College Strategies for the High School Freshman

Your student has now reached the halfway mark through his/her first year of high school!  At this point, much of the nuts-and-bolts of specific college planning and financial strategies are still processing. However, you are currently in the ideal time to assess where things stand with your freshman student and his/her overall high school experience.  So here are some college strategies for the high school freshman

College Strategies for the High School Freshman: Pay Attention to the Fall Semester

The first report card of high school is a pretty big deal, and it is the initial indicator of how your student is performing at this new level.  We urge you to take the time to determine what has gone right so far, and help it to continue, as well as finding the best way to correct anything that may have gone awry or presented a challenge.  At this point it is still early, and there can certainly be an adjustment stage. Encourage your student in every way possible toward achieving academic excellence.

College Strategies for the High School Freshman: Consider the Big Picture

Yes, schoolwork is a huge part of the high school equation when it comes to college preparation.  However, do not ignore an assessment of how your student is adjusting to high school emotionally and socially, as well.  Activities are a fantastic preparation for college and for life in general, whether they are science clubs, leadership, athletics, or other interests.  There needs to be balance, certainly, but this is one area that also needs parental support.  Parents can make a huge difference in a student in discovering his/her areas of interest, and so can extracurricular activities.

If you have already saved money for college, then it’s never too early to get your financial plan together

College Strategies for the High School Freshman: Protect the money you’ve saved.

If you have money saved outside of your company’s retirement plan, talk to your College Funding Advisor about re-positioning those assets into accounts that are not exposed to the financial aid formulas.

  • This strategy was used with permission from our College Planning Network.  It is one excerpt from our monthly email that gives tips and strategies to help students and families prepare for the college years.

New FAFSA rules for college planning

If you are preparing for college,  you have probably heard about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA for short.  This is the form that all High School Seniors are required to fill out for federal aid.  Even if you are not using federal aid, the FAFSA may be required in the college application process.  The FAFSA can be a daunting task, but it is necessary. In past years this process required one to enter estimated financial information in January and enter updated information once taxes were filed.  However under the New FAFSA rules there is a small downside.

Here are the new FAFSA rules as noted by studentaid.ed.gov.

“On Sept. 14, 2015, President Obama announced significant changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) process that will impact millions of students. Starting next year, students will be able to do the following:

Submit a FAFSA® Earlier:  Students will be able to file a 2017–18 FAFSA as early as Oct. 1, 2016, rather than beginning on Jan. 1, 2017. The earlier submission date will be a permanent change, enabling students to complete and submit a FAFSA as early as October 1 every year. (There is NO CHANGE to the 2016–17 schedule, when the FAFSA will become available January 1 as in previous years.)

Use Earlier Income Information: Beginning with the 2017–18 FAFSA, students will report income information from an earlier tax year. For example, on the 2017–18 FAFSA, students (and parents, as appropriate) will report their 2015 income information, rather than their 2016 income information.”

So now instead of estimating financial information in January and then updating that information after taxes are filed, the FAFSA can be filled out in October using the previous year’s income listed on your tax return.  This carries little impact upon those who already have children in college.  It is FAFSA as usual.

However, for those who are new to the FAFSA process, it gives one less year to make any financial adjustments before those finances appear on the FAFSA.  Under the old FAFSA, the student and parents financial information from the student’s senior year is used for the FAFSA.  Under the new FAFSA rules the student and parents financial information from the student’s junior year are used for the FAFSA.

What does this mean for the student and parent?  It means the college planning needs to start a little bit earlier.  Financial planning needs to start as early as the freshman year in high school.  The academic and community service plans can be started as early as the middle school years.  In either case, waiting until the senior year to start planning for college is a mistake.  If you would like more information about early planning for your college years, please contact us.