Summer Could Be the Best Time to Visit and Prepare for College
by Howard Freedman
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Howard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Where has the time gone? This is the ongoing question we ask when doing fun things takes priority over tasks of greater importance. This especially holds true when there is more pressure and stress to choose the best and most affordable colleges during your junior and senior years when most of the high school education has elapsed
Serving so many students and families through the years, I recognized several common characteristics that overwhelm most of them. In particular, students and parents are traveling two different paths. The student is focused on getting into college while the parent is focused on paying for it. Sadly, both parties set themselves up for disappointment, guilt or both when the student’s acceptance is negated by a family’s inability to pay for it. Only if they made the time to talk earlier and get onto the same track would results have been different? The other characteristic focuses on poor time management. This is when available time, especially during summer vacations, is wasted when college-bound students don’t effectively plan ahead.
The average student has about 12 to 13 weeks during the summer. This is not to suggest that you spend every waking moment at the library or colleges to do research. It suggests that there has to be a balance between relaxation and spending your time more wisely. Working to save money for college, doing volunteer work, meeting new people, developing financial plans and strategies for visiting colleges are some of the many ways to make the best use of your available hours to help increase your value to attend the best colleges that you can afford.
Schedule meetings with your guidance counselors before and after your summer vacation. This enables you to learn about the colleges and financial aid given to the graduating seniors for the last two years. Get some of their names for networking and getting their perspective of the college. Schedule time to contact admission and financial aid officers to learn about their selection process and how they award both merit and need-based financial aid.
Understand the steps in this process and the timetables to accomplish them. Update your resume to report volunteer and paid work, leadership roles, and summer courses at some of these colleges. Understand the different types of tests and which one will help you to get additional scholarships. Be sure to simplify the steps for your parents to better understand the strategies and individual roles.
Map out a travel plan to visit colleges on route to family vacation spots. Though colleges may not be in full session they will help you to determine which ones to visit during school vacations. Realize that you can learn a lot by just walking around and talking to people who may be able to help you later.
Make appointments to meet admissions and financial aid staff to start a dialogue, understand their policies and what it takes to get in. Be sure to write specific questions in respect of their time. Prior to your visit, develop a spreadsheet that shows how much each college awards in aid, types of aid, on-campus job opportunities and the amounts of student indebtedness after graduation. Most of this information can be obtained on the College Board (www. collegeboard.com) Web site. An economic review of finances and projected sources of income- Check out the current employment trends and where job growth will be in the long term. The U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook will provide a wealth of information to take advantage of an education that will lead to an in-demand profession.
Enjoy college tours without feeling the stress
Read as much as possible about alumni and their accomplishments. Learn about their success strategies and network with them whenever possible. Check with the college’s alumni office and find alumni within your community or those who are easily accessible. Research colleges that offer virtual tours to save you on travel costs and take you beyond descriptions alone. It will also help you to screen out those that you would like to visit.
Prepare yourself to be a more desirable candidate for college. College’s use of a process called “enrollment management” to seek and select the best candidates. They then offer generous financial aid packages based on the student’s merit. The value of using your time wisely will help you to acquire the needed attributes they are seeking while you can develop them in high school. Though you may have good grades, being a well-rounded student can be more valuable.
Learn as much as you can to be better prepared for college. Learn to improve your reading proficiency, language, and test-taking skills. Many of these skills will help you with your interviews and how to better to package yourself with a more impressive resume.
Ask questions but formulate your own opinions. Network with positive and upbeat people so that you build positive self-esteem and confidence to stand above the crowd.
Need analysis is important when quantifying how much it will cost to attend a college. Though it is unlikely that you or your family can pay for everything, it is better to address the financial issue up front than set yourself up for disappointment. Remember that your focus should be on the average net cost of an education after financial aid then the retail price. Some students may be better off attending two-year colleges and transferring then starting off at a more expensive school.
Never say never to any college until you research the facts and contact the college
Stay focused on your results and the best way of getting there when the time is available. It is OK if you are not sure about your interests or colleges of choice. There are other options that will help to pay your bills for college. Taking a gap year off and joining AmeriCorps or other organizations that offer scholarships that help you pay for college, the military that can help to build your experiences and pay for college or consider a trade school or earning a part-time degree are options that will help you to grow and provide you with future employment.
Using part of your summers to better yourself is not a waste of time or a punishment. It is best opportunity to discover your opportunities and gain a better sense of accomplishment that your summer was the most opportune time to invest in yourself and your future. ? _09