Well, I don't know about you, but it sure seems like the days go by faster and faster. My children are growing up so quickly. Where has the time gone? Even so, until recently, I can't say that I have given too much thought about college, including the financial end of it.
I mean, my kids are only in the elementary grades, so there's no rush, right?
I was about to discover that it's never too early to begin planning for my children's future. That realization washed over me with my introduction to College Common Sense . I was given Going to College and Paying For it Online Video and Workbook created by Financial Aid Consultant Denise Ames. This program helps students and parents wade through and understand the myriad of financial information pertaining to the whole process of choosing and paying for college. But that's only the beginning. She then presents a detailed plan for seeking out scholarships and grants to save you money.
I'll be honest with you. I did not begin this review with the highest level of enthusiasm. I figured that this would be a pretty dry subject, and I would just have to get through it. I was wrong, and I was surprised to find myself engaged and interested very early on. So if that's your mindset right now, stay with me, and perhaps you'll see that happen for yourself as well.
I began by downloading and looking over the workbook. It is divided up into the following sections:
* The Big Picture
* How Financial Aid Works
* All About The Free Money
* The System That Works
* You in the Process
* Pull It All Together
I proceeded to watch the videos, and they follow the workbook almost word for word. I liked that, because there is a LOT of information, and I didn't feel like I had to furiously scribble out notes, as I knew that I could review later as necessary.
Denise begins with an overview of the process, starting with the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). And the process begins with your student knowing what is his/her goal for the future. What is the desired career path? Where is she/he headed in life? This is so important to have planned out, especially where this program is concerned, because it determines how to help finance the college years ie.- what scholarships to seek out and apply for.
She then goes into detail about all of the financial aspects of attending a specific college, pointing out that the tuition is not the same as the cost of attending. She stresses that it's very important not to settle for a college based on price, because once ALL costs have been factored in, and then taking into account what financial help will be available, it may actually cost less to attend a higher tuition college.
And, you have to decide what a college is worth in its price for you to attend there.
Denise talks at length about financial aid, the importance of being diligent and securing it very early on, and how different schools go about dispersing money.
Then comes the legwork. Time to learn how to go about finding, applying for, and keeping track of all of the information surrounding potential scholarships and grants. After explaining the various types that exist, she offers tips on sifting through the many, many ones out there, and target those that fit you best.
Now, with the large amount of scholarships out there, it would be wise to have some kind of system to help keep track of all of the Who, What, Where, types of information, and here is where a 3 ring binder comes in handy. Denise shows you how to prepare and organize such a binder to make it your college/financial aid one stop shop, if you will. She'll explain how to actively use this in your search for free money, and what steps to take, and when.
In addition to the binder, you'll create a journal of sorts with a simple spiral notebook. This will be for your personal use only. It's to be a space to write out your dreams for the future, interests, community service projects, ideas, whatever. The thought process behind this is to figure out who you are, who you want to be, what you want your future to look like, etc.
There is so much information presented in these online videos, and I found them to be worthwhile. When I received these PDF's and access to the video's, I was also signed up for the website's newsletter, and free lesson plans. These have been an added bonus for us, as they provide good weekly ideas to begin preparing for the college search, which will be here before I know it.
Ideas are presented for high school, middle school, and elementary students. They may be as simple as exploring a new interest, learning a new root word for the week, or taking timed tests.
While at first glance these may seem inconsequential, they are small things that help develop skills and abilities which may be helpful in preparing for a college career.
And don't forget about the website. There are many links to resources to help in your scholarship search. I recommend you take a few minutes to visit it and start preparing now.
College Common Sense
Going to College and Paying for it Online Video and Workbook
Price: $25.00 for 12 month log in access
They also offer a DVD and workbook for $50.00 (+$5.00 shipping and handling) if you prefer a physical copy
Ages: any age, although I think highschoolers in particular will find this beneficial
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