- Advanced Academics
- College Financial Aid Information
- College Planning
- College Recruiting
- Financial Aid and Scholarships
- Online Resources
- Transcript Requests
- Types of Financial Aid
- Need-Based / Merit-Based Aid
- The College Financial Aid Officer
- The Financial Aid Package
- When to Apply
- Sources of Aid
- Resource Books
- Guidelines for Completing Scholarship Applications
- Ten Things Every Parent Should Know
- Basic Etiquette
The search for financial assistance to attend college or trade/technical schools is a complex, lengthy process that requires a cooperative effort between the school, the student and the student's parents. The Barbers Hill Independent School District Counseling Center has personnel who provide financial aid counseling pertinent to a student's individual situation and assistance in acquiring and completing the numerous forms that are usually required. These counselors serve as a resource to find individual scholarships and make students in the Barbers Hill lSD aware of their opportunities. Written information in the form of brochures, pamphlets and other literature will be made available to assist in the search for financial aid. The career center is also available to support students in the exploration for funding. Students and parents can work closely with their counselor to make the search for college funding both effective and efficient.
For assistance in learning about financial aid, acquiring applications, and finding resources for funds, please contact:
Barbers Hill High School Counseling Office
P. O. Box 1108
9696 Eagle Drive
Mont Belvieu, TX 77580
(281) 576-2221, Ext. 1211
Financial aid may be obtained from many sources and may be classified into four basic categories. A student may be considered for more than one type of financial aid.
Scholarships are awards based on scholastic or athletic achievement or special abilities or talents. Scholastic or academic scholarships are awarded on the basis of outstanding academic performance, high scores on national standardized tests or performance in contests such as essay writing or mathematics competitions. Scholarships based on special abilities or talents include those in areas such as music, art, theatre and dance. Some scholarships may also be partially based on financial need in addition to performance criteria. Students can receive more than one scholarship.
Educational loans vary greatly in how they are administered and who is the lending agency; however, they all have one thing in common -they must be repaid. [There are some educational loans which may be repaid by service such as in teaching or law enforcement.] Educational loans are usually based on financial need, but some loans are credit based. Generally, the interest rate on educational loans is lower than is available for commercial loans. Interest rates presently vary from 5-11%. The repayment period for these loans is usually long (typically 10 years) to keep the monthly payments small. Many educational loans stipulate that the borrower does not begin repayment until after the student leaves school and provide a grace period of 6 to 9 months after leaving school before actual repayment begins. Details about individual loan programs are given in the section titled "Sources of Aid."
Grants are awards based strictly on financial need and do not have to be repaid. Grants are available from state and federal agencies, private institutions, and private foundations.
The College Work/Study Program provides employment for financially needy students to help meet educational expenses. Students must be employed by the educational institution or independent non-profit agencies in the community. Funding is provided by both the federal government and the employing agency.
All of these types of aid may be classified as either need-based or merit-based or a combination of the two. Need- based aid is awarded on the basis of the family financial situations; the less money available, the greater the need. Merit-based aid is awarded on the basis of the student's qualifications. Examples of those qualifications are given in the "Determination of Merit" section.
Some financial aid may be 100% need-based and some may be 100% merit-based. but many types of aid may use a mixture of need and merit criteria. The type of criteria and the percentage of each is determined by the agency or organization awarding the aid. For example: a scholarship may be available for a student in the top 25% of the class who scores a minimum of 1000 on the SAT. These are merit-based minimum criteria. The agency awarding this scholarship may also stipulate that the scholarship would be awarded to a student who has financial need - as determined by that agency.
Determination of Need
A student's need is determined by a uniform analysis of the student's family financial situation. This analysis is regulated by Congress to insure uniformity and fairness across the country. College financial aid offices use the same formula to determine a student's need:
College Costs -Expected Family Contribution (EFC) - Financial Assistance = Need
Note that the family contribution is a constant determined by the need analysis. The college costs are variable depending on the college selected and therefore the need is also variable. This means that, depending on the amount or need-based aid a student qualifies for, the actual out-of-pocket expenses for a student may be the same at a high cost college as at a low cost college. Students therefore should not eliminate a college from consideration just because the cost of attendance is extremely high. The student's contribution may be quite low if qualified.
The expected family contribution (EFC) is determined by using a process called need analysis. In need analysis, information and data about the family's financial situation is collected using a need analysis form. In order to determine a student's need, parents should complete this form. There are several need analysis forms available and colleges will specify which form they require or prefer. The need analysis forms in use for the 2015-16 school year are the:
FAFSA - Free Application for Federal Student Aid
CSS - Profile Form
The need analysis form is referenced to the previous year's federal income tax return and will have questions pertaining to income, assets, liabilities and other factors used in determining a student's need when applying for financial aid. These forms are available in the Counseling Center.
FAFSA - Free Application for Federal Student Aid
This is the primary application used for need analysis. The FAFSA collects demographic information about the student and is referenced to income tax information for the year previous to the January filing time. The FAFSA is used to qualify students for all Federal Title IV financial aid. Title IV Aid includes:
- Federal Pell Grants
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants Federal Work Study Programs
- Federal Perkins Loans
- Federal Stafford Loans
- State Student Incentive Grants
All persons applying for need-based aid MUST complete the FAFSA regardless of which institution the student is planning to attend.
Processing of all FAFSAs is free of charge. Under no circumstances should a student complete more than one FAFSA.
CSS - Profile Form
The CSS Profile Form is a supplemental form which can be used to qualify students for certain state and institutional forms of financial aid. The CSS Profile Form comes packaged separate from the FAFSA and each form should be sent for processing in different envelopes. There is a fee for processing the CSS Profile Form. You need to complete the CSS Profile Form only if required by the college you are applying to.
Determination of Merit
Merit is generally determined by the agency or organization awarding the scholarship. Depending on the scholarship, the merit criteria may include evaluation in one or more areas such as:
- Rank in class
- Grade point average
- Standardized test scores
- Extra-curricular activities
- Leadership ability
- Honors and awards
- Volunteer activities
The number of areas and the weight assigned to each are is determined by the awarding agency. The evaluation of a student's scholarship application may be very objective in some areas and very subjective in other areas. There may be minimum criteria stated that are necessary for a student to enter competition, then the applicants are judged on broader criteria. There are probably as many different ways of determine scholarship winners as there are different scholarships.
Student Financial Aid
Every college has at least one Financial Aid Officer (FAO) and most have many, whose job is to match incoming funds with incoming students. Students and parents should become familiar with the financial aid officer at the college of their choice. The more knowledge a financial aid officer has about a student's needs and circumstances, the better prepared he or she will be to assist the student in the search for funding. It is recommended that parents and students meet personally with the financial aid officer if feasible. This meeting would most appropriately take place early in the spring semester. But students should check with FAO to determine the preferred meeting time at individual institutions. Since financial aid officers are responsible for the administration of actual fund disbursement to students. The importance of keeping the FAO informed about the student's needs cannot be over-emphasized.
College financial aid officers will analyze a student's individual situation and try to put together a financial aid package which may include any or all of the types of aid as indicated above. One student may receive a scholarship, a loan, and a grant. Another student may be eligible for a grant, a loan, and college work-study. Every student has different needs and different situations. The college financial aid officer will try to draw as much money from as many different sources as possible to help students in their search for funding. If the proper application procedures are followed, the student is notified of the contents of the financial aid package in the spring of the senior year by a document called the award letter. The award letter details the type and source of the aid that is being offered. The student is asked to respond and accept or reject the aid that is available.
Students and parents should begin the search for college funding early. The student should begin exploring specific sources of aid during their junior year of high school. Early in the fall of the senior year, students and parents should write letter requesting information and applications from various agencies and institutions. Resource materials and addresses are available from the student's home school counselor and the coordinator of student financial services (see "Documents. section, pages 19-20).
