Tag Archives: student life

Make the most out of your college campus visits

College Guide Most prospective college students and their parents want to make college campus visits before deciding to apply.

And that is good strategy, a right of passage in many ways.

The guidelines in my book, The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job shows you how to narrow your choices so that you are not travelling all over the country to visit several schools.

One of my daughters visited 23 college campuses and enrolled in the first one she visited!  There is no need for you to do that.  Read the book and narrow your choices to perhaps ten schools. You may have more or less, but use ten as a benchmark.

When you visit a school try to spend more than the time allotted by the admission office. If you can, arrange to spend a night is a residence hall.  If you can, arrange to sit in on one first year class and one upper level class. Try, if you can, to meet with a professor in your major (if you have one).

Read bulletin boards and pick up a copy of the college newspaper. Forget about being shy and talk to students in the cafeteria, in the library, wherever you can.

Make sure you stop by the registrar’s office and get a copy of the catalog.  Don’t forget to meet someone in the financial aid office.  Pick up forms if they are available. Stop by the career counseling center and speak with someone about what career counseling you can expect from your first year through your senior year.

Be your own investigator and advocate.

Early College Acceptance Programs

If you have already picked your top choice for college or university, you may want to think about early college acceptance programs.

If you have read and followed the guidelines in my book, The New College Guide:  How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job, you may already know early college acceptance programs exist at most schools and the programs have advantages and disadvantages.

Some early acceptance programs include:

  • Early Action (EA) – You submit an application before November 1st,  notified of a decision by December 15.  However, if you receive an acceptance, it is not binding that you attend this school. You have until May 1st school of your decision and you are free to apply to other schools.
  • Early Decision (ED) – You submit an application by November 1st and will be notified of a decision by December 15th.  However, if you receive an acceptance, it is binding that you attend this school.  You may not apply to other schools.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Early Acceptance Programs

  • If you know for sure where you want to enroll and have done your homework and know that you have a very good chance of being accepted, then you should seriously consider applying as an ED candidate.  If you are accepted, this will save you time and anxiety for the rest for your senior year.  If you have done your homework,, you know you can afford to attend this school and that your academic and financial needs will be met.
  • If you are somewhat certain that you want to attend a particular school and you know you have a good chance of being accepted, then go ahead and apply as an EA candidate.  If you are accepted, you still have the opportunity to apply to other schools and compare financial aid awards.  But you have time, until May 1st to make a final decision.

College Guide
I seriously believe that after reading my book, you will choose one of these options.

Good luck.

Some college behavior still protected by privacy

In these days when it seems nothing is private,  college students still have a right of privacy in some matters.

You should be aware of two federal laws which protect your privacy:

The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Health, Information, Portability, and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

  • FERPA laws prevent colleges and universities from releasing information about academic or disciplinary matters to anyone, including parents, without the consent of the student.
  • HIPAA prevents health care providers from releasing information to anyone, including parents, about a student’s health record.

Colleges and universities are allowed to give out public information that is available online.  Some schools will provide information, especially if drugs or alcohol are involved.  But each school has its own published set of rules and you and your parents should be aware of the guidelines before you enroll on campus.

Many parents are annoyed that even though they are paying the bill, they don’t have access to their child’s academic or health records.

It was at the graduation ceremony for my second daughter, when she received a number of academic awards, that my husband and I were first made aware of how smart she was and how successful her college career had been.  I was proud of her, of course, but I admit that I felt annoyed that up to that point, we had not received any formal notification from the school about her grades or progress.

These laws have as many supporters as they do detractors.  I guess I fall into the latter category.  But the laws are the laws.  I urge you and your parents to know what they are so you won’t be either surprised or disappointed.

Beware of Advertising for Credit Cards

A few years ago Sallie Mae conducted a survey of college students and the use of credit cards.

The results may, or may not, surprise you.

  • The overwhelming majority of college students had at least one credit card and about 1/3 paid their tuition using a credit card.
  • The average debt ranged from $1,000 to $7,000. The overwhelming majority of undergraduates indicated they needed more education on managing their money and would have taken a money  management course either in high school or in college if it were offered.

Once you are on campus you will notice a number of signs letting you know that “something” is free if you sign up for a particular credit card.  Please remember that nothing is free.

College GuideMy book, The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job carefully guides you and your parents about the best ways to meet college expenses.

You know how much of your bills will be met by savings, your borrowing, your parents’ borrowing, your financial aid from the federal and state governments, and the institutional aid from your school.

