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.

Changing Traditions

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Last  week it was my birthday and in the past I would never put up Christmas Decorations before my birthday. I am the type of person who likes to do one celebration as a time. However, this year I decided to be different and I started a few days before. Why? It’s simple. Our family is changing and  I want to really enjoy the moments of this Christmas.

Four years ago, my son went off to college. I don’t think I realized the impact on Family traditions fully until this year. There has been a slow transition to doing holiday traditions without him. The first year we managed to get it all in. He was here Thanksgiving. Followed a few weeks later by a trip home for Christmas, which was just in time to do the traditional Santa picture and to decorate the tree. During year two, the Santa picture didn’t happen and year three helping with the Christmas tree was abandoned. The last holdout was Thanksgiving, which for many is the first holiday to go. His actual presence was replaced with a laptop and dinner conversation via Skype.

My son replaced our family traditions with spending time with his friends. He now realizes that the time that you spend with friends is not limitless. When he comes home he juggles seeing us with seeing old friends, who all have the same challenge. I feel very fortunate that he has been able to stay in touch with the friends that mean so much to him especially due to technology like Facebook and Skype. However, there is this small longing for the past.

So this Christmas, I will truly cherish my son’s presence and soak it all in.  My son continues to mature and make his own place in the world. My other son will follow, and my daughter after that. So I will truly enjoy having all three of my children with me this year. I will take out the time from this hectic holiday to soak in who they are at this moment. It is amazing to me how they grow and change from year to year developing different interests. I encourage them to explore different things, stay true to themselves, and enjoy life.  For I know one day, Christmas itself will be a holiday that we won’t spend together and they will be creating new traditions of their own.