Choosing your college short list

As you move closer to college application season, you will quickly see that—between the monetary cost to apply and the amount of time that each application requires—you only want to apply to five to eight colleges. So how do you determine which colleges should be on your list?

  • Find an academic fit. Ensure that you will be qualified for all of the schools on your short list by the time you apply by researching the minimum test scores and grade averages that the school requires.
  • Look inward and ask yourself, “What matters most to me in a college experience?” What kind of academic program are you seeking? Are you looking to stay close to home or venture out? Are you planning to pursue college-level athletics or other extracurricular interests?
  • Take a virtual tour of the college or university early on and browse through campus websites. Each school has a personality and culture beyond its statistics. The virtual tour may help you get a better idea of the school culture and spark your interest even more.
  • Think about your major and how that school can help – but be open minded in case you change your focus. It is always a good idea to select a school that covers your primary and secondary interests well. This way, if you change your major, it won’t necessarily mean changing your school as well.
  • Consider school size because it plays a huge role in campus culture, resources, student life and instruction. Whether they seem like benefits or detriments to you, a school’s size informs how easy it is to walk between classes, get to know your professors, be active in the student body and a number of other factors.
  • Visit small, medium and large campuses to figure out what size fits you best. Trying out a number of different-sized schools will give you a better sense of comparison, and help you determine what makes you feel most comfortable.
  • Think about how far away you want to be from home, and if you prefer an urban or rural college setting. Make sure that the school’s environment allows you to do your best work.
  • Look for a college that makes you excited about your future. Colleges typically have more strenuous coursework than you’ve had in high school, but a college that fits you well can make it seem like the course load isn’t so heavy.
  • Explore financial aid opportunities. Start looking into scholarships now, check out the grants and work-study opportunities that are available at each of your schools.
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What to do about the wait list

Your high school senior is feeling down after being wait-listed. What’s next?

There’s no doubt that college acceptance time can lead your student on an emotional rollercoaster. So, while being sensitive to the fact that your student may be surprised, or hurt by being wait-listed, it’s definitely time to discuss or develop a backup plan.

Choose a school

Once your student has been wait-listed, it’s time to re-evaluate the schools where your student has been accepted, and move forward with one of them. It’s important to send in the deposit, housing application and all other paperwork to ensure that your student is ready to go there in the fall. Who knows? After giving more thought to a second-choice school, and perhaps attending orientation, your student may feel as good or better about attending that “second choice” school.

Stay in touch with the wait-list school

While your student should move ahead with a school where he or she has been accepted, in order stay in the running for the wait-list school, your student needs to stay in touch. Your student should write a letter explaining specifically why he or she would like to attend the school, and share any relevant new information that may help his or her application move up on the list. It’s important that the school knows that your student is still interested in attending. A phone call from the student expressing continued interest may even be appropriate.

Move forward with plans

Once your student has expressed a continued interest in the wait-list school, the best thing to do is move forward with plans for attending the school where he or she has been accepted. Apply for financial aid as necessary, sign up for orientation, make plans for what courses to take in the fall, etc. If a spot opens up at the wait-list school, then it’s time to re-evaluate things, but there’s a lot to do to prepare for college, and it’s important not to miss any deadlines along the way.

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Four things you need to do to plan for college visits

Making college visits is a critical part of the college-planning experience. These trips take time and money, so you and your student will want to make the most out of each visit. Take some time to prepare with your student ahead of time so that you’re sure to get all the information you need when you’re on campus. Following are four things you and your student should plan to do ahead of time in order to maximize your visit.

  • Know who you want to talk to. Talk with your student and make a list of everyone you’d like to talk with while you’re on campus. The schools you visit will likely have campus tours that you can arrange to take; however, you may wish to meet individually with others, such as professors, current students, admissions officers, financial aid officers, coaches, etc. Come up with a comprehensive list of everyone you’ll need to meet with, and schedule appointments ahead of time.
  • Have questions prepared. There is a lot of information to take in during a campus visit, so work with your student to come up with a list of questions to ask each person you’re scheduled to meet with. You can find a list of helpful questions here* or sign up to get resources like this at
  • Make a parent/student plan. It’s likely that you and your student will split up and go your own ways for parts of the visit. It’s important for students to have some time on their own to take in the campus and form their own impressions. As a parent, make a plan for what you can do during this time. Check with the school to see if they have special sessions for parents making campus visits.
  • Factor in time to take in the town. As you know, there’s more to college life than just the campus. Plan for some time to take in the surrounding community and see if it’s also a fit for your student. Take a few hours to find the nearest grocery store, shopping area and movie theater. Factor in a couple extra hours to drive and walk around town together, or try out the local transit system, if that’s what your student would be using.

