Your most Successful Semester of College

The 2018 fall college semester is just around the corner.  Whether this is your first (freshman) or last (senior), this could be your most successful semester.  We’ve asked one of our college students to identify some steps they take each semester to ensure a successful semester.  Our college senior is Mikaela, she maintains a high GPA and is on the highest honors list at her college in PA.  Here are some of her tips for a successful semester.

Tips from a College Senior for the fall college semester

Plan before you get to school.  Your syllabi usually come out two weeks prior to school.  One helpful tool is to purchase or create a planner.  These come in many different varieties from daily to weekly.  If this is your first semester, you may need to experiment a little.  But a planner will help you keep your assignments in order.

Keep up with your college assignments.  Don’t wait until the last minute to complete your assignments.  The tendency is to wait.  And sometimes you feel like you have a lot of time left, but time can easily get away from you in college.  Waiting will only mean that you get jammed up toward the end of the week, or end of the semester.  “I try to get my weekly work done early in the week, so I have the weekends off.” (Mikaela, college senior)  You can also divide larger projects into your weekly work schedule.  By keeping up with your weekly work, you can ensure a successful semester.

Make a wise decision regarding your class textbooks.  First, rent books that you are not going to keep.  If you are going to keep your books, think about buying them online or from friends who may have already taken the class.  Check the college classifieds or college bulletin boards to find books that may be available for your upcoming classes.  You may be able to save hundreds of dollars this way.

Additional Advice includes: You need to work to balance your class work with activity/rest time.  Also, use google drive for notes…this way you can share your notes with classmates easily.

Tips from a College Financial Planner:

Find the best way to send money to your college student.  It never fails, every semester there will be a call from your student to ask for money.  You need to find the best way to send money to your college student.  There are multiple options available.  Using your local bank to transfer money may be the best option, but make sure there are no holds on funds or restrictions on amounts of transfers.  You may also be able to set up an automatic transfer to your student’s college account to give them extra funds for on-campus spending.

Again these are some tips that we have found beneficial.  We invite you into the conversation below.  Please take time to add your tips, or thoughts on the tips we have mentioned in the comment section below.


FERPA and your College Finances

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) was enacted to protect the privacy of educational records.  But did you know, when a student reaches their college years, the parent no longer has rights to the students educational information?  The FERPA law gives all protection to the student as an individual.  Here’s what you need to know to help prepare your college finances for FERPA.

FERPA Defined

According to the United States Department of Education, “The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.”  What is important to note, is that these rights are transferred to the student after high school.  The US Department of Education asserts, that “FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children’s education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level.”  While FERPA is designed to protect the family, it also creates barriers for the parents of college-aged students.  College academics and college finances are two areas where FERPA may create these barriers.

FERPA and Your College Academics

College academics are an important part of college life for the student.  But they are just as important to the parent.  Many parents, who are paying for college, like to know how their students are performing academically.  Others parents like to be a source of encouragement in their student’s academic life.  Whichever the case, parents need to be involved in their student’s academic information.  FERPA restricts this information.  In fact, without permission from the student, this information is not accessible by the parent.

Luckily, FERPA does allow the student to grant permission for the parent to have access to their academic and financial information.  The US Department of Education states, “Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student’s education record.”   A sample of this document is found on the US Department of Education website.  Make sure to check with your college to see if they have a specific form that needs to be on file.

FERPA and Your College Finances explains the ways in which FERPA affects college finances.  They state that “records created and maintained by the financial aid office are considered to be education records and may not be disclosed without the student’s consent.”  According to FERPA, the parent(s) should have no access to this information.  This information may include Federal loan information, student accounts, cost of attendance information, and even financial payment information.  These are important financial areas where both the student and parent(s) need to monitor.  This will help evaluate and develop your financial plan for college.

Most of the academic and financial information is now given through the student’s college portal.  Some colleges allow the parent to have a sign-on to this student portal after permission has been granted.  Each college will have different methods for handling the FERPA permissions.  What is important is that you as the parent obtain the proper permission so that you can have access to this vital information.  No one wants your student to succeed academically or financially more than you do.

How your SAT/ACT Scores Impact your College Finances.

College finances are one of the most complicated aspects of preparing for college.  There is so much pressure placed upon students and families to gain the best possible financial aid package.  Colleges go to great lengths to disclose all the important financial information.  They even try to cover as much of the financial burden as

Your SAT/ACT Scores Impact your College Finances.

possible.  However, your SAT/ACT scores play an important role in your college finances.


Many colleges are moving away from using the SAT/ACT scores as a primary source for admission.  However, these scores still play a major role in your college finances.  Most colleges use the SAT/ACT scores to award merit-based aid.  In fact, Marie Willsey states, “a recent study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), nearly four out of five colleges use standardized test scores as an eligibility criterion for merit aid.”  Your SAT/ACT scores impact your college finances.  Here are some ideas for improving your SAT/ACT scores which in turn improves your financial aid.

Study, Study, Study!

You should make sure you are ready for your SAT/ACT.  This means you need to study.  There are plenty of study options available.  Depending on your particular learning style, you can learn from private tutoring to classroom training, online tools or study guides.  At College4Less, we offer a great SAT/ACT preparatory course.  You need to be ready for your test because your college finances are affected by the outcome of your test.


A simple search of your college’s financial aid web page can show the merit-based aid.  This scale is usually defined primarily by your SAT/ACT scores.  The better your score; the better your financial aid.  Each school determines its own merit based scale, but the fact remains that a better score means better aid.  Your SAT/ACT score impacts your college finances.

With just a few improvements, you can see huge dividends in merit-based aid.  In fact, one student, in our program, improved their SAT score by 40 points and receives an additional $16,000 in merit-based aid.  So while the news reports that SAT/ACT are not as important in entering in college, they are still very important to your college finances.





College Debt Statistics (2016)

College Debt is on the Rise

Around this time of year, our offices look to see the new college debt statistics.  These statistics reflect the amount of indebtedness associated with the most recent graduating class.  These numbers are always on the rise.  For instance, in just four years the amount of indebtedness has risen 37% (27,000.00 in 2012 to 37,000.00 in 2016 as reported by Mark Kantrowitz, of  In 25 years the amount of indebtedness has risen almost 200% (12,000 in 1990).

The untold story is that while college indebtedness has continued to rise, wage growth has remained relatively steady.  Huffingtonpost reports that “Median wages have increased 1.6% over the last 25 years while median debt has risen 163.8%.”  They project that “student debt at graduation for the typical bachelor’s degree recipient could exceed annual wages by 2023.”

To further complicate the problem, grants and scholarships for college have not risen to meet the heavy financial demand.  There is a widening gap between the cost of college and the award packages offered by many colleges.  This leads many people to leverage their future with a heavy load of debt.

College Financial Planning is essential

This is why financial planning for the college years is essential.  There are many options for each individual to prepare for the college years.  These options range from savings accounts, to investment options, to college decision counseling.  While not every option applies to every family, many of the options available could save thousands of dollars over the course of one’s college experience.

Our best advice is to seek out a financial planner who specializes in financial planning with the college years in mind.  This is an area of special focus for our offices.  We have a varied approach that includes: college mentoring, SAT/ACT preparation, financial planning, and much more.  Each plan takes into account the individual goals of each client to minimize the debt load of the student.