New Tools to Help with Preparing for College

Planning for college can be confusing and overwhelming, whether your child will be the first in your family to attend or not. The Illinois Student Advisory Council(ISAC) has a student portalloaded with tools to help your family through the process. Some new resources and tools have recently been added to the site.

ILCollege2Career debuted at the beginning of the month. This new tool links employment and higher education data so that students can compare the relative earnings value of different college degrees. The data is broken down by schools and area of study so that students can compare the earnings potential of business degrees, for example, from different public and private institutions in the state. The tool will help students and families make college decisions based on the real-time successes of a school’s graduates, as well as other factors such as cost, average debt levels, and the likelihood of graduating on time. The site is available in both English and Spanish.

ILCollege2Career is just one of the resourcesprovided on the ISAC student portal. ISAC’s toolboxalso provides:

  • A checklist to guide your child and your family through the process from freshman year of high school through graduation.
  • MAP Estimator tool to help you find out if your child will be eligible for a MAP grant. Note that MAP grants are not student loans and are not paid back to the state after graduation.
  • A Job Board to find internships and summer jobs.
  • A Financial Aid Comparison Worksheet to easily compare the different financial aid offers from colleges.
  • The PaCE Student Checklistto explore activities and experiences from grades 8 through 12 to help prepare for college and career.

ISAC also has an event calendar filled with financial aid presentations and (after October 1st) FAFSA completion workshops. These events are held across the state, and the calendar lets you enter your ZIP code to find one near you. If there isn’t an event near you or one that fits in your schedule, you can contact an ISACorpsmember near you for free one-on-one assistance for help with selecting and applying to colleges, searching for scholarships, FAFSA completion, and student financial aid. ISAC also has a new printable checklistto guide and encourage your student through all the steps and classes needed to prepare for college.

New Survey Reveals How Teens’ Social Media Experiences

Common Sense Media, a non-profit dedicating to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology, has just released a new report detailing their survey of teenagers and their experiences with social media. The report, Social Media, Social Life: Teens Reveal Their Experiences, covers a nationally representative survey of over 1,000 kids ages 13 to 17 regarding their social media experiences and tracks changes from a similar survey done in 2012.

The key findings of the report are:

  1. Social media use among teens has increased dramatically since 2012.
  2. Only a few teens say that using social media has a negative effect on how they feel about themselves; many more say it has a positive effect.
  3. Social media has a heightened role—both positive and negative—in the lives of more vulnerable teens.
  4. Teens’ preferences for face-to-face communication with friends has declined substantially, and their perception of social media’s interference with personal interactions has increased.
  5. Many teens think tech companies manipulate users to spend more time on their devices and say that digital distractions interfere with homework, personal relationships, and sleep.
  6. Teens have a decidedly mixed record when it comes to self-regulating device use.
  7. There has been an uptick in teens’ exposure to racist, sexist, and homophobic content on social media, ranging from an increase of 8 to 12 percentage points.
  8. Some teens have been cyberbullied, including about one in 10 who say their cyberbullying was at least “somewhat” serious.
  9. Social media is an important avenue of creative expression for many teens.

The full reportalso includes useful information on which social media platforms teens use, advice from experts on how to deal with your child’s social media use, and much more. The websitealso provides links to an easily sharable infographic, a summary of the key findings, and a short video on the report.

What PTAs Can Do

The results of this survey provide several ways that PTAs can help families manage their teen’s social media use.

Healthcare Transition Toolkit for Children with Disabilities

If you have a child with a disability, you have probably become very familiar with navigating and supporting their health care needs over the years. However, once your child turns 18, health laws turn much of the responsibility of that care over to your child. Youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities often face a variety of barriers in accessing and managing their health care when they reach adulthood. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) has created a comprehensive toolkit called Transition to Adulthood: A Health Care Guide for Youth and Families.