You and your student both want to get the most out of your campus visits, and preparing ahead of time is a great way to ensure that you will.

* This link requires Adobe software to view it. To download Adobe Reader® for free, click here.

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The five step journey to college financial aid

No matter how prepared you are, navigating the financial aid process can be a tricky experience. To help, we put together the following infographic that spells out, in five simple steps, how you can determine what financial aid you need so you can have the education you want.

Wells Fargo. Student Lending.  FIVE STEP JOURNEY TO COLLEGE FINANCIAL AID.  1.	COMPLETE THE FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).  Regardless of your family’s income everyone should complete the FAFSA. To receive federal financial aid most states and institutional aid will require FAFSA. FAFSA APPLICATION REQUIRES: Student and parent income tax returns. Earning statements. W 2 forms, recent pay stubs. Bank and investment account statements. Records of untaxed income like Social Security, contributions to a 401(k) or tax-deferred pension. 	 Obtain personal log In information to access your federal student aid information at FAFSA dot e d dot gov.  Complete the FAFSA no earlier than January 1st of the upcoming academic year.  Once you have filled out your FAFSA your school will put together a financial aid package for you.  Hash tag Get College Ready. Source for this infographic came from: www dot w f e f s dot wells fargo dot com forward slash jump forward slash Financial aid under score Journey under score 5 steps dot pdf.  Copyrighted 1999 to 2015 Wells Fargo. All rights reserved.
Wells Fargo. Student Lending.  FIVE STEP JOURNEY TO COLLEGE FINANCIAL AID.  2. ESTIMATE COLLEGE COSTS. 	 Most school websites offer a net price calculator that can give you an estimate of your total cost and your financial aid award.  Search: NET PRICE CALCULATOR.   	LOOK CLOSELY AT LIVING: 	At Home, On Campus or Off Campus.  	Your final cost may vary.  Hash tag Get College Ready. Source for this infographic came from: www dot w f e f s dot wells fargo dot com forward slash jump forward slash Financial aid under score Journey under score 5 steps dot pdf.  Copyrighted 1999 to 2015 Wells Fargo. All rights reserved.
3. DETERMINE IF YOU NEED ADDITIONAL FUNDING. 	 Review all of your award letters to determine what your actual college costs will be.  Does financial aid cover your expenses, or do you have remaining out-of-pocket expenses?   No. I don’t have additional expenses. Skip ahead to Step 5. 	Yes. I have additional expenses. Move to Step 4.  Hash tag Get College Ready. Source for this infographic came from: www dot w f e f s dot wells fargo dot com forward slash jump forward slash Financial aid under score Journey under score 5 steps dot pdf.  Copyrighted 1999 to 2015 Wells Fargo. All rights reserved.
4. EXPLORE ADDITIONAL COLLEGE FINANCING OPTIONS. 	 If you've explored grants and scholarships, but still need additional funds, here are some options for you to consider.  •	Tuition Payment Plans: Some colleges allow tuition to be paid in installments •	Federal Direct PLUS Loans: Federal loans available to parents of dependent undergraduate students •	Private or Alternative Loans: Credit based loans for higher education, as well as financing options for friends and family members of students.  Hash tag Get College Ready. Source for this infographic came from: www dot w f e f s dot wells fargo dot com forward slash jump forward slash Financial aid under score Journey under score 5 steps dot pdf.  Copyrighted 1999 to 2015 Wells Fargo. All rights reserved.
5. KNOW YOUR FINANCIAL AID DEADLINES. 	 Each school has unique deadlines for financial aid.  You can get these dates from your financial aid office.  JANUARY:  •	Complete FAFSA. •	Check Deadlines.  FEBRUARY-MARCH: •	Ask about completing the college scholarship service profile or Financial Aid form. •	Check the mail for award letters and Student Aid Report.  APRIL-AUGUST:  •	Review award letters. •	Apply for any needed additional funding. •	Send tuition deposit by deadline.   Hash tag College bound Source for this infographic came from:   www dot w f e f s dot wells fargo dot com forward slash jump forward slash Financial aid under score Journey under score 5 steps dot pdf.  Copyrighted 1999 to 2015 Wells Fargo. All rights reserved.

