Do you have a high schooler? Or a middle schooler and you are wondering what to expect the next few years? I am here to help. My high school survival kit for parents is a labor of love. It’s all the things that I wished we would have had when our older kids went through high school. Read on to find out more about what to expect, and I hope that this can help!
High school with your child is like riding a roller coaster.
Some days you feel like all is well. Then, one day your kid comes home and is freaking out over grades, friends or maybe just really despondent over any number of things. The range of emotions a family goes through can be intense and overwhelming at times. So, strap on your seatbelt, you’re in for a ride!
*This post may contain affiliate links. This means, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase.
Let’s start at the beginning, before high school starts.
Transitioning from middle school to high school is an exciting time for everyone. You, as a parent, feel a little proud that your child is starting high school. I know I was! Your teen is growing up and you know the next four years are going to be challenging.
Looking back on high school, (hopefully, yours was a good experience), you know it’s about to get interesting. Before each of my boys started, I was really interested in waiting to see how each of my sons was going to navigate it all. If your kids are anything like mine were, your child is probably excited, but at the same time anxious as this is the time when many things can, and will, change.
Maybe some friends are going to a different school. That sense of security can be gone for some, and the thought of starting a new school without their best friend is frightening. And then, of course, there is actually starting school and handling all the new expectations and coursework because now grades count towards college acceptance!
My shoulders just tighten up thinking about all the things high school kids have to do. I also remember thinking, what am I supposed to do? How can I help?
Well, I survived it as did my boys (at least 2 so far). And, you will too. But, knowing what I know now, I wish I had been better equipped. That’s why I have created a survival kit for parents.
Your high school counselors may say, it’s time to start letting go and let your child “figure it out”.
Believe me, I agree with this philosophy with a BUT. My opinion is that our kids are inundated with school work, extra-curricular activities, jobs, a social life etc.
So, I do think they need to “figure it out”, but with some over-arching guidance. Not that we do the work, but have an open conversation with your child about what needs to happen concurrently. At the end of high school, there will be questions asked by colleges and scholarships such as: “What did you do during your high school experience?”, “Did you play sports, play an instrument, volunteer, have a job?”, “What are your hobbies?” etc.
The blog post I wrote to accompany the book, with a few freebies is here!
High school survival kit for parents
If you’re a freshman parent, you’re in a perfect position to start tracking now. If you’re a senior parent, don’t worry, download your survival kit and start writing down what you and your child remember.
Why? Well, if your child decides to pursue college, the above information will be asked on college and scholarship applications. If your child is applying for a job, similar questions will be asked. Two great scholarship systems for help in knowing what to do and where to start are here and here!
To Do List – A list of 7 items to accomplish over the school year.
Activity/Volunteer Tracker- Begin writing down ALL the activities your child participates in school, volunteer hours or anything “extra”.
Potential Colleges- begin exploring potential colleges or vo-tech programs. Why do they sound interesting?
A Yearly Calendar- Each kit comes with a yearly calendar to keep track of school/family activities. There is a space to write down a goal for the month and helpful suggestions each month.
Parents, all of these are available for FREE. Click here to download your specific grade or download them ALL. I wish I had this information when my older boys were going through high school. I would have felt more organized and secure knowing I was helping them be prepared to apply to college or their first job.
Make sure you subscribe to my Parenting High Schoolers newsletter below for more articles about surviving and thriving with teenagers. Simply enter your information below and you will be all set! You can also like my Facebook page, and follow me on Pinterest and YouTube! I look forward to seeing you again!
The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Your child’s college career could hinge on this one form. Do not make the mistake of not filling out the FAFSA! Even if you think you won’t qualify, fill it out. Filling out this form will determine whether or not your student will receive Federal Student Aid, BUT it will also determine any monies he/she will get from the schools that they apply to as well. Most schools will require you to fill this out, so do it right away.
