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10 tips on how to own! the SAT

Posted by Lindie Johnson on Sep 30, 2014 11:12:35 AM

1. Prepare, prepare, prepare!

A typical approach is to try to cram in as much information as possible in the few weeks leading up to the test. This might result in a modest score increase but the best way to make sure you understand the types of questions you will be asked - and how you need to answer them - is to study a little bit each week for an entire year (or more, if you are feeling ambitious!). 

2. Practice, practice, practice!

Part of the SAT is that you only have a certain amount of time to complete a lot of questions. If you are taking a timed version of the exam for the first time on test day, you are likely to feel anxious about getting everything completed - and it could be to your detriment. Take as many practice exams as you can get access to (10-15 is an ideal number) - and time yourself. Learn what kinds of questions you can take your time on, and which ones you need to get done quickly and move on. Experts argue that there is a strong correlation to how many practice exams you take and how well you do on the test. iStock_000043382204Small-1

3. Take the PSAT.

This official "practice" exam can help you identify your strengths and weakness when it comes to taking the SAT so you can dedicate more of your prep time to the areas you need it most. 

4. Take the SAT more than once.

Plan on taking the SAT more than once. Even if you take lots of practice exams before the big day, it's nice to know you have a second chance. You can submit your best scores to your colleges of choice. Just keep in mind that taking the SAT more than three times is unlikely to lead to much of a score increase. 

5. Learn to avoid traps.

When taking multiple choice questions, the tests are often structured to lead you down the wrong path. While you don't want to over analyze every question, be careful not to choose an answer until you have considered if it is a trap. 

6. Know how the test is structured.

For example, in the math section, the easiest questions are first and the hardest questions are at the end of the test. You are penalized more for wrong answers than you are for skipped questions, so breathe easy, take your time figuring out the problem and try to get it right rather than just filling in any circle in a rush when you don't know the answer right away. Some experts recommend not wasting time reading a passage in the reading section first. Instead, start by reading the question, finding the answer in the passage, and then moving on to the next question. 

7. Communication is key in the essay section.

Experts advise that you spend the most time organizing your points and structuring your essay to communicate a clear theme and argument. Dedicate less time to using fancy vocabulary and perfecting your grammar. These are important, but creating a clear, structured, and organized essay takes precedence. Include an introduction and conclusion and support your argument and stance with examples. 

8. Get a good night's sleep the night before the test and eat breakfast!!!

Your brain functions better on a good night's sleep. Don't stay up late cramming for the test. Instead, get good rest and start your test day with a healthy breakfast. You will need a lot of energy and endurance to get through the test and it can't be done on an empty stomach and little sleep! 

9. Don't waste your time on items not on the test.

Calculus questions aren't included. Don't focus on building up skills that won't do you any good on test day. Instead, focus your efforts on cleaning up your geometry and algebra. 

10. Invest in a test book or course.

Some free resources are available, and if you can find one (through your school or online) then take advantage. The College Board also provides some preparation materials - this is the organization that creates the SAT - so it is a good place to start looking for good test materials. 

Topics: college planning

College admissions: Should I apply early?

Posted by Lindie Johnson on Sep 22, 2014 8:30:00 AM

Applying to college early has become a very popular option over the past few decades. According to the College Board, about 450 colleges in the US now offer early application programs. There are a few different types of early application plans available, some of which bind you to the school and some that allow you to explore other options. So what is the benefit of applying early and are there circumstances where a student shouldn't apply to college early? 

First let's discuss the major types of early application plans:iStock_000000834929Small

Early Decision

The Early Decision option is specifically for students looking to apply to their first-choice college. You can only apply to one school Early Decision. You may continue to apply to other schools under Regular Admissions but you must agree to withdraw your applications from those school if you are accepted by your Early Decision school. Early Decision plans are binding so you commit to attending that school if you are accepted. Financial aid applicants will receive a tentative financial aid package at the time of acceptance. You should consider applying Early Decision only if you are certain that the particular school is the best fit for you. 

Early Action

This option, like Early Decision, allows for an early application and admission decision, but without the commitment to attend. You can apply to more than one school under an Early Action plan. While you will receive notification of acceptance early, you will receive your financial aid package in the spring with all the rest of the applicants. You may accept your offer of admissions at the time it is received or you can choose to wait until spring to notify the school of your enrollment decicion. This is a more flexible option than Early Decision. 