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What college costs and what you’ll earn

Summer looms and beyond it, the fall semester at college. Students are busy working and collecting financial aid to pay for their education and get the most out of campus life. And while every student will have a different experience, they’re all mindful of one thing: what their degree will cost them, and what they can expect to earn when they graduate.

We made the following infographic to explore both the cost and earning potential for some of the most popular degrees. Where do you fall on the spectrum?

Wells Fargo. Student Lending.  WHAT COLLEGE COSTS AND WHAT YOU’LL EARN.  Stay ahead of the game by learning the costs of college, and what you might expect to earn when you graduate.  ESTIMATED ANNUAL TOTAL COST BY DEGREE.  4-YEAR PRIVATE NONPROFIT COLLEGE.  TUITION. $31,231.  4-YEAR PUBLIC COLLEGE IN-STATE.  TUITION. $9,139.  2-YEAR PUBLIC COLLEGE IN-STATE. TUITION. $3,347.  Did you know? In 2033, the projected 4 year tuition and fees for a private school is $323,900.  Hash tag Get College Ready. Sources for this infographic came from: 1. trends dot collegeboard dot org forward slash sites forward slash default forward slash files forward slash 2014 hyphen trends hyphen college hyphen pricing hyphen final hyphen web dot pdf 2. http : // www dot saving for college dot  com. Forward slash. Tutorial 101. Forward slash. The under score real under score cost underscore of under score higher under score education dot php.   Copyrighted 1999 to 2015 Wells Fargo. All rights reserved.
Wells Fargo. Student Lending.  WHAT COLLEGE COSTS AND WHAT YOU’LL EARN.  Stay ahead of the game by learning the costs of college, and what you might expect to earn when you graduate.   AVERAGE STARTING SALARY BY MAJOR AND LEVEL OF EDUCATION. By Major:  Engineering: $62,564. Business: $55,144. Math and Sciences: $42,956. Humanities and Social Sciences: $38,045.  BY LEVEL OF EDUCATION:  BACHELORS DEGREE: $45,500. 2-YEAR DEGREE or SOME COLLEGE: $30,000. HIGH SCHOOL GRAD: $28,000.  Hash tag College bound. Source for this infographic came from:    1. n a c e web dot org forward slash uploaded Files forward slash Content forward slash static hyphen assets forward slash downloads forward slash executive hyphen summary forward slash 2014 hyphen January hyphen salary hyphen survey hyphen executive hyphen summary dot pdf. 2.  Pew social trends dot org. Forward Slash. 2014. Forward Slash. 02. Forward Slash. 11. The hyphen rising hyphen cost hyphen of hyphen not hyphen going hyphen to hyphen college.  Copyrighted 1999 to 2015 Wells Fargo. All rights reserved.
Wells Fargo. Student Lending.  WHAT COLLEGE COSTS AND WHAT YOU’LL EARN.  Stay ahead of the game by learning the costs of college, and what you might expect to earn when you graduate.  IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT THE MONEY. UNEMPLOYMENT RATE BY EDUCATION LEVEL: Bachelor’s degree or more: 3.8%.¬ 2-Year degree or some college: 8.1%. High school graduate: 12.2%.   Hash tag College bound. Source for this infographic came from:    www dot. Pew social trends dot org. Forward Slash. 2014. Forward Slash. 02. Forward Slash. 11. The hyphen rising hyphen cost hyphen of hyphen not hyphen going hyphen to hyphen college.  Copyrighted 1999 to 2015 Wells Fargo. All rights reserved.

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Informing colleges about your acceptance … or not

As stressful and time consuming as the college application process is, your decisions on where to apply are only compounded by where to attend, once the acceptance letters start arriving.

If you’re fortunate enough to receive multiple acceptance letters, you’ll need to spend some time responding to each letter, informing schools as to whether you plan to attend or not. Your responses do not have to be lengthy, but the main prerequisite for your replies should be professionalism—the same professionalism that you hope to receive from each institution and Admissions Office.

As you anxiously await hearing from your chosen schools, here are several considerations for letting colleges know if you will, or will not, be attending:

A timely response
Once your acceptance letter arrives, make certain to respond exactly as instructed by the respective school, since your “Yea” or Nay” will be time sensitive as it pertains to other applicants. Not only can a quick response directly impact your allocated slot, it can have ramifications related to available financial aid, housing, and course selection. Also, be aware of students on a given school’s waiting list. The sooner your acceptance or rejection is recorded, the sooner your incoming freshman designation can be confirmed or reassigned.

