College Money Chronicles

Jan. 25, 2018

I gave my seniors an assignment today to gauge how serious they are about getting money for college. The fact of the matter is, as a counselor/teacher I see how important it is for students to apply themselves throughout this college money process. I also understand how overwhelming the college process can be for a teen. The assignment asked them to read and take notes on three financial aid articles. I find pretty good articles online about ways to finance a college eucation. After reading the articles I asked them to do the following:

Write an essay of at least 500 words describing how you plan to completely finance your college education for the next 4+ years. Use commentary and insight from the three articles you read in class today. Please answer the following questions within your essay:

  • What is a common theme among the 3 articles?
  • What are some steps you can take to reduce college costs?
  • Why are local scholarships important? How do you find them?
  • How can your senior project community service hours benefit you when looking for scholarships?
  • Give at least one personal example of how these articles can apply to your personal college financing journey.

For me it is important to see how badly the student want to finance their college education. While they completed the assignment I watched them. I wanted to see who would take it seriously. Happy to report that all, but 3 really took the time to complete it throughly. When I read through the essays there were some really insightful responses. My effort matches theirs during this process. I sit at my computer day in and day out sending out materials to scholarship organizations in hopes of my kids landing some college dollars. But I can't do it alone. I think it was key for the students reflect on their own desire to finance college. So often the parent is pressing the child to apply to scholarships, but there has to be an intrinsic motivation. 

My final thought to the youth... just keep pushing forward. The scholarship game is no joke but with continuous work and dedication you'd be surprised what can come your way. 

Nov. 24, 2017

Financial Freedom is something that we hear a lot as adults. Getting free from any type of debt whether it be credit card debt, student loan debt, anything that we owe to someone else. Once you become parents a lot of people want to bestow a sense of financial freedom or at least a strong financial foundation for their children. But with lack of education or poor money habits some parents don't know how to do just that. A little piece of advice from Dana Martin College.

1. BREATHE

It is not a sprint it is a marathon and learning about money takes time effort and habit forming.

2. EVALUATE YOUR CURRENT FINANCIAL STATE
Be clear on where you stand financially. It could be a very pretty picture or a ugly sight, but knowing where you stand gives you the best foundation so that you know where you need to go from there.

3. PUT TOGETHER A COLLEGE MONEY PLAN

For all of my parents that want to send their kids to college put together a college money plan. Learn about savings options. Learn about college savings investment plans. Learn about early scholarships. Learn about tips and tricks to get your child ahead of the game as early as possible. Children tend to perform better academically if they know they have some money set aside for college.

I get it. We are trying to live our lives and clean up debt and save as much money as possible so that we can live the life we always dreamed. At the same time we are rearing children who are just beginning their dreams and we want to be as big of a support as we possibly can. The best thing that we can do for our kids is to become financially stable and set a great financial foundation and example for them. If possible also providing a financial path for them to afford the college of their dreams (if that is their choice).

Let's talk about it! Tell me what you think below 👇

 

Oct. 15, 2017

I believe in putting in work for what you want. Always have and probably always will. Not many things in this life are given to you. At least that's the case for most people. When it comes to a college education many parents feel like they have to take the entire burden of the cost unto their own shoulders. Some students also feel like they shouldn't have to worry about how college will be paid for. The fact of the matter is a college education is a choice. Unlike primary and secondary school it is not required for a student to complete this level of education. Within our American society, however it is still a much desired choice. My belief in working for what you want sees no difference when trying to fund a college education. If a student wants a college education they should put forth some effort toward securing the finances for it. Of course the way to do that can vary depending on family circumstances, so here are a few ways for students to take a front seat in finding money for college:

 

1. Develop a Scholarship Plan

It's not just about applying for scholarships; you need to do more. In some circles it seems as if the words 'college' and 'scholarships' are synonymous because the two are spoken so frequently together. People throw the word scholarship around without thinking about the level of work it takes to actually secure this type of funding.

Where do scholarships come from? 

Where do you get applications? 

How do I apply? Am I eligible? 

How much is the scholarship worth? 

How many years will I received this scholarship if I win it? 

Will this scholarship be enough? 

These questions (and many more) surround the scholarship phenomena. It's not as simple as putting in a few applications. A student must do research and develop a plan for applying to scholarships. A sound plan should include:

Differentiating between local and national scholarships. 

Crafting a well-written essay that that can be used for multiple scholarship applications.

Applying to enough scholarships to cover 3 times your needed gap

Staying organized!

It is just not enough to say that you are going to apply to scholarships without putting in the legwork. Researching eligibility requirements and all pertinent information needed to apply is a big part of the process. 

 

 

 2. Develop a Realistic Savings Plan

A common misconception among many teens is their ability to save money. Getting a part-time job during the school year and/or a job over the summer is a great accomplishment that can show strong time management skills and the ability to juggle scholastics while employed. A mistake many students make however is thinking they can save a substantial amount of money to put towards their college bill. Yes it is possible. Many things are possible, but unless someone has a plan and financial wherewithal then it can be rather difficult for an untrained individual to save a large sum of money. My suggestion would be to develop a clear savings plan.

  1. Set a small goal and attach it to a college themed item. Example "I would like to save $500 by August 15th to buy my books for first semester. I will deposit $50 every two weeks from my paycheck from my job into my bank account beginning March 2017." By setting a clear, specific, measurable goal a student can clearly see exactly what is needed to reach their goal. 

 

These small tips can lay the groundwork for the student to put forth a meaningful effort to contribute to their college costs. It's not always a large sum of money, but a strong effort that can help to reach the ultimate goal of paying for college. Am I saying that parents should not help with paying for college? No I am not. I am saying that all parties should recognize that a college education is an investment into a student's future. The student should be willing to do whatever is within their power to ensure that they are financially able to get that education. Work for what you want. 

