Too big of a party school. Too far away. Too expensive. You worked so hard to find your best match colleges and all your parents can do is complain! This is supposed to be a happy, exciting time, but the rift between you and mom and dad is getting to be a bit much.
When your parents disprove of your decision to attend your dream college it just adds an extra layer of unneeded stress. So how can you move past arguing about the reasons why your top choice college is your top choice?
John Carpenter, author of Going Geek: What Every Smart Kid (and Every Smart Parent) Should Know About College Admissions, has some seriously good advice for how to handle this situation. Read more...
Being the parent of a teenager today is no cakewalk. It's an insane balancing act of knowing when to set the right boundaries and when to let them have their freedom. And when it comes to getting them ready for college it can get even more complicated!
Whether you're a college grad yourself or your child will be the first in your family to go, there's one thing everyone can agree on: it's important to understand what it takes to get in! That's why StudentAdvisor invited Katherine Cohen, CEO and Founder of IvyWise and ApplyWise.com, to share 4 things a parent must know about preparing a child for college. Read more...
By Sam Coren
Between touring campuses, test prep books, standardized testing and application fees that money spent toward helping your child get into college can really add up! That's why StudentAdvisor and Kaplan Test Prep's Getting Into College Today team have joined forces to give parents a much needed helping hand.
Every week we'll be awarding $250 to a lucky parent or guardian of a high school student to go toward those college preparation expenses. What would you spend $250 on? Enter before March 6th for your chance to win!
By Suzanne Shaffer
If you have college students at home during winter break, your house has the potential to become a war zone. Why? Your student has spent some time away from home and tends to believe they are the “head chief in charge” of their life. Parents still believe they are in charge and “when you’re in MY house you follow MY rules!” But your child's first college winter break home doesn't have to lead to non-stop drama.
Here are a few tips to help keep the peace and assure a peaceful winter break:
Set some boundaries.
When my daughter came home after her first semester of college, she didn’t see any problem with staying out all night with her friends. You can’t expect your college student to adhere to a midnight curfew or check in with you about their every move; but you can expect them to have some respect for you and some consideration for your rules. Have an open conversation with them when they arrive home and set some boundaries that you are both comfortable with during the break.
Embrace their independent status.
Let’s face it—they see themselves as independent adults. You see them as children. Somewhere in between you should be able to find a compromise. It might surprise you just how much they want to revert to being a child and how much you want them to act like an adult. Independence doesn’t mean they have the right to do whatever they want when they want it. You can’t, however, follow them around expecting them to be at your beckon call and expect them to provide you with every little detail of their lives.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Take a deep breath and ignore their new sleep schedule, their clothing choices, their newfound facial hair or piercings and their constant texting back and forth with their college friends. The little things that annoy you aren’t worth destroying your holiday spirit or causing strife during the few weeks they are at home. It won’t be long before they head back to college and you’ll be missing them again. The small stuff isn’t worth the sweat.
Don’t forget it’s “their” winter break.
The hardest part about parenting a college student is realizing that when they come home they have an agenda (and it’s not necessarily the same agenda you have planned). They most likely have three items on their list: sleep, catch up with friends, and eat. Don’t get your feelings hurt if they don’t want to spend every waking moment with you, attend all family meals, or go on family outings. They need some down time to de-stress and unwind. Give them the freedom to do that and you will be surprised when they actually WANT to spend time with you.
Forget the 20 questions.
The last thing your college student wants to do when they come home for break is answer 20 questions. Prying and prodding won’t get you any answers and trust me; there could be some things you might not want to know! It was my experience that I found out more during casual conversation than I ever did asking questions. Let your college student talk and you do the listening. They want to share; they just don’t want to be treated like they are in a police interrogation room.
Parenting a college student on its best day is difficult, on its worst day you will be tempted to scream and pull your hair out. My best advice comes from a very wise woman (my mother): this too shall pass. Remember this simple saying and your winter break will be filled with stress-free family time and when it’s over everyone will be speaking!
