.

Now that college parents and students are beginning to expect more for their money, they are using factors such as those described above to evaluate colleges, before they make their final selections. Since some colleges perform these important functions better than others, parents and students have started to ask this question of college leaders, “Does your college deserve a passing grade?”

 

All About College Planning

College Planning

Graduation ceremonies abound this time of year. It is a reminder that college expenses are just around the corner.

18 years ago, parents might have begun saving for their child’s college costs with a Uniform Gift to Minors Act (UGMA) or a Uniform Transfer to Minors Act (UTMA). This is an account that is set up in the minor’s name. A parent may be the custodian on the account.

These were popular because the earnings were taxed at the child’s tax rate. Tax laws eventually changed and now the first $1,000 is tax exempt. The amount between $1,000 and $2,000 is taxed at the child’s rate. Amounts over $2,000 are taxed at the parent’s rate.

The amount you may accumulate in an UGMA is unlimited. However, the annual gift tax amount does apply which is currently at $14,000.

There aren’t any restrictions on how the money may be used. It can be used for travel costs to the college, off campus housing, clothing, medical insurance etc. Monies can also be used on behalf of the child prior to college such as private schooling and summer camps. However, basic needs of the child need to be paid by the parents or guardians.

Unlike some college savings programs, you can’t change the beneficiary on the account. The child, for whom you set the account up, is the one who needs to use ALL the assets. Ownership of the account is the student’s.

This has 2 drawbacks. If you apply for financial aid, the monies are counted as the child’s and 30% of the assets will be included in the family contribution. As the parent’s asset, only 10% of the assets is included.

The second drawback is the control of the assets transfers to the child at the age of majority, which may be 18 -21 depending on the state. At 18 years of age, a car can be much more appealing than a college education.

Fortunately, Congress has established other tax favored means of saving for college expenses.

We will explore those options in the next few weeks.

Educational Savings Accounts

Are college expenses looming on your horizon? Educational Savings Accounts are another option available to save for college costs.

This savings account is a nondeductible contribution limited to $2,000 per year, per child. The earnings on the contribution grows tax deferred and can be 100% tax free if used for qualified expenses. The $2,000 limit is from all sources, including grandparents.

Qualified college expenses include tuition and fees, books, supplies, equipment, and room and board if the student is attending at least half time. Educational Savings Accounts may also cover expenses for K-12.

Contributions may be made until the child reaches 18. And the monies must be used by the time the child/beneficiary reaches 30. However as the asset is the parents’, the beneficiary may be changed to another family member. This allows flexibility in planning for the child’s further education. Some children may choose other routes like military, or receive scholarships.

And since the asset is the parents, it is counted as such in the financial aid family contribution.

The money may only be withdrawn tax free if it is used for qualified expenses. If it is used for other purposes, the earnings are included in taxable income, and is subject to a 10% penalty. Be careful to not overfund.

529 Plans

A more commonly known college savings plan is the Qualified Tuition Program or 529 plans. What is less well known is there are 2 types of this plan under this program.

A lesser known program is the prepaid tuition plan. Prepaid tuition plans allow you to buy future tuition at today’s prices. With 6% inflation per year in college costs, locking in a price has some advantages. The drawback is, knowing which college your child will want to attend. Once you fund at a college, you are locked in – very few exceptions for refunds.

The more recognized 529 plans act similarly to the educational savings plan. The contributions are not deductible. But the earnings grow tax free. The monies are withdrawn tax free if they are used for qualified college expenses and ONLY for college expenses. If they are used for other purposes, the gains on the funds are included in taxable income and subject to a 10% penalty.

The amount you may fund is limited to the $14,000 annual gift tax exclusion. Unless you select the 5 year election, then your maximum is $70,000. The collective maximum you invest is determined by the program and may be as much as $300,000 per beneficiary.

Nearly every mutual fund family has a 529 program. However, your state may have a specific plan. For example, Idaho has the Ideal plan. If you contribute under this program, you may deduct up to $8,000 per year on your Idaho income tax return. You are restricted to the investment choices of the program.

The 529 plans maintain some flexibility. There is no age restriction of when you have to use the funds. Also, you can change the beneficiary on the plan to another family member.

One key to college planning is flexibility. Life brings changes and you need to be able to adapt your plans.

U.S. Savings Bonds for College

Double the money! Another college savings option with relatively low risk is the U. S. Savings Bonds. These types of bonds are usually purchased and redeemed at your bank. They are issued in denominations of $50 to $10,000. For example a $50 bond would cost you $25.

The typical bond issue is Series EE. The earnings are usually tax deferred for Federal and tax free for state. Some post 1989 EE bonds may be redeemed federally tax free if used for qualified higher education. To be federally tax free, the bond owner must be at least 24 years old before the bond’s issue date. Bonds purchased for grandchildren in the grandchild’s name usually won’t qualify for this exemption.

Parents have a restriction of income for the bonds to be tax free. If you are married filing jointly, your phase out range for tax exemption of savings bonds for education currently is from $113,950 to $143,950. As head of household, the range is $76,000 to $91,000.

However, giving a series EE bond to grandchildren may build a nice fund for the child. There is more flexibility in how the money can be spent – without penalty. And anybody can give a gift of a bond. Parents may encourage gifts of this kind to keep children from being over indulged with the latest, greatest toys.

The series EE bond has a 20 year cycle. It can be redeemed before the 20 year period. However, if you redeem within the first 5 years, you will have a penalty of 3 months interest – similar to a Certificate of Deposit. To determine the value of your Series EE bond you can go to the bond calculator at http://www.treasurydirect.gov.

Roth IRA for College

Roth IRA’s are another option that can be part of your game plan for college funding.

One of the challenges in planning for college is to know what your newborn’s talents will be, what college they should attend, or will they get scholarships or have great athletic talent. Add the fact, that if you over fund your 529 plan or educational savings account, you will have a 10% penalty to use the monies for non-qualified expenditures.

I know of an instance where the child attended college in England in order to absorb the monies accumulated in the 529 plan.

So how do you adequately fund without over funding? One means is to use a Roth IRA. You can withdraw principal contributions from a Roth, if it has been established for at least 5 years, without incurring income tax or a penalty. This is a means to save tax free and use it for college if necessary.

You can fund a Roth IRA up to $5,500 a year. There are income restrictions. Your contributions is phased out if you are married filing jointly and your Adjusted Gross Income is over $167,000. And you aren’t eligible if your income is over $181,000. If you are single, your adjusted gross income phase out range is between $105,000 and $120,000.

A word of caution is careful to not jeopardize your own retirement to fund your child’s college. Or you may decide to work a few years more to replenish the funds distributed from your retirement account.

Tax Credits and Other Options

College funding is often like a chess game. You have to move pieces around carefully. Tax laws are chess moves that can be played in the years the dependent is a student.

The American Opportunity Credit gives you a tax credit for college expenses. The first $2,000 of college expense is credited to your taxes – 40% is refundable, 60%reduces your taxes but is not refundable. 25% of the next $2,000 is eligible for credit. The total credit is $2,500 in one year. This credit can be used on first 4 years of undergraduate courses.

Lifetime Learning Credit may also be used to offset college expenses. This credit is non-refundable, but does reduce your tax bill. The credit is 20% of college expenses up to $10,000 or maximum of $2,000. This credit can be applied to both undergraduate and graduate work.

Both credits are applied to qualified college expenses defined as tuition and fees, books, supplies, and equipment. Room and board is not qualified expenses. These tax credits do have income limitations. But they can be used for taxpayer, spouse or dependents.