In other words, the information that is provided when filling out this form could help your family to get more money from different colleges! It is very important that you fill this out for many reasons. The due date is October 1, more on that below…
–The main purpose of the FAFSA is to determine your EFC. This is an acronym for the Expected Family Contribution. This is a number determined by your answers on the FAFSA. It is a calculated number that the government thinks that your family should be able to pay towards your child’s college. The number we received would work if both my husband and I each had full time, high paying jobs, and we lived on pork and beans every night, and never did anything that cost any money! In other words, don’t expect for your EFC to be realistic! This is a whole other blog post topic!
When to fill out the FAFSA:
–You do need to fill out the FAFSA–no matter what! And, fill it out in a timely manner. In other words, do this on the due date, again, this date is October 1. Yes, it does determine the need based federal aid money for students who need it. But, it also helps schools determine the money that they give out for merit based aid. This is FREE money for your student. Schools give out the money on a first come, first serve basis, so if you want any chance of merit based aid, fill that puppy out.
–The FAFSA is NOT JUST for need based aid. We thought about not filling it out because we knew that we would not qualify for the need based aid. But, by just filling out the FAFSA, my son receives $1000 off of his yearly tuition. Even if he qualified for no other scholarships, they reward this amount for filling out the form! So, check with your child’s college and see if there is a similar situation. Aid is often determined by the numbers that you put on this form. I will say it again, fill out the FAFSA!
–After the FAFSA is filled out, each college starts rewarding their merit based aid. This is determined by the FAFSA, GPA, and various other factors such as ACT/SAT scores and strength of resumes. This is where hard work during high school both in class and out will really help! Your student will start to hear back from colleges after they have applied. Each school will send out letters of acceptance and denial.
–In acceptance letters, colleges will include their financial aid package. These could just be estimates, so read carefully. Keep track of all offers, and use them to get colleges to compete with each other to get your student to attend their particular school. A financial aid package can be appealed and should be, if your child really wants one school, but got a better package from another, let their favored school know. This is expected and it can work!
–As your child finishes up the first semester of their senior year, send updates of their GPA and resume to each school for which they have applied. It is still early in the game, and this can help with a better financial aid package. If there a life changing experience has occurred, such as: divorce, a death in the family or some sort of accident, let the school know. This is information schools need that could make a difference to the bottom line!
How to fill out the FAFSA:
–FIRST, go to Fafsa.ed.gov and create a FSA ID for both you and your child. Then, fill out the FAFSA4caster. This will give you an idea of how to fill out the actual form when it is time. It will also give you an idea of all of the information you will need for filling out the dang thing! You will need your federal tax information, social security number, W2s, and any asset information. Filling out the 4caster will give you an idea of aid eligibility for decision making. Do this now, as in after you finish reading this blog post.
–SECOND, when you are ready, log back into the FAFSA website, and get this form filled out so that you can submit it right on the due date which is OCTOBER 1. It is a process, and not something that you want to think that you can do quickly some evening! Take your time.
–DO NOTmake any errors on the FAFSA! Triple check and then check again that you have entered everything on the form correctly. Have your spouse or significant other check it as well, a new pair of eyes can catch mistakes that you have overlooked the first 3 times that you checked for mistakes. Mistakes will lead to delays in your child receiving financial aid.
–Your child does not have to decide on a school at the time that you fill out the FAFSA, but fill it out anyway ON TIME. There is a table below with due dates for you to refer to. Once you have filled out the FAFSA for your oldest, then you will have to continue to re-submit yearly. (This is so that the government can check your child’s eligibility status, which will change if your finances change or you have more than one kid in college!) There is a renewal option with some categories which will be pre-populated, but check all of this information carefully and make sure that it is all up-to-date. Most of the new info needed will be based on taxes paid.
Once the FAFSA is filled out, be sure that the colleges of choice are notified that you have submitted the complete form. This is also a good time to check each college’s website for admissions requirements and scholarship opportunities at the school. You really need to dig for this information sometimes, but is worth the extra effort. Every penny that your child is given is one less out of your pocket, or your child’s.
