Plan For College

Monday, February 28, 2011

Plan For College Radio Show

Tune in again tomorrow: 3PM -4PM Wednesday, March 1st to hear the College Planning Group's founder, Stan Ezekiel, on Money Matters Radio with June Knight.

Wednesday's show will cover the college planning timeline, awards letters, and more topics to help parents and their high school students plan for college. Tune in to the live stream below:


wbnw1120 on livestream.com. Broadcast Live Free

For a free initial college planning consultation with Stan Ezekiel, send an email to stan@thecollegeplanninggroup.com 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Factors in Choosing a College

The Plan For College Guest Blog Post Series, Article 5:
            Michael Armstrong is the Plan For College's fifth guest blogger. Michael is the Assistant Director of Career Services at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He has worked in college admission for 3 years, serving as the student tour guide trainer. He has a unique perspective of what students look for when entering college and how universities are successful in helping students achieve their goals. 

 For more guest blog posts and college prep discussions, connect with The College Planning Group on Facebook. Here is Michael's post:


In choosing the right college there is of course vast selection criteria, cost,  scholarships, academic profile, location, majors offered, class sizes to name but a few. The important thing is for an individual to work out what is most important to them and proceed from there. 

Talk to your college counselor, research online and read the promotional materials you receive. As a high school junior or senior you will be able to cover your walls, maybe even your entire house with these brochures! Always remember that these brochures/emails are promoting virtues. Their marketing strategies rarely include a “warts and all” view of things.

To that end, you simply must conduct a campus visit to any college you are considering. More than that try to make it as specific as possible. Most colleges have a pretty slick tour program in place. But generally it is a one size fits all tour, taking you through the highlights and throwing a barrage of stats at you. As much as possible you need to request to get off the beaten track, get into a class you are likely to be in, go to a student event for current students, not prospective ones, see a real dorm room not a “show” room. 


Above all you must not be afraid to ask challenging questions, get to the meat of what you want to know. Most colleges will trot out impressive sounding student to teacher ratios in the region of 15-18:1 yet there are lecture halls that fit hundreds of students. Find out the ratio for your classes.

You will spend the most important years of your life in college. You must gain the knowledge you need inside and outside of the classroom. The college experience remains pivotal to most students’ development, so pick one that that feels right. Like your favorite pair of jeans, it is priceless, but you wouldn’t buy them without first trying them on for size. 


Have any questions about choosing the right school? Please comment below.  



Thursday, February 17, 2011

Your First Semester is Coming...

The Plan For College Guest Blog Post Series, Article 4:
            Peter Englert is the Plan For College's fourth guest blogger. Peter Englert has served as an Admissions Counselor at Valley Forge Christian College in Phonexville, PA since May of 2009. He contributes to the institution’s Admissions Blog, which offers tips about visiting colleges, choosing a major, attending college fairs, and more.

For more tips and discussions about planning for college, connect with Valley Forge Christian College and The College Planning Group on Facebook.
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Can you believe that in a few short months you will embark on your first semester of college? It may seem like a long time away, but it will be here before you know it. Maybe you have already selected the school you are going to attend. Or perhaps you have to narrow down your list of schools to your top choices. Or maybe you are just starting the college application process. No matter what stage you are at in the process, here are some helpful tips to help you along the way:

1. Make a master calendar of deadlines and campus visits.

When do enrollment deposits need to be mailed? Will I make one more visit to campus to finalize my decision? What forms need to be sent to the Admissions office?

There can be so many details and dates. Sit down with your parents and write all of this information down. To make sure that everything gets out in the mail, send forms and deposits at least one week before their deadlines. Staying organized will help alleviate anxiety.

2. Save all mail and emails.

Many people have a tendency to get mail and leave it in a pile or, even worse, throw it away. Keep all of the letters and packets an institution sends to you. Read them immediately and contact the Admissions office with any questions. Also, keep a file of the emails you receive. Simply put, you don’t want to miss any important information or deadlines. 

3. Photocopy or scan any forms that you mail or fax to a school.

Sometimes mail does not get to the Admissions office and faxes can get delayed. So protect yourself by having copies made. Add these copies to your college file. Keeping copies of everything also helps you to see what you still need to finish for your registration process. 

4. Finish high school strong.

One of the best ways to start college is by gaining confidence from a valiant last semester in high school. You will have many distractions in your senior year of high school: prom, class trips, graduation, and athletics. Don’t lose focus now. Institutions take into consideration your final high school transcripts. The best gift you can give yourself is the confidence of a great senior year.

Keep these tips in mind for the next few months. Staying prepared and organized will allow you to enjoy your last year of high school and prepare for an incredible first year of college. Don’t miss a beat.


Have any questions about preparing for your first semester? Please ask in our comments section below. 




