Planning a successful summer

It’s your student’s last summer at home, so it’s no surprise if you’re feeling a little sentimental—and maybe a little anxious to make some great memories before your student heads off to college.

Before you get too overwhelmed with the idea of your student leaving for good, know that it’s very likely that they’ll live at home again—during breaks, during summer, and possibly even after they graduate. So while this may seem like their last time home, don’t put too much pressure on this summer by constantly thinking of it as the end of an era.

In order to make the summer a successful one for your family, it’s important to recognize this as a time of transition for your student, and set your expectations accordingly. Here are some tips that can help:

Enjoy the little moments. While an epic summer vacation can be a great send-off for your student, much of your summer will be made up of smaller moments. Take some time to focus on them: that great talk you had in the car on the way to orientation, or the baseball game you went to, or the time you spontaneously went out for ice cream.

Expect them to prioritize friends. You may be focused on creating family time this summer—but your student may be more focused on friends. Expect that they’ll want to spend a lot of time with their buddies before they all head off to college. Talk with your student about how they would like to schedule family time—they might have some good ideas for working it in.

Give them some extra independence. Remember that in a couple short months your student will be on his or her own. This summer is good time to start giving them a little additional independence, balanced with additional responsibilities. The shift can help you both adjust to what life will be like when your student returns home from college on break.

Talk about the rules. As you offer more independence you may want to shift around your house rules a bit. Talk over your expectations with your student. For example, if you’re lifting their curfew, will you still expect them to check in with a call or text?

As a parent, you want to preserve great memories with your soon-to-be college student—staying flexible about family fun and keeping open communication it will go long way toward making this one of your best summers yet.

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Make your summer count

You have the whole summer to make final to-do lists and cross items off, so here are some tips to getting organized so you can enter college confidently:

Find your reading groove
In college, you’ll likely have a lot more reading than high school required. Get ahead by checking out freshman reading lists if they’re available. If they aren’t, then read whatever you like — this can help you build discipline, keep your mind active, and may even spark new interests. Just remember, if you’re reading online, turn off social media notifications to avoid unnecessary distractions.

Take Finances 101
As you become more financially independent from your parents, having basic money skills empowers you to be prepared for whatever might come up. Sit down with your parents or another adult you trust, and ask them to give you a rundown on money management. Learn to balance a checking account, make a budget, and understand how credit cards work before you leave for school.

Look beyond classes
College is more than classroom academics. It’s a time to engage with new ideas and people. School groups and clubs can be an excellent way to meet people while building leadership skills and even contributing to the community. Take a look now at the organizations available on your future campus and see which ones you’d consider joining in the fall.

Learn to make a favorite meal
If you haven’t already, now is a good time to learn a favorite family recipe so you can take a taste of home with you. It will help on those days when home seems far away; and while you’re learning to make it, you will have some good quality time with your family.

Make a shopping list
Use this time to figure out everything you need for your college life and make a detailed list of bedding, toiletries, small electronics and appliances, kitchen essentials, office supplies, and clothes you’ll need. Don’t forget about basic medicine, first-aid items, cleaning supplies, and other easily overlooked necessities. Keep an eye out for when each of these items goes on sale so you can check things off your list, one at a time, while also saving money. If you already know who your roommate will be in the fall, reach out to them and coordinate who will bring what-it’s a good excuse to start getting to know who you’ll be living with, too.

Set class enrollment reminders
Before each college semester, you’ll have a day and time when you’ll be allowed to enroll in classes. Before that day arrives, thoroughly review your list of required and elective courses so you know you’re choosing the correct credits for your major. If you have the opportunity to sit down with an advisor at this time, do it.

By organizing which classes you’ll need and in what order you’ll take them, you will be ready to enroll at your scheduled time. That’s extremely important because class enrollment can be a competitive window. You’ll want to have a seat saved early in popular courses that fill fast to keep yourself on track for graduation. So set digital reminders and be ready when the moment arrives.

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Don’t let the ball drop now

By now you may know exactly what senioritis is, and seen its identifying traits: lack of follow-through on assignments; an unwillingness to motivate; and a shift in focus, where personal accomplishment becomes secondary to relaxing with friends. Even if you haven’t caught senioritis, the odds are good that some of your classmates have, and slacking comes with consequences.

