College Planning Essentials for Rising Seniors
As your junior year in high school comes to a close, you are probably getting excited (and nervous!) about your senior year. Spending time with close friends, senior prom, and graduating will have great payoff. But with all this excitement comes a lot of stress – the college application process. Remember, it is never too early to start planning for college and if you haven’t already, now is the time. Use this list of advice to help you stay on track this summer.
Prepare for the SAT
You may have already taken the SAT, but if you aren’t happy with your scores, you can take it again. How much time did you spend studying for the exam? Practicing for this test prepares you for what to expect and teaches you to use your time efficiently. There are many free tools online and at your local library to help you study. Start at sat.collegeboard.org/practice. Just a few points could mean the difference between receiving a scholarship and not receiving one as SAT scores are a major factor many colleges consider when awarding merit based aid.
Think about your career interests
You may have heard that going to college is a time for you to explore your personal interests and to decide what you want to do. But with college costs on the rise, it may be best to get started on this step before you decide where to apply and enroll. Having an honest idea of what you are likely to make after graduation can help you make a wise decision about how much is okay to borrow for college and what your return on investment will be.
Furthermore, going into college with an idea of what you want to pursue can mean it takes you less time to graduate and can save you a lot of money. Get started exploring careers and learn about starting salaries in your fields of choice at the Rhode Island Department of Labor &Training’s website at www.dlt.ri.gov/lmi/jobseeker.htm.
Start investigating schools
Find out more about colleges that interest you. In addition to searching online and requesting information from colleges, go to the college campuses, meet with financial aid officers, and get in on a campus tour. If classes are in session, ask an admissions officer if you can sit in on a few. On your tour, stop a student or two and ask about their opinion of the college. What do they like most about the school? What do they like least? Not sure where to start? Visit the College Planning Center of Rhode Island’s website at www.collegeplanningcenter.org and view of list of factors to consider during your college search.
Discuss your college budget with mom & dad
Before you get your hopes set on the perfect school, have an earnest conversation with your parents about what is affordable for your family. Remember, the sticker price of a college isn’t necessarily what you will pay to go there. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers a financial aid comparison tool at www.consumerfinance.gov/payingforcollege that will help you determine the net cost of going to a particular school. Colleges also provide a net price calculator to help you get an idea of the average financial aid offer. Use these tools during your conversation.
Get a summer job
And more importantly, don’t spend every penny you make! Putting away hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars from a summer job can significantly reduce the amount you need to borrow for college. Savings from a summer job can help you fund costs like books, personal expenses, or even tuition & fees. When looking at the high sticker price of a college education, it may be easy to think that a few hundred dollars won’t make a difference. But it will! Save, save, save!
Work on your college essay
Start to think about what you want to write about. View example college essay questions on line. The essay is your chance to let your personality shine and tell the college something they don’t know about you through your application. Remember to make your story unique and to use your personal voice. Proofread and edit, again and again. Don’t let another student get your spot because of a typo or spelling error on your essay.
For more college planning information or to make a free appointment with a college planning expert, visit www.collegeplanningcenter.org. At the College Planning Center of Rhode Island, you can receive free guidance on college selection, applications, essays, scholarships searches and financial aid. The College Planning Center of Rhode Island is a free service of Rhode Island Student Loan Authority, a non-profit state authority that has been providing higher education solutions to Rhode Island families since 1981.