Planning for College

There are steps that families can take to get ready for college – no matter what the student’s age. Click on the appropriate grade level to learn what steps can be taken each year of school to help make college possible and affordable.

 

Pre-Kindergarten and Elementary School Parents

Start saving money for college.

Some parents think that if they save for college, they will not receive as much financial aid. This is not true. A family’s income is the primary factor in determining financial need. Assets, such as savings, are considered at a much lower rate.

 

Maine’s college savings plan is the NextGen College Investing Plan®. Consider using this as a way of saving for college.

 

Be involved in your child’s school work.

Parents are one of the most influential factors in a child’s life. Make a point to ask your son or daughter about school, homework and teachers. Ask your child about his/her interests and abilities and help explore dreams and goals. Help make school fun and interesting for your child.

 

Communicate with your child’s teachers.

Attend parent/teacher conferences. Be certain that you understand what the teacher expects from your child in the classroom. This way you can help your child with homework, projects or other assignments.

 

Middle School Parents

Help your student develop good study habits.

Many students will move into the middle school this year. Learning good study habits now will make it easier as your student continues through middle school and moves into the high school.

 

Continue to help your student explore his/her interests and possible career choices.

Choosing a career is a big decision for a student. If your child begins thinking about possibilities now, it may be easier when the time comes to choose a college and career.

 

Help your student understand the need for continuing education after high school.

Students with a college degree can expect to earn more income during their lifetime.

 

Encourage extracurricular interests.

This is a great time for students to explore athletic, artistic or other interests. Being part of a team or group will help your child to grow and learn from others. Be certain that these activities do not interfere with school or that your student becomes “over-scheduled”.

 

Look at the courses available and choose carefully.

Make sure your student chooses appropriate courses when creating the schedule for 9th grade. Understand what is needed for high school graduation and beyond.

 

Continue saving money for college.

Even a few dollars each week can help as you save for your child’s education. Every amount you save now can help reduce the amount of loans needed later.

 

Maine’s college savings plan is the NextGen College Investing Plan®. Consider using this as a way of saving for college.  

 

Freshmen

Continue thinking about your interests and skills.

Explore different careers, education requirements and salaries.

 

Get to know your guidance counselor.

Your school counselor will be a great resource as you plan for college. He/she can advise you on course selection, help you register for the PSAT and/or find a tutor if you are having difficulty in a class.

 

Understand which high school courses are needed for your career interests.

Create a tentative course plan to ensure that you enroll in the courses needed for your plans after high school.  For example, you will likely need to take a foreign language course in high school if you wish to pursue a bachelor's degree. Course selection in each year of high school is very important.

 

Participate in extracurricular activities.

Whether in the school or community, becoming involved will help you meet new people and learn outside of the classroom. Be careful not to overextend yourself. It is better to be actively involved in a few organizations then to be a non-participating member in many different things.

 

Continue saving money for college.

Ask family members to contribute some money toward your college savings plan for birthdays and holidays. If you have extra money, put a portion in your account – every little bit helps.

 

Sophomores

Begin thinking about colleges you might want to attend.

Search web sites or look in books for information on colleges that interest you. Make a list of what is important to you: location, size, degree offered, etc.

 

Keep track of your achievements.

Often times college and scholarship applications request this information. Having a folder or file with awards or certificates can help when it comes time to fill out these types of forms.

 

Make sure you are taking the right courses to graduate on time and with the necessary requirements for college.

Talk with your guidance counselor to make sure you are taking the right courses. Even if you do not know the college or career you want to pursue, taking the right classes now will help give you options later.

 

Continue to save for college.

Students and parents are expected to contribute toward college costs. Keep saving and encouraging family members to help you save.

 

Juniors 

Talk with your family about colleges you are interested in attending.

Your family can help you prepare for college. Let them know what interests you and the types of colleges you might want to attend.

 

Sign up and take the SAT.

Check with your guidance counselor for testing dates.

 

Organize your college information.

Keep track of correspondence and make note of deadlines. You will receive information from many colleges. Throw away the brochures from colleges that you know you will not attend to help avoid extra clutter.

 

Attend college fairs.

Talk with the representatives of the colleges you are interested in attending.

 

Attend a financial aid workshop.

The more you learn now, the easier it will be when you are a senior and need to apply for financial aid.

 

Start researching scholarships.

Use free internet scholarship searches to find scholarships that you may qualify to receive. Some scholarships may require that you wait until your senior year to apply, but some may accept your application in your junior year.

 

Talk to friends and family who are home from college during the holiday break.

Ask them what they like and dislike and what they wish they knew before they went to college.

 

Schedule campus tours.

Narrow down your list of possible colleges and begin planning visits during the summer after your junior year or early fall of your senior year. Create a list of questions to ask the admissions representative during your interview.

 

Work with your guidance counselor as you select your senior year courses.

Make sure you are meeting all of your high school and college requirements.

 

Continue saving money for college.

Take some of the money you earned from your summer job and put it in your savings account. The money you save can be used to help pay for admission application fees.

 

Seniors

Discuss your courses and college plans with your counselor.

Make sure your senior year schedule is complete and you are signed up for all the correct courses. Study hard and maintain good grades.

 

Continue visiting college campuses if necessary.

Narrow your college options to between three and five colleges you would consider attending. Make sure one of the colleges is a college where you have a very good chance of being admitted.

 

Continue to search for scholarships.

Begin submitting applications and essays. Never pay a fee to apply for a scholarship.

 

Stay organized.

Continue to keep track of correspondence and make note of deadlines.

