As spring turns to summer, the challenge of applying for college ends and the challenge of paying for college begins. Though that first college bill can be daunting, remember that you have 3 options to pay for college: you can tap your savings (your accumulated past income), pay as you go (out of your current income), or you can borrow (committing your future income to pay down education debt). Choose 1 strategy or combine all 3!
Are you looking for advice about curriculum choices and extracurricular activities? Do you need assistance with a college list? Are you hoping your child can complete as many of his application essays as possible before the end of summer? Do you need an independent college counselor but aren’t sure how best to evaluate your options?
As a former admissions officer for the University of Pennsylvania and current independent college counselor, here are some questions I would ask:
Have you done admissions before? Where did you work and did you participate in the decision making process?
College applications can be fraught with stress for both parents and students. So how do parents avoid turning “help” with admission essays into “too much help”? To guide us through this parental conundrum, we’ve turned to Jacob Palmer, student blogger and junior at American University, for some parent / student advice. Jake relates to us his essay writing experiences and the impact his mother’s help had on the process.
How would you describe your relationship with your mom when it came to writing your essays?
I’d say it was strained, but in a good way. Students are encouraged to be creative and take risks with their application essays, and conflict inevitably rises from that risk taking. And while creative essays can work, oftentimes a student requires some guidance to make sure their essay doesn’t sacrifice message for originality. I used my mom as a resource to bounce off ideas.
Looking at college marketing materials and websites, you may get the impression that every college campus in the country has an abundance of gleaming state-of-the-art buildings, classrooms full of students engaged in active discussion or incredible lab experiments, and a population of culturally diverse, perpetually happy individuals. While some or all of these things may be true of many campuses, you can be sure that these images are carefully chosen to entice you. Some are even staged. So how can you discern what is real and what is a mirage? Visit the campus and see for yourself!
It’s that easy: go to the admissions page of a college’s website and find out the days and times of campus tours and information sessions.
Happy 529 Day — aka Educational Savings Day (5/29, get it?). A toast to all the savers!
If you have a child enrolling in college, and you’ve saved for it in a 529 Savings Plan, congratulations! It’s time to get your tax break! While paying for college with 529 Plan assets is not difficult, there are a few things to keep in mind. Here’s what you should know:
Earlier this month, my College Coach consultant colleagues Mary Sue, Lisa Albro, and myself, had a wonderful experience presenting to four small groups of 10 to 20 middle and high school aged students and their American Express Big Brothers Big Sisters mentors.
At our first meeting, Dawn presented to the 10th graders, focusing on the preparation needed when applying to selective colleges and universities. She covered deadlines, general application and financial aid information, and gave advice on the kinds of coursework for which colleges are looking during the college application process.
It’s a pretty common scenario, especially at larger high schools: guidance counselors not personally knowing each and every student to whom they are assigned. This might not worry you much as a parent until you rummage through your child’s set of college applications and realize this same guidance counselor is required to write a letter of recommendation for her. But don’t panic, it’s not as dire a situation as you might think! Our college admissions experts help students get over this hurdle every year.
Though it’s true a personal connection between guidance counselor and student might be helpful in multiple respects, the purpose of the guidance letter is not necessarily meant to be personal. What information do school reports, as guidance recommendations are so often called, usually answer, then? Colleges are most curious about:
When the junior year winds down, it’s hard to focus on anything outside standardized testing, but students should be aware that the last month or two of school is also the perfect time to approach teachers for a letter of recommendation. This soon? Yes — this soon. Because “this” really isn’t all that “soon.” Starting the college admissions process early is key to keeping everyone’s stress levels down. After all, college application deadlines start as early as next fall — they’ll be upon you before you know it!
Teachers are busy people who like to plan ahead. If they know as early as May or June for whom they will be writing a letter of recommendation, they can factor into their schedules ample time to think about and write their letters. You don’t really want your teacher rushing through your letter of recommendation, do you?
In an effort to beat back the demographic headwinds now working against them, some colleges and universities are coming up with ever more clever ways to maintain their “uber-selective” titles. They’re using every weapon within their recruitment and selectivity arsenal — from demographics to yield to just plain making it easy to apply — to improve their relative rank.
As colleges and universities conspire against one another for prestige, how do students avoid becoming collateral damage, victims of the college application arms race? If you want to dodge the proverbial thin envelope, consider these three simple rules of engagement: