A bright future can hinge on filling out the right paperwork.
High school seniors should be looking at college applications and financial aid now, said Carol Kiser, guidance counselor at East Lincoln High School.
Submitting a FAFSA form (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is a must, she adds. A workshop will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 1 with this task in mind.
Kiser said high school seniors and their parents would be doing themselves a disservice if they didnâ€™t turn in the application.
â€œEverybody needs financial aid these days sending their kids to school,â€ she said. â€œThereâ€™s money out there, and today, with the cost of tuition, anybody could use the help.â€
FAFSA is a unique opportunity. The application not only seeks out federal and state grants and loans but can uncover merit scholarships from studentsâ€™ preferred colleges. There are spaces on the form for students to list schools theyâ€™re considering. These colleges are then contacted, and students later receive word back.
Corey Sturdivant, regional marketing representative with the College Foundation, will be the speaker. He will guide students and parents through the application process. The free program will conclude in about an hour. The time is worth the reward, Kiser said.
Average tuition, fees, room and board at a four-year public institution averages $11,354. The price tag jumps to $27,516 for a four-year private institution, according to The College Board Web site.
These numbers should highlight the importance of planning.
Preparing for a college career should begin early, Kiser said. Parents should start thinking about how to pay for their childâ€™s continuing education as early as kindergarten, but the high school years are key.
Freshmen and sophomores should start looking at schools and considering a career track. Juniors should intensify the search.
â€œThey need to be making campus visits in their junior year,â€ she said. â€œBy the summer between their junior and senior year they should narrow the search down to a few colleges then apply for college at the beginning of their senior year.â€
Lincoln County Schools try to assist students with the process. Each fall a college fair is held for juniors and seniors, and each winter the financial aid workshop takes place at the James W. Warren Citizens Center.
â€œItâ€™s important information that students and parents need to have,â€ said Kiser. â€œWe could do it here at East Lincoln, but I think with it being a county effort it really gets all the high schools involved.â€
The central location and county-wide event brings together high school seniors from around the county and makes the visit easier for college recruiters, Kiser said. Rather than making four visits to Lincoln County high schools, they can make one. And school staff and students can present a united front.
â€œIt gives you a sense of community. Itâ€™s a joint effort,â€ she said. â€œWeâ€™re all doing it together.â€
The school system wants to join with parents and students to uncover as much money as possible and provide further education.
â€œThereâ€™s a lot of money available to students that they may not find out about unless they do a lot of research. We want to help them do this research,â€ said Lyle Back, coordinator of community schools. â€œThis money can make it possible for students to go to college.â€
by Diane Turbyfill