Getting ready for junior year

Your junior year is a good time to start preparing in earnest for college, and making a step-by-step plan to work through next year’s applications.

Meet with your school counselor about the year ahead. Ensure that your courses and your grades put you on the right track for college admission; there is still time to pull your grades up if you begin now. Also ask about test dates for the PSAT, ACT, and SAT, and find out if your school offers any test preparation classes, or if you qualify for a fee waiver.

Take the PSAT. You’ll need to register up to six weeks ahead of time, so look into this right away. Taking the test as a junior will qualify you for some scholarship consideration and identify you to colleges as a potential applicant. When you receive the results (usually in December), review them to learn more about your strengths and weaknesses. Discuss the results with your family and school counselor to make a study plan for the ACT or SAT.

Consider your extracurriculars. If you haven’t participated in many activities outside of class, now is the time to look at signing up. Decide which clubs at schools, team sports, leadership roles, or involvement in your religious or civic community group would best fit your interests and talents and make a commitment. Colleges prefer to see serious involvement, over shallow engagements.

Begin researching scholarships. Start bookmarking links and keeping track of the names and due dates for scholarships that need to be completed in the future. You may find some that you can qualify for with one additional class or activity, and now you have the time to get that extra qualification. To get started with an online scholarship search, go to Tuition Funding Sources. This website offers students access to over 7 million scholarships totaling more than $41 billion in scholarship awards, along with a career aptitude test and detailed college and career information.

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How to plan for college costs

Senior year is decision-making time for college-bound students. For many families, cost is a big part of that decision. As you and your student work through college choices, take some time to work through the cost details, so you’re certain about how different colleges compare.

Consider what the college can offer. Some colleges offer institutional aid that can help reduce their overall costs. Grants, scholarships and Work-Study jobs can help minimize the debt your student will need to take on. Find out what your school can offer in this arena, in addition to opportunities for scholarships and grants that your student may be seeking independently.

Make use of the Net Price Calculator. Start your research by checking out the Net Price Calculator of the colleges that interest your student. Each college should have one on their website, though you may have to search for it. The Net Price Calculator will help you estimate the amount your student will have to pay for tuition, room and board, books, etc., after scholarships and grants are applied.

Look into cost details. There may be some opportunities for wiggle room when comes to cost. Housing is usually one: are there some dorms that cost less than others? Are there ways to trim costs on meal plans? Buying or renting used textbooks when possible is a tried and true way to save money when fall rolls around. Save money on transportation by looking into bus passes with a student discount, and leave the car at home, if possible.

Make a budget. While you still have plenty of time to work out the details, it’s never too early to start putting together a preliminary college budget—you can always tweak it as time goes on and you have a better idea of specific expenses. Work together with your student to think through the costs that may come up during the first semester of college. It’s a good exercise for students to dig into the details of where their money will go next fall. With tuition costs as high as they are, it’s hard for students to get a sense of what those large figures mean. A monthly budget gives them a realistic place to begin managing their money, and will help them anticipate how a monthly student loan payment could factor in down the road.

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Succeeding at your first semester at college

Now that your paperwork is in and you’ve made a financial plan, it’s time to register for classes. College can be very different from high school, so take a look at some of the ways you can prepare for the changes and make your fall semester a successful one. Where to start?

  • Think about your schedule. You get to pick your classes and create your own schedule. But remember, your next class might be on the far side of campus. Take study and travel time, as well as jobs or other extracurricular activities, into account when planning your schedule.
  • Review your course catalogue. Request a list of available classes from the college. You can study just about anything in as much detail as you want; it just depends on your college’s offering and your major. Make a list of classes you need to take in order to graduate in your major and which classes you’d like to take if your schedule permits.
  • Look at the Gen Ed requirements. During your first 2 years, your classes could have more than 100 people in them. This can be a little intimidating at first, but as your courses become more specialized, your class size will go down. Even if you know which major you’d like to pursue, it’s a good idea to begin your freshman year with a few introductory-level courses.
  • Talk to an adviser. Most incoming students are assigned an academic adviser. This person can give you more in-depth information about the course catalogue and help you plan ahead so you don’t miss any infrequently offered classes.
  • Look up the professor. Talk to current students to find out whose Economy 101 or Intro to Western Civ class you don’t want to miss. There may be one professor that puts his class to sleep, and another that has them lined up for more.
  • Do your homework. Literally. Few college classes have the daily assignments and weekly graded papers of high school. Instead, it’s common for classes to have only two grades, a midterm and final, and for there to be no daily assignments other than reading. The mid-term is not the time to realize that you have half of a text book to catch up on, so make sure you show up to classes, follow along, and ask questions if you need to.
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Simple ways to stay connected with your college student

You know it’s coming. You’ve likely been preparing for it for years. But as a parent, it can still be tough to adjust when your student heads off to college. You’re the parent of a young adult now—how do you stay in touch yet still give your student space?

