College Freshman Parent Survival Tips

They have made it!  Your student(s) has successfully completed the high school years and are looking forward to their first year of college life.  They are so excited, but you may be more nervous than excited.  You may be a but anxious about your “baby” heading off to the fresh air of the college campus.  Even if they are staying locally, college life is a whole new world.  And you, as the parent, have a whole new role.  So here are some parent survival tips for those with college freshman

Parent Tip #1: Remember you are not forgotten.

The number one concern parents have about their child entering college life is losing touch with their student.  And it makes sense that this is a concern.  For the past 18-19 years, the parent has been right there for every major event in the life of their student.  But now, there is a strange separation.  You should celebrate your child maturing into an adult.  But sometimes this separation causes a great deal of anxiety.  So remember, you are not forgotten, but you should take deliberate steps to stay connected.  That brings us to the second of our Parent Survival Tips.

Parent Tip #2: Remember to stay Connected

The number one way you stay connected with your student while they are in college is to communicate with them.  This may be a bit tricky because college schedules can get crazy.  However, you can find time.  Many families choose to have a specific time that they connect with their child.  You can schedule time on the calendar before it gets taken by classes, study, work or party time.

Also, you need to know that once your child enters college, their privacy is protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  You should familiarize yourself with the the particulars of this law.  FERPA was designed to protect the private information of the college student.  You as the parent(s)/guardian(s) have to ask for permission to view this information.  Here is how the law reads, “schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student’s education record.”  So make sure you and your student sign the pertinent documentation if you would like access to this school information.

Parent Tip #3: Remember to evaluate the plan

The third of our Parent Survival Tips is to evaluate the plan.  As you connect with your student, make sure you evaluate your college financial plan.  If you are wise, you and your student has developed a college financial plan.  You will need to include all the income and spending plans for the semester/year.  Then evaluate this plan on a monthly basis.  It does not need to be a thorough evaluation, but rather a check-up.  For many students this is the first time they will need to be concerned with a budget.  Financial planning is an important lesson your child will learn during their college life.

We are sure there are many other parent survival tips that you will learn over the coming months.  Be sure to comment below to share some of your favorite parent survival tips.

Survival Tips for College Freshman (Student Edition)

You made it!  You have successfully completed high school and are looking forward to the fresh air of the college campus.  While college life does offer its fair share of niceties, it also has its share of pitfalls.  Here are a few survival tips for college Freshman.

Survival Tips: 1 – Remember to Stay Focused.

College life offers so many options that many people lose their focus.  It is easy to get sidetracked by all the activities on campus and forget the reason why you are there.  Stay focused!  That does not mean that you can’t have a good time, but it certainly means you should at least attend classes.  While you are at it, make sure you get to know your professors.  Maybe even engage in a study group with other classmates.  Don’t allow the optional to take you away from the essential.  Remember you are there to receive an education which will act as the foundation for the rest of your life.

Survival Tips: 2 – Remember to Stay Connected!

When you first arrive on campus everything is new.  There are new living spaces, new sights, new classrooms, new food, new coffee shops; in fact just about everything is new.  But just because you are in a new environment, surrounded by new friends, does not mean that you should disconnect from everything from your past.  Stay connected!  Stay connected with friends.  Stay connected with family.  These connections act as anchors when the new storms of life arrive.  It’s okay to phone home.  It’s okay to send a message or a snap to a friend.  These connections offer a safe familiarity in the midst of an ever changing Freshman year.

Survival Tips: 3 – Remember to Stay Disciplined!

Of course, there will be plenty of new rules to follow, but that’s not really our focus here.  You need to stay disciplined when it comes to your finances.  If you have created a financial plan for college, you will need to monitor that plan to ensure you are staying disciplined.  If you do not have a financial plan for college, creating a college budget is where you might want to start.  Once your  plan (budget) is in place, it will take discipline to follow it.  Stay Disciplined!  Follow your plan!  Discipline in your finances is a life lesson that is well worth the investment.

Although these are not the only survival tips that may be beneficial to the Freshman year of college, they are important ones.  We hope that your first year of college will be great.  But remember… Stay Focused!  Stay Connected!  Stay Disciplined!  Coming soon…survival tips for the Freshman year (Parent Edition)!

Winter Break Planning

The Winter break is soon approaching.  While this is a busy time for most college students and families, with a little planning this time can be the most profitable time of the year.  So here are some ideas to make your Winter break planning more profitable.

Spend Time with Family and Friends!
winter break

Winter break is a time to relax and catch-up.  For many students, the rigors of the school semester keep them from enjoying the more pleasant things in life, such as: sleep, favorite home-cooked foods, childhood friends, family fun, etc.  The Winter break is a great time to catch up on some of these fond events, or to enjoy a new event with family and friends.  Use your Winter break to relax and enjoy.

Evaluate your Financial Plan!

Every family should develop a financial plan for each college year.  The Winter break provides a great time to evaluate your financial plan.  Here are a few areas where you will need to evaluate:

  • The upcoming semester’s bill
  • Books and other school supplies needed for the upcoming semester
  • Spending money
  • College Debt

Once you have identified any area over the past semester where you have spent money or incurred debt, it’s time to evaluate.  Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Are there any areas where you are out of balance with your initial plan?
  • Is there any way to reduce expenses?
  • Do you need to adjust your plan for the upcoming semester?

If you need to adjust your plan, the Winter break is a great place to adjust.  Make an amended plan and start to follow that plan.

Build a Resume/Portfolio!

Another great way to enjoy your Winter break is to begin building or continue building your resume/portfolio.  Spend some time recording any new skills that you may have learned over the past year.  Make a written record and even provide some visual examples of this new skill.  Create a detailed description and a brief description as you may need both depending upon the requirement.  You can also create an online location to showcase these new experiences by photo, video or file.

Plan for the upcoming semester!

The Winter break is also a great time to get ready for the upcoming semester.  You can get a head start on setting up your schedule.  Have you already bought your books for the next semester?  Why not do some book shopping to get the best price available.  You can also check up on your school supplies.  Now that you have at least one semester under your belt, you have a better understanding of what you need.

While some much needed rest is in order, if you are not careful you could miss a great opportunity over Winter break to get an early start on your next semester.  So consider some of the planning ideas mentioned above to get the best financial, as well as academic and social, start for the upcoming semester.

 

 

College Campus Visit Strategy – Who to meet?

VISITING the college campus is the single best thing that you can do to move forward in your college search.  Absolutely nothing takes the place of being physically present on a campus, and picturing yourself as a student on that campus. There is a gut feeling that almost all students express when they visit a campus.  “Do I see myself fitting in here – in this environment and with these students?” That is the most basic thing that you want to accomplish on your campus visit.  So here is a college campus visit strategy that will help you get the most out of your visit…schedule a meeting with the right people.

When you visit the college campus there are certain people with whom you want to speak in person.  These individuals will help you gain a clearer picture of what college life will be if you choose that particular college.  So let’s identify those individuals and some of the questions that may be important for you to ask.

Meet the College Admission Representative

The importance of this meeting can not be understated.  It is here that you will find any college information that you were unable to find while researching the particular college.  You should be able to find ample college data online such as:  student to faculty ratio, Average SAT/ACT Scores, academic programs and specialties, etc.  However, any information you did not find online can be obtained by meeting with the college admission representative.  Here are some additional questions you may need to ask:

  • What does your college offer in terms of career services?
  • What types of academic assistance are available?
  • How are roommates assigned?
  • What can you tell me about job placement data for recent graduates?

This meeting will be a great place to start the financial aid conversation.  You may or may not be able to meet with a financial aid representative.  But you can certainly ask some of your financial aid questions at this meeting.  Ask what kind of scholarship opportunities are available?  What kind of scholarships may be available to your specific circumstances?  This simple question may lead to thousands of unknown scholarship funds.

Meet the Department Representative

Before you scheduled your college campus visit, you ensured that they have a major in your particular area of interest.  On your visit, you want to meet with a department representative.  It is during this meeting that you can ask specific academic questions that you may have regarding your area of interest.  Here are some questions that may be of importance during this meeting:

  • How much flexibility does this major have with upper-level courses?
  • What are the specific course requirements for this major?
  • Are there any specific requirements a student must meet/complete before they can declare this major (i.e., completion of specific courses, a GPA requirement, etc.)?
  • Are there scholarships available specifically for students in this major?
  • What kinds of jobs do students who graduate with this major typically pursue?

This information is invaluable to your college decision process.  Again, a question regarding specific scholarships related to this field of study would be appropriate to ask the department representative.

Meet with a Current Student

The timing of your college campus visit is very important.  You want to meet while classes are in session and while other students are on campus.  One reason for this is so that you get an opportunity to sit down and talk with a student.  You can learn a lot from a student’s view of their college.  Here are a few questions you might want to ask a current student:

  • Why did you select this university?
  • What is your favorite thing about this university?
  • What is a typical day like?
  • Does social life revolve around the campus or do students leave on the weekend?
  • How is the on-campus food?
  • Did you live in the Dorms? Did you enjoy them?
  • Do you feel safe? What is campus security like?