Thursday, February 10, 2011

Crunch Time for High School Seniors

Now that we're approaching the middle of February, it's crunch time for seniors in high school to fill out the FAFSA, and see if they qualify for need based or merit based financial aid. For this blog post, I interviewed Stan Ezekiel, president and founder of The College Planning Group to get his take on what high school seniors should be doing to maximize financial aid. Here are Stan's answers to six important questions seniors should be considering.

1. Is it too late to fill out the FAFSA? Is there a FAFSA deadline?

    No. There's no official FAFSA deadline. Federal aid and merit-based aid are still being awarded. The worst thing to do is to nothing. Filling out the FAFSA before the end of February will help you qualify for thousands of dollars of assistance from the state you reside in and the college of your choice. 

2. How much aid can I get?

     This depends on many factors. There's no way of telling exactly how much financial aid you will receive before filling out the FAFSA. However, if you don't fill out the FAFSA, there's a great chance you will miss out on financial aid. Every day, there are families earning six figure income that receive thousands of dollars of assistance.

3. What is my estimated family contribution, or EFC?

     The estimated family contribution is what a family is expected to pay based on the information submitted in the FAFSA. It will be the same at every college and university you are considering.

     At the College Planning Group, we've developed strategies to lower a family's estimated contribution, which helps them receive more financial aid. There are many factors that go in to determining a family's EFC, so we're not going to recommend cookie cutter strategies that may not apply to your family's situation. However, if you contact us, we can help you and your determine the best strategies to lower your EFC and family maximize financial aid.


4. How can I find great scholarships?

    The best place to start is on the websites of the colleges to which you've been accepted or will be accepted. You can also find many great scholarships on FAST WEB and FIN AID.

5. Should I consider loans?

     Yes. Loans are also part of the financial aid process. Although loans have to be paid back, most are low interest. Some of the families we work with receive loans with interest rates around 6%, and those families typically earn a 12% return in stocks and bonds. Loans also help families defer payment, usually until 6 or 9 months after their student graduates from college.

6. Should I apply for financial aid if I'm planning on attending a state school?

     Yes. The same rules apply. Filling out the FAFSA will enable you to qualify for need based and merit based financial aid, even if you're not attending a private college or university.

Hopefully these answer some of the questions you may be having about financial aid. If you're a senior in high school, it's crunch time for filing out the FAFSA to see if you qualify for need based or merit based financial aid. Don't miss out on the opportunity to get help paying for college. There is still assistance available.

If anyone has additional questions about the FAFSA or financial aid, feel free to comment below or contact Stan directly.

- Charlie Scala

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

SAT Prep: 3 Important Questions Answered

The Plan For College Guest Blog Post Series, Article 2:
Eric Clark is the second Plan For College guest blogger. He started Quincy Tutoring in 2007, while he was still teaching 8th grade math. Currently, Eric is the Assistant Director of Academic Services at Eastern Nazarene College, where he helps students achieve their academic goals.

 ___________

   
Why is important to do well on the SAT?

Many of you might find this question insulting.  Of course you need to do well on your SAT’s to get accepted to college.  Right?  Well, this is true for over 80% of colleges. There are some 800 institutions that are waiving the SAT requirement, but with over 4,300 colleges, universities, and junior colleges in the United States, it is very unlikely that all of the schools you want to apply to do not require the SAT or ACT. 

In addition to getting in to the schools of your choice, there’s one other really important reason to take the SAT.  Most institutions have a tiered system of merit-based financial aid, where student with higher SAT scores will receive more assistance. So doing well can significantly reduce the cost of higher education. 

Since we are on the topic of financial aid, I want to take a quick detour. In order to receive federal aid, the student must complete the FAFSA before the priority deadline.  It is easy to get merit-based aid and Federal aid confused.  It doesn’t matter if you think that you have poor grades or SAT scores, you should still fill out the FAFSA.  Student’s grades do not determine how much Federal aid you will receive. If you haven't already, it's important to get started with the FAFSA soon to receive financial aid. To get help with the financial aid process and maximize financial aid, contact the College Planning Group

How do I do well on the SAT?

This is a loaded question.  There are several strategies that you need to be aware of when taking the test, but far too many to mention in a short blog post.  

The first thing you need to do is purchase a SAT test prep book.  If you plan on taking a SAT test prep class, wait to purchase the text until you know what you will be using for the class. If you are not going to take a test prep class, the Kaplan SAT Premier Program is the text that I suggest to all my students.  Be sure that you take enough time to read through the text, and go through the sample problems.  The text that I just mentioned comes with interactive software that you can use to take a diagnostic test.  

If you are going to take a SAT test prep class, be aware that they can be fairly costly.  Do some research, and make sure you find the program that fits you best.

Where can I find help?
Number 2 is a great, free online resource for SAT and ACT prep. If you’re looking for hands-on local help, Quincy Tutoring offers SAT test prep classes.  If you would like more information about upcoming SAT test prep classes at Quincy Tutoring, email eric@quincytutoring.com or call 617-302-3364.

 Have questions about the SAT? Comment below, and we'll help you out.