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.