Another savings option available to some parents comes from their employer’s stock purchase program. Frequently, these programs allow employees to buy at a 10% – 15% discounted price. And you can payroll deduct giving you disciplined savings. This is another way to accumulate assets, leave it as an asset in your financial aid calculation with only 10% counting towards family contribution. It is also in your name, so if it isn’t needed for college, you can use it as you please. Several clients have had this option work well for them. One client set aside stock from a previous employer for his children. Both children received full ride scholarships. The clients now own a cabin. FLEXIBILITY!!!

Another option you can use similar to the Roth IRA is a traditional IRA. While this will come out as taxable income to the parent, it can be withdrawn free of the 10% early distribution penalty. A word of caution: The 1099R will be issued with reason listed as unknown. Higher education expenses are one of the penalty exemption reasons. Be sure you, or your tax preparer, are aware of this and complete the early distribution form correctly. Again, be careful to not jeopardize your own retirement in helping your child.

After all these many suggestions of HOW to save – WHAT investments do you use? To receive tax deductions on your state income tax return, you may have to use the state program. Regardless of which fund family you use, the investing philosophy is the same. It is similar to retirement planning. The younger the child is, the more aggressive you can be in your investing. The closer to college the child is the more principal preservation becomes your focus. In the 2008 melt down, I called my clients with children nearing college age to tell them to take a couple years tuition to cash. They did not have recovery time before tuition would be due. You want the funds to be there when the child is ready to start college. And you want to sleep peacefully.

 

Online College Experience

It is one thing to be an excellent teacher and it is another to know how to continue earning a living from teaching after teacher layoffs. The primary reason for this is that economic survival as an intellectual isn’t on the course list in graduate school. For some reason the idea that dedicated public school educators could suddenly find themselves unemployed as a result of massive budget cuts is not available to professors that teach future public school teachers. Fortunately is it possible for a teacher with an earned graduate degree, a Ph.D. or master degree, to convert academic and intellectual strength into an online teaching citadel by learning how to acquire online adjunct instructor jobs with post-secondary academic institutions. The growth of online bachelor degree programs and online master degree programs is creating many online teaching positions that must be filled by technically adept and academic qualified online adjunct instructors. The alert educators should realize by now that making the effort to learn how to teach online for multiple online degree programs is one of the best ways to construct a viable financial fortress in these troubled times.

The teacher layoffs seem to have taken a great number of academics by complete surprise, but the next round of pink slips should be met with a plan to discover the benefits of teaching online. The growth of online bachelor degree program and online master degree programs plus the adoption of distance learning by the thousands of community colleges and technical schools is creating a host of online adjunct jobs that must be filled by prepared academics. It is necessary for a prospective online adjunct instructor to learn how to use a personal computer because in order to teach college and university students enrolled in online college courses an online instructor will be required to move smoothly in and out of multiple digital interfaces. The educators with at least a modest level of skill with a computer should have no trouble learning how to interact with the online degree programs with two to five different post-secondary academic institutions. It goes without saying in order to teach online it is first necessary to start applying to teach online courses. This can be accomplished by navigating the Internet and locating the faculty application section of the thousands of post-secondary websites.

There is nothing like experience to encourage the candor necessary to make a realistic decision, and educators have the intellectual tools required to accurately determine the viability of distance learning in terms of their professional careers. There is very little discussion available about the growing presence of distance education technology, and the alert academic examining this should easily identify a growing number of online adjunct instructor jobs with online bachelor degree program and online master degree programs. Obviously, the educator that masters the functions of a personal computer and becomes proficient in the navigation of the Internet can start building an online teaching schedule. It is possible to teach online full time or part time depending on the amount of academic work the academic is willing to accept form various community colleges, state universities and for-profit colleges. The important first step any teacher interested in online learning must take is to start making applications in the faculty application sections of the thousands of post-secondary websites on the Internet. Each school that offers online college courses to its enrolled students actually needs academically qualified and technically proficient online adjunct instructors.

The shadow of teacher layoffs on the traditional campus is creating a need for academics to take a fresh look at jobs teaching online college courses. Obviously, the authority derived from taking control of the teaching schedule can have a very positive effect on an educator feeling threatened by budget cuts, and online teaching provides a teacher with an earned graduate degree the opportunity to increase the number of online classes in an online teaching schedule or decrease them according to financial goals. The best way to start acquiring online teaching positions is to apply for any many online adjunct faculty openings as possible each day in the faculty application sections of post-secondary websites. Every community college, state university, four-year state college, technical school and for-profit college offers its enrolled students online college courses, and there are more online bachelor degree programs and online master degree programs every academic year. This means there is every reason to believe that an aggressive application strategy can eventually produce an online teaching schedule that will generate as much online adjunct income as can be earned by continuing to teaching in a traditional academic environment.

There is nothing esoteric about teaching online, but too many academics seem to think that logic is misplaced in the effort to transition out of the physical classroom and into a variety of online college classes that can be taught from a personal computer. The current thinking about distance education technology on the part of academic administrators is located in the economic impact the budget cuts to public education are making on the traditional academic industry and the skyrocketing cost of maintain the physical plants known as campuses. The logic of distance learning is that it is far less expensive to distribute post-secondary academic instruction on the Internet from a computer server than it is to continue offering the same academic instruction in a physical classroom. The new and returning college students understand the logic inherent in the convenience of earning an academic degree from work and at home from their laptop computers instead of driving a vehicle at odd hours of the day and evening to remote physical location. These two logics combine to produce many online adjunct openings that must be filled by academics with earned graduate degrees, a master degree or doctorate, as more online bachelor degree programs and online master degree programs are deployed in an attempt to satisfy the education needs of swelling post-secondary student populations with less costly alternatives to the physical classroom. Additionally, these circumstances make it possible for a prospective online adjunct instructor to use logic to construct a sustainable online teaching schedule.

It may be difficult to find the bright spot on the traditional academic campus since the teacher layoffs seem to have no end. The nature of the educator with a graduate degree, however, is not one that gives up easily in the face of challenge, so an academic willing to learn how to teach online from a personal computer can actually produce a sunny academic forecast by understanding the role of distance education technology and how it is creating many online adjunct job openings. The aggressive online adjunct instructor can build an online teaching schedule populated with as many as ten online college classes. There is no doubt if each online class pays the online instructor two thousand dollars the online adjunct income can compete against a traditional faculty salary and win. Further, the online adjunct instructor can teach the college and university students enrolled in the online bachelor degree programs and online master degree programs from any place on the globe that provides a connection to the Internet. Obviously, it will take some focus and determination to transition out of the physical classroom and into an online teaching schedule, but teaching online for a living is preferable to watch traditional teaching jobs disappear at an increasing rate as budget funds for public education make the cost of maintaining the physical plants knows as campuses and the classrooms on them less affordable every semester. The best strategy for locating online adjunct faculty openings is to learn how to submit evidence of academic achievement and classroom experience in the faculty application sections of post-secondary websites.

When educators still teaching in the physical classroom or teachers recently unemployed as a result of public education layoffs think about the prospect of teaching online for online bachelor degree programs and online master degree programs the question of whether it can actually produce enough online adjunct income to make it worth the effort. The answer is that a full time online teaching schedule containing six to ten online faculty openings can generate an income that will equal or exceed that what can be earned by continuing to teach on the traditional campus. Of course, there is more than income available to an online adjunct instructor. For example, every online college courses is located on the internet. This means that all that is necessary to access the online degree program is a laptop computer and an Internet connection. Actually, it is this feature about earning an academic degree online that attracts so many new and returning college and university students. The point is that the online instructor and the college students do not need to be present in any one physical classroom in order to connect with each other. Since every post-secondary academic institution is deploying online courses as quickly as possible, the economic opportunities for educators with earned graduate degrees, a doctorate or master degree, and sharp computer skills is practically endless because it is easy to teach online for multiple schools without actually being on the schools’ campuses.