 

Ask teachers or counselors to write letters of recommendation.

Choose someone who knows you well and will be able to discuss your strengths. Make sure you let the writer know the college name and the date by which you need the recommendation completed. Give the person plenty of time to complete the letter.

 

Complete and mail admissions applications for colleges.

Most admission applications are on the college web site and many can be submitted electronically. Pay attention to deadlines. Be aware of special admissions options, such as Early Decision or Early Action.

 

In January, file your FAFSA.

Go to www.fafsa.gov to complete the federal form.

 

Submit any other financial aid forms required.

Some colleges may require financial aid forms other than the FAFSA. Be certain you know the forms and deadlines required. If you miss a deadline, you may not qualify for some types of financial aid.

 

Review your Student Aid Report (SAR) and financial aid awards.

If you used estimated tax information on your FAFSA, make corrections on your SAR. Check with the financial aid offices at the colleges you want to attend to ensure they have all your paperwork.

 

Submit the enrollment deposit by May 1.

Most colleges require that you submit the tuition and/or housing deposit by May 1. If your college has set a different date, make sure you meet the deadline. You should also notify the colleges you will not be attending so they can remove you from their mailing list.

 

Attend your college’s orientation/registration sessions.

This is a great opportunity to meet other new students, register for fall classes and maybe meet your roommate.

 

Continue to save money for college.

Use money from your summer job to help pay for college expenses. You will need to purchase books and supplies when you get to college and having money set aside will help.

 

Nontraditional Students

FAME’s nontraditional student web page can help guide you along the path to college by providing useful information about career and college choice, balancing work, family, and college, applying to college, financial aid, and much more!

 

Non English Speakers

FAME offers translated resources that provide ESL/ELL students, families and their counselors with useful tips and information related to the financial aid process. 

 

Military Students & Families

FAME's military student page provides an overview of military education benefits as well as financial aid, career, and college planning resources available to service members, veterans, and their families.

 

Graduate Students

Considering Graduate School
There are many reasons students decide to pursue graduate school. 

  • Postgraduate education may be required in your field. 
  • Graduate school offers the opportunity to build skills and credentials that will give you an advantage in a competitive job market. 
  • Graduate degree holders have more earning power, earning a weekly average of 18-36% more than those with a bachelor degree only. 
  • Although a graduate degree will not guarantee you the career or salary of your choice, unemployment rates are lower with a graduate degree.

Specialized graduate programs can be demanding, time-consuming, and costly.  Many financial assistance programs, especially grants and scholarships, are reserved for undergraduate students.  If you are considering graduate school, it is important to weigh the benefits and carefully choose the best program for your career goals.  The FAME Web site has a Maine College Search that contains a quick view of the colleges in Maine, including program offerings, and links to their web sites.  The GradView Web site is an excellent resource for comparing graduate programs across the U.S. and Canada.

 

Financial Aid Application Process
The financial aid application process is the same for graduate students as it is for undergraduate students.  FAME’s Financial Aid Basics provides more information on financial aid and how to apply.

 

Types of Financial Aid

Loans – Graduate student financial aid typically consists of loan options such as Federal Direct Stafford, Federal Perkins, Federal Direct Grad PLUS and alternative loans.  Loans must be repaid, usually with interest.  Be sure to take advantage of federal student loans first and only borrow what you need.  Federal student loans offer flexible repayment programs such as income-based repayment as well as deferment and forbearance options.  These programs are designed to help new graduates successfully meet their loan obligations.

 

Fellowships & Scholarships– Fellowship opportunities provide financial assistance in exchange for field related research or other work.  Many of these are administered by the academic department of the school so it’s important to check directly with your school to find out what opportunities, if any, are available to you.   Some fellowships are not specific to a particular college and may be found through other sources. 

 

While it is true that many scholarships are reserved for undergraduate studies, there are also scholarships available to graduate students.  FAME has a Maine-based scholarship search as well as links to national scholarship searches where you can enter information specific to you, such as your degree program, and receive information on scholarships that you may be eligible to apply for.  Additionally, the following online search sites provide fellowship and scholarship listings specifically for graduate studies. 

 

Cornell Graduate School Fellowship Database: http://www.gradschool.cornell.edu/fellowships

The National Science Foundation: www.nsf.gov/grfp

Prestigious Scholarships and Fellowships Listing on Finaid.org: http://www.finaid.org/scholarships/prestigious.phtml

 

Assistantships – Assistantships are usually provided to graduate students through part-time academic employment.  Students are typically paid a small stipend in exchange for work. 

 

Employee Benefits – Many graduate students complete their studies while continuing to work full time.  Some employers offer education benefits such as tuition reimbursement.  Be sure to check with your employer to see if there are education benefits available to you.


Enrollment Requirements
It’s important to understand enrollment requirements pertaining to the program you will be enrolled in and the financial assistance you use to pay for your education.

 

Graduate programs vary in enrollment requirements.  Some programs require that you are enrolled full time, while others will allow you to complete your coursework on a part-time basis.  Often there will be a maximum length of time in which you have to finish the program. 

 
Federal student loans require that students be enrolled at least half time to receive loan funds.  Some fellowships and scholarships require that students be enrolled full time.  Be sure that you know your school’s enrollment status definitions and how your enrollment plan will affect your financial aid. 

 

Medical Students

FAME's medical education page provides useful resources for Maine residents interested in pursuing a degree in medicine. FAME's Advisory Committee on Medical Education provided guidance and assistance in preparing this information. 

 

 

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