Tips for Successful College Interviews

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According to CollegeData, while an interview likely won’t get you admitted, it certainly can reinforce why you should or shouldn’t be…

As your scheduled interview nears, prepare by reviewing the following:

  1. Research the School. Be ready to explain why you are applying and what you like about the school.
  2. Prepare Ahead of Time. Print out directions to the interview site, review your application for admittance, write down all questions you may have, don’t have anyone tagalong, and don’t arrive hungry.
  3. Present Yourself Well. Wear neat, conservative attire. Arrive early, smile, be polite. Shake hands and speak naturally, without slang or cuss words.
  4. Bring a Resume or List of Activities. This may spark some questions, allowing you to showcase talents and achievements.
  5. Demonstrate Enthusiasm and Energy. The interview is designed for you to show why you want to attend the specific school. Be sure to respond with enthusiasm.
  6. Anticipate Common Questions. You may be asked to describe yourself and explain what you will be able to contribute to the school. Be specific, using vivid examples to showcase your unique talents.
  7. Speak for a Minute or Two Following Each Question. If an answer doesn’t come easily, request for an explanation of the question. Answer decisively and positively.
  8. Be Sure to Ask Your Own Questions. Interviewers expect questions, as it demonstrates your interest in the school. Ask questions that demonstrate you’ve researched the school (e.g., ask about the academic program that interests you).
  9. Don’t Mention Test Scores or GPA. That information they already know. They want to know the person behind the stats.
  10. Follow Up. Obtain the name and contact info of the interviewer. Send a short thank you note, preferably by mail.

Interviewers often are surprised by how ill-prepared many students are for the interview.

Don’t be one of them…

Save Money, Live on Campus?

Families should not focus only on tuition when planning the “paying for college” budget. The room and board expense also should be considered.

According to data reported to U.S. News via an annual survey of schools, the average expense for room and board was $10,644 for the 2017-18 academic year.

As costs vary from school-to-school, depending on the location of the school, living on campus may be the cheapest option available to students and families. Here are five examples:

  1. If your school is located in an area where living expenses exceed the national average;
  2. Your school offers housing scholarships;
  3. You’re able to become a Resident Advisor;
  4. You plan to return home during the summer; and/or,
  5. Your school offers a broad range of room rates.

A Lifetime of Horror??

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Media everywhere (e.g., television, radio, newspaper, Internet, etc.) recently have been discussing the explosive growth of school debt, striking fear in the hearts of families with college-bound children, with children in college, and families with PLUS loans.

While it’s true that roughly 44 million Americans owe nearly $1.4 trillion in school debt, is there a way to accurately understand that indebtedness and who likely will be affected?

While not too surprising, the debt holders most likely to default were those that:

(1) dropped out of school;

(2) attended a non-selective college; and/or

(3) came from a disadvantaged background.

Still, more subtle factors also contribute to default.

Students who attend for-profit institutions and students who attend community college default at similar rates. Students graduating with a bachelor’s degree default the least.

When comparing broad groups of students (e.g., Arts/Humanities, Business, STEM, and Vocational, which included majors like aviation, cosmetology, and welding), studies have shown that those majoring in the Arts have significantly higher default rates than those majoring in other areas.

When facing a “mountain” of school debt, debt which could last 30 or more years, is an undergraduate education worth the expense? Perhaps it depends on the media source in which you place your trust. Nevertheless, it seems that those with 4-year degrees have a much easier time finding employment than those without.

And, with the addition of the debt elimination program, families who plan properly for the cost of education and the repayment of school loans, need not succumb to the fear our media sources are sowing.

For more information, contact our Professional College Planners to schedule your meeting.

College Differs from High School…Really??

Unless you’ve spent a weekend on campus with an older sibling, it may be quite difficult to picture how life on campus differs from life in high school.

The difference that supersedes all others?

You’re in charge.

You’re in charge of your time, your classwork, your studies, your social life, your living quarters, your money, and your mood. Unlike high school, there really is no safety net.

One of the biggest challenges – the more than ample free time at your disposal (unless you’re an athlete, but that’s another story). You might schedule 2-3 classes one day, 0-1 the next. While kicking back and entertaining yourself might be quite tempting, you’ll need to wisely allocate your time.

Guess what? Information isn’t crammed down your throat. You’re responsible for learning the material, even the data not covered in class. You’ll be expected to participate and you may even be graded on attendance.

College exams are infrequent and much tougher. Cramming won’t save the day! You’’ be expected to display mastery of content; luck guesses are few and far between.

New friends, multiple parties, no bed checks…ample opportunity for way too much fun. Successful students learn to balance school with fun, focusing on schoolwork.

You likely will be sharing a room with one or more strangers. Be sure you know how to negotiate, from lights out to what’s considered neat. While a roommate may never become your best friend, they can expand your horizons (e.g., culture, academics, recreation, etc.).

Rough patches in college are to be expected. Changes may need to be made. It may take a few months to acclimate to your new-found independence. And when you acclimate, you’ll likely find college an immensely rewarding experience.

 

 

Should You Engage the Services of a Professional College Planner?

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Students and their families have a huge decision to make when it comes to their college planning campaign.

Most college-bound students, while highly qualified, aren’t number one in their class, aren’t top athletes, and aren’t considered financially needy. In short, they’re from the average family.

The average family faces an increasingly complex undergraduate admissions process, often increasingly confusing technological issues, and swiftly rising costs-of-attendance. Moreover, they have less and less time to devote to their college planning campaign.

