Many parents (mistakenly) believe that the last year or two of high school is the time to be thinking about college. However, planning for college, and particularly how to pay for college, should start much earlier.
In fact, there are things that your child should start doing in the early stages of high school that will increase their options for financial aid for college.
1. Take Advanced Placement Classes
Have you always thought that Advanced Placement classes, or AP classes, are only for those kids who always get good grades? Well, think again. AP courses are for anyone who is motivated and willing to work hard.
The great thing about AP courses is that your child can earn college credit for classes that he or she takes in high school.
What does this mean for parents? It can potentially mean thousands of dollars in tuition savings.
For example, the University of California grants credit for 35 different AP Course Exams (with a score of 3 or higher), including Art History, Calculus, Chinese Language and Culture, Music Theory, Studio Art, Environmental Science, Computer Science, and many more.
Depending on how many AP classes your student takes, he or she could be finished with almost a year’s worth of college before even arriving on campus. At UCLA, this translates to savings of around $11,000. For a non-resident, the savings are even greater.
2. Learn How to Write a Killer Scholarship Essay
Most scholarship applications require an essay. Why? Because the people reading them want to get a feel for the person behind the application.
Remember, many scholarship programs get hundreds or thousands of applications each year. Applicants who have an interesting, well-written essay will get noticed. Learning to craft an intelligent and engaging essay could be your child’s ticket to a lot of scholarship money.
Help your son or daughter find resources that hone their writing skills. Ask a friend or family member who is a good writer to help. Or ask their English teacher! He or she will most likely be thrilled that someone is showing an interest in learning how to write well.
3. Develop Interests and Talents
Another way to tap into scholarship money is through talent awards. What is your child good at? What does she like to do? Your child should spend his high school years mastering these talents.
There are scholarships available for every interest and ability. In addition to more traditional skills such as athletics, art and music; there are oddball scholarships created for knitters, duck callers, hunters, and people who dominate at the game of marbles.
Be creative and start early. Thousands of dollars in scholarships go un-awarded each year simply because no one takes advantage of them.
By nurturing these three strategies, your child will dramatically increase his or her chances of successfully tapping into the multitude of financial resources available to college bound students.