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1. Get College Credits
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According to estimates from the College Board, during May 2017 about 2.7 million U.S. high school students will take at least one Advanced Placement exam. Hopefully, your clients’ eligible and able children will be in that group.
If the students pass the exam, they can earn college credits before even setting foot on campus. Those credits could allow them to achieve their degree more quickly, which would reduce the family’s overall cost of college. Better yet, success in AP classes can demonstrate the student’s academic readiness to the most selective of schools, increasing the kid’s chance of getting accepted. At a minimum, the more-difficult course work will help prepare the student for the type of work she will be doing in college. But make sure the family verifies that their intended schools will indeed give credit for the AP courses, as policies can vary from one institution to another. Parents and students can get more information by visiting apstudent.collegeboard.org.
2. Employment Benefits
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The rewards of a teenager earning a part-time paycheck go far beyond the extra income. She can get valuable experience, exposure to the “real world” and potential references to use when she applies for more crucial positions later in life. You should suggest that she use at least some of her income as the basis for a contribution to a Roth IRA. There is no tax break on the contributions, but that portion of the Roth IRA can be withdrawn in the future at any time for any reason with no taxes whatsoever. Funds held in the child’s retirement account are unlikely to drastically affect any need-based financial aid when she goes to college (although any future distributions might). Best of all, she doesn’t have to put all or any of her hard-earned money into the Roth IRA. Another benevolent person (like a parent or grandparent) can make the contribution for her, up to $5,500 or her earnings, whichever is less.
3. Search For Scholarships
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A student who can’t or won’t get a traditional job can still turn their free time into cash that can pay for college. Thanks to websites like Fastweb.com and MyScholly.com, students can sift through thousands of potential scholarships in a matter of minutes. Yes, once they find potential matches for their situation and profile, the process to assemble and submit their application will take a few hours. But, parents getting pushback from their kids should point out that even if it takes the student ten hours of effort to apply for and earn a $500 scholarship, that still works out to $50 per hour — tax free.
4. Help Somebody
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Another way teenagers can make constructive use of their free time is by volunteering. The right activity can be eye-opening and heart-rending to even the most naive and self-centered teenager. She may even be surprised at the intangible sense of accomplishment she receives from assisting others. Of course, there can be more tangible benefits to volunteering as well. The unpaid work could help round out her college applications, as well as provide potential contacts and references for future pursuits. The student can ask about opportunities to volunteer through her school or religious organization. She can also visit VolunteerMatch.org to search through a wide range of activities.
5. Fill Out the FAFSA
The more your clients make, the less inclined they may be to complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). But avoiding it could be a costly mistake.
First, a large portion of the scholarships, grants and other aid given by the student’s intended school can only be awarded if the FAFSA is first completed by the family. And even in the unlikely event that the family doesn’t receive any assistance based on academic accomplishment, financial need, or the student’s situation, undergraduates of any means can qualify for up to $5,500 per academic year of low-interest unsubsidized federal loans.
The first chance families have to fill out the FAFSA is after October 1 of the student’s junior year in high school. The deadline for submission will depend on the student’s state of residence and the school’s policies. If the student hasn’t reached his junior year but the clients want to see what types and amounts of financial aid might be available, they can take a test run by visiting the FAFSA4Caster at tinyurl.com/aid4caster.
6. Choosing the “Right” School
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Few subjects are likely to cause as much stress between parents and teenagers as the question of which school the child will attend.
You may be able to ease the tension by offering your professional perspective (based on the choices made by other clients) or if you’re a little older, how you and your family handled it. A few words of wisdom can help. Start by noting that the eventual college choice is not a life-and-death decision and can always be changed as the situation merits. The student’s intended field of study will have a much greater effect on his future earnings and job prospects than which school he attends. Also, the more likely it is that the student is going to pursue some form of post-graduate education, the less it will matter where he earned his undergraduate degree. Finally, unless the family is already independently wealthy, it’s generally best for the student to get the most cost-effective education he can from the most affordable institution possible.