Another form you may need to fill out is the CSS Profile, https://student.collegeboard.org/css-financial-aid-profile. This asks for lots more information than the FAFSA, but is necessary for many private colleges. This is how they decide to distribute their non-federal aid, in other words, merit based aid. It is $25 for the first college you have to submit this to, and $16 for each college after. (I will say, we didn’t have to do this for my son who is attending a private school. He received a much larger financial aid package from this private school than the local state school–many thousands more, so filling this out might be helpful, if they require it. Make sure it’s necessary before filling it out though.)
I will say that, in my opinion, getting student loans may not be worth it in the end. Is a gap year for better finances an option? Outside scholarships are great, but start looking before your senior year. Weigh all of your options and do the math. Will your major and work experience by the end of college provide you hopefully with a job that will give you the income needed to pay back your loans. Student loans are a whole other blog post as well because they are terrible things to start your life with after college.
So, that is the low down on the FAFSA. It is not something to ignore or forget. It will make a difference to what you and your family will have to pay.
Fill the FAFSA out every year because financial aid is determined yearly.
Here are a couple of resources that you can visit for more information.
Make sure you subscribe to my Parenting High Schoolers newsletter for more articles about surviving and thriving with teenagers. Simply enter your information below and you will be all set! You can also like my Facebook page, and follow me on Pinterest and YouTube! I look forward to seeing you again!
Have you saved enough to pay for college? If yes, I applaud you. If not, maybe you’re just like me, hoping to find scholarships to help offset the cost and future debt for your kiddo. Paying for college is no small feat. Read on to find out where you can find money!
I hear many of stories of how people pay for 100% of college with grants and scholarships. I am in the midst of trying to figure out this process with my sons who are currently in college. Paying for college is ridiculously expensive. For the amount it costs today, I could have gone to college 5 times over. It really isn’t fair to our kids but, unfortunately, it is the reality.
So, here’s our story. My husband and I have some money saved to pay for college, but we are hoping we have enough for all three of our boys. We pay for tuition, and the boys are responsible for the rest. They both have part-time jobs. Our sophomore is enrolled in community college, and his older brother is at a nearby small private college. (We spent years paying off my husbands schooling, so this limited the number of years that we have had to save for the boys’ college.)
We knew that we had to help them try to look for scholarships or we would burn through our savings pretty quickly. So, we started digging around the internet. Our sophomore son is an average student, so merit aid would not be an option. My guess is that this is the case for most American families.
Not everyone is cut out for AP classes in high school, and not all kids are skilled at taking standardized tests. So, the game is on, and I’m here to tell you what I’ve discovered. Hopefully, this will help you and your child!
FINDING SCHOLARSHIPS IS HARD, BUT YOU CAN DO IT!
First, let me say that finding scholarships is HARD WORK. It’s tedious, so be ready and be patient. There are a lot of scams out there, but there are also a lot of people trying to help by telling their stories of how they’ve found money.
There are some common threads among “the experts”. Since paying for college is such a huge burden, I’m sharing what I’ve learned here. *This post may contain affiliate links. This means, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase.
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There’s a lot of information out there. Some good and some not so good. The more organized you and your child can be and work TOGETHER– the more success you will have.
I think this is really important. You and your child need to work as a team because the responsibility can’t be on them entirely. They are busy with school. Besides, we are smarter than they are, right? Ha! I do think our kids need to have some “skin” in the game and understand how this all works. So, have that money conversation! Here’s my blog post about how that has worked for us so far.
How to get organized? You need a tracker of course! Simple, but useful. Below is what I am using right now to track the scholarships I find for my boys for which they qualify.
I’m sure by now that you are probably pretty organized after surviving elementary and middle school. But, I would suggest a separate binder/notebook or folder to keep your scholarship information. Check out my parent toolkit for staying organized all through high school! All of this will help your teen be organized when applying for scholarships, filling out applications, etc. It all helps pay for college!