Suzanne Shaffer counsels parents in the college admissions process and the importance of early college preparation. Her Parents Countdown to College Coach blog offers timely college tips for parents and provides parents with the resources necessary to help their college-bound teens navigate the college maze and survive the college years. You can connect with Suzanne on Student Advisor, on Twitter @SuzanneShaffer or on Facebook.
By Sam Coren
It's pretty common for students experience an intense amount of pressure and anxiety during their last two years of high school. Between standardized tests, after school activities, college tours, applications, and who can forget all that homework, it's easy for teens to get overwhelmed. So how can you, as a parent, prevent your teen from feeling burned out with so much going on?
Here are a few tips for helping them keep their cool:
Let them know it's ok to vent.
After a hard day at the office it might be tough to sit at the kitchen table and hear your 17-year old complain about how bad they have it. But that's part of the charm of being a parent! Whether they'd like to admit it or not, your teen needs your help to get through this wildly confusing time. You might not have all the answers, but in some cases, just being there to listen to their frustrations can help.
Make sure they have some alone time to unplug.
Let's face it - we're all constantly connected to our friends at any given moment thanks to technology. While most teenagers have no qualms hiding in their room to tune out the rest of the world, it's very difficult for them to actually "get away" with their eyes glued to a glowing screen for hours at a time. Reading books or magazines, practicing an instrument (for fun), art projects, and physical activities such as yoga or time at the gym, are all great ways for teens to "recharge" by themselves.
Reconsider extracurriculars that cause only stress.
One of the biggest mistakes college-bound students make is overloading themselves with extracurriculars for the sake of standing out on college applications. If you notice your student's schoolwork and general attitude being affected by their participation in too many after school activities it may be worth suggesting that they reconsider some of their memberships. Is it really worth it for them to overexert themselves to get a main part in the school play when they don't actually enjoy acting all that much? Nope.
Doing college tours? Schedule something fun afterward.
For the highly motivated teen, finding their college match and touring campuses can be just as mentally exhausting as studying for midterms. But it doesn't have to be all work and no play. Use your college visits as an opportunity for you and your child to explore a new city, see a live performance, or catch a sporting event together.
Don't forget that they have friends.
It's easy to forget that good friends are just as important as good grades when it comes to getting through high school. If you notice your teen is becoming overburdened by school work and their college search and hardly ever making time for friends, it might be worth encouraging to them to take some time out for a bit of socialization (although most teams won't need that much coaxing!). A night out at the movies after a big exam might be just what the doctor ordered.
By Justin Munio
As most parents and students are aware, if you need money to go to college then you deal with the financial aid department. These are the people that are in charge of awarding grants, scholarships, student loans, and work-study packages. Figuring out how the college determines who gets money and who doesn’t can often times seem tricky, so let’s try to look at this process in as simple a format as possible.
Now, the concept is that financial aid goes to those families who need it the most. To determine this, colleges use two factors:
Cost of Attendance (COA) and Estimated Family Contribution (EFC). Then, the financial aid department uses a simple formula: COA – EFC = NEED.
How to Calculate the Cost of Attendance
Your COA is pretty straightforward. It is the cost of tuition, room & board, books, fees, transportation, and an allowance for miscellaneous fees. The COA at a college can change every year, so financial aid is recalculated every year. Remember to include all of the items I just mentioned in your budget, since that is exactly what the college is doing when figuring out your financial aid. If you forget to factor in the cost of textbooks, you may not have enough money when you head off to college in the fall.
How to Calculate Your Estimated Family Contribution
Your EFC is a bit more complicated because the college is trying to determine how much money they think your family can afford to spend on college. Unfortunately, your EFC is never going to be as low as you would prefer (unless of course it’s $0), but it is important to know what factors impact your EFC. There are many different things that go into the calculation of your EFC, but four of the biggest influences are Parent Income, Parent Assets, Student Income, and Student Assets.
