We spend most of our time on this blog discussing college planning strategies that are relatively short-term, often intended for high school juniors and seniors, or current college students.
But every once in a while, we get questions from families that have students preparing for or just entering high school. They typically want to know if there is anything they can do at this juncture in order to help make college more affordable. The answer is a definite yes—and a recent article in the LA Times provides two such ideas:
AP classes: Advanced Placement classes taken in high school can count as college units, if the student both passes the class and the requisite AP test following it. Although schools differ on how they accept the AP units, good grades in these classes almost always boost a child’s grade-point average and make the student more attractive as a college prospect. The more attractive the child is to the college, the more accommodating officials are to the need for aid, said Chany, who runs Campus Consultants in New York. Better yet, schools that accept AP units allow the student to take fewer college units, and that usually means lower college bills.
PSATs: High school sophomores and juniors should focus on studying for PSATs. The PSAT results are not provided to colleges. But the student’s score determines eligibility for National Merit Scholarships. These generous awards are given only to those who score within the top 1% of their state’s graduates, and who have both excellent grades and excellent recommendations from teachers. That makes the awards rare. Of the roughly 1.4 million students who take the PSAT each year, only about 8,000 win the $2,500 grant from the National Merit Corp.
But becoming a National Merit finalist can trigger eligibility for generous school-based merit scholarships that can range from several thousand dollars off tuition costs to a full ride. So studying hard for this test can reap many rewards. Roughly 34,000 students each year receive commendations from National Merit Corp., recognition that improves the college application and often leads to bigger helpings of college-based aid.
These two strategies are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to long-term strategies for reducing the cost of college. If you’d like more information, please get in touch with us today!