Too early to think about College Scholarships?

Okay, okay! I know that at this point, it might be a little too early to think about college scholarships. But, I went to college and I’d like to at least be able to give my kids the chance to go if that’s what they want. I know that not everybody wants to go to college. But, I don’t want it to be 12 years from now and be surprised by the college costs and have to take out a second mortgage on the house. Now, I’m not saying that I’m going to go out and get a math tutor for them right now, or make them write essays every night to practice. I’m not a “Tiger Mom”. Although as the time gets closer, I might very well become one.

I have been saving for my Builder since before he was born through Upromise. And then once he was a year old, I actually started a 529 for him. But, at the rate that I’m able to save, we’ll have nowhere near enough money if he wants to attend a 4 year college. The projection that I found on this calculator: 

"College Cost Calculator"  says that we’ll need $150,000 for a PUBLIC 4 year college. Yep, that’s right! That’s not even for a private college. At the rate that we’re saving, we’ll only have about $21,000 saved. We don’t want to short-change our retirement funds by saving too much for college and not enough for retirement. As they say, you can get financial aid and scholarships for college, but there are no scholarships for retirement. Anyway! Our college savings are going to fall way short. I’m hoping that my kids will be able to find some scholarships. I know there are other financial aid options, but I’d rather not have to pay it back.

I actually went to college on scholarship my first year. And then I lost it. But, that’s another blog post, for another time. Needless to say, my father was not very thrilled with me! I was a Florida Academic Scholar. The scholarship program still exists today and is now called Bright Futures Scholarship. For those of you who live in Florida, you can find the information here: It’s a wonderful program. Our Junior High school sat us down in 8th grade and told us all of the requirements to receive the scholarship. I set my eyes on the goal and achieved it! Unfortunately, Ohio does not have a comparable program. But, for us Ohioans and everyone else out there, there are plenty of websites to help you find scholarships. Unfortunately, you can not apply for most of the scholarships until the kids are at least a freshman in High School. And a lot of them you can’t apply unless you will be taking college courses within the next 12 months. But, I still like to look every now and then.

Here are two of the sites that have a scholarship search feature:

You can also just type "Scholarship Search" into your search engine and it will bring a lot of sites up.  The two above I trust.  I am sure there are other trustworthy ones as well.  Just remember, you should NEVER have to pay for results.  Do not trust any site that asks for money.

I know we can’t apply for any of the scholarships yet, but I like to check every year or so to see if there is anything interesting. It gives me an idea about which direction to go. There are scholarships for different sports, activities, boy scouts, religions, etc. I know it’s crazy, but I’d like to know which direction might be beneficial for future scholarships!

But, most of all, I like to see what the standards are for academic skills. A lot of scholarships (not all) are based on SAT or ACT scores and GPA. I took the PSAT when I was a sophomore and the SATs twice. I didn’t realize that I didn’t need to take the SAT again because my ACT scores were high enough. But, I took it again. I needed 1100 for my scholarship and I scored a 1090 the first time. I missed the darn thing by ONE problem!! I know that they’ve changed the SAT now to include 3 sections instead of 2. I’m not going to go into all of the changes here. It’s way too much information! But, the perfect score is now 2400 instead of 1600 and math is 800 of it.

If you have kids that are nearing the time to take their SATs, the College Board website has a lot of great information and resources. And since math is one third of the SATs and the part with which a lot of people have problems, the College Board website has a lot math articles. One of the articles is about why math is important. I know a lot of kids like to say, “I’m never going to use this again after high school!” But, a lot of people beg to differ. Another article on the College Board website is called “Battling Math Anxiety”. Some of the tips that they include are:

· Keep up with classwork—Seems like a no-brainer, but if things get hard, some kids just give up

· Practice—Practice makes perfect!
· Ask for help if you need it
· Get a Math tutor
  Study with friends or classmates

I think these tips are pretty straightforward. I’ve gotta tell you, I’m pretty good at math. I actually like math. But, I like SOME kinds of math. I wish there were times that I would have taken the advice above for Trigonometry. I remember taking a quiz one time that I got a Big Fat Zero on! If I ever could have used a math tutor or a study group, it would have been for that! I didn’t actually understand Trig until I could apply it to Calculus, which I loved. Not everyone is good at everything. But, there is help if you need it!

Speaking of specified math courses, the College Board site recommends that if you’re planning to go to college, you take Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Trigonometry and Calculus in High School. I took all of those to get my scholarship. You know how some people have study halls, PE and Underwater basketweaving their senior year? Not me. I had Physics, Calculus, Advanced English, Psychology, Drama and French 4. I WORKED my booty off to get that scholarship! But, my point of all this is that I had a plan and I worked toward it. I hope that if your children plan to attend college, these websites are useful and you can work toward a plan to make it more affordable. It is never too early to start planning.

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