6 Things High School Grads Need to Do Before Leaving for College

high school grads

Your last high school prom is over and you’re counting down the days till graduation. Some of you may have even already graduated. Yes, freedom and plans for a fun-filled summer are just around the corner.  Before you know it, you’ll be loading up your belongings in the family minivan and heading off to college. You’re so ready, right? Well, maybe not. Here are some tips for things to do this summer before you head off to college.

1. Downsize, Get Organized & Learn How to Do Your Own Laundry

You’re not going to be able to take your whole closet and every cherished belonging with you to the dorm.  Start downsizing now and make a list of all the things you’ll need to take with you. A clean and tidy space will make things a lot more manageable. Most likely you’ll go home a time or two on break and you can swap out things that you don’t need for things that you do. But, in between those trips home, you’ll need to learn how to do laundry. Those whites can turn into some interesting colors and transform into a smaller size if you don’t know your way around a washer and dryer.

2. Understand Your Financial Situation

Each family’s situation is different – make sure you understand what your family may or may not be able to contribute. You should’ve already applied for financial aid.  If not, you need to complete the 2015-16 Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) ASAP! Make sure you list on the application the school code of the college you plan to attend so your information is sent to that school. If you still haven’t decided it’s best to list any school you think you may attend. The financial aid office will then notify you of any financial aid you might be eligible for.  Know what each of those types of aid is and in what order you should accept them.  Visit StudentAid.gov for information on planning and paying for college. Do you have enough money to pay for school? Will you need to work part-time? Make a budget and know what you can spend on certain things.

3. Get a Good Calendar and Prepare for a Whole New World of Time Management

One of the biggest challenges for a lot of you will be time management. When you head off to college, you won’t have somebody there to wake you up, make you breakfast and send you out the door in clean clothes with completed homework in hand. Set yourself up early with a class schedule (make a course syllabus your new best friend) and a system that works for you.  You need to know deadlines for registration, papers, financial aid, coursework and everything in between.  Your chance of succeeding academically will rapidly evaporate if you don’t manage your time well. You’re worth the investment – manage it well.

4. Craft a Good Resume and Learn How to Network

No, don’t wait until you’re approaching college graduation to write a cover letter and resume, you need one now. Having a compelling and professional resume and cover letter is vital to applying for part-time jobs, internships, etc. You might want to also consider changing your email address. Employers probably won’t be impressed with an email address like justheretoparty@XXmail.com.  Work experience can be just as important as good grades when looking for jobs after college graduation. Internships not only provide you with knowledgeable experiences in your field, but they also provide great networking opportunities.  Don’t settle in and nest, put yourself out there and go to as many networking events as possible.

5. Embrace Coupons and Master the Art of a Good Deal

Another difficult thing to learn is skipping those unnecessary splurges. Yes, I know it’s all about YOLO but you need to embrace BOGO. Coupons aren’t just for stay at home moms anymore.  Scoring deals whether in newspapers, magazines or with online sites like Groupon and Living Social it’s easier than ever.  But don’t get so caught up in the deals that you buy vouchers for things you end up not using.  That can cost rather than save you money. Save those splurges for when you score a great “Buy One Get One” free or other greatly discounted offer. Ask about student discounts and if available, a student advantage card.  Start practicing this summer.  It’ll impress your friends and it’ll be a little more money in your pocket when you get to campus. Another great way to save money is buying used textbooks rather than new. Search sites like bigwords.com, Amazon, and TextbooksRUs to name a few.  If you buy new and then resell them back to the college bookstore check online sites first for what they’re worth.  College bookstore buy back rates are sometimes as low as 10% of what you paid for it new. Lots of students are also renting textbooks on sites like chegg.com.

6. Learn How to Keep You and Your Things Safe

Yes, you need to remember to lock your dorm room and place that lock on your laptop. Losing your laptop can wreak havoc on your studies and a theft due to an unlocked door can also ruin your relationship with your roommate. Start practicing being more aware of your surroundings and keeping yourself safe. Program your school’s campus security number into your phone.  You never know when you might need it. Safety also applies to protecting your social security number, usernames and passwords. Your social security number is one of the main identifiers when checking on things like financial aid, grades, and registering for classes.  Make sure all your passwords and important numbers are not on a post-it-note on your desk.  Store them in a secure place.  Not protecting your identity and important information can have lasting long-term effects on your ability to get a job and apply for credit.