Other factors that can influence your EFC include the number of family members in your household, the number of students in college at the same time, the ages of each family member, and even what state you live in. If this seems complicated, plenty of other families are thinking the same thing. Much like how a CPA can help you with your taxes, a good college advisor should be able to help you understand your EFC.
Determining Your Financial Need
The last step in the process is to determine your NEED. This is how much financial aid you may be eligible for. Let’s say for example that your college has a COA of $50,000 and your EFC is $20,000. This means your NEED is $30,000 ($50K-$20K=$30K). Now, does this mean that you’re going to get a $30,000 scholarship? Not usually. Most colleges will award you some combination of grants/scholarships (free money) and work-study/student loans (self help). Keep in mind that money you receive based on this formula is called “Need-Based Aid”. Scholarships that you get for having a really high GPA or good SAT scores are called “Merit-Based” and are awarded based on separate criteria. Even if your EFC is higher than a college’s COA, you could still receive “Merit-Based” aid (so study hard!)
Next time we’ll talk about your EFC in more detail and explore the fact that there are 2 possible EFC formulas a college could use, each with a different set of questions.
By Sam Coren
If you have a child who just started high school, one thing is for sure: college is the last thing on their minds. As they start acclimating to high school life, it can be easy for them to forget that preparing for college starts in 9th grade. While it’s not necessary to be a “Tiger Mom” and stress them out about every little detail, it is important to begin the discussion about college early. When both you and your child are on the same page about expectations, there will be less drama when application time rolls around.
Here are a few ideas to get the conversation started:
1. Explain the importance of keeping grades up.
Some students experience difficulty making the transition to high school coursework. When it comes to admissions, GPA is one of the most important factors in acceptance. Even if your child isn’t pining for the Ivy League or other highly selective schools, many well-regarded public colleges have strict GPA cut-offs in their admissions requirements.
Course selection is another big factor. While many competitive students will try to bite their teeth on all Honors-level or AP coursework, not all students can handle the workload. If your child is struggling in a certain subject and seems overly stressed by the demanding course load, it may be wise to tell them to take a lower level course to prevent them from burning out.
2. Be open about how much you can financially contribute to college expenses.
As tuition costs continue to climb, you may find that you haven’t saved as much as you should’ve. It’s not easy for every parent to talk to their child about money, but it’s important. If your family makes over $150,000 gross income, your child is unlikely to receive financial aid or need-based scholarships. Finances can be tight even for more well-off families, especially if you’re going to have more than one child in college at the same time.
I had the good fortune of starting college before the “great recession,” however when I graduated in 2009 I couldn’t help but feel guilty about the high tuition bills my parents paid on my behalf. If life had a “reset” button, I would have chosen a less expensive school. While I managed to graduate debt-free (barely), not all students are as lucky. Even if you think you’ve got all your bases covered financially, you should still talk about college costs before your child starts applying to schools.
3. Make sure they know it’s “okay” to not know what they want to do after high school yet.
During the college application process I had a tough time figuring out what I really wanted to do for a living. While many of my high school classmates had it in their heads that they wanted to be doctors, lawyers, teachers or Wall Street tycoons, I was left juggling a million ideas and feeling very discouraged. The thing I didn’t realize at the time was that college is an excellent place for self-exploration – even if it means changing your major a few times and working a few internships to find your path.
If your child hasn’t figured out their passion yet, encourage them to keep exposing themselves to new learning opportunities. Many colleges offer summer programs for high school students based on a wide variety of fields of study. Not only does this expose your child to a taste of college life, but it also helps them determine if any of their interests could lead into a possible career.
Talking to your child about college doesn’t have to be nerve-wracking as long as you start the conversation early and keep the lines of communication open. And don’t forget that when you and your child are ready to start looking into schools together, StudentAdvisor’s free college comparison tool is an excellent way to evaluate college costs and admissions requirements.
By Wendy David-Gaines
There are many ways to estimate college costs but the most accurate relies on realistic factors to make a successful college list. Good intentions can lead to unintended consequences and this is what is happening with the new Net Price Calculator (NPC) mandated by the federal government to be available on a college’s website by October 29, 2011. Projections can be off by thousands, hindering the making of a successful college list.