The toolkit does not focus just on those young adults on the autism spectrum, and many of the tools in the kit are of use to any family. The toolkit provides information on:

  • How to choose a source of health care coverage
  • How to create a health care support network
  • How to integrate health care transition goals into individual educational plans (IEPs), beginning in middle or high school
  • How to manage their own health care

The toolkit also provides guides and worksheets for keeping track of health care records, making doctor’s appointments, and talking to doctors about health concerns. Health care services and supports are often plentiful for children, but lacking for adults. Use the toolkit to help prepare your child for managing with their health care needs in adulthood.

Ordinary Trip to the Grocery Store with Your Kid? Explain as You Go

Today’s guest post comes from Laura Schlachtmeyer at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), with suggestions on how to help your child develop money management and math skills.

We all know our kids are always watching and learning (even when we wish they weren’t). This applies to the way you use and manage money as well. Every day, you make decisions about money that might not be visible to your kids. For example, they may not know that you set a budget for the grocery store—and that’s why you didn’t get them that box of fruit snacks.

Next time you’re at the store, try something new: Think out loud and talk through what you’re doing.This helps your children see how you think about spending and helps them understand your decisions.

Here are three steps to turn your next shopping trip into a chance for your children to build their money skills.

  1. Make Your Shopping List Together

Making a shopping list might be a silent activity for you—you sit down at the table with pen and paper, or you open an app, and list what you need. Next time try talking through your list with your kids.

“I see we’re getting low on peanut butter, which we’ll need to make sandwiches for the week. I’ll also write down eggs and milk, which I buy every week since we use them to make breakfast and other recipes.”

You can also ask your kids to help you make the list. Let them check the cabinets or think about what things they use each week.

This is a perfect opportunity to introduce the idea of a budget. Spending can be invisible or mysterious to kids—they make up the rules if they aren’t told what they are. Talk about how you need to keep track of how much you spend on groceries so that you have enough money for other things, such as gas or the cable bill. Explain that making a list helps make sure you don’t buy things you don’t need and overspend, even if that means having to cut back on a few extra things you want.

  1. Talk as You Shop

When you’re at the store, it’s time to talk. You likely already know which brands you like to buy or whether you’ll decide to purchase something if it’s on sale. Maybe you even choose which grocery store you go to based on its prices, what you need that day, or the coupons you have. Instead of just bringing your kids along for the ride, share your reasoning with them. At the store, each item you put in your cart is a chance to tell your kids why you’re buying it instead of a similar item at a different price point.

Older children can help you comparison shop and find ways to save by choosing a different brand or quantity. This is also a chance to explain why you may purchase things even if they’re the more expensive option.

“I see that this other soup brand is cheaper but it’s worth it to me to spend an extra 50 cents on this one, because we all like it better. Let’s try to find another item where we can save 50 cents, to make up the difference.”

As you shop, you can refer back to your budget. If your child asks for something not on the list, you can work together to evaluate if it’s okay to purchase. Maybe the item is on sale, or you have a coupon. Other times, you may need to wait to buy something.

  1. Explain Your Purchase

As you approach the cash register, you might have a running total of the cost in your head so you aren’t surprised by the amount. What if instead you did the math out loud so your kids can hear?

“I think our total will be about $50—I rounded up each item a little bit in my head and added it up as we shopped. Let’s use the debit card since I don’t have enough cash with me. The debit card subtracts the money from our bank account right away.”

If you have young children, it may not be obvious that you’re trading money for the items in your cart—especially if they don’t see you use cash. Discussing the decision-making process helps your kids understand that even if you’re just swiping a card, you’re spending money you’ve earned on these groceries.

You can also discuss whether you stayed within your budget, or why you needed to spend a little extra during this trip.

When you think out loud, you clarify what you’re doing and why. Whether you’re at the grocery store, paying bills, or online shopping with your kids, get into the habit of thinking out loud during your day-to-day money and time management activities so they can follow along.

Ways to Keep Talking

Check out some of our tools and resources for more ways to keep the conversation going:

  • What’s on a receipt: Show your child how you estimate the price you’ll pay at the register and practice rounding up to include sales tax.
  • Pretend play: Explain what different people do at the grocery store—cashiers and customers—and play out different scenarios.
  • Conversation starters: Learn how to talk to your kids in early childhood, middle childhood, and teen years.

You can also join our challenge to try one new thing to grow your child’s money skills.