Snail mail or digital?
When considering the method of your response, err on the side of what you learned in English for writing term papers. Hard copy is often preferred, but email will suffice. Most schools enclose an acceptance confirmation form with the official letter, so use official documentation if it’s provided. Direct your response to a specific party if known, be it an individual or department. Be polite and to the point with whether you plan on attending. Regardless of whether or not you plan to attend a school, it’s always good form to show appreciation for their consideration.

Secure your spot
Accepting a school’s invitation to join the student body will require a deposit to secure your spot. If possible, wait to receive letters from all the schools you applied to before sending in your deposit. However, if you have been accepted to your back up school, while still awaiting news from (or waitlisted by) your first choice college and a deadline is approaching, lock in the sure thing by sending your deposit to your back up school. There is a possibility you may lose your deposit on the back-up school if you’re accepted to your first choice. If your first choice school selects you for admission, you will need to send in a second deposit and diplomatically inform your back up school of your decision.

Though an initial commitment and subsequent retraction to your secondary school may feel a bit awkward, universities don’t take changes of heart personally – and you shouldn’t, either.

Financial aid as a factor
Choosing the school that best fits your academic, social, and financial needs may be difficult, but make certain to consider (and reconsider) all of the applicable factors, then sign off with your “Thank you, I accept,” or “Thank you, I decline,” responses. If you are applying for grants, scholarships, federal funding, or a student loan the amount of financial aid each institution awards you may likely play a big role in your decision. All the more reason to express sincere gratitude to the institution you ultimately select.

Remember: once your acceptance letter has been received and your response confirmed, you still must successfully complete the final months of high school. Your transcript is a work in progress! Getting into college is a proud achievement in every student’s life. Enjoy the moment, and finish strong.

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Letters of recommendation for college: who, how and when to ask

As your junior year of high school winds down, it may be dawning on you: college applications are right around the corner! This may be a stressful time since your college choice lays the groundwork for the next few years. You want to take your application process seriously, and do your best to get into your chosen schools.

That’s why we’re here to help you with one of the more overlooked parts of the college application process that actually has quite an impact: your letters of recommendation. A good recommendation letter helps the admissions office see you through the eyes of a person who thinks highly of you, and may be an important aspect in their acceptance decision.

Follow these simple guidelines and rest assured that your letters of recommendation will impress the admissions office at your college of choice:

Do your homework
You read that right: you have homework even before you get to college! Before you even think about letters of recommendation, make sure you carefully read your college application requirements. Check to see when the deadline is, how many essays are required, and if there are any additional items required for that school. Look to see if they have specific requirements about recommendation letters. Be especially careful to make sure you have all the deadlines straight; applications are often due before the letters.

When it’s time for the letters, some schools identify who they want letters from and what they want to see in each letter, but not all do.

Who to ask
If your prospective school doesn’t specify who should recommend you, who you ask for the recommendation is actually pretty important – colleges want to know you’re making the right decisions. Instincts may tell you to ask your close friends and family but that isn’t really what colleges want. Also, don’t make the mistake of asking someone you barely know even though they seem like they would be an impressive recommendation.

Instead, you may want to ask a teacher, coach, boss, or other mentor in your life who can speak to your shining abilities and personality. Make sure you’ve worked closely with the person(s) you choose so they can speak directly to your passion and dedication to work – and make sure they’ve actually witnessed the abilities you’re trying to convey. This is far more impressive than a recommendation from someone with a flashier title that you don’t know as well.

How and when to ask
After you’ve picked your person or persons who will write a letter of recommendation on your behalf, make sure you give them enough time to write the actual letter. As a rule of thumb, at least a month ahead of the due date is a reasonable amount of time. You want to make sure they aren’t forced to rush so the recommendation can be well thought-out and clear.

As for the point you want to get across? Don’t be afraid to tell them!
Spend some time with the writer to cover what the college wants included in the recommendation and information about the program you’re applying to. This way, they can be sure to speak to a related topic in the letter. Jog their memory about your class participation, excellent customer service on the job, challenges you overcame, or any other notes that would improve their endorsement of you. They’ll appreciate you remembering your work together and the additional writing direction.

Other tips
Now that you’ve chosen who is going to write your letter and what they will include, there are some other tips and tricks to neatly tie up the whole process. Make it as easy as possible for your references to send their letters to your potential school by providing them with addressed and stamped envelopes. Armed with this info, all they need to do is focus on writing the best letter possible. Also, you can renounce your right to view the recommendation letter on the application form – an admission officer might trust the merit of the letter more if you haven’t seen it.