Congratulations on a job well done and making the decision to advance your education!

Susan Thares is the digital engagement lead for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid. 

Help Us Get the Word Out About the FAFSA

FAFSA-complete

For us at the U.S. Department of Education, the start of a new year provides a fresh opportunity to remind parents, students, educators and others about the importance of submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA ®). The Department’s office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) provides more than $150 billion in grants, loans, and work-study funds each year to help students pay for college or career school. Completing the FAFSA is the primary step for determining eligibility for federal student aid and subsequently accessing these funds. With the 2015-16 FAFSA having gone live on January 1, FSA is requesting your assistance in promoting FAFSA completion.

We are asking for your help in getting the message out through your social media channels about the importance of completing the FAFSA early in the year. To help you do that, FSA has developed some resources for you to use. They include sample Facebook posts, tweets, blogs, informative videos, photos and infographics. These and other great resources can be found on FSA’s Financial Aid Toolkit. These resources can be tailored to best fit your needs. If you’re new to social media or just looking for ideas on how to easily use these resources or how others are using them, view this presentation.

In addition, over the next few months, FSA’s Digital Engagement Group will be actively managing our own presence on social media with a strong focus on FAFSA completion. We highly encourage you to use and repost our content whenever applicable. Here are the places you can find us:

facebook      twitter     youtube     storify
Thanks for your support and commitment to advancing the higher education goals of students and families across the country.

Susan Thares is the Digital Engagement Lead at the Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid.

6 Things High School Grads Need to Do Before Leaving for College

graduation

Getting ready for your last high school prom and counting down the days till graduation are all you can think about.  Yes, freedom and plans for a fun-filled summer are just around the corner.  Before you know it, you’ll be loading up your belongings in the family minivan and headed off to college.  You’re so ready, right?  Well, maybe not.  Here are some tips for things to do this summer before you head off to college.

Downsize, Get Organized & Learn How to Do Your Own Laundry

You’re not going to be able to take your whole closet and every cherished belonging with you to the dorm.  Start downsizing now and make a list of all the things you’ll need to take with you.  A clean and tidy space will make things a lot more manageable.  Most likely you’ll go home a time or two on break and you can swap out things that you don’t need for things that you do.  But, in between those trips home, you’ll need to learn how to do laundry.  Those whites can turn into some interesting colors and transform into a smaller size if you don’t know your way around a washer and dryer.

Understand Your Financial Situation

Each family’s situation is different – make sure you understand what your family may or may not be able to contribute.  You should’ve already applied for financial aid.  If not, you need to complete the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) ASAP!  Make sure you list on the application the school code of the college you plan to attend so your information is sent to that school.  If you still haven’t decided it’s best to list any school you think you may attend.  The financial aid office will then notify you of any financial aid you might be eligible for.  Know what each of those types of aid is and in what order you should accept them.  Visit StudentAid.gov for information on planning and paying for college.  Do you have enough money to pay for school?  Will you need to work part-time?  Make a budget and know what you can spend on certain things.

Get a Good Calendar and Prepare for a Whole New World of Time Management

One of the biggest challenges for a lot of you will be time management. When you head off to college, you won’t have somebody there to wake you up, make you breakfast and send you out the door in clean clothes with completed homework in hand.  Set yourself up early with a class schedule (make a course syllabus your new best friend) and a system that works for you.  You need to know deadlines for registration, papers, financial aid, coursework and everything in between.  Your chance of succeeding academically will rapidly evaporate if you don’t manage your time well.  You’re worth the investment – manage it well.

Craft a Good Resume and Learn How to Network

No, don’t wait until you’re approaching college graduation to write a cover letter and resume, you need one now.  Having a compelling and professional resume and cover letter is vital to applying for part-time jobs, internships, etc.   You might want to also consider changing your email address.  Employers probably won’t be impressed with an email address like justheretoparty@XXmail.com.  Work experience can be just as important as good grades when looking for jobs after college graduation.   Internships not only provide you with knowledgeable experiences in your field, but they also provide great networking opportunities.  Don’t settle in and nest, put yourself out there and go to as many networking events as possible.

