(BPT) - Senior year: It's a time to finish college applications, solidify friendships and look forward to the freedom and the responsibility that come once that final bell rings. A lot of feelings surface during that final year, especially for parents. While your son or daughter might be overjoyed to finally fly the coop and live independently, you'll probably be dealing with your own mix of emotions, and you'll want to be sure they're ready to begin college in the fall.
For families with a child headed to college, senior year is best thought of as a transition year. Plan ahead to make sure your family stays on track.
To help you and your child with a successful transition, here's the essential list of landmarks on the road that will take your child from a senior in high school to a freshman in college.
1. Apply yourself in the fall
The journey to college begins early, and by the fall of senior year in high school, your child should be in full transition mode. They should be finishing campus visits and finalizing the list of colleges where they want to apply. Make sure they've spoken with admission counselors, thoroughly researched schools they're interested in and have everything they need to complete their college applications.
Keep tabs on important deadlines and stay organized to avoid missing any critical due dates. For example, will they want to apply early decision or early action? If so, make sure you have weighed how this could impact your financial plan for college.
2. Focus on financial aid from the start
For many parents, one of the biggest anxieties around college is the cost. Don't forget that the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opens on Oct. 1, and some aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Make sure you submit the form as soon as it's available.
Because everyone has different needs, figuring out how to finance your child's education requires some research.
At College Ave Student Loans, you can find private loan options for parents and students. Even if you're not ready to take a loan out yet, parents and students can try out the fast and easy pre-qualification tools to find out if their credit pre-qualifies for a loan, and what interest rates they could expect, all without impacting their credit scores. Calculators are also available to help you explore your options and see how you can customize the loan payments to fit your budget.
3. Spring time is decision time
Early in the spring, your child will start to receive their first acceptance letters. Once they've heard from all of the schools where they applied, they'll have a big decision to make.
They need to do more than just decide which school to attend; they'll also need to send in a deposit, complete their housing form and accept financial aid packages.
A crucial step in this process is comparing award letters from the colleges where your child has been accepted. In reading these letters, pay close attention to how schools list the total costs. For instance, some schools will subtract the awarded loan amount from the total cost of attendance, while others will not. This could make the net cost of some schools appear less than others when in reality they are not, so take your time reading the documents.
4. Tie up everything in the summer
Before they head to campus, you and your children should create a budget to keep tabs on college bills. This will help you to stay on track financially and set the right expectations about how they need to manage their money.
You can help your soon-to-be freshman by working with them to outline a monthly budget that will take into account expected and unexpected expenses. Take a look at their financial aid packages and any income they might be earning and block out the monthly mandatory expenses. Then decide how much money they can spend on things like entertainment.
If you find that scholarships, grants and federal aid don't cover everything, private loans could be one solution for some college-bound students.
For parents and students, senior year is an exciting period. Knowing what steps to take and staying ahead of financial matters with useful tools like the ones at College Ave Student Loans can help make the transition easier for everyone.
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