Colleges do reserve the right to rescind, or take back, their invitations based on your final semester scores. And that could mean giving up what you’ve worked for, then scrambling to find a university that will accept you at the last minute.

We want you to stay on track for college, so we’ve put together this checklist of upcoming milestones to help you finish strong.

  • Finish reviewing your award letters. As you narrow your final decision, money matters. Sit down with your family and weigh the pros and cons of your financial aid packages. Try out this online tool for simple side-by-side comparisons.
  • Visit your top-choice schools. You may have already taken tours of your favorite colleges. But if you haven’t had that opportunity, or are feeling divided in your decision, now’s a great time to hit the open road.
    While you’re there, make sure to check out the facilities. Sit in on a class. And by all means, sniff out the cafeteria. Some of those things may seem frivolous, but your happiness is important, and you can’t tell how engaging professors are, how friendly classmates seem, or how comfortable a dorm room feels from a website.
  • Waitlisted? Keep trying. (If you want to). If you get wait-listed at the school you really want, don’t give up. Call, visit, and ask what you can do to improve your odds of making the final cut. But make sure you have somewhere to go for Fall, because the best school is the one that wants you.
  • Tell that lucky school that you’re coming. You’ll need to give your school a commitment and deposit by the deadline they set, so make sure your postmark makes the cut.
  • Let other schools know you won’t be attending. It would be easy to get excited about your college choice and forget about the other schools that accepted you. But remember: your second-choice university could be someone else’s dream school. Let them know you aren’t coming, so they can free up your seat.
  • Request your final transcripts be sent to your chosen college. Speak with your school counselor and make sure you fill out a transcript request form so they know when and where to send your final scores.
  • Study for and take any final AP exams. Keep studying. Stay focused. And take your final AP exams by the summer so you’ll start your freshman year ahead of the pack.

And remember, life can get hectic as you move toward college, so set calendar reminders for all of your important deadlines. It’s a great way to position yourself for success.

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Senior year: finalizing the details

It’s probably been a very busy year for your senior (and you!). In these final weeks of your student’s senior year, it’s easy to get busy and overlook things in the rush. Now is a great time to help your student stay organized, reviewing remaining tasks and tying up any loose ends.

School admission

First and foremost, your student should make sure to turn in everything the school has requested, including any deposits, transcripts, etc. If final transcripts are required, suggest that your student set a reminder to turn those in – school administrators may be harder to contact after graduation day.

Additionally, don’t forget about orientation. Have your student register for orientation as soon as possible to secure a date that works for your family.

Financial aid

Be sure you and your student both stay on top of any financial aid applications that need to be completed. Determine early-on which type of loans your student will be applying for: federal student loans, private student loans, parent loans. The sooner you get the applications complete, the better to help ensure that everything is in place for a smooth transition to college in the fall.

Senior year work

Although college planning and preparation are important, encourage your student to stay focused on schoolwork in these last months. Once their college acceptance comes in, it’s tempting for students to coast to the end of senior year. Remind your student that many colleges do check on final transcripts, so their grades and what they’re learning is important to their success in college.

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Summer smart: How to make your break pay off

It’s almost summertime of your junior year, and as you plan out this summer, make sure you invest your time in ways that pay off long term, instead of just today or next weekend.

During the school year, you block time to study, time for sports and clubs, and time for friends and family. By applying that same motivation to your summer schedule, you can build your college support system, both financially and by meeting people who want to help you succeed in the years to come.

Whether you decide to volunteer, work, or intern, the people who oversee your performance can be excellent sources for college recommendations. They’ll have the rare perspective of how you solve problems, lead others, and present yourself to the world, outside of an academic environment. So work hard for them, and they’ll be equally invested in your success.

A summer job
The summer job is an institution for several reasons. First, it lets you earn money. This may afford you the ability to reach a college-savings goal: Could you earn enough cash this summer to buy your freshman semester textbooks? Or enough to pay your car insurance or phone bill? Taking responsibility for your expenses now will give you a major advantage in college.

Another great thing about succeeding at a summer job is how positively it can impact you beyond the paycheck. Colleges like to see examples of good work ethic, and steady employment is an excellent opportunity to develop that skill. Plus, if you’ll need to work through college, gaining experience now shows future hiring managers that you’re accustomed to responsibility, and that you can handle it.

You might be hoping to get a gig making sandwiches or folding shirts at local shop, and that’s great. But try to take a step back and think of the big picture: “What careers are you drawn to?”