After all is said and done, don’t forget to send an equally thoughtful thank you letter to your references. You want to make sure they know you appreciate their time and their kind words because it could be an important factor in your college acceptance.

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Getting a handle on acceptance paperwork

Once your high school senior has been accepted to college, it’s time to tackle the paperwork together. Every school is different in regard to what paperwork they require, so it’s important to pay attention to any communication from your senior’s new school about needs and the upcoming deadlines to be met.

In order to keep things rolling, work with your student to create a list of paperwork to be completed and its due date. Following are a few examples of paperwork that you may need to complete:

Deposit for admission. Upon accepting an offer from a college, you or your student may need to send in a deposit in order to hold your student’s place.

Housing application. In order to get the housing your student prefers, you’ll want encourage them to get this application completed as soon as possible after accepting the school’s offer.

Orientation registration. Take a look at your family’s summer schedule and have your student get registered for orientation as soon as possible to secure the spot that best works for your family.

Financial aid. If you and /or your student will be borrowing funds for college, it’s important to apply for financing as soon as possible. Check to see what your school has offered on their award letter and apply for any loans needed to cover your student’s costs.

Work-Study selection. If your student will be taking on a Work-Study job to help pay for college, work with the financial aid office to find what positions are available, and have your student apply as soon as possible.

Your school may have different—or additional—paperwork to complete so reach out to the college admissions office if you and your student have any questions about getting ready for the fall.

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Creating a support network for your college student

Students on their way to college may need a lot of support. As parents, you’re always there to help, but students can also benefit from the insights and encouragement offered by other adults in their lives.

You can help your student to build that much-needed support network by encouraging them to form relationships with mentors, talk with their school counselor and connect with teachers, coaches and family members who support their dream of going to college and starting a career.

Where to find a mentor?

As your student begins the path toward college, if there are questions you can’t answer, work with your student to seek out another trusted adult who can help provide the information. Do you have a friend, family member or colleague who may be able to provide information about a college or a specific career path? Encourage your student to talk with them.

In addition to your personal connections, perhaps your school or community offers a mentoring program. Building relationships with adults in such programs who have forged an education or career path that aligns with your student’s interests can offer a valuable roadmap and source of information.

What does a support network offer?

Getting advice about college and answers to their questions is just one advantage to having a strong support network. Another key element is having adults who will listen to their ideas about college and support their drive to get an education.   Simply getting that encouragement and “cheerleading” from adults in their lives can prove invaluable to students as they face the challenge of getting into college and completing their degree.

Encourage your student to talk with the adults in his or her life who support that dream, whether it’s a coach, teacher, youth leader, employer, or someone else in your community.

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Getting smart about award letters

At this time of year, your senior is probably anxiously awaiting award letters from the schools he or she applied to. While receiving an award letter is exciting, it’s important that to understand how to read and interpret these awards.

Award letters may all present the information a little differently, but the key fact you and your student want to find out is how much you may need to borrow to cover your costs. The “Expected Family Contribution” may only be part of that figure.

When schools list your student’s financial aid package, they may include student loans as part of the aid they’re awarding. But remember, that student loans have to be repaid. Look closely at how much of the award package is made up of student loans and how much is made up of aid that doesn’t have to be repaid (grants and scholarships, typically). One school may award more aid that doesn’t need to be repaid, and less in student loans that do have to be repaid. Keep a careful eye on those figures. If you’re not sure whether an award is a loan, grant or scholarship, contact the school’s financial aid office to clarify.

When comparing award letters, there are four main things you’ll want to understand:

  • How much of the aid awarded is money that doesn’t have to be repaid? This type of aid is usually in the form of grants and scholarships. (A student may need to pay back all or part of a grant if they withdraw from school before finishing an enrollment period, but does not need to repay the grant if the student completes the enrollment period as planned).
  • How much of the aid awarded is in the form of loans? This money will need to be repaid, with interest.
  • After tallying the total financial aid package (including all grants, scholarships and loans), how much is your family expected to pay? This is sometimes listed as Expected Family Contribution.
  • What are the total expenses for college? This should include tuition, room and board, books, fees, and personal expenses.

Once you know these things, you can use this simple equation:

Total expenses

– Scholarships and grants

Total amount your student needs to borrow, work to earn, or get from your family contribution

Using this simple math, you can more clearly compare your award letters by looking at how much you’ll need to borrow to attend each school. Make sure to only borrow what you absolutely need. Remember to contact your school’s financial aid office with any questions you may have about your award letter.

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