As you can tell, a college campus visit is vital to making the best decision when it comes time to choose a college.  However, to make the best of your visit, you may need to plan your trip.  These meetings that we have mentioned will help you have a great college campus visit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

College Fair Strategies

This is the time of year for college fairs.  Perhaps you have already  received an invitation to your local event.  These kind of events offer a great amount of information for college planning.  According to BigFuture by college Board, “A college fair is a gathering of college representatives who are looking for the right students for their institutions. They’re there to spread the word about their college to high school students — and they want to talk to you.”  So attend!  But before you do, you need to have a plan.  So here are some college fair strategies that will help you make the most of your college planning adventure.

Don’t attend without a plan!

Here is the first of our college fair strategies…make a plan.  There will be many colleges at the fair and it may be impossible to see every single one. This is why a plan is so important.  If possible, get a list of the colleges that will be in attendance.  This information should be available at the college fair website.  Also, see if you can find a map of the college fair itself.  You may be able to map out your trip even before the doors open.  (Power Tip: You can eliminate every college that does not have you intended major.)  This will save you lots of time.

Also, make sure you have everything you need for your information finding adventure.  You will need a pen, paper, and clipboard (or something else on which to write).  Bring a small bag/tote, because there will be a lot of informational handouts.  It would be helpful to bring a bottle of water to refresh yourself after talking to the college representatives.  But the most important thing you will need to prepare prior to the event is a list of questions!

Make a list of questions!

Okay, let’s move forward with our college fair strategies.  Strategy #2: ask the right questions.  The entire focus of the college fair is information, but the wrong information will not help you.  So, take some time prior to the college fair and ask yourself what information is most valuable to you.  A quick search of the internet will help you find a lot of good questions to ask at your college fair.  These questions may or may not be the main questions you have, but at least they are a starting place.

In fact, we recommend you find a good college fair worksheet.  You can find many of these resources online.  We suggest that you find the most detailed worksheet you can and then start your research early online.  You can find financial information, demographic information, graduation rate, average debt load of graduates and much, much more.  If you use the college fair to find information that is already available online, you will miss the full potential of the college fair.  College fairs are most valuable when you ask the questions you can’t find elsewhere.

Plan time to Evaluate!

Here is the last of our college fair strategies today.  Take time to evaluate your college fair findings.  You should do this as soon after the fair as possible, while all the information is fresh in your mind.  Yes, you made good notes and asked great questions, but that information is not valuable until you place it in the context of your college plans.  Place your worksheets side by side and start to see what are your “likes” and “dislikes” about the individual colleges.  Then prioritize the list of college from the ones you like the most to the ones you dislike.

Congratulations, you have just made your college list!  And you already have many of your questions answered.  Breathe a sigh of relief and get ready for the next step in your college preparation…the college campus visit.

Unexpected Costs of College

College is one of the greatest investments in a student’s future.  As you plan for your student’s future, don’t forget the unexpected costs associated with college.  Many colleges try to show these expenses in their award letter, but it is hard to calculate these costs precisely simply because there are way to many variables.  Some of the costs are associated with particular majors, while others are related to the location of a particular college.  Let’s examine some of the unexpected costs of college.

The Unexpected Costs of College: Travel

No matter where a student attends college, they will have some kind of travel expense.  If you attend close to home, it may be as simple as a tank of gas and some fast food. However, If you are attending across the country, this cost could include plane tickets, perhaps some shipping expenses, or maybe even addition set-up costs.  In a recent College Parent of America article, “Top 7 – unexpected cost of college”, they listed college travel expense as one of the top 7 unexpected expenses.  You need to consider travel costs in the overall costs of college.

The Unexpected Costs of College: Books

Every student is going to need textbooks each semester, therefore, textbooks are also an unknown expense.  While we know textbooks are needed, the cost of textbooks is greatly dependent upon the chosen major.  Princonomics revealed that the cost of textbook is souring.  The average students spends around $1200.00 a year on textbook alone.  Princonomics breaks the cost of books down to show what majors have the most expensive textbooks.  You need to consider the costs of text books in your college planning.

The Unexpected Costs of College: Set-up

The student and family will also need to plan for “set-up” costs.  This expense includes: technology, learning supplies, dorm room supplies, toiletries, etc.  There is no way to figure out what these needs will cost.  There are just to many variables.  However, it is an expense that is often overlooked and therefore needs to be considered.  The best idea would be to establish a budget.  While textbooks and travel expenses are pretty inflexible, you may be able to make some small adjustments with your set-up costs that can lead to lower expense.  Make a plan, and if you start early enough, you may be able to take advantage of some great deals.

