Five ways to make memories with your senior

Your student’s senior year can fly by in a blink. With all the work there is to be done, it would be easy to focus solely on the to-do list, and put fun aside. But considering this may be your student’s last year at home, it’s worth it to make some room for new memories as you work to help prepare them for college. Here are a few ideas to make senior year a memorable one:

Family trip. Senior year and the following summer are busy times, but if you can schedule in a family trip, it’s worth it. There’s nothing like getting away from your regular routine and relaxing together. It doesn’t have to be elaborate to be memorable—the important thing is that you’re focusing on something fun as a family.

Teach them something. As college gets closer, you’ll probably start thinking of many things you want your student to know. How do you make fun memories teaching your senior the finer points of laundry or making a budget though? Try approaching it with a sense of humor and share your own stories from when you were first out on your own.

Keep up a tradition. Think your senior is too old for some of the traditions your family has built up over the years? Keep them up anyway—at least those that have brought your family the most enjoyment. Your senior might start getting nostalgic for childhood memories this year, realizing that adulthood is right around the corner. Your family traditions may be all the more memorable during their last year at home.

Take a trip down memory lane. You may be spending some time during senior year making a photo collage or memory video for their graduation celebration. Make it fun by working on these projects alongside your senior. Have some laughs as you sort through old photos and look at home videos from your student’s childhood. You’ll build some great new memories as you revisit old memories together.

Work together. Let’s face it, prepping for college is a lot of work. There are applications and forms to complete, orientation to attend, plus supplies to buy and packing to do. Make this college preparation time memorable by tackling it together: plan a shopping trip to buy dorm and school supplies, set aside time to pack together at a relaxed pace, etc.

While sending your student off to college doesn’t mean they’re leaving forever, truthfully, even if they do come back to live at home again, the parent-child dynamic will likely be changed. Enjoy this time together, and then look forward to the new relationship you’ll have as your student moves into young adulthood.

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Five hacks for high school seniors

Senior year can be an adventure filled with hard work and well-deserved festivities. However, even through the air of celebration, you’re probably starting to think about all that lies ahead. Here are some senior year hacks to keep you cool and collected during your final year of high school:

  • Pencil it in
    There’s a lot on your plate and winging it isn’t always the best strategy. From applying to college to making plans for senior week, a strong calendar game will be one of the most invaluable tools in your senior toolkit. Senior year can have a lot going on, so a digital or paper calendar that you use can be a huge asset. Make a to-do list and set milestones on your calendar. Few things in life will feel more satisfying than crossing items off that list.
  • Savor the moment
    You may be eager to leave high school and step into the world of adulthood, but don’t get ahead of yourself. The world isn’t going anywhere. Make sure to take time and savor the joys of senior year. Go to football games; hangout with friends; drive around aimlessly. Becoming an adult is exciting, but growing up comes with its own challenges. You have the rest of your life to enjoy adulthood, but you only have now to enjoy your time as a teenager.
  • Go easy on yourself
    With graduation on the horizon, every decision might feel like the most important choice of your life, but try to take it easy. Maybe you’ll get into your first choice college; maybe you won’t. Either way, things will be okay. Bumps in the road may feel insurmountable, so remember to go easy on yourself. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Take a deep breath and remember: something that feels like a setback today is only one step on a long, exciting journey toward tomorrow.
  • Keep your cool
    SATs, friend drama, parties, college applications — this can be a chaotic and exciting time in your life. However, with every excitement becomes an equal dose of stress. That’s why it’s important to learn and commit to healthy means of stress management. You may feel busy or overwhelmed, but now is not the time to neglect those morning runs or evening journal entries that always manage to clear your head. Take things one day at a time, and you’ll get through senior year no problem.
  • Just do you
    High school is coming to an end and, soon, the people you’ve grown up with are moving on and (in some cases) out of your life. Whether your peers are heading off to college, the military, job training programs, or any number of post-high school endeavors, it’s time to practice the art of perspective. In high school, it’s easy to get caught up in what people think of you, but now is the time to let go. Soon you will be on your own, achieving bigger and better things. Don’t let your past define you. Take this time to prioritize the things that really matter — real friends, hard work, exciting adventures, and yourself.
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If I Knew Then: Tarren Villaverde

Getting into college takes a lot of work and support, but plenty of students have done it before. We asked five current students to share their experiences throughout the application process as well as information they wish they knew before starting it.

