February 18, 2009 Edition

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Students, parents urged to be
proactive about college financing

Discussing financial aid resources for high school seniors wanting to attend college are (from left): Donna Pinkston, Hoxie High School counselor, Sherry Moore, workforce education coordinator at the Northeast Arkansas Education Cooperative, and Vicky Robertson, Walnut Ridge High School counselor.

John Bland

Guidance counselors at high schools in Lawrence County are doing their best to get the word out about the financial aid resources available to those who want to attend college.

"Anybody can go to college despite their finances, even though you may have to pay it back," said Vicky Robertson, counselor at Walnut Ridge High School.

This year's seniors and their parents should be well involved in the process of seeking financial aid resources for college. However, it is not too early for high school juniors and their parents to begin the process.

"It's never too early to think about options. Instead of dreading it, get involved, keep a folder," said Donna Pinkston, a Hoxie High School counselor. "I like to see students be proactive."

Students in the 10th grade or higher need to begin taking the ACT, America's most widely-accepted college-entrance exam. Academic Challenge Scholarships are linked to this exam, said Pinkston. "Most counselors have practice tests," she added. ACT also has practice tests on their websites: www.actstudent.org. Feb. 27 is the next date for ACT testing in the area.

College comparison charts

College comparison charts are available from high school counselors or can be found online to help students and parents make more informed choices about where students should attend college. Using the charts, students can select several potential college choices and then find out facts about each college. Facts include such categories as campus enrollment, location, academic programs, costs, student activities and financial aid availability.

Kuder Skills Assessment

The counselors also suggest that students take career assessments. The state provides Kuder Skills Assessment for free. These assessments help show students what careers they may best be suited for. Information is also available about the projected demand for certain majors and what the future outlook holds for a particular career.

Financial aid meetings

Schools in the county have been hosting senior financial aid meetings in recent weeks to give students and parents information about available aid and scholarships. Sloan-Hendrix High School in Imboden has a Financial Aid Night scheduled for parents and seniors on Monday at 6 p.m. in the Student Center.

Each high school counselor also has comprehensive information about various colleges and websites that allow students and parents to apply online for financial aid.

High school counselors include: Rita Prestidge at Black Rock, 878-6461; Kathleen Holder at Hillcrest, 528-3856; Donna Pinkston, at Hoxie School, 886-4254; Amanda Rorex at Sloan-Hendrix, 869-2361; and Vicky Robertson at Walnut Ridge, 886-6623. The counselors can also be reached via e-mail addresses found on each school website. Several counselor webpages also list numerous websites about college financial aid and scholarships.

If they have not already done so, students should apply to the colleges they are interested in attending. Then, they should apply for scholarships at each of them and follow directions, complete applications and meet deadlines to get financing.

Department scholarships and private scholarships may also be available at each particular college. Pinkston suggested that parents should get to know personnel at that college's financial aid office, as they will know of potential scholarships offered through the college. "Make financial aid people at the college your best friends," Pinkston added.

College Goal Sunday

College Goal Sunday is scheduled for this Sunday at 2 p.m. College Goal Sunday is a one-day event to help students and families complete the application for financial aid for education beyond high school. The application is called the FAFSA.

College Goal Sunday is an ideal place to get help in completing a student's financial aid application.

Among the sites for College Goal Sunday are: Library Computer Lab at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, the Randolph County Development Center at Black River Technical College in Pocahontas and Independence Hall at the University of Arkansas Community College in Batesville.

For registration information on College Goal Sunday, visit the website at: arcollegegoalsunday.org/northeast.php.

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