(Click image to download.)
You may have heard – the best place to start is LOCAL. Have your student visit their guidance office for local scholarships. Check with your employer, too. If your employer doesn’t have a scholarship, ask if they could create one!
Also, research your child’s current or future college. Check their financial aid website. Most likely they have scholarships ready for you to apply for now and have other resources/suggestions. My son applied for one at his community college last fall. He didn’t receive anything, but you never know until you try!
Here are some other places to look: Chamber of Commerce Library- they have scholarship books to check out Local businesses- Call your favorite business and ask or visit their website Financial Institutions Local Community groups or clubs (Rotary, Kiwanis, church) Alumni Associations Educational Organizations Civic Organizations
DIY Road 2 College– Debbie Schwartz does a lot of the groundwork for you. I signed up for her newsletters and they are chalk full of info on colleges, tuition costs, what to look for in colleges, FAFSA, college prep etc. She used to work at a financial institution and now helps parents figure this college thing out.
How 2 Win Scholarships Monica Matthews is a former teacher and a stay-at-home mom of three boys. She’s a mom who worked with her son to earn enough scholarships to attend college for free. She has parent, as well as student guides which are extremely useful and worth the $27.00. I’ve signed up for her newsletters and she’ll let you know when to apply for scholarships. She always has up to date information on her blog.
The Scholarship System– Jocelyn Pearson. She has a free webinar you can register for here. She paid for 100% of her college expenses through scholarships. Jocelyn has definitely done her homework and has created a 2018-2019 Scholarship Guide. I liked her webinar. Very honest and tells it like it is. I took her course, and it has been really helpful over the years since my oldest son started college.
DIY College Rankings– Michelle Kretzchmar. She’s another mom who did her homework and started her own site. VERY thorough and detailed in her information. Really worth signing up and/or use her site as a resource.
JLV Counseling– Jessica has 10 years experience as an admissions officer. Her website has information on scholarships, college essays, test prep and has a newsletter you can subscribe to. I like how her site is easy to navigate.
“Scholly was created by Christopher Gray who won $1.3 million in scholarships through hard work, grit and determination. Realizing how broken and time consuming this process was, he and his team created Scholly to make things a lot easier for you.
Whether you prefer the mobile or web app, Scholly helps you fill out 8 simple parameters, and then our comprehensive and constantly curated scholarship database delivers a verified and personalized list of scholarships. Our platform also gives you access to management tools and scholarship essay resources to help you manage deadlines, track progress and win the money you deserve.” There is a monthly fee.
“Scholarship Owls is an innovative platform designed to dramatically speed up your scholarship application time. All you have to do is fill out one application, and they will do the rest. They will match you with the award opportunities that best match your personality, grades, lifestyle, and more. Once you’ve narrowed down your options, they will take the information from your initial application and put it into the appropriate places on the scholarships of your choice.”
TUN TUN stands for The University Network. It is a fairly new website. What I like about their scholarship tool is that you can search by GPA, scholarships to apply to by month, state, student interest and what year your student is in school. They also have information on student jobs, a textbook save engine, career advice etc.
It’s easy. “Once you complete your profile you’ll have access to their database of more than 1.5 million scholarships. That’s $3.4 billion dollars in funding – all available to students like you! They’ve made it simple to keep track of your scholarship search. You can indicate which scholarships you’d like to apply for, which you’re not interested in and those you’ve already completed.”
MORE SEARCH ENGINES
College Board Scholarship Search “Use this tool to find scholarships, other financial aid, and internships from more than 2,200 programs, totaling nearly $6 billion. Scholarship information is based on the College Board’s Annual Survey of Financial Aid Programs. Not only does it help you search for scholarships, but also provides loan information, calculators, and information for high school students and the college application process.”
