Welcome to our Parent’s Guide to College! Here you will find all the information you need to understand the first steps toward obtaining a college education.
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Preparing for College
We all want our children to grow up to lead fulfilling lives that are rich with opportunities for success. A college education is one of the best investments that you and your child can make to secure his or her future. Students’ success in college starts long before they set foot on campus. It begins with you and the steps that you take during their high school, and even middle school years. While planning early can make the process smoother, rest assure that it is never too late to get started. Here are some tips for you to keep in mind.
College is a significant investment. While there are lots of great options for financial aid to help you pay for college that you can access when the time comes, there are some steps that you can take early to help make it that much more affordable—namely the Washington state sponsored Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) college savings plan and the Washington College Bound Scholarship.
The GET program is a safe way for you to set aside money to pay for your child’s educational expenses. Through the program, you pre-purchase units of college credits at today’s cost for use when your child enrolls in college. The state guarantees that your investment will keep pace with the cost of tuition as it shifts over time and it can be used at virtually any accredited institution in the United States. Best of all, you can start the program while your child is an infant. Find out more at www.get.wa.gov.
The Washington College Bound Scholarship is a guaranteed scholarship available to students who meet eligibility requirements for income and academics. Your child must sign up for the program during his or her seventh or eighth-grade year. Enrolled students who graduate from high school with a 2.0 GPA or better, have no felony convictions, and who meet all income requirements can access the scholarship as long as they start attending an eligible college or university within one year of their high school graduation. Learn more at wsac.wa.gov/college-bound. Even if you were unable to start preparing early, a college degree can still be in reach for your student. Depending upon your family’s income level, size and the number of students who are in college, state and federal student aid, as well as scholarships, can cover a great deal of the cost of attending college. Accessing these funds starts with the completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or, if your child’s status makes him or her ineligible for federal funding, with the completion of the Washington Application for State Financial Aid (WASFA). Students and their parents complete these applications early in their senior year of high school. Complete details on the application process and the funds available are listed in the Paying for College chapter of this booklet.
Resources for Financial Planning
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
Washington Application for State Financial Aid (WASFA)
Washington College Bound Scholarship
Helping your kids be academically prepared to enter college starts with a lot of what you are already doing, being involved with them and their school. Aside from talking to them about the importance of getting good grades and practicing good study habits, encourage them to take advantage of their high school’s college preparatory programs, such as AP or IB courses, college in the high school classes, or even enroll in a program where students take college classes for credit while still in high school. At Heritage, this program is called New Horizons.
New Horizons is open to academically advanced high school juniors and seniors. Students are enrolled in university classes for FREE and learn side by side with college students. All students have to pay for are their books and other materials used in the course(s) they are taking. And, when they complete the class, they earn college credits that are transferable to any accredited college or university.
Choosing a College
There are more than 5,000 colleges, universities, and trade schools in the United States, so how do you and your student find the one that is best for you? It starts with having conversations about what your student wants out of his or her college experience and what he or she wants to accomplish after graduation. Here are a few things to discuss:
- What does he or she want to study (majors)?
- What kind of student life is important?
- Big school, small school, or something in between?
- Is it important to stay close to home or to move away?
- What kind of academic supports are important? Tutoring? Mentors? Advanced study areas? Smaller class sizes where he or she gets lots of one-on-one time with the professors?
- What are your expectations about the faculty?
Having these conversations early can help you when you and your student start touring colleges of interest during his or her junior year in high school. Most institutions have campus tour programs where prospective students can visit the campus; meet with faculty, staff and current students; and get a feel for how they would fit in the campus environment. Ask lots of questions on these tours. Your tour guides and the people you meet with want to help you to decide if their school is the best fit for you and your family.
From these tours, narrow down your list of potential schools to your top five or six. These are the ones that your student will apply to at the start of his or her senior year.
Schedule your tour of Heritage University online or call (509) 865-0440.
Many colleges and universities require students to take standardized testing, such as the SAT or ACT, as part of their admissions requirements. These tests are given by a third party administrator on set days and locations. Because they can be taken more than once, some school counselors recommend students take their first test toward the end of their junior year. This gives them time to retake the test before submitting their college applications if they want to try to improve their score. Heritage University does not require either ACT or SAT scores for admission to the university.