Restrictive Early Action

Restrictive Early Action is a program for students who know at the time of application that this is their first choice school. You should only apply to one school under the Restrictive Early Action plan but can continue to apply to other schools through Regular Admissions. It differs from Early Decision as you are offered the option of comparing financial aid awards from other schools before making your enrollment decision. 

Studies have shown that students who apply to a college early are more likely to get accepted than students who wait until the regular admission deadline, but that doesn't mean it is always a good idea to apply early. 

So when is applying early not a good idea?

  • In general, if you want to have the option of comparing financial aid packages and ultimately deciding which college is best for you until later, it is best not to apply under and Early Decision plan (Early Action is ok.) 
  • If you are slightly under-qualified (over over-qualified for that matter) for the college, your chances of getting in accepted or declined aren't likely to change by applying early, so it may be best to explore additional options during the fall rather than rushing to get your application in. 
  • If you want to have another semester's worth of grades and activities to impress your colleges with, it might be best to wait until the regular application deadline. 
  • If you don't have any idea of what you want to study, it may be better to wait until regular admissions. Use the time over the fall to explore careers and take personality assessments. You may discover your dream job, and if you have already applied to a college Early Decision that doesn't offer your desired major, you could be in trouble. 
  • If you haven't had the chance to visit and research all of the colleges you are interest in, it is best not to bind yourself to one school. Give yourself the time to fully explore all of your options during the fall before sending in your applications. 

If you need some help sorting through your options and identifying good-fit and good-value colleges, the College Planning Center of Rhode Island is here to help. Book your free appointment online.  

SAT vs ACT: Which test should you take?

Posted by Lindie Johnson on Sep 16, 2014 11:06:00 AM

The SAT and ACT are standardized tests that allow colleges to compare you to other students. In some cases, schools are dropping these tests as a requirement for admissions but most schools require one or the other. Some schools even use your test scores to evaluate whether or not you are eligible for a merit-based scholarship. The ACT tends to be more popular with public schools and schools in the Midwest and South. The SAT is the more common requirement at private schools and colleges on the east and west coasts. The most important factor in determining which test you should take is which test the schools you are applying to require. Some students may end up having to take both tests. 107077-resized-600

If you find that your schools allow you to submit test scores from either test - as is the case for some - how do you determine which one is right for you? Some students find that one test helps show their strengths or weaknesses more than the other test. 

Here is a breakdown of how each test is structured:


  • This test primarily covers reading, knowledge of vocabulary, grammar, math skills, and ability to communicate through writing. 
  • The test is split into three sections: Critical reading, Math and Writing. You will have 70 minutes to complete the Critical Reading section which will include reading passages and sentence completions, 70 minutes to complete the Math section which will ask you questions on arithmetic, geometry, algebra, statistics and probability, and 60 minutes to complete your essay and answer some questions on grammar usage in the Writing section. 
  • For each section, you can score between 200-800. You total score is a sum of your scores from all sections and will be between 600 and 2400. If you take the SAT more than once, you can choose which set of scores to send to the colleges you are applying to. 
  • Typically taking the SAT more than 3 times isn't advised since it is unlikely to improve your score.
  • You can view test dates and register for the test at sat.collegeboard.org


  • The ACT has 5 major sections: English, Math, Reading, Science and Writing. The Writing section is optional but all other sections are required. 
  • The English section includes questions about punctuation, grammar, and has 75 questions. You have 45 minutes to complete this section. 
  • The Math section asks questions about pre-algebra, algebra, geometry and trigonometry. There are 60 questions and you have 60 minutes to complete the section. 
  • The Reading section includes readings based on four topics: social studies, natural science, prose fiction, and humanities. There are 40 questions and you have 35 minutes to complete the section. 
  • The Science section measures the interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem solving skills required in the natural sciences. You will have 35 minutes to complete 40 questions. 
  • The optional Writing section is a 30 minutes essay that measures your writing skills. 
  • Scores in each section range from 1-36 and your total ACT score is your average score on all sections. 
  • You can view test dates and register for this test at www.actstudent.org

Remember, whichever test you take, it is important to prepare! Start studying ASAP and set aside a small amount of time each week to prepare, rather than trying to get all your studying done in the few weeks preceding your test date. 

Books, online resources, and classes are all available to help you prepare. Some options are completely free! Check with your high school to see if they offer a class and search online for free SAT and ACT prep classes than can help you improve your score. 

