Author Topic: College Planning: What do you wish you knew then?  (Read 1344 times)

aspiring

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College Planning: What do you wish you knew then?
« on: January 06, 2019, 02:13:04 PM »
Hello MMM Forum-

We are a few years away from college for our oldest. I wanted to reach out to this community for advice. We would like to help our kids with some college expenses. For those of you who have been through college years with your children already, what do you wish you knew then that you know now?

I don't know what I don't know, so I don't have a specific question, just looking for general advice. Some basic info:

- Our AGI is 130k.
- We have a lot of equity in our home (about 400k), I'm not sure if that is taken into consideration when determining aid. It is a 2-family. We live in one apt, the second apt. is a rental. Is that considered differently as an asset than a single family home?
- Each kid will have approx. 40k in their 529 account when they start.
- Most of our investments are in retirement acts (401k, and IRA)
- We have 2 kids. They will be in college at the same time for 1 year, possibly 2 if son does a gap year

Thanks in advance for any advice!

Dee18

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Re: College Planning: What do you wish you knew then?
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2019, 03:18:20 PM »
My daughter is a college senior, so my information is four years old, but I did a lot of research then.  One useful site is https://ctcl.org/ Colleges That Change Lives, if either of your kids is interested in a smaller school.  They hold events around the country that are free and have about 30 colleges represented.  Meeting a college rep at one of these counts as a personal contact when you apply for merit scholarships.  The cities vary each year so I would look for one where you live beginning in 10th grade.  These schools are all private and many offer extremely generous merit scholarships (otherwise known as tuition discounting). 

My daughter applied to 13 colleges and universities and received merit scholarship offers from 10, including 5 at 75% of tuition or higher.  She ended up taking a 100% tuition scholarship (Her room and board has averaged $9500 per year.  Tuition there is $38,000.) Her full tuition scholarship even covered attending semester abroad program.  (This is a little unusual, and was a factor in her choosing that school.)  One key to her getting a scholarship was her taking a locally run four Saturday ACT prep course, after initially taking the ACT and not doing well enough to get merit scholarships.  I had a hard time shelling out that $400 but I sure am glad I did.  I don’t know if the tips they taught her were key, or the confidence she gained through the program.

In applying for merit scholarships at private schools, you probably only want to apply where your gpa and ACT or SAT (and almost every school accepts either now) is at least at the 75% level for that college.  The more “rare” you are for that school, the more likely you will get a generous offer.  Every school wants students from all 50 states; on average you will get more from schools farther away.  Schools offer you more if they think you are really interested.  My daughter is shy, but she met reps at the CTCL program and then communicated with them regularly by email.  We did not visit all the schools, although in the end one flew her up at their expense.

For state universities, you will usually get your best price in your own state, although some schools such as University of Alabama, are offering good deals to out of state students.  I would first check your own state’s flagship school and see what the merit awards are.  Most have very clear awards based on gpa and test scores, ranging from full to 25% tuition.  One thing to keep in mind is that when it comes to scholarships, state schools and private schools operate very differently.  Many state schools limit merit awards to residents of that state.

As others have suggested on MMM you can also save on college costs by earning college credits in high school or by first attending community college.  I am sure some states have fabulous community colleges, but in my state they are geared toward very low level academic achievement. 

My income was similar to yours and we did not qualify for financial aid, other than loans, anywhere. With two kids that might differ. 

Once a student finishes junior year and you have that gpa and an ACT or SAT score you can go to the individual school’s website and get an estimate of aid.  Those were extremely accurate and thus very helpful.

The smartest thing I did was have a frank conversation with my daughter about paying for college.  I had 80k in her college fund and did not want to spend more than that.  Whatever you decide the limit is, make it crystal clear and then do not do applications to schools that are not going to be in that range.  My daughter’s high school counselors urged the kids to apply to “reach” schools.  They like to list all the great schools to which their grads are admitted.  I know of several kids who got into reach schools...at full tuition of $55,000 a year.  Then their parents had to either pay it, or the kids took out loans, or the kids had to turn down the offer at the parents’ insistence.  I now teach grad school and many, many students have told me how much they regret having undergrad loans when they could be in the same grad program now without having incurred that debt.

Best of luck!  It’s great that you are planning ahead.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2019, 04:02:40 PM by Dee18 »

Laura33

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Re: College Planning: What do you wish you knew then?
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2019, 03:59:15 PM »
First, start researching and planning now -- not just the finances, but which school, taking the ACTs/SATs, etc.  For example, we discovered spring of her junior year that one of DD's favorite schools wanted the SAT subject tests -- I didn't even know there were SAT subject tests, and I didn't know why she needed them, since she had nailed the ACT (which was basically a subject test itself).  Well, she took one, she bombed it, and thanks to our already-planned schedule, we didn't have time to sign her up for a test prep course.  So the schools that require that test got dropped from the list.  You want to plan out the test taking with enough time for your kids to prepare (and be careful about things like school exam schedules -- don't want to overwhelm your kid).