Applications should be completed throughout the senior year with most activity coming early in the spring semester. Students who will be completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the CSS Profile Form will need to do so in early February of their senior year. Parents should make plans to complete income tax returns as early as possible so information from the tax return which is requested on the FAFSA or CSS Profile Form will be available in January.
Meeting deadlines is extremely important in applying for financial aid. Students and parents should be well aware of deadline dales for applications and if possible complete applications well in advance of deadlines. Time should be allowed to provide supplemental documents such as transcripts and letters of recommendation that may be required lo complete some applications.
Please do not overlook the obvious. A student should complete an Application for Admission for colleges of interest early in the fall semester. A student can begin the process of applying for financial aid before being admitted. But funds will not be awarded to a student until the student has been admitted to the institution.
Listed below are specific sources for information on financial aid.
In the search for financial aid there are many alternatives to explore. You should prioritize your search so you will have a better chance of being successful. An analysis of the sources of funding nationally and the procedures to apply for that funding indicate that the single best source of funding is the college of your choice. The "financial aid pie" is cut into seven major pieces.
90% of all financial aid comes either from directly or indirectly through college financial aid offices, as is most of the state and federal funding indicated previously. This brings the actual total aid handled by colleges to 92.2%!
Obviously, the most effective strategy to follow is to write to the financial aid officer at the college of your choice and request information concerning all types of financial aid including scholarships, grants, loans, and college work study. Addresses are available in the counselor's office. These letters should be written early in the fall semester so application deadlines may be met. Many schools will send an institutional application and instructions. The student should also complete a "need analysis" form, such as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the CSS Profile Form. These forms will not be completed until late January or early February. Each individual college requires or prefers a specific form so be certain that you complete the proper form. This information, the forms, and information on how to complete the forms will be available from the student financial aid specialist and counselors in individual high schools. Please note that even if you are planning a apply only for merit based aid, many institutions will require a completed need analysis form before considering a student for scholarship programs.
Writing to the college of your choice is not only the most effective strategy for locating the majority of all aid, it has been the most effective method for Barbers Hill students in locating the largest dollar amount scholarships. Even though there is a large amount of local scholarship money available, the largest amount of money for scholarships is awarded through college programs. Make the college of choice your primary effort in applying for merit and need based aid. Keep you financial aid officer advised of your status as you go through the school year.
- Federal Pell Grants - These grants are strictly need based and do not have to be repaid. To apply for a Pell Grant, students should complete the proper need analysis applications (FAFSA) as specified by the college of choice. Students may also complete the FAFSA on-line. Approximately six week after mailing the application, the student will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) which will allow the college financial aid officer to determine a student's eligibility for the Pell Grant and other programs and the dollar amount of the award, which varies from college to college depending on the cost of attendance. A copy of your SAR must be sent to the financial aid officer at the college of your choice for determination of eligibility. Some institutions, such as Lee College, will use "electronic SARs" to eliminate paper flow (also called the Institutional Student Information Record or ISIR).
A program which allows the student to work to earn a part of expenses. This employment may be on the college campus or off campus in private business or industry, but the college placement agency helps locate the job. There are maximum limits placed on the number of hours worked and on the total amount of money earned. Apply through the financial aid office at the college of your choice.
Every year there are scholarships from local organizations and other sources which are administered by this committee. Make application for all of these scholarships on one application which is made available in April.
Since this one application is the preliminary application for a number of scholarships, it is one of the most important to be completed. Other scholarships such as those awarded by local civic organizations and school affiliated clubs also frequently use this method to select either nominees or recipients for scholarships. A sample of the Homecoming Association Application Packet is located in the "Barbers Hill Homecoming Association" section of this handbook.
This type of scholarship is announced on a regular basis throughout the school year by the senior counselor. Announcements are through senior level classes, the school's website (Counseling Center page), and the school televised announcement system. Applications are made available to interested seniors.
