Wednesday’s Parent: 7 pre-college costs that can lead to big savings later

Turning pre-college costs into college savings

Turning pre-college costs into College savings

There is a plethora of articles about college costs and how to pay them but little mention is made about college prep expenses. College financial aid doesn’t cover these and they can sizably pile up. Pre-college expenses can cut into personal financial resources way before a tuition bill arrives and add hundreds, even thousands to the total cost of obtaining a higher education degree. Thinking about pre-college costs now can help families plan where they are most likely to get the best return on their investment and allocate their money accordingly. Here are seven pre-college costs that can lead to big savings during and after college:

1. Standardized tests have fees. The PSAT, SAT, SAT Subject Tests and ACT have set fees and students often take them more than once. The expense is there but so is the chance to get a break on college costs. High scorers may qualify for college scholarships. They also may be offered admission with more generous financial aid packages as compared to their poorer scoring peers. Although the list of test-optional schools is growing, many colleges still have SAT or ACT requirements.

2. AP and IB exams have fees. Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) programs charge students a fee for taking the exams. High schools often tout these as the most challenging and rigorous courses they offer. Doing well can impress college admissions officers by demonstrating college readiness. At many schools, this can lead to college credit and bypassing introductory college courses, both great college time and money savers.

3. Tutors have fees. Some libraries or high schools may offer free programs for individual subjects or test prep, but many tutors charge a fee for their services. If students need the extra help to pass a class or go to that next level, it may be the difference between getting into their college choice and qualifying for scholarships.

4. College visits can be costly. Depending on their location, visiting campuses can be a huge financial hit when they include lodging, meals and transportation. However, they can be the most influential reason for deciding student-college fit for applying and attending. When students do attend, families are one up on finding local stores offering student discounts, signing up for lodging and transportation loyalty programs, and knowing where to make hard to get reservations for crowded times like move in/out, family and graduation dates.

5. Colleges have application fees. This is where a good and succinct college list can pay off immediately. Weigh this against a longer list of greater possibilities but not necessarily better ones.

6. College consultants, financial aid counselors, and scholarship experts have fees. There is a lot of free information available about choosing colleges, writing essays, preparing for interviews, and filling out admission and aid applications but all this may not assist families with unique or difficult issues. A trusted advisor may be essential for them.

7. Student loans have fees and interest charges. Interest and fees add to the overall cost of the loan but federal and state loan forgiveness programs can turn all or a portion of borrowed cash into money that doesn’t have to be paid back. Check out the qualifications necessary like a certain career, length of time in the position and job location before considering borrowing to use as a powerful planning tool.

Note, there are fee waivers for qualifying low income students. But most will pay full fare so it is important to decide where to invest those valuable pre-college dollars and where to save the cash for college attendance.

Read Suzanne’s post: Scoring FREE Pre-College Costs

READ more:

This high school test means college money 

Getting a student loan? Check out forgiveness programs

How to pass the college affordability test (CAT)

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Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Suzanne and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound.

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from www.pocsmom.com to http://www.parentscountdowntocollegecoach.com/ and vice versa.

Wednesday’s Parent: How parents and students can be on the same page

Parents and the college-bound should be on the same page. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Parents and the college-bound should be on the same page. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

“Parents and children often think differently about money. They have differing experiences and points of view. They are at dissimilar life stages.” I said this referring to one of 3 essential parent-student talks before college. The truth is, parents and students are often on different pages on a whole host of issues besides college costs for these same reasons. For example, families may be at loggerheads with college choice and field of study that can determine future life styles including finances, location and opportunities. Disagreements also get magnified because there are so many important decisions to be made during the college process that affect the entire family. That’s where a different dialogue framework can help.

Even though parents and students can have different ideas and mindsets (teen brains are still developing), they can start on the same page. They both want the goal of student success. They can think as one by agreeing to the process and procedures for airing issues, too.

Have a formal agenda including old and new business, a routine time and place to meet, and a way to allot speaking time for participants. Mix business with pleasure by bringing a joke or playing a game before or after the parent-student conference to add some family fun.

Forming a parent-student team to address college prep issues in a business-like manner tempers emotions. It sets the stage for transition from parent-child discourse to parent-adult child communication. It won’t make family members agree all the time but it will create a habit of listening to each other’s position and understanding the reasons for each other’s views.

Gaining perspective and bonding from a fair hearing goes a long way and may even change varying opinions to being on the same page. Until the next topic comes up.

