Choosing the right college

by Emilie Nazario, senior, Morrisville High School

Senior year is a stressful time for some students. Many of them struggle deciding the next step toward their future. It is an important decision, which requires time to evaluate. Even though this decision can be difficult, there are steps to make the process easier.

The first step to finding the perfect college is discovering one’s passion. Whether it is becoming a doctor or the next prodigy, this is a major step. With this information a student can find colleges that have their specific major or curriculums to help them reach their goals.

The next step is to visit the colleges you have the most interest in. This will help narrow down the list of colleges to a few that are acceptable.

Next, students should apply to colleges. Once receiving acceptance letters, the tricky part begins.

Tuition is a major deciding factor when it comes to choosing a college. Every year college tuition increases, which makes it harder for families to afford. Therefore, students should consider colleges that offer good financial aid packages and scholarships. Also, students should ask their guidance counselors about additional scholarships that are available; this can make a major difference. Even though money is an important factor, it is honestly up to the student to make the decision of what they truly want.

The decision of choosing between good colleges is the most difficult. If one still has trouble deciding, they should look over the remaining colleges again and see what they have to offer. Students should visit again and see if they still prefer the living arrangements in one college as compared to the others, or if they prefer certain classes at one college, etc.

Overall, it’s all about the feeling one gets when they find the right school. For example, former MHS student Brenmarie Rentas said, “When I first visited Cairn University, I felt instantly like I belonged there.” This feeling of belonging and joy will help the students make their decision; one should trust their gut instinct.

Even though selecting a college is a tough decision, there are ways to make it easier. Every senior out there is currently struggling with this decision. However, once the decision is made, there’s nothing left to worry about. Senior year should be filled with fun and enjoyment.

Good luck to the class of 2014, and may their futures bring much success!

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Consumer Troubleshooter

submitted by Bucks County Consumer Protection Agency

Q. My oldest child recently graduated from High School and, up until about a week ago, my son wasn’t sure what he wanted to do for the future. He is just now talking about going to college so I haven’t really put much thought into the college process before now.

Now I am panicking and he is so laid back he is of absolutely no help. I could use some guidance with everything from financial aid to making his living arrangements so that I can help him get prepared for continuing his education.

I’m not sure if this falls under your area of expertise, but I read your column every week and thought you may have an idea where I would go to get the information that I need.  Can you help? 

L.M., Bristol

A. While getting ready for college is exciting it can also be overwhelming. There are definitely things you want to be careful of when seeking help through the process.

There are many things that you need to keep in mind including protecting your personal information, watching out for scholarship scams when setting up financial aid and building good credit.  Bucks County Consumer Protection was able to find information on what every college student should know and we would be happy to send this out to consumers who are interested in these tips.

If you would like us to mail you a copy call 1-800-942-2669 and ask for a copy of “40 Money Management Tips Every College Student Should Know” and leave your name and address and we will send one out to you.

For other useful consumer information and brochures, you can visit http://www.buckscounty.org/government/departments/CommunityServices/ConsumerProtection/index.aspx.

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Unconventional advice for college students and their parents

submitted by Michael Garry, CFP®, JD/MBA, Yardley Wealth Management, LLC 

With graduation season upon us, there has been a barrage of stories in the media about the ever-escalating amounts of student loan debt. Those stories are almost always accompanied by news of the college majors that pay the most and conversely those that pay the least.

If you want a life of misery, pick your college major by whatever pays the most when you are a high school senior. Nothing could be more shortsighted than picking your major based on the earnings for it in one year of time.

You might work for 50 years after graduation. How likely is it that the major you pick based on one year’s earnings will still pay relatively well a half of a century later? The field might not exist then.

Many of the highest paying entry-level jobs now didn’t exist even 10 years ago. Things change. Pick something you love and find a way to make money from it.

With the rise of the Internet it is easier than ever to become an expert in your field and to make money from it as an entrepreneur. There are people in every field doing that right now as you are reading this. You just need to plan for college like you would a business.

Don’t be afraid to take out student loans just because you will have debt.  It’s ok. It’s hard to go to college now without loans or semi-affluent parents who are generous. Just like your choice of a major, and have a plan for it.

Don’t be afraid to go to community college and state school. Take a little longer if you need to.

The average student loan debt is about what a new car costs.

