College Planning: Reducing Stress with the Common App

Nov 25, 2014 8:00:00 AM

College application season is an incredibly stressful time for many high school seniors. College is a huge next step in your young life and if you are like most students, you are probably putting a tremendous amount of weight on your college applications. 

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Topics: College Planning, College Essays

Applying for College: Tips & Considerations

Nov 21, 2014 12:38:56 PM

When it comes time to begin the tedious process of filling out college applications, it is imperative that they are done correctly, efficiently, and effectively.

Applying for college is a daunting task. Many high school students approach the process with a mix of excitement, trepidation, and total confusion. We’ve compiled this list of tips and considerations to help ease your passage through this stage of college planning and come out unscathed on the other side.

First let's take a look at common application requirements.

College Application Requirements

  • High School Transcripts. Colleges require high schools to submit official transcripts outlining your coursework and grades. Challenge yourself throughout your high school career and work hard to keep your grades up. 
  • SAT & ACT scores. Research average scores at colleges to find out where yours fit in. Your test scores should be consistent with your grades. Some colleges don't require students to take the SAT or ACT. If this is the case, only submit your scores if you think they will help your application. 
  • Essays. Your college essay demonstrates your writing ability and tells the reader something about you that may not be evident on your admission application. Read tips on writing your essay
  • Letters of recommendation. Request letters of recommendation from teachers who know you and the quality of your work. Limit recommendations from other adults to school administrators, supervisors or coaches. 
  • Activities, leadership and initiativeA long-term commitment to activities that demonstrate initiative and leadership are important to many colleges. Involvement in sports, student government or other activities shows your individuality. 
  • Community service. A steady commitment to a public service organization is more valuable than a short-time volunteer position.
  • Part-time jobs or internships. Job experience and/or internships help demonstrate your work ethic and maturity.
  • Awards. If you have received honors or awards, you'll want to make sure admissions officers know about it. 

Avoid these College Application Mistakes

It may not seem fair to judge someone's entire academic career just by glancing at their college application, but try to think from an admissions counselor's perspective. You're sitting at a desk and a stack of fifty applications are placed in front of you. There are only thirty slots available, so you are forced to reject twenty college applications. Your job is a simple two-step process; first you eliminate any college applications containing errors, and then you stack the remaining college applications from best to worst based on SAT scores, accomplishments in and out of school, and GPA's. The top thirty are accepted, the bottom twenty are eliminated.

Wouldn't it be a shame if the college application of a brilliant, deserving student didn't make it in the final cut because certain credentials and civic accomplishments were not properly noted? Wouldn't it be even worse if it never made it due to a spelling or grammatical error?

Below is a list of common mistakes you must avoid when filling out a college application:

  • Misspellings: Ask an English teacher or highly educated friend or family member to edit your college application prior to submission. Misspellings are unacceptable. 
  • Grammatical errors: Once again, have someone revise your college application for you. The more revisions, the better.
  • Lack of leadership examples: Mention every club, any volunteering you've done, every church play you've participated in, fundraising events, etc.
  • Bad Handwriting: There is a reason why some college applications must be handwritten, and you will be rejected if it isn't legible or clearly and professionally written.

Let the Student Do the Legwork

Although many parents mean well when helping their child apply for college, too much parental involvement in the process can be a big problem. 

Parents need to remain objectively-interested in the process because they can be critical resources in helping the child plan a timeline to ensure prompt submission of applications, in identifying strengths and weaknesses of particular schools, and in helping the child determine which college would best fit their needs. Parental involvement­ will ensure that a child remains practical and grounded during the decision process.

However, parents must keep in mind that a college should be judging a student on that student's merits, not your own. Students must show their ability to think, problem solve, and communicate in their college applications. If you are doing the work on the applications, the student's true self may not shine through.

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Topics: College Planning

Repayment flexibility on student loans

Nov 14, 2014 11:00:00 AM

Loans with the Most Repayment Flexibility

If you went to college and have student loans, chances are you have a Federal Direct Unsubsidized and Subsidized (Stafford) Loan, as these are usually a student's best choice when they need to borrow for college. These loans offer a great array of benefits, from low interest rates and fees to extended, income-based, Pay asYou Earn and other repayment options. 

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Topics: Borrowing for College, Student Loan Repayment

Should I consider private student loan consolidation?

Nov 11, 2014 7:30:00 AM

If you have private student loans, you may be considering refinancing those loans. Up until a few years ago, this was barely an option but recently programs have been cropping up to help students and parents restructure their education debt. This year, Rhode Island Student Loan Authority launched a refinancing program that allows students and parents to refinance private student loans, state-based student loans, and federal PLUS loans into a single fixed rate loan. 

So what should you be considering when deciding if private stuent loan consolidation is right for your personal situation? 

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Topics: Student Loan Repayment

How much will college cost my family?

Nov 7, 2014 9:30:00 AM

Over the past sixteen years at College Planning Center of Rhode Island, we have heard this question time and time again: "How much will college cost my family?" This is a complex question with an equally complex answer but it really all comes down to two things: how much financial aid your family is eligible for and what school your child attends. 

Your Expected Family Contribution

So how much financial aid are you eligible for? Financial aid eligibility is determined by two different formulas: the Federal Methodology and the Institutional Methodology. The Federal Methodology is the formula used the the federal government  to determine your Expected Family Contribution, often referred to as your "EFC." Your EFC can only be determined one way - by completing the FAFSA. You need to complete a FAFSA for every year your child is in school, and your EFC can change from year to year as your family's circumstances change.

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Topics: College Financial Aid, Borrowing for College, Financial Education for Students