Read Suzanne’s postParent vs Student Reasoning

READ more:

Prioritizing through the college maze

Wednesday’s Parent: Best ways to manage college prep time

Survey finds parent-child communication changes in college

Parents and college-bound emergency plan

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Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Suzanne and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound.

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from www.pocsmom.com to http://www.parentscountdowntocollegecoach.com/ and vice versa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday’s Parent: Sense and cents for college and retirement saving

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Developing dollars and cents saving sense. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

We all know when it comes to saving, it’s never too early to start. But life has a way of moving on with or without plans for college and or retirement savings. No matter where you are in the college process or your financial circumstances, beginning now or reevaluating an existing method makes great sense and cents. That’s because chances are costs have risen more than you expected. It’s also a warning to prepare children with the life skill of saving.

Forbes’ article, How To Save For Both College And Retirement, outlined recent surveys for parent perspectives about saving for both. Many think this is an an oxymoron. About half are saving less than past peers, plan to delay retirement, or use retirement savings for college. The goal of the latter is to avoid students becoming college loan victims like those trapped in the student debt crisis. But parents and students must remember there is no loan for retirement.

Forbes gives eight tips for how to manage savings for both college and retirement. This is something many millennials who watched their families suffer through the recession are doing.

Need more motivation to save? Below is an interesting Infographic about the cost of financial procrastination from Financial Engines, America’s largest independent investment advisor. “Our survey polled a nationally representative sample of adults ages 55 or older. The categories of household income of the respondents span from less than $35,000 to over $100,000,” according to a Financial Engines representative. Check out the dollar difference delaying can make and get started now. Time literally is money.

Read Suzanne’s post: Saving for College

Saving for College

READ more:

How to pass the college affordability test (CAT)

Wednesday’s Parent: Cost and loan, fearsome four letter college words

Too many lack this essential college-bound skill

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Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Suzanne and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound. 

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from www.pocsmom.com to http://www.parentscountdowntocollegecoach.com/ and vice versa.

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Cost of financial procrastination Source: Financial Engines

Wednesday’s Parent: 3 step plan to make deadlines an asset

3 step plan to make deadlines a plus. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

3 step plan to make deadlines a plus. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Deadlines are like a black cloud hanging over my head ready to rain on my parade. They cause me stress and anxiety. Missed deadlines in the college process can mean much worse, like loss of admission and funds to help pay for college. Using my fave phrase, making lemonade from lemons, I’ve come up with a way to make deadlines an asset instead of a liability.

I’ve timed this post in conjunction with the May 1 ubiquitous college decision day for admitted students but the plan applies for all students and their parents. Accepted students have to let colleges know if they are accepting admission offers or not, send in housing deposits, take college placement tests, and be ready for Move-In Day, Family Visit Days, etc. College-bound families have admission, financial aid, scholarship, and standardized test registration and test deadlines. Whatever stage in the college process you are, here is my three step plan to make deadlines an asset:

First, know your deadlines. Take out a calendar and plot them all. Add school, extracurricular and personal activities and events. Don’t get overwhelmed with a full calendar yet. It’s good to know the facts now than be unpleasantly surprised later. Besides, you are just getting started.

Second, prioritize needs over wants. Knowing the difference is essential when choosing between conflicting events and helps time manage preparation plans for what is left on the to-do list. Maybe it’s because I hate stress, but I believe it’s a benefit to be realistic about what can get done from the start than spread myself too thin so circumstances, not me, determine what is and isn’t finished. When extra time pops up, a crossed out event can always be added later.

Third, go back to the calendar and back track. Take each deadline, not event, and rewrite the deadline a few days ahead of schedule. That way you are planning on finishing before the actual due date and providing a just in case advantage buffer. Break each task down into smaller steps and block out time in your schedule to work on them. The earlier you start, the more flexibility you give yourself.

The revised list can be used as both a motivator and a reason to celebrate when an item is completed. Deadlines become the best assets when they have passed successfully. Reward yourself with some fun after meeting each one. You deserve it!!!

Read Suzanne’s post: Deadlines and College Prep

READ more:

Scholarship Mom Alert: Meet May deadlines for these scholarships

Here’s the dish on college deadlines

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Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Suzanne and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound.

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from www.pocsmom.com to http://www.parentscountdowntocollegecoach.com/ and vice versa.

Wednesday’s Parent: Ins and outs for standardized tests

Ins and outs for standardized tests. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Ins and outs for standardized tests. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Standardized tests are under close scrutiny as parents, students, teachers, governments and colleges question which ones to take or avoid. Across the country, parents are forming opt out movements for Common Core testing in primary and secondary schools. More colleges are providing SAT and ACT test optional admission applications. However, standardized tests are being used as a ubiquitous measurement of academic performance. Money and preferential admission offers may be attached when colleges seek to reward high scorers and entice them to attend. Scholarship dollars and bragging rights go to PSAT merit scholars. College credit may be earned from AP and IB tests.

