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How to Make the Most Out of Your Summer Break

Boy Jumping out of the OceanSoon-to-be Seniors (and Juniors): We’re smack dab in the middle of summer, and now that you’ve soaked up some sun and clocked in plenty of R&R, it’s time to maximize your free time to its fullest.

While you’ve been rightfully savoring your vacation days, you don’t want to leave your mind rusty or completely fall behind on college planning. Once you’re required to again wake up at 7am each day and deal with classes on top of tedious homework assignments, your brain will most likely feel too burnt out to even consider college planning. With over a month still ahead of you, there’s plenty of time to space out activities that will exercise your mind muscles and get you one step ahead of the college planning process.

  • Indulge Yourself in a Few Books

    No, we’re not suggesting any lengthy Charles Dickens’ novels. You’ll get to those in English class (if you haven’t already), unless that’s your cup of tea, then go for it. If you aren’t an avid reader or classic literature enthusiast, try one that’ll give you some food for thought as you prepare for college, such as these listed on Washington Post’s “A Summer Reading List from College Admissions Counselors:

o   “How to Be a High School Superstar: A Revolutionary Plan to Get into College by Standing Out (Without Burning Out)” by Cal Newport

o   “Going Geek: what every smart kid (and every smart parent) should know about college admission” by John Carpenter.

o   “Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation” By Parker Palmer

Then relax with a light-hearted love story or a unique, thought-provoking tale:

o   “The Opposite of Loneliness” by Marina Keegan

o   “The Guilty One” by Lisa Ballantyne

o   “The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World” by Michael Pollan

o   “Endurance: Shackelton’s Incredible Voyage” by Alfred Lansing
Want a few more suggestions? Check out the books listed on NerdWallet’sFavorite 2014 Summer Reading Programs.

  • Volunteer

    Take a minute to think about your deepest passions and interests. Feeding the homeless? Caring for the elderly? Whatever drives you, there’s likely a volunteering option that’ll boost your community as well as strengthen your inner spirit… and not to mention, your resume!

    Not sure where to start? VolunteerMatch customizes your search options by region and category (Advocacy & Human Rights, Animals, Children & Youth, and so forth).

  • Spruce Up Your Activities Resume

    Speaking of resumes, summer offers a great opportunity to not only build your activities resume, but also tally your current and past work. It’s very similar to a job-oriented resume: past history, skills, utilizing action words, but with less detail. It’s a quick way to show off your experience and passions.

You deservingly will relish in the splendor of 5-6 weeks school-free, but also think of summer as an open opportunity to mix relaxation with improving your skills and adding to your repertoire. It’ll not only strengthen your personal life, but also solidify your path to college.

This blog was provided by Westface College Planning. For more tips and information, sign up for a free College Funding workshop or webinar or call us at (650) 587-1559.

Photo Credit: Dmitry Kichenko


Stimulate Your Mind — Take a Summer Program!

SunflowerWith summer just around the corner, high school students may first bask in the glow of three months away from the stress of school.  Once that subsides, particularly for ambitious students, they’ll wonder if any options exist to keep their mind stimulated, prepare them for their future careers or possibly explore avenues they have yet opted to tread.  So what’s the answer?  Summer programs and internships!

Science? Art? Communications? There’s a Program for All of Them!

For our California pupils, here are a few opportunities orchestrated by colleges over the summer, extracted from the Los Altos High School’s College and Career Center that may interest them:

Academy of Art College in San Francisco
“Six-week intensive art program offers up to four classes either online or onsite in San Francisco. Get a glimpse into college life, meet other young artists and explore a variety of art & design fields. Note: Students staying in Campus Housing must take four on campus classes.”

COSMOS (California State Summer School for Math and Science)
UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC San Diego and UC Santa Cruz

“Cosmos is a four week residential academic experience in math, science and engineering for top high school students. Students can participate in one of the many clusters of the COSMOS program at any of the above UC campuses. Some sample clusters are Under the Sea: Exploring Marine Organisms and Their World, Aerospace & Mechanical Engineering: Robots and Flying Machines, Medical & Veterinary Responses to Infectious Diseases, and Environmental Sciences and Experimental Ecology.

Students apply to one of the four University of California’s COSMOS campuses. — UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC San Diego and UC Santa Cruz. Each campus may have a different focus.”

Digital Media Academy
“For grades 10 – 12.  Hands-on, project-based digital media, filmmaking and visual effects, music and audio production, photography and art design, programming and app design and robotics courses at twenty university locations, including Stanford University, University of Texas, South Carolina and San Diego.

Internship programs are also available, including:

Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program
Palo Alto, CA

“An 8-week summer internship program open to high school juniors and seniors. Hands-on research under guidance of a one-on-one mentor. Choose from immunology, stem cell biology, neurobiology, cardiovascular medicine and cancer biology.”