Which one will provide you more value? Education, by a mile.

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The view from Cairn University

by Cassidy Shemelia, Morrisville High School/Cairn University

Just a semester ago, the word “college” could be described as a terrifying new location with new faces and more homework than is humanly impossible to handle. It is, in fact, just that.

Leaving Morrisville High School to become a student at Cairn University, a biblical university in Langhrone, was more terrifying than anything I have yet to encounter. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but high school prepared me in more ways than one.

MHS taught me that taking an active role within the student body and community is as important as the courses I am taking. It afforded me the opportunity to be involved in many school and community areas during my four years spent there.

The lessons I learned varied from teamwork, to event planning in Student Senate, to reaching the community through the 21st Century Tutor & Community Service Programs. I have learned to stay connected and be involved.

I moved into Cairn University early in August, and I became a member of the Cross Country team. This was overwhelming to me with the load of 17 credits on my schedule. While already experiencing the never-ending schedule at MHS, I was prepared for this.

I had the opportunity to apply for a position on the Chi Beta Sigma cabinet. Chi Beta Sigma is a group dedicated to planning beneficial events on campus. We recently planned relief efforts for Hurricane Sandy.

I was scared to see how challenging the academics were going to be in college. I have written more papers in one semester than I have a whole year in high school; it’s never-ending.

I have to thank a few of my high school teachers for their efforts in preparing me for college: Mrs. Deliman for preparing me with the ability and skills to write a research paper; Mr. Teefy for teaching me great study skills; Mrs. Hasness for helping me understand mathematical concepts; and Mr. Martino, who taught me to defend my faith within Chemistry and Biology classes.

All my high school classes in one way or another prepared me for what was a successful first semester in college.

College life is great! It’s challenging, but fun! The Cairn community is wonderful!

When finals week came, also known as “hell week,” not to be cliché, but as Zach Efron, the main actor in “High School Musical,” says, “we were all in it together.” With no electricity to write papers, 300 students in dorm room Heritage Hall gathered together and created fun races around the lounges, board games, and musical concerts.

As the first semester came to an end, I can definitely say that my time in Morrisville High School benefited me in many ways. My first semester courses were difficult, but Morrisville taught me to never give up. It was a place that gave me opportunity and taught me how to succeed.

It is up to the individual to make the decision to strive for their goals. I have never disregarded my passion for people and the world. I will become a social worker. I will work in Africa, and I will do what it takes to make these things come true.

As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

PHOTO CAP: Cassidy Shemelia

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Tips for the college-bound

submitted by Bette Coatsworth

There is a wealth of information, on the Web (College Board site www.collegeboard.com) as well as www.finaid.org, with useful links on grants, scholarships, and loans.

Filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the first step in applying for student financial aid from the federal government, including the Pell Grant, Perkins Loan, Stafford Loan, and work-study program. You can find the form online at www.fafsa.ed.gov.

Applications are available in your school. Most colleges require these forms mailed by the first week in February considering you for scholarships and/or grants. Parents need to fill out income tax forms as soon as possible.

Aid falls into three categories:

  • Gifts, scholarships, awards allocated by schools, colleges, all requiring no repay;
  • Loans at low interest rates regulated through the federal government;
  • Employment – opportunities on campus not necessarily where one gets the most aid, but where your child will be the happiest in order to succeed.

Call to arrange an appointment for interviews. Tour campuses, preferably on an individual basis. Each visitation, obtain a catalog, address and telephone numbers of deans, financial aid officers, coaches, if applicable.

Keep copies of all papers mailed. Include the student’s social security number on all correspondence.

A helpful, free handbook, published by the United States Department of Education, “Getting Ready for College Early,” includes a section on finance.

Good luck.

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Elks Lodge sponsoring essay contest

The Fairless Hills Elks Lodge #2023 is sponsoring an essay contest for graduating seniors at Pennsbury, Morrisville, and Conwell-Egan High Schools.

The topic of the essay is “What a College Education Means to Me,” and should be two to three type-written double spaced pages.

Two $1000 scholarships will be awarded.  Deadline for submission is April 1st, 2013.

Essays should be mailed to Fairless Hills Elks Lodge #2023, 835 W. Bridge Street, Morrisville PA 19067, Attention: Theodore S. Wolthorn.

For more info call the Elks Lodge at 215-295-5333.

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