Embrace Coupons and Master the Art of a Good Deal

Another difficult thing to learn is skipping those unnecessary splurges.  Yes, I know it’s all about YOLO but you need to embrace BOGO.  Coupons aren’t just for stay at home moms anymore.  Scoring deals whether in newspapers, magazines or with online sites like Groupon and Living Social it’s easier than ever.  But don’t get so caught up in the deals that you buy vouchers for and you don’t end up using.  That can cost rather than save you money.  Save those splurges for when you score a great “Buy One Get One” free or other greatly discounted offer.    Ask about student discounts and if available a studentadvantage card.  Start practicing this summer.  It’ll impress your friends and it’ll be a little more money in your pocket when you get to campus.  Another great way to save money is buying used textbooks rather than new.  Search sites like bigwords.com, Amazon, and TextbooksRUs to name a few.  If you buy new and then resell them back to the college bookstore check online sites first for what they’re worth.  College bookstore buy back rates are sometimes as low as 10% of what you paid for it new.  Lots of students are also now renting textbooks on sites like chegg.com.

Learn How to Keep You and Your Things Safe

Yes, you need to remember to lock your dorm room and place that lock on your laptop.  Losing your laptop can wreak havoc on your studies and a theft due to an unlocked door can also ruin your relationship with your roommate.  Start practicing being more aware of your surroundings and keeping yourself safe.  Program your school’s campus security number into your phone.  You never know when you might need it.  Safety also applies to protecting your social security number, PIN and passwords.  Your social security number is one of the main identifiers when checking on things like financial aid, grades, and registering for classes.  Make sure all your passwords and important numbers are not on a post-it-note on your desk.  Store them in a secure place.  Not protecting your identity and important information can have lasting long-term effects on your ability to get a job and apply for credit.

Congratulations on a job well done and making the decision to advance your education!

Susan Thares is the digital engagement lead for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid. 

Are You Ready to Pay for College?

On April 1st President Obama announced April as National Financial Capability Month with a focus on ensuring all Americans have the tools they need to navigate the financial world and gain economic freedom. In today’s economy, financial capability is essential for managing through some of life’s biggest transitions, including paying for college. A solid understanding of money management basics makes it easier to avoid scams, spot misleading information, and make sound financial decisions on financing your education and avoiding unmanageable debt when you graduate.

student_loans

The first step in paying for college is to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) at www.fafsa.gov. Federal Student Aid has over $150 billion in financial aid available for college and it all starts with the FAFSA. The FAFSA is FREE, so you should never have to pay to have someone submit it for you. In addition, many states also have state aid available to help finance your education. You’ll want to make sure to complete your FAFSA by the priority deadline for your state to be eligible for those additional funds.  You should also spend time looking for scholarships. Many are based on your interests, community service, organization affiliations, etc. and not just your grades. StudentAid.gov has lots of great information and resources on planning and paying for college including how to search for scholarships.

Once you’ve completed your FAFSA, you won’t get a check in the mail from the government. There’s a little more to it than that. Once you’ve been accepted to the school of your choice, they will send you a financial aid award letter listing all the financial aid you are eligible for. The timing of the aid offer varies from school to school, and you could receive an aid offer as early as spring (awarding for the fall). You’ll want to be an informed consumer and make sure to closely review your aid offer. You can also compare offers from different schools to see which might be best for you. And you don’t have to accept everything that’s offered.  The rule is free money first (scholarships and grants), then earned money (work-study), and then borrowed money (federal student loans). Check out this handy chart that illustrates the order in which you should accept financial aid.

If you do have to take out student loans make sure to borrow only what you need and try and limit borrowing to federal student loans. Federal student loans typically have lower interest rates and more flexibility when it comes time to pay them back. Federal Student Aid also has a Repayment Estimator which can help you get an idea of what your monthly student loan payment may be when you graduate. This tool will help you see what impact the loans you are about to get can have on your future finances. Don’t wait until you’re ready to graduate to find out what those student loan payments might be and wonder if you can afford them!

Education is an important step in getting a good paying job and can lay the foundation for your financial future. Plan ahead and make smart decisions about how you finance it.

Susan Thares is the digital engagement lead at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid