You Got into Your Dream College. Now What? How to Avoid Confusion and Stress and Successfully Navigate College and Live Happily Ever After
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There are many articles that talk about how to get into college. They talk about the importance of test scores and GPA. And the dreaded essays to the college. People, including us, advise to stand out by taking interesting internships, playing a niche sport, or just being different. But what do you do when you do get into the college of your dreams? How do you navigate college? What are the optimal ways of learning skills critical to your future, of socializing, of making the most out of college? Here are some tips of what not to do.
1. Denying the Overwhelm
You will be overwhelmed! You are in a new environment, and perhaps for the first time, away from home living on your own. It can be exciting but overwhelming at the same time. There are so many things to consider. The housing. The logistics of getting to school. The class requirements. New people to deal with. Lunch. Dinner. Etc.
We recommend that you should, if possible, visit your college a few times before starting your first semester (quarter). Get to know your college as your housing ahead of time. Know where the bookstore is, and the library.
2. Using College for the Credential Only
Eric Johnson, guidance counselor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says, “The more you regard college as a credentialing exercise, the less likely you are to get the benefits.”
The wisest students, he said, “move into a peer relationship with the institution rather than a consumer relationship with it.” They seize leadership roles. They serve as research assistants.
We recommend you follow Johnson's advice. Find the leadership roles. Leadership roles are not just about being a club president or a team captain. You can become a research assistant to a professor you like. You can tutor students. Etc.
3. Ignoring the Most Important Relationship
Most students don’t fully understand that perhaps the most important relationships they can form is with the faculty. It is often hard to identify professors worth knowing, especially those who are accessible to students. Often top professors are too busy to mentor students. However, students must identify professors who can mentor them and help them navigate college.
4. Failure to Introspect
“You have to ask yourself what lies closest to your heart,” said Jim Gates, a renowned theoretical physicist at Brown University.
Many students going to college do not know what they want. They fail to introspect an ask themselves what lies closest to their hearts. But how do you introspect? It is easy to give a lecture about and actually doing it. Here are some tips. Ask the following questions:
5. Worrying About the Wrong Things
Many students worry about the wrong things in college. They worry about finances (you can always get a loan). They worry about what others, especially their peers think (they are not going to pay your bills!). Etc.
Your job in college is to learn and make the most of this privilege and opportunity. In today's world, too many students have an entitlement mentality, that they are entitled to things, including a college education. That is a wrong and bad attitude. You should focus on learning and making the most of the precious years you have in college.
If you focus in college and do your utmost, you will blossom in your career. As Professor Gates said, “If you are fortunate enough to find something that you’re totally obsessed with, you’re likely to work very hard at it. If you’re a human being of average intelligence and you work very hard at something, you’re likely to become very good at it. And if you become very good at it, people are likely to notice.” That means they’re likely to employ and reward you as well.
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Are you stressed about your payments for college? Do you think you cannot afford the college of your dreams? We suggest that regardless of your financial circumstances, you should apply for the college of your dreams. The question is, how will you afford it?
One, you can apply for financial aid. Anyone can get a unsubsidized FAFSA loan, regardless of income level. Unsubsidized means that interest carries from day one, versus an subsidized loan, where interest starts only when you have graduated.
Two, you can try for merit based financial aid, if you have stellar grades, test scores and a strong application. Most universities will offer you some sort of a financial aid; some compete to get you as a student.
If you are unable to get merit scholarships and do not qualify for subsidized loans, we suggest to apply for an unsubsidized loan. Then consider the following often overlooked ideas.
A Side Hustle
Consider a side hustle. Perhaps, you have a hobby that you can monetize. For example, you can mend clothes. You could charge a fee to do that your fellow students. For example, Jessie Baren, from the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor, earned almost $100,000. As a result, and with his parents' help, he made his way through Michigan and $65,000 – without needing financial aid. He did that by selling apparel for Fresh Prints, a national custom-apparel company started by college students in 2009.
Assemble Multiple Scholarships
Consider assembling scholarships from multiple sources. There are a plethora of scholarships available. Check out Hillview Prep's scholarships page here for more information.
Ask College for more Money
Yes, you can! Don't be shy. If you are a strong candidate you can write an appeals letter to the college and request more money as financial aid. In your letter, paint a clear picture why you would be a good fit and a strong candidate. If your family have other expenses, like medical bills, that aren't already taken into consideration, explain how that is having an impact on your college finances.
We recommend that you should visit the college of your dreams a few times, and if available, even take summer classes in your sophomore or junior years. Get to know the professors and staff of the area of your interest. Make sure you know why you are going to college. Be focused.
These are part-time jobs on or nearby campus for eligible students, like the Work-study programs. Undergrads earn hourly wages, but the amount you earn can't exceed your work-study award for the year. Graduate students are also eligible for work-study programs.
If you don't qualify for work-study, check out Websites like QuadJobs and WayUp post jobs online for college students looking for odd jobs like babysitting, tutoring and dog walking, as well as work related to their studies.
Colleges, states, and the federal government give out grants, which don't need to be repaid. Most are awarded based on your financial need, and determined by the income you reported on your FAFSA.
