Top College Planning Questions from Parents: Part 1 | College Made Simple

The first in our “Inside College Planning” Question & Answer series.

Remember back in school those times when just didn’t understand what the teacher was saying but you were too scared to raise your hand and ask about it because you felt like everyone else got it except you?

Well at College Made Simple, we never want you to feel that way when it comes to questions about college planning.

If there’s something you need to know, we want to answer it for you. That’s why I’m taking this opportunity to kick off what we hope will end up being a comprehensive Question & Answer section here on the website.

We’ll make it our goal to cover almost every topic along the way… both broad and ultra-specific. And if there’s something we’re not covering that you want answered, send it our way and we’ll do our best to get you up to speed.

So with that, here’s our first round of questions…

Q: If my child takes a summer course or does a summer activity at the college he/she wants to attend the most, will it help their chances of admission?

A: First and foremost, your student should only be doing summer programs that they’re interested in doing… not engaging in them strictly as a college resume builder.

Simply put – colleges aren’t stupid and if your child has shown no special interest in say… creative writing, and yet they’re taking a creative writing class at that school for the summer – admissions officials are going to know this probably is a hollow attempt at trying to build up brownie points.

Allow your student to be authentic and real in their interests. Don’t try to force a square peg in a round hole just to get their name in front of admissions officers.

Schools generally are more impressed with a student pursuing their true interests during the summer through any program… not necessarily just the ones on their campus.

Q: My student has taken both the SAT and ACT multiple times. How many scores do they need to submit to schools?

A: For almost all schools (save a few highly selective ones), you have the option of submitting as many sets of scores as you like.

So if your student took both the SAT and ACT four times, you could submit all four scores, or just one of each. Or two of the SAT and one of the ACT. You get the idea…

It’s called “Score Choice” — and it’s your right provided by each test’s maker. Once you get it, that score becomes your property and you can send it to whichever school you please… or not at all.

Now as I said, some (but not many) very selective schools with insist on seeing all your scores. So make sure the college you’re applying to recognizes “score choice” before you send in your application.

The SAT and ACT are considered pretty much interchangeable these days, so it’s helpful to take both and see which one ends up furthering your student’s cause along better. Then make your decision from there.

Q: When is the best time to begin a college planning/funding program for my child?

A: Short and easy answer: as early as possible.

It doesn’t pay to wait until your student has chosen a school to begin trying to figure out how to pay for it.

Meeting with a college planner well before the college search even begins can enable you to begin the process of arranging your finances in order to lower your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) when it comes time to apply for financial age.

In order to learn how to do ensure your EFC is as low as possible and your financial aid check is as large, check out some of our previous College Made Simple articles on the subject here.

I’m sure it also doesn’t come as a surprise that going “one year at a time” when it comes to determining your college funding plan severely limits your options when it comes to financial aid, scholarships and other tuition assistance programs.

Circumstances change obviously, so if you’re waiting until the end of each school year to figure out how to pay for the next, your financial situation may end up radically different from one year to the next.

This sort of lack of foresight often times ends up biting families who are left with a tuition bill halfway through their child’s college career that they just plain can’t afford.

Q: What are some bad habits my child should break before leaving for college?

A: The truth is these are probably habits we ALL should be breaking no matter what age we are, but it’ll be especially helpful to your student to avoid them during college.

Too little or too much sleep is a real killer for college kids. Staying up late with friends can end up causing them to oversleep, miss morning classes and set them far behind on their assignments right off the bat.

Trying to make up for lack of sleep on the weekends or on off hours from class, can leave them lethargic and unfocused and simply missing out on a lot of the great activities colleges have to offer. A solid 8 hours of sleep every night is the absolute best for a student trying to balance studies, friends, athletics and other activities during a busy college schedule.

Procrastination is also a famously bad habit for students. Churning out a 15 page paper in one night is hardly going to result in scholarly masterpiece. It’s crucial for students to learn effective time management skills and space work on assignments out so that by their due dates they’re not in a frenzy.

Eating habits are also a key component to a students’ success. All-you-can-eat cafeterias as well as late night food options abound at schools. Many students don’t gain the “freshmen 15” for nothing after all. Maintaining a balanced diet will help keep them alert, focused and feeling energetic at a time when energy is the name of the game. It’ll also keep you from having to buy a whole new wardrobe in larger sizes when they return home.

Finally, proper hygiene is something that’s especially important now that your student will likely be sharing a room (and an entire dorm really) with other students. There’s nothing worse than a roommate who’s messy, smelly or just plain dirty. It’s a surefire way to lose friends, gain a bad reputation and in some cases even end up disciplined by resident advisors.

Make sure your child knows that now that they’re an adult and living independently, it’s time to start acting like, not only for their sake but for the sake of the others around them.

That’s it for this first go around. Hope these answers were helpful and provided some form of guidance if needed.

As I said, I’ll be continuing these Q&A series regularly, so be on the lookout for more answers to pressing college questions in the coming weeks!

To your successful college planning,

Jodi Polster

Education Director, CollegeMadeSimple.com

Read the second installment of our college planning questions & answers series here.

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1 Comment

S R MillerJuly 6th, 2011 at 9:22 am

Jodi,
As the Director of a high school College and Career Center in PA, our experience with SAT Score Choice is that a student can select a score set by”date” for release by College Board, but they cannot ask CB to send their best CR, M and W scores when they occur on different dates – which happens frequently. Also, many colleges in our area now use a student’s “super scores” (highest CR, M, W regardless of date taken), so we generally encourage releasing all scores.

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by CollegeStats.org.  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News, TheStreet.com, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.