IT'S THE time of year which sends many parents running for the antacid - financial aid form time!
Thankfully, as parents attempt to navigate their way through forms to get their student on their way to college, local high school counselors say help is readily available.
The key, they say, is to make a plan with your child and start early.
Members of the Class of 2010 at The Linsly School enjoy a review of a college information website with (seated) Penny Cunningham, director of
college counseling and
college admissions. Senior class members reviewing college admission
information with Cunningham are (from left) Samantha Weisal of Lansing, A.J. Ciechomski of St. Clairsville and Angela Tolbert of Martins Ferry.
Most high school counselors locally begin efforts to connect students with information about possible college and career opportunities as early as the eighth grade. The goal is to begin getting students thinking about life beyond high school, and how they need to proceed through their high school career in order to support such a plan.
"A personalized plan can make all the difference when it comes to the level of success a student ultimately enjoys when it comes time to testing schedules and registration, timetables set by colleges for the application processes, details and timeliness connected to financial aid applications both local and national and possible scholarship awards," said Penny Cunningham, director of college counseling and college admissions at The Linsly School.
Making a plan to follow toward an individual educational and career goal is vitally important to a student's potential for success, regardless what program or career they are targeting, say local high school guidance professionals.
"If you don't have a plan you are not going to get anywhere," is the message Martins Ferry High School Guidance Counselor Vicki Falcone shares with students and parents.
Parents and students can look to the guidance counselors in their local high school as key resource persons regardless the education related topic.
Standardized testing details which are routinely part of a pre-college effort are also generally handled through a high school's guidance office.
Ohio public schools generally offer the ACT program. The Linsly School, which is a registered testing site for the SAT program offers it, and also makes the ACT available.
Not surprisingly, the Internet has become an accepted method for accessing information about colleges and degree programs of all types nationwide, and is a resource both parents and students can use.
"Guidance counselors working with high school students often place links on the school's own website to sites they believe offer quality information for students and parents alike about available degree programs, colleges and scholarship possibilities," said Buckeye Local High School Guidance Counselor Jim Hamilton, noting families wanting to access this type of information can get necessary passwords by contacting the school's guidance office. "That way the information can be accessed anywhere and anytime they need it."
All stressed time is not your friend where applications for financial aid and scholarships are concerned. Make it a point to find out timeliness for this type of information for programs you are seriously considering and keep it easily available.
"Parents and students often find they can't believe how fast time passes during the high school years," noted Cunningham. "This is one reason it is important we do everything we can to make sure each student understands that from day one of their freshman year every grade really does matter."
Students are not always the best means of communicating important college application process information to parents, agreed all the local guidance professionals, noting informational sessions for parents are routinely held at high schools to make certain parents get vital details in time to meet any related deadlines.
Paying attention to the calendar is important throughout a high school career for many reasons rooted in a student's individual level of interest in a college education, including accessing practice test sessions and getting registered for actual test opportunities.
"It is important to be realistic throughout the entire college application, acceptance and decision process particularly when it comes to things like testing outcomes, and reasons a student is initially considering a particular school or program," offered Cunningham.
Recognize there are potential problems when choosing to attend a college a student has never visited.
"If a personal visit to the campus is impossible, try to find a school known to be similar, but that is within your ability to visit, and go there at least once, pre-arranged absences for this purpose," said Falcone.
A school's policy about pre-arranged college visit days can provide some opportunities for campus visits you may not have been aware existed, she explained.
"Students also need to remember it is important to keep their grades up all the way through graduation," offered Falcone. "A college admission is in place based on their performance through graduation. So once you get accepted and you commit to that school, don't cause yourself a problem by slacking off on the academics for the rest of the year. It is important to keep your grades up."
The local guidance professionals also noted the increasingly important role local colleges and universities, and two year programs can play in the overall plan for students wanting to avoid the higher costs that can come with spending their entire college career living on campus, particularly at a long distance from home.
"Since most college students are looking at undergraduate and graduate school, finding creative and practical ways to help keep their educational debt down are increasingly leading them to consider getting the first year or two completed closer to home," offered Falcone.
Cunningham and Falcone cautioned parents against feeling the need to pay for help when it comes to filing personal detailed financial information and other data needed by the NCAA Clearing House and for similarly detailed qualifying reviews.
Some ideas Cunningham shares with students during this college-planning process includes:
Questions to Consider