The teacher layoffs came like a thunderclap for many academics teaching in a physical classroom on a traditional campus. However, just as the passing of a thunderstorm reveals the clear sky often painted with rainbows, the disturbance in the academic labor market reveals online teaching as a viable alternative to traditional academic employment. For example, a traditional academic position generates just one salary, and that salary can be lost to severe budgetary cuts in public education. Conversely, an online teaching schedule populated with multiple online faculty positions generates a variety of online adjunct income streams that are not interdependent in the sense that if one is lost the others continue throughout the year. Since every community college, technical school, state university and for-profit college now offers online degree programs to their enrolled students, the chances of developing a alternative academic career that can be coordinated from a personal computer located in any developed geographic location on the planet are very high. The best place to start investigating online teaching opportunities is to visit the websites of post-secondary academic institutions. Each school has a faculty application section that is specifically designed to accept academic credentials and documentation of classroom experience. The budget cuts to public education are creating a rocky academic employment landscape that can be smoothed out by building an online teaching schedule. Academics worried about their employment status in the physical classroom should make the effort to apply for online adjunct faculty jobs with online bachelor degree programs and online master degree programs because it is now obvious that the majority of post-secondary educational instruction is being moved to the Internet. The reason there are so many opportunities to teach online is simply because academic administrators are discovering that it is very cost efficient to provide new and returning college students with online college classes leading to an academic degree they can earn from their personal computers. Of course, each online college course must be taught by a qualified online adjunct instructor, so as the online college degree programs become more available the number of online teaching job openings grows at the same time. The academic with an earned graduate degree and a moderate level of computer skill can begin building an online teaching schedule by entering the required information about academic achievement and classroom experience in the faculty application sections of community colleges, four-year state colleges, state universities and for-profit schools. It will take a high degree of focus to organize a successful search for online teaching positions, but the effort will be worth it since teaching online can smooth out the academic employment landscape by generating online adjunct income all year long.

One of the most difficult issues facing educators during the rounds of teacher layoffs is which direction to go in after becoming unemployed as a provider of educational instruction. After all, the general economy and the associated high levels of unemployment in other fields does not offer much in the way of opportunity for an intellectual seeking alternative employment in public education. In addition, the vast majority of teachers are place bound in that they are accustomed to working on the same physical campus for decades and the idea of having to travel to another geographic location in search of teaching work is truly a difficult prospect. Fortunately, distance education technology can solve both of these problems by providing the academic with an earned graduate degree, a doctorate or master degree, with plenty of adjunct online faculty jobs and an extreme level of professional mobility. Since all online college degree programs are located on the internet all of the interaction an online adjunct instructor has with them is accomplished from a personal computer. This means the professional mobility inherent in online teaching as a career path is literally not available to educators that stay in the physical classroom on the traditional campus. Academics with earned graduate degrees that want a ticket out of the traditional classroom can find the ticket in an online teaching schedule.

Many academics are forced to deal with teacher layoffs resulting from budget cuts to public education and they are finding the task difficult and demoralizing since the general economy is suffering from high unemployment. After all, if an educator can no longer teach in a physical classroom on a traditional campus just where else is there to work and earn a decent living. Fortunately, distance education technology is coming to the rescue for alert academics with earned graduate degrees, a master degree or doctorate, and at least a modest level of computer skill. The best way for educators to confront the academic employment issue is to learn how to construct an online teaching schedule populated with online adjunct job openings with online bachelor degree programs and online master degree programs. The distance learning programs are increasing in number each semester provides an alternative career path for academics that understand why online college courses are important to new and returning college students and academic administrators of post-secondary academic institutions. The real reason there are so many available online faculty job openings is that college students want to avoid the cost of traveling to a physical campus and administrators want to avoid the cost of maintain the physical classrooms. The prospective online adjunct instructor can learn about the distinct possibilities of earning a living by teaching from a personal computer by visiting the thousands of state university, community college, four-year state college and for-profit college websites on the Internet.

The situation for educators teaching in physical classrooms is murky right now as a result of the continuing uncertainty about emerging teacher layoffs. While this is understandable given the situation on the traditional campus, it can be rectified by beginning a successful campaign for online teaching. However, in order to do so an academic must have a clear vision about the changes in the academic labor model. To put a sharp point on the reality of teaching today, academic administrators are no longer willing or able to support the salaries paid to traditional educators working traditional public education settings. Instead, they would prefer to hire online adjunct instructors to fill the growing number of online adjunct professor jobs at the post-secondary academic level. The teacher working at the secondary or elementary level of the academy with a graduate degree, a master degree or Ph.D., should take a long look at the online teaching opportunities with community colleges, state universities, for-profit colleges or technical schools. Every post-secondary academic institution has a website, and on each academic website is a link on the first page that will lead to the faculty application section. It is in this section of the school’s website that information about available online teaching jobs can be found by prospective online adjunct instructors.

When an online adjunct college professor is teaching online college classes from a laptop computer while sitting in the lobby of a small hotel in Paris the freedom afforded by online teaching positions is palpable. It is possible for an academic with a graduate degree, a master degree or Ph.D., and an online teaching schedule to teach college and university students all year long from practically any geographic location in the world. While many teachers would not travel or move to Paris, there are many educators who have been the subject of budget cuts that would like to simply move to a less costly town or small city. The problem with traditional teaching is that the same academic labor problems are magnified in the less populated areas. Teaching at the post-secondary level of the academy in numerous online adjunct professor jobs is a goal that can be achieved by making many applications for online adjunct jobs every day. The way to make these applications efficiently and effectively is to navigate the Internet to the websites of community colleges, state colleges and four-year universities. Inside these academic websites is a faculty application section. This section of the post-secondary website is designed to accommodate the submission of classroom experience and academic achievement.

The broad consensus about online education is that it satisfies a great number of needs for college and university students and the academic administrators that must meet the enrolled students’ educational needs. Teachers working in physical classrooms should understand the function of online degree programs insofar as they meet the new academic employment dynamics as they are defined by the cost-efficiency of distance education technology. The simple fact of the matter is that online adjunct jobs are less burdensome on public education budgets than traditional teacher salaries. The alert educator will understand that the way to continue teaching and still earn a decent living in the face of continuing layoffs is to learn how to apply for and acquire online college classes. An online teaching schedule populated with six to twelve online courses can generate multiple online adjunct income streams throughout the calendar year. Granted, teaching online will require a graduate degree, a master degree or Ph.D., and increasingly sophisticated computer skills, but the academics that make it a professional goal to access the growing number of online teaching positions will be able to earn a living long after the teachers on the physical campuses have been told to go home.

It is becoming harder than ever to remain in the physical classroom since the budget cuts to public education seem to have no end. As more traditional educators lose their salaries from teaching it is important for them to realize that online teaching jobs can relieve academic hardships. The truth of the matter is that distance education technology is relatively easy for academic administers to deploy since it is a mature technology and the post-secondary level of the academy, community colleges, state universities and for-profit colleges, utilize it as a way to replace the expensive physical classroom on the traditional campus. The result of the emergence of online college degree programs is a great deal of online adjunct employment that needs the participation of academically qualified and technically adroit online adjunct instructor to accept it. Every online college class that is developed in order to allow a college or university student to earn an academic degree from a personal computer must be taught by an academic with an earned graduate degree. However, if a teacher with a bachelor degree is willing to earn a master degree or Ph.D. it will be possible upon graduate to start building an online teaching schedule populated with numerous online college courses.

