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Preparing your child for college can be a daunting task. The information and tips provided here will help your child choose the right college, complete a college application, and understand all financial aid options available during the college decision-making process.

Selecting Colleges

Select a college based on your child’s unique needs, interests, and goals. Every college is different, but there are also some personal criteria that you need to consider when making your selection. Let’s begin by analyzing the two basic types of post-secondary education institutions.

Community, Technical, and Junior Colleges – Most of these colleges offer education and training programs that are two years in length or shorter. The programs often lead to a license, a certificate, an associate of arts (A.A.) degree, an associate of science (A.S.) degree, or an associate of applied science (A.A.S.) degree. A.A. and A.S. degree programs in an academic discipline are often comparable to the first two years of a general academic program offered by a four-year college or university. In many cases, students who earn two-year degrees may enter four-year schools and receive credit toward a B.A. or B.S. degree.

4-year Colleges and Universities – These schools usually offer a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree, which lays the foundation for more advanced studies and professional work. Some colleges and universities offer graduate and professional degrees. These institutions may be either public or private.

Here are some characteristics you will need to consider to help your child choose the right college:

• In-State or Out-of-State
• Public or Private
• Academic Programs
• College Size and Class Size
• Location
• Campus Life/Student Activities
• Cost

Applying to Colleges

To successfully complete a college application and apply to colleges, student’s must budget and manage their time, follow each college’s instructions, and most importantly, take a good look at themselves and their interests. There are varieties of on-line and print resources that will assist student’s with developing a timeline and checklist for college applications. Below are few websites to assist your child with their college application:

www.collegeboard.com

www.petersons.com

www.act.org

The Application Process

When completing a college application, either online or written, there are several important documents that must be included with your application. Some of the documents will be sent with the application and others will be sent to the college by other people. Once your child has decided which colleges to apply to, make a checklist of all the deadlines and tasks to complete. Remember to allow time for other people to assist you. Below are some items that will need to be included with the college application:

• Application fee

• High school transcript

• Admissions test scores (SAT and/or ACT)

• Letters of recommendation

• Essays (for some institutions, not all)

• Interview (for some institutions, not all)

After you submit all of the required application materials, contact your colleges and confirm that they were received.

Financial Aid Resources

There are many options when it comes to paying for college. Become familiar with the various forms and sources of financial aid. Millions of students across the United States receive some type of financial aid. Financial Aid is available in four forms:

• Grants – Free money

• Scholarships – Free money

• Work-study – Money earned which can be applied to your tuition

• Loans – Money borrowed that must be repaid, with interest

Financial Aid Awards include:Merit Based – Aid based on GPA and/or test scores (see Bright Futures below)

• Merit Based – Aid based on GPA and/or test scores (see Bright Futures below)

• Need Based – Aid based on financial need (see FAFSA below)

• Talent or Career Based – Aid based on the students unique talent or career interest (see NHSC below)

Financial Aid Resources for Students

• Bright Futures Scholarship: www.floridastudentfinancialaid.org/ssfad/bf

• Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): www.fafsa.ed.gov

• The College Board: www.collegeboard.com/pay

• Fast Web: www.fastweb.com

• College is Possible: www.collegeispossible.org

• Peterson’s Financial Aid: www.petersons.com/finaid

• National Health Service Corps (NHSC): www.nhsc.bhpr.hrsa.gov (for students interested in health careers)

Although the majority of financial aid is provided by the Federal Government, State Government, and colleges and universities, students are encouraged to seek other sources of aid including private sources from companies, banks, community groups, and civic organizations.