- Institutional Scholarships -Many colleges and universities offer academic scholarship to qualified students. Barbers Hill I.S.D. students have received scholarships from such schools as The University of Texas, The University of Houston, Sam Houston State University, Lamar University, Baylor University, Lee College, Stephen F. Austin State University, and various out-of-state universities. Students should apply to the college of choice. Institutions are the major source of scholarship funding for Barbers Hill students.
- Departmental Scholarships -These scholarships are individual scholarships for specific areas of study. Inquiry should be made to the specific academic departments of the chosen college. The Southland Paper Mills Foundation scholarship for students planning to major in forestry at Stephen F. Austin is a good example.
There are several State sponsored or affiliated programs. These State programs include scholarships, loans, grants, work study, and tuition exemptions. Most of these programs require students to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) which is available in the Counselors' Office each year in January. Applications for state financial aid are made through the financial aid office at your chosen college NOT the high school.
- Texas Public Education Grants
- Texas Tuition Equalization Grants
- State Student Incentive Grant
- Texas Tuition Assistance Grant
- College Access Loans
Two of the most recent financial aid programs offered by the State of Texas are described below.
TEXAS GRANT PROGRAM [TOWARD EXCELLENCE, ACCESS, AND SUCCESS GRANT]
Available to Texas residents with financial need who complete the Recommended or Distinguished Achievement High School graduation plan and enroll in a Texas college or university within 16 months of high school graduation, and have not been convicted of a felony or a crime involving a controlled substance.
TEXAS GRANT II
Texas residents with financial need who enroll in a public two-year college and are not eligible for the traditional Texas Grant.
For information call the Texas Financial Aid Information Center at 1-877-782-7322. Details and criteria for these can also be found in the pamphlet "Financial Aid for Texas Students" (see "Resources" section).
TEXAS B-ON-TIME STUDENT LOAN PROGRAM
Texas high school graduates who completed the Recommended or Distinguished Achievement graduation plan, are enrolled full-time in college, have completed a FAFSA and been designated by the college financial aid officer as eligible may apply. Students must complete their degree within four years and maintain a 3.0 GPA on 4.0 scale. Students meeting the above requirements would not have to repay the loan.
- Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC) -These scholarships pay a substantial amount in return for an obligation to military service. Students should contact a local recruiter for an application. Students should have an interest in military service and must apply early. Deadlines are in November and December of the student's senior year. Ideally, students should begin the application process in the spring of the junior year.
- Service Academy Scholarships - Appointments to the service academies are very prestigious and valuable and therefore very competitive. There are five academies:
- United States Air Force Academy -Colorado Springs, Colorado
- United States Military Academy -West Point, New York
- United States Naval Academy -Annapolis, Maryland
- United States Merchant Marine Academy -Kingspoint, New York
- United States Coast Guard Academy -New London, Connecticut
Procedures for application vary from academy to academy, but generally require a nomination which the applicant must obtain from his or her congressman, senator or other official nominating source. After acquiring the nomination, the student must receive an appointment, which is tendered by an academy after evaluating a nominee's qualifications. Academic ability, physical aptitude, high test scores, leadership ability and character are used in determining appointments to the academies. Students should work closely with their counselors beginning in the spring of the junior year to go through the application process.
- National Merit Scholarships - These scholarships are extremely competitive. The route of entry is through outstanding performance on the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) when taken in the fall of the junior year of high school. The students who score in the top half of 1% are designated as National Merit Semifinalists. These students are sent applications and move to finalist standing and to award winners on the basis of SAT scores and the contents of the application, which includes school recommendations and a high school transcript. The National Achievement Scholarship Program is a similar scholarship for Afro-American students.
- Athletic Scholarships - Notify your coach of your interest in a scholarship. All athletic scholarships are coordinated by the athletic department.
