Home Page

Pocket Change Investor

Good Advice Press
Tools for Creating the Life You Want!

Great College Investments You Can Make -- At Low or NO Cost
by Marc Eisenson

Finding a way for the whole family to get on and stay on the same page about playing the college game could save you a fortune, and keep a mountain of debt off your child's back, as it builds a happier high school experience for you all.

While we all want the best for our children, if you can't afford or don't want to borrow for a four-year trip to an ivory tower, just say so ... and calmly discuss the options. Even if you feel as though you've blown it, by not having enough money socked away for college, take heart. Fortunately, the best investments your family can make for college can be made in the few years before applying, and involve little or no money.

Life is tough enough without feeling pressured to excel all of the time at everything you do. Growing up should and can be fun. That said, without putting your children under enough stress to drive them to the brink or beyond, instill an Invest in Yourself attitude in your high schoolers. After all, it's their future.

Prepping Ahead
Varsity letters are nice for those who can get them, but the most important letters for your kids may be PSAT, SAT, and ACT, the standardized tests that most (but not all) colleges take very seriously. Increased scores are potential money-savers and therefore excellent investments for many families.

In addition to SAT scores, schools look for good grades in serious, academic subjects, a few advanced courses, leadership qualities, a record of community service, as well as skills on the ballfield or in the orchestra. Top students get accepted to more schools, are offered more non-loan aid, and are in the best negotiating position for pitting one school's offer against another. Not surprisingly, students who merit them are the ones who get Merit Scholarships.

Harvard Is Not Heaven
Students who might be unexciting to one school might be gems to another, whether it's because they'd be in the top 25% of that particular school's entering class ... or because they're attractively alien to an admissions department looking for diversity. A midwestern school might be eager for kids from Maine, while a New England school might be thrilled to have an Alaskan or two.

By being realistic about interests, academic capabilities, and personality, your child can focus on schools where the fit would be right, and where s/he has a very good chance of being accepted. Ultimately, the more a school wants your child, the more "doesn't-have-to-be-paid-back" financial aid you'll receive, and the less that degree will cost.

Whooo R U?
With that in mind, begin the college search process as early as possible. Find a way for the search to be both a pleasant experience -- and a priority -- for the family. Ask questions to help your teen tune in to her preferences in a school. The criteria might include: big, small, near, far, liberal arts, specialized, active fraternity/sorority life, specific sports or arts programs, lively city, quiet country, religious affiliation or not, north, south, east, west, or midwest, intern or co-op opportunities, dual or tri-semester schedule, and, the opportunity to study abroad.

As early as sophomore year, you all want to begin looking at colleges -- or at least at their catalogs, videos, Web sites, and the numerous write-ups you'll find in college selection guides, magazines, and books. On the Web, go to: www.usnews.com/usnews/edu/college, www.review.com, www.universities.com, www.collegeboard.org, and www.petersons.com.

The More You Know
Some of our favorite books on choosing a college are: The Insider's Guide to the Colleges, compiled by the staff at the Yale Daily News, Colleges that Change Lives: 40 Schools You Should Know About Even If You're Not a Straight-A Student, by Loren Pope, and The Fiske Guide to Colleges, by Edward B. Fiske. For reviews on other books about college, go to www.collegeaid.com.

The more you and your teen discover about the most promising choices -- and the earlier you begin -- the better prepared you'll be for everything you and your child need to do during senior year. The earlier those college applications are out, the more relaxed your child's last year in high school will be. And for a school with rolling admissions, (where applications are considered as they come in), applying early in the year gives you an advantage.

But early admissions programs (where a student attests that So and So School is the only one s/he is applying to, and that s/he'll happily go there if the admissions people agree) come with an important cautionary note: If the school thinks your kid really wants to go there, you may not be offered the most generous aid package.

Wouldja Move to Save Money?
Maybe your child will decide that a state school ... one in another state ... is the ideal university. If you've already found out that s/he's got a good chance of being accepted, and you're flexible, an early move to that state will drop the tuition dramatically. Lots of families move for the right elementary school. Why not college?

You could also schedule in some vacation time around the campuses that seem most appealing. Granted, the best time to see a school is when classes are actively in session, but you could still pick up a lot of good info by strolling the grounds and seeing what the surrounding town or city is like. And with colleges and the rest of the world often being on different schedules, a long weekend for you, thanks to one of those now conveniently scheduled birthdays that we celebrate on Mondays, may be just another day of classes at a school or two your family should see.

Encourage your children to focus early on the choosing-a-college marathon. If they need an immediate payoff to go at it enthusiastically, come up with a suitable reward. Bribery within the family has great investment potential, and is perfectly legal.

The Pocket Change Investor
The Secrets to Getting Ahead -- Even If You Have a Pile of Credit Card Bills, Hefty Mortgage Payments,
Loans Out on a Clunker or Two, & a Bad Case of the "I'm Tired of Living Payday to Payday" Blues.

As of Issue #35 (Fall, 2003), The Pocket Change Investor, our quarterly newsletter on how to save money, get out of debt, and live better on less, will be available online, only -- for free! To get future issues right into your inbox, send your email address to us at newsletter@goodadvicepress.com, putting the word "subscribe" on the subject line.

The Pocket Change Windfall: Each of our 34 back issues offers painless ways to get out of debt and save on the many expenses that confront us all -- taxes, credit card bills, mortgages, insurance, food, you name it. You can get all 34 for just $29.95 -- that's less than $1 each. To order, you can use our secure server, call 845-657-8245, or write to us at:

PO Box 78
Elizaville, NY 12523

Home Page
Pocket Change Investor Order Form

Reprinted from The Pocket Change Investor © 1999, Marc Eisenson & Nancy Castleman

Web Page by Good Advice Press © 1998-2007
Good Advice Press
Box 78 - Elizaville, NY 12523

Send e-mail to Good Advice Press

URL: http://www.goodadvicepress.com