J. Craig Venter Institute Internship Program
San Diego, CA

“Offers motivated high school students the opportunity to nurture their interest in science by participating in cutting-edge genomic research at the Institute. Interns are assigned to a mentor who is a member of the Institute’s faculty or senior staff. Each experience is tailored to the participant’s education level and capabilities. Interns are required to present a summary of their research/work experience to the staff at the conclusion of their internship.

There are also administrative internships available in legal, communications, library and environmental health and safety areas.”

ZOMA Worldwide
Palo Alto, CA

“An international internship program for high school students based in various industries in Shanghai, China. Must have completed sophomore you and have strong academic records and proven leadership abilities. Chinese language is not required by students enrolled in Chinese language coursework is preferred. Internships are available in the areas of high tech, marketing, public relations, advertising, law travel and hospitality and architecture. Bilingual resident assistants are on-site 24 hours for supervision and assistance.”

For a full list of both programs and internships alike, click here.

For juniors and seniors, summer programs aren’t the only way to best optimize your vacation: Schedule a time to take the SAT and ACT, e-mail your favorite teachers to request letters of recommendation and continue to whittle down your list of college choices.  In-between R&R, the possibilities to flesh out your student’s summer 2014 are limitless.

This blog was provided by Westface College Planning. For more tips and information, sign up for a free College Funding workshop or webinar or call us at (650) 587-1559.

 

Photo Credit: Matteo Angelino


AP Courses… Are They Worth It?

Student reading a bookIt’s the time of the year again when high school students must decide which courses to take for the coming school year.  With college looming ahead, making wise choices is imperative in order to reduce time and money spent on college and to be competitive for scholarship awards.  But, does being “wise” mean that your student sign up for available AP courses?  With numerous articles both encouraging and cautioning AP courses available on the internet, I’ve attempted to summarize both sides below.

What are AP Courses?

AP, or Advances Placement, courses are college-level courses taught in a high school setting designed to challenge students above and beyond a high school level.  The requirements, workload, and exams are designed and regulated by College Board.

The Pros of AP Courses

AP courses are a good choice to consider for students who perform well in honors level courses (A’s and B’s) or for students who get straight A’s in regular College Prep classes and need or desire more challenging material.  Because AP courses are weighted differently than CP courses, students can increase their GPA as well as their class rank.  This could be beneficial when being considered for scholarships.  And, beyond GPA and class rank, taking AP courses demonstrates hard work which is equally, if not more, important to most colleges.

Taking AP courses also offers the opportunity to gain college credit by taking an AP exam.  Students who score above a 3 (on a scale of 1-5) are considered to be qualified to receive college credit for that course upon entering college.  This effectively can decrease the amount of time in college which, in turn, can decrease the out-of-pocket expense.

The Cons of AP Courses

With the rigors of AP courses comes a lot of stress, therefore they are not appropriate for all students; nor is it necessarily appropriate for a student to load up on AP classes that may not interest them just for the sake of increasing their GPA.  Most colleges prefer un-weighted GPAs and some might even request an un-weighted transcript or recalculate the GPA of core classes on their own.  In that case, earning a C in an AP courses might not be looked on favorably by a selective college.  This varies greatly from college to college.

Regarding college credit, that too varies widely from school to school.  Some colleges do not limit the number of credits that a student can bring in with AP courses.  However, other schools are more limiting.  Dartmouth college, for example, recently announced that beginning Fall 2014, it will no longer grant any college credit for AP examinations.

In summary, with over 30 possible AP courses available for high schools to offer, students have more opportunity than ever before to advance their education and potentially save time and money on their out-of-pocket expense for college.  However, a common sense approach to the number and types of AP courses taken should be utilized for each individual student.  Parents need to help their children evaluate what subjects interest them and how many AP courses they can take and be successful at while staying informed of the current policies for their college of choice.

Sources:

http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/ap/about.html

http://www.examiner.com/article/are-ap-courses-worth-the-effort

http://www.nytimes/com/2013/01/18/education/dartmouth-stops-credits-for-excelling-on-ap-test.html

http://www.usnews.com/education/high-schools/articles/2012/05/10/weigh-the-benefits-stress-of-ap-courses-for-your-student

This blog was provided by Emily Kelly of College Planning Relief from their March 2014 e-newsletter.

Photo Credit: UGL_UIUC


5 Ways to Skillfully Balance Work & School

A person's shoes balancing on a beam.Students, whether in high school or college, find it challenging to successfully navigate the burdens of school and work without wanting to tear their hair out.  It may seem too stressful, but it is possible!  It’s all about balance.  We’ve come up with 5 tips to help you create a manageable flow between your school and work lives.