There are several Chambers County organizations which provide scholarships that are earned by Barbers Hill students. Examples are:
- West Chambers County Chamber of Commerce
- Mary Cecile Chambers Scholarship Trust
- First Methodist Church Mothers Day Out
- Chambers County Youth Project Show
- Order of the Eastern-Star - Anahuac Chapter 640
- Anchor Club
- Pilot Club
- Barbers Hill Food Service
- Texas Exes Association
Students are advised to not pay a fee for a commercial scholarship search. Remember, no one can guarantee that a student will receive a scholarship. Students who are considering paying for a scholarship search are advised to check with the senior counselor for information on how to proceed in each individual situation. Scholarship information is available on the Internet and at the library at no cost.
There are many resource books available to you in the search for financial aid. The more resources you explore, the better your chances of locating funding for post-secondary financial aid. Most of these publications are available in the Counselor's Office College/Career Center.
Minnie Stevens Piper Compendium
This is an important source book of information which specifies financial aid programs offered by Texas colleges and universities. Admission requirements are also indicates. The second section of the book contains addresses for applications for scholarships offered by approximately 150 private and public agencies. A limited number of copies are available from the counseling office. These booklets are free.
Financial Aid for Texas Students
A resource book which gives an overview of financial aid programs available to Texas students. You may get a copy by writing to:
Texas College & University System
Division of Student Services
P.O.. Box 12788, Capitol Station
Austin TX 78711
A limited number of copies are available in the counseling office. These booklets are free.
Need A Lift
A resource book published by American Legion which has financial aid information and sources for career
information. This book is particularly helpful for students whose parents are veterans of the armed services, although there are financial aid sources for all students. You may obtain a copy by contacting:
Need A Lift
National Emblem Sales
p .0. Box 1050
Indianapolis IN 46206
Funding Your Education
This booklet is published by the U.S. Department of Education and provides detailed information about federal programs and student financial aid in general. Copies are available in the counseling office. It is free of charge.
Don't Miss Out -The Ambitious Student's Guide to Financial Aid
This is an extremely practical, well-written all-inclusive paperback book which explains the detail of financial aid in easy-to-read text. Copies may be ordered.
520 N. Dearborn Street
Chicago IL 60610
Financial Aid for Higher Education
This is a comprehensive listing of financial aid and has a "program finder" which guides the applicant to specific sources of aid. It is available in libraries and bookstores.
The Scholarship Book by Daniel Cassidy
This book has extensive listings of scholarships indexed by various categories. Many libraries will have it; local bookstores also stock this guide.
There are many scholarships available. If you do have financial need you should be able to obtain some type of assistance. Obviously your chances of obtaining aid are better if your grades are high, but some agencies prefer that their awards go to students with need rather than high achievers. One key to success in obtaining financial aid is to explore every possibility to its limit. Hard work and determination are necessary to obtain financial aid for post- secondary education.
- Determine the deadline date for the application. Be sure to allow plenty of time so the application will not be completed in a last-minute rush. Return the application early if possible as this is indicative of your interest, enthusiasm, and time management skills.
- Type your application if possible. If it is not possible, print neatly, preferably with black ink.
- If a letter of recommendation is required, ask for letters from teachers, counselors, principals, employers, neighbors, religious leaders, community leaders, or other respected persons who know you well enough to write a good letter. BE SURE TO GIVE THE CHOSEN PERSON PLENTY OF ADVANCE NOTICE SO THERE IS AMPLE TIME TO WRITE A GOOD RECOMMENDATION! Remember that school personnel are often asked to write letters for many students and they need as much time as possible to provide their best recommendation for you. Ask politely - "Would you mind writing a letter of recommendation for me?" Follow up with a thank you after the recommendation has been written.
- Make a list of your accomplishments and honors that would distinguish you from other applicants. Be sure to include any awards that are not associated with school or with extra-curricular activities. Any awards from employers or outside organizations will help your application be representative of a well- rounded candidate. Keep your list updated as you go through your senior year, but you should compile our preliminary list immediately and then add to it as you think of other honors or as you receive additional awards (see sample document in "Documents" section).
- Be prepared to put pictures on applications. It is best to use .yearbook type photographs. Do not use Polaroid or snapshots as these tend to characterize you in one particular way.