FinAid Scholarship Search “FinAid was created by Mark Kantrowitz, a noted financial aid and college planning author. Mark was also publisher of FastWeb, the largest and most popular free scholarship matching service. Previously, he was a research scientist at Just Research, the US software laboratory for Justsystem Corporation of Japan. Mark has earned the praise of numerous college administrators, journalists and students and families for his dedicated work on the FinAid site; also, not surprisingly, he managed to fund his own schooling without spending a single cent of his parents’ money.”
“U.S. Department of Labor Search more than 7,500 scholarships, fellowships, grants, and other financial aid award opportunities. You can: Look through the whole list of scholarships arranged in order of closest deadline, you can narrow your list with “Search by keyword.” or enter a keyword about the type of award you’re looking for and use the filters to see only awards for certain award types, locations, level of study, and more.”
The Scholarship Workshop
“The Scholarship Workshop LLC, founded in 1991, is an educational service from Marianne Ragins, $400,000 scholarship winner, best-selling author, and motivational speaker. She provides services and resources for parents, students, counselors and youth leaders such as The Scholarship Workshop presentation, online classes and scholarship webinars, motivational speeches, and a range of presentations about scholarships, college, and other educational topics.”
I suggest you bookmark each of these sites but if you’re a paper person, here’s a username and password tracker you can use. (Click image to download.)
Books to Read
I highly recommend, as do “experts”, the Ultimate Scholarship Book 2020. I am going through this now and found 4 in about 30 minutes. What I like about this book is that it is broken down by state, interest and there’s a huge section of just “general”.
I flagged them with post-it notes and added to our scholarship tracker. I write down the name of the scholarship, when they are due, and the amount my sons could earn. Yes, this is a lot of work, but free money works for me!
If you managed to read all of this, you can see that working with your teen and/or college student is all about teamwork. Come up with a schedule of when you both can work on finding scholarships, applying and completing applications. In the beginning, it feels awkward, but once you go through the process a couple of times, it becomes “old hat” and exciting to wait for the results.
So, let me know how it goes! Comment below. I’d love to hear your success stories and of course, please let me know if you have any questions. I’d be happy to help!
Every little bit helps when you are trying to pay for college! I will keep you posted on how my boys and I do with our own search.
Does your child’s future include college? One big reason to begin making plans for college is MONEY!!! Something else to think about is that your child’s future will greatly be affected by the choices he or she makes today. These two factors were at the top of the list while our oldest son was deciding on a college. We are trying to help our kids as they go through college, by helping to prevent student loan debt or at least reduce it for them.
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42 MILLION students owe $1.3 TRILLION in student debt!!!!
This number is astronomical already and is growing with each semester. Make decisions based on the amount of money that you have saved (or not), the choice of a major, and what is the likelihood of earning enough income to make a decent living when college is finished. If you can limit or prevent student loan debt for your child, they will be so much further ahead in life!
Approximately 70% of graduates with Bachelors degrees leave school with some amount of student loan debt…
Be very careful when reading the fine print on the documents that each school provides. If we hadn’t paid attention to our son’s financial package information, we would have accepted a student loan. It was right there in black and white, but if I hadn’t been checking through each item, I would have missed this line item.
I now know to look for it each semester and draw a line through it. Just because something is written down on proposed tuition paperwork does not mean that you, the consumer, need to utilize it. Look everything over very carefully! This is an easy way to help prevent student loan debt.
Loan payments upon graduation can be more than their rent payments…
Find someone who has recently graduated in the field that your child has chosen, and find out this what they get on their paycheck, so that you can discuss this with your student. This way each of you are aware as he or she moves toward their future. Making a good choice in the beginning of college is crucial.
The cost of college skyrockets after the first 4 years, so switching majors can really be a financial setback if done after the sophomore year.
College grads in 2001 earned 10% more than they do now…
This is because the cost of living has increased so much, and many items that were once much more affordable such as healthcare, are now no longer fitting into even a reasonable budget. This can be super frustrating for today’s graduates because how can they get ahead if they are already behind?!