Need some help deciding which schools to apply to? The College Planning Center of RI can provide you with guidance and information that can help you with your decision. Book a free appointment online

Rising seniors and college visits

Posted by Lindie Johnson on Sep 12, 2014 10:00:00 AM

If you are now a senior in high school looking to pursue a college education, you undoubtedly visited some college campuses over the summer. But how can you make the most out of your college visits and learn what you need to decide if the college is the right fit for you? Follow this guide:

1. Go on the tour. (But also take a tour of your own!)

As much as you may have a "feeling" about whether or not the college is a good fit for you as soon as you set foot (or drive) through the campus, take the tour! When I was searching for colleges I often refused to get out of the car and decided whether or not I could attend a college based on how the buildings looked. I took a few college tours, and not surprisingly, the ones I took were at schools I ultimately ended up applying to. The point is, it took some information and convincing for me to see that a college was a good fit for me, and often times, the tour gave me the extra comfort and knowledge I needed to think it was worth applying to. So go on the tour, and when it is finished, take some time to explore the campus on your own and stop a few students to ask about their experience at the college. But if the tour is a total yawn, recognize that it doesn't mean the school isn't a good fit so make sure to collect other information and spend some time on the campus on your own before crossing the college off of your list. iStock_000018387037Small

2. Get a copy of the course catalog.

Browse through it and see if you are interested in the class descriptions. You will likely find they are very different from what you are used to in high school. Do the courses get you excited? If there is one that sticks out, try to arrange to sit in on the class while it is in session. 

3. Read the school newspaper.

Learn about student culture, news, and happenings by grabbing a copy of the campus newspaper. Does it interest you? Do you think you would want to pursue the advertised activities? Are the issues discussed fascinating to you? 

4. Ask questions.

Bring a list of thoughtful questions to ask the tour guide, the admissions office, and students. Use your time to get answers you can't find on the college website or brochure such as:

  • What type of student is most and least happy here? 
  • What do you like most and least about this college? 
  • What kind of role does student government, intramurals, fraternities, etc. play on this campus? 
  • What are the most popular majors and why? 
  • What are the greatest challenges about attending this college? What do students most often
    complain about?

5. Take notes.

If you have visited a lot of campuses, you are unlikely to remember every little detail from each school. Take notes about specifics, how you felt on the campus, who you met, and what you thought of them. 

6. Spend the night if you can.

Many colleges have overnight visitation programs. Staying on campus for a full day and night can help you with your decision, give you the opportunity to meet more students, speak with staff and faculty, eat at the dining hall, see the dorm rooms and more. Contact the admissions office and ask if they have an overnight visitation program for college students. 

Selecting Colleges: 4 ways to help your child decide

Posted by Lindie Johnson on Sep 8, 2014 1:59:10 PM

Deciding on the perfect college to go to is no doubt an arduous task. As the new academic year begins, seniors across Rhode Island will be narrowing down their college options and refining their college lists into a set of 6-8 schools to apply to. How can you help your child make the right decision on where to apply? 

1. Help them explore careers and majors.

Have an honest conversation with your son or daughter and ask them questions about the career they want to pursue, what they know about that career, and help them find concrete information on what that career looks like for an entry-level and mid-career level professional. Use tools like bls.gov, salary.com and glassdoor.com. Encourage them to take personality and career assesments (such as those provided through WaytogoRI.org). Be sensitive to your student's goals and desires, but make sure they have the practical information they need to make an educated decision about what to study. If your student is unsure of what they want to study, looking into school that have a wide range of majors might be a wise choice.  

2. Take them on the college tour.iStock_000003714012Small

Some students set foot on a college campus and snap - just like that - they decide they love it or hate it. There is much more to a college than how it looks. A great way of learning about the culture and academcis of a college is to take the college tour and sit in on an information session. Be prepared for a fight. High school students can be stubborn. But the college tour is an essential step to judging whether the college will be a good fit, beyond whether or not the campus is "pretty."  

3. Rank what's important.

Explore factors to consider when conducting a college search. Have your student make a list of what is most and least important to them in a college. Next, ask them to match up the colleges they are considering to the list of factors to see what might be the best match for him or her. 

4. Be supportive.

Maybe you have always had it in your head that your child would go to your alma matter or some other school. But remember, just because you believe it is the right fit, doesn't mean he or she will. Be supportive of the fact that deciding on a college is a difficult choice and one of the first big ones your child will make as a young adult. In order for your child to want invest the time and energy and motivation it takes to complete college, he or she has to be happy with his or her choice. Otherwise, it could end up costing you. 


