Common Mistake Middle Class Families Make is Not Applying For Financial Aid

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A few weeks ago my son who is a senior in high school came home and told me that he was asked by a counselor at his school whether he needed to apply for scholarships to attend college. Even though I have discussed with him the need to apply for scholarships, I was shocked by his sincere questioning of me as to whether he needed to do so. I have been very upfront with each of my children upon entering high school  that they are going to need to contribute to their college education. It is a conversation I urge each family to have with their high school student no matter what your financial circumstances. Many times there is a disconnect between what parents are willing or able to pay and what students think their parents will pay.

We don’t have that big college fund set aside capable of sending each our children to colleges with the price tags of  $50,000 per year per student once you take all expenses into account. In the past 15 years.we have started two businesses, had a downturn in the economy, been raising teenagers, sending our first child through college, and been saving for retirement. That has severely affected our capacity to set aside enough funds. Even if we did have the funds, I think it is important for students to take some personal responsibility for their college education and contribute.

I encourage all middle class families to apply for financial aid and not base the colleges that students apply to on the initial sticker price. There are scholarships available that are not based on financial need. Scholarships can be based on strong academics, community service, sports participation, area of study, etc. Why should you pay money for college that you don’t have to?  Furthermore, financial need is viewed differently by each college, especially private colleges. Things other than your income such as multiple students attending college,  parents attending college,  caring for an elderly parent, and having large medical expenses are things that colleges may consider when determining whether you  have financial need.

Pass this information along!

Note: To all high school seniors and current college students, The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) – fafsa.ed.gov –  for this upcoming fall is now available. Check with the colleges you are applying to or currently attend, it is usually a required step in applying for financial aid and you don’t want to miss any deadlines!

Pathways 4 Teens offers events on “How to Search Effectively for Scholarships” and “The True Cost of College and How to Pay for It”. Contact miriam@pathways4teen.com or go to our website http://www.pathways4teens.com for more information.

Why Grades of Athletes Can Go Down in Off Season?

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It is getting cooler and the seasons are changing from fall to winter so students are also transitioning in the activities that they do. My son plays football which everyone knows is an intense sport. What I have noticed with him, as well as with many of the student athletes that I have spoken to, is a drop in academic grades after the season is over.

Why? This seems to go against logic because they have more time on their hands. However, I believe this is exactly the problem, too much time. Too much time can lead to procrastination. You have the illusion of lots of time so you start to waste it on tasks such as video games, social media, etc., instead of getting homework done. Hence, the off season for athletes is when time management can be most challenging.

So what are students and parents to do? First, recognize what is happening and take proactive measures to change the situation. This is the perfect time to explore other interests. All athletes are just one injury away from no longer being able to do the sport that they love. Many times with the intensity of sports, athletes wrap their whole identity around their participation in sports. I have spoken to many athletes at the end of the senior year of high school who have no idea what their other interests are, not to mention what they want their college major to be.  It is important for athletes to take time out to try other things and discover the whole of who they are. Fill the extra time with exploration. Join a club or take a class in computer programming, art, or cooking. Taking as little as a few hours out of your week to explore something new, can help introduce a student to a life long passion and start them on the way to discovering who they are.

Side Bar: My intention is to do this blog weekly. However, we have been expanding our services to groups including sports teams, youth groups, and scout troops. Therefore, time has been at a premium. Check out our new group services, at http://pathways4teens.com/-Take_The_Time_Together.html . Plus come back and read our blog next week!

Growth Happens At Different Rates

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As I took my morning walk, I saw all the winter grass that was starting to grow (Arizona’s sign of fall). When I take a picture, I am reminded that growth happens at different rates.

Students just like the grass grow at different rates. Unfortunately, the standardized tests that our students take don’t take this into account. They are just a snapshot in time.

The best use of standardized tests is to highlight the strengths and weaknesses in the areas tested. Unfortunately, they have become used to pass judgement on who is “smart” and to place labels on our students.

Especially with standardized tests taken prior to senior year in high school, there are so many reasons that a student might not test well. Simple things like the material not being covered in any of the student’s classes, or that they didn’t have enough sleep. Sometimes, especially with writing assessments, it may be a matter of maturity and the ability to do well with subject matter that doesn’t interest you.

Over the next few weeks, students in my community will take national tests such as the Explore, PSAT, ACT,and SAT. I would like to say that a student’s worth is not reflected in their test score. It is just a snapshot in time of where the student currently is in that particular subject. It does not say definitely where they will be years (or even months) from now.

Use the information that you gather from the tests cautiously. Put the scores in perspective whether the scores are good or bad. Furthermore, don’t stereotype students and allow them to continue to grow.

“No Palm Trees”

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Fall is the perfect time to visit colleges. As seniors make their final decisions on what colleges to apply to, I am reminded of the importance of location when selecting colleges.

When speaking with one high school student, she had made a determination to not go to a school that had palm trees. The parents were really frustrated because many top schools in the academic field she had chosen had palm trees. Hence, the parents thought that this was a random criteria to base a decision on.

However, let’s approach this in a different way. Everybody has an environment that gives them a sense of inner peace and that special feeling of calm. From a relaxing beach, to a serene forest, to a bustling city, only you can determine the perfect place for you. I believe the college you choose should give you that special feeling,

For the vast majority of students, college is the first time that they will be living on their own. Freshman year is a big transition, and being in an environment that makes you feel comfortable can help reduce stress.

There are thousands of colleges to chose from in almost any environment imaginable. More important that the ranking of the school is the ability for the student to adjust to being on their own, and to take advantage of every opportunity that the college has to offer.

So, if you are a senior, consider the location in your college search. If you think about it, this may be the one time in your life that you can take just your feelings into account. Later there may be grad school, job, and possibly the opinion of a partner to consider.

If you are in middle school through high school, students should travel and experience different environments. Only by exploring can you determine just the right environment for you.