You likely won’t have a summer job as your professional career choice, but you can call local businesses and ask if they need any extra help filing papers, sorting through emails, or answering phones. They may even pay you for it. This type of job is more of an internship, which is useful because it provides an inside look at the day-to-day life of a career.

This type of position can both help you gain perspective and motivate you. Or it can show you another career path you haven’t considered yet. You may find that certain aspects of the job interest you more than others. Or you may see that some of the related professions suit your personal style much better than the one you thought you wanted. That’s a huge lesson to learn before you enter college.

Volunteering is an excellent way to make an immediate, positive impact in the world. You can build a house over a summer; teach science experiments to children at your local museum; help feed and clothe the underprivileged; and so much more. In fact, there are so many wonderful volunteer organizations that you may feel compelled to hop from one to the next. But if you’ve started a relationship with one group or non-profit, consider nurturing that relationship as long as possible.

Admissions officers look for people dedicated to improving the world they’re in, the campus they’re on, and even the dorm they call their own. That’s a valuable quality for a potential student. By sticking with one volunteer commitment, you’re showing them that you have the dedication required to see change through, even if it takes a while. Doing this also allows you to hone your leadership skills and take on more responsibility within the organization.

However you choose to spend your summer, make sure to put your best foot forward. Take all of the remarkable qualities that make you, you, and share them with others. And don’t forget to stay in contact: If you do well, you may be able to circle back for recommendations during senior year.

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Getting ready for campus visits

Is your high school junior getting more excited and curious about college? Getting nervous about the upcoming transition? Not sure what type of college will be the right fit? No matter how you answered these questions, making some college campus visits together can help.

Campus visits are a key way for students to determine whether or not a college will be a good fit. Getting to visit with fellow students and staff is a great way to learn more about the academic and social setting that a school can offer. Plus, there’s nothing quite like an in-person visit to get the feel for a place, and to let your student envision themselves as a student there.

With that said, it can boost your visit tremendously to do a little “pre-visit” beforehand. If the school you plan to visit offers a virtual tour online, be sure to take it. A virtual tour is no replacement for actually getting on campus, but it can give valuable insights about places your student wants to see on campus. Taking the virtual tour will make your student better-informed about campus and can be a great thought-starter to make your in-person visit a richer experience.

After taking a virtual tour and carefully reviewing a school’s website, your student can further prepare by creating a list of questions to ask when you arrive on campus. Encourage your student to consider all the different people you might meet with (students, academic advisors, financial aid officers, etc.) and have questions for each of them. If you can, try to set up appointments to ensure that your student gets a chance to get his or her questions answered. Taking a virtual tour may answer some questions for your student, but could prompt them to think of further questions to ask that can ensure you get a deeper level of information on your visit.

While your student is researching colleges, encourage them to look beyond campus, and find out all they can about the city and surrounding community as well. Not only will it round out the picture of what college life can feel like in each community, it can give you ideas about places to explore off campus while you’re making your visit.

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Get College Ready Podcast: How to Compare and Review College Award Letters

Podcast icon(6 MIN)


Wells Fargo’s Get College Ready national campaign and accompanying interactive online platform, which includes advice and guidance articles, calculators, and videos, was created to help students and parents financially prepare for college, and make informed decisions around credit, insurance needs, budgeting, and money management.

The new Get College Ready podcast miniseries, which is hosted by Wells Fargo spokesperson Jason Vasquez, welcomes subject matter experts to discuss in 10 minutes or less the topics and questions that are on the minds of students, parents, and families as they look to plan and prepare for college.

In the first installment of this podcast miniseries, listeners will gain a better understanding of the purpose of college award letters, how to understand the information in the letter, best practices for next steps, and what parents and families can do to support their college-bound student.

In addition to visiting the Get College Ready website, we invite you to search and share on social media using the hashtag #GetCollegeReady.

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Balancing the future: Keeping your students academically focused

It’s happening. The same students you recently wrote letters of recommendation for may now need a little extra motivation to continue working hard through the end of the school year. This can only mean one thing — senioritis is setting in on campus.

If this sounds familiar, you may be looking for advice, tips, and motivators to offer your college-bound students.

So let’s take a look at the question at the center of it all: “Why does it matter?”

