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Plan for senior year expenses

19 Jul

Parents of high school seniors experience sticker shock a few months into the school year.

For example, application fees for each University of California campus is $70, and California State University applications cost $55 each.

Then there are last-minute test fees and final college visits and a whole lot more:

  • School fundraisers for the senior trip and other special class activities
  • Prom expenses
  • Senior photo shoot expenses
  • Yearbook feature pages
  • Cap, gown, tassel (if not paid by school) and other items typically bought: school ring, letter jacket, senior key and other memorabilia
  • Senior banquet tickets
  • Graduation invitations
  • Grad night party expenses
  • Family graduation party expenses

You probably want to budget at least a thousand dollars for basics. Plan ahead, communicate clearly among the family, and think creatively to keep the costs down. After all, there will be college expenses ahead, too.

Free SAT prep course

28 Jun

I ran into a parent the other day and asked about her son, who will be going into his junior year. She said he is determined to get an academic scholarship.

My response? “Tell him I said to study for the SAT. It’s the ticket to academic money.”

And actually, when juniors take the PSAT Oct. 11 (or if schools offer a Saturday test, also on Oct. 14), it is the National Merit Qualifying Test. The very top students nationwide–those who score in the 99th percentile–become National Merit Semifinalists. About half of those students win scholarships after submitting personal essays and teacher recommendations. Some win $2,500 from the National Merit Corporation, and many can receive generous scholarships directly from the college they decide to attend.

In any case a great SAT (or ACT) score can be rewarded with good scholarship money, so it’s worth all the effort put into studying for the test.

The great news of recent years is that Kahn Academy has partnered with the College Board to offer FREE test prep online. Here’s the link:

So, practice for the test until NO question is a surprise for you. If you prefer working with a book, this one prepared by the College Board is only $16.37 on Amazon:

Study on! You will be glad you did.


Making the most of summer orientation

23 Jun

Incoming college freshmen sometimes have the opportunity to attend a summer orientation. If you can afford it (there is typically a cost involved) and have the time, I recommend it.

Here’s what may be offered:


  • A college campus tour
  • A meet-and-greet in your department
  • A one-on-one session with an advisor who can help you select classes
  • Informational sessions that acquaint you with college policies, such as the honor code (not cheating/plagiarizing etc.) and safety
  • Information about intramural sports, other campus activities, and Greek life (sororities/fraternities)
  • An orientation and possibly a lunch or dinner for your parents
  • Get-to-know-you events in the evenings

So, yes, it’s worth it, as you will feel more confident when you arrive on campus this fall!