It is not at all necessary to exit the physical classroom in order to start teaching online for online bachelor degree programs and online master degree programs. In fact, it would be a very good idea for an educator that is still teaching on a traditional campus to stat investigating how online adjunct jobs are being created each time a new online college degree programs is made available to college and university students. The fact o the matter is that each online college courses within an online degree program must be taught by an online adjunct instructor with an earned graduate degree, a doctorate or master degree, and at least a moderate level of computer skill. It is possible to teach as few as one or two online courses at a time, and since many online degree programs offer classes that last only five to eight weeks long and are offered to college students twelve months of the year, the online adjunct income streams can certainly come in handy in the event of another round of teacher layoffs. The best search strategy for locating adjunct teaching positions online is to navigate the Internet to the faculty application sections in the websites of community colleges, state universities and for-profit colleges.

Online teaching opportunities at the post-secondary level of public education, which includes community colleges, state colleges and four-year universities, are increasing due to the success of distance education technology. This technology allows college and university students to earn an online college degree from their personal computers at home and at work. At the same time, this technology is creating many online adjunct positions that need to be filled by academically qualified and technically proficient academics with earned graduate degrees. Educators with a master degree or doctorate should begin investigating the available online adjunct employment opportunities

 

The Differences Between Community College and Traditional College

Community colleges are becoming a popular option for many students, especially those for whom a traditional college course is beyond their academic or financial means. A recent study conducted by the American Association of community colleges found that 4 in 10 first-time freshmen attend a 2-year community college course rather than taking a full 4-year course. Why not take a look at our guide below to help you decide if Community College could be the right route to success for you?

What Is a Community College?
Most community colleges offer 2-year courses at an affordable rate in many locations. The reasons for students choosing a community college include:

  • To start earning basic credits which can be transferred to a 4-year college course.
  • To follow a 2 year associate’s degree or certificate program in preparation for a particular career.
  • To find out more about a potential new career, learn new skills with an eye to a specific area of employment, or simply to follow a personal interest.

Why choose a Community College?
Community colleges offer advantages to any student, but are particularly suitable for those who fall into the following categories.

  • Cost of traditional college is too high. Tuition fees at most community colleges are usually much more affordable than at traditional 4 year colleges. Even if you plan to eventually attend a 4-year school, you can save big bucks by taking a couple of semesters of general prerequisites at a community college.
  • Your grades aren’t up to scratch. You’ll usually find that you will be accepted by any community college as long as you have a high school diploma, a refreshing change, especially if the more competitive 4-year colleges have knocked you back! Once you’ve completed your 2-year course, it may be easier to prove that you have the academic ability to go on to study at a 4-year college.
  • You require training for a particular job. If you have a specific technical or vocational career in mind, community college can provide a no-nonsense 2-year course that allows you to focus on this rather than having to study a range of subjects.
  • You can’t, or don’t want to, leave home. Lots of high school students don’t feel ready to take on the responsibility of living away from home, or have personal commitments that mean that living away isn’t a feasible option. A community college allows you to embark on the next phase of your education without losing the security provided by living at home.
  • You require a flexible schedule. Do you have employment or family commitments that would make a regular college timetable impossible to follow? If so, community colleges offer a whole host of options, including day, evening or weekend classes, the chance to study part-time, or even online courses.

Drawbacks of Community College
Naturally, while community colleges are great for those on a tight budget or with complicated schedules, they aren’t the best choice for everyone. What follows are some of the most important differences between community colleges and their 4-year counterparts to keep in mind during your college search.

  • Choice of Majors and Courses: Community colleges, though they might offer a range of courses, can never compete with the vast number of majors and combinations of classes you can choose to study at 4-year colleges.
  • Academic Regimen: If you like to move at a fast rate, and pick up concepts quickly, you may find that community college isn’t for you. Bear in mind that they are designed to serve a broad cross-section of society, accepting students of all abilities, therefore the classes may not learn as quickly as you anticipate.
  • Collegiate Experience: Nothing can compare to the social experience provided by living out at a 4-year college. Community college students may have all the freedom by studying online courses or having flexible schedules, but you can’t beat living in a dorm and hanging out on the quad for building a social network that will last you a lifetime!

 

Things College Student Should Know

I’m not currently a college student. Haven’t been one for awhile…at least in the undergraduate sense of things. But I hang out with college students. I work with college students. And I work full time at a University as the Director of Campus Life (the coolest on-campus job in the world).

Plus…I really like college students.

It’s one of the greatest times in life. When do any of us ever get to hang out with hundreds of friends for four, five…dare I say…six years? It’s like going to camp..except they give you homework and you have to read 800 pages a night.

So if I could sit you down, with a slow drip of coffee being shared between us (intravenously or by the cupful if you prefer), and share some ways that I believe you could not only make the most of your time in college, but really, really enjoy it and succeed at it – here’s what I’d say…

1. Meet people.

One day you’ll walk across a stage, and a very smart looking man or woman in a really nice, long, black gown will hand you a piece of paper that says “Bachelor” (even if you’re a girl!) on it. You’ll graduate from college. Do you know what you’ll remember most?

The relationships you’ve made.

My advice is to meet everyone you can. Be friendly. Smile. Talk to people (not in class…that could be dangerous). Go to places where people hang out and hang out with them. Your friends are what make college special.

Some day you’ll come back to campus as an alumni and the place will feel weird. It will feel different. That’s because all of the people that you were friends with during your college years aren’t there. It’s the same college, but different people. It’s the people that make your experience unique. You are going to make friends that you’ll have for the rest of your life.

Like I said earlier, I work at a University. My boss (yes…he’s smarter than me) is a good friend that I went to college all four years with. It’s been a great relationship for all this time. I don’t know of any other place you create these types of relationships at this age. So get out there. Get busy meeting people.

2. Talk to your professors.

This one continues on with the theme of number 1. Go ahead and do everything you can to meet your professors. Make an appointment with them as soon as it is possible in their schedule. I have discovered that I learned so much more from a professor when I had some kind of personal relationship with them.

Professors are people to. Respect their time and make sure you communicate clearly with them. Don’t waste their time with excuses for not doing the work or simply not showing up to class. The goal here is to establish some type of relationship.

Whenever I think about a subject or content I learned in college it is tied to the face of a professor. If I think of learning German – it’s McKinney; if it’s creative writing – Nelson; if it’s communication – Jackson. My knowledge came from a person more than it came from a book.

One of my favorite movies is Orange County. It’s a story about a high school senior that wants to get into Stanford. He’s enamored with the writings of a certain professor there. When he finally has the chance to meet the professor and sit down and talk with him, it changes his entire perspective. While those types of conversations might be rare in your experience because you go to a large University – seek them out anyway! They’ll be some of the best memories you take from your time in college.

3. If you need help ask for it.

One of the reasons you’re in college is because you don’t know everything. If you can learn to admit that, you’ll be ahead of most freshmen at your school.

Independence messes up most teenagers in that they want to do everything by themselves. So when a moment comes when they can’t do something or don’t know something, there’s an inner struggle. I encourage you to put the pride aside and ask for help.

If you need help in class, get a tutor. If you need directions to the financial aid office, ask for them. If you don’t know how to complete an application for an internship, look for someone who does.

Your school will have people that can proofread your papers, help you learn how to do your laundry the right way, and even give you some good advice on how to stay in shape (because we all need our health!).

Look at it this way: You will become smarter if you ask for help when you need it. If you don’t ask…you’ll remain ignorant. I’m not advocating that you shouldn’t try to find things out on your own. But there comes a time where you’ll discover that learning happens better in the context of “we” and not just “me.” And you might also discover that the best way to meet people is to simply ask, “Hi, would you mind giving me a hand with this?”

4. Get some sleep.

One thing that you have in common with every other person in the world is that each person needs to sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep, bad things start happening to your mind and body. I know this is difficult to hear, and I’m probably beginning to sound a bit parental by saying this, but go to bed.

