In this blog, while I’ll be talking about high school students trying to attend college, and community-college students trying to attend four-year colleges and universities, I’ll be talking to their parents. As a mother of a 17-year-old who’s considering college, by becoming familiar with the college-application process and aware of its all-important deadlines, I’ll be able to ensure my son does what he needs to do. When he needs to do it.
Career readiness, as it pertains to your child, means preparing them for their career, and it requires that they answer some important questions. What kind of work do I want to do? Where do I want to go to school? Career readiness also requires that they attend a (two-year) community college, four-year college, or university.
The 2018-2019 college year begins in late August (of 2018). If your child will be attending a four-year college or university, they’ll probably be required to take the ACT (American College Test) or SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test). These tests determine how strong your child is in math, reading, and writing (for the ACT) or in English, math, reading, and science (for the SAT).
It’s a good idea for your child to take the ACT or SAT more than once because while they’re nervous before taking it the first time, knowing what to expect, they’re relaxed the second time and often perform better. In addition, while some schools require students to include all of their ACT and SAT scores in their college applications, most schools only require students to include their highest scores.
There’s a simple way for your child to perform better on the ACT or SAT—take practice tests. There are books with practice tests in them, and there are free online practice tests. Remember: The school your child wants to attend will receive thousands—perhaps tens of thousands—of applications from students around the world. Your child will be competing with these kids. If you want to increase the likelihood your child gets accepted, make sure they prepare for the test.
One Isn’t Enough
Imagine your child has had their heart set on becoming a Volunteer since middle school—what happens if their college application is rejected! Since the University of Tennessee (UT) is a public university, if they live in Tennessee, this probably won’t happen. But if your child wants to attend college out-of-state, or if they want to attend a private school (e.g., Vanderbilt), they’ll face tougher competition, and you’ll have a higher bill.
UT accepts 76% of enrollment applications; Vanderbilt accepts 11%. UT’s in-state tuition is about $12,000 per year, and its out-of-state tuition is almost $31,000; Vanderbilt’s tuition (in-state and out-of-state) is almost $45,000 per year. My point? Have your child apply to more than one school, especially if they want to attend a private school.
How Will You Pay for It?
Your child has decided where they want to attend college, and they’ve scheduled the ACT or SAT (or both)—now you have to figure out how you’re going to pay for college. If you’re like most parents, you and your spouse can’t foot the entire bill. Fortunately, you don’t have to.
There’s lots of money available to pay for college: grants, scholarships, and student loans.
Grants place more weight on need, and scholarships place more weight on academic performance. Some scholarships, though, are reserved for specific groups. The Tennessee Society of CPA Scholarship, for example, is only awarded to students who are Tennessee residents majoring in accounting. Students often assume they need lofty grade-point-averages to qualify for scholarships. They don’t. So make sure your child researches them.
The financial aid packet is critical, and it should be completed as early as possible because most schools award aid on a first-come-first-served basis. The earlier your child applies, the better their chance of getting money and the better their chance of getting more money. Also, by applying for financial aid early, if your child has left some important information out or has made a mistake, they’ll have time to submit the correct information before deadline.
Clock is Ticking …
The financial-aid application period began on October 1st (2017), so if your child will need aid for the 2018-2019 school year, which will begin in August of 2018, have them begin applying now.
What’s great about the process beginning on October 1st is, you can include your 2016 tax return in the application. Since you probably earned more in 2016 than you did in 2015, and will earn more next year than you will this year, by using your 2016 return, you’ll have less income (than you’ll have next year) to report. As a result, your child will have greater financial need and will probably receive more aid.
Companies are desperate for talent, and in their scramble to attract high-achieving students, they’re offering yet another way to help your child pay for college. Work-versed learning programs like apprenticeships and internships are more popular than ever, allowing students to earn money while getting valuable work experience. This experience looks great on a resume, but more importantly, it gives the student an opportunity to decide if this is the kind of work they want to do for the rest of their life.