The perfect path doesn’t always unfold right in front of you. Sometimes you have to work for it, or cut your own way through the brush. Tarren did just that. As a former world-class fencer, he knew that the key to victory was making the most of every opportunity.

Tarren Villaverde image

In high school, Tarren Villaverde worked hard to succeed in whatever area he applied himself. He was a junior Olympian in fencing, a Big Brother, and the captain of his wrestling team. He participated in National Honor Society, Art Honor Society, and National Spanish Honor Society.

When it came time to apply for colleges, he sought the advice of his father and his school counselor. His counselor helped him with his application, and told him, “Keep your goals realistic.” Deciding where to go was a stressful process, but Tarren decided on Santa Clara University. He thought that was the path he was supposed to take.

But after considering his financial options, he transferred to the University of Arizona to take advantage of the lower cost of in-state tuition. While he had a lot of friends at Santa Clara, including some from high school, it made sense financially to change schools. He was even awarded merit-based scholarships at the University of Arizona.

Now Tarren spends his time competing on the intercollegiate wrestling club that he started, working as a legal assistant at a law firm, holding leadership positions in his fraternity, and preparing for the LSAT and law school. As his current schedule suggests, he’s busy making the most of the opportunities at hand and making his own path toward success.

When asked what advice he had for his past self regarding the college application process, he said, “Be more open-minded. Don’t be concerned with the name of the school. Consider all your options and keep them all on the table.”

Whether you’re planning for college or already there like Tarren, sign up for the CollegeSTEPS® program today for tools, tips, and a chance to win $1,000. Once you sign up, we’ll email you helpful information on topics like study tips, securing financial aid, and managing your money. Sweepstakes is subject to the full Official Rules. To sign up and for full rules and details go to: wellsfargo.com/collegesteps

NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN THIS SWEEPSTAKES. Sweepstakes runs on www.wellsfargo.com/collegesteps from 12:00 a.m. Central Time (“CT”) on 8/14/14 to 11:59 p.m. CT on 8/13/15 (“Promo Period”). Open to full or part-time students who are in an accredited secondary or post-secondary educational institution or program (including, but not limited to, high school, college, university or trade school, or are home schooled in an accredited program) and are legal residents of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia born on or before 12/31/00. All eligible students who enrolled in Wells Fargo’s CollegeSTEPS® program between 8/6/10 and 8/13/14 will be automatically entered in the 2014/2015 sweepstakes without having to re-enroll. A total of (160) $1,000 prizes will be awarded – (80) to high school students and (80) to college students during the Promo Period – 40 prizes per each of four drawings. Odds to win depend upon the total number of CollegeSTEPS program enrollments received at the time of each drawing. Sweepstakes subject to full Official Rules. Void where prohibited by law.

SPONSOR: Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., P.O. Box 5185, Sioux Falls, South Dakota 57117

© 2015 Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. All rights reserved

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If I Knew Then: Ginger Sprong

Getting into college takes a lot of work and support, but plenty of students have done it before. We asked five current students to share their experiences throughout the application process as well as information they wish they knew before starting it.

Sometimes what makes you different makes you stronger. After being homeschooled her entire life, Ginger used her unique experiences to start a new adventure: college.

Ginger Sprong Image
Meet Ginger Sprong, a freshman majoring in environmental studies at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas. She went from homeschool for high school to a private university for college. And the process wasn’t easy.

Ginger had to find a way to make her college application stand apart from the others. In her admissions essays, she wrote about what it was like growing up homeschooled and the difference her education made. She explained how being homeschooled made her unique and gave her a different perspective from her peers.