5th Annual College Fair September 17, 2014

Posted by Lindie Johnson on Sep 2, 2014 9:06:42 AM

Fair can help students choose schools wisely

The College Planning Center of Rhode Island has teamed up with the Pawtucket Red Sox for the 5th year in a row to host a college fair at McCoy Stadium on September 17, 2014 from 6pm - 8pm. At the fair, students will have the opportunity to speak with college representatives and learn about the academic culture of individual colleges. Over 100 colleges from all across the Northeast are expected to attend.


All high school students - even students that aren’t sure if college is right for them - are encouraged to attend. A lot is at stake for students these days as studies have shown college graduates earn higher salaries and experience lower unemployment rates than those without a college degree. Choosing a college wisely can mean the difference between graduating and dropping out, so students need to do their homework before sending out applications.

Students should be open-minded as they start their college search and learn as much as possible about all types of colleges so they are making informed decisions about where to apply. It’s important for students to identify schools that are good matches both academically and financially, so students should be sure to apply for all the free financial aid they can and carefully compare school financial aid policies so they do not graduate with too much debt.

Admission to the college fair is free and plenty of free parking is available. The event will take place indoors, rain or shine. The College Planning Center recommends students come prepared with a list of questions to ask the schools.

Students can register to attend the fair here

College Move In Day Fails: 5 Mistakes to Avoid

Posted by Lindie Johnson on Aug 25, 2014 12:21:45 PM

College move-in day comes with a lot of mixed emotions for students and parents. Don't stress out yourself - or your family- any more than necessary by falling victim to any of these common college move-in day pitfalls. 

1. Bringing too much stuff. iStock_000017046265Small

Freshman dorm rooms are famously small, even at colleges that offer "big" dorm rooms. To top it all off, you are going to be sharing that space with a roommate or two. Don't assume you can fit all of the luxuries you had at home into one tiny space you are sharing with others. Pack essentials (clothes you just can't live without, bedding basics, first aid kit, shower cady) into one bin - leave other "nice to have but can live without items" in a separate bin. That way if you run out of room in your dresser, under your bed, your closet, etc. etc. you will know what you can send back home with your folks without going into a stress-inducing frenzy. 

2. Forgetting water and snacks. 

Going back to school always fools us into thinking it is fall - but early September is still summer folks. And with summer, often comes hot and humid temperatures, especially if you will be heading south for college. Remember to come with a cooler of ice cold water and snacks to help you power through move in day. Bring enough to offer any current college students who assist you with unpacking your car and lugging your dorm room essentials into your new living space. 

3. Not coordinating with your roommate. 

Talk to your roommate before college move in day to get a sense of what they will be bringing and to determine which large-scale items you can share, such as an area rug, TV, or mini-fridge. Also, try to come up with a plan on when you will arrive at college. It might be easier to have only one person moving into that tiny space at a time. You will avoid bumping into each other and creating a bottle-neck at the door. 

4. Forgetting your IDs. 

If there is one thing you can't move in to college without, it is your IDs. You can't register for school or prove who you are without them. So, even if you forget your shampoo, favorite pillow, or trusted sneakers (which can all be sent to you by your wonderful parents) DON'T forget to bring your ID!

5. Making a bad impression on your roommates. 

Move-in day can be stressful - and yes, your parents may be frustrating you as you try to move on with this next stage in your life. But be kind and respectful. You don't want the first time you meet your roommate to be over a fight between you and your parents. Make a good impression, hold your tongue and count to ten when you mom suggests to put the lamp on the right side instead of the left side of the desk (you can move it wherever you want when she leaves!) and put your best foot forward when meeting the person you are going to be spending a LOT of time with this next year. 


Topics: college dorms

Empty nest: The month before your child leaves for college

Posted by Lindie Johnson on Aug 18, 2014 2:57:54 PM

You have been living with your child for 18 years and the time has come for her to leave home. Your child's departure to college can leave you with lots of mixed emotions – from pride to loss – but there are some things you can do to prepare yourself for the transition and help yourself let go.

While you will always remain your child’s parent, you are first going to have to recognize that your parenting will have to change now that your child won’t be living at home.

It may be tempting to want to spend every moment with your child these last few weeks before he leaves for college, but it is natural for him to want to spend most of his free time with friends. Give him the freedom to do this but also make sure to schedule a special time – such as a family dinner – where you can catch up and celebrate this next step.Empty_Nest_iStock_000016612172Small

Set aside time to dorm room shop

Shopping for a student dorm room can be a great bonding experience for you and your son or daughter. You will need to be there so that he or she can make practical choices. Also, you want to be sure your child has all the essentials (band-aids and tissues!). But remember to let your child make design choices that he or she will be happy living with – after all, the dorm room is a student's space and a chance to express him or herself.

