When Do I Start Planning For College?

  1. When you are 12, you should have a pretty good idea of your favorite sport, hobby or skill. Whether it is music or sports, or an interesting hobby, it is a good idea to start developing strong skills in them now. When you are a senior in high school, and applying for college, the admissions office will be very interested in your extra curricular activities. These can be skills in school related events, or outside of school.
  2. When you are in the 7th and 8th grades, it is time to take your studying seriously. Develop good study habits now, because your grades in 9th through 12th grades will be very important. You will find that if you pay attention in class and take good notes, most teachers tell you exactly what they will ask in tests. (Your CU President didnít realize this until she was in college!) If there are accelerated classes for math and English, take them instead of the regular classes. You will find they aren't much more difficult, they just focus better toward college requirements and testing.
  3. Be sure you take all the accelerated classes you can throughout your 9th through 12th grades. The college admission offices place a lot of weight on them. Most high schools count an A for 5 points in an accelerated class, so if you earn a B in an accelerated class, it earns 4 points--the same as an A in a regular class.
  4. When you are in 9th or 10th grade, get the Barron's Profiles of American Colleges. It is a large catalog that gives you a wealth of information about over 1,650 colleges and universities, how to contact them, how they rank with other colleges, their emphasis on certain curriculums, and the size of their scholarship endowments. Other information includes Understanding College Entrance Examinations, Choosing a Major, and How To Market Yourself on College Applications. A copy is kept in our Credit Union. Itís exciting to read about all the possibilities open to YOU!
  5. If you want to try for the more selective colleges, you need to start applying during the summer after the 11th grade. They each charge an application fee, so save your money for it because we encourage you to try for several. These colleges get far more applications than they can accept from excellent students, but they are always looking for a particular student from a particular state with a particular skill. You may be that person! They will put together an excellent financial aid package for you if they select you. Always include one or two good state universities that offer open enrollment to fall back on. Use the Barron's Guide to get their addresses, and they will send you their enrollment packets.
  6. If you graduate from high school in the spring of 2005, then your earnings and your parents' earnings for 2004 will be the ones used for determining financial aid. Summer jobs are great, but your CU President discourages high school students from having jobs during the school year. We hope you will be a 'kid' a little longer, as you will grow up soon enough. Your job is your school work and the skills you are developing. Sometimes when you have a job, then you need a car, and it has a negative effect on your school work. Also, many times, the financial aid process expects you to spend 70% of your earnings toward tuition costs. Your parents' income should be the deciding factor for financial aid.
  7. During your senior year, you may need to have most of your College applications sent to the colleges by the end of December. However, you can't send your Federal Financial Aid form to the national processing center until after January 1st. Your parents will need to have their income taxes prepared before they will be able to complete the FAF. You may list several colleges of your interest on the FAF, and they will send the results to all of them. Be sure your parents don't overstate their assets, but to just give an honest and fair market value of them.
  8. Each of the colleges use the results of the FAF to tell you, upon acceptance, what your financial aid package will be with them (scholarships, grants, Stafford and Perkins student loans, and work study) They will each tell you a different amount, and here is where the scholarship endowment fund of the larger private colleges can be helpful.
  9. In most cases, the college will tell your family that they feel you can afford to pay several thousand dollars a year, and the college will make up the rest in the financial aid package they offer. However, your family may not be able to pay that much. Be sure you then inquire from the financial aid office of that college how to apply for an Unsubsidized Stafford or Parent Plus loan for the rest of it. Our Credit Union funds several of the types of student loans and you may list us as your lender. If you are offered work study, you are encouraged to accept it, as it shows you are serious about attending that school. Whether your work is in the library or the cafeteria, they will structure it to work around your schedule.
  10. Please call with your questions. We'd be happy to talk to you and help in any way we can. If we canít answer your questions, we will do our best to direct you to the people who can answer them. Failure to plan means planning to fail. You might change your plans several times, but start making plans today. We wish you the best for an excellent career in life!

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United Methodist First Choice Federal Credit Union

Office Hours: 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM Mountain Standard Time, Monday through Friday
Tel: (605) 348-5753 or toll free 1-800-658-3950
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