Tag: college planning

Developing & Maintaining Good Study Habits

Developing & Maintaining Good Study Habits

Good study habits are essential for college success. It’s expected, that by the time you reach college, you will know how to budget your time and study effectively. The best time to develop and perfect your study skills is through middle and high school. Establishing a routine will ensure all assignments and projects are complete and that you do well on exams.

Having an after school routine will guarantee that your homework gets done in a timely fashion. Often, students put off homework until right before bed, then find that they’re either too tired to complete everything assigned. When you get home from school, it’s ok to take 20-30 minutes to unwind from the school day, grab a quick snack, and get yourself organized to begin your homework. Here are 5 tips for developing good study habits:

  1. Use a planner, calendar, or app such as myHomework to record all of your assignments. For longer term assignments, break them down into smaller, more manageable parts, create your own due dates for each section leading up to the final project due date.
  2. Do your homework as soon as you get home from school or no longer than 30 minutes after you get home. This will give you more time in case a particular assignment takes you longer than you expected and keep momentum going.
  3. Make sure your basic needs are met to help you focus. Hungry? Grab a snack! Anxious? Try listening to some music or doing yoga/meditation. Tired? Take a short nap – 30 minutes max!
  4. Budget an allotted amount of time for each subject, adjust the time if needed. For example, if you budget 15 minutes for math but you find that it always takes you 45 minutes, perhaps determining why there is a discrepancy in time budgeted versus actual may be something to look at. Are you distracted? Did you underestimated your the time needed? Do you understand the work that you need to complete? Be sure to schedule breaks if you know you’ll be working for longer than usual.
  5. Minimize distractions. Study in a quiet place and put your phone away or turn it off if you are tempted to check when you here the alerts. If you must have your phone, block your notifications and only allow yourself to use only the apps that help you study!

Here is a list of useful organization and studying applications.


The Truth about Grandparent-owned 529 College Savings Plans and College Aid

By Troy Onink, Forbes Magazine Contributing Writer

Many grandparents save for their grandchild’s college education using 529 college savings plans for good reason, but there is confusion about whether or not it will hurt the grandchild’s eligibility for college financial aid. The answer is that it depends, but even if it does it may not have a big impact.

529 college saving838453_13385167s plans are a type of account that can be used to save for college and have any earnings on the investment in the plan come out tax-free to pay for qualified college expenses. The federal financial aid rules say that if a 529 plan is owned by the student or the student’s parent(s), any distributions from the plan will not be counted as income for calculating need-based college aid eligibility. That is good.

The rule doesn’t apply to grandparent-owned 529 plans, however, so any distributions from the grandparent-owned 529 do get counted as untaxed income to the grandchild on the financial aid forms filed the following year. The following year the full amount of the distribution, say $10,000 as an example, is counted as untaxed income to the grandchild (college student).

In the aid formula, however, the grandchild gets an income protection allowance of $6,310 (for 2015). Assuming the grandchild has no other income, the $10,000 will be reduced the IPA of $6,310 and the student’s net available income will be $3,690, and be counted at 50%, generating a student contribution from the $10,000 distribution of $1,845. So the net result, if in fact the student was otherwise eligible for need-based aid, is that the $10,000 distribution from the grandparents only impacted aid eligibility by $1,845 the following year.

If the student was already not eligible for need-based college aid due to family finances and choice of college, then the impact on aid eligibility is $0.

529 plan accounts owned by the student or parent will be counted as an asset and assessed at a rate of up to 5.64% (parent) and 5.64% (student) only on the FAFSA aid form. On the CSS Profile, the asset is assessed at 5% (parent) and 25% (student), but grandparent-owned 529 accounts do not get assessed as an asset.

Furthermore, you save in 529 plans to PAY FOR COLLEGE. To get the tax-free distribution you have to use the funds to pay for qualified college expenses. So get the tax-free growth and use it for what it is intended.

Troy Onink is the CEO of Stratagee, a college planning consulting firm that helps parents determine their best strategy to pay for college.

Tips to being a smart college shopper.