The unexpected costs of college can add up! Proper planning can alleviate some of the pressure of these expenses.  In upcoming posts, we will share some money saving ideas to help alleviate some more of the pressure of these unexpected costs of college.

 

 

 

 

Start Right

The first days of college life are just around the corner.  This brings a great amount of excitement, but also carries a small amount of anxiety.  Will I be able to handle my class load?  Will I be able to make friends quickly?  Will I be able to manage my athletic schedule or academic schedule? Where is the next party?  Each student must give great attention to starting each new school year right.  However, for the freshman class, starting right is so much more important.  So here is some advice to help you Start Right your first weeks of college.

Start Right by Establishing your Boundaries

A common struggle among first year college students is establishing good boundaries.  A boundary is simply a limit.  In high school, our limits were predefined by teacher, school administrators and parents.  But in college many of these predefined limits are removed.  It would be easy to allow your time to be given to extremes.  However, you can start right by establishing limits that govern your college life.

Many colleges have seen the need for additional training in this area, so they offer freshman orientation classes.  These classes will help the first year student adjust to college life.  They cover issues like academic planning, time management, pitfalls of college life and many other topics.  In essence they are designed to help the incoming student body establish boundaries.

Start Right by Establishing an Academic Routine

College classes are not like high school classes!  They are more difficult and require much more out of classroom work.  In fact, the average college class uses a 1:3 ratio of class work.  This means that for every 1 hour of classroom work, there is an additional 3 hours of outside classroom work.  You will need to establish a good academic routine.

Here are a few tips to help you establish a good academic routine.  Take time to read through each class’ requirements and mark the major happening of that class on an academic calendar.  If you have any questions about the class or its requirements, meet with the professor to clarify.  In fact, don’t be afraid to meet with the professor throughout the semester to help clarify instructions.  Find a great place to have uninterrupted study time.  Okay, this may be simplistic, but actually attend classes.  In other words, take the first weeks to get really organized.  This small amount of time on the front end will pay great dividends throughout the semester.

Start Right by Establishing a Financial Plan

If you’ve never had to create a budget, now is the time to do so.  Wise students find ways to stretch their money, and live more frugally while in school.  In our article First Year College Expenses we talk briefly about how much money the average college student needs each month.  Most college students need about $100.00 per month for incidental expenses.  Another article from US News and World Report shares a discussion about  college budgeting.  Toward the bottom of the report, “Lindsey” talks about the additional cost of college not found on any financial assessments from the college.  These additional costs must be considered in the financial plan.

Things to include when establishing a financial plan: coffee, snacks, coffee, eating outside the cafeteria, coffee, off campus events (like movies, bowling, pizza run, etc) oh and did I mention coffee.  These little expenses add up.  So make a plan.  You need to write down the details of your plan.  Then once a month evaluate if the plan is being followed.  You can also make some adjustments once you have evaluated the plan.  Not only will you be making sound financial judgments for the college years, but you will be establishing a habit that will help you the rest of your life.

While the first few weeks of your freshman college year may be a bit daunting, with a little planning to start right, they can also be the most productive.

College Road Trip

A college road trip can be one of the most fun and informative steps in your college planning endeavors. Disney captured this special trip in 2008 when they released College Roadtrip. (See the official trailer here.)  Some time in between the end of one’s junior year and first part of one’s senior year of high school is the best time to take a college road trip.  So pick out a few of your top school selections, navigate the best route and head out onto the open road.  But before you go, here are a few suggestions that will make your college road trip more beneficial.

College Road TripExperience campus life

When you visit your college campus you want to experience as much campus life as is possible.  While this may be a bit more difficult in the summer, you can still tour the campus.  Call ahead and arrange a campus tour.  You will want to see the dormitories, a classroom, the library, the cafeteria, and the grounds.  If you are playing sports, you will want to see the area where your sport will take place.  Even a summer visit will yield great information about your campus life.  If at all possible, see if you could speak with a current student.  One may be available even in the summer months.

Meet your Admission Counselor

Make sure you meet with your admission counselor.  Chances are, you have already exchanged emails a few times.  But an email is not the same as a face to face meeting.  Let them get to know you, but also have a list of questions ready to ask them.  Ask about the admission process, roommate selections, student to faculty ratio, career services, and much more.  Also ask if there is anything outstanding for you to provide for the admission process.

Meet the Department Representative

If you have already declared a major, the college road trip is a great time to meet with your department representatives.  Again, questions are the best way to find out the information you want to know.  Most colleges already know what they want to tell you, but that may or may not be the information you want.  Make a list of questions you want answered.  Ask about course requirements, typical class size, office hours for professors, etc.  A little early planning will make your college road trip more beneficial.

Meet the Financial Office

Do not leave the campus without taking the opportunity to talk with the financial aid department.  You can ask about additional scholarships, payment options, financial aid deadlines, online work options, etc.  This meeting can help you better prepare your financial picture for the college years.

There are many great benefits to taking a college road trip.  But as you can see, a small amount of planning before the trip can pay great dividends during your trip.  Our staff at College4Less are ready to help you prepare for your college road trip and your college financial needs.  Contact our offices for additional information.

First Year College Expenses

The first year of college offers a variety of challenges.  From a financial perspective, many of the challenges can be averted with proper planning.  So let’s look for just a moment at the first year college expenses and offer some planning thoughts that may alleviate some stress from college’s first year.

The first expense that must be mentioned is the overall cost of college paid to the institution.  When you received your college award letter you may have had to sit down.  But by now the sticker shock has probably worn off.  The school typically has an orientation that you can sign up for prior to stepping onto campus.  These orientations are a great way to ask any last minute financial questions.  You can even set up an appointment with the financial aid office to review the award letter, and ask if there are any additional first year college expenses that you may have not considered.

The second expense concerns the change in location.  Moving into a college dorm or apartment is an exciting time, but it can also be expensive.  Most colleges offer some advise on what a typical student may need for on-campus living.  A quick search on the internet can yield a plethora of additional lists, ideas, expenses, etc.  You can start addressing this expense now.  Go ahead and find a list, and start making small purchases each week.  This may save you some time and money.  You may even be able to eliminate some of the items that were once thought needed.

Other first year college expenses are academic is nature.  I am referring to text books and academic supplies.  Again, many of these supplies can be gathered in small increments over the summer months, but others, like college textbooks and a computer, many need greater planning.  Do some research on what may be the best computer for the student’s major.  What equipment do you need to protect that investment? (Example: backpack, back-up drive, covers, etc.)  Your class text books may be a bit more tricky, because you may not know what tests are needed until later when you have a class schedule.  But as soon as you know what books you need, check out multiple stores/sites to compare prices.  Don’t forget to check the schools classified listings for used books.

Finally, let’s talk briefly about how much spending cash one needs for the first year of college.  There are so many variables to this area such as: location of the college, social involvement, major, etc.  However, most people can live on about $100.00 per month.  There may be occasions where more is needed.  However, most students know that the occasional “shot in the arm” is just a phone call away.

These are the most common first year college expenses.  You have a few more months to plan.  So use your time wisely to reduce the stress of the first year of college.

 

 

 

Does the Perfect College Roommate Exist?

Choosing the right roommate is a difficult process to begin with… and maintaining a good relationship with the person you live with can be even harder! There are certainly enough things to worry about in college without having to stress over fighting with your roommate, or having other roommate-related difficulties. Every college student needs to know how to effectively choose a good, reliable (and normal?) roommate… not to mention how to live with him or her when the time comes.

The experience you have with your college roommate will have a significant effect on your initial college experience. Living with this person can dramatically affect both your study habits and your social activities. To help you choose the right person as a roommate, here are a few questions you may want to answer:

Do you share common interests?  It might make your living situation easier if you can find a common ground that connects the two of you together. Try to pick someone that you share at least one common interest with. For instance, even if you don’t like the same types of music, maybe you both like to play basketball or spend time outdoors. Having things in common will allow you and your roommate to enjoy being together and possibly make living together bearable.

Do you share the same meaning of clean?  As hinted above, it is important to select a roommate who has similar cleaning habits to your own. If you are a complete slob, then rooming with a clean freak will only cause conflict – and vice versa. (Hint: generally messy students should not view this arrangement as an ideal situation… because more than likely, your roomie will absolutely not be willing to clean up after you!)

Are you an early riser or a night owl?  If you are an early riser, it could be a good idea to select someone who also likes to get up early. This is especially important in dorms, where it is challenging to sleep while someone is getting ready for class three feet from your bed. Imagine having an 8:00AM class, but being unable to sleep because a roommate has friends over until the wee hours of the morning. Or, imagine how annoying it would be if a roommate’s alarm clock went off at 6:00AM while trying to sleep in! In a dorm room, it is generally more convenient for roommates who go to bed and arise at approximately the same time. In an off-campus apartment with one’s own room, it’s a little easier to compromise on this issue than it can be in the dorms.

Although this is not an exhausted list of every question you should ask before choosing a roommate, we hope it will help start the process.  A good roommate can really enhance your first year of college.