She may not have liked writing about herself or trying to get people to like her without even knowing her, but it paid off. After getting into most of the schools on her list, Ginger decided on SMU. But, she couldn’t have done it without the support of her mother, who encouraged her to apply to SMU, and her dual credit professors from the local community college. She even got some advice from her brothers to “show who you are in the best way possible.”

Ginger began preparing for college long before writing her college essays. During her junior and senior years of high school, she attended a local community college for dual credit classes to get a leg up on her college education. In fact, Ginger worked hard to stay well-rounded and involved throughout high school. She volunteered at the Perot Museum in Dallas, was active in youth leadership at her church, and even held several jobs.

It isn’t hard to see why she was so successful, but once she got into SMU, she still had to pay for it. She had to sift through an overwhelming amount of financial aid information and jargon before she applied for and won numerous merit- and financial-based scholarships.

When asked what advice she had for her past self regarding the college application process, she said, “Don’t worry too much. Everything works out. It doesn’t really matter if you get into your dream school or not. There are many other schools that have awesome programs.”

Whether you’re planning for college or already there like Ginger, sign up for the CollegeSTEPS® program today for tools, tips, and a chance to win $1,000. Once you sign up, we’ll email you helpful information on topics like study tips, securing financial aid, and managing your money. Sweepstakes is subject to the full Official Rules. To sign up and for full rules and details go to: wellsfargo.com/collegesteps

NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN THIS SWEEPSTAKES. Sweepstakes runs on www.wellsfargo.com/collegesteps from 12:00 a.m. Central Time (“CT”) on 8/14/14 to 11:59 p.m. CT on 8/13/15 (“Promo Period”). Open to full or part-time students who are in an accredited secondary or post-secondary educational institution or program (including, but not limited to, high school, college, university or trade school, or are home schooled in an accredited program) and are legal residents of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia born on or before 12/31/00. All eligible students who enrolled in Wells Fargo’s CollegeSTEPS® program between 8/6/10 and 8/13/14 will be automatically entered in the 2014/2015 sweepstakes without having to re-enroll. A total of (160) $1,000 prizes will be awarded – (80) to high school students and (80) to college students during the Promo Period – 40 prizes per each of four drawings. Odds to win depend upon the total number of CollegeSTEPS program enrollments received at the time of each drawing. Sweepstakes subject to full Official Rules. Void where prohibited by law.

SPONSOR: Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., P.O. Box 5185, Sioux Falls, South Dakota 57117

© 2015 Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. All rights reserved

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If I Knew Then: Gabriella Gamez

Getting into college takes a lot of work and support, but plenty of students have done it before. We asked five current students to share their experiences throughout the application process as well as information they wish they knew before starting it.

The digital age makes a lot of things easier, especially applying for college, right? Maybe not, if your parents went to school before the Internet made submissions a snap. Gabriella found out that, even as a second-generation college student, she would have to figure a lot of the college application process out on her own.

Gabriella Gamez Image

But that didn’t stop her. Gabriella Gamez is currently a sophomore at Texas Tech majoring in business management, but getting there was pretty stressful.

She quickly realized her parents had graduated from college too long ago to be of much help with the new digital application process. She received most of her college insights from friends and high school counselors. Because she was unfamiliar with the timeline of submission due dates, Gabriella started applying later than most of her friends.

With all her time spent catching up and getting her applications in on time, she didn’t have a lot of time to apply for scholarships. However, once she got into Texas Tech, she was able to apply for several that would help her finance the following year’s tuition. Her parents even found another way to help—with budgeting.

Though her experience, from admissions to budgeting, differed greatly from her parents’, she still benefited from their advice and input. Whether it was proofreading essays or just encouraging her along the way, Gabriella’s parents gave her plenty of support.

When asked what advice she had for her past self regarding the college application process, she said simply, “Scholarships. Scholarships. Scholarships.”