Be a Smart College Shopper:

  1. Don’t overbuy your college tuition.
  2. Know that a low tuition doesn’t mean a low quality of education.
  3. Don’t buy solely based on a brand name or random statistics.
  4. Avoid “impulse buying” – geography, alma mater, etc.
  5. Avoid “dumb shopping” – buying based on name of university and not based on the program. Some unknown colleges/universities can have some incredible programs.
  6. Avoid admission myopia – concerned only with getting into a college but not as concerned as getting out. How long will it take you? How will you handle work?
  7. Know what true 4 year cost of college is. You need to know the all-in costs – tuition AND fees, room and board, miscellaneous expenses, travel costs, etc.
  8. Make sure to do some comparison shopping.
  9. Avoid depending solely on college-wide stats.
  10. Ignore college rankings and don’t rely on college guides – conflict of interest.
  11. Be extra careful when pursuing community college option as a way to save money. Sure they can be a great option but just make sure you’re getting what you want.
  12. Know what your community college can do for you.
  13. Stay involved AFTER you’ve made your purchase. Parents need to stay involved.
  14. Find value by focusing on elements of learning.
  15. Find a professional college planner.


Make your holiday break count.

| Make your holiday break count |

Staying up late, sleeping in, resting, regrouping, and relaxing are probably on every student’s to-do list.  A break from school, whether it be high school or college, is a great respite. By all means, enjoy the time off but once you have been able to sleep in and recover from final exams, what else will you do over the break?

Consider volunteering. Winter break is a great time to volunteer in your community and allows you a chance to give back. Start a quick on-line search and you will find many organizations in your area that will be glad to have your help – homeless shelters, food pantries, churches, nursing homes, retirement homes, hospitals, animal shelters. This doesn’t need to be a huge commitment as many of them have quick drop-in hours and they’d be glad to accommodate you. They will take any help you’d be willing to give. Grab a few friends and head over to help.

Organize a food drive/clothing drive/shoe drive/personal products/ or book drive. From the comfort of your own home, create a quick Facebook page or Twitter page asking friends and neighbors to consider donating. Make it easy on everyone, and ask them to leave items on the porch or in the garage and go pick up immediately. Load up your car or truck and contact a shelter or Goodwill or a church in your community to see how your donation can make a difference.

Create a neighborhood Christmas carol group. Go on-line and find the lyrics to common holiday songs, practice before you head out with your friends. Stop by neighborhood houses and sing to your heart’s content. Make it clear that you are not collecting donations but rather doing it just to spread good holiday spirit.

Try a few random acts of kindness. These don’t need to be big ideas just something simple that will make the recipient stop and smile. Things like letting a person cut you in line, buying a stranger in line their coffee or lunch, leaving a well-loved book somewhere for someone else to pick up, putting a sticky note up on a public bathroom mirror with a comment like “you are beautiful”, taking chalk and writing an inspirational message for someone to read, sending someone a card “just because”.  The ideas are limitless.

Remember, no one can do everything but everyone can do something. So consider DOING SOMETHING over break and make those days count. Trust that whatever you give you will receive back a hundred-fold.

Average Students: Where do they fit in?

Average students: Where do they fit in to the whole college admissions equation?   Ask new residents how they ended up in a particular neighborhood and no doubt good schools and education will come up in the equation. You may be blessed to live in an area with high educational standards and achievement but recognize that that can be a challenge to the “average” senior who is applying to colleges. Based on what we often see cited, you would think every single kid applying to college is a 4.00 and a 34 ACT score. While much of the attention in the media focuses on the top colleges and the status of “A” and “B” students, “We should care about ‘C’ students because they’re the backbone of our country,” says Claire D. Friedlander, a college consultant at Bedford Central School District in New York and with Jewish Family Service in Stamford, Connecticut. She observes that half the students she counsels are “C” students. “That means they’re average-the guy next door, the gal next door.”

Average students often excel academically in college. Let’s face it not every student grows at the same pace. Some students who did not excel academically in high school may have not blossomed yet but still have the potential to succeed. There are schools out there that accept average students and they provide a strong educational program. So, quit worrying about other kids and focus on your own strengths and what you need to be successful. What kind of school would you thrive best in? Institutional fit must be a priority. Figure out what those are and apply to those 6-7 schools which offer the best fit. Forget about trying to get accepted to schools which might not be a good fit.

Don’t be discouraged. There is a right school out there you just may need to look in a different place to find it.

Happy New Year. Now fill out that FAFSA!