Criticism surrounds the frequency, length, and effectiveness of standardized tests. Parents worry about the stress they put on their children. Teachers are concerned with testing influencing classroom teaching. Many people wonder if tests accurately measure what they set out to do.

Bottom line, a lot is riding on test outcomes. When students take them, they should be well prepared to do their best. Reducing stress by familiarity with how the test is graded and what it is used for is helpful. So is training for stamina by taking past tests. On test day, students can enter well rested, fed and stocked with necessary supplies, leaving most of their anxiety behind.

Parents can help with test prep by finding study materials, creating a quiet work space, and making sure routine time is blocked out for study. Sometimes, tutors are the way to go. Test-taking is a skill that children will find useful throughout life when they take a driving test, college placement test, and employment exam. For motivation, explain the benefits of a job well done.

Add some family fun into test prep. For example, make a game out of using vocabulary words and enjoy meal time conversations. Be sure to celebrate accomplishments and have something to look forward to after the test!

Read Suzanne’s post: Test Prep-The Key to the College Kingdom

READ MORE:

This high school test means college money

Wednesday’s Parent: 7 standardized test survival tips

RECAP: 

Don’t worry if you missed any great insights from Claire Griffiths and the #campuschat crew. Tips were coming fast about how to decide which test to take (SAT vs ACT), the differences in the test, and some great info about the new SAT coming this October! Go to #CampusChat Recap 4/22: SAT vs ACT with Claire Griffith and if you have more questions, tweet them using #campuschat.

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Tonight is Wednesday’s Parent night (the fourth Wednesday of each month) on #CampusChat, Wednesday, April 22, 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will talk with Claire Griffith, manager and administrator of the Direct Hits PSAT, SAT, and ACT courses at DirectHitsEducation.com. Parents and students can also check out the fun to read Direct Hits Core and Toughest Vocabulary books. Please join @SuzanneShaffer and me-@pocsmom with our guest @directhitsfan and bring your questions and comments.

Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from www.pocsmom.com to http://www.parentscountdowntocollegecoach.com/ and vice versa.

Wednesday’s Parent: 6 key online learning questions

Online learning. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Online learning. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

I don’t have a crystal ball to foresee the future shape of education, but if I did, it would probably be a virtual one. That’s because online learning is increasingly permeating daily life from the home to the office to the classroom. It doesn’t take a seer to know families need to get comfortable with their choices to help in both college prep and choosing a college. Here are six questions about online learning answered:

What is a basic integration of online learning? Students may go to a specific online site to read or watch supplemental materials to a traditional classroom or tutoring experience. Access may be free, require signing up, or paying a fee. There is little or no personal interaction during the time online.

Can online learning provide personal interaction? Chat rooms, discussion forums and social media can provide correspondence in real time. Video presentations can add that live lecture vibe especially if the instruction is done via a live online session. However, unlike in a traditional classroom, each individual learner may be independent and out of sight.

What are MOOCs? The term MOOCs is an acronym for Massive Open Online Courses where thousands of students can attend “class” via their access to a computer. Students set and achieve their own learning goals. There may or may not be assignments and tests. They may be free or for a fee if taken for college credit. The degree of technical support may vary along with privacy and confidentiality.

What’s next in online learning? The college-bound can expect to have more online learning experiences in brick and mortar colleges as schools integrate this cheaper educational model to hold down costs. Many online for profit and non-profit schools exist already but the University of the People is “the world’s first non-profit, tuition-free, accredited, online university,” according to Forbes. Since there is no such thing as a free lunch, students pay for their exams, so a degree would cost a more affordable $4000, the article explains. Compare that to the highest higher education total cost of attendance for the single 2015-2016 school year which is on it’s way to exceed $70,000.

What are the major online learning pitfalls? Because of less or no face-to-face in-person interactions, students have to be more independent and self-motivated learners or they may drop out. They must find other ways to hone their social and soft skills colleges and employers crave. Participating in extracurricular activities, joining professional groups and working in internships can help fill the social gap to develop communication, leadership and teamwork abilities. The pressure is on to keep social media and other online interaction noses clean. The commercial value to students and their completion rate of online learning courses and degrees are unproven compared to traditionally earned diplomas in the business and education marketplace.

