High School: Scholarships vs. Grants (3/6)

Throughout our schooling we were always told that any transgression would go on our “permanent record,” and of our studies we’d think, “Why do I need to know this? I’ll never need this in the real world!” As it turns out student records are not so permanent, and most of us don’t ultimately need high school trigonometry in our day-to-day life. But for a student applying for college, it helps to portray a well-rounded student who is capable of learning. As a student approaches these high school years, middle school records become irrelevant, and high school grades and activities become paramount. These are the years when your student’s decisions and dedication can truly impact their future.

We uncovered in our last post the opportunity cost of delaying college savings. If your child is entering high school and the college fund is lacking, it will be more difficult to catch up. This is the time for diligent saving, but also honest conversations with your student:

What is college and why is it important?

It may be early and is subject to change, but what does your student think about college at this point? Maybe they have not thought much about it. Share how you feel too. Are there family values or expectations surrounding college that you may have assumed are common knowledge? What does your student dream of doing with their life? Make sure they know if their dream requires a college degree. They may change their mind later, but be sure they know what it takes to become an astronaut, lawyer, doctor, zoologist, writer, financial planner, etc. High school is possibly the first time where these dreams start to become a reality.

How much does it cost and what are your expectations?

Maybe your student knows they want to go to college, but they may not have any idea just how much it can cost. Try to relay this information in financial terms they will understand. At this age they have likely never made a big purchase, and may not have started working yet. Share with them how much vacation costs, how much a car costs, or a house, and then show them how much college can cost. This isn’t to scare them, but just to put it in the perspective that college is an investment in their future to be taken seriously.

At some point you will also need to let them know what resources are available and what expectations you have for them to help pay for college. Family values are important, such as:

? Have Mom & Dad / Grandma & Grandpa been setting aside money for them?
? Are they expected to earn a certain level of scholarships?
? Are you willing to pay for 4 years of undergrad vs. grad school?
? Have you saved for in-state public tuition vs. the amounts needed for out-of-state or private school?
? Will you pay for tuition & fees vs. housing and incidentals?
? How about study abroad?
? Will you expect your student to work through college?
? Is your financial support dependent on their academic performance?
? Are there any degree pursuits that you would be unhappy with?

Again, these questions aren’t to scare your student. There’s no right or wrong, only what’s right for your family. You may not have all the answers right away, but over the course of high school these things should become clearer. Your student needs to know what your expectations are, and you need to know their desires as well.

What can your student do to prepare?

High school is a clean slate. You can fail every class up to this point, but a 4.0 in high school may still get you into Harvard! Being involved in various activities also helps. It’s not only that colleges want to see you’re well-rounded, but pursuing extra curricular activities can help a young student to find out what they enjoy. This can provide some direction as to what they may want to pursue in college. Good grades and activities also bring the possibility for academic and talent-based scholarships and grants. It’s not just athletics; there are scholarships and grants for all kinds of things:

? Dance                                          ? Robotics
? Art                                                ? Horses
? Theater                                        ? History
? Debate                                         ? Religion
? Sciences                                      ? Astronomy
? Writing and literature                   ? Everything else!

I shouldn’t even have started a list. The truth is for just about any interest your child may have, someone before them probably had that same interest and started a scholarship for it!

So what are scholarships and grants?

These are awards made available for your student that do not need to be paid back. Yes, it’s free money. They can be awarded in a number of ways:

1. Merit-based: Student achievement, be it overall academics or a specific demonstrated ability.
2. Need-based: Demonstrated financial need based on available resources and/or the high cost of the specific pursuit.
3. Student-specific: Based on students status in certain demographic groups. This can include gender, race, nationality, ancestry, region etc.
4. Career-specific: These are awards based on a pursuit of a certain career.

Lastly, your student may be getting a first job during these years. Do you expect them to save a certain amount of their earnings? Maybe they’re already saving for a car, or maybe they know they want to study abroad later on. A friend of mine was made to save half of every paycheck during high school, and she eventually used that money to study in Italy one summer. Do you have a strong desire for your student to work or not to work during college? Either way, having a good “savers” mentality and understanding the value of a dollar earned will go a long way.

Thank you for reading this week’s blog! Next week we’ll talk about Senior year, filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and applying to colleges.

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