I started with this because what Dee18 said about merit aid is right on:  the better your kids look to the colleges, the more likely they are to throw partial scholarships at them.  We looked at a whole array of colleges with different academic profiles, and we narrowed things down to a couple of reaches, a couple of "matches," and a couple of safeties.  And so far, she has heard from two safeties, each of which has offered her enough merit aid that we can pay the rest out of what we have already saved, along with the opportunity to compete for a full scholarship.  And it also turns out that one of those safeties has a very good program in her particular area of interest, so it's very likely that she will end up going there (unless one of the reaches comes through).  FYI I relied on collegedata.com for a lot of the background info on average GPA/test scores, programs, costs, etc.

In this same regard, do not write off smaller/private schools.  Sure, the list price looks really really high -- but those schools also often have more money available to give out as financial aid.  With both my niece and DD, I saw/am seeing that if they want your kid, privates will offer enough aid to bring the cost down to at or below in-state tuition.  It is more important that you target the right schools that will chase your kid.

Finally, my experience is also that demonstrating interest helps.  We took advantage of summer vacation to travel to some accessible schools, both to figure out what she liked and to make sure the schools knew who she was.  I am crossing my fingers that works for her favorite school!  :-)  But it sure helped with the safeties -- she wouldn't even have looked at the one that she may end up at until she was in town for a school event and saw it, and like I said, they've come up with a great offer.

aspiring

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Re: College Planning: What do you wish you knew then?
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2019, 09:03:02 PM »
Thanks so much for the responses. I had not heard of CTCL and I also did not know that subject SAT tests even existed! Much to learn, thanks for the guidance.

formerlydivorcedmom

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Re: College Planning: What do you wish you knew then?
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2019, 10:36:29 AM »
In terms of SAT subject tests...I remember taking these in the late 1990s.  I was able to get credit from my chosen university for a semester of chemistry because my scores on the subject test were high enough.  That saved time and money!

I would assume that many colleges still offer the same opportunity - score highly enough, get college credit.

mm1970

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Re: College Planning: What do you wish you knew then?
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2019, 11:00:33 AM »
I'm not there yet, so I'm going to answer this as a student, and as a parent who has friends whose kids are in school now.

What I wish I'd known (I turned out fine) is how to do a cost/ benefit analysis of a school, major, and loans.  There have been a million threads on here about people borrowing too much money. I railed that I thought there needed to be a calculator.  Then I realized I could just make one.  So, that would be the big thing for me.

- Figure out what major
- Figure out what job
- Find out not only approximate starting salary for that job, but also job placement from that school.  (Example, starting salary is $50k but only 60% of students find employment = starting salary $50kx.6 = $30k).
- Calculate the amount of aid that you get and the amount you have to borrow.  Take the amount you have to borrow in loans, multiply by 4, and add a fudge factor. 
- Go to student loan site and calculate the monthly payment for that amount of loans
- Compare income to that monthly loan amount.   Your loans should not be more than 20% of your income.

Thus, if your salary is not 5x the annual loan payments...choose something else.  A different school.  Part time school.  Get a job.  Etc.


Also, start the convo early.  My big kid has his head set on Cal Tech (kinda hope he doesn't get in).  My niece got into a very pricey private school AND got into a state school in the same city.  Her grades were high enough to get a free ride to state school.  Since she will need a master's (wants to be a physical therapist), she made the big girl decision to take the full ride. It saved $25k per year over the aid package from the private school.

mozar

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Re: College Planning: What do you wish you knew then?
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2019, 07:29:56 PM »
I wish that I had know that if I had maintained over a 3.6 gpa while I was in college they would have increased my scholarships.
i got into the college I wanted with a 3.2 gpa. I didn't study in high school or college. In fact I didn't study at all until my last semester of grad school. If you are on this forum it should be easy to make sure your kids get straight A's and they understand how to manage their time in order to study effectively.

Where ever the parent went to college the child will have an easier time getting in as a legacy. Also in terms of being "rare" to the college it pays to figure out what they care about. Is the college always short oboe players? Do they need to fill their rowing team?

Another edge is that instead of just particpating in extra curriculars (like everyone) the kid should try starting their own or starting a business (leadership potential). I founded the GSA when I was in high school and when I went to college it seemed every other person I met was also a founder of the GSA at their highschool.

Check to see if the high school the kid is going to has a dual program where they can get free college credits and high school credits at the same time.

Even if the kid doesn't want to start in community college, he/she could take community college classes during the summers.

Quote
We have a lot of equity in our home (about 400k), I'm not sure if that is taken into consideration when determining aid.
You might have to split it between principal residence and investment property on the FAFSA.
https://www.fastweb.com/financial-aid/articles/when-is-real-estate-reported-as-a-business-asset-on-the-fafsa

If your kids end up going to the same college they could get a discount.

Don't forget to deduct expenses from your taxes.

mavendrill

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Re: College Planning: What do you wish you knew then?
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2019, 08:31:16 PM »
I teach at a flagship university, my kids are too young for me to be super prepped, but I also do a lot of advising so I am at least familiar with the game:

Your income is very high (congrats).  EFC (expected family contribution) is going to be brutal.  Get ready for that, use estimators now to get a sense of what you can expect, plan ahead and have a frank conversation with your kid(s) about what you are planning and expecting.

I want to push back against some of the ideas here about calculating practicality and major.  American colleges aren't built on the model to prepare for a single job/career - so the idea of "value majors" vs "valueless majors" is almost always coming from people to who don't REALLY understand higher education.  If your kids want to be prepared for one thing only, trade schools exist (and even high prestige ones overseas that are affordable to Americans).  I always find advice about the practicality of a college major ironic on MMM, as this website makes serious scratch for a tech worker based off his amazing ability to write.  It proves the point -  the point of a great education should be an education, not narrow preparedness for a position that was financially responsible years ago (ok I am sure you can tell I work in education and have my biases now).

Anyways, once your kids are in college:
1) I recommend that every student in college take (in their freshman year generally): statistics, a programming language, a research methods class, either introductory or symbolic logic, and the best english composition class possible (public speaking also highly recommended).  Those are pretty close to universally useful skills.  Then spend the next few years of their education looking every semester to showcase each of those skills.  The student will graduate with a degree (it doesn't really matter what in, hopefully something they are great at), and have a remarkable portfolio of broadly useful skills consistently demonstrated throughout their college work that both they and any academic references can highlight when applying for jobs.

2)  Your kids will receive TERRIBLE advice about college.  High School guidance counselors almost never have the ability to offer effective advice, and it gets worse at college.  Almost no one will tell your student that if they double up on (x) courses in the same department in year one they can graduate in 2.5 years instead of 4.  No one will discuss the rarely offered courses that slow down graduation plans, and rarely will people look out for your children as far as course sequencing goes.  You absolutely must do this (and/or teach your student to do this).  The biggest joke about the last twenty years of higher education is the disconnect between the amount of credit students enter college already having (which is going way up), and the length of time students are spending in college (also going up!)  Every year I see students come in with 40 or 50 college credits and still take 5 years to graduate.  It is almost always because of unforced errors of the student combined with faculty/staff advice that is almost consistently designed to boost the college bottom line.

3)  One of the best things to do in college is get a great internship.  Summer between junior and senior year it needs to happen.  Help them plan for it from day one, setting aside the requisite money as necessary, as well as find places to look for.

4)  There are many ways to be successful in courses but a few very brief tips (maybe you forgot, but almost no students know these).
 A) laptops don't help students in class.  They don't help with taking notes.  They don't generally help with studying.  Help your students be ready for having the ability to be distracted by their own toys, and needing the discipline to not follow through.  Conveniently, your kid(s) probably have cell-phones to distract them now, so its easy to learn discipline.
B) Extremely hard must-pass classes outside of your student's major (depending on strengths/weaknesses, I'm talking about O-Chem, Calc 3, advanced composition, or potentially others), should (at flagship universities) be taken from long-term instructors (not professors or graduate students).  If they are worried about a class, picking the right professor is generally the best first step.  Most of the time when professors have not taught a class before (or recently) they won't do it well, especially for generic classes.  Similarly, your student absolutely should take senior and junior seminars (and all seminars) with tenured faculty of the highest rank, and positively bust their butts in those classes, even at the expense of other work.  Those are the people most likely to have connections to help your student out.
C)  Office hours exist to be used.  Help them know that you/them are going to be paying a fortune for experts to be available to provide individualized help.  They sure as heck should take advantage of it.

Penelope Vandergast

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Re: College Planning: What do you wish you knew then?
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2019, 03:48:42 PM »
Following this discussion. I would love to hear advice on how to approach this topic when you have a pretty lopsided kid academically -- as in, a 10th grader who presently gets A's in the classes where most of the work happens in class, and C's (or worse) in the ones with homework, due to severe homework anxiety...while testing well. (Yes, we are availing ourselves of every academic help offered at the school and other stuff, and it is helping -- but at times the anxiety is still very bad. He often has major assignments that have been overdue for months. It's not about not understanding the material -- it's basically 100% about doing homework.)

If things go the way they have been going, he will probably graduate from high school with around a 3.0 GPA. I hope not less. Which in these days of 5.0 GPAs apparently isn't even good enough to get into our midwestern state university flagship campus anymore. (Though I am an alum of that university so maybe legacy would help?)

Our financial situation is stable, but our income is not super high and I am not going to be able to contribute much at all -- and the current grade situation makes me worried about scholarships. Because kid has very strong creative abilities and spends a lot of time making art and writing music, I have actually been thinking about looking at fine arts programs because he could potentially have a very good portfolio, but for me it would have to be one that was part of a college that also had a very strong liberal arts program in case he wanted to change majors or take a lot of non-art classes. (Because he really wants to do science.) And not cost $50,000 a year like most of them seem to do -- he'd have to get basically a free ride. But I am not sure how likely that is if his HS grades are just OK-to-decent.

