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114R | Fine Tuning the College Equation | PSAT and National Merit Scholarship

Brian Eufinger returns to fill the gaps and address questions from the community about PSATs and National Merit Scholars, Brad and Jonathan discuss the benefits of creating a college-hacking strategy early, and the ChooseFI community responds to Monday’s episode.
  • Financial independence is generally about knowing the rules and making decisions according to what you value in life.
  • Many colleges use an equation to award merit aid –> a specific GPA + a specific test scores = a certain amount of merit aid.
  • With a better strategy to studying for the SAT or ACT, even a small bump could save someone tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  • Is it better to get a summer job, or spend the summer studying for the SAT/ACT?
  • With the Common Application, it’s beneficial to apply to a few extra schools because the merit aid packages available are hugely varied.
  • Just being aware of the rules gives you the best opportunities to succeed, and to opens up as many options as possible.
  • How has Brad’s mindset toward paying for college changed during the past two years of ChooseFI interviews?
  • A message from Paul in the Facebook group, who appreciated that Brian presented college scholarships with a realistic perspective about the challenges.
  • A comment from Rayanne, who shares the process her daughter is navigating as a graduating senior in California, looking for the best scholarship opportunities.
  • Lynn is grateful for Brian’s realistic suggestion that students don’t start studying for the SAT until the end of their sophomore year; in New Jersey even sixth graders are being asked to consider future standardized tests.
  • Julie messaged to remind parents that students should also study for the PSAT, as the PSAT is what determines a student’s National Merit standing.
  • Brian Eufinger, from Monday’s episode, returns to talk about the PSAT and National Merit Scholars:
    • CLEP credits and dual enrollment are good options for high school and current college students.
    • Academic Common Market – in some states, students can pay in-state costs at an out-of-state school if they’re majoring in a subject unavailable in-state.
    • Making a college-transfer strategy early will help students transfer from a community college to a four-year institution without any hiccups.
    • “There’s no greater financial aid than finishing in four years.”
    • Bringing AP credits into college gives a student more flexibility to change majors, study abroad, work internships or co-ops, or study for post-grad tests.
    • In rural areas that don’t offer as many AP courses, many states offer online AP courses.
    • The reward for being a National Merit Scholar varies widely between universities, but can be as much as a full ride, books, etc.
    • PSAT is offered in sophomore and junior year.
    • If your sophomore student scores higher than 1300 on a PSAT, it’s a disservice to not study for the PSAT in their junior year.
    • Only 50,000 students get National Merit status:
      • Top 16,000 students are awarded “semi-finalist” status
      • Next 34,000 get “commended” status
    • Many campuses offer cash for participating in graduate research projects.
    • Being a Resident Advisor (RA) at most schools earns you free room and board, which can be as much as $20k a year.
    • Becoming an RA is typically competitive, so start planning your application earlier.
    • Being an RA is potentially the biggest scholarship you can get.
  • The financial independence group in Scandinavia just surpassed 1,000 members.
  • The Houston ChooseFI Local Group is hosting Alan Donegan from the Pop Up Business School, along with the San Diego and Los Angeles local groups.
  • Jonathan will join the Washington, D.C., Local Group for a meet up soon.

Links mentioned in today’s show:

ChooseFI Episode 83 – “Fly to FI” EdisonPrep ChooseFI Episode 30 – “The Side Hustle: The Unspoken Lever of FI”
Choose FI has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Choose FI and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. American Express is a ChooseFI advertiser. Disclosures.
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