What are the major online learning advantages? Students who take MOOCs in high school and do well may stand out as proving they are college ready. They also have the opportunity of learning from a wide selection of interests with an instructor that may otherwise be prohibitive based on cost and location. Students will likely see more businesses like Starbucks and Walmart that will pay all or part of the costs for their employees to take courses toward a certain degree online only from a particular college.

Read Suzanne’s post: Should Your Student Consider Online Learning?

READ more: Parents may help their college-bound kids hone the top soft skills 

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Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Suzanne and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound.

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from www.pocsmom.com to http://www.parentscountdowntocollegecoach.com/ and vice versa.

Wednesday’s Parent: How a joke helps no fooling college prep

How a joke helps no fooling college prep. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

How a joke helps no fooling college prep. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

College prep is no joke but sometimes all it takes is a joke to to better prepare for college. That’s because it is easier to figure things out when the mind is free of stress and more receptive to learning. Researchers have found that even a smile can help improve a bad mood. Think how helpful an aerobic guffaw can be!

The trick is to include a chuckle as part of an everyday routine. That way parents and students have a daily lifeline to perspective before making critical decisions about college.

Funny is all over if you know where to look. Here are nine ways to find your funny bone:

  1. Joke book
  2. TV Sitcom
  3. Movie comedy
  4. Funny video
  5. Relative or friend who tells funny stories
  6. Hilarious photos
  7. Pet/animal antics
  8. Funny quotes
  9. Online search

Enjoy your hearty ha-ha and be energized to find the best fit colleges and scholarships, improve student qualifications, and make good decisions.

Read Suzanne’s post: Don’t Be Fooled

READ more: Finding your happy in college prep 

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Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Suzanne and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound.

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from www.pocsmom.com to http://www.parentscountdowntocollegecoach.com/ and vice versa.

 

 

Wednesday’s Parent: Enrollment management and college admission

Enrollment Management and college admissions. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Enrollment Management and college admissions. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

While students are busy beefing up their qualifications to increase their chances for college admission, colleges are strategizing to find the most attractive candidates to send acceptance letters. That’s what enrollment management is all about.

“Enrollment Management (EM) is a strategy used to recruit and retain the best-fit and right amount of students to a college,” Enrollment Strategist Karen Full (see Twitter chat guest info below) explains. To do this, institutions of higher learning integrate data from several departments including “Admissions, Financial Aid, and Records, with Marketing and University Relations, Enrollment and Marketing Research, Career Services, and Employer Relations,” David Kalsbeek, vice president for Enrollment Management at DePaul University said. Colleges invest a lot of time, money and expertise to get students to apply and select those to attend who will raise the school’s status and keep it financially healthy.

Students don’t have the same resources to find colleges that will best help them achieve personal and professional goals. However, they can use some published data and statistics to help form a good college list. The college-bound can check out the graduation rate to see how long it takes the average student to earn a diploma. The longer it takes, the more time for college costs to accumulate. The retention rate will show the percentage of students that return the following year. Students can also investigate how many students go on to graduate school or find employment within six months of graduation.

Perhaps the savviest thing students can do is to be a smart higher education consumer when faced with slick advertising and marketing. Compare a college’s admission requirements with student qualifications to be realistic about admission chances. Visit good on paper colleges to see if they live up to expectations. Make the college choice about finding the most logical place for the next phase of education based on academics, programs, extracurriculars, finances and location. Then match the fave picks with the degree of connection felt on campus and in the surrounding area. Students are more likely to do their best when they are motivated and invested in the college they attend.

Read Suzanne’s post: Colleges Want YOU!

READ MORE:

Is college a love match or a consumer purchase?

Two necessary steps before searching for colleges

Learn how to participate in Wednesday’s Parent Night on #CampusChat!

RECAP:

Don’t worry if you missed any great insights about Enrollment Management and College Admissions from our chat. We have a transcript of #CampusChat Recap 3/25: Enrollment Management with Karen Full on storify

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Tonight is Wednesday’s Parent night (the fourth Wednesday of each month) on #CampusChat, Wednesday, March 25, 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will talk with Karen Full, former college admissions director, now enrollment strategist with Longmire & Company, about enrollment management and college admissions. Karen has counseled many students and families on choosing a college. Please join @SuzanneShaffer and me-@pocsmom with our guest @KarenAFull and bring your questions and comments.

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Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from http://www.pocsmom.com to http://www.parentscountdowntocollegecoach.com and vice versa.