Already appearing on many college sites, prospective college students and their parents are invited to estimate their college costs by entering data. They can use this financial info to determine whether or not the school remains on the college list and the student should apply for admission.
The basic Net Price Calculation is:
Price of attendance – estimated financial aid = out-of-pocket college costs
Calculation problems occur because there is no uniform NPC that all schools use. Additionally the price of attendance underestimates all college costs to the family by excluding hidden costs. Financial aid estimates are off because the actual amount will be determined by filing one or more financial aid forms such as the FAFSA that are required by the college. When both factors of an equation are wrong, families can’t expect the result to be accurate.
Here are 3 unintended consequences that occur when students base their college search around the Net Price Calculator:
1. Excluding the right fit colleges.
There are high priced colleges that meet 100% financial need of their students. If the NPC calculation is off, it may look like the college is unaffordable. Excluding colleges (that otherwise may be a good college match) based on price without taking into account their financial aid policy can mislead families about out-of-pocket college costs.
2. Including the wrong fit colleges.
Including colleges based on price alone can raise college costs in the long run. If a student isn’t happy, it can’t be expected that they will do their best and take full advantage of this educational opportunity. Failing or dropping out can lead to a waste of time and money. When students transfer to other schools they risk not having all their academic credits transferring over and have to spend additional tuition money making them up.
3. Not taking into account temporary tuition discounts.
Colleges can offer scholarships and grants from their own funds to supplement federal and state financial aid, to reward students for their merit, (academic, athletic, artistic, musical, leadership abilities) and to attract students to their campus. However, the NPC does not disclose any strings that may be attached to these awards. What happens if the student fails to maintain a certain grade point average or stops playing on the team? College costs have been rising at the rate of 5% a year. Will scholarships also rise to keep pace with the increased costs? Is the scholarship renewable every year of college attendance?
Wendy David-Gaines, author of Parents Of College Students survival stories, is known as POCSmom. She writes and lectures about the college process from forming a college list to attending college graduation. Wendy is also a College Insights expert on College Expert Panel. For more about POCSmom Wendy go to www.pocsmom.com for links to her blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.
By Sam Coren
Whether you're BFF with your parents or can't stand to be in the same room as them, you can't ignore the fact that they play a huge role in your college search. And there's nothing that screams "quality time" more than going on college tours with mom and pops in tow, is there?
Parents embarrassing you on your college tours is one of those last awkward teenage rites of passage. At the end of the day you need to remember: they only do it because they care. Before you know it you'll be half way through your first semester of college and dying for a home cooked meal.
So before you set out campus hopping with your parents, brace yourself for some of the most embarrassing questions that parents ask on college tours:
Where are the best parties?
Yes, dad, because you'll be going to all the keggers as my wingman. While many parents do this to try to sound cool, it tends to backfire by putting the tour guide on the spot. Do they be honest and tell you the best place to go for weekend ragers? Or do they play it safe and tell you about all the squeaky clean on-campus activities they have every weekend in the student union? Sure it breaks up the monotony of a tour that's gone stale.
But when it comes down to it, this question is one that's better for you to ask another student personally rather than let your parents ask on your behalf. If that's not an option, you can snoop around for college reviews of the schools you're visiting to get an idea.
Tell me about the drug scene.
Ok mom - I get that you were "cool" back in college and experimented with drugs, but that doesn't need to be brought up on the tour. Even parents who don't have an experimental past ask this one. Parents should understand that despite school policy and the law, drugs tend to find their way onto almost any college campus.
While this might not be an appropriate topic to bring up during a college tour, it's probably a good idea to talk to your parents privately about their thoughts on college drug use if you haven't had that chat already. No matter what stance they take in the end you'll find that they just want you to be safe and stay out of trouble.
Where do the hot girls hang out?