I have heard the thing about it being sometimes a good option to apply to out-of-state private schools if you are stretching a bit academically (we lived for a while in New England and I don't think too many people from our present state apply for school out there), so I AM happy that he is very interested in doing that.

We are also going to be looking at Canada and maybe even Europe, where you seem to be able to get much more for your money than in the U.S. I think we are going to be doing some traveling next year!

« Last Edit: January 11, 2019, 03:54:47 PM by Penelope Vandergast »

Laura33

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Re: College Planning: What do you wish you knew then?
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2019, 04:29:14 PM »
Following this discussion. I would love to hear advice on how to approach this topic when you have a pretty lopsided kid academically -- as in, a 10th grader who presently gets A's in the classes where most of the work happens in class, and C's (or worse) in the ones with homework, due to severe homework anxiety...while testing well.

When you have an atypical kid, you need to look at atypical options.  That may include:

-- Focused programs in areas of particular strengths/interest
-- Very small schools that will provide better hand-holding
-- Alternative programs
-- Schools that rely exclusively on exams vs. homework/papers
-- Time off from school to mature -- job, military, etc.

Only you know your kid's particular strengths; spend the next couple of years figuring out the options that play best to those.  Not every kid needs to go to a standard 4-year-college -- and certainly not every kid needs to go there at 18.  The world of opportunity is not nearly so limited.

Also, there is a lot of time for treatment -- and a lot of maturing -- between 10th grade and college.  If you'd asked me this time in 10th grade, I'd have said we'd be focused on special ADHD-oriented colleges -- if she made it to college at all!  Smart kid, but, man, zero ability to stay on top of anything; the concept of leaving her to manage a college curriculum on her own was, well, laughable.  Now she has straight-As (so far) in the hardest curriculum her school offers -- and I am spending zero time supervising.  So you are definitely smart to be thinking and investigating now, but no need to panic.  ;-)

dmmms

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Re: College Planning: What do you wish you knew then?
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2019, 08:24:07 PM »
I have a college sophomore, so the process is still fairly fresh and we're still learning! First I HIGHLY recommend the site colllege confidential! The forums will provide you SO MUCH information about testing, the process, schools, etc. very worth the time!

I'll just share random thoughts below:

In addition to dual enrollment while in high school, AP classes often equate to college credit.

If you have two children in college at the same time, it will actually help your EFC (expected family contribution). Money in the child's name counts for more than the parents (different %). Nearly all schools will ask for the FAFSA. Lots of people say not to bother, but if there is a chance the student may want a loan, it's required. It is also often needed for merit "scholarships." Home equity and retirement accounts will not count on the FAFSA, but there is another one that does that some schools use. I don't recall what it is called, but it's a beast!

We got substantial merit at private schools with a 3.3 GPA. There are great schools for all kids! I found selecting certain criteria really helped narrow down the process. We did wiithin three hours of home, intended major, school size, match for gpa/ACT and visited. College tours and weekends were SO MUCH FUN. I really relish that time we had together, though applications can be stressful.

Guidance counselor was not really helpful! We did private ACT/SAT testing which helped in some areas. I think it was worth it. The finance sections on college websites have a TON of information and calculators. i recommend spreadsheets to keep track of applications, costs, etc.

Try to narrow down what is most important and just research! It is a stressful process (but also quite fun!).  I wish I knew that it would all work out. Once they graduate high school, it really doesn't matter where they go as long as they are happy and successful and able to grow where planted. At least that is how it is for us!

Unique User

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Re: College Planning: What do you wish you knew then?
« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2019, 06:57:44 AM »
@mavendrill - my DD is a high school senior, this is great advice, thank you.  I'd second the internship advice, but also add in that many high schools offer a class credit for kids to do an internship their senior year.  At DD's high school it's a honors class and almost all do internships in marketing, law, business, real estate, etc.  She wanted to do an internship in a lab so emailed all the professors at the 2 public universities in our area that have labs within her area of interest.  One interviewed and accepted her and she is going to spend a semester in a genetics research lab starting in a couple weeks.  She's been in the lab a number of times already and it's great to see how excited she is about it.  Huge confidence booster just getting the internship and gave her something to talk about on college applications. 

I'd also add not to discount out of state schools.  DD has a 4.0 gpa and just average ACT/SAT scores, but she received a merit scholarship from one out of state flagship university that is the equivalent of what we would pay for in state.  We're still waiting to hear from a few more schools, both out of state flagship and private.   

mavendrill

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Re: College Planning: What do you wish you knew then?
« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2019, 07:31:36 AM »
@mavendrill - my DD is a high school senior, this is great advice, thank you.  I'd second the internship advice, but also add in that many high schools offer a class credit for kids to do an internship their senior year.  At DD's high school it's a honors class and almost all do internships in marketing, law, business, real estate, etc.  She wanted to do an internship in a lab so emailed all the professors at the 2 public universities in our area that have labs within her area of interest.  One interviewed and accepted her and she is going to spend a semester in a genetics research lab starting in a couple weeks.  She's been in the lab a number of times already and it's great to see how excited she is about it.  Huge confidence booster just getting the internship and gave her something to talk about on college applications. 

