Visit any college campus on a weekend and you are likely to witness - or participate in - a tradition unique to the country’s higher education culture: college campus visits involving parents and soon to be high school graduates. These events are often very helpful on many levels, but one of the most important discussions impacting many family decisions about college experiences is founded on two key points: a student’s academic accomplishments and financial matters. College admissions representatives have different ways to share their institution of higher learning’s range of opportunities for an individual student. High school students who wait until the 11th hour of the senior year to begin looking at heading to college the following September are likely to find they may well be less than successful. In fact, getting a jump on starting the college selection and admissions process can rarely start too early, according to admissions officials at several of area colleges and universities. A local teen admitted getting somewhat used to receiving a pleasantly surprised response from admissions officers when they learned she had just started her sophomore year of high school, and was beginning her college search efforts as well. Thanks to technology, students and parents can conduct extensive information gathering efforts at any point in the college search process without having to go much further from home then a trip to their local library or the high school guidance office. One of the most cost effective ways to do basic research about the entire college admissions process is generally available at your local library through its free Internet programs, and by reviewing materials available for the asking on the library shelf. Investing no more than the cost of gas used to drive to your local library, and a little of your time, can easily help familiarize you with summarized information about college just about anywhere in the nation, admissions details, possible financing assistance ideas, contact names and information and much more. Not sure how to approach these materials: simply ask for a little help from your resource librarian. Details of College Board testing and even preparation materials for the ACT and SAT are often also available through the Ohio public library system. Many of the large annual reference source books containing extensive individual college reviews can readily be borrowed from the library, potentially saving interested families hundreds of dollars on materials that will quickly become out-dated. These annual collections are a great place to find easily understood analysis of topics which may come as a surprise to even seasoned college search participants. One such topic: what is the average financial debt carried by students graduating in a certain year from a specific college or university. Information offered includes the average financial aid awards, scholarships, grade point average at entrance, SAT and ACT scores carried by these students into the experience and even average costs of various housing and meal programs. The numbers help drive home the need to more fully understand what all sources of potential monies mean to students and their parents from the moment a commitment is made to attend a school as it is likely financial responsibility and accountability will become a big part of the decision making process from that point in time until the debts are paid. The source of funding matters: scholarships are largely awarded based on academic achievement and repayment is not required; grants are given based on financial need and repayment is not required; however, repayment of college loans is usually started immediately following graduation or if a student leaves school. It is worth noting, the possibility of receiving college financial awards are not necessarily eliminated as an option when applying for need based aid at a growing number of colleges and universities. A student’s official financial need status is often determined based on information each has filed in a standardized process used nationwide. School officials take that information and calculate the difference between the cost of sending a student to a certain school and the contribution expected from them and their patents. It is this difference that is considered as their respective financial need number. “Cost of attendance - expected family contribution (EFC) = financial need” Looking at a college experience as an investment is a point of view very much encouraged by many of the professionals available to help students and their parents through the entire multi-year college process. Helpful websites for this process include: www.FederalStudentAid.ed.gov www.college.gov www.fastweb.com www.schoolsoup.com www.finaid.org www.usnews.com/education/paying-for-college The nation’s preeminent source for current college admissions information: the College Board, is available to the general public also through the Internet via your local public library and also through many school guidance resource libraries. The College Board is a not-for-profit membership association whose mission is to connect students to college success and opportunity. Founded in 1990, it serves seven million students and their parents; 23,000 high schools; and 3,800 colleges through major programs and services in college readiness, college admission, guidance, assessment, financial aid and enrollment. Information about College Board services and resources can be accessed on the web at www.collegeboard.org or by calling 212-713-8000.
THERE?ARE?many financial aid options available for parents and their soon to be college student. However, don’t wat until the last minute to start applying.