You can get more information on the SAT at collegeboard.org and on the ACT at ACT.org.
Paying for College
On the top of every parent’s mind is “how am I going to pay for college?” The good news is that there are lots of financial aid options out there that help make a college education affordable. The trick is to start early and to work closely with your son or daughter’s chosen university’s Financial Aid Office.
Heritage University Financial Aid Office:
The FAFSA is the federal government’s Free Application for Student Aid. Unless your son or daughter does not qualify to receive federal assistance because of their immigration status, this is the first step to take to access financial aid. The FAFSA needs to be completed every year starting in October and should be completed as early as possible to ensure that your student receives all the financial aid he or she qualifies to receive. The FAFSA asks for detailed financial information about your student and you if he or she is a dependent. The US Department of Education uses the information about your income, family size, and the number of people in school to determine how much you and your student could contribute towards the cost of attending college and how much need is left over. Based on your student’s need, he or she may qualify for state and/or federal grants, work-study jobs, and low-interest subsidized or unsubsidized loans. When completing the FAFSA, be sure to include the federal school codes of the colleges your child is considering. The results from the FASFA are forwarded to the financial aid offices at the universities you list so that they can set aside funding for your student and start building his or her award package.
Heritage University’s Federal School Code is 003777.
The Washington Application for State Financial Aid (WAFSA) is open to students in Washington state whose immigration status makes them ineligible to receive federal financial aid. Like its federal counterpart, students and their parents complete the WAFSA the year before attending college and reapply each year throughout their college career. The state uses the information in the application to determine how much funding the student qualifies to receive.
Types of Student Aid
Grants are funds that are given to students to help cover some of the unmet need to attend college. There are two primary grants that students at Heritage University qualify to receive: the Federal Pell Grant and the Washington State Need Grant. Grants do not need to be paid back. The amount of grant funds that your child may receive depends upon a number of factors, including income, family size, and the number of people in the family who are enrolled in college.
Work-study funds are essentially income paid to students who are employed in qualifying part-time positions, mostly on campus. Students work up to 19 hours a week throughout the academic year and receive their funding through pay for hours worked. Like grants, eligibility for work-study depends on multiple factors.
Scholarships are awards given that do not need to be paid back. There are many, many types of scholarships available. There are scholarships that are merit-based, meaning they are given to students who have exceptional grades, and scholarships that are need-based, those given to students whose families can contribute very little to their education. There are even scholarships awarded based on your membership in clubs, or hobbies, or the field of study that your child wants to enter. Scholarships can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands, even the full cost of attending college.
The trick to receiving scholarships is to apply, apply, apply! The applications vary from scholarship to scholarship, but typically include the application form, an essay, and a request for supporting documents, such as letters of recommendation and transcripts. It is never too early to start looking for scholarships. Heritage’s Financial Aid Office is a great resource to help you and your child find scholarships that are available.
Washington’s College Bound Scholarship
The Washington State Legislature established the College Bound Scholarship to provide tuition funding to low-income students. Seventh and 8th-grade students whose families meet the income requirements apply for the scholarship by June 30 of their 8th-grade year. If they graduate from a Washington state high school with a 2.0 GPA or better, have no felony convictions, start attending an eligible college or university within one year of their high graduation, and meet the income requirements, they can access the scholarship.
Heritage University Scholarships
Heritage University awards more than $2 million in institutional aid every year. Many of these scholarships are awarded as part of students’ financial aid packages and don’t require a separate application. In addition, the university has several full-ride scholarships that will cover anywhere from the full cost of tuition to the full cost of attendance for four to six years of study toward earning a bachelor’s degree, depending upon the fund. Applications for these scholarships open each year in the fall and can be found online at heritage.edu/scholarships.