Talk with other parents

You don’t need to deal with your child leaving home all on your own. Lots of other parents are in the same boat. Plan an event or two for the beginning of September where you can all get your minds off of the fact that there is one less person living in your house and bond over games and dinner.

Send care packages

Even if you live close, send care packages to your child. Who doesn’t love getting something special in the mail? Include favorite non-perishable foods, quarters for laundry, a special note – whatever you want that will help your child feel a little bit like home.

Encourage good financial management

With the freedom of college comes a lot of financial responsibility. Make sure your child understands how to view their bank account balance and balance a checkbook. Educate them about the dangers of debt and credit card use. Encourage them to create a weekly budget based on the total amount they have for the semester, and to stick to it regardless of peer pressure.

Be more flexible with your limits

It will be very hard to set limits for your child from afar, and most likely, those limits will fall upon deaf ears. To ease the transition, try being more flexible with your normal limits these last few weeks your student is at home.

Set a plan for visits and calls

It will be easier for you to deal with your child being away if you know when you will see them next or hear from them. Set up a time to have a regular call with your child – at least for the first few weeks –so you can check in with each other. Also, plan a time for your child to come home for the first time. Columbus day weekend is a great time for that, as long as they won’t be going to college too far away.

Hang in there!

Remember, this is an exciting time for your child, and you helped them grow into a wonderful adult. Be proud of your child’s accomplishments, make sure you tell them you love and miss them when you speak, and hang in there!

Packing for College: 10 things you can't live without

Posted by Lindie Johnson on Aug 7, 2014 10:30:00 AM

Packing for college is not an easy task. When you are living at school, you have to squish hundreds of items into one tiny dorm room that you share with a roommate. There are certainly some things you may want to bring to school that may be better left behind, but here are our top ten picks that you should definitely not leave behind. 

1. Your teddy bear.iStock_000002654108Small_TeddyBear

Yes, we know - you are in college, and you don't need your teddy bear any more (but rock on if you do!). But what we are getting at here is that it is essential that you bring something special that makes you feel like you are at home. Living at school is exciting, but many college students get home sick. Having that special something at school with you, whether it's a stuffed animal you grew up with, your favorite pillow, or just a picture of your family, will help you battle the away-from-home blues. 

2. Your IDs.

With all of the other things you need to remember to pack, don't forget these! Without them, you won't be able to register or find a campus job. So, while you are busy checking off shampoo and bedding on your packing list, don't forget to bring your license, a copy of your birth certificate, and your social security card. 

3. Stinky breath doesn't make a good first impression. 

How many times have you gone on vacation and arrived at your destination to realize you forgot your toothbrush? While this may be an easy thing to pick up at the local pharmacy if you forget it, it's a hassle you just don't want to have to deal with on your first day of college. 

4. Ahem, your underthings. 

While you are busy trying to figure out just the right thing to wear on your first day of school, don't forget the things that go under your clothes. It's a good idea to bring 2 weeks worth of undergarments. You'll find college life is busy and sometimes it's easy to procrastinate doing laundry. Having two weeks worth of undies will prevent days of having to walk around campus commando. 

5. Prescription medications. 

This is another small item that is easy to overlook but essential to have. If you take prescription medications, make sure you have enough for your first month of college - at least - and that you pack them the morning you leave for school instead of leaving them behind in the medicine cabinet.

6. Laundry bag

A basket works too but it does take up a lot more space. You don't want to be hauling loads of laundry down four flights of stairs in your arms. Think of all of the embarrassing things you could drop behind!

7. First aid kit

The first time your scrape your knee at school, you may want mom to kiss it better, but she won't be there to help. Make sure you have band-aids, ointment, painkillers, tissues, and cold medicine for those times when you hurt yourself or aren't feeling so great. 

8. Rain gear

Like it or not, wherever you go to college you are probably going to be dealing with at least a little rain. At college, you do a lot of walking. So when there is a downpour and you have to make it to your 9am class, you will be glad that you brought a rain coat and umbrella so you don't have to suffer through lecture in cold wet clothes. Make sure your umbrella is a sturdy one that will hold up to the windiest of days. 

9. Can opener

You are probably to be pulling some all-nighters at college. And when you need a second dinner at 3am, it's likely going to be coming from a can. Make sure you have a can opener with you so you aren't forced to suffer in hunger longingly starting at your can of yummy soup. 

10. Formal wear

While it is tempting to walk around in sweatpants and t-shirts all of the time, campuses often hold formal dances and other events so it is best to come prepared. Also keep in mind you will need something professional for any job interviews you attend. 

For a full list of what to bring to college, click here

Still need some help figuring out how you are going to make your tuition payment? Make a free appointment with the College Planning Center of RI and we can help you sort out your options. 


Topics: packing for college

How to Pay Your College Tuition Bill

Posted by Lindie Johnson on Aug 4, 2014 9:00:00 AM

Getting admitted to college is one thing. Finding ways to pay your college tuition bill is another. Very simply speaking, loans cost you in the long run, so it just makes good sense to exhaust all other sources of financial support before going the loan route. Start with scholarships and grants for college tuition. While they may come with restrictions, millions of dollars are available for any number of reasons.


The scholarship search available through the College Planning Center of Rhode Island is specially equipped to aid students from Rhode Island. You will find scholarship aid for students of animal science, from the Shriners of Rhode Island Trust, for students of certain ethnic origins, and in memory of deceased individuals.

Hundreds of other online search engines will identify millions of scholarship options. CollegeBoard.com is one of the oldest and places high expectations on the scholarships it lists. There are tens of thousands of scholarships out there, some offered by churches, fraternal organizations, professional membership organizations, and more. Download the College Planning Center's List of recommended scholarship sites. 


Grants for all or part of your college tuition are free money. There are made available by federal and state programs as well as other sources. They are usually attached to eligibility requirements and restrictions.

Financial Need 

Federally sponsored Pell Grants are the most common of support with students who demonstrate financial need. If you completed the FAFSA and qualified, a Pell grant would be included in your financial aid award letter.

Critical NeedsDesign_Interns_iStock_000029554856Large

The Federal TEACH program supports students who are pursuing studies in areas determined to be critical needs. Critical needs grants can be given on top of the Pell Grant and may need to be paid back as a loan if you don't meet their requirements after graduation. If you are planning to pursue a career in teaching, contact your college financial aid office about this grant opportunity and learn more here

Diabilities & Illnesses

Students who have suffered disabling illness or have special needs are eligible for grants from non-profit organizations service the specific disability, such as National Association of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Hereditary Disease Foundation, American Cancer Society, and more so check out these sources if you fall into one of these categories.


Students who have served in the military or the children of parents who served may be eligible for grants through the G.I. Bill or through veterans' organizations.


Religious groups often sponsor students in their congregations. Larger grants may be available through national church organizations like the National Baptist Convention or the Missouri Lutheran Synod.


Athletes compete for scholarships that may be attached to additional grants. But, this is also true for accomplished musicians, artists, videographers, performing artists, and other talents. Such grants are offered by state and local governments, women's organizations, journalism associations, music organizations, colleges, and the like.

Special Studies

Some students have a passion for what may be seen as special studies. And, there are grants to fund these studies in female issues, African studies, Native American archeology, or Pacific Island paleontology. These grants are usually funded by private parties or related organizations.

Industry Sponsored

Some businesses provide grants (and internships) to students to feed their talent pipeline. Business sectors like finance and investment, agriculture, fabrics, oil, and insurance all provide student grants.

How grants & scholarships work

Grants for college tuition pay your bills without adding to your financial burden. There is no debt to accumulate and no interest charged. It is a great accomplishment to graduate without debt, especially when you are facing new expenses in the real world.

When you are faced with mortgages, car payments, marriage and family, it is great to be debt free. When you look around and see fellow graduates owing payments on loans in the six figures, you'll be happy you aren't one of them.

How to find money

Now, finding available scholarships and grants is time-intensive. Finding free money is harder than finding and applying for loans. But that convenience comes at a significant cost. Parents are better advised to think early and consider:

  • a 529 Tuition Payment Plan that accumulates earnings tax-free as long as they are used to pay tuition
  • similar prepaid college tuition plans offered by some states
  • tuition payment plans available at some schools divide your college tuition into 12-month installments
  • advanced courses completed in high school reduce tuition costs when transferable.
  • plans to cover or reduce tuition offered by student or parent employers.

Entering college takes a lot of time and work. Parents and students are smart to start early and prepare a strategic plan. The College Planning Center of Rhode Island can help your with your college search and assist you with applying for financial aid. Check out their section on Financial Aid 101.

Topics: scholarships in RI, scholarships in rhode island