That is fantastic, and a great experience.

I want to share a bit that relates to this:
Most tenured and tenure track professors have research budgets.  In the sciences at research universities this tends to be large operations (10,000,000/yr budgets aren't unheard of).  But in non science fields there is still money, just less (most humanities averages in the 2-10k).  There are loads of research assistant internships out there, and many have to be searched for directly, because professors will have money but not think to hire someone until you ask. When I was a college freshman I got a summer research job by asking a professor if he knew of anyone that was hiring undergrads.  Turns out he ran a massive lab, he hired me on the spot. 

BTW the above is the situation where students should seek out the course of tenured professors.  Not for the learning (this is hit and miss, especially at the undergraduate level, but for the network opportunity).  Obviously the impact is greatly diluted as class size grows (look for classes <40 if possible, <20 is ideal when picking classes for this purpose).

Which reminds me of a last point: honors colleges
Residential honors colleges should be treated with a great deal of caution.  Honors classes are generally easier too succeed in than regular ones, and residential honors program at many universities exist to target students at risk of leaving school because they party too much.  Parents sign their kids up so their kid will be surrounded by good influences to turn them around.  90% of the kids come from this situation, so the school has created a party dorm, and one where the students will use the easier classes to drink more.

This doesn't mean honors classes and programs are a bad deal, just some of them (generally the least competitive ones).  So do your research before signing DD up/applying.

GillyMack

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Re: College Planning: What do you wish you knew then?
« Reply #13 on: January 12, 2019, 08:19:51 AM »
IF your kid has an early focus/obsession on a particular area, find out which schools have professors researching that topic and teaching advanced courses in that topic. One of my kids was obsessed since he was 12 with a particular area of engineering, and we naively thought it didnít matter which engineering school he went to. It turns out we should have looked at a few of the big state A&M schools that werenít on our radar, instead of the fancy reputation private school he was focused on. Well, he ended up getting a fine (expensive) general engineering degree and after reading a lot on his own, he is now working in his obsessive field. But it would have been easier/ more fun if he had been able to take classes or work in labs doing his stuff. And it might have cost us less.

Most kids arenít this focused, but I thought Iíd put it out because of our mistake.

Also, all other things being equal, give points to schools within less than half a days drive of home. There is a major hassle factor with getting all that stuff back and forth.
« Last Edit: January 12, 2019, 08:21:34 AM by GillyMack »

Penelope Vandergast

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Re: College Planning: What do you wish you knew then?
« Reply #14 on: January 12, 2019, 11:00:55 AM »

Quote
So you are definitely smart to be thinking and investigating now, but no need to panic.  ;-)

Thank you. Yeah, I tell myself this all the time, and most of the time it works : ). He has actually made very good progress in the past 2 years, though he doesn't necessarily see it himself. And he WANTS to do better/figure out the homework thing (which has been there since he was a child). That gives me hope that he will get there eventually.

Also I am philosophically opposed to a lot of parental hand-holding at his age. Most of the support stuff I mentioned is via the high school counseling offices -- I told them directly that I would prefer to be only tangentially involved so he can figure out what works for him himself. I mean, it's a big public school with a very good reputation -- they have entire offices of people there to help kids get through it all. And it does seem to be working OK.

It's hard though when you both see your kid suffering AND you know that there are actually consequences which a 15-year-old doesn't understand yet. On the other hand, I also know that you can do just fine without going to a big-brand-name college. And he is at heart a pretty sensible and responsible kid, and I know that can take you a long way regardless of your high school grades.

Unique User

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Re: College Planning: What do you wish you knew then?
« Reply #15 on: January 13, 2019, 08:09:45 AM »
@mavendrill - my DD is a high school senior, this is great advice, thank you.  I'd second the internship advice, but also add in that many high schools offer a class credit for kids to do an internship their senior year.  At DD's high school it's a honors class and almost all do internships in marketing, law, business, real estate, etc.  She wanted to do an internship in a lab so emailed all the professors at the 2 public universities in our area that have labs within her area of interest.  One interviewed and accepted her and she is going to spend a semester in a genetics research lab starting in a couple weeks.  She's been in the lab a number of times already and it's great to see how excited she is about it.  Huge confidence booster just getting the internship and gave her something to talk about on college applications. 

That is fantastic, and a great experience.