Partial List of HU Scholarships:
- HU Soar
- Sinegal family Foundation Scholarship
- Moccasin Lake Foundation Scholarship
- Act Six
- HU Dreamers
There are several different types of student loan programs that can be accessed to help pay for undergraduate studies, these include both subsidized and unsubsidized loans that are paid back at a low-interest rate by the student after he or she graduates or leaves school, as well as unsubsidized loans available to parents that you pay back. There are limits to the maximum amount that can be borrowed each year as well as over the lifetime of your child’s academic career.
Terms to know
Expected Family Contributions (EFC) – this is the amount that your family should be capable of contributing toward the total cost of your child’s college expenses based on factors such as income, assets, family size and the number of members attending college. This is determined by the department of education upon submission of your FAFSA or WASFA.
Cost of Attendance – This includes direct costs —such as tuition, lab fees, and books—as well as indirect costs associated with being in college, including housing, food, transportation, and supplies.
Award Letter – A letter from the Financial Aid Office that outlines the financial aid package that your child qualifies to receive.
Financial Need – The amount of the total cost of attendance that isn’t covered by the expected family contributions.
Subsidized Loan – interest does not accrue while the student is attending college for at least half time.
Unsubsidized Loan – interest accrues from the date the loan is awarded.
Apply to College
You and your teen have done your homework and have narrowed down your selection to your top college choices. The time to start applying is early in his or her senior year.
Every college and university has its own application processes. Some require application fees, high school transcripts, SAT or ACT test scores, letters of recommendation, essays or any combination of these. It’s important to work with the school’s admission office to understand the specific application requirements and deadlines for the schools your student wants to attend.
At Heritage, students complete the application online at heritage.edu/apply. There are no application fees or submission fees. In addition to the application, students need to send their high school transcript to the Admissions Office. They can get these from their high school guidance counselor or the school’s office staff.
When to apply
Some colleges and universities, particularly those that are highly-selective in their admission process, have strict deadlines. As a rule of thumb, it is better to apply early, as early as the start of your students’ senior year. While Heritage University doesn’t have a deadline for applications, when your student applies early and is accepted for admissions, he or she can get a leg up on other students on class enrollment and financial aid.
Accepted, now what?
Congratulations, your student has been accepted for admission to college. Now what? Like the application process, each college has requirements that need to be met before students start class.
Accepting your offer – Most colleges send students a letter letting them know that they were accepted for admission to the university. Students need to complete that process by following the steps outlined in the letter to accept the offer to secure their place. Again, pay close attention to any deadlines or additional requirements. Even if your teen decided to attend another university, it is good practice for them to decline other offers of admission so that those positions and the financial aid that has been set aside can be freed up for other students who are applying to those schools.
Placement testing – Colleges want students to start strong. Placement testing for math and English gives advisors a guide as to what classes would be the best first start for your son or daughter. Typically any course that is level 100 or above is considered college-ready, and the credits earned in these courses can be applied toward graduation requirements. However, it is common for students’ scores to place them into pre-college level math and/or English.
At Heritage, students can take a free onsite placement test, or submit other placement scores, such as the ACT, SAT, or Smarter Balance results, or their transcripts that show that they completed college-level math and/or English courses. If your student’s testing results show that he or she needs some development work in math or English, he or she will be enrolled in the HU Academy.
The HU Academy allows students to build their skill level in reading, writing and Math without paying the higher per-credit costs for college courses. The classes are self-paced, so students can take the entire allotted time to complete the course or move through the curriculum quickly. The HU Academy can be taken during the summer before classes begin, or, students can enroll part-time in credit-bearing classes while taking Academy courses fall semester.
Financial Aid Packaging – Once your student has accepted the university’s offer for admission, the Financial Aid office will start putting together his or her financial aid package. The package is figured from information that is received from the US or the Washington State Department of Education based on what was submitted in your student’s FAFSA/WASFA application. Some funding, such as state and federal grants and work-study, are limited and awarded on a first come, first serve basis. Students can except all or part of a financial aid package and do so by signing and returning the letter they receive to the university’s financial aid office. If the package includes student and/or parent loans that are accepted, you and your student will have to complete a promissory note and complete financial aid counseling before the start of the semester.