 

For more unconventional ways to find money for college check out my book Creatively Closing the Gap available online now at danamartincollege.com!

Sep. 21, 2017

The beginning of the school year is tough for me. As a mom I always want to make sure that my girls start the year with their best foot forward. As an educator I want to bring the best version of myself to the classroom and counseling office. As a wife I want to ensure that I am not overlooking the needs of my husband as it starts to get busier outside of home. This year has been particularly trying. With all mentioned above we are also in the midst of a 6+ month-long home renovation from heaven (because saying hell gives negative energy and ain't nobody got time for that!) We are in constant motion with syncing schedules, appointments, dance practice, tutoring sessions, hair appointments, back to school nights, drop-offs and pick-ups. It's a whirlwind. Right in the midst I received the opportunity to attend a national conference in Boston where I had the pleasure of presenting to a large audience. I was extremely excited, but also apprehensive. The conference took place right at the very beginning of the school year. I'd be away from home for 3 days. Away from my students and my family. What would they do? With all the apprehension I still went. Had a great time! Learned so much.  Brought back a ton of resources and guess what? Everyone survived. Well almost. At home everyone was great. Me? My presentation was amazing! The feedback has been stellar. For my very first time presenting on a national stage I was very composed and confident. On the last day of the conference the unimaginable happened, I fell. Hard. I fell off the shuttle bus right in front of the convention center. I was taken to a Boston ER. Thankfully nothing was broken but I do have a bad sprain on my right foot. Wheelchair, crutches, aircast you name it. That is my current state. See with all my apprehension and fear of leaving my family and work at a high stakes time I ended up harming myself. I spent so much energy focusing on their well-being, their needs, wants, anticipating their desires that I overlooked the most important person in my journey.. myself. So I wrap this up by saying yes this is a busy time of my life. Every year it is but I must do a much better job of caring for the one person who makes it all happen. ME!

Sincerely
Dana

Sep. 15, 2017

This story was originly posted in September 2015 in esponse. To the Philadelphia Magazine school choice article...

I feel the entire choice process is admirable, yet incredibly flawed and ultimately an unfortunate disservice to our children. As a life long Philadelphian I have attended Philly schools where I was pleased with the education and environment (parochial elementary and magnet high school). My parents selected the schools and helped me to apply and gain admission. The process was not nearly as daunting then as it is not. I fully believe that I would have attended a charter school had they been around in the late 80s as my parents were looking for an alternative moreso to the negative influential environment that existed within our neighborhood schools. Fast forward to last year I had two daughters who both would be entering a new grade/school the following year. There was so much choice within the city of Philadelphia and we as a family explored every option. My oldest was entering high school coming from a small charter school which offered tremendous support we were concerned about her getting lost in a bigger school. Likewise she has a strong interest in the sciences and we wanted to immerse her in an environment that she felt comfortable learning. She is lucky enough to have a "3 parent team" and we worked together to make sure she would be in a comfortable educational environment. She applied to 7-10 schools public and charter. After the entire process she was waitlisted for 4, and denied the rest. The processes for public schools were transparent, but the pool of decent learning environments for our child was very small. We advocated for here directly to the schools and submitted additional information at the school's request to no avail. Luckily we have a tremendous support system because at the same time my youngest was going into Kindergarten. Since the age of two I researched every available educational option for her within the city. Public, Private, Parochial, Charter. I had a list of schools picked out to apply to by the time she was three. Once the year started I began reaching out to schools, attending open houses, tours, info sessions and collecting applications. Each school had different processes and we had a filing system to keep track of materials, dates and deadlines. In the end we applied to more than 13 schools in Philadelphia. The public application process was the most straightforward having you complete one application for schools with available spaces, however many of the schools on my original list were not included on the application. When I inquired I was given the blanket answer that those particular schools did not participate in the lottery process. This was disheartening, but we pressed forward. Due to my schooling we applied a parochial school, but applied to a number of charter schools. We considered a number of private schools, but narrowed down to one because the application process for each was so expensive. She initially got into 2 of the 13 schools. One public which was very far from our home and work and one private which did not give us financial aid. After an exhausting yearlong ordeal with both girls we decided as a family which schools they would attend. With very limited options in the spring of 2015 we considered moving out of Philadelphia to an immediate suburb just for the chance at a better, less stressful educational system for both girls. In May 2015 my oldest daughter's charter school excepted a small cohort of students into its new 9th grade academy, she being one. In June we received a call from a notable charter that my youngest daughter was selected to attend from the waiting list. It felt like hitting the lottery. Up until that point we were really at a lost as to what we were going to do. We considered changing/quitting jobs, moving out of Philadelphia and many other lifestyle changes just for the chance at a good education for our girls. The process was stressful and unfair. After years of research, applications, test scores and countless parent visits, calls and appointments nothing ensured that our children got into a good school. It all boiled down to luck. It was exhausting for an involved parent, but what about kids that don't have parental involvement? It just breaks my heart to think about the hundreds of thousands of children in the city that are just going to school without an advocate for better quality education. This process opened my eyes so much wider to the issues plaguing the Philadelphia School system in general and I include all types of schools in that description. It simply is not fair. Good education should be the luck of the draw. Good education should not depend on how connected or wealthy your family is. The process did teach me that we all have to be involved in education for our children's sake. Though enlightening to those that have not had to engage in the school choice process just yet, the article is too lighthearted and does not address the fact that the only guaranteed school for a child in Philadelphia is their catchment area public neighborhood school and all too often that is not a place where children are thriving educationally. On the surface it seems as if we have ample school choice, but in the end the choices aren't always the ones you want.
My two cents.