You're pushing it with this one, aren't you, dad? Aside from wasting everyone's time on a pointless question, it's not fun having the tour group feel sorry for you that your father's a dirty old man. You want to know where the hot girls hang out, pops? Far away from you.
Are overnight visitors of the opposite sex allowed?
College dorms, fortunately, are typically not run like your parents household. Unless you're touring a school with a strong religious affiliation or strict housing policies such as curfews, most colleges don't have rules that discriminate against the gender of your "slumber party" guests. However, when you do move into your first dorm, it's a good idea to make sure your roommate has fair warning that someone (regardless of their gender) will be spending the night.
How do I keep my daughter from having sex?
When college tour guides hear questions like this it's a red flag that this is the type of parent that has a hard time trusting their child. It's also a red flag that the parent has no qualms with making their child die of embarrassment.
Your high school to college transition can be just as hard for your parents to adjust to as it is for you. It's important to maintain open lines of communication and talk about each other's expectations before you cut loose from the nest. Remember, when it comes to parents it's better to work with them, then fight them - you'll miss them soon enough once you start college.
Photo: Peter Gene
By Megan Kenslea
Chances are if you're reading this, you've recently had to deal with that bittersweet goodbye of sending your child off to college. If it's your first child going away to school, it may be even more difficult to adjust after achieving this milestone. As the eldest of three children, my parents and I have gone through many “firsts” together. From soccer practices to the prom, we navigated the scary waters of suburban adolescence together. Though we hit some bumps along the way, we made it to high school graduation on the whole unscathed. College was a different story.
After just one semester of freedom at school, my parents and I started to fight about everything. Nothing was off-limits: from what classes I was taking to how much money I was spending, it seemed like every conversation ended in a shouting match. I thought they were being unreasonable; they probably thought I was a nightmare. I had a whole new life at college, and I wasn’t sure how my parents fit into it.
It’s taken three years, but we’ve managed to work through a lot of problems that we had freshman year. Hopefully you can avoid the bumps in the road that I did and maintain a positive relationship with your child all through college by following these bits of advice:
Stay in touch – on their terms.
If they’re lucky, they’ll be so caught up in the excitement of freshman year that they might forget they have parents all together. Don’t worry if they don’t call you back right away – in most cases, that’s a good sign. Whether it’s a weekly phone call, regular emails, or a sporadic Skype session here and there, let your student figure out what ways of communication work best for them. Don’t be afraid to nag them a bit if they fall completely off the grid, but it’s important to let them adjust to their new surroundings without having to worry about calling mom back every five seconds.
Understand that their social lives have changed.
For most college freshmen, it’s the first time living away from home, and with that comes the first taste of freedom. Different students will have different reactions to their newfound freedom, but their first visit back home will be rough for both of you. Family rules that worked in high school probably won’t anymore. Instead of laying down the law right away, talk to them and work out new rules that you both think are appropriate. Curfews, family time, cars, and computers are all things you should talk about. Be flexible, but also make sure your child knows the consequences for breaking the rules.
Let your student take control of their academics.
Lots of parents want to be involved in their child’s academics, and with good reason. With the cost of college so high, it’s natural to want to make sure your student is making smart choices, but there is a line between offering advice and meddling. Feel free to give them advice about choosing a major, picking courses, or talking to professors – if they ask you for it. Things you should never do? Call their professors, edit (or write) their papers, or call them constantly about studying for test. Your student will learn the hard way that pulling an all-nighter is miserable – and be the better for it.
Teach them how to manage money.
College is the perfect time to teach your child how to manage a budget and spend responsibly. A great way to do this is to help them create a budget. If you’re going to give them spending money, figure out how much you can afford each month and help them budget for expenses like laundry, food, school supplies, and personal care items. If your child will have a car on campus, make sure to allot for gas, insurance, and maintenance fees, too. If you’re not giving your child money, you can still help them figure out how much money they’ll need to make or save each month. Make sure to talk your child about overdrafts and credit card debt, too – before the bills pile up.