According to Mary Chao in her December 29, 2017 article, professional college planners “… help streamline the process of college admissions, acting as a coach through the process while helping with interviews, essays and seeking out colleges with the right fit that will offer financial incentives, or aiding a student in getting into a highly selective college.”

More and more families find engaging the services of a professional college planner a worthwhile investment of both time and resources, helping families save money in the long run while directing students toward “right fit” schools.

Without doubt, investment in a college education is one of the largest expenses a family will face. If there are two or more children, the investment likely will exceed the expense of a mortgage.

Professional college planners offer impartial advice regarding the admissions process, while helping find the right schools for the student. However, they will not offer written or verbal guarantees of admission, financial aid, or scholarships.

Nevertheless, engaging the services of a professional college planner may be the best decision a family can make regarding their college planning campaign.

A Few, Important, College Planning Do’s and Don’ts

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Just as all parents planning for the expense of a college education focus on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) rules surrounding the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), small business owners should pay particularly close attention. The higher the EFC, the more a family will pay.

Don’t Save in A Student’s Name

Assets in a student’s name will be assessed at 20%-25%, depending on the school. Assets in the parent’s name will be assessed at only 5.64%. Moreover, a family also has an Asset Protection Allowance (APA) which, for a typical family, is around $19,500; students are not afforded such protection.

Don’t Pay with a Grandparent-Owned 529 Plan

While some financial advisors recommend this strategy, it actually provides a highly negative result. Funds from a grandparent-owned 529 Plan will be considered untaxed income to the student. Student income is assessed at 50%.

However, students do have a small income protection allowance of around $6,400. Any dollar in excess of that allowance will be assessed and will impact financial aid.

Don’t Use or Borrow Retirement Funds

Sure, parents may get a “break” by paying for college from IRA funds, as the government waives the 10% penalty for early withdrawal. However, most parents forget that they are increasing their income by the amount of the withdrawal, thereby increasing the amount assessed for EFC purposes. Parent income is assessed between 22%-47%.

Utilize Available Tax Deductions and Credits

Paying the entire cost of college from a 529 Plan may result in the loss of the American Opportunity Tax Credit, as distributions from the 529 Plan are tax-free. Claiming the credit is considered “double-dipping” and is not permitted. Be sure to consult your tax advisor. Don’t miss out on free money.

Become Acquainted with EFC-Reduction Strategies

Be sure to educate yourself; however, that may not be enough. Nor would just relying on your CPA. The foolproof means of obtaining the most complete, current information is to seek the assistance of a Professional College Planner.

Do you feel as though you need an advanced degree to plan for college?

There is plenty to learn and to navigate. The expense of a college education may be the largest investment of your lifetime, especially when considering more than one child.

Whatever you do – – start early!

A great time to start is when your children are in middle school. Waiting until junior or senior year in high school may be too late.

No college planning campaign should be attempted without the assistance of a knowledgeable advisor. At times, we all need the help of a specialist.

Planning for college is one of those times.

Contact our Professional College Planners to schedule your meeting!

 

Capturing Brilliance…with Your Application Essay

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What is your essay about?

It’s not about grades, scores, achievements…it’s about

YOU!!!

Schools search for curious, articulate people who can think and write both coherently and intelligently.

More than 60% of schools don’t require an essay; at others, a well-written essay is a must!

Regardless of the essay topic, the real topic is you.

Your readers want a glimpse into your life, your personality, your thought process, your humor. They want to know if you can learn from your experiences.

So, here are a few basic guidelines to follow in developing a strong essay…

Analyze the essay question, carefully noting any and all requirements, especially word counts. Follow instructions verbatim.

Don’t delay; procrastination usually worsens the experience. Talk through your topic, recording your thoughts.

Demonstrate thoughtfulness. You might consider writing about not-so-successful situations where you learned about yourself.

Treat your essay like you were writing a story. Develop a strong story line through outlining your essay.

Bring to life the person revealed by your grades, scores, recommendations, and extracurriculars.

Ask trusted people to review your essay; but, don’t let them change your style or what you’re conveying. Be sure it’s coherent and grammatically correct.

Many Schools; One Application

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A single application accepted by any schools…

Sounds easy, right?

Alas, there is much more to it than plowing through a form online and clicking the “submit” button…

So…here are some tips for using well-known application services…

The Common Application. Accepted by over 600 schools, it is the oldest and most well-know of the application providers.

The Universal College Application. Accepted by nearly 30 schools, it is similar to the Common Application.

Common Black College Application. Accepted by any of the 50 historically black schools, students can apply to as many as desired for a single $35 fee.

The Coalition for Access and Affordability. While it is the newest service, its more than 90 member institutions must: meet affordable tuition requirements; post a 6-year graduation rate of at least 70%; and, provide need-based financial aid.

The tips…

Now that it’s easy to apply to scores a schools, resist the temptation. Avoid fees by sticking to the schools that truly interest you.

Learn the platform and its tools before starting. Doing so may prevent unnecessary irritations later on.

Determine if any of the schools to which you’re applying require essays, recommendations, and/or additional information about you.

Don’t send the same template to every school. Use supplemental essays to highlight why you wish to attend the school, what makes it special to you, and what you think you may be able to contribute.

Don’t automatically submit the application when you’ve completed it. Print it out, review it with others, and be sure there are no omissions or mistakes. Plus, a backup hard copy never hurts.

Don’t panic over technical issues. Schools realize problems occur and typically extend deadlines if they do.