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What questions should I be asking on college visits?

June 21, 2016

By YOU Program Facilitator

What questions should I be asking on college visits? | A group of parents and students gather during a college tour to listen to the tour guide speak.

Question: My daughter will be going to college next fall, so we’re visiting schools this summer. What questions should we be asking during these college visits so that she makes the right choice?

Answer: First, your daughter should make a list of schools she would like to attend and discuss these choices with her guidance counselor. The counselor may help her narrow down her choices based on which schools offer strong programs relevant to her intended career choice, offer potential scholarships for her academic and/or extracurricular strengths, etc.

Class Size
As you research the schools, including asking questions during a visit, find out the average class size for incoming undergraduates. Think about your daughter’s learning style and evaluate whether she will succeed in that size of a class. For example, if she needs extra attention from the teacher, a large school with classes of 300 students might not be the best fit for her.

Financing
If you are concerned about financing college, meet with a financial aid counselor during your visit. Discuss work-study programs, potential scholarships, and funding options for your family.

Living Arrangements
Ask about typical living arrangements for an incoming freshman, including meal packages. Do freshman usually live in residence halls? Does the school have requirements for students to live on campus? If so, for how many years?

Visit some of the dormitories so that your daughter can see what her living situation will be like. Is it clean? Is it safe and well lit at night?

Safety
Ask about the safety measures the campus takes to protect students both during class times and after class. Your daughter needs to be safe walking to and from class and on nights and weekends when living in the dorms.

Create an agenda for your visits with a list of questions you need answered, people with whom you’d like to meet (schedule those appointments in advance), and places on and off campus you would like to see. With that agenda, you can ensure you hit all the important points while still having time for fun together as a family.

For more information on choosing a college, college admissions, and preparing for college, see the third book in the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher 3-book set.

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The Ultimate College Prep List

February 16, 2016

By Jessica Vician

You have been practicing parent engagement techniques for a long time and your teenager is doing well in school. Great job! The next step is college and career readiness. To help you and your teen prepare, read through this list of articles from YOU Parent experts that detail what to do next.

ExamsHelp Your Student Prepare for College Entry Exams | High school students take an exam in the classroom.

Before your child can be admitted to a community college, 4-year college, or university, he or she must meet minimum grade point average (G.P.A.) and college entry exam requirements. Read the below article for study tips that will help your teen succeed on the exam(s).

Help Your Student Prepare for College Entry Exams

Choosing a SchoolHelp Your Child Choose a College | A student raises his hand in a lecture hall and the professor calls on him.

Once your child has taken the appropriate college entry exam(s), he or she can start researching and narrowing down schools to attend. Read through these tips that will guide you and your student as you choose a school.

Helping Your Child Choose a College

College Tours: Parent Engagement Activity

Choosing College: Where Your Friends Don’t Attend

AdmissionHow to write an outstanding college admissions essay.

After narrowing down his or her choices, your teen will need to apply to school. These articles explain how to succeed in the most important admission steps.

Writing an Outstanding College Admissions Essay

Finish These 4 College Application Steps

Tuition and ScholarshipsTuition costs: in-state, public, and private. | The graph illustrates the difference in cost between in-state public schools, out-of-state public schools, and private schools.

How will you or your child pay for school once he or she is admitted? These articles explain how to prepare for those costs, from choosing a lower-priced school to applying for scholarships and financial aid.

Tuition Costs: In-State, Public, and Private

5 Must-Read FAFSA Facts

Scholarship Hunting: 3 Places to Find Them

What tips have been most helpful for you and your child in preparing to go to college? Tell us in the comments below.

Tags :  collegehigh schoolacademic
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Help Your Student Prepare for College Entry Exams

January 19, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Help Your Student Prepare for College Entry Exams | Help your high school junior prepare for the exams with these three tips. | High school students take exams.

If your high school junior is planning to apply to college, he or she should take the first college entry exam this spring. While colleges consider many factors during the admissions process, grade point average (GPA) and entry exam scores are very important, as they indicate how well the student may do in school.

Help your high school junior prepare for the exams with these tips.

Create a game plan.
Depending on the college, your student may need to take an SAT and/or ACT test. Ask your child to create a list of schools he or she wants to attend (including back-up choices) and find out which admission tests those schools require.

Then decide on exam dates. For example, the College Board recommends that students take the exam in the spring of junior year and then again in the fall of senior year. Students often take the exams more than once to try to improve their scores.

Once you have decided on exam dates, register for the exams to secure your child’s spot.

Study smart.
Make the most of studying for the exam. Many of the questions should cover topics that your student has already learned, but it’s important that he or she has a good grasp of these topics and concepts going into the exam.

The SAT website has several free practice options available, from a question of the day to sample questions and tests. You can also purchase a study guide or take an online course through the site for a fee. The ACT website also features a question of the day and sample questions for free, and you can purchase a study guide for more help.

Seek low-cost prep programs.
Your child’s high school may offer free or low-cost study sessions to prepare for the tests. Take advantage of these classes, as they teach your child how to maximize time on the tests and strategically answer questions.

You can also search community centers in your area to see if they offer free or reduced-cost prep sessions. Many companies offer online prep courses, which are less expensive than in-person courses, and some may offer free trials of their products.

