College Road Trip

A college road trip can be one of the most fun and informative steps in your college planning endeavors. Disney captured this special trip in 2008 when they released College Roadtrip. (See the official trailer here.)  Some time in between the end of one’s junior year and first part of one’s senior year of high school is the best time to take a college road trip.  So pick out a few of your top school selections, navigate the best route and head out onto the open road.  But before you go, here are a few suggestions that will make your college road trip more beneficial.

College Road TripExperience campus life

When you visit your college campus you want to experience as much campus life as is possible.  While this may be a bit more difficult in the summer, you can still tour the campus.  Call ahead and arrange a campus tour.  You will want to see the dormitories, a classroom, the library, the cafeteria, and the grounds.  If you are playing sports, you will want to see the area where your sport will take place.  Even a summer visit will yield great information about your campus life.  If at all possible, see if you could speak with a current student.  One may be available even in the summer months.

Meet your Admission Counselor

Make sure you meet with your admission counselor.  Chances are, you have already exchanged emails a few times.  But an email is not the same as a face to face meeting.  Let them get to know you, but also have a list of questions ready to ask them.  Ask about the admission process, roommate selections, student to faculty ratio, career services, and much more.  Also ask if there is anything outstanding for you to provide for the admission process.

Meet the Department Representative

If you have already declared a major, the college road trip is a great time to meet with your department representatives.  Again, questions are the best way to find out the information you want to know.  Most colleges already know what they want to tell you, but that may or may not be the information you want.  Make a list of questions you want answered.  Ask about course requirements, typical class size, office hours for professors, etc.  A little early planning will make your college road trip more beneficial.

Meet the Financial Office

Do not leave the campus without taking the opportunity to talk with the financial aid department.  You can ask about additional scholarships, payment options, financial aid deadlines, online work options, etc.  This meeting can help you better prepare your financial picture for the college years.

There are many great benefits to taking a college road trip.  But as you can see, a small amount of planning before the trip can pay great dividends during your trip.  Our staff at College4Less are ready to help you prepare for your college road trip and your college financial needs.  Contact our offices for additional information.

First Year College Expenses

The first year of college offers a variety of challenges.  From a financial perspective, many of the challenges can be averted with proper planning.  So let’s look for just a moment at the first year college expenses and offer some planning thoughts that may alleviate some stress from college’s first year.

The first expense that must be mentioned is the overall cost of college paid to the institution.  When you received your college award letter you may have had to sit down.  But by now the sticker shock has probably worn off.  The school typically has an orientation that you can sign up for prior to stepping onto campus.  These orientations are a great way to ask any last minute financial questions.  You can even set up an appointment with the financial aid office to review the award letter, and ask if there are any additional first year college expenses that you may have not considered.

The second expense concerns the change in location.  Moving into a college dorm or apartment is an exciting time, but it can also be expensive.  Most colleges offer some advise on what a typical student may need for on-campus living.  A quick search on the internet can yield a plethora of additional lists, ideas, expenses, etc.  You can start addressing this expense now.  Go ahead and find a list, and start making small purchases each week.  This may save you some time and money.  You may even be able to eliminate some of the items that were once thought needed.

Other first year college expenses are academic is nature.  I am referring to text books and academic supplies.  Again, many of these supplies can be gathered in small increments over the summer months, but others, like college textbooks and a computer, many need greater planning.  Do some research on what may be the best computer for the student’s major.  What equipment do you need to protect that investment? (Example: backpack, back-up drive, covers, etc.)  Your class text books may be a bit more tricky, because you may not know what tests are needed until later when you have a class schedule.  But as soon as you know what books you need, check out multiple stores/sites to compare prices.  Don’t forget to check the schools classified listings for used books.

Finally, let’s talk briefly about how much spending cash one needs for the first year of college.  There are so many variables to this area such as: location of the college, social involvement, major, etc.  However, most people can live on about $100.00 per month.  There may be occasions where more is needed.  However, most students know that the occasional “shot in the arm” is just a phone call away.

These are the most common first year college expenses.  You have a few more months to plan.  So use your time wisely to reduce the stress of the first year of college.




College Tips for High School Sophomores

Congratulations!  The first year of high school is in the books.  Another three years until your next freshman year.  Of course, I am referring to the freshman year of college.  While it may seem like you have plenty of time to prepare for college, there is no time like the present to start your preparation.  With that in mind, here are a few college tips for high school sophomores.

Check Your Gradesis

The first college tip for high school sophomores is to check your grades.  Your first year is an important year academically.  Your grades show how well you adjusted to the high school learning environment.  So lets take a look!  We are looking for those area where one may need a little push…or perhaps better said, a little help.  The summer time is a great time to get that extra help in an area where you may be struggling.  You can find a lot of help in the library, online, or even in the services of a good tutor.

SAT/ACT Prep Work

The second college tip for high school sophomores is to begin preparing for your SAT/ACT.  The summer leading into your Sophomore year is a great time to get a jump start on your SAT/ACT preparation.  Our company has a great program to help student prepare for the ACT and SAT tests.  Or you may want to check your local library for any resources that may be available.    You can also check out the ACT PLAN, which sates that it is designed to help “students and teachers identify strengths and areas for improvement in preparation for taking the ACT® test.”

Financial Planning

The third college tip for high school sophomores is to get your financial game plan in place.  The student is now a sophomore and it won’t be too much longer before they are applying to college.  If you haven’t already assessed where you are financially in order to contribute to your student’s education, now’s the time to do it.

These are a few college tips for high school sophomores.  If you have any questions or would like to learn more about preparing for the college years, please contact our office at our earliest convenience.


College Tips for the High School Freshman

You may think that you have plenty of time to plan for college when your child is a high school freshman.  But that is just not the case.  The high school years have a tendency to fly by.  So we wanted to share some college tips when your child is a high school freshman.
helpful tips
College Tip #1: Our first college tip for the high school freshman is to start a dialogue with your child about college.  No, it’s not too early.  In fact, we think that conversation should have already started.  So if you have not opened the dialogue, now is the time begin.  Start the conversation off slow.  Maybe say, “I know you are just starting high school this upcoming year, but have you thought about college?”  They may think it is too early to talk about college plans, but assure them it’s not.  And it’s okay, if they do not have any specific plans.  But it’s not okay to simply dismiss the conversation because you and they think it’s too early.

College Tip #2:   Our second college tip for the high school freshman is to build a “Life Resume”.  This is different than a job resume where we are recording work history, this is more like a journal of interests and activities.  These life events will help your student see what they really enjoy and areas where they really excel.  You can record sport activities, academic achievements, significant life achievements, community service, and much more.  Make notes about specific classes that captured your student’s passion and even notes about classes that were a struggle.  This “Life Resume” will help guide your student in choosing majors, colleges, and even life direction.

College Tip #3: Our third college tip for the high school freshman is more a tip for the parent.  You need to assess where you stand financially.  It’s never too early to start to think about the financial aspects of the college years.  We believe that even the middle school years are not too early to start financially planning for the college years.  Savings is where most people start, and sadly where most people end.  But to prepare for the full weight of the college years, you may want to consider putting together a more holistic financial plan for college.  We would recommend that you set down with your financial planner to put together a college funding plan that takes into account your entire investment portfolio.  If you do not have a financial planner to assist you with such a plan, call our offices and you can come in for a free college planning consultation.


Early College Planning or Huge College Debt

A few weeks ago we made mention that you should not wait until one’s Junior year in High School to start your college financial planning.  Yet the vast majority of people who pass through our offices have done little to financially prepare for the college years.  Most people are unaware of the true costs of college and many people are planning to rely on scholarship and grants.  We believe that early college planning will help each family from incurring great debt.

The reality is that almost 7 out of every 10 students graduate college in debt.  Cappex, a college selection website that generates its projections based on federal student-loan data and economic factors like inflation, predicted the average debt for this year’s graduates at $37,173. This is up from $35,000 for 2015 graduates, and an increase of over $15,000 in the last decade.  What is the solution?  We believe it is early panning.

So how can you start to plan early?  Here are a few common steps:

Save with the College years in mind!  We have all heard about the college saving plans that are available.  Yet we have observed that very few people have any kind of plan in place to save for college.  When we ask people, “How much do you have saved for college?”  People usually do not have any specific college saving account.  Even when people have set aside funds for college expenses it’s usually not enough to cover the cost of one year.  The Wall Street Journal reports that on average those who have saved for their children’s college expense have a total of $10,040.00.

Invest with the college years in mind!  Savings is certainly a great place to start college planning, but we can also make sound investments.  Some investments are better for the college years than others.  This is where you may need to seek out the help of a professional to see what investments may be most beneficial to your total college planning needs.

Colleeg4Less exists to help people plan for the college years and beyond.  If you would like us to help in your college planning endeavors, please contact us today.  If you start planning early you can alleviate huge college debt later.



The ACT and SAT and College Planning

The ACT and SAT exams are the most common tests used by college admission officer to see if a student is ready for college.  But these tests are also tied to the financial aspects of the students college application process.  Therefore, these test scores are vitally important in the college financial planning process.  Have you ever considered the difference between the two tests?