Whether you’re planning for college or already there like Gabriella, sign up for the CollegeSTEPS® program today for tools, tips, and a chance to win $1,000. Once you sign up, we’ll email you helpful information on topics like study tips, securing financial aid, and managing your money.Sweepstakes is subject to the full Official Rules. To sign up and for full rules and details go to: wellsfargo.com/collegesteps

NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN THIS SWEEPSTAKES. Sweepstakes runs on www.wellsfargo.com/collegesteps from 12:00 a.m. Central Time (“CT”) on 8/14/14 to 11:59 p.m. CT on 8/13/15 (“Promo Period”). Open to full or part-time students who are in an accredited secondary or post-secondary educational institution or program (including, but not limited to, high school, college, university or trade school, or are home schooled in an accredited program) and are legal residents of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia born on or before 12/31/00. All eligible students who enrolled in Wells Fargo’s CollegeSTEPS® program between 8/6/10 and 8/13/14 will be automatically entered in the 2014/2015 sweepstakes without having to re-enroll. A total of (160) $1,000 prizes will be awarded – (80) to high school students and (80) to college students during the Promo Period – 40 prizes per each of four drawings. Odds to win depend upon the total number of CollegeSTEPS program enrollments received at the time of each drawing. Sweepstakes subject to full Official Rules. Void where prohibited by law.

SPONSOR: Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., P.O. Box 5185, Sioux Falls, South Dakota 57117

© 2015 Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. All rights reserved

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If I Knew Then: Alec Lee

Getting into college takes a lot of work and support, but plenty of students have done it before. We asked five current students to share their experiences throughout the application process as well as information they wish they knew before starting it.

College is a great time for students to learn more about themselves and grow into the people they want to be. For most, that change is subconscious. But for Alec, it was a conscious decision.

Alec Lee Image

Alec Lee

Meet Alec Lee, a finance and Spanish double major at Loyola Marymount University with an interest in engineering and pre-med. After attending a small private high school in Denver, Alec wanted college to expand his comfort zone, so he found one over 1,000 miles away. Even before he got to Loyola, he sought to explore new perspectives by traveling to Europe with friends after he graduated high school.

A family friend helped him through the application process. She coached him in writing skills, helped him weigh different factors, inspired him to explore different schools, and even encouraged him to venture out of state. She helped him break out of his shell, like he was constantly looking to do.

Once he decided to attend college out of state, he began researching schools and found that Loyola offered more generous financial aid than his other top picks. He compared the costs between the out-of-state schools with financial aid and Colorado schools with in-state tuition. Realizing that it didn’t cost much more than in-state schools, he set his sights on Loyola.

At Loyola, Alec tried to meet as many people as possible. He wanted to figure out the kind of people he got along with and the type of environment he would thrive in. He wanted to figure out how to make the kind of friends he would stay with throughout college and beyond.

Being on his own for the first time forced him to grow more quickly. But he didn’t figure out time management until sophomore year, when he found himself in a sink-or-swim situation. Ultimately, he always found a way to meet his goals and grow so he would be better equipped to deal with similar situations in the future.

When asked what advice he had for his past self regarding the college application process, he said, “Slowly chip away at the process. Work on it piece by piece, little by little, leading up to the deadline. Set goals along the way to get to the bigger picture.”

Whether you’re planning for college or already there like Alec, sign up for the CollegeSTEPS® program today for tools, tips, and a chance to win $1,000. Once you sign up, we’ll email you helpful information on topics like study tips, securing financial aid, and managing your money. Sweepstakes is subject to the full Official Rules. To sign up and for full rules and details go to: wellsfargo.com/collegesteps

NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN THIS SWEEPSTAKES. Sweepstakes runs on www.wellsfargo.com/collegesteps from 12:00 a.m. Central Time (“CT”) on 8/14/14 to 11:59 p.m. CT on 8/13/15 (“Promo Period”). Open to full or part-time students who are in an accredited secondary or post-secondary educational institution or program (including, but not limited to, high school, college, university or trade school, or are home schooled in an accredited program) and are legal residents of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia born on or before 12/31/00. All eligible students who enrolled in Wells Fargo’s CollegeSTEPS® program between 8/6/10 and 8/13/14 will be automatically entered in the 2014/2015 sweepstakes without having to re-enroll. A total of (160) $1,000 prizes will be awarded – (80) to high school students and (80) to college students during the Promo Period – 40 prizes per each of four drawings. Odds to win depend upon the total number of CollegeSTEPS program enrollments received at the time of each drawing. Sweepstakes subject to full Official Rules. Void where prohibited by law.