I urge you throughout the book to work, if you can, to meet your daily living expenses. This pay-as-you-go plan will help you to better manage your time and finances and is a good lesson for later life.

So please don’t be tempted to add some plastic to your wallet.  Credit card debt is one of the things you don’t want to take with you after graduation.

Time Management and College Success

Time management and college success go together like peanut butter and jelly.

One of the biggest adjustments to college is the wise use of time.

Good time management is one the biggest reasons for college success, especially in the first year.  Bad time management skills can railroad your first semester.

College is not like high school where a bell rang to move you from one class to another.  You have an individual schedule and may have hours between classes.  No one will tell you what to do and when. You may have joined a few clubs or organizations. You may have decided to work on-campus. All of these things will force you to make choices about how you spend your time.

During your first week of class, you will be given a list of books to read and papers to write.  You may look at the deadlines and think they are too far away to worry about them.  A few weeks roll by and all of a sudden it’s Thanksgiving and you go home and realize that you have three papers all due within three weeks.

It is exactly this kind of poor planning that will result in many late nights and compromised grades.

The New College GuideTime Management Suggestions

  • Divide your day or week up to include all of the activities that are an important part of college.  But be certain that first and foremost you are spending the most time on carefully calculating all you need to do in each class to get the grades you want.
  • Meet with your academic advisor and with staff in the counseling or student services department if you are having difficulty completing all of your assignments.  Many school have tutors (free) that can help you navigate the first semester and learn how to properly manage you time to include both academics and social activities.

We can help you with our new book, The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out & Get a Job.

College education: how much aid is available?

Most families in the United States and around the world know that financing a college education is expensive.  

But a college degree is an investment for both the student and family.  So how much financial aid is available?

According to a report by the College Board, in 2012-13 a total of $185.1 billion was awarded to undergraduate students.  Loans represented 37% of the total amount awarded and 24% was awarded in grant aid.  This represents an increase of 132% since 2002-03.

The following statistics are important as you search for the best school for you and your family.  Last year: 

  • $13.0 billion was awarded in federal grants other than Pell grants.
  • Pell Grant funding totaled $32.3 billion.
  • Federal loans totaled $67.8 billion.
  • Private and employer grants were $9.8 billion.
  • Institutions awarded $34.9 billion in grant aid last year.
  • State grant funding totaled $9.6 billion.

mjdennisbook-cover-1000-wideIn addition to federal loans and grants, the federal government funded $.9 billion in Work-Study funding.

The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job recommends:

  • Never eliminate a school because of the published costs.  Few families pay the full amount and as you can read in this blog, there is a great deal of money, from federal, state, institutional and private sources, that can assist you in funding your education.
  • International students should find out, before they enroll, all of the financial aid available at each of the schools on their lists.

Before enrolling in college, ask these questions.

We know enrolling in college is one of life’s biggest steps – and a very exciting one!

The world changes, a quantum shift – both for students and for parents. A lot of research and thought pays off prior to applying to your first choices.

Before filing an application to any college or university, I would schedule a meeting or speak with a financial aid counselor and get answers to the following questions:

  • Is the school blind to financial need when considering admission?
  • Is the school’s policy to meet full need?
  • What percentage of students receives merit aid and what percentage receive need-based aid?
  • Will my admission application be treated differently if we do not file for financial aid? Will I have an advantage?
  • If my high school grades are outstanding, am I certain to receive a merit scholarship?
  • If my family’s financial situation does not change, will I receive the same amount of financial aid each year?
  • How will an outside scholarship impact my financial aid award?
  • What can I do if I need more money to attend your school? Is there an appeal process?

The New College Guide by Marguerite-J-Dennis FeaturedThe New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job recommends:

  • Establish a relationship with a financial aid counselor before you enroll.
  • Be honest in all of your dealing with the financial aid office.
  • Get everything in writing and keep accurate records of all of your meetings with your financial aid counselor.

What is a College Financial Aid Package?

You know your child is headed for college and you also know your family is going to need financial aid to pay for your child’s education.

You are certainly not alone. In the last two posts, we covered facts you need to know about college financial aid and explained the all-important FAFSA.

college graduationOnce your family has filed a FAFSA and the EFC has been calculated, the staff of the financial aid office will determine what financial aid you are eligible to receive.

The official form letter you receive will list the type and amount of the aid you will receive.  That includes funding from:

 

  • Grants
  • Loans
  • Employment
  • Federal Aid
  • State Aid
  • Institutional Aid
  • Outside organization or private funding sources.

