The Power of a Thank You: New Year’s Thoughts for Parents and Students

Thanksgiving is usually the time that we think a lot about giving thanks.  Unfortunately, much of the rest of the year we often let our thanks fall by the wayside – or we take for granted that others will realize we are thankful.  As we begin a new calendar year, college parents and their students might find this a good time to think about some New Year’s “thank-yous”.

Each year at this time we offer some resolutions to keep in mind for the New Year.  Of course, like so much of the world, we often lapse before too long.  But we think it is important to give thought to new beginnings at this new calendar time, but mid-point in the academic year.  Good New Year’s Resolutions are worth reviving, so we invite you to take some time to consider some of our past suggestions.

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Help Your Student Warm Up Winter By Thinking About Summer

Mid-December officially marks the beginning of winter, and in many parts of the country the winter cold is settling in.  Summer may seem very far away right now – for both you and your college student.  While you may just want to settle in by the fire and hibernate, this may actually be a good time for your college student, or soon-to-be college student, to give some thought to those lazy, hazy days of summer.

It is often difficult to plan ahead when there is still a full semester between your student and summer, but here are eight things your student might work on now to make the summer months more meaningful.

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Should My College Student Select a Minor?

One of the key questions that college students are often asked is, “What is your major?”

Although many students begin their college careers as Undecided or Undeclared students, all eventually decide on an area of focus – a major. Some students also decide to complete requirements for a minor – a secondary field or area of interest.  A minor requires fewer courses – sometimes as few as 4-6 courses in the area and is usually optional.

The decision of whether to add a minor in college is, of course, personal; but there are several reasons your student might want to attempt one.  Some students choose a minor because it will provide a unique combination of skills or background.  Other students may choose an area because it is something about which they are passionate.  A minor may complement a major or provide more depth or breadth.  So one student majoring in Business may choose a minor in Communication or Technology, while another majoring in Business may choose to minor in Dance or Art.

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What is a “Satisfactory Academic Progress” Policy for Financial Aid?

A term that many students and parents may be hearing  recently is “Satisfactory Academic Progress” or SAP.  SAP pertains to financial aid eligibility and recent discussions of the policy are a result of new federal regulations incorporated into the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, which require students to be making Satisfactory Academic Progress in order to continue to receive federal financial aid.  This federal aid includes all Direct Student Loans, Pell Grants, Federal Work Study, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, Perkins Loans and Parent PLUS Loans.

The purpose of the changes to this regulation is essentially to prevent students from indefinitely continuing to receive federal aid and to ensure program integrity.  The primary change is a no tolerance policy which no longer allows for an automatic warning period with continuation of aid.  In other words, at many institutions in the past, students who failed to meet SAP policy standards were granted an automatic grace period during which time they could work towards returning to good standing while still receiving aid.  New regulations require that students who fail to make Satisfactory Academic Progress automatically lose their aid immediately.

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Your College Student’s December Graduation

The “four year degree” is no longer a reality for many college students.  Five years has become closer to the national average for time necessary for students to complete a bachelor’s degree.  There are many factors that can contribute to extra time needed, and for some students the time frame is much more realistic. However, there are also a growing number of students who attempt to complete their degree in less than the traditional four years.  Some of these students who take either fewer or more than four years may be looking at a December graduation from college.

The decision to take extra time for a degree or to attempt to finish early is a very personal one and each student’s motivation is different.  Some students are unhappy with their college experience and anxious to be finished.  Other students are simply impatient to move on in their lives or hope to save on tuition costs.  Other students find that the pace of adding an extra semester makes the entire college experience more manageable.  Still other students find that they have no choice but to add time because of a poor semester or possible change of major or direction.

Whatever your student’s reasons for considering a December graduation, there are some factors he should investigate.  For some students, December is the perfect time to complete college.  For other students, waiting an additional semester may be the best course of action.

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