- Apply! Apply! Apply! The more applications you complete, the better your chances for success. If you are organized in your approach and keep copies of your application, subsequent applications are easier and faster to complete. The real secret to obtaining financial aid is to have your name as a candidate for as many sources as you can find. Never take the -I probably can't qualify" approach! Its appearance and content may have a bearing on your future.
- If a written statement is required, is should meet any requirements stated in regard to length. (Generally a statement is approximately 150-200 words.) The written statement may be the most important part of your application. It should be well organized, concise, and carefully planned. Hopefully, it will provide insight into your personality for the scholarship committee. The written statement should be proof-read many times for grammatical errors, misspelled words, poor sentence structure, or any other factors which would possibly leave a negative impression on a scholarship committee. Not only should you proof- read your paper, but have your parents and an English teacher proof-read it for you. Ask for input on technical matters and for elements such as style and tone. To get honest feedback, do not get defensive about constructive criticism.
It is preferable to use a computer for your written statement; then it can be altered slightly to "fit the occasion." This can save you time and allow you to apply to many more places than if your statement is typed. The computer will allow you to easily correct any errors you may have in your first writing of the statement. A few words of caution are in order when using a computer for scholarship statements. Use a good quality printer, never dot matrix. Proof the final copy that you will be sending carefully. It is very embarrassing to send a letter to the University of Texas at Austin with the closing sentence reading, "I look forward to the challenges offered to me by Texas A & M University."
If you are unable to use a computer for your statement it should be typed. Be sure to keep a copy so you won't have to start "from scratch" every time you need a statement. Any statement for a scholarship application whether typed or input into a computer should bear our signature and date at the time of the text. This makes your statement more personalized and will make a better impression on members of the committee.
Ideas to add polish to your statement and avoid some pitfalls that are common to essays of this type.
- Write your statement yourself. It is acceptable to get help, but make certain that you are the one who actually writes the essay. Write the statement quickly and freely, then let it rest for several days. Return to the statement and you will find that you have new insights, ideas, and approaches that may make your statement more effective.
- Do not use your essay to restate in narrative form the information found in other parts of your application. Your statement should contain information from a perspective that the scholarship committee will see as personal and revealing. Think about your interests, hobbies, activities, and experiences and how they relate to your topic to reveal your individuality. You are more than just numbers or a list of accomplishments. Open a window on your personality for the person reading of your statement. Try to share an experience or describe an actual scene if you can.
- Be selective about the tone of your statement. You should be confident but not cocky. There is a fine line between arrogance and pride in accomplishments. Keep your accomplishments in perspective. You must convince a scholarship committee that you are worthy of their award without taking the approach that you deserve assistance. Never use phrases such as " have the right. . .," "I deserve. . .," or "The committee owes me. . ." Sincerity, honesty, and realistic goal-setting are important components of any statement.
- Do not beg or exclaim that the only way you can attend college is if you are awarded a scholarship. Approaches such these are viewed as manipulative by most scholarship committee members and will work against you rather than for you.
Avoid the following topics:
- Big ideas such as world peace, a cure for cancer, etc.
- The idea that you want to go to college to make money
- Apologizing or explaining low SAT/ACT scores or poor performance on your transcript
- Religious beliefs or philosophy
- Sex, drugs, rock 'n roll
- Political views
Use these editing techniques after you have written the second copy of your statement.
- Read your statement aloud and listen for the flow of the essay. You should have some compound or complex sentences interspersed with simple sentences so the statement will now smoothly when read.
- Use the active voice instead of the passive voice. "Tom won the award," not "The award was won by Tom."
- Be sparing with adjectives and adverbs. Nouns are the bones of writing, verbs are the muscle, and adjectives and adverbs are the fat. It's certainly acceptable to use adjectives and adverbs, but do so sparingly and, in particular, avoid flowery, magnanimous superlative adjectives.
- If you use a thesaurus, do so carefully. The meaning may be changed and you may wind up sounding foolish instead of sounding like you have a collegiate vocabulary.