1.  Use a Calendar or Planner.  They’re Your Friends!
Considering that one person think an estimated 70,000 thoughts per day, it’s no wonder we’re liable to forget new information, whether it’s an upcoming event or just simply something you need to remember for later.  That’s where a calendar or planner comes in.

Test out a few different types of planners and figure out what works best for you.  Most of you probably have an iCal or something similar installed on your phone, so why not use it?

Once you become aware of an event in your life with a deadline (a test, due date for a project, work meeting, and so forth), enter it into your calendar immediately, then set a reminder alarm.  If you set that reminder for a day beforehand, (or even multiple alarms) it’ll give you some relief.  You’ll take peace in knowing you’re organized;  you’ll be notified, even if it slips your mind.

2.  A Little R & R
You’re not a robot.  Every now and then, it’s important to clear your mind and rest your bones.  For every hour of studying or work, make sure to take a 5-10 minute break, especially if your job requires you to sit at a computer or a desk without much movement.  Go for a short walk and soak in some nature.  You’ll arrive back at work or to your homework refreshed and ready to concentrate.

3.      Leave School Out of Work & Vice Versa
It’s tempting to pull out your math book and work on some problems during your lunch break or while on babysitting duty, but try to resist.  Believe it or not, only about 2% of the population can successfully multitask.  While 89% of those with smartphones use them at their job, 45% also complain they’re already expected to multitask too much within their work situation.  So why add another element that makes your job even more difficult?

As difficult as it may seem, leave your phone in your pocket or purse.  The “what if there’s an emergency” excuse doesn’t hold water when you know you could easily be notified at work.

4.  Sleep Easy
It’s vital to get plenty of sleep to increase cognitive function, alertness and many other positive effects.  The National Sleep Foundation recommends that teens ages 11 to 17 slumber for 8.5 to 9.5 hours per night, while adults 18+ should get anywhere from 7 to 9 hours.  Easier said than done for most teens and young adults, but establishing a recurring night-time ritual will help.  If you always fall into the same routine, your body will naturally adapt and automatically enter a more relaxed state.

5.  Be Realistic
After you’ve sat down and mapped out your needed hours to effectively complete your work and school tasks, take a good look at what you’re asking yourself to accomplish.  According to the 2005 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), 55% of high school students study three or less hours per week, while a mere 8% study 10 hours per week.  While we could say this has to do with laziness, it also may easily chalk up to over-worked students juggling way too many facets of their lives to dedicate enough hours for studying.

Are you ending up still feeling overly exhausted and feel like a zombie?  Do you still find yourself stressed to the point where you lose sleep or it effects either work or school, or both?  You may be overdoing it, regardless of how much you think you can tough it out.  Keep in mind this also depends upon you as an individual.

20 hours of work and 25 hours of school (in-class, studying and homework) combined with other obligations may end up well for some, but not others.  If you aren’t sure, try handling both for a couple of weeks and see how your body reacts.  If you find yourself on the brink with stress flying at you from all aspects of your life, don’t push yourself.  Decrease your work hours and focus on school.  You body and mind will thank you for it.

This blog was provided by Westface College Planning. For more tips and information, sign up for a free College Funding workshop or webinar.

Photo Credit: westpark


Merit Aid: Some Assembly (May Be) Required

Man looking at assembly instructions.Seniors: if you believe all colleges only require their application for consideration of merit aid, think again.

If you’re unfamiliar with merit aid, it essentially grants students with funding stemming from academic or other achievements, such as an impressive GPA or recognized honors, not based upon financial need.

It’s true that most colleges only request you fill out their school-based form along with the FAFSA, but about 300 of them signify you must also submit your CSS Profile.  To search for your top college picks and whether or not they need your CSS Profile, consult this College Board list.

Merit Aid Isn’t Always Automatic?

NYU is one of the few institutions that requires both the CSS Profile and FAFSA for all financial aid considerations, including merit aid.  A few of their scholarships may blend need-based and merit aid requirements, therefore the forms are necessary.

Special applications separate from the admissions form may also be desired, but typically only one or two, such as the Barnes Scholarship at Colorado College or Johnston Scholars at the University of North Carolina.

On the other hand, a total of 14 scholarships through the University of Michigan require individual applications.  They, like NYU, also prompt students to complete the CSS Profile regardless of merit or need-based aid.

Look Out for the Details

Unfortunately, you’re left to read the fine print.  Students and parents must scrounge through each school’s financial aid program to figure out special stipulations.

While not many fit into this category, it pays to check just in case the college of your choice does need the FAFSA or CSS Profile for merit aid.

If your student’s SAT scores are through the roof or they consistently receive top marks, definitely consider the possibility of merit aid to lessen the burden of college-related debt.  Just be aware of possible extra applications so they don’t miss out on the opportunity.

This blog was provided by Westface College Planning. For more tips and information, sign up for a free College Funding workshop or webinar.