I’ve pulled my share of all-nighters. I’ve had to study, cram, write, and just get it done. I’ve also stayed up too late because I kept losing at Halo and had to play just one more game. Either way, it messed me up for the next day. My body had to play catch up. I wasn’t sharp. If you string enough late nights together, you are not going to be the learning machine that you need to be.

I know you’re young and invincible. But sleep is so necessary. Research says that a night of sleep deprivation is like being mentally impaired by the legal blood-alcohol level. When you don’t get adequate sleep, you’re body ages faster. Sleep also helps to relieve stress…so if you’re stressed out – you may simply need a good nap.

Ultimately, getting enough sleep is a matter of prioritization. Just because you CAN stay up, doesn’t mean you SHOULD stay up. You need to be mature enough to know when you need to get some sleep so that you can be an effective college student.

5. Get organized.

Everyone needs a plan to accomplish all of the things that are required of you in college. It is extremely easy to start living from event to event, assignment to assignment when you’re neck deep into your semester.

My number one piece of advice for getting organized – get a calendar and stick to it, live by it, and look at it everyday. Now there’s lots of types of calendars out there. I like to use Google Calendar. It’s online and I can access it from anywhere. Since I spend a fair bit of time on the computer, it’s always handy. Plus, I’ve got it linked up to my email and the datebook software on my Palm Treo. But that’s my way. I made a choice one day that Google Calendar was going to be MY calendar. You’ve got to decide and stick with it.

Some colleges will provide you with a paper-based calendar like a planner. This may include dates of important events for your college, key deadlines, and class schedules. If you are pen & paper minded, this may be the route for you. I also recommend the Moleskine planner. It’s smaller and easier to carry.

Once you’ve chosen your calendar, you need to get busy putting EVERYTHING into it. That’s right. Put every assignment, every deadline, every part of your extensive social commitments. Remember, you don’t want to be surprised. It’s a horrible feeling to realize that you had a vital paper due yesterday. At the beginning of each semester, sit down with all of your syllabi and fill in that calendar. Set reminders a few days before big projects come due. This will also help you to see when you will have difficult weeks with lots of obligations so you can get cracking ahead of time.

Now that you’ve chosen a calendar, put all your information in it, you’ve got to manage it. At the start of each week, look over the week ahead. KNOW WHAT’S COMING! If you only look at each day as it arrives, you’ll miss opportunities to be excellent.

That’s the beauty of being organized. It creates space for you to do your best work. You know when something is coming and you make the appropriate time to do your best.

6. Have a lot of fun.

This is one of the best parts of college. You are going to have a ton of fun…especially if you follow the other pieces of advice in this article. College is one of the funnest experiences you will ever have. You are living with a lot of other like-minded people who are in the same situation that you’re in. It’s like Survivor (especially in the school cafeteria), but no one gets voted off the island.

I laughed a lot in college. I liked to hang around people who made me laugh and didn’t take themselves so seriously. There were lots of events to attend. My buddies and I would take some great roadtrips during the breaks. There is a lot of freedom to do a lot of things while you’re in college. I chose to have as much fun as was humanly possible.

The other benefit of having fun is that it makes incredible memories. I can remember some phenomenal pranks that have become lore at the college I attended (I won’t say what it is or my own level of involvement because the statute of limitations has yet to expire). While I didn’t play sports in college, I was an intramural animal.

Also, I don’t want you to get the impression that all of the fun occurred outside of the classroom. When you discover what you’re unique strengths are and land in a major that falls in line with your passions, learning becomes tremendously fun. I can remember projects and classes that I really enjoyed and looked forward to them. I think there were some professors who really made learning fun.

I guess with any aspect of college you can make the choice to have fun or to stress out. I encourage you to choose fun – even in the midst of hard work.

7. Get involved.

During the first semester of college, I joined a fraternity. I had to do some really silly things (I have fond memories of onions and “thank you sir, may I have another.”) to join this group, but it changed my entire college experience. When you arrive on campus, there will be a lot of ways that you can get involved in college besides going to class.

Your college has multiple organizations that are centered around social or academic themes. There are clubs and councils that are always looking for new members. You may have a bent toward student leadership and I encourage you to jump in and apply for those positions. It has been proven that those students who get involved in extracurricular activities have a better college experience. They also have a stronger attachment to their school when they become alumni.

I can remember our graduation day from college. When it came time to announce the valedictorian for our class they introduced a student whom none of us recognized. Now don’t get me wrong here…I want you to do all that you can to get good grades and pass your classes. But for our graduating class – the person with the best GPA was an anonymous person. He wasn’t involved in anything. We didn’t know who he was.

Now hear me out. My GPA wasn’t stellar, but I did graduate with a 3.6 in all of my major classes. Not bad. But I also was the Student Body President, was in a fraternity, joined many clubs, worked Security, and lived in a dorm all four years. I wouldn’t trade that for a four-point-whatever and be anonymous.

8. Handle money wisely now.

Right off the bat I must tell you – watch out for credit cards. It is the easiest thing in the world to get suckered into a credit card offer and start charging things on the plastic. Here’s the catch – you have to pay it all back – with interest.

My advice to you is to avoid the credit card route at all costs while you’re in school. I know that it’s probably unavoidable, so just use them for emergency purposes. Get a card with a LOW limit. Pay those things off every month. If you find you can’t do that, then you shouldn’t be using them. Most college students leave college with debt. There’s the necessary kind that comes from student loans. But it’s really hard to graduate in a financial hole because you have credit card debt.

With the money you do actually have, I think it’s wise to learn how to budget. Start a savings account. Learn how to balance your checkbook and do that every month. Bounced checks are no fun. The goal here is to live within your means. You may not have as much as other students. That’s alright. You are a college student and you’re supposed to be broke.

If you are in desperate need of cash, go to your college’s career center. They typically have a listing of odd jobs that students can do to get some income. Another thing you can do is to benefit from the ability to borrow rather than own. You don’t have to personally have everything, just know some of the people that do. When you live in a dorm, you begin to understand how easy it is to share. I remember that I looked better in my roommate’s sports jacket than he did. Don’t be a mooch. But learn to share what you have with others and you’ll find that they’re more willing to share what they have with you.

If you spend less money than you bring in…you’ll be in good shape.

9. Learn to write well.

One of the lessons I’ve learned from Scott Ginsberg is that “writing is the basis of all wealth.” I think he’s on to something there. I would add that writing is the basis of your success in college. While you are a college student, you will read A LOT. But you will also be required to write A LOT. Your writing skills are a KEY factor in how your work will be perceived by a professor.

You can have the best content in the world, but if you aren’t able to deliver that through good writing, your work will get lost in the translation. I am surprised how many college students can’t spell, don’t know how to structure a sentence properly, and use poor grammar. If you struggle with writing, then I encourage you to re-read #3. You must get this one down.

One of the reasons that I started this site (CollegeStudentsRule!.com) is to help college students become better communicators. If you can write better, your work will be better. If your work is better, your grades will be better. I realize that you may be the best person in your class at text messaging…but those little acronyms don’t hold up too well under a professor’s scrutiny.

Along with writing, I would encourage you to take a typing course. The computer is here to stay and if you are typing with two fingers, you’re wasting time. I think that you should work to be able to type at least 60 words a minute. Faster would be even better. Can you type without looking at the keyboard? This is a skill that won’t only benefit you in college, but in the workforce as well.

One final note on writing well is in regards to proofreading. Please don’t type out a paper and print it out and turn it in. Think in terms of drafts. If you turn a first draft into a professor, he or she will know that it’s a first draft. This post that I’m writing won’t be published until the third or fourth draft. It would be even better if you could get someone else to proofread your work. That person will probably catch mistakes that you can’t see.