- Do not let your statement become an "I" sore, starting every sentence with "I." One remedy is to use "me" and "my" instead of "I." For example, rather than say "I learned a great deal from. . .," try "My experience taught me. .."
- Be concise in your writing. Read your statement with the idea that you want to take out unnecessary words. If you watch for certain words - who, which, that, what, there, and it - you will find you can trim down your statement by being more concise. For example, "The attention to detail makes me appreciate. . ." is better than "It is the attention to detail that makes me appreciate. . . " Go through your statement and circle the words above. Then go back and try to rewrite the sentences containing these words more concisely. Do not feel that you must completely eliminate those words from your statement as they are sometimes necessary, but if you find you are using a lot of unnecessary words, you probably need to tighten your statement.
- Avoid the word "however." Most people use the word too frequently in essays of this type.
- Confine the length of your statement to the specifications in the application. Longer is not better.
- Avoid clichés and overused literary sources.
- You should not feel compelled to use every editing tip given here. They are to be used as guidelines and are not intended as inflexible rules. You should use them in conjunction with your style and your ideas to produce a statement that, along with your academic record, will get results - a scholarship. You now have some tools to approach the task of writing a scholarship statement. Begin that writing process today so you will be prepared with a statement when you need one.
Relax - Your Son or Daughter Will Thank You
Much of the stress that parents feel in the admissions process is self-induced. Choosing colleges, applying, getting admitted; and deciding where to enroll isn't easy. There's a lot of work involved and it's drawn out over a long period of time. The best way to avoid stress is to plan slowly and deliberately I using a calendar that builds in ample cushion for time-sensitive endeavors.
Make a Plan-Of-Action Calendar - and Stick to it!
Together with your son or daughter and his or her college counselor, construct an outline for the entire college admissions process; from initial browsing for information to deciding where to attend. Create an itinerary for visiting colleges and gathering your financial information for filing aid forms. Post the calendar in a handy location, touching base periodically with your child to monitor progress.
Plan Out Your Tests
In this competitive admissions environment, standardized tests are becoming increasingly important. In addition to the SATs and ACTs, the most important tests for college admissions, there are many exams that are vital for getting accepted into the most selective universities. Students should plan to take some of these tests well before their senior. The PSAT not only helps students practice for the SAT, it allows them to qualify for National Merit Scholarships. Advanced Placement exams are administered in a variety of subjects. Passing the AP test means that students are able to receive college credit or even place out of certain college prerequisite courses. Students should take AP tests after they have taken AP courses. The SAT IIs, formerly known as the Achievement Tests, are necessary for admissions to many competitive colleges; students should take each subject test immediately after they finish the class.
Don't Contact College Admissions Offices For Your Child
Colleges track the contacts they have with prospective students and applicants. It doesn't look good if the college has spoken with you and has never had any contact with your child, the actual applicant. (Sounds like Mrs. Smith really wants to come here!)
Keep Copies of Everything
Set up file folders for each college to which your child is applying. Keep all correspondence within these folders. Document phone calls as well, always getting names and titles of those your child speaks with. Quick and comprehensive access to all pertinent materials will payoff in the long run.
File All Financial Aid Forms as Soon as Possible After January 1
Do not wait for this year's income tax forms to be completed. Use last year's data and file aid applications as soon as they become available. Financial aid officers can compile an estimated package that will closely reflect their final, updated package provided that family financial circumstances have not changed dramatically for the last tax year.
Be on the Lookout for Scholarship Opportunities For Your Child
Many employers, social clubs, and religious organizations offer scholarships. Be sure to check with these organizations early, before your child's senior year. A lot of these programs have selection calendars that do not mesh with the college admission calendar. Don't miss out due to lack of awareness.
Visit Your Child's Top College Options
If you can, visit all of the colleges where your child is applying. There is not substitute for a campus visit and college-produced videos are not "the next best thing." And never stick strictly to a "packaged" admissions visit consisting of an information session/interview and a slide show or tour. Balance the experience by lunching on your own in the dining hall and browsing around campus. When you do visit, make sure that you allow enough time on campus for you son or daughter to explore on his or her own - the perfect time to meet with a financial aid officer.