2 out of 3 students graduating won’t find an adequate job, meaning one that would pay for a reasonable living as well as enough extra for loan payments… This goes along with what was said earlier. The fewer loans, the easier life will be moving forward. Read here.
More than two-thirds of student loan borrowers were surprised by some aspect of their student loan debt…
(Student loan debt amounts are staggering.)
If loans must be taken out, then really pay attention to the total. Parents may not be paying much attention to this because they know their student will ultimately be responsible for this amount. This is not reasonable or fair.
Please take care to be honest with your child about what you can and cannot afford from the very beginning. That is where the conversation needs to begin.
And, please don’t wait until your student’s senior year! However, if that is where you are, by all means, get started!
31% of students who dropped out of college referred to finances as a reason…
This is, in part, because parents did not want to admit that they couldn’t afford the school that the child wanted to attend. Please know that even though this might be embarrassing to have to admit, it will be so much worse if your child has to drop out because of something that could have been prevented by honesty in the first place.
Real life happens! We had my husband’s student loans to pay off. Then real life happened, as in we had bills to pay… We don’t have that much saved in the way of college funds for our boys, and they know that good grades etc. will really help with getting good financial packages from schools.
It has helped that we have been honest and realistic about their choices about where they can go and what we can afford to pay. We have also been very upfront with them about the fact that they are in charge of all their spending money once they are at school as well.
About half of all college graduates are living paycheck to paycheck and many have had to resort to living with parents or grandparents…
I think back to when I first graduated. I truly lived paycheck to paycheck. I paid a little more in rent than I should have, but it was in a safe neighborhood, and that was important to me living in a big city for the first time in my life.
I literally lived on about $1.00 a day after all my expenses were paid. I lived on pasta and tuna at night, and knew to the ounce how much salad I could put in my container to stay at less than $2.00 each day for lunch in the cafeteria.
I couldn’t afford to buy enough groceries for both dinners and lunches. I ate a lot of oatmeal! I didn’t even have any furniture, and I slept on an air mattress for months.
A fact that is is so sad is that many young adults consider their loans to be a life sentence because it is so hard to get rid of! Please read this sobering article. Help your child now to make a good decision for their future!
Here’s my question… Are kids today willing to do that?
I came from a nice home with most everything I wanted as I was growing up. But, I was READY to grow up and move on. I’m not sure about today’s young graduates when it comes time to move on. Parents make it really easy for them to stay home.
But, here’s the thing. Getting a couple of roommates and striking it out on their own-even if they are super poor– is probably the best thing that we can do for our kids. At the very least, help them out at first, but work out a plan with your child for how they will gradually move out and on:)
I read a story the other day about mother giraffes. As soon as her baby struggles to his feet, the mom knocks him down. The baby struggles up again. Mom knocks him down again. It happens again and again.
Is the mom being mean? No! Because, guess what? Pretty soon the little guy gets stronger and stronger and more sturdy. And, then, he can stand on his own with no struggling or wobbling. He has learned, and she has done her job by preparing him.
24% of millenials who attend college think that their loans will be “forgiven”…
Loan forgiveness is very rare. It is NOT something these kids should be counting on at all. Their plan needs to be to work, work, and work some more maybe at a main job with 2 or 3 side hustles to get their loans paid down.
The real world is manageable, but our kids need to have a plan and be mentally strong and able to handle it by being prepared.
Don’t let these numbers scare you!!
Now is definitely the time to start the process of preparing your child to go to college to get a great education and graduate with little to NO debt. You and your teen have to get into the mindset that this is a challenge that can be met.
Be proactive. You and your child have to be on the same page or at least supportive of each other’s efforts. Take the time to get informed. Do some research. You can start now wherever you are, however old your child is. The sooner the better!
How about you? Are you helping your kids? Do you have any good ideas for the rest of us?
Check out my friend’s post on other strategies to avoid student loan debt!