Prep Talk Blog > February 2009

Hey, we've all had our tough phases and some last a bit longer than others. But the important thing is turn bad luck into good opportunities. If you dwell on a difficult semester or negative time, things will be much harder to turn around. The last thing you want to do to yourself is limit your future opportunities due to past mistakes.

Truth: While slipping up or failing is rarely celebrated, everybody loves the comeback kid!

My German professor once mused that the great thing about continuing your education is that the further you go, the less earlier setbacks matters. She said this in reference to her rambunctious high school years as she looked back with her PhD and wondered what some of her high school teachers would say.

Think about this: When you're a freshman, you're all of 14 years old but you don't enter college until you're around 18 years old -- that's a big difference! Change is what the years between 14 and 18 are all about. If you had some setbacks in your freshman year, make sure that you seek guidance from teachers, parents, or counselors to get back on track. Focus on making academic and life accomplishments to celebrate your transition to your sophomore, junior and senior years.

My advice: Take an open-minded approach to looking at your track record. Look for ways that you can celebrate positive steps toward future opportunities and note the things that have brought you ahead. As you are preparing your college application essays, take on a topic that requires you to discuss how you overcome challenges as evidence of your ability to grow and change for the better.

If you still have your self-doubts concerning a freshman year GPA stumble, check out this blog interview with the former Assistant Dean of Admission at Harvard; Seamus Malin.

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Planning for college next year? Listen up!

You owe it to yourself to not waste your chance to qualify for federal financial aid or great government-backed student loans. So repeat the following mantra after me: "I will file my FAFSA to get my free money for college. I will file my FAFSA to get my free money for college. I will file my FAFSA to get my free money for college."

Okay, now that we have our affirmation out of the way, let's focus on the details:

    * Filing your FAFSA is a bit like filling out your tax returns. You have to pay attention to all the details. Making mistakes and submitting corrections cost you time and, more importantly, money. Simply put, while you are going round and round fixing errors, other FAFSA applicants are scooping up the available funds. Federal financial aid is awarded to applicants as they apply- you snooze (or goof); you lose!

    * In a perfect world, your parents or the people who support you financially will have already filed their taxes for 2008. But, if not, they most likely have their W2's, paycheck stubs and bank statements. If you have these financial documents, you can start NOW. You can update your application information later, if necessary.

    * Be sure to have a short list of colleges where you may enroll. You will need to put in the "school codes" for all of the colleges that should receive your student aid information so they can make you a financial aid offer as well. Click here to look up your school codes.

    * When we say "hurry", we mean don't drag your feet: File your FAFSA as soon as possible. However, when you are actually filing online, slow down! Read every question thoroughly. Sometimes, you will be submitting your own information, and other times the form will request information about your parents or others who support you financially. Just goofing up on your Social Security number or leaving required fields blank could be high dollar mistakes.

Like I mentioned in my previous FAFSA post, print off the requirement checklist and set a date with your financially supportive folks to file online (if at all possible). Remember, most students get some sort of aid, so submit a form no matter what you think your chances are!


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Don Munce