How often to check in?
This is a good thing to just ask your student about. Some students may want to stay in closer contact and others may want to focus on getting settled without calls from home. Maybe talking once a week will work, or perhaps texting every few days is a better plan. However, don’t be surprised if your student does forget to reach out—many college students just get wrapped up in their life—they may be doing just fine and simply not think to call or text. So, sometimes no news is great news – it can mean your student is completely immersed and enjoying college life!

Helping out with challenges—or not
Your student is bound to hit some bumps while adjusting to college life –whether it’s an issue with a roommate or professor, homesickness, money concerns, or something else. Depending on the issue, you’ll have to decide whether to step in to help or step back and let your student sort it out. You can always be there to listen and offer suggestions if they ask, but remember that students on the verge of adulthood will benefit from figuring out how to manage certain challenges on their own.

Keeping tabs on the money
Managing money can be a challenge during the college years. Talk with your student about expectations for money management. What expenses do you expect your student to handle? Will you be helping out with any costs? Will you be able to view your student’s bank account online? Talk about the importance of budgeting and how to make funds last the entire semester. If you want the option to easily transfer funds into your student’s account, consider online banking for both of you.

Showing that you care
Phone calls, texting and visits are all great ways to stay in touch with your college student. But don’t forget the time-honored way for parents to connect to their college kids: the care package. Send one before finals week, at their birthday, Valentine’s Day, or out of the blue for no reason at all. Everyone loves getting a package in the mail, and one with some tasty treats and fun surprises is a great way to send love from home. Plus, sharing goodies with dorm-mates is a great way for your student to make new friends.

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Five Advanced Placement study tips your teacher won’t tell you

Advanced Placement (AP) tests may require a lot of time and effort, but they can be well worth it. A good AP score can save you on college tuition and free up time in your academic schedule to pursue your passions and try new things by letting you get credit for the college-level work they require. Ready to hit the books? Here are a few ways to outsmart the AP test blues:

Start studying on the first day of class
When it comes to studying, there’s nothing worse than the stress of cramming. Even a well-planned study schedule can be overwhelming when you’re expected to cover the material of an entire semester. Reduce AP stress by planning your study time on day one of class. There’s no way you’re going to remember everything you’ve learned throughout the semester, so help your future self by creating study guides as you go, while the information is fresh. When AP test time rolls around, you’ll have a solid foundation to build on.

Choose your study group wisely
Studying in a group can be productive … or disastrous. While your peers can be a great asset when working through a difficult concept, a chaotic study group is an academic hazard worth avoiding. Make sure to differentiate between a study group and a hangout. Spending time with friends is fun, but BFFs don’t always make for the best study buddies. If you’re looking for AP success, be careful to form a focused group with people that share similar study habits. Hangout time with friends is best planned when textbooks aren’t meant to be the centerpiece of conversation.

Find the materials that work for you
Buying a study book or two may be useful, but there are also plenty of free study resources to check out. There are many online resources that can help you study, and your school and/or public libraries likely have a selection of books you can access for free. AP guidebooks can be great, but even the best book cannot substitute old-fashioned flashcards and thoughtful, homemade study guides.

Slack off
Your brain needs time to process new information, so don’t expect to study non-stop. Draft a reasonable study schedule and be sure to take breaks. When you aren’t studying, go for a walk, eat a well-balanced meal, or get some sleep. Too much time hunched over a desk is not only hard on your body, but can also tax your brain. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and give your mind some time to make sense of all that you’ve read. After a brief hiatus, you’ll be able to look at the material from a fresh perspective.

Don’t stress
Your test score is not a reflection of your self-worth. A low score on an AP exam will by no means ruin your life. At worst, you will have to enroll in few gen-ed courses in college, which you have already become familiar with through your AP classes. You can only do your best, so don’t be hard on yourself. Perspective is the greatest study tool of all.

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Understanding college costs

Taking a look at college costs today is enough to give anyone sticker shock. Before you start to scramble figuring out how to pay the cost, remember that most students don’t pay the full advertised price for college.

There are a variety of ways colleges help make their tuition more affordable. Be sure not to dismiss any college out of hand based on their listed price. Ask questions and explore options to get a more realistic view of what you might actually pay. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Look at the Net Price Calculator for the schools your student is considering. This tool can help you estimate the price of the school for your student, which may be different than the listed cost.

Consider scholarships. It’s not too early to start researching scholarship options. Look into local scholarships offered by service groups, check with your employer, and ask about scholarship opportunities at any schools your student is interested in attending. Additionally, look into scholarship search engines online. Tuition Funding Sources offers one of the largest scholarship databases available with over $41 billion in financial aid for students.

Talk with the school’s financial aid office. Be sure to visit with the financial aid office of any school your student is considering. Ask about what type of institutional aid is available and how much the average student receives.

Look into reciprocity agreements. If your student is considering a state college school in a neighboring state, be sure to look into reciprocity agreements. Some schools are willing to give in-state tuition to students from neighboring states.

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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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