It matters because colleges can change their minds.
The school your student has chosen maintains the right to rescind that invitation if they see his or her grades drop during high school’s final stretch. Help your students imagine that scenario, where the years of work they’ve dedicated, just to get to this crossroad, is suddenly devalued. And what would that do to their options if their dream school falls through before the start of their freshman semester?

The student would be left to scramble, trying to find a school to accept them. And if that didn’t work, they could face an even bigger struggle: waiting a year to reapply as they watch their friends move on.

Your students deserve more than that. They’ve earned it. So encourage them to keep moving forward, without slowing down.

It matters because they matter.
While having an immediate college goal gives students something tangible to work toward, there’s a more existential situation on the table. Self-worth is a lifelong attribute, one that is impervious to the promise of reward.

A student should respect their senior year because it is time that belongs to them. It isn’t owned by their friendships or by changes in “groupthink” — your students are at the center of their own lives. And that, on its own, makes this moment worthy of greatness.

It matters because there’s no such thing as being done.
From some students’ perspectives, this is it. After this school year comes to a close, they’re done. No more calculus. No more dissecting poetry for thematic underpinnings. Just total freedom and life on their terms, right?

Not exactly. As someone with life experience, you have the perspective to appreciate this time differently than they do. So point out that senior year is simply the end of one stage of the student’s life and the beginning of another. Next may be college, where they’ll want to approach each project with interest and drive because it expands their knowledge and propels them toward the next thing.

From there comes a career, where they’ll want to use what they’ve learned to stand out, and move up within that space. So succeeding in life means not slowing down or getting behind. Instead, students should use each day wisely, to grow, learn, and build momentum.

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Do you have enough money for college?

Although your dream school may have all the things you want in a college, it also has is a price tag. As you move closer to graduation, you need an accurate picture of your finances to see if you have enough saved to attend the college you’ve chosen, and if you’ll need more aid to cover expenses like tuition or books. You can think about your aid in one of two categories:

What you have

An award letter – After you complete your FAFSA application, your potential colleges will each send you an award letter which details the amount and types of aid available for you. Your award letter is an important tool to identify what free aid you have—usually in the form of school scholarships, federal scholarships, and grants—and what kind of aid you will have to pay back.

Any additional funds you may have—which could include additional scholarships or personal savings that you or your parents have set aside—will need to be compiled and factored in to complete your financial picture.

What You Need

A financial aid comparison calculator will help you compare the award letter offers for two or three colleges and may be very helpful when trying to decide which one is more affordable. One college may seem less expensive on the surface, but once you consider other variable costs, like living on or off campus, you can tell what the true cost is of each school.

Once you know how much school will cost, subtract out the amount you have received in scholarships and grants, as well as the amount you have saved to pay for college. Do you need additional money to pay for college?

Scholarships are a great way to cover the difference of what you have and what you need with money you do not have to pay back. Search Tuition Funding Sources along with local businesses and organizations for available scholarships. A federal work-study job may help cover costs, but check your award letter to make sure you have already qualified for it.

Student loans are also available if you need extra money to cover your education costs, with both federal and private student loan options. Ensure that you research all of your financing options carefully, so that you can compare all aspects, including interest rates, fees, and repayment options to select what best works for you. Check out our video Your financial aid journey in 5 steps for more details.

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Five questions to ask your students about paying for college

There are several basic things your students need to have done in order to stay on track with their financial aid for their first college semester. Here’s a checklist of questions that can get them started in the right direction.

  • Have you completed your FAFSA? Students will receive the bulk of their free federal aid after completing this application. And more students than ever are eligible for Federal Pell Grants – so finding aid may not be as much of a deterrent as it has been in the past.
  • Have you received your Student Aid Report? This document will give students the basic information about their financial aid eligibility. They will need to cross-reference the information to make sure it’s correct and complete.
  • Have you kept applying for scholarships? Students can search their top schools for relevant scholarships and also check the extensive database at Tuition Funding Sources. Students should continue searching and applying for additional scholarship opportunities even after getting accepted.
  • Have you turned in your promissory note? Many students may not realize that loans may require a promissory note, which is a legal document in which they promise to repay their loans and any accrued interest and fees.
  • Who is your support team? Whether it’s a parent, a guardian, or a mentor, students need to have a team of people who are invested in their future. One of these people may also be able to cosign student loan documents, if the student is in need of loans to pay for college.
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