The Journal Gazette
Sunday, May 10, 2020 1:00 am

High school is time to take advantage of key benefits

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

The president of Trine University has noticed a trend among freshmen at the Angola campus: Many are starting their college career with at least a semester of credits earned.

Those students took advantage of dual-credit courses while in high school, Earl Brooks II said during a recent Trine podcast about student debt.

“It significantly reduces their costs,” he said.

Taking dual-credit courses – classes that let students earn high school and college credits simultaneously – is just one way students and their parents can make college more affordable, experts said.

Shenita Bolton of Fort Wayne Community Schools encourages parents to start a College Savings Plan for their children. As little as $10 can start one, she said by email.

“Putting a small amount in a savings (account) for your child will benefit greatly when they graduate from high school,” said Bolton, K-12 college and career readiness manager.

Being a good student can also pay off because students with good grades likely will receive an academic scholarship, she added.

Shaan Patel, founder of test preparation provider Prep Expert, recommends applying for smaller local scholarships rather than the “bright and shiny” awards found through national scholarship engines. With hundreds of thousands of students competing for those enticing larger amounts, he said, the odds of receiving a nationwide scholarship are slim.

The FWCS Scholarship Committee has awarded scholarships to students for more than 35 years. The amounts range from one-time $500 awards to $24,000 over four years, said Jessica Swinford, community programs coordinator.

The committee typically receives about 130 applications each year, and the number of scholarships available varies, she said by email.

“Many of our scholarships are invested through the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne and they communicate the disbursed amounts to us,” Swinford said. “We average 24 to 27 scholarship opportunities each year.”

Students also shouldn't dismiss the PSAT – the Preliminary SAT – because it opens the door to the National Merit Scholarship program, Patel said.

Along with the National Merit $2,500 scholarships, students can earn corporate- and college-sponsored awards.

“It's a shame that many students and parents miss out on this,” Patel said, noting some might overlook the test's importance because the P stands for “preliminary.”

Families with questions about college should contact their school's guidance office or the FWCS College and Career Readiness Office, Bolton said.

“You can never ask too many questions,” she said. “We are here to serve students and parents.”

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