Examples of What Your Financial Aid Package Will Include:

Grant Programs

  • The largest federal grant program is the Pell Grant Program. Awards range from $600 to $5,500.
  • Most colleges and universities, especially private schools, have their own grant programs and awards are usually based on outstanding high school grades.  Individual states also sponsor grant programs.  Check your state’s website for further information.

Loan Programs

  • One popular federal loan program is the Perkins Loan Program. The current interest rate is 5% and the maximum amount is $5,500 per year.
  • Stafford loans are federally subsidized loans and have an interest rate of 3.4%.
  • Freshmen can receive $3,500, sophomores $4,500 and juniors and seniors $5,500 to meet their educational expenses.
  • Parent Loans to Undergraduate Students (PLUS) allow parents to borrow up to the total cost of education minus any financial aid awarded.  The interest rate is 7.9%.

Work Programs

  • The federal Work-Study program allows students to work part-time usually on-campus.
  • Many colleges and universities sponsor their own employment programs.

The New College Guide by Marguerite-J-Dennis FeaturedThe New College Guide: How to Get It, Get Out, and Get a Job recommends:

  • Compare all of your estimated financial aid awards before you apply.
  • Be honest and accurate in completing all of your financial aid forms.
  • Calculate your estimated loan bill with an estimate of what your first year salary is likely to be.  I recommend allocating 15% of your first year’s salary to meeting your loan bill.
  • Make employment an essential part of your financial aid plan.
  • Financial aid counselors can exercise professional judgment to increase your award if you can make a good case.

College financial aid: What is the FAFSA?

Getting accepted at a college or university can be confusing enough but applying for financial aid can be overwhelming,  particularly at one’s first glance at the FAFSA.

Just, exactly, what is the FAFSA and what purpose does it serve? Do you really need to fill it out? (Hint: the answer is yes.)

FAFSAThe Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the form families must submit to all of the colleges and universities on their list before being applying for financial aid.  

Based on the information on your FAFSA, an Expected Family Calculation (EFC), will be computed and based on that your eligibility for federal aid, most state aid programs, institutional aid and aid from private sources or organizations.

Families will be asked to complete the FAFSA with the following information:

  • Taxed and untaxed income
  • Specific assets (social security income and home equity are not considered assets)
  • Family size
  • Parental ages
  • Number of children in the family and the number in college

Families can file the FAFSA online.  It takes approximately three to four weeks for your FAFSA to be processed. You will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) after that time indicating what your family is expected to contribute to your college expenses.

The New College GuideThe New College Guide How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job recommends:

  • Find out before you file a FAFSA if you can afford all of the schools on your list by meeting with financial aid counselors before you file any application.
  • You can also estimate your EFC by using a financial aid calculator. Check out the Department of Education’s website.   Another useful website is BigFuture .
  • Don’t try to game the system. It never works.  Financial aid counselors have heard it all before.
  • File the FAFSA as early as possible, even before you file your income taxes. You can go  back and amend your FAFSA after your taxes are filed. You can also have your tax returns automatically and electronically transferred into your FAFSA. 
  • If you really believe the EFC does not accurately reflect your family’s contribution, you should appeal your case to the financial aid director.

College Financial Aid Facts You Want to Know

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 71% of  undergraduate students received some form of financial aid in 2011-12.  

That is a 5% increase since 2007-08.

The average amount of aid increased from $9,000 to $10,800.

According to a report from Sallie Mae, How America Pays for College, in 2013, college expenses were covered in the following way:

  • Students borrowed 18%
  • Parents borrowed 9%
  • Parents’ savings 27%
  • Grants and scholarships 30%
  • Relatives and friends 5%
  • Student income and savings 11%.

Since the recession of 2009:

  • Parents have contributed less to meet college expenses.
  • Students borrowed more to meet college expenses.
  • Use of college savings plans increased.
  • Affordability has jumped to become the #1 factor in college selection.
  • Many colleges and universities have slowed the rate of annual tuition increases.
  • Some schools are charging different tuition rates for different majors.

The New College Guide by Marguerite-J-Dennis FeaturedThe New College Guide How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job recommends:

  • Finding out before you apply if you can afford the schools your list.
  • Meet with a financial aid counselor before you submit an application.
  • Ask the hard questions.
  • Debt is manageable or unmanageable only in relationship to starting salaries. Try to keep your loan payments to 15% of your first year starting salary.