The Top 10 Things to Remember
Just in case this is the only page you visit while on the Indiana College Costs Estimator website (although we highly encourage you to explore the entire site!), here are the ten most important things we think you need to remember about the whole college process. Want to learn more about the information in this section? Check out our YouTube tutorial for The Top 10 Things to Remember.
1) Your Indiana high school diploma really matters!
Beginning fall 2011, two very important changes have occurred. First, you can’t be admitted to any four-year Indiana public university unless you have at least the Core 40 Diploma. Second, if you are eligible for a need-based grant from the state of Indiana, the Core 40 Diploma will bring you 80% of your state grant eligibility, but if you have the Core 40 with Academic Honors or the Core 40 with Technical Honors Diploma you will receive 100% of your state grant eligibility. Of course, we also know students with honors diplomas typically stay in college and graduate at higher rates than Core 40 recipients because of their more rigorous preparation.
2) Take the SAT and/or ACT before your senior year.
Many colleges are pushing up their academic scholarship deadlines. For example, Indiana University has a November 1 academic scholarship deadline. If you wait until October of your senior year to take the SAT, you can’t even be considered. By the way, colleges typically will accept the results of either college entrance test for their admission and scholarship decisions. They also often will use the best sub-scores you receive for each test in evaluating your academic merit, regardless of when each score was received.
3) Make sure to look at colleges that will challenge you - not just the ones you think you can afford.
A recent book, Crossing The Finish Line, looked at college retention and graduation data across multiple public university systems in multiple states. Surprisingly to some, those students who attended a college or university where they had significantly greater academic ability and preparation than most of their peers, where they were “undermatched,” they were much less apt to be retained and graduate than those where their peers were of similar ability and preparation. So, make sure you are looking at colleges where your peers will challenge you.
4) Find out early at which colleges your finances will work best...and where they will not!
Take advantage of the Indiana College Costs Estimator to get a better idea of your financial aid eligibility and to generate estimates of potential financial aid at Indiana colleges and universities you are considering.
5) Visit, visit, visit!
Get those college visits scheduled. Some students can’t verbalize why a certain college is the right one; they just “feel” it is. Contact the admissions office to set up a campus tour and possibly an appointment in the admissions office to talk about your chances of admission. (Remember to take along our suggested tips for a successful tour!) Take an unofficial copy of your high school record from the guidance office so they can see your courses, grades and test scores. If it is a residential college, make arrangements during your senior year to stay overnight on campus so you see how people behave, hear what they talk about and experience how the place “feels.”
6) Apply to more than one college.
As they say, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Similarly, most prospective college students want to have admission applications on file at more than one college, including at least one where you are highly likely to be admitted. This is especially true if finances are a concern. You will want to see what multiple colleges will do when it comes to their final financial aid award so you can make an informed and financially-savvy decision.
7) Know your admission deadlines...and beat them!
You need to know the difference between various application timetables like Rolling Admission, Early Action and Early Decision. Beat the stated deadlines so admission committees have more time to look into your candidacy. If your application is among the hundreds or thousands that come in right around the deadline, they will only have so much time to review your file (and will likely have to make some assumptions about what they see) before they have to get the decisions back out the door.
8) File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by March 10 of your senior year (and each year for the upcoming academic year)!
In Indiana you are not eligible for a need-based state grant if the FAFSA isn’t received electronically by the federal processor by this date. If you are a Twenty-first Century Scholar, you also must sign and submit your Senior Affirmation by March 10 or you lose your state grant. Please note: Be sure you go to the free federal Department of Education website to file your FAFSA. If you need assistance completing your FAFSA form, there is a toll-free hotline to assist you: 1-800-4-FEDAID. You can also contact the financial aid office of the college to which you are applying for additional assistance.
9) In a financial aid award, remember to take the federal student loan first!
Many college students are inundated with requests from lenders to open new credit cards. That’s how many students, for example, pay for their books. A credit card should be your last option as a college student. Typically you go into immediate repayment on what you have borrowed, and at a very high interest rate. Your best loan option? Take out the federal Direct Loan (formerly known as the Stafford Loan) available to any student who is a citizen or has Permanent Resident (green card) status and files the FAFSA. No co-signer is required and you don’t pay the amount borrowed until you are out of college or drop below half-time status. The interest rate? Currently the interest rate on a Direct Loan disbursed on or after July 1, 2015 and before July 1, 2016 is 4.29% which is much less than the typical interest rate on a college student’s credit card debt.
10) College Survival 101: The Big Three!
Want to almost guarantee early success in college and boost your chances for making it to a college degree? Do these three things: 1) Go to class everyday, no matter how tired you are; 2) Do your academic work first each day, then go play; and 3) Find ONE activity on campus to get involved in initially so you meet others with a similar interest. You are more apt to put down roots at the college which will help during your initial transition. This is true whether you live on campus or commute.