SPONSOR: Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., P.O. Box 5185, Sioux Falls, South Dakota 57117

© 2015 Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. All rights reserved

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Selecting and applying to colleges in four easy steps

Did you know there are more than 4,000 colleges and universities to choose from? Choice is always a good thing, but if you need a little help narrowing things down, keeping things simple and organized, then you’ll appreciate these four simple steps:

Step 1: Make a wish list
Keep an open mind while you’re putting it together and consider things that may become important to you in the future. Consider:

  • Type of school: There are several types of schools to consider including: Public Colleges, Private Colleges, Two-Year Colleges, Vocational-technical and Career Schools
  • Areas of study: Most students change majors in college, so it might be a good idea to pick a couple of different majors to give yourself options when it comes down to selecting one.
  • Location: Would you like to be in an urban or rural environment? All colleges offer a unique setting for your college career.
  • Campus culture: Every college has its own unique culture; think about the elements you want in your campus culture.
  • School size: Look for a school size that will fit how you learn and engage with your peers and professors.
  • Sports: If you’re into sports entertainment or are an athlete, national athletics programs can add tremendous value to your college experience.
  • Activities: Every school has different activities such as: student sports, clubs and volunteer opportunities. Which activities do you want to participate in?
  • Greek life: Do you see yourself in a fraternity or sorority?
  • Commuter vs. on-campus community: Some schools have a community centered around the campus while others offer a learning environment where students only come for classes.
  • Cost: Understand financial aid options and speak with your parents and your school counselor about this process.

Once you have considered these factors, you can use a college search tool like this one to determine which colleges best match your wish list criteria.

Step 2: Create an awesome short list
Start here to create a short list that reflects your interests, values and prospects.

Step 3: Research

  • Seek advice from your school counselor and parents
  • Reach out to students and recent alumni of the colleges on your shortlist
  • Read reviews about each college online
  • Visit the websites of each college online and take virtual tours of the campus
  • Ask college admissions offices to send you material to review

Step 4: Visit the schools in person
The final step before selecting the right colleges is scheduling your campus visits. Seeing a campus in person gives you more information than you may have even thought to ask, so this is an important step in finalizing your short list.

Good Luck!

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When your student has a case of senioritis

As students enter the homestretch of high school, it’s not unusual for them to start feeling burned out and unmotivated—in other words, they might develop a case of senioritis.

Senior year grades and test scores are still important, even after your student has been accepted to college. If you sense your student isn’t as focused on classes as he or she should be, you should definitely try to help.

Remind your student of his or her goals. Graduating from high school isn’t the end goal for your student. Remind your student that succeeding in college—and then life—is the real goal, and that doing well all the way through high school is the best way to prepare.

Build in some rewards. If your student really has been working hard, help him or her figure out a reward that doesn’t involve slacking off in school. Maybe there’s another way, like planning some special events on the weekends that will help him or her stay focused during the week.

Consider the need for changes. Some students may be trying to do too much, and that overload is what’s leading to senioritis. If you suspect that might be the case, sit down with your student and take a serious look at his activities and classes. Maybe one or two activities don’t inspire your student any longer—if so, maybe dropping them is the best idea.

The important idea here for your student is to recognize the signs of burn out, and learn to deal with it in a constructive way. It’s a valuable lesson for your student to learn before heading off to college.

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Don’t lose steam over the summer

The summer between junior and senior years is an important time to really get the college planning momentum going. While most students naturally want to kick back and have fun over the summer, encourage your student to mix that fun with some serious college-oriented legwork.