Photo Credit: Sharyn Morrow


Gearing up for the FAFSA, Middle Class Scholarship & More

It’s December!  We reach the end of 2013 and what better time to get a head start on the FAFSA?

Because the application period for the FAFSA opens on January 1st 2014, the time sandwiched between the two holidays presents a fantastic opportunity to collect related documents.  This includes tax forms and bank statements, among others fully listed in this month’s FAFSA-themed Senior Scoop.

Waiting until the 11th hour poses the threat of obtaining very little student aid.  They cater to students in order of submission so it’s vital to apply as early as possible.

Middle class families may shy away from applying for the FAFSA because they believe they won’t qualify for any aid.  For these families, this month’s featured find is for you.  We indulge you on the requirements and details of the Middle Class Scholarship.  For the 2014-15 academic year, it has the potential to award aid to students of families with up to $150,000 of income.

Reserve a seat at a webinar or give me a call when you are ready to take your next step on the path to creating a clear college funding plan.  To avoid rushing or being shut out of opportunities, both financial and academic, having a plan is key!

If you have any questions, please feel free to join me on Tuesday, Dec. 17th at 12pm via Google Hangout, where I’ll be discussing tips on preparing for your FAFSA submission.  It’ll be a live video feed and allows you to ask questions throughout the broadcast.  Happy Holidays!

All the best,
Beatrice Schultz, CFP®
Westface College Planning
College Funding Specialist
650-587-1559

College Smart Radio CrestCollege Smart Radio:  Tackling the Runaway Costs of College
Tune in to 1220am KDOW – the Wall Street Business Network from 3:00pm-3:30pm every Saturday for my radio show, College Smart Radio – Tackling the Runaway Costs of College.  The show can be streamed live at www.KDOW.biz, too!

Curious what College Smart Radio covers?  Tune in Saturday, December 3rd when my guest Christine VanDeVelde, co-author of  “College Admission: From Application to Acceptance”, reveals insight on the seemingly impenetrable fortress of being accepted.  It’s not as impossible as many perceive.Listen in to the College Smart Radio podcast of a show last week when I spoke with guest Dr. Neal King.  He laid out the differences between non-profit and profit colleges, emphasizing which choice works in favor of your goals and financial benefit.

It’s all great information you won’t want to miss out on. Thanks for listening!

Girl laying head on booksFeatured Find: Middle Class Undergrads, Rejoice!
Thousands of middle class students suffer with a tremendous lack of financial aid simply because their household income lies above normal need-based aid.  For those of you in this category, prepare for some amazing news!  Governor Jerry Brown signed a California bill enacting the “Middle Class Scholarship” (MCS) program.It will help support undergraduate students with up to $150,000 in family income beginning the semester of 2014-15.  Otherwise, loans have been nearly inevitable, but the MCS will lend students within the middle class bracket more leeway.

Continue reading article here.

Upcoming “Tackling the Runaway Costs of College” Webinars
Seating may be limited – Register to ensure your spot!

Most parents are not financially prepared to enter the most expensive time period of their lives, covering their child’s college education. Our 1-hour workshops provide steps you can take right now to assure you understand the cost of attendance and how you can afford college without jeopardizing your retirement.

Our next upcoming workshop is:

It’s reported that up to 70% of FAFSA submissions contain errors or remain incomplete.  This leads to delays and possibly refusal of obtaining student aid.  Don’t let yourself fall into this category!

FAFSA Teal LogoSenior Scoop: The 5 W’s to Buckling Down & Gearing Up for a Successful FAFSA
As we approach December, dressing Christmas trees with festive ornaments and enclosing presents in colorfully decorated wrapping paper, some muse about the upcoming year’s resolutions.

One in particular should rank high on your list, particularly for those orchestrating a smooth transition from high school to college: preparing for the FAFSA.

FAFSA?

While the majority of parents are overly aware of the FAFSA and its benefits, some are entirely new to the world of preparing for college. So, what is the FAFSA?

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) allows parents and students to submit a yearly application that leads to accessing and utilizing student aid money-grants, loans, and work-study, to name a few.

Continue reading Senior Scoop here.

Advice & Insight
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About Westface College Planning

If you are a typical parent with college bound students, you’re probably overwhelmed by all the research necessary to help your sons and daughters make the right choices and prevent overpaying for their education.

You are not alone!


Get the facts. Educate yourself to potentially save tens of thousands of dollars on a single college education. Parents of more than one child heading to college in the next few years, can save even more.

At Westface College Planning we work with families to help you plan for and navigate the “paying for college” process. We teach you how to minimize your out-of-pocket expenses, maximize financial aid eligibility, understand the best way to navigate through the college selection process and prioritize your sources of college funds to protect your life savings!

Sign up for a free workshop or webinar or call to schedule a complimentary college funding consultation today.

More information at westfacecollegeplanning.com.