Blog

Helping your child find colleges

Apr 21, 2012 12:16:00 PM

Helping your child find colleges represents a turning point. In many cases, your son or daughter will be leaving home for the first time, setting off into academia as a young adult.

And whether you select colleges based on academic record, admission policies, cost or some other factor, be prepared for a lively debate – if your child is like many, he or she has built up an image of school life that you may need to temper with a dose of reality.

But even if you disagree at the start of your discussion, you can narrow the list of prospective schools by considering vital criteria, including these three:

  1. Cost. Paying for college is a challenge many parents face. Perhaps you set up a college fund when your child was a baby or used a 529 Plan to lock in the tuition rate; perhaps you invested with college in mind or are counting on scholarships. Whatever the case, don’t  let cost dissuade you from investigating a school. You can research financial aid that can help foot the bills. If you’re considering student loans, you can find resources that give students the foundation of financial literacy. Investigate the net price calcuatlor at individual schools to get an idea of what your family might need to pay at that particular school. Don't be scared away by the "sticker price."
  2. Admissions policy. One of the best-kept secrets of college admissions: It’s not all about the grades. Certainly a healthy GPA and good SAT/ACT scores are attractive to recruiters and admissions officers, but colleges and universities often take a more holistic view. Your child’s volunteer work, internships, awards, letters of recommendation or compelling essay can tilt the scales in her favor.
  3. Campus life. Athletics, diversity, activities and even the size of the school are examples of non-academic factors that contribute to a successful college career. Especially as a freshman, your son or daughter should feel comfortable and secure at school.

A closer look
Once you’ve developed a list of select colleges, give each school a closer look. Ask about visits or guided tours that take students and parents into classrooms, dorms and other areas. Seminars, tutorials and events can connect you with representatives from several schools.

Start now
Whether it’s paying for college or choosing a major, you and your child have decisions to make. But you’re not alone. As Rhode Island residents, you can take advantage of a remarkable free resource dedicated to helping you find colleges that match your child’s goals and meet your expectations.

Read More

Topics: College Planning, Parents and College Planning

Free tools to help you prepare for the SAT

Apr 18, 2012 10:09:00 AM

Getting into college is something that weighs heavily on the minds of many high school students. The SAT test is one factor of getting into the college of your choice. Each college or university places the weight of the SAT differently with the more prestigious schools looking closely at your SAT score. Preparing for the SAT can be stressful but there are some things you can do to reduce the stress and get the best score possible for you.

There are many free resources and tools that will help you prepare for the SAT.

Number2 -- This site allows you completely free access to study tools and practice SAT tests. The site offers stats to show how much you've studied, how your scores have improved and more.

ProProfs -- This website claims to be the most comprehensive site to help you prepare for the SAT. The site offers free all of the SAT prep study guides and tests.

College Board -- Many free tests and study materials for you to prepare. This site takes into account how you've answered and offers pinpointed techniques for you to follow to improve. The site also gives you details on how the tests work such as answering the question of "Can a calculator be used?"

Library -- Visit your local library to check out SAT prep books. You can check out these books free of charge and use them to study and prepare.

High School -- Your high school should have a list of tutoring or classes available for you. Speak to your counselor for options available to you. Depending on your area, you may have to pay a small fee for some tutoring. If you live in Rhode Island, your high school may offer a free class provided by the College Planning Center.

Download the  Ultimate College  Planning Guide The SAT is usually taken during a student's Junior or Senior year of high school. The SAT is offered several times a year and all over the United States. Depending on where you live, you may be required to travel to another location to take the SAT. Visit College Board and select your state to see a list of available testing dates and times. You can register and pay online for the test of your choice. You can take each test twice and the maximum score for each section is 800, however the average score is in the low 500's for each section according to the Princeton Review.

Take the time to study and review the free assistance available to you to make the best of your SAT experience.
Read More

Topics: SAT & ACT

Parent's Guide to the College Cost Conversation

Apr 15, 2012 5:33:00 AM

 Image: David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

College is expensive and ideally the financial planning for college should start early but life does not always work out the way it is planned. It is never too late to understand the basics of what the college cost will be and how a family can actually afford a great school. The key is research and having important conversations with your child before the first application to a school is sent.

