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Financial Aid & How to Make the High-School-to-College Transition a Good One
This month we focus most of our attention toward financial aid. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (fafsa.ed.gov) is available for senior students and should be completed by families who are interested in state, federal, institutional aid and outside scholarships. The priority deadline for the FAFSA is March 2nd and it is strongly advised that families complete the form by this date. I receive many questions related to the importance of filing the FAFSA, as it is a common misperception that if a family makes any sort of money it isn’t worth their time to file the form. This simply is not true. Even if a families’ income and assets are too much to qualify for federal or state aid, many scholarships require the FAFSA for consideration of an award. It is always a good idea to complete the form. For those of you who are sophomores and juniors, I know this might feel a long way off for you, but it is never too early to begin educating yourself on the college financial aid process. It is a definitely a learning process, and before you know it, you will be filing the FAFSA too! For a bit more guidance on the financial aid process, please take a moment to read a few very helpful articles from the NY Times The Choice Blog written by Mark Kantrowitz, financial aid expert and founder of finaid.org and fastweb. As always, for more information on how CLC College Prep Services can help assist you with the financial aid process (including scholarship search assistance), please contact us!
FINANCIAL AID ARTICLES
“Letting Go”... How to Help Your Child Successfully Transition to College
I recently attended a senior parent meeting at a local school in my community. The night was focused toward answering questions and offering guidance for parents who are in the process of preparing to “let go” of their college bound student. I was reminded of what a difficult process this can be for so many families. As parents, we want to hold our children close and protect them with every part of who we are. It can feel very scary to let your child take a step of independence, especially in a graceful manner. I talk to many parents who feel extra tension between their child in the senior year, and I think this is, first of all, completely normal, and secondly, related in large part to the vast array of emotions that both parent and child feel throughout the last year of high school. Regardless of your outlook on sending your child off to college, you will inevitably still experience a wild rollercoaster of emotions as you walk with your child through their last year of high school. Just think, over the course of the senior year, you and your child experience excitement for the next chapter, frustration and stress over applying to college, suspense as your child waits on those acceptance letters, agony over how you will pay for college, sadness as your child prepares to leave home (sometimes jubilee), feeling like every event, trip and family activity is the last one of its kind before your child is gone, and celebration of a marvelous accomplishment in completing a high school degree. I could on and on. If you mix these emotions with the various activities, projects, trips and school work that a child is consumed with in their senior year, it can be a bit emotional for all involved, and rightly so! I don’t think the process of sending a child off to college will ever become easy, but I do have a few tips to help make the process a bit more enjoyable and the transition a little easier.
First of all, give your child some independence and slowly prepare them for life beyond your nest. The tendency can be to tighten down on students as they approach the end of their high school career, but in reality, this is a great time to allow them to spread their wings a bit and try out life beyond mom and dad in a protected environment. For example, stretch curfew a few hours, give your child a credit/debit card to begin their practice of managing funds or let your child take a weekend trip with friends. They will learn from these experiences and appreciate your trust.
Secondly, don’t be offended if your child doesn’t seem as sad to leave home as you are for them. This is normal. For most kids, the thought of starting a new life at college is extremely exciting and invigorating. Although it may not seem like it, trust me, they are feeling some sad emotions about leaving home, but they just may not know how to express them. Don’t pressure your child to show you feelings that he or she may not have the capacity for at the time. Be excited with them and remind them of how much you love them through the process. They will appreciate you for this in the long-run.
Third, talk about what the first semester of college will look like. It’s okay to go ahead and discuss expectations up front. Do you want to talk to your child on the phone once a week? Is it important that they come home to visit on a particular holiday? Do you want to visit your child on campus in October? Talk about these things. It will help you avoid disappointment when your child calls home and informs you that he won’t be making family Thanksgiving this year due to the big football game on campus. Furthermore, talk about expectations you have for your child’s college grades. If they understand what you expect of them academically, they will likely have a better balance of the social life opportunities that come their way.
Fourth, don’t be shocked if your child has a very difficult adjustment to the first semester of college. Many parents are surprised to hear that their child is homesick or unhappy on campus, especially in the first couple of months of college. Rest assured, this is completely normal. Many kids have a harder time transitioning to campus life than they (or parents) expect. Let your child experience homesickness. Encourage them to stick it out for the full semester, to get involved and do as many campus activities as they can, and to not come home every single weekend of the semester. The college transition is a long process; it takes time to meet friends, find your niche on campus, and adjust to a new way of life. You will do your child a disservice if you run to their rescue without first encouraging them toward some independence. Assure them that you are available and love them deeply, but don’t rescue them! This is all part of the process. If by the end of their first year in college they haven’t found a group of friends or aren’t involved with something on campus, re-evaluate at that time.
Fifth, enjoy every moment of the senior year but don’t put too much pressure on yourself or your child to make it larger-than-life. Let the senior year happen naturally. Don’t force events and happenings to be more memorable than they naturally are. Enjoy the time with your child while they are still under your roof; plan special activities together, enjoy family time, celebrate important events but don’t put undue pressure on yourself to make every gathering or event particularly special because it’s your “last one”. This will become claustrophobic for your child and can create more anxiety than is actually necessary. Just enjoy your child and his last year in high school and he will do the same.
Calli Christenson Founder/Director CLC College Prep Services