There are several areas in particular where students can make strides between their junior and senior years: jobs, scholarships, senior year schedule and campus tours.

Choosing a job. When your student is seeking a part-time job, remember that jobs can offer more than just a chance to earn money. Encourage your student to consider jobs that may be somewhat tied to a future career. For example, a student who’s interested in becoming a teacher may want to look for work in a daycare or youth camp program. Students who are interested in medicine may want to consider working in a hospital or nursing home setting (think reception jobs, assistant, running errands, etc.).

Searching for scholarships. Students should begin their scholarship search in earnest the summer before senior year. Plan to have your student complete any applications that can be done at this time, and start bookmarking links and keeping track of the names and due dates for scholarships that need to be completed in the future. To get started with an online scholarship search, introduce your student to Tuition Funding Sources. This website offers students access to one of the largest scholarship databases with over $41 billion in scholarship awards, along with a career personality test and detailed college and career information.

Planning the senior year schedule. Take some time over the summer to review your student’s senior year class schedule. Talk about the courseload and whether it’s well-balanced. You want your student’s classes to be challenging, of course, but not so overwhelming that they lead to burnout. If you sense that changes might need to be made, prepare for that, so you and your student aren’t scrambling at the beginning of the school year.

Touring college campuses. The summer before senior year is the ideal time to take campus tours, as you typically have more time to travel as a family during the summer and your student won’t have to miss class. If you have several campuses to visit, consider scheduling your family’s vacation around these tours. And of course, if you haven’t signed up for the CollegeSTEPS® program yet, be sure to do so at wellsfargo.com/collegesteps, so you can get a helpful list of questions to ask when you’re on a campus tour with your student.

Senior year is typically a very busy time, so encourage your student to stay on track with college planning during the summer. Once school starts and the college countdown really begins, they’ll be glad they did.

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Five things to do if you’re on a college waitlist

The college waitlist neither confirms nor denies your choices – only makes you wait. But chin up; though getting onto the waitlist for your first choice of college may appear to cast a shadow across your higher-education hopes and dreams, there’s always a sunny spot around the corner. So what are these tips to see the light?

Go to Buzzfeed and look at some cute animals
We’re not kidding! First and foremost, you have to get to a frame of mind that will let you look at your situation objectively. Take a minute to look at puppies crowding around a basket, maybe some baby sloths eating flowers or a penguin slipping on ice. That’s probably enough to clear your head, make you smile, and prepare you for your next task.

Review your list and evaluate your priorities
Your college list should reflect the fields you’re most passionate about in descending order – but there may be many factors weighting each of your choices on the list. One may have the best program in your field, but is on the other side of the country. One may have the second best program you’re looking for, and is closer to home!

Your top choices are likely ranked by your ideal priorities, so take another look at the criteria you’re using to choose schools – cost, value, distance from home, programs of interest – and reevaluate what makes each of these elements so important. Take another look at your list, see what brought you to your original conclusions, and re-evaluate now that you know which schools have accepted you.

Put your head in the books and stay there
This bit of advice might be commonsense, but now is not the time to let your grades slip. In fact, keeping your grades and academic achievements rolling—or even bringing them up a bit—and letting your waitlisted college know that you’re doing so, may help convince them you’re serious about your education and getting into the school.

Do your research about waitlists
What is the potential of being accepted from the waitlist? Research your college choice specifically to see how many other students may be on the waitlist with you and what your likelihood of moving up is. Use these numbers to determine whether or not you should move on to other prospects.

Accept the things you cannot change
You may feel like this is a competition with other students, with their extracurriculars and grades. However, this is a path you carve for yourself and the end goal is what you make it, no matter if a school puts you on a waitlist or not.

You’ve made it this far in the college journey, so it’s important to stay positive when it comes to being waitlisted. It’s the start of a new and exciting beginning, a new chapter in life opening up for you.

If you have any things that have helped you since being put on the waitlist at your college of choice, please share your thoughts with other students in the comments below!

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