COLLEGE COUNTDOWN

See how you’re doing: review Are you on the right track for college?

If you’ve seriously begun to think about college, you’ve probably realized there’s more involved than you had originally thought. Let’s see…first you need to make sure you are on a college preparatory track by taking the right courses, and of course, you will need to do well in those courses. Then, not only do you need to take the PSAT, the SAT, and possibly the SAT II, but you will need to properly prepare for these tests. Unless you know exactly what you want to do, where you want to go to school, and unless you’re one of the very few people who can pay for college without financial assistance, you’ve got a lot of research to do! There’s a great deal of information out there, so you’ll need plenty of time to sift through all of it. Once you’ve got all of that figured out and are ready to apply and head off to college, you’re going to need to learn the necessary study skills to succeed in college. College is an entirely different ball game, and most likely the methods you use to study in high school, like studying for a test the night in advance, are not going to work in college. Think you’re done? Not so fast. Somewhere in the middle of all this you’ve got to find time to get involved in clubs, sports and/or volunteer activities so your college application(s) will reveal a well-rounded and appealing student to college admissions offices.

Wondering how you’re going to accomplish all of this in just three to four years? You already know the answer. It’s one of the things we stress most: TIME MANAGEMENT! Get yourself organized, write down deadlines, make a plan and follow it. We’ll provide as much assistance and support as we can throughout the process, but the bottom line is that if you don’t do it, it won’t get done. And if you need a little push, review your goals: where are you heading?


FINANCIAL AID

Financial aid can help many families meet college costs. Every year, millions of students apply for and receive financial aid. In fact, almost half of all students who go on for more education after high school receive financial aid of some kind. There are three main types of financial assistance available to qualified students at the college level: Grants and Scholarships, Loans, and Work-Study.

Grants and Scholarships
Grants and scholarships provide aid that does not have to be repaid. However, some require that recipients maintain certain grade levels or take certain courses.

Loans
Loans are another type of financial aid and are available to both students and parents. Like a car loan or a mortgage for a house, an education loan must eventually be repaid. Often, payments do not begin until the student finishes school, and the interest rate on education loans is commonly lower than for other types of loans. For students with no established credit record, it is usually easier to get student loans than other kinds of loans.
There are many different kinds of education loans. Before taking out any loan, be sure to ask the following kinds of questions:

What are the exact provisions of the loan?
What is the interest rate?
Exactly how much has to be paid in interest?
What will the monthly payments be?
When will the monthly payments begin?
How long will the monthly payments last?
What happens if you miss one of the monthly payments?
Is there a grace period for paying back the loan?

In all cases, a loan taken to pay for a college education must be repaid, whether or not a student finishes school or gets a job after graduation. Failure to repay a student loan can ruin a person’s credit rating and make finances much more difficult in the future. This is an important reason to consider a college’s graduation and job placement rates when you choose a school.

Work-Study Programs
Many students work during the summer and/or part time during the school year to help pay for college. Although many obtain jobs on their own, many colleges also offer work-study programs to their students. A work-study job is often part of a student’s financial aid package. The jobs are usually on campus and the money earned is used to pay for tuition or other college charges.

The types of financial aid discussed above can be merit-based, need-based, or a combination of merit-based and need-based.

Merit-based Financial Aid
Merit-based assistance, usually in the form of scholarships or grants, is given to students who meet requirements not related to financial needs. For example, a merit scholarship may be given to a student who has done well in high school or one who displays artistic or athletic talent. Most merit-based aid is awarded on the basis or academic performance or potential.

Need-based Financial Aid
Need-based means that the amount of aid a student can receive depends on the cost of the college and on his or her family’s ability to pay these costs. Most financial aid is need-based and is available to qualified students.


STUDENT AID WEBSITES (need updating)

  • Federal Student Aid (FSA): Federal student financial aid information (includes texts of some publications) from the U.S. Department of Education
  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): Apply on the Web and/or look up federal school codes
  • Internal Revenue Service: Hope and Lifetime Learning tax credits
  • American Council on Education
  • Mapping Your Future: For general information about scholarships, financial aid, planning a career, selecting a school, paying for school, and chat nights
  • National Center for Education Statistics: Search for a school by name, location, program, degree offerings, or a combination of criteria
  • Free scholarship search services: …
  • College Board.com: Get help planning & applying for college, find financial aid and get information on the SAT and other tests
  • ACT: Information on the ACT
  • Department of Education: Calculate loan repayments
  • Student Gateway to the U.S. Government: A student gateway that provides answers to questions on education, career, government and more.


STANDARDIZED TESTS

PSAT/NMSQT
PSAT/NMSQT stands for Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. This standardized test, most commonly referred to simply as the PSAT, gives students firsthand practice for the SAT I and the SAT II. It also gives students a chance to enter scholarship programs offered by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC). The PSAT measures a student’s verbal reasoning skills, critical reading skills, math problem-solving skills, and writing skills. Some of the most common reasons that students take the PSAT are to enter the competition for scholarships offered by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, to help prepare for the SAT I and SAT II, to receive information from colleges, and to receive feedback on their strengths and weaknesses on skills necessary for college. While many students initially take this test in their sophomore year of high school, the PSAT is a junior-level test. Students are encouraged to take the PSAT their junior year.

SAT I
The SAT I tests verbal and mathematical reasoning skills that students have developed and the skills needed to be academically successful. Most colleges and universities use the SAT I as one indicator of a student’s ability to do well at the college-level. Schools compare a student’s SAT scores with the scores of other applicants, and the accepted scores for their institution. The awarding of some merit-based financial aid can be based on SAT scores. The SAT covers critical reading, sentence completion, analogies, arithmetic, algebra and functions, geometry and measurement, and data analysis, statistics, and probability. The math and verbal sections of the SAT are scored on a scale of 200-800. The SAT I should be taken by high school juniors and seniors. We recommend that students take the SAT at least twice; in the spring of their junior year, and again in the fall of their senior year. Colleges and universities will accept your highest scores, so if you take the SAT a second time and do worse than you did your first try, it won’t hurt you. All UBMS juniors and seniors are allotted two SAT I fee waivers—take advantage of them! Our program also works in conjunction with MBNA, which offers an SAT Prep course for Delaware residents that meet eligibility criteria.

SAT II
The SAT II is a specific subject test that takes about an hour, and is comprised mostly by multiple-choice questions. This test measures how much students know about a single subject and how well they can apply that knowledge. There are twenty-two different subject tests, which run from Writing and Literature to World History, Spanish Reading, and Physics. Depending on the college or university, the SAT II test may be required or recommended. In conjunction with other information, the SAT II is considered to be a dependable measure of current and future scholastic achievement. All UBMS juniors and seniors are allotted two SAT II fee waivers.
For more information on these tests, go to: collegeboard.com

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