Have You Started Counting Down to College?

Have You Started Counting Down to College?

October 01, 2017

Last weekend, my husband and son went on their first college tour together.  I wanted to go on the tour with them, but my husband wanted to utilize the road trip as male bonding time with our son, so I stayed home. Today, the topic of college came up again, which led me to think about the short timeline I have left before my son, who is a junior in high school, leaves home for college. 

With all of the talk about college, I thought it would be great if I shared with you things to consider in your countdown to college. The contents of this blog were taken from resources provided in my website library at OBN Wealth Advisors.

Most parents want to give their children the best opportunity for success, and getting into the right college may help open doors. According to the Census Bureau, 33% of American adults have a bachelor's degree, and those with a bachelor's degree earn 67% more on average than those with just a high school diploma. ¹

Unfortunately, being accepted to the college of their choice may not be as easy as it once was. These days, preparing for college means setting goals, staying focused, and tackling a few key milestones along the way.

Before High School

The road to college begins even before high school. Start by helping your elementary and middle school children develop a love for learning. Encourage good study habits and get them dreaming about college. A trip to a nearby university or your alma mater may help plant the seed in their minds. When your child reaches middle school, take the time to find out which prerequisite courses may set the right track for math and science in high school.

The earlier you consider how you expect to pay for college costs the better. The average college graduate today owes $37,172 in debt, while the average salary for a recent graduate is only $49,785.²

Freshman Year

Before the school year begins, consider meeting with your child’s guidance counselor. Discuss college goals and make sure your child is enrolled in classes that are structured to help him or her pursue those goals. Also, encourage your child to choose challenging classes. Many universities look for students who push themselves when it comes to learning. At the same time, keep a close eye on grades. Every year on the transcript counts. If your child is struggling in a subject, don’t wait to get a tutor. One-on-one instruction can be a huge benefit when mastering difficult material.

In addition to academic performance, many colleges want prospective students to be well-rounded, so encourage your child to engage in extracurricular activities, such as sports, music, art, community service, and social clubs.

Sophomore Year

During their sophomore year, some students may have the opportunity to take a practice SAT. The practice test is a good way to give your child an idea of what the test entails and which areas need improvement. If your child is enrolled in advanced placement (AP) courses, encourage good performance on AP exams. A solid grade shows universities your child can succeed at a higher level of learning.

Sophomore year is also a good time to get some depth in extracurricular activities. Help your child identify passions and stick to them. Encourage your child to read as much as possible. Whether they read Crime and Punishment or Sports Illustrated, they will expand their vocabulary and critical thinking skills. Summer may be a good time for sophomores to get a job, do an internship, or travel to help fill their quiver of experiences.

Junior Year

Near the beginning of junior year, your child can take the Preliminary SAT, (PSAT), also known as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). Even if he or she won’t need to take the SAT for college, taking the PSAT could open doors for scholarship money. The junior year may be the most challenging in terms of course load. It is also a critical year for showing good grades in difficult classes.

Top colleges look for applicants who are future leaders. Encourage your child to take a leadership role in an extracurricular activity. This doesn’t mean he or she has to be drum major or captain of the football team. Leading may involve helping an organization with fundraising, marketing, or community outreach.

In the spring of junior year, your child will want to take the SAT or ACT. An early test date may allow time for taking the test again in their senior year, if necessary. No matter how many times your child takes the test, colleges will only look at the best score.

Senior Year

For many students, senior year is the most exciting time of high school. They will finally begin to reap the benefits of all their efforts during the previous years. Once your child has decided which schools to apply for, make sure you keep on top of deadlines. Applying early can increase your student’s chance of acceptance.

Fast Fact: Pre-Approved. The U.S. Department of Education says that all students, regardless of financial status, are eligible for up to $31,000 in federal Stafford Loans over four years. 
Source: U.S. Department of Education, 2017

Now is also the time to apply for scholarships. Your child’s guidance counselor can help you identify scholarships within reach. Also, find out about financial aid and be thorough. According to research by NerdWallet.com, nearly $3 billion in free federal grant money goes unclaimed each year simply because students fail to fill out the free application.³

Finally, talk to your child about living away from home. Help make sure he or she knows how to manage money wisely and pay bills on time. You may also want to talk about social pressures some college freshmen face for the first time when they move away from home.

For many people, college sets the stage for life. Making sure your children have options when it comes to choosing a university can help shape their future. Work with them today to make goals and develop habits that will help ensure their success.

South Paws Wanted

Your child doesn’t have to be the high school valedictorian to qualify for a scholarship. In fact, thousands of dollars are awarded each year for the most unusual things. Consider these unusual scholarships:

Countdown to College
  1. Right-handers need not apply.Frederick and Mary F. Beckley offer $1,000 to lucky left-handed students (who also want to attend Juniata College in Huntington, PA).
  2. Stick It. Duck Brand Duct Tape offers $3,000 to students who go to their high school prom dressed entirely in duct tape
  3. How Tall Is Tall? Tall Clubs International offers $1,000 each year to a tall person attending college. Get out the measuring tape. A woman must be at least 5’10” and a man must be 6’2” or taller to qualify.
  4. Candy Connoisseurs Unite. The American Association of Candy Technologists offers $5,000 to students who have exhibited an interest in confectionary technology.
  5. From “Mr. Top Ten” Himself. David Letterman offers $10,000 to students of Ball State University (his alma mater) who produce an original video, audio, written, graphics or film presentation.

Source: Financialaidfinder.com, 2017

  1. Census Bureau, March 2016; Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 20, 2017
  2. U.S. News and World Report, May 9, 2016; Time.com, May 12, 2017
  3. NerdWallet, January 27, 2016

About Terrell Dinkins, MBA, ChFC®

******************************************************************************

Terrell Dinkins, MBA, ChFC® is an investment adviser representative of and offers investment advisory services through OBN Wealth Advisors, LLC, a registered investment adviser offering advisory services in the State of Georgia and other jurisdictions where registered or exempted. Main Office: 950 Eagles Landing Pkwy, Suite 216, Stockbridge, GA 30281. Tel: 404-723-9780. Website: OBN Wealth Advisors