Facebook has evolved. Originally a great way to keep in-touch with family and friends, today it’s a source of news, advertisements and information. Admit it; you’re likely a member of at least one Facebook group that provides advice and counsel on college planning.
When used appropriately, these groups are incredibly valuable. You can get recommendations for near campus hotels and restaurants, and even gain insight on dorm decor.
That said, crowd-sourcing other information should be avoided. Recently, a host of questions regarding both high school class selection and college funding have appeared. Facebook is NOT the best place to go for answers to these questions.
How many years of a foreign language does my child need? Is AP Calculus better than AP Statistics? Questions like this arise daily. And, each and every time, well-meaning parents offer advice. However, their responses are NEVER consistent. Know why? Each college has its own set of requirements.
While common sense says that the admissions specifications of an Ivy League School may be markedly different from a less competitive institution, schools with very similar profiles often have vastly different requirements. Take, for example, two similar, rigorous Liberal Arts Colleges. One “strongly suggests” calculus, four years of a foreign language and physics. The other’s requirements are much more general. And, one is test optional; the other requires SAT subject tests.
Bottom line, if you have admissions questions, visit the school’s website. Still unsure? Have your child CALL ADMISSIONS. Finally, understand that high school guidance counselors are not always the best resource for these questions. Your child’s counselor is likely responsible for hundreds of children. And, there are about 5,300 colleges and universities in the U.S. It is not surprising that they are unaware of the specific requirements for each and every school. Even if they share information with you, it is worth a phone call to confirm. If you are working with a reputable college advisor, he or she can help your child plan their high school schedules. And, they can research specific schools on your behalf.
Saving For College
The number of people seeking college financial advice on social media is mind boggling. More concerning is the plethora of “expert” advice shared by parents across the country, Be aware, saving for college, completing the FAFSA and CSS profiles and understanding financial aid options is personal to each family. What is right for your neighbor may not be the best choice for you.
How to plan and save is dependent upon a host of factors: children’s ages, income, assets, your age, retirement planning and even possible school choices. Some schools offer excellent financial aid (they “meet demonstrated need”), some have fabulous merit opportunities and others are less expensive for state residents. Understand that an “in-state” school may be more expensive than a private university when financial aid, merit aid and scholarships are taken into account.
Consider working with a financial advisor who understands the intricacies of college planning; this counsel should be part of any planning services you currently have. If you are not working with someone, it may make sense to consider it. Be careful when choosing a financial advisor. Get referrals and ask important questions. Ensure the person you select understands the admissions and financial aid processes, has access to a broad range of products and takes into account your family’s overall financial situation and future plans. College planning should NOT take place in a vacuum.
Bottom line, use Facebook (and other advice platforms) carefully. They are incredibly valuable for some things, but inappropriate for others. Accurate answers and expert counsel are important in many situations. Your 10,000 Facebook “friends” in your college planning group may not always be your best resource.
Lori Wolk is a seasoned writer who has gone through the college admissions process over and over and over again. She is generously sharing her wisdom and experience with GAMECHANGER’s audience. Need a knowledgeable, talented writer for a blog or article for your local or business publications? Contact Lori at [email protected] today.