According to the College Planning Network “The ACT is considered to be a curriculum-based exam, meaning it is based on material you may have already seen in the classroom. The new SAT is now aligned with the Common Core. It will be more focused on the skills and knowledge at the heart of education.”  Another thought to consider is that each student tests differently.  The ACT may suit a particular student better than the SAT.  And of course the opposite can also be true.  You can see a comparison here.

To further complicate the issue, the SAT has been revised.  Here are a couple of changes for the new SAT:

  • The essay will be optional
  • Obscure vocabulary words are eliminated and replaced by words that are more commonly used in college and employment.
  • Mathematics questions focus on three areas: problem solving and data analysis, algebra, and passport to advanced math.
  • Questions require multiple steps to get an answer.
  • and more

The decision on which test to take is vitally important to college success.  Here are a few reasons why.  First, test scores are critical to a students college opportunities.  If test scores are low, certain colleges may not be interested in the student.  Second, test scores are tied to the financial aid awards.  Most merit-based scholarships are tied directly to ACT and SAT scores.  While some colleges are breaking with this tradition, most still place a high value on ACT and SAT test scores.

Make sure you evaluate which test may be the best for your student.  A little investment of time up front may gain you thousands of dollars in college assistance.


New FAFSA rules for college planning

If you are preparing for college,  you have probably heard about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA for short.  This is the form that all High School Seniors are required to fill out for federal aid.  Even if you are not using federal aid, the FAFSA may be required in the college application process.  The FAFSA can be a daunting task, but it is necessary. In past years this process required one to enter estimated financial information in January and enter updated information once taxes were filed.  However under the New FAFSA rules there is a small downside.

Here are the new FAFSA rules as noted by

“On Sept. 14, 2015, President Obama announced significant changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) process that will impact millions of students. Starting next year, students will be able to do the following:

Submit a FAFSA® Earlier:  Students will be able to file a 2017–18 FAFSA as early as Oct. 1, 2016, rather than beginning on Jan. 1, 2017. The earlier submission date will be a permanent change, enabling students to complete and submit a FAFSA as early as October 1 every year. (There is NO CHANGE to the 2016–17 schedule, when the FAFSA will become available January 1 as in previous years.)

Use Earlier Income Information: Beginning with the 2017–18 FAFSA, students will report income information from an earlier tax year. For example, on the 2017–18 FAFSA, students (and parents, as appropriate) will report their 2015 income information, rather than their 2016 income information.”

So now instead of estimating financial information in January and then updating that information after taxes are filed, the FAFSA can be filled out in October using the previous year’s income listed on your tax return.  This carries little impact upon those who already have children in college.  It is FAFSA as usual.

However, for those who are new to the FAFSA process, it gives one less year to make any financial adjustments before those finances appear on the FAFSA.  Under the old FAFSA, the student and parents financial information from the student’s senior year is used for the FAFSA.  Under the new FAFSA rules the student and parents financial information from the student’s junior year are used for the FAFSA.

What does this mean for the student and parent?  It means the college planning needs to start a little bit earlier.  Financial planning needs to start as early as the freshman year in high school.  The academic and community service plans can be started as early as the middle school years.  In either case, waiting until the senior year to start planning for college is a mistake.  If you would like more information about early planning for your college years, please contact us.



College Financial Planning

C4L Logo  Many parents believe that their children’s college expenses will be very similar to their own experience.  Many children have not ever considered the costs associated with college.  Many assume that the majority of the costs of college will be provided by scholarships and grants from the government or colleges themselves.  But we have found that the cost of college continues to rise and that the impact of these costs have long term affects.  College financial planning is the most affective way to prepare for your college years.  Here is our number one college financial planning tip.

Start Early! 

We cannot stress this step enough.  The earlier one starts to plan for college the more likely they will be able to attend the college of their dreams.  Start Early!

Most people start thinking about college around the same time they start thinking about the SAT/ACT.  Since the SAT/ACT test have a direct impact on college finances, it seems logical that this marks the beginning of college planning.  The SAT/ACT test will be taken at the end of the 10th grade year or the beginning of the 11th grade year. That’s roughly in the middle of the high school years.  That means there are only two years left until college.  That is simply not enough time.  It is enough time to visit a few colleges, apply to your top college choices, buy college T-shirts, and make a decision on which college to attend.  But it is not enough time to make the financial adjustments that may be necessary to attend the college of your dreams.

Here at College4Less we offer free college financial planning nights around our community for high school students and parents.  The number one comment we receive at these workshops is, “I wish I would have known about this earlier.”  Take if from parents of high school students  in our community…START EARLY!

When should you start financial planning for the college years.  You can start with some kind of college savings account.  This can be started even before your child enters grade school.  In the middle school years meet with a college minded financial planner to assure you are financially structured with the college years in mind. Then in the high school years enjoy the college process minimizing the stress of the financial load.