Nurturing our children so that they grow into healthy, happy, responsible, and able adults may be one of our most important tasks as parents, families, and communities. Any way you look at it, parenting is always a challenge.
Here, we will provide parents and families with informational resources to help meet some of those challenges successfully. Read the articles provided below to learn more!
How soon is too soon to start teaching children about money? Most children begin to develop an awareness of money around age 2 or 3, according to child development specialists. That's not too soon, then, to begin to involve preschoolers in activities that will form a good foundation for future money management skills. The specific activities used should be tailored to the interests and abilities of the individual child.
Using Money To Buy Something
Heading off to college is a major milestone in your child's life. Although this decision is ultimately your child's, college admission professionals stress that parents have an important role to play in the decision. Selecting a college is a high stress task for both young adults and their parents. Whether they say so or not, most children desire their parents' guidance and support. Working together as a parent-student team is ideal.
Higher education institutions in the United States come in all types and sizes, from two-year community colleges to large state universities, from small private liberal arts colleges to elite universities, from technical institutes to professional colleges. Overall, the United States has more than 9,000 institutions of higher learning. Which among them is right for your child?
College admissions experts answer that question simply: the institution that best meets your child's needs and talents. Such a school ought to challenge your child while also making him or her feel comfortable. Finding the best match means that the school that's right for one child in a family is often not right for another. Achieving that also means that Mom's or Dad's alma mater may not be right for any of their children. Also selecting particular types of schools because they have particular qualities or programs that a parent values (for instance, a respected four-year pre-law, pre-med, or business degree) is probably not the right decision if the student's talents, interests, and career goals are different.
Answering these questions can help students and parents determine personal interests and whether or not each school under consideration has the key programs and qualities to meet those needs. It can also be used to help identify potentially good schools from among the many that send information to prospective students.
Once students and parents have the answers to these and any other questions, it's easy to use free online search tools to find schools that match their criteria.
It's never too early or too late to start planning for your children's education after high school. The earlier you adopt a savings plan, the more options you have for building that nest egg to pay for college or vocational school. But even if your child is approaching high school graduation, it's not too late to plan how best to use your resources. For example, in addition to savings, there are a number of lower-cost educational loan plans in which the parents or student may participate.
Savings are a primary source for paying college or vocational school tuition and expenses. Savings plans can take many forms, and they can be started by a parent, child (or prospective student), relatives and friends. Here is an overview of a few of the many savings options, including the potential tax benefits or other benefits each may offer.
With higher education costs continuing to rise, most families will need more than savings to finance a child's continuing education. According to college admissions professionals, many families mistakenly assume when their child applies to colleges that they can't qualify for financial aid. These experts strongly recommend that every applicant and his or her family always complete the financial aid application. Financial Aid Offices in most colleges and universities are happy to work with prospective students to put together a package of aid that draws not only on scholarships and the institutions private resources but on government grants, loans and other outside resources.
The U.S. government provides a number of grant and loan programs to help finance higher education. To apply for any federal aid program, prospective students and their families must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is used to determine what federal aid a student may be eligible for. Most schools also require that applicants for financial aid complete this form.
Many colleges also use the federal FAFSA form as part of the financial application process not just to qualify students for federal grants and loans but for their own scholarship and financial aid programs.
There is no fee to file the FAFSA. It must be filed only once and preferably should be submitted online. If you prefer using paper forms (a much slower process), such forms are available from the Financial Aid Office of individual schools and from the Federal Student Aid Information Center, PO Box 84, Washington, DC 20044. Or, you can call them at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1.800.433.3243).
Scholarships come to mind first when thinking about financial aid for higher education. Several billion dollars are available annually in scholarship funds from a wide variety of sources.
Federal financial aid programs include the following grants and loans. Some programs are applied for through the individual school and others may be applied for directly. But it's important to note that an individual school may not participate in all the programs – another reason to work with the school's Financial Aid Office.
In addition to government-supported loans, you may take out education loans from financial institutions. DCU now offers student lending solutions to help you fill the funding gaps that federal aid can leave behind. By partnering with other credit unions to form Credit Union Student Choice, we are able to offer members lower cost financing options that will help you or a family member achieve your dream of a higher education.
One of the most popular uses for home equity loans is to finance education expenses. Interest is tax deductible for most people (federal and sometimes state) which can lower the real cost.
Beyond the basic sources of financial aid described in this article, there are many other options. Sources of financial aid run the gamut from free scholarship lotteries, to aid from your specific school, to national service, to meeting specific criteria (such as female, older, minority).
In this high-tech, globalized world, education beyond high school is more and more important. The more education your children have, the more career options they have. Pursuing a higher education doesn't have to mean going to a four-year college or university. Other options include two-year community or junior colleges, business schools, and vocational technical schools. Also included are courses of study that result in a license or certification. Throughout children's elementary and secondary school years, parents can help lay the foundation for successful advanced education.
Although doing well in elementary school prepares a student to excel in high school and college, specific academic preparation for higher education begins in middle school. For example, to be able to take chemistry or physics in high school (courses that are often required in a college prep curriculum), a student may need to take Algebra I in the 8th grade. Whatever their current career goals and dreams – even if they don't have anything specific in mind yet, your children should take all of the core high school courses in English, math, science, history and geography. This broad educational base gives them basic skills for whatever path they take after high school.
For students who plan to pursue a college bachelor's degree, educational advisors recommend that a student's high school electives (non-core courses) include 2 or 3 years of a foreign language and classes in music, art, dance, or theater. Again, even if your child doesn't know what they want to do after high school graduation or just knows they want to go to college somewhere, this broad background provides flexibility and opens up almost any option.
Grades are one of the major criteria that colleges and universities consider in granting admission. College applications usually require that the applicant's complete high school transcript be sent. The transcript contains the grades for the courses taken in all years of high school. As a consequence, every year of high school is important, not just the last two. Colleges will also look at "grade point average," which is the average of all grades received during high school. Although different colleges have different requirements for grades and grade point averages, admission to most colleges doesn't require a straight A average. A good record of A's and B's can win admission to a college that's a good match for a student's needs and talents.
Although many colleges and universities say they are putting less emphasis now on "college aptitude" standardized test scores, most still require them, and most still have minimum requirements for acceptable test scores. The SAT or ACT should be taken at least twice, but usually no more than three times. Keep in mind that test scores are only one part of the admissions package. Most schools use them in conjunction with the prospective student's grades and courses taken. Good preparation for the test is needed to develop confidence. This can be done through practice tests. The availability of practice tests range from books under $20 to full fledged cram courses that cost $500 or more.
Preparing for college isn't only about schoolwork. Athletics, community service and other extracurricular activities can help children learn discipline, responsibility, teamwork, and other skills. Encouraging children to read a newspaper every day helps broaden their horizons. You don't have to subscribe to one – read it online. Additional reading (fiction and non-fiction) and study outside of course requirements can help expand vocabulary and reading comprehension skills. Extracurricular and community volunteer activities even help some teens find their future careers.