We have our host Brad Baldridge leading the show today and giving you the tips he usually charges money for! Want this free advice? Of course you do! In our 100th episode, Brad breaks down a quick outline of what parents must be doing in order to prepare for college. The college planning process starts, at a minimum, early in the junior year of high school. You will need a test plan, scholarship plan, visit plan, and a financial plan in order to have the best strategy to get your student off to college successfully. What are these key areas all about? Brad has the knowledge and know-how right here!
Questions Answered Today:
What is a test plan?
This is all about planning for the ACT/SAT test that will be needed to get into college. Test prep usually leads to better scores. “The reality, of course, is that everyone is looking for that edge,” explains Baldridge. These better scores can lead to more opportunities.
Some important questions to consider include:
- Should we take the ACT or the SAT?
When can we schedule and take the test?
- Make sure it doesn’t conflict with other activities and that you have plenty of time to prepare.
- How many times will you be taking it?
- What kind of prep will you be doing for that?
The test plan ties into your school selection and visit plan.
If you are planning to apply to a more competitive school or follow athletic dreams, then you will need the best scores you can get. “Better scores are always better,” notes Baldridge.
Test prep is 100% on the student. Parents can’t study for them! If a student is dragging their feet that might dictate how much time and money parents spend on test prep.
By the end of the junior year, your goal is to have a test score you are proud of.
What is the visit plan?
There are multiple types of visits on a college campus. There is the stealth visit, where you just surprise show up on a campus (such as when you are on vacation) and check out the buildings and keep it simple. This is great for freshmen and sophomores.
There is also a more in-depth visit plan that considers:
- How many schools do you need to visit?
- Are they local or far away?
How can we get there?
- Airfare, traveling plans, scheduling, etc.
- Where do we start?
If you aren’t sure where to begin, start with the local schools as test visits. Some people complain they don’t know what schools to visit because they don’t know what they are looking for. Brad suggests seeing nearby schools to start, so you can pinpoint things you like and things you don’t like in order to figure out what is important to you. This also gives you a chance to practice what questions you want to ask and think about what you really want to see.
Once you understand what is important to your student that will help you to start customizing your visits.
If you have a junior, pull out your calendar for school and your calendar for work in order to plan visit days now. You might not know where you are visiting yet, but schedule those days or weekends now and you can choose later.
Some colleges offer open houses, only schedule appointments, or can give you a tour anytime. You will need to call and scout out what information is available at the colleges you are interested in.
On a college visit, it is important to find out:
- What it takes to be admitted
- What test type or score is ideal
- The price of the school
- Scholarships and financial aid available
This is where you get your first layer of information about the school. It is best to visit while classes are in session to get an idea of what the school is like when in full swing.
How do I create a scholarship plan?
Of course everyone wants scholarships, but you need to think about how you will win them. “A lot of families talk about scholarships, but in the end, only a few families pursue and win scholarships because it takes a lot of work, effort, and it has a learning curve,” says Baldridge.
Check out “The Scholarship Guide for Busy Parents” in the resources. It contains 4 quick videos to help teach you about scholarships and help you decide how much time and effort you would like to put into chasing them.
Scholarships should be done during the junior and senior years. Depending how many you will be applying to, you should be sure to schedule those in your calendar because they do take time.
How am I going to pay for college and create a financial plan?
This is the last plan, but it is revised as you visit schools and figure out where you want to go and what you can afford.
You don’t want to get to the end of the process and realize that all of the colleges you are considering are very expensive!
Things to be working on for the financial plan include:
- Figuring out if you qualify for need-based aid
- Determining how much money parents will be paying towards college and how much students will be contributing
- Savings and cash flow availability
- Loan options
The financial plan is the last plan to come together because you have to know which schools you are going to be applying to in order to consider how much they will cost as well as how much financial aid you will be pursuing.
LINKS AND RESOURCES:
Episode 90: The Untapped Gold Mine of College Fairs
Episode 85: Should Your Student Test Again As a Senior?
Episode 81: Four Fatal Errors Families Make When Planning For College
Episode 33: Test Prep For a Higher Score
Episode 18: Virtual Campus Tours, Real Benefits!
Episode 13: 8 Components of College Planning & Test Case
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