According to The College Board, in 2016, undergrads at public colleges received an average of $5,000 in grant aid and those at private colleges received about $16,700. The biggest grant awards usually come from the the college itself.
If you want, we can help you with designing a plan for your college financial support. Just let us know!
How can you prevent a big loss in tuition fees if your child suddenly withdraws from college due to unforeseen circumstances?
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College tuition is rising and there seems no respite from high tuition fees. In addition from buying a house and saving for retirement, college tuition is a huge investment for families. In 2016-2017, average tuition and fees plus room and board cost $45,370 at private colleges and $20,090 at in-state public colleges, according to the College Board.
Unforeseen Circumstances and Tuition Fees
Insurance companies are quite happy to provide you with insurance coverage. For example, Allianz provides reimbursement for tuition, housing and other fees in the event of a covered withdrawal. Also, tuition insurance is provided by hundreds of schools, mainly through third-party sellers such as A.W.G. Dewar and GradGuard.
Before you decide on whether or not to buy tuition insurance, consider the main reasons for withdrawal from college.
Every year, many students face the difficult decision of continuing to go to school while being seriously sick, or withdraw and lose tuition payment? If they withdraw they lose their tuition and working hard during illness could lead to serious short term or potential long term harm. It is best to leave and take care of your health. This is where tuition insurance can help.
Studies show that 80% of students feel overwhelmed and more than 50% face anxiety so severe it affects their academic performance. Many students drop college or get depressed. According to data, 1 in 3 students leave college for at least one semester. In such cases, tuition insurance can help pay or offset your tuition fees and other payments.
How it Works
In general, plans can cost as much as 6 percent of the tuition tab and are purchased a semester at a time to cover in-state and out-of-state nonrefundable tuition as well as housing and other fees. As with other types of insurance, the more extensive the coverage, the more expensive the policy. At Allianz, for example, if a student's annual tuition, fees and room and board were $30,000, the midlevel "preferred" tuition insurance plan would cost about $200 per semester.
How to Decide?
You Might Already Have Coverage
Before you rush to buy tuition insurance, keep in mind that most schools have a refund policy and don't limit reimbursement to medical issues if your child withdraws during the school year.
For example, at Boston University, a student who withdraws in the first five weeks of school can get 20 percent to 100 percent of tuition back, depending on when she leaves school. There is a deadline for this, so you have to check.
Even if a student withdraws later in the semester and doesn’t have tuition insurance, she hasn't necessarily wasted her money, says Jane Klemmer, an independent college consultant. “You can take an incomplete and make up the work when you come back to school.”
History is important
What is your child's history: medical, behavioral, etc? How does she handle stress? If she is sickly and/or cannot handle stress well, be prepared that she may leave college for at least a semester. Don't rush and get insurance though. First, check if the college offers reimbursement, partial or full, and if she can mark the semester courses as incomplete and make up the work later. Second, after you have found the information, if there is a shortfall and you cannot afford it, buy some insurance.
In any case, if you need some consultation and a sounding board, we would be happy to help. Just sign up below for a consultation!
There are some overlooked ways of paying for college. One such overlooked funding idea is the topic of this blog.
Often families choose tax-free 529 plans. The reasons are plenty. 529 plans are a fabulous way to pay for college due to their tax free structure and high dollar number. Note, however, that you fund it with after tax dollars, but the growth and withdrawal is tax free. We can summarize some key advantages of 529 plans as:
A big disadvantage of a 529 plan is that investment options in 529 plans are limited to mutual funds or preset portfolios that are designed to get more conservative as a college admissions date nears. If you use assets in your plan for expenses that aren’t education-related, you face paying taxes and a 10% penalty on earnings. So if you overfund it and are unable to transfer it to other family members for educational purposes, you are faced with paying taxes and a penalty.
An important overlooked way of funding college education is a trust--and many families are choosing a trust due to its flexibility. While a 529 plan limits how much you can invest, where you can invest, and how the assets must be used, a trust is more of a blank slate or a canvas that can be structured, funded, and invested however you like.
There are however good reasons to use 529 plans and trusts simultaneously, to get the best of both, financial advisors say.
How it works
A trust can be much broader in scope than a 529 plan, and there are no limits on how much you can put away.
“Your trust can just be for education costs, or it can also be for other purposes, like to start a business or purchase a home,” says Jeanne Sun, head of the advice lab at J.P. Morgan Private Bank.
While assets in trusts can’t be withdrawn tax-free, there are no limits on how they can be invested, creating the potential for higher returns. A trust fund can ensure that the grantor’s wishes are carried out, which can be useful if the grantor is concerned about whether the beneficiaries can make wise decisions. For example, a trust fund can prevent a child from spending his or her college savings on a sports car or a vacation.
Consequently, annual exclusion gifts that otherwise would have been utilized on 529 plan contributions can be used to make contributions to an irrevocable trust for the benefit of the child, resulting in a more efficient, flexible and robust transfer of wealth to the next generation.
J.P. Morgan’s Sun often recommends that clients use both 529 plans and a trust. The idea is to fund the 529 plans conservatively so they are no unused assets subject to taxes and penalty, while the trust can pick up education costs where the 529 plans fall short. That way, you get some tax-free investing, and the flexibility and benefits that come with a trust.