Enrolling in classes—Once students accept their offer of admission, they can enroll in classes as soon as the open enrollment period begins. The timeline for this varies by school. At Heritage, accepted and enrolled students’ files are sent to the Advising Center. There, they meet with an academic advisor who helps them select their first slate of courses. Students are registered for courses months before classes begin. Generally speaking, enrolling early gives your student the widest array of options for courses. Some courses fill up quickly. Students who register late may not be able to get into the classes they want or need for their degree requirements.
How and when you pay for the classes also depends upon the school your student will be attending. At Heritage, accepting the financial aid package holds a student’s position in his or her registered classes. The cost of these courses and any associated fees are charged to each student’s account. When their financial aid is received from the various funding sources (federal, state, scholarships, loans, etc.), it is applied to this balance. Any money left over after all charges for tuition, books, and fees are applied, is refunded via check to the student for use throughout the rest of the semester.
Purchasing books – College books and supplies are an expense that can add up quickly. Typically, each course as at least one book, sometimes two or three, that are used during the semester. The book information is typically found in the course descriptions. These books can be purchased new, used, or electronically, or even rented. They can be purchased through the university bookstore, a third-party retailer, or even directly from other students who have taken the course prior.
Heritage uses an online bookseller. About a month before classes start, students receive notice that book funds have been made available on their account. They can purchase their books through the university online bookstore using their account. Early ordering is encouraged so your student is assured to get his or her books in time for the start of the school year.
New Student Orientation – Some colleges and universities hold an orientation for incoming freshmen and transfer students before the start of the academic year. Even if attendance is not required, it is in your student’s best interest to attend. These orientations give students the lay of the land and introduce them to the programs, departments and people who will help them be successful in their pursuits. At Heritage, New Student Orientation (NSO) is a required course that all new students are enrolled in when they register for classes. It is also when they get their student identification and parking permits.
What to Expect the First Year
For the past 13 years, your child’s school routine has been pretty much the same. They go to school in the morning and come home in the afternoon. Sometimes there is a little homework to be done and perhaps sports, clubs or other kinds of after-school activity, but generally there is still plenty of time to spend with the family.
College is completely different. To start with, classes are not held every day one right after the other. Classes are held at varying times and days. Some could be mornings on Tuesdays and Thursdays while others are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the evening, for example. While the course schedule will be the same throughout the semester, it will vary from semester to semester.
Another big difference is the amount of time that your student needs to commit to studying outside of class time. Typically class time is reserved for lectures. Except time spent in the lab, all projects and homework are done outside of the classroom. A good rule of thumb is that for every credit hour, your student will need to spend two hours outside of class studying each week. So, for a three-credit course, students will spend three hours each week in class and an additional six to nine hours studying independently.
At Heritage University, students often stay on campus studying in one of our computer labs, the library or the Academic Writing and Skills Center. Studying on campus gives them access to tutors and extra help from their professors and other students who are either in their classes or who have gone through the class before.
As your child moves from being a high school to a college student, your role in the educational process changes too. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of students’ educational records. Colleges and universities are limited on what information they can share with you without your student’s signed consent if he or she is over the age of 18. Information such as grades, course schedules, and financial records are protected and can only be released to the individual student without the signed consent.
The role that doesn’t change however, is that of cheerleader. Your support and encouragement are more important than ever. The first year of college can be especially challenging for students, whether they go across the country to a large university or stay in their hometown and attend Heritage. They face a lot of changes and additional responsibilities. At times they may get overwhelmed or discouraged. Some things you can do to help your student stay focused are:
- Keep the lines of communication between you and your student open. Talk about financial planning, academic expectations, and making responsible decisions.
- Encourage him or her to set a schedule that gives them time to balance their various responsibilities: work, school, studying, family and friends
- Help foster your student’s growing independence and adult decision making by encouraging him or her to seek out assistance through the university’s many resources to solve his or her problems.
- Remind your student why he or she is attending college, whether it is the dream career, the financial rewards, or the personal growth.
- Let your student know you appreciate the sacrifices he or she are making to reach his or her goal.
- Celebrate your student’s successes, even the little ones. They all add up.