I feel like I have woken up to the reality that I will be launching my high schooler in the very near future. Without warning, I looked up and realized that we're nearing the finish line with him, and he's ready to be an adult.
I love that. And I hate that.
One way to help my student be prepared for the real world is to get a job. We've already informed him that we will not be covering his full college tuition, especially if he opts to go to a private liberal arts college like the University of Dallas. So he either needs to start saving, or working the money problem from a different angle.
This summer, we've asked him to work on preparing for the SAT as well as seek out other scholarship opportunities as if they were tasks for a summer job.
I am so thankful that we've started this process early enough that he has options for making it work. So while he does have a couple of summer jobs like pet sitting, yard work, and teaching swimming lessons, his main work pursuit will be a little different - he'll be working to get his college education for free.
Here's how we're going to approach it.
Get Those SAT Scores As High As Possible
Jean Burk, creator of College Prep Genuis writes:
College tuition has increased 600% in the last 25 years and all indications are that prices will continue to escalate. Right now, the nation has college debt to the tune of 1.2 trillion dollars. And with a huge college dropout rate only about one-third of enrolled students will graduate. This lends itself to a lot of wasted money without a degree.
With tuition ever increasing, it seems like an impossibility to even attempt to attend an expensive school. The SAT isn't an easy test, but it is one of the single most important factors for admission as well as getting good money for attending. Mrs. Burk explains:
The work your child does in high school—and the grades they get—doesn’t have a lot to do with the way colleges award placement. You may not even realize that 85% of colleges admit and give scholarship money based solely on SAT scores. Colleges are ranked nationally based on this standardized scoring system, so the higher the score—the more money you get!
National Merit Scholar
With this in mind, my son is spending at least an hour a day this summer on SAT prep using the College Prep Genius online materials. Getting a high SAT score would be great, but if he could qualify as a National Merit Scholar, he could get the maximum scholarship opportunities from schools around the country. Jean Burk's approach is so effective that her SAT prep helps with the PSAT which is where those big scholarships come from. She explains:
Another forgotten fact is that the makers of the SAT (the College Board) also write the highly misunderstood PSAT. This test is touted as a practice-SAT but the truth is that this is a qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship contest. It counts only in the junior year but students should start taking it in 8th grade. If they start early, students determine their weaknesses so they can focus and improve on them before the junior year, by putting quality practice-time on their side. There is no need to study separately for the PSAT because as you study for the SAT, you are “killing two birds with one stone” and covering the techniques and strategies that you need for the similar PSAT test.
Really, the largest source of financial aid for college is within the school you want to attend. For example, if my son did attend the University of Dallas, his current SAT score would qualify him for a $22,000 per year scholarship. If he can raise it another 200 points, he can qualify for a $30,000 per year scholarship.
What other summer job could possibly yield him $88,000 - $120,000 paid out over four years?
Seeking Outside Scholarships
Even if he manages to get his score up, I'm also making him spend time this summer seeking out other scholarship opportunities. We've got a couple of resources that we're using to help us in our search.
Here are some gems we've taken from this book:
- Find the best scholarships that fit your skills and gifts first
- Don't overlook the small ones: a renewable $500 scholarship can yield $2000 over four years
- Start local - there are many scholarships in your backyard
- Prioritize your scholarships - start with the ones you're more likely to win
- Identify the purpose behind the scholarship so that you can write towards that purpose
- Strategically choose what skills and awards you've received based on the scholarship
- Put your best foot forward - remember that you want to stand out among the crowd!
Here's some of what we've learned from this resource:
- Get organized - use an online calendar to stay up-to-date on scholarship deadlines
- Scholarship opportunities are available all throughout the year
- Don't be discouraged when you've not been selected, apply again the next year
- Track your success visually to encourage yourself to keep pressing on
With all of these great resources, my son has a great chance of getting the best education he can without finding himself deep in debt at the end of his college years.