There is a lot of paperwork that is required to attend any college and some seem to have more than most. Your child will have guidance from his or her high school in this process and chances are you can attend a workshop or two to help you understand this process.

But before you begin, you need to first sit down with your child and discuss possible career choices. The career choice will help you determine the best course of action on how to pay for college. Once you have determined a tentative career path...have an earnest conversation with your child about what is affordable for your family. Make sure your child understands what the monthly payments will be on any student loans he/she borrows and help them understand what a typically starting and mid-level salary are in the field of their choice.

Once you have sat down and discussed the family finances with your child, visit some school websites that offer a major that corresponds with your child's desired career path and use a financial aid tool called a net price calculator located at the school's financial aid website. Try one out for University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College, or Bryant University for example.  It will give you a rough estimate of the cost at that particular school for an average family.

With an estimated cost of school in mind, you can now start working on how to pay for college. There are a vast number of resources available to you. You may want to visit The College Planning Center and review the Financial Aid 101 tutorial. You can also take a moment to read the different options for financial aid. It can be surprising to learn that many of the top priced schools are within reach if you plan accordingly and receive the right financial aid package.

FreeMoneyFirst_v3

College cost often deters many students and parents but it should not. There is help available and there are many different ways to pay for school. It can be challenging but if you take your time and research the various options for financial aid, it can become a streamlined process. If you are searching for how to pay for college for your child...visit The College Planning Center or download RISLA's Ultimate Guide to Paying for College for step-by step instructions on how to pay for college or to learn more about the options available to you.

Read More

Topics: College Financial Aid, Parents and College Planning

The College Loan Puzzle

Apr 13, 2012 9:20:00 AM

Finding a way to pay for college can be a conundrum with no easy answers. For most middle- and lower-income families, loans are going to be an inevitable piece of the puzzle.

Several types of college loans are available: federal, state-based and private.

  Image: Anusorn P nachol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Federal college loans, which include Perkins, Stafford and PLUS loans, all carry a fixed interest rate but vary in their terms and fees. The Perkins loan is based solely on need, but the other two are available to all U.S. citizens and permanent residents who qualify. To apply, students must fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Repayment terms are usually flexible, allowing up to 10 years or more to repay the loan. If you have trouble repaying the loan after you graduate and the grace period expires, you can apply for a hardship deferral or forbearance as well.

State-based loans often are limited to students from the state or those who are attending college in the state. These college loans usually have a fixed rate, and you may find that they’re less costly than even a federal PLUS loan. The Education Finance Council keeps a list of not-for-profit organizations and lenders that offer state-based loans, including the Rhode Island Student Loan Authority and the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority, for example. These loans usually require a cosigner, and their repayment terms vary according to the lender.

If federal and state loans are not an option or don’t provide enough funding, you can apply for a private loan. These college loans come from for-profit institutions, such as banks or Sallie Mae, and often carry a variable interest rate that will rise and fall with the prime rate or another economic barometer. Because these loans are not fixed, you may someday find yourself with a substantially higher payment than you started with. Private college loans may require a cosigner, and their terms vary widely. They should be your last choice as you decide how to pay for college.

Read More

Topics: Borrowing for College

Top 5 Places to Find Scholarships in RI

Apr 5, 2012 2:50:00 PM

Now that you have received your college financial aid award letter, you may be wondering, "how am I going to pay for this?" Scholarships, even small ones, are a great way of reducing the amount you need to borrow for college. When looking for scholarships in Rhode Island, keep in mind these key places:

Read More

Topics: Scholarships for High School Students

Free Money for College: What's available

Apr 2, 2012 5:12:00 AM

FreemMoney for college comes in two basic forms: grants & scholarships. Free money for college does not need to be paid back, unlike loans, so it is best to maximize your free money before turning elsewhere.

Read More

Topics: Scholarships for High School Students, College Financial Aid