A strong score on these admission tests can greatly increase your child’s chances for college admission and scholarships, especially at highly selective schools. Your child has already been preparing in his or her daily coursework, but it’s important that he or she makes an extra effort to prepare for these tests to ensure the best outcome.

Do you have any tips for college admission testing success? Share in the comments below.

Tags :  academiccollegehigh school
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5 Must-Read FAFSA Facts

January 7, 2016

By Jessica Vician

5 Must-Read FAFSA Facts | If your child is planning to go to college in the fall, complete the FAFSA as soon as possible to see what kind of funding he or she qualifies for. Once you know, your family can decide whether or not to accept the aid.  While time is of the essence, it’s also important to ask questions so you know what your child needs to do. | A piggy bank with a graduation cap sits on top of a pile of cash.

On January 1, 2016, students planning to attend college during the 2016-2017 school year became eligible to complete the FAFSA. FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. If your child is planning to go to college in the fall, complete the FAFSA as soon as possible to see what kind of funding he or she qualifies for. Once you know, your family can decide whether or not to accept the aid.

While time is of the essence, it’s also important to ask questions so you know what your child needs to do.

What is Federal Student Aid?
Federal Student Aid is a part of the U.S. Department of Education and serves as the largest provider of student financial aid in the U.S. They distribute over $150 billion annually in federal funds for college, career school, and work-study programs.

What kind of funding do they provide?
Federal Student Aid provides three types of funding:

  1. Grants, which are funds that don’t need to be repaid if your student remains in class
  2. Loans, which are borrowed for school and must be repaid with interest once the student is out of school (regardless of earning a degree)
  3. Work-study, which is a work program that helps your student earn money to pay for school

Is my child eligible for aid?
Students must meet at least eight eligibility requirements, including:

  • Demonstrate financial need
  • Be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen
  • Have a valid Social Security number
  • Be enrolled or accepted as a regular student in an eligible program
  • Sign the FAFSA certification statement
  • Demonstrate qualification to obtain college or career school education
  • Maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) in college or career school
  • Be registered with the Selective Service if your child is male

See the full list and details to these requirements on the Student Aid website.

When does my child need to apply?
Today!

The sooner your child applies for the FAFSA, the more likely he or she is to receive grants (if eligible) and other funding. Technically, the federal deadline is on June 30. However, many state and college deadlines are sooner.

For instance, many states have deadlines in early March. Illinois students are encouraged to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1, as the awards are available on a first-come, first-served basis in the state.

When does my child need to repay the loans?
It’s equally important that you and your student understand when and how to repay the loans.

After leaving school (with or without a degree), a student must start making payments on some loans immediately (like PLUS loans), while other lenders allow a six-month grace period before payments begin. Visit this page to learn more about repayment options.

Do you have other questions about Financial Aid? Ask in the comments below.

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Finish These 4 College Application Steps Before 2016

December 15, 2015

By Kevin Rutter

Finish These 4 College Application Steps Before 2016 | If your high school senior hasn't already, he or she should be finalizing college applications this month. Encourage your student to complete as many of these more time-consuming final tasks before the New Year to avoid falling behind. | High school students walk the halls at school.

If your high school senior hasn't already, he or she should be finalizing college applications this month. Encourage your student to complete as many of these more time-consuming final tasks before the New Year to avoid falling behind. 

Request Reference Letters
Make sure your student does not leave this step for the last minute. Teachers and counselors have a full plate and it is difficult to fulfill last minute requests to write a great letter of recommendation. Sit down with your child and write a general letter of reference that highlights positive characteristics, academic achievements and extra-curricular activities. This sample letter can then be given to recommenders to guide them and make completion faster.

Complete FAFSA Documents 
W-2 forms are needed to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application will determine how much state and federal aid will be available to defer tuition costs and it operates on a first-come, first-served basis. The money runs out, so it is imperative that your child submits the FAFSA as soon as possible and they need your tax information.

Parents, you have a critical role in completing the FAFSA. The forms will require you to provide evidence of your family’s income by using your tax documents, W-2 and 1040 forms. You will be able to submit the FAFSA sooner if you have this information available. All schools offer free services to parents to help prepare these documents, so take advantage of them.

Schedule and Prepare for Interviews
Several students of mine are currently having interviews to make the final determination on a scholarship opportunity or admission to an institution. Interviews can be tough, but there are some simple strategies that can help your child feel more confident about them.

  • Practice, practice, practice.
    Generally, interviews involve the same kind of questions: Tell me about yourself, why do you want to go to school here? Tell me about a time when you were a leader, where do you see yourself in 5 years? Review these questions with your child and help them refine their answers.
  • Make a good first impression.
    First impressions also play big role in determining the outcome of an interview. Practice shaking hands with a firm grip and eye contact, get your student there at least 15 minutes early, and make sure he or she is dressed for success.
  • Send a thank you note.
    A hand-written thank you note, sent after the interview, is also a nice touch that can separate your child from the competition.

College Admission Test Prep
These tests can produce a lot of anxiety. The best way to have your student feel better about them is to do some research about what specifically will be on the exam. Once that is determined, the student can put in some practice time. This is especially important for admission tests that involve timed essays. Getting the timing right takes rehearsal and repletion. Check with the school counseling office to see if there are any practice tests available so that the format and question types can be reviewed.

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