I want to share a bit that relates to this:
Most tenured and tenure track professors have research budgets.  In the sciences at research universities this tends to be large operations (10,000,000/yr budgets aren't unheard of).  But in non science fields there is still money, just less (most humanities averages in the 2-10k).  There are loads of research assistant internships out there, and many have to be searched for directly, because professors will have money but not think to hire someone until you ask. When I was a college freshman I got a summer research job by asking a professor if he knew of anyone that was hiring undergrads.  Turns out he ran a massive lab, he hired me on the spot. 

BTW the above is the situation where students should seek out the course of tenured professors.  Not for the learning (this is hit and miss, especially at the undergraduate level, but for the network opportunity).  Obviously the impact is greatly diluted as class size grows (look for classes <40 if possible, <20 is ideal when picking classes for this purpose).

Which reminds me of a last point: honors colleges
Residential honors colleges should be treated with a great deal of caution.  Honors classes are generally easier too succeed in than regular ones, and residential honors program at many universities exist to target students at risk of leaving school because they party too much.  Parents sign their kids up so their kid will be surrounded by good influences to turn them around.  90% of the kids come from this situation, so the school has created a party dorm, and one where the students will use the easier classes to drink more.

This doesn't mean honors classes and programs are a bad deal, just some of them (generally the least competitive ones).  So do your research before signing DD up/applying.

@mavendrill I just saw your location and DD applied to be a Capstone scholar.  She hasn't heard yet but is that a program like you describe? 

Laura33

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Re: College Planning: What do you wish you knew then?
« Reply #16 on: January 13, 2019, 08:12:16 AM »
[snip]

FWIW, I could have written every word of this post.  For me, the hardest thing was figuring out the appropriate degree of parental involvement - i.e., how badly do I let her fail before stepping in.  I am fundamentally opposed to helicoptering, but at the same time I saw how the schools did stupid things that made life unnecessarily tough for a kid with ADHD.  What we eventually figured out was to let her do things on her own until she got overwhelmed - and she did reliably get overwhelmed each year.  And then we hovered and supervised and imposed homework time and checked assignments/grades and generally drove her nuts until she got back on track.  I gotta say, it was a total emotional yo-yo, but one thing I did notice that gave me hope was that every year, she made it a little longer before crashing, until finally her junior year she made it all the way through.  And I canít tell you how gratifying it is to see how mature she is now, and how capable she is in so many areas.

But to bring this back to the original topic, I also had to adjust my expectations.  I was raised in a family that revered the northeastern highly-selective liberal arts colleges.  But my daughter has interests and quirks that make those schools not a great fit for her.  So I had to figure out how to get over myself to find and direct her to schools that would be the best fit for her, while not giving her the impression that anything was ďsecond-rateĒ or she wasnít smart enough.  The good news is that those schools are cheaper, too.  😉

mavendrill

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Re: College Planning: What do you wish you knew then?
« Reply #17 on: January 13, 2019, 09:34:16 PM »

@mavendrill I just saw your location and DD applied to be a Capstone scholar.  She hasn't heard yet but is that a program like you describe?

I would positively love to have her come to SC (though I probably wouldn't have her in any of my classes)!
Capstone is, to the best of my understanding, not one of those programs (big reasons are it doesn't require residency and doesn't have additional fees involved) but I could be wrong.  I have reached out to a few former students to ask about capstone.  Will update you if they contradict my assumptions.

SwordGuy

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Re: College Planning: What do you wish you knew then?
« Reply #18 on: January 13, 2019, 10:47:28 PM »
I took a lot of advanced placement courses in high school and took the AP tests.  I had 23 credit hours walking in the door to college, just 2 shy of being a sophomore.  I really recommend it.
Some schools let you take college courses and get both college and high school credit for them.  That wasn't available when I was in school, but if it is, totally check it out.


Second, I went to college backwards.   

I had friends who started college a year before I did.  They had made friends with college seniors.  I heard horror stories of people needing to take 1 more class but they were going to have to wait until the next semester or one or two quarters because the class was only offered once a year - and they had missed it.   Jeesh but that was an expensive lesson for them.  I learned it for free. :)

So, I carefully mapped out exactly what courses I had to take.  I DID NOT EVER EVER EVER EVER TRUST AN ADVISOR TO DO THIS FOR ME.  EVER.   This is because advisors make mistakes and they aren't the one who has to pay for an extra year of college to get the missing classes.  I paid attention to pre-requisites and made sure I was always working on satisfying those requirements with every course I took.


I started taking higher level courses in my subject areas as soon as I could get them.   I skipped as many freshman courses as I could get away with and left them for last.   (Hence, going to college backwards.)    I never had any last minute scheduling problems to get the required courses because the only ones  left my last year were freshmen and a few sophomore courses.   As a senior I got to register before the freshmen and thus got first pick on the available classes.   

I was a good student so jumping ahead worked just fine for me.


If you or your kid are so-so students in high school and you never really bothered to learn (or even better, master) the material that you were taught, going to college backwards might not work for you.   Then again, college may not be a good choice for you either if you don't like to read or learn. 

wild forest

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Re: College Planning: What do you wish you knew then?
« Reply #19 on: January 14, 2019, 07:09:47 AM »
Can someone tell me if my plan suck or need more work.