Remember That You're Not Going to College; Your Child Is
There's not doubt that you should have some say in the matter, just remember to keep it in perspective. Parental input should focus on the mechanics of making a choice, not on the choice itself. Be frank and direct about any absolutes, such as financial limitations, but be low-key and reserved about the characteristics you think they want in a college. Think about helping your child choose the best college for him or her.
Students Can Take a Free Practice SAT Online Anytime!
Taking a practice SAT before the real thing is a great idea. The content, structure, and flow of the test will not surprise students if they have seen it before. Now, students can visit The Princeton Review on-line and take a practice SAT at no cost and at any time! All they have to do is visit www.review.com, log-in, and they're ready to go. While there they will find tons of valuable information on colleges, the tests, admissions, financial aid, scholarships and more.
Letters of Recommendation
Always ask for the letter AT LEAST two weeks before the scholarship deadline.
Provide the teacher with 1) the name and address of the person or organization offering the scholarship and 2) the criteria on which the scholarship is based. The teacher needs to write a business letter that addresses the points that are most vital. Help him or her do that for you.
If the letter needs to be mailed, provide a stamped and addressed envelope and it can be mailed for you.
If the letter is one of several things that you must mail off, put a folder in the counselor's office and let the teacher put the letter in that folder. Then ask the counselor to send it for you after you have provided the postage.
Students who ask for letters of recommendation should not ask to be given those letters in person. If you thing the teacher will not give you a good recommendation then you have asked the wrong teacher. Choose well and then trust us.
All of the above holds true for letters of recommendation sent to colleges as well.
Check Sheets For Scholarships
Always give the teacher AT LEAST one week or more before it is due.
Understand that the teacher will take the sheet to the counselor's office. You should not ask to or expect to see it again, choose wisely and then trust us.
Acknowledgement and Thanks
You should write each teacher who wrote letters or filled out any type of recommendation for you a "thank you" note before the school year is over.
If you receive a scholarship or were accepted by a college, be sure to include that information. We want to know!
Teachers are generally very willing to help you get into college or get a scholarship. Remember that you are asking for a favor to be done on the teacher's time after school hours. Many of you ask the same teacher so that favor may be multiplied many times. Be considerate. The teachers will be timely but they must also be honest. Don't expect or ask them to testify to more than they know or see of you in a classroom situation. They like to be recognized for their time and effort and be appreciated. Teachers have schedules, obligations, and feelings too. Help them help you. Do your part - they'll do theirs.
This website offers a central location for common application to all Texas state institutions of higher learning as well as a wealth of other college-related information.
U101 COLLEGE SEARCH Website
Directory of college, community college, and university websites in the U.S. and Canada. Lists over 3000 schools by state or province.
Affordable Colleges Online Website
An organization dedicated to providing free higher education tolls for current and future college students and their families
U.S. Dept of Education FREE Application for Federal Student Aid Web Site
Can help you find the right college and scholarships to help you pay for it. The internet's premiere scholarship search includes more than 600,000 scholarships worth more than $1 billion. FastWeb's customized college search offers access to 4,000 colleges. Also find expert advice and how-tos on admissions, financial aid, selecting a major, choosing a career and more.
A site to help Texas students to plan for college, apply to colleges, and apply for Texas State Financial Aid. Just remember to apply early (starting January 1st) because funding is awarded on a first come, first served basis.
FinAid offers advice on how to find financial resources for college. They also host up easy calculators to find out about student loan payments and repayment options to prepare you for graduation.
NCAA Eligibility Center Website
A clearinghouse for student athletes desiring to attend college on an athletic scholarship.
A private website offering resources to help you choose a college and for finding scholarship opportunities.
Similar to Super College, this site makes narrowing down the choices for colleges easier with a simple search engine. They also host lists of sites to help with textbooks, tutors, and internships.
Texas' leading source for student scholarships
Another great resource for scholarship applications.