Wednesday’s Parent: 5 ways to maximize the advantages of studying abroad

Maximize the advantages of studying abroad

Maximize the advantages of studying abroad

Study abroad was not common when I went to college but a foreign language requirement was. Back then, there wasn’t much talk about a global economy although we did often say, “It’s a small world.” Today, students need soft skills, hard knowledge, and practical experience to set themselves up for success. If done right, ubiquitous study abroad programs can deliver all of these. Plus parents can benefit too if they visit, in the form of a family vacation.

A recent survey of freshmen found, “In terms of personal goals, keeping up to date with political affairs and influencing social values are more important to those who believe there is a very good chance they will study abroad.” I discuss this and other findings in my article 9 college prep insights from Freshmen Survey Part 2. It seems just thinking about the study abroad possibility prompts more civic responsibility.

Benefits continue to grow when students merge and take seriously travel and studying. They can develop independence, self-reliance, and communication skills. Living another cultural lifestyle can lead to greater understanding, patience and tolerance. Combined with academics, the experience becomes a practical skill-builder worthy of a prominent place on a grad’s resume.

Here are five ways to maximize the advantages of studying abroad:

  1. There are different costs depending on the study abroad program sponsor so shop around. Compare programs offered at the student’s college with those offered by home and other state schools. Students may be able to participate in another college’s program, too. Just make sure the credits are accepted by the student’s college.
  2. Financial aid can follow the student’s educational program. Based on foreign education and living expenses, costs may turn out to be the same or cheaper than attending a semester at the student’s college. Make sure the program is properly approved.
  3. Plan college courses on campus carefully so studying abroad won’t delay graduation. Watch out for prerequisites and compare when courses are given so they don’t conflict with when students desire to study abroad. Even adding one more semester can be a budget buster.
  4. Plan college courses abroad just as carefully to make sure they fulfill necessary graduation requirements and enhance class selections towards the diploma. And check out internship options.
  5. Although personal travel time and excursions may be offered, study abroad programs are not vacations. Choose both the country and program based on how they fit with personal, educational and career goals.

The parent-student team can have the study abroad talk and touch on the above five points. Beware the fifth one. Extra expenses from excursions and personal travel can be significant. Students must know the rules, regulations and laws so they act appropriately. It’s a good idea to learn about medical care available, room and board options, and transportation from living quarters to classroom. Students should understand that studying abroad is a privilege and a responsibility that requires thoughtful preparation to maximize it’s advantages. They should also understand the timing both for what they are getting as well as what they are giving up on campus.

Read Suzanne’s post

Read more:

Using Your High School Study Abroad Experience as College Prep 

Use Federal Financial Aid to Pay for College Abroad

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Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Suzanne and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound.

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from www.pocsmom.com to http://www.parentscountdowntocollegecoach.com/ and vice versa.

Wednesday’s Parent: Yikes! Scholarships can be lost

Yikes! Scholarships can be lost. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Yikes! Scholarships can be lost. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Scholarships can be won but did you know they can be lost? There’s no such thing as a free lunch and this applies to scholarship and grant awards, too. So-called college free money comes with strings attached. When broken, the money either isn’t sent or must be paid back. It’s essential for families to prepare themselves to avoid a nasty financial surprise. Here are four ways to prevent losing scholarships and grants:

Know the strings. Students should carefully read the eligibility requirements for directions when they win. Some awards have strings requiring the winning applicant to do something next like promoting the scholarship or writing a thank you note by a particular deadline before a check is sent. Thanking the sponsor is a good idea even when not required.

Keep the strings intact. Students should know what they must do to keep the grant or scholarship after it’s awarded. The free money may be tied to maintaining a minimum GPA (grade point average), keeping a major, playing an instrument in the band, or being on a sports team. Students must commit to the strings and be sure they have the time and passion to maintain them.

Use the money correctly. The free money may be designated for certain educational expenses only like tuition. Be careful not to spend it on specified non-qualifying costs like food and travel. This may be turn that portion into taxable income according to an article in Huff Post Financial Education.

Buy some time. Things can go south that cut the scholarship and grant strings like injuries and changing interests. The grant or scholarship may have an appeal process or offer a brief extension to give the student a chance to regain compliance.

Don’t bank on free money without knowing and being prepared to follow the strings attached. It’s also a good idea to keep searching and applying. Read the posts under College Costs on my blog for Scholarship Mom Alerts filled with scholarships and important info.

Read Suzanne’s post: Scholarships with Strings Attached

Read more:

Wednesday’s Parent: 4 strings attached to FREE financial aid 

Scholarships, grants, crowdfunding and other college finance self-help 

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Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Suzanne and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound. 

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from www.pocsmom.com to http://www.parentscountdowntocollegecoach.com/ and vice versa.