I have a 9 years old and I just started saving college for her. I opened up an Ally Bank Saving with 2.0% interest rate, and I'm throwing in $500 a month  until she 18 and ready for college.

Or should I go with the 529 Plan?

I appreciates any insights about this.

mavendrill

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Re: College Planning: What do you wish you knew then?
« Reply #20 on: January 14, 2019, 08:13:27 AM »

@mavendrill I just saw your location and DD applied to be a Capstone scholar.  She hasn't heard yet but is that a program like you describe?

I would positively love to have her come to SC (though I probably wouldn't have her in any of my classes)!
Capstone is, to the best of my understanding, not one of those programs (big reasons are it doesn't require residency and doesn't have additional fees involved) but I could be wrong.  I have reached out to a few former students to ask about capstone.  Will update you if they contradict my assumptions.
Hate quoting myself, but I have heard back with unanimous voice that Capstone is a major party dorm, but that the honors program is great.  So if your DD gets into capstone, and chooses SC, I would recommend doing capstone but living elsewhere.

Car Jack

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Re: College Planning: What do you wish you knew then?
« Reply #21 on: January 14, 2019, 08:41:32 AM »
Relevant internships and co-ops get jobs.  If a student is a 4.0 GPA person with a double major and captain of the sport ball team, a prospective employer will see "no relevant experience".  The competing student with a 3.1, single major with no extra curriculars and 2 summers working for an engineering firm doing what they're looking for is going to see "experience".

Community colleges offer transferable courses to any college.  Consider getting some non-major courses out of the way there.  Even if this means dropping to part time at the regular college, it can save a ton of money. 

For the OP, you're getting zero aid.  Sorry.  You'll be offered Stafford loans.  If you want your kid to have skin in the game, then that's a good way.  Otherwise, getting a loan with a 1.06 front end load and then a mid 5's percentage rate is not a good loan rate. 

Transfer students are NOT offered merit aid.  So as much as going to community college first might be the way to go, you have to do the math.  My son had 25% of his full bill paid in merit aid freshman year.  Transferred to a better college sophomore year and had zero scholarships or aid. 

 

mm1970

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Re: College Planning: What do you wish you knew then?
« Reply #22 on: January 14, 2019, 11:25:58 AM »
Quote
I want to push back against some of the ideas here about calculating practicality and major.  American colleges aren't built on the model to prepare for a single job/career - so the idea of "value majors" vs "valueless majors" is almost always coming from people to who don't REALLY understand higher education.  If your kids want to be prepared for one thing only, trade schools exist (and even high prestige ones overseas that are affordable to Americans).  I always find advice about the practicality of a college major ironic on MMM, as this website makes serious scratch for a tech worker based off his amazing ability to write.  It proves the point -  the point of a great education should be an education, not narrow preparedness for a position that was financially responsible years ago (ok I am sure you can tell I work in education and have my biases now).

Anyways, once your kids are in college:
1) I recommend that every student in college take (in their freshman year generally): statistics, a programming language, a research methods class, either introductory or symbolic logic, and the best english composition class possible (public speaking also highly recommended).  Those are pretty close to universally useful skills.  Then spend the next few years of their education looking every semester to showcase each of those skills.  The student will graduate with a degree (it doesn't really matter what in, hopefully something they are great at), and have a remarkable portfolio of broadly useful skills consistently demonstrated throughout their college work that both they and any academic references can highlight when applying for jobs.

2)  Your kids will receive TERRIBLE advice about college.  High School guidance counselors almost never have the ability to offer effective advice, and it gets worse at college.  Almost no one will tell your student that if they double up on (x) courses in the same department in year one they can graduate in 2.5 years instead of 4.  No one will discuss the rarely offered courses that slow down graduation plans, and rarely will people look out for your children as far as course sequencing goes.  You absolutely must do this (and/or teach your student to do this).  The biggest joke about the last twenty years of higher education is the disconnect between the amount of credit students enter college already having (which is going way up), and the length of time students are spending in college (also going up!)  Every year I see students come in with 40 or 50 college credits and still take 5 years to graduate.  It is almost always because of unforced errors of the student combined with faculty/staff advice that is almost consistently designed to boost the college bottom line.

(1) I understand higher education, thanks.  Been there, done that.  More than once.  Spouse too.

My point wasn't so much about "go STEM, yay!!" but the cost consideration.  Whenever I hear people talk about education for education's sake, and how important it is - I shake my head.  Not that it's not TRUE, but the freedom to do that without penalty belongs only to the few.  There are plenty of horror stories shared here about 20 somethings with over $100,000 in college debt and a dead end job because they were told "get any degree, go to the best school, it's worth it!"

So it doesn't necessarily matter WHAT degree (though maybe a little) or WHAT skills.  It's the cost-benefit analysis that is missing.  No matter what you study and what type of job you may think you'll get - what is the reality?  The reality is that you want to avoid borrowing more money than you can afford to pay off.  So, try and figure out what your typical salary may be and don't borrow too much money.  "Look at how dumb that guy was for borrowing $100,000 for a degree in ENGLISH!"  You know, that actually may pay for itself.  It may not.  When you read the statistics that 70% of the jobs that will be available for my kids don't exist yet - well, that throws another wrench into it, now doesn't it?

I realize that it's your industry, so to speak, so you have a reason to support it.

(2) When it comes to cost-benefit analysis the second bolded portion is important also.  Some schools are FAR better at making sure their students finish on time than others. Some simply have too many students and not enough classes. 

My niece finished college in 3 years.  My university?  Pretty much wouldn't allow it (or it was very difficult without summer school, which was extra $).  The number of credit hours required were set.  Even though I placed out of 2 English classes with the AP test, I still had to take two other classes to fulfill those hours.

I'm with you on the adviser.  My adviser hadn't advised students in years.  I found out a month into my FINAL SEMESTER that I was missing a freshman engineering elective.  (For the record, I'd chosen a class and taken it - but it didn't "count" because it was also required by my  major.)  So here I was a senior, signing up last minute for materials science, while simultaneously requesting a waiver from the university.  Which they granted. 

It's not that students shouldn't try to be well rounded and learn for the sake of learning.  It's that they shouldn't borrow money willy nilly without calculating how much they will have to pay back every month after graduation.

robartsd

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Re: College Planning: What do you wish you knew then?
« Reply #23 on: January 14, 2019, 02:24:11 PM »
Following this discussion. I would love to hear advice on how to approach this topic when you have a pretty lopsided kid academically -- as in, a 10th grader who presently gets A's in the classes where most of the work happens in class, and C's (or worse) in the ones with homework, due to severe homework anxiety...while testing well. (Yes, we are availing ourselves of every academic help offered at the school and other stuff, and it is helping -- but at times the anxiety is still very bad. He often has major assignments that have been overdue for months. It's not about not understanding the material -- it's basically 100% about doing homework.)
Is it homework anxiety or is it lack of engagement because they aren't being challenged?

My struggles in school were part subject matter (I don't like writing/language studies) and part a lack of engagement. I tested well, but detested anything that felt like busy work. In 4th grade I had a teach that assigned a ton of reading comprehension assignments (everything the textbook publisher produced). I was failing 4th grade because I was not motivated to answer the same set of questions about each reading assignment asked three different ways. In parent teacher conference, my parents were told that I wasn't ready for college and was in danger of being held back.

The crazy thing is that in the same meeting the same teacher suggested that I might be a candidate for the Gifted And Talented Education program offered at a different school. Mid-year I went to a new school and was in a class of 4th and 5th graders. Totally different environment. Learning was fun. We regularly had time to play educational games in the classroom (I gravitated towards math and logic games). This particular class had a focus on music - everyone learned to play an instrument (mostly song flutes). I stayed on with this teacher for 5th grade, but returned to my prior school for 6th grade (the 5th/6th teacher in the GATE program focused too much on writing for my tastes).

I still continued to be mostly bored and lazy through high school, but I completed AP Calculus and graduated from high school on time. Two factors greatly improved my academic achievement in college: 1) more freedom in choosing courses (reduced boredom) and 2) self-discipline (learned primarily serving a full-time mission for my church). After my mission, I enrolled in a section of the required college composition course titled "Writing about Science" and earned an "A" (compared to talking my teacher into passing me with a "D" my junior year of high school - the only in class essay I had finished was the final).

E.T.

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Re: College Planning: What do you wish you knew then?
« Reply #24 on: January 15, 2019, 12:41:20 PM »
I don't have kids but I graduated not that long ago and learned a lot of lessons the hard way.

1. Taking a year off to do an internship or something is ok and probably a good idea if you're struggling with academic stress.

2. Most school curriculums are really the same for engineering and there's nothing wrong with going to community college first. I should know, I bounced through three prestigious schools and did a short stint at community college in between to boost my GPA.

3. Different schools do have different attitude towards helping struggling students. The one I ended up successfully graduating from had a Dean dedicated to helping students get back on track. They had a program where they signed you up for mandatory training on a range of topics like study habits, or test taking techniques. They assigned you peer tutors and would check in during the semester to make sure you weren't floundering. I would have easily slipped through the cracks at any other school. Instead, I went from failing to having straight A's. You should be able to quiz colleges on their support networks and I'd take it as a red flag if they don't have one.

4. Paid co-op programs are awesome and can sometimes be combined with study abroad semesters. I think those programs are the best version of the college experience and my friends who were on that track seemed to have better chances at finding a job quickly after graduation.

5. Maybe college is not for everyone, but it's worth a try. You can always sign up for a non degree class to see if you can keep up with the work before committing to going for a degree.