January 1 – Happy New Year’s! Don’t forget to get started on those important New Year’s resolutions – exercise more, eat healthier, get more sleep, get better organized, etc. Enjoy the day but don’t forget something very important – get that FAFSA completed. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid can be submitted on January 1st (midnight to be exact) and time is important since federal aid is given on a first-come-first served basis.

Filing the FAFSA will be much easier if you plan ahead and are organized. There are steps you can take to prepare ahead. First, have your 2012 tax return information ready. Do not wait for your tax return. You can enter estimated tax information and then go back and revise the tax information later.

Here’s a quick list of documents you will need available for completing the report:

  • Social security numbers
  • Student’s 2012 W-2s and tax returns
  • Parent’s 2012 W-2s and tax returns (if student is Dependent)
  • Bank statements
  • Business financial statements (if student or parents own a business)
  • Citizenship records – alien registration or permanent resident card (if you are not a U.S. Citizen)

Consider downloading the FAFSA on the Web Worksheet. This is a simple way to organize all of the required information you’ll need to fill out the FAFSA.  Select this link to download or display a 2012-2013 FAFSA on the Web Worksheet in PDF format.

If this will be your very first time filing the FAFSA online you are going to need an electronic PIN. If you haven’t already done so, apply for your FAFSA PIN now at http://www.pin.ed.gov/. Keep this PIN handy. You will reuse this PIN every time you want to access your FAFSA or your SAR (Student Aid Report), and you will reuse it every year that you apply.

Filing the FAFSA is about as much fun as filing your tax returns but don’t overlook the importance of doing so. Plan ahead so you are ready to go January 1, 2013.

NAIA Scholarships: A Great Option

If you are a high school student who is considering college athletics, don’t overlook the lesser-known NAIA programs. Many times schools associated with NAIA can offer very lucrative scholarship/grant packages and you are given the opportunity to continue on in your sport while focusing on academics. NAIA schools often reward students for being student-athletes with the emphasis on STUDENT. Many athletes look at NCAA schools only, and they neglect to even take a look at NAIA schools and that can be a big mistake. The level of play is very high at NAIA schools, just like in the NCAA. If you get the opportunity, visit one if your area to see how talented the level of play really is – you  will not be disappointed.

If you are unfamiliar with the NAIA program, here’s a quick overview. The NAIA, National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, is made up of 60,000 student-athletes in 13 sports with 23 national championships. There are close to 300 colleges and universities that participate with over $450 million in athletic scholarships. According to the NAIA website, the NAIA seeks to create an environment in which every student-athlete, coach, official and spectator is committed to the true spirit of competition through five core values: integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership.

NAIA rules on financial aid are straightforward. Each school determines how much aid it awards to an individual student-athlete. Under no conditions may anyone else provide direct financial assistance to any student-athlete. Scholarships, grants-in-aid or student loans are controlled by each institution through the same committee that handles all student loans and scholarships.

Each sport has a maximum cap of how much financial aid can be given to students in a particular sport. It can make full or partial grants to students in a sport.  To be eligible for athletic scholarship funding from an NAIA school, students must me two of the following three criteria: have a minimum ACT score of 18 or minimum SAT score of 860, have a minimum 2.0 GPA, or have graduated high school in the top half of your graduating class. Few NAIA schools will offer full ride scholarships to athletes, but partial scholarships are more common. The NAIA offers national championships for men in cross country, soccer, football, indoor and outdoor track and field, swimming and diving, wrestling, basketball, baseball, tennis, and golf. Women’s national championships are offered in volleyball, soccer, cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field, swimming and diving, basketball, softball, tennis, and golf.

Don’t rule out NAIA schools when looking for colleges where you could be a student-athlete. For more information about opportunities from the NAIA, visit http://naia.cstv.com

How To Ace The College Interview

You’re dressed are ready to go.  You’ve practiced your answers and are sitting in the waiting area.  Interviews tend to count for 10 to 20 percent of the admissions process.  Don’t be nervous.  We’ll help you get ready for the interview.

Be confident and smile.  This is one of those times in life when you get to talk about yourself!  Use your humor and your knowledge.

Lighthouse College Planning has several more tips to Ace  the Interview.  Plus we’ll run mock interviews with you.

Call 630-907-9830 and ask to speak to one of our counselors or email college@lighthousecollegeplanning.com