Now that graduation parties are over and high school diplomas are in hand, parents and students need to do important planning for this fall. A scant two months remain before the serious work of the first semester in college commences in earnest.
A number of things need to be done by parents and students well before the start of college. First, the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) must be filled out completely and correctly so that financial aid is ascertainable. The FAFSA is due by June 30, 2012 for students entering in September. Students and their parents can fill out the paperwork on the fafsa.com website
or pay a student service to assist with the filing. The phone service can be accessed at 866-549-8938. Assistance websites can cost about $80; however, the modest cost can be worth the aggravation saved.
FAFSA eligibility is determined by qualifying criteria. Most students are eligible for some form of financial assistance, including low-interest-rate loans regardless of income. An applicant (with some exceptions) must be a United States citizen, hold a valid social security number, have a high school diploma or GED, be registered with the draft, declare that he/she will utilize FAFSA for an educational purpose, and meet other qualifying criteria.
Since the eligibility requirements can be burdensome, students and their parents may want to hire a professional service to fill out the application for a modest fee. Over $200 billion is available to students for college. Filing the FAFSA is the first step in qualifying to access this aid. The stakes are high for all concerned.
Once the hurdle for paying college tuition has been cleared, the next step in the process is to decide upon a specific college and register for Freshman Orientation. The orientation sessions are held over a one-to-two-day period. Generally, parents and students are invited to attend.
The orientation will introduce students to college and explain in depth what is expected when students commence classes. The resources of the college and university are explained fully during orientation. In addition, the code of conduct for academics and student residence halls may be outlined so that parents and students understand the rules thoroughly.
Classically, two hours of study are required for each hour of class time. This rule applies more stringently to math/science classes. Students will be assigned a class adviser to explain the curriculum of the college and the required coursework for the first semester. Once the bill has been paid, students will be free to register for classes. Paying the bill early helps to ensure that students have access to their first choice courses and professors.
Some schools require taking placement exams in language/math so that students can be matched to specific course sections based upon their current level of knowledge. Students not meeting the basic passing requirement may be required to take several non-credit courses to bring them up to par with the other students. The requirement for taking non-credit courses (while paying full college tuition) can be a big surprise to parents and may extend the college experience beyond four years in individual cases.
The best way to prepare for these college placement exams is to take rigorous math and language courses in the senior year of high school. Tutoring can help in cases where students are just shy of passing the placement exam. Some colleges have extensive library and tutoring services available. The language placement exam may consist of select reading passages, vocabulary, sentence structure, and logic. Math placement exams may consist of basic algebra, some geometry, fractions, decimals, mixed numbers, graphing, and word problems.
Many colleges may waive up to 20 credits of college material for students who take and pass the CLEP (College Level Examination Program) examination in a number of areas including foreign languages, language arts, calculus, biology, chemistry, and other areas too numerous to list. Essentially, the CLEP examination requires passing a rigorous multiple choice exam with a “C” or better on a very precise scale.
In some cases, students may have access to the more advanced courses if freshman college courses were completed in the senior year of high school. For example, a student passing calculus in high school may have access to taking intermediate calculus in the freshman year of college.
Once college starts, class attendance is generally mandatory. The college bulletin will state how many credits are required for graduation. Three to five class absences may be allowed for a given class, but generally not more. Individual professors will distribute a class outline explaining the course requirements, which includes attendance requirements, readings, class participation/small group interaction, research papers, term projects, lab, a quiz or two, mid-terms, and comprehensive final exams in some courses.
Midterm grades may be mailed to students or their parents. The final grade for the course is determined after a period of three to four months. A cumulative index may be computed on a scale of one to four. Generally, a 2.0 cumulative index is required to maintain continued college attendance and/or receive a degree at the end of this process.Powered by Sidelines