10. Get out of the country you’re in.

This is an idea that is becoming more and more realistic in our day and age. At our University, opportunities to study abroad are growing each year. We also offer short-term mission opportunities to other countries. There are so many ways for students to experience other cultures.

Our world is becoming more globally focused. In some ways it’s shrinking. Companies are branching out across national boundaries. Any type of experience you can have outside of your home country will benefit you in your career and perspective on life. If you can get somewhere…go for it. You are young and you don’t have many of the responsibilities yet that could tie you down to your local geographical area.

I understand that some of you may have difficulty (financially or otherwise) getting out of your country. If that’s the case, find ways to learn about other cultures (watch the National Geographic Channel). But nothing beats actually going there and walking on foreign soil and being immersed in another culture.

11. Keep growing.

It may seem obvious to you that you would be growing since you’re in college. But I meet a lot of college students who gain knowledge, but don’t gain growth. I guess I’m talking about maturity. There are many experiences that you’ll have in college that can help you to grow up if you’ll let them.

Current research says that adolescence is being pushed farther out – to the mid 20’s. They are calling it delayed adulthood. Many young adults are simply pushing back some of the major decisions: marriage, career, home purchasing, etc – to later in life. But being young doesn’t mean you have to be immature.

There are many ways to grow outside of the classroom. Life has a way of providing it’s own type of classroom. Each of us has an opportunity to grow emotionally, relationally, spiritually, psychologically, and physically. Take the experiences you have in life and spend time reflecting on how you can use those to become a better person. Growth isn’t an automatic process. It takes work and it takes time. Use these exciting years in college to develop yourself.

It’s exciting to watch Seniors walk across the stage at graduation and remember what they were like when they came in as Freshman. There is so much potential that is wrapped into each one. I love being apart of the process of unlocking that potential during their time in college. That’s why I’ve written this article. If there’s something here that you find helpful, then I’ve succeeded. As with any list, there’s so much more that could be added.

 

Saving For College

Start Early

Planning and financing for college begins well before high school. Selecting the elementary school your child needs to attend is as important as deciding which high school or college to attend. A proper foundation for learning is of utmost importance for college admission and scholarship consideration.

Make Appropriate Course Selections

Selecting the right curriculum in elementary, high school, and college are linked. Being ready for college while positioning oneself for scholarship and other financing is a process. The transition from elementary, middle school, and high school to college is determined by taking the right classes like upper-level math and science, foreign language, honors’ classes, and Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Boosting the GPA with these classes is important in class rank and college entrance.

Talk To Your Child

College planning is a family concern. Since a college degree is essential for students and the cost of a college education continues to rise, a collective effort is needed. Waiting until high school for parents to speak to their child about college, actually doesn’t make sense. Without communication, the child may develop the assumption that all is well and that the parents have planned to pay for his/her college expenses. Parents may think that they have college expenses covered and their child may have other colleges in mind with higher price tags or further college goals. Whatever the situation, parents and their child need to be open and honest about their feelings and realistic about college issues.

Set Up Two College Funding Plans- One College Funding Plan for Parents and One for Child

Research various savings plans for you as parents and for your child beginning early to reach your college funding goals. Don’t let it catch you by surprise. Small investments can add up over the years. Encourage grandparents to get involved by giving college money instead of toys for birthdays, Christmas, etc.

Enroll in Dual Enrollment College Classes

Check with your local high school and colleges to see if dual enrollment college classes are available and how to meet the requirements. Taking college classes and receiving college credit before leaving high school can save time and money!

Shop Around

Consider In-State colleges as opposed to Out of State colleges since tuition is much higher for some Out of State colleges. Look at smaller colleges, which may have more scholarships, lower GPA and college entrance test requirements, or other Sports/Fine Arts scholarships. Don’t overlook 2-year colleges as a less expensive way to reach the final four-year degree. Living at home for awhile could also cut college costs. Compromise could be the solution to being in debt.

Loans Should Be the Last Option

Students do not need to spend the years following college with hundred of thousand of dollars in loans while being in debt the rest of their lives. Parents do not need to borrow from retirement funds and not be able to live comfortably for the rest of their lives. If loans are needed, let the loans be short-term and low-interest and shared by parents and the child. If parents can’t pay loans, then have the child apply for the loan, but help the child in other areas for college.

The years from cradle to college come too fast! Backing yourselves into a corner and reaching the college years with no available funding are a direct result of not planning ahead.

 

College For Autism Children

Autism, a neurological-based developmental disability, affects an estimated one in 166 people, according to a 2004 study by the Centers for Disease Control Prevention. Both children and adults with Autism typically show difficulties in verbal and nonverbal communication, social interactions and leisure or play activities, according to the Autism Society of America. Autism affects individuals differently and to varying degrees.

Experts agree on the following advice upon detection of Autism:

1. Seek immediate treatment for your child.

2. If possible, find someone to work with the child at least 20 hours a week, i.e. a therapist, teacher, parent, grandparent or someone from your church or group. Look for progress after one month.

3. Do not allow the child to sit and watch TV all day. Get them engaged and play as many games as possible that require taking turns.

4. New parents learning they have an autistic child must recognize immediately that they cannot do it all by themselves. They should immediately contact Autism societies or chapters to find resources, join support groups and talk with other families about their experiences.

5. Help the child to develop their areas of strength, particularly among high-functioning students with Asperger’s Syndrome (a neurobiological condition characterized by normal intelligence and language development with deficiencies in social and communication skills), and get them job experiences during high school.

Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia is one of the few colleges in the US that has a special program in their Autism Training Center, which works with Autism spectrum disorders like Aspergers. Although many colleges have counselors and staff familiar with Autism, only Marshall has a program tailored specifically for autistic students. The program serves three of the university’s 16,360 students and may eventually accommodate 10; it will remain small by choice.

“The goal is not for all students with Autism to attend Marshall, but for the program to become a model for other colleges,” says Barbara Becker-Cottrill, the Center’s director. “The true goal is for students to have the ability to attend the university of their choice. Our work will be working with other universities on how to establish a program such as this on their own campuses.”

Kim Ramsey, the Marshall program’s director, had this to say, “The problem is, social and daily living issues are interfering.”

This is not to be confused with a special education program. Like all students, they must meet and maintain the university’s academic standards. The Center offers tutoring, counseling, a quiet space to take exams, and help in the navigation of the bureaucracy and social world of college, i.e. how to schedule classes, join clubs, buy books and replace ATM cards that don’t work.

In a recent issue of the bimonthly, Asperger’s Digest, Lars Perner, an assistant professor of marketing at San Diego State University who has Asperger’s Syndrome, said, “How many college students have forms of Autism is impossible to determine as many go undiagnosed or are simply perceived as a little bit strange. The exact cause is unknown, although both genetics and environmental factors are suspected of playing a role. Some of these students might be able to get into college because of fairly strong academic credentials and a reasonable academic showing. That may not mean they will be able to stay in college.” Perner is also the author of a college selection guide.

Sadly, most autistic students either drop out or don’t even apply to college because they have difficulty with such tasks as doing all the paperwork, time management, taking notes and sitting for exams. Stephen Shore, who is finishing his doctoral degree in special education at Boston University and has been diagnosed with atypical development with strong autistic tendencies, said, “More programs like Marshall’s were needed. I think they would do much better and there would be a much higher rate of success if this type of program were available elsewhere.” However, as researchers learn more about Autism and public school services for Autism improve, more autistic students will graduate from high school and be academically, socially and emotionally prepared for college.

College Selection – Your Number One Priority

The following must be considered, but only after the family has visited the campus and is convinced their student will be able to “survive” at that school:

1. Accommodations: If proper accommodations are not made available to the student, then it would be futile to attend that particular college.

2. Curriculum: Ideally, there will be enough areas of interest for the student.

3. Setting: Urban or rural, close to home or far away, and a large or small student body are all issues that must be factored in.

4. Cost: Last but not least; like the 5th C when searching for that perfect diamond – is the cost. Paying for college is actually the easy part, because no matter what, you can borrow the money! And never lose sight of the fact that all the financial aid in the world is useless without that coveted admission ticket!

Some other criteria that should be particularly important for autistic students include:

1. A highly structured academic program

2. A second-to-none disabilities services program (or its equivalent)

3. A willingness to be flexible

4. Support for individual needs and a centralized counseling center

Experience with Autism is helpful, but the most important characteristics of the disabilities services program and counseling center are the commitment to providing individualized support and a willingness to learn about each student’s disability and needs. Because of the learning differences of students with high functioning Autism/Asperger’s Syndrome, they often benefit from tutoring, organizational and personal support services.

Sometimes, a smaller school is easier for students who learn better in a smaller and quieter environment. For students who will find the degree of independence and organization required for living at college to be intimidating, it can be helpful to live at home for the first year or two of college, and gradually make the transition to more independent living. Some colleges offer cooperative education programs, in which students alternate between taking academic courses and working in related jobs. Such programs have the ability to help students explore potential careers and develop essential work skills.

Academic Assistance and Accommodations

In college, students are given the responsibility of advocating for themselves. They can receive support from the disabilities services program or not, but they will have to be able to make many decisions for themselves.

In many colleges, the disabilities services program will write a letter to relevant professors indicating that a student has a disability and may need special accommodations. This letter might be the student’s responsibility to give to the professor, or it might be sent out to each professor. In either case, it is then likely to be the student’s responsibility to follow up with the professor and request specific help.

Many students will need coaching and support in order to do this. Some counselors may be willing and able to help, others will not. In many instances, it will be necessary and helpful to have a tutor. The disabilities service center will usually be able to assist with the required services.

Academic accommodations have been helpful as well as necessary for some students with Asperger’s High Functioning Autism because they need a little longer to process information and organize responses. This can mean that they will take a little longer in responding to questions in class and should receive the required extra time on quizzes, tests and exams. Due to difficulties in processing and screening sensory information, a distraction-free environment may be important for ongoing studying and for taking exams.

Seating is often important in lecture halls. Sitting at or close to the front and sometimes in the center of the row, can make it easier to hear and understand. Some students find it easier to sit near the front but in an aisle seat, so that they have a bit more room to spread out and are less likely to be bumped.

Seating is sometimes on a first-come, first served basis daily, or for the entire semester. If this is the case, students should get to their first class early, or try to make preparations in advance. Some professors prefer assigned seating for the entire semester. In that case, students may need to talk to the professor in order to arrange for their special seating needs.

Some professors include class participation as a component of the grade and require recitals in front of the class and/or working together as part of a group. Such class requirements can be challenging for students with difficulties in oral communication or working together with others. In anticipation of this, students should be advised to talk to the professor about their disability early in the semester in order to attain special accommodations, if necessary, and the support and understanding of the professor which is always necessary.

Getting Organized

Most students with Autism spectrum disorders need clear, systematic organizational strategies for academic work and most likely for all other aspects of daily living. Calendars, checklists and other visual strategies for organizing activities should be developed with the student.

Course Selection

Many students with Asperger’s/High Functioning Autism will excel in courses that draw on factual memory and/or visual perceptual skills. An intuitive counselor or advisor can help guide the student to a curriculum that will capitalize on his or her strengths and interests.

The most difficult and challenging courses are those that require abstract verbal reasoning, flexible problem solving, extensive writing, or social reasoning. Such courses may be valuable to take, but could require extra time and support.

In her book, Pretending to be Normal, Liane Willey, an adult with Asperger’s Syndrome, recommends taking courses in communication and psychology in order to improve social understanding and skills. “It is often wise,” she advises, “to audit a course if it would take a long time to master the material.”

A somewhat relaxed class load is often the best course of action, especially during the freshman year when everything is new. For some students, a reduced course load can help keep the stress levels more manageable.

A related issue is that many students with Autism need extra time for thinking about problems and for completing work. This means they will need more time than most students for reading and doing assignments. This should be taken into account in planning a student’s course load so they will not be overwhelmed, which could have adverse consequences.

Social Groups and Activities

For some students, living on their own may be overwhelming as they often need more support than most freshmen for making social connections. All campuses have organized social groups and activities. Most students with high functioning Autism/Asperger’s will enjoy participating in some of these, but will need guidance with finding the right groups and introductions.

Always consider the student’s strengths and interests when looking for groups and activities. It might be beneficial to have someone, perhaps an older student, a mentor or advisor point out groups that would be of interest and help with the initial steps of becoming a participant. It may also be possible to mobilize other resources through Student Services, residence advisors and service organizations on campus.

Dorm Life

For many students with high functioning Autism, it is preferable to have a single room. This will provide a sanctuary where they can control their environment, focus on their work and daily activities without distraction, and not be forced to engage in social interaction all the time. Having a roommate can be highly stressful, and most experts agree that to be without one initially is the best choice. However, it is strongly recommended to have a mentor nearby.

When the student is in agreement, it can be helpful to inform the residence staff of their disability and the areas in which support may be needed. It is best if the student can discuss their disability with peers. It can also be helpful to meet with other students in adjacent rooms to discuss why their behavior may appear to be odd at times.

The Daily 9-5

It will prove most helpful to identify the likely pitfalls and provide the student with written guidelines and checklists in addition to advance preparation and training. The following are various aspects of daily life on the average college campus.

1. Meal plans and their rules; where to eat at non-meal times

2. Laundry

3. Spending money; budgeting

4. Using a campus ID and/or charge card

5. Dorm rules

6. Handling fire drills at any hour, especially in the middle of the night

7. Using communal bathrooms

8. Transportation

9. Campus maps

10. Locating security personnel

11. Finding rest rooms

12. Using an alarm clock

13. Campus mail, e-mail and instant messaging usage

14. Library hours and how to get help from a librarian, and for that matter, anyone else

15. Lecture hall procedures

16. Learning about and participating in dorm activities

17. Student health services

18. Medical, non-medical emergencies and non-emergency procedures

19. First aid and how to take care of oneself during a minor illness (including how to get liquids and food when they’re under the weather)

20. Finding time for physical exercise is important for many, not only for health reasons but also to help with stress management.

Plan Far In Advance

Thinking about these issues years in advance is necessary; doing something about it is mandatory! As part of the Individualized Education Plan process, each student should have a transition plan to learn the skills necessary for college. Many important skills that will facilitate success in college can be taught and practiced at home and while the student is still in high school. It is important that the student understand what his or her learning needs are, and the types of accommodations that will be helpful.

In college, students will probably find it helpful to talk to advisors and professors about these issues. This will be easier to do when it has been practiced in the more supportive environment of the home and the high school. At home, high school students should be learning and practicing daily living and independence skills so they will be able to be successful in college…

 

Step To Preparing College

It is never too early and it is never too late to start thinking about college. Nevertheless, early is always better.

What are you and your child doing to prepare for college?

THE EARLY YEARS

Begin college preparation in kindergarten, young students are receptive to thinking about college. Spend the early years exploring study methods, reading and experiencing life, find opportunities that increase curiosity and open the mind to creative and organized thought processes. Foster goal oriented thinking and time management skills in the child, so in the future they will have the tools to keep themselves on task.

Young students are especially successful at learning languages and music, even a child as young as four or five can start taking piano or keyboard lessons. If you have the means to expose them to a second language through travel or tutoring, give it a try, children can pick up second languages much faster than adults.

Of course, it is never too early to open a college savings account.

JUNIOR HIGH

By junior high, students should have a solid understanding of mathematics and be able to compose logical, grammatically correct essays.

Establish a college savings fund or other fund designed specifically for higher education if you haven’t already, this is a good time to start. See your local bank or credit union to find an account that offers the best rate. Parents should discuss investments and deposits to the college fund with the child, it is important that they understand the realities of how much college and living outside the home costs.

Children at this age are capable of visualizing their own future independent of parents, and strive for a decision-making role in their own lives. Recognize and respect uniqueness, support interests and allow them to evaluate opportunities. Of course, teenagers might think they know everything, so before they make a choice, ask them carefully thought out questions to guide them to a logical and informed decision.

HIGH SCHOOL

In high school, curriculum, grade point average and extracurricular activities become important factors in regards to college entrance requirements and scholarship opportunities.

Generally, most colleges desire that the student successfully complete the following basic subjects in high school:

 

  • 4 years of English

 

  • 3 years of Math, including Algebra and Geometry

 

  • 3 years of history and social sciences

 

  • 2 years of lab sciences

 

  • 2 years of a foreign language

 

College Guidance Counselor: Students should begin meeting with a guidance counselor at the beginning of 9th grade to ensure that all of the proper course work is taken, maintain a relationship throughout high school. Often the counselor can provide information on college entrance exams and scholarship information.

A Note on Mathematics: Since many students struggle to retain their math skills, it is unwise to skip math in the senior year. Forgetting valuable information before taking placement exams, Advanced Placement Tests, the SAT or ACT could prevent the student from receiving a high score or require them to take a remedial math class in college.

Quite often parents have forgotten their advanced math course work and do not have the skills to help with homework, so investing in a tutor could prove beneficial. Usually a knowledgeable and affordable tutor can be found at a local university or junior college.

One way to keep math skills sharply honed, instead of four years of math, is by taking a year of trigonometry, algebra or calculus based physics. Many bachelor degree programs only require statistics or intermediate college algebra, so even if the student does not make it through calculus in high school, for most programs they will be adequately prepared with intermediate algebra, geometry and trigonometry.

The Essay: Learning to write essays well will help students to succeed in college and most scholarship applications will require an essay of some sort. Even math or microbiology majors write essays, so learning to write a good essay is paramount.

Honor Classes: Colleges not only look at grades, but also the coursework, quite often a B grade in an advanced placement class or an honors class will carry more weight than an A grade in a regular class. So even if the curriculum is more challenging, enroll in honor level class or advanced placement classes whenever possible.

Extracurricular: Colleges look for well-rounded students who contribute to their community. Extracurricular activities whether in sports, student government, art or volunteer work enriches school and life experiences, provides the opportunity to learn teamwork and connects students to the community in which they live.

Sometimes competition to get on high school sports teams excludes students from participating, if this is the case, look for other activities such as karate, dance or intramural teams. Often students as young as 16 years of age can enroll in local university/junior college courses in subjects such as rock-climbing, kayaking or racquetball.

Student government provides leadership skills, colleges look for students that have held a student officer position, participated as a class representative or in campus clubs.

Some students enjoy participating in local theatre productions or taking art classes.

Volunteer opportunities are unlimited, look around in the community and find something of interest. Better yet, if there is an unmet need in the community, create the solution.

Employment: Consider summer employment to assist with college expenses and to learn valuable work skills and responsibility. Colleges especially favor young entrepreneurs.

Mentoring/ Job Shadowing: It is never too early to research real-life employment situations. If a student thinks they want to be an accountant, find a willing accountant in the community that can answer questions about the day-to-day realities of their job and the training required to perform their duties. Quiet often too much time is spent thinking about a dream job without researching the realities. Half way through college or after graduation is too late to start investigating career choices. So before valuable time and money is wasted, evaluate career choices thoroughly.

Letters of Recommendation: In the junior year, after establishing good relationships with teachers and leaders in the community, ask for letters of recommendations to accompany college and employment applications.

COLLEGE ENTRANCE EXAMS

Most colleges and universities require either SAT or ACT scores and the PSAT qualifies students for the National Merit Scholarship. Contact the selected universities and inquire about which exam they require. However, do not limit the opportunity of attendance at a different university, take both exams, so all options are available. Do not let financial hardship prevent the student from taking these tests, talk to the guidance counselor about a fee waiver. All of the exams can make accommodations for students with documented disabilities.

Scores: Every school has different score and GPA requirements. But usually it is a combination of the two, for example an exceptionally high exam score can give you a little room on your GPA, and vice versa.

PSAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test: Evalutes skills in critical reading, math problem solving and writing.

 

  • Registration for this test is not available online, contact the high school counselor for registration information.

 

  • Study through the first two years of high school and take this exam in the 10th grade.

 

SAT: Tests critical reading, math problem solving and writing skills.

 

  • Get a SAT Registration Booklet from the guidance counselor at the high school to register by mail, or go the College Board website to register online.

 

  • Study for this test through the 9th and 10th grade year.

 

  • Take SAT early in the junior year, so if the score is lower than desired there is plenty of time to retake.

 

ACT: Comprises multiple-choice sections that cover English, mathematics, reading and science. The test also offers a written test that evaluates a short essay.

 

  • Register by contacting a high school guidance counselor or go the ACT website.

 

  • Study for this exam through the 9th and 10th grade.

 

  • Take this exam in the 11th grade, so there is time for a retake if necessary.

 

How to prepare for the college entrance exams:

 

  • Read good books, magazines and timely news information

 

  • Take a preparation course

 

  • Purchase and use preparation software

 

  • Take practice tests

 

  • Increase your vocabulary, including roots, prefixes and derivations

 

  • Overcome test anxiety

 

  • Take challenging classes during high school years

 

  • Study and write essays,/li>Advanced Placement Tests: These tests can earn credit in college level courses and eligibility for an AP Scholar Award. Tests are single subject exams, offered in 35 different subjects, ranging from art history to physics to world history. These tests can be taken any year, but contact the AP coordinator, or call AP Services at 888-225-5427 to find the local AP coordinator and testing schedule.Financial Aid and Scholarships: Federal Pell grants are available for students who have financial need; qualification is based on parents’ income. To apply for the Pell grant call 1-800-4FED-AID or apply online at http://www.fasfa.com. Talk to the universities’ financial aid office to inquire about other funds, scholarships, grants and student loans. Tuition can be costly, but do not forget living expenses, which in some cases require more money than tuition and books.

    College Application: During the summer before the senior year, finish the final research on college selection and check on their website to find out the freshmen application date. Be sure to find out what other items they require such as, test scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation or other documents such as proof of disability or military status.

    LEAVING HOME

    Many kids will leave their parent’s home to attend college. Learning to balance life, schoolwork and employment is a difficult task for many students. So preparing for these issues before leaving home can greatly increase the chances for a smooth transition between high school and living at home to college and living on their own.

    Life Skills: Knowing how to write an essay or memorization of the quadratic formula will not help with day-to-day living, helpful skills to learn before leaving home include:

 

  • Basic cooking

 

  • Looking for and applying for a job, résumé preparation

 

  • Looking for and applying for an apartment, roommates

 

  • Budget and bill paying, filing taxes

 

  • Bargain shopping

 

  • Laundry and house cleaning

 

  • Street Smarts and self defense

 

  • Auto insurance, basic car maintenance

 

  • Using public transportation

 

  • Civic responsibility, local laws, voting and jury duty

 

  • Health care, patient rights, insurance and public health

 

  • Relationship and personal boundaries

 

Proper preparation can help guarantee success and a smooth transition to independence. Preparing for college and preparing for adult life should not be left to chance or with hopes that knowledge will come naturally during the high school years. Most of all, it is important to not limit opportunity and choice by bad preparation.