LIFE 101: Beyond High School with Joanne Barnard

Seniors, your last month of high school is here. This series has given you a monthly to-do list to prepare for life beyond high school and culminates with this article. Among the last few items to deal with are housing contracts, orientation, and actually moving forward.

Whether you are living on campus, in an apartment, or staying home, make sure you have read and understand what is expected of you to maintain your housing

arrangement, from timely payments to respectful cohabitation.
For on-campus housing, note when dorms are open. Many are closed during breaks and you have to pay additional fees if you are planning to stay. This will also apply to food services. Read your contract.

Meeting with an advisor, signing up for fall courses, possible placement tests, etc., are all part of preparing for postsecondary education.
Just as you had a set of requirements for graduating from high school, a course catalog will give you guidelines for major-specific graduation requirements. Obtain and keep a copy of the catalog for your entering year; these are the standards to which you will be held. Determine whether any of your previous work, such as AP Tests, will apply towards credit. Discus options with an advisor and ponder the load of your schedule, how many classes, when they occur, their difficulty, and variety.
Both housing and orientation may involve advance payments which may be non-refundable.

Colleges provide a list of recommended items to bring. This list is useful for anyone that is moving out and establishing a home of their own. It is usually broad so wait until you know more about your room. Bring what best suits you and collaborate with your roommate if possible.
Resist the temptation to buy all new stuff; the money saved is better used for “delivery” pizza when you can’t stomach cafeteria food one more night.

An accurate accounting of qualified education expenses is useful come tax time to meet the criteria for credits. Tracking expenses also maximizes efficient use of funds. Consider opening a separate account with both you and your parents named on the account, and funnel all education related expenses through this account. For example: money from a 529* can be deposited to this education account and you can use the money to purchase books.
Check out some of the money management blogs like mrmoneymustache or budgetsaresexy. Also, consider using a phone app to help track your spending like mint or youneedabudget - knowing where your money is going will help you make it go where you want.

Toward the end of this month The Lyons Recorder will publish your decisions. Along with your senior picture will be your plans for life beyond high school. Whatever your plan: college, work, technical school, or a gap year, embrace it courageously. Cultivate happiness.
Keep in mind that independence is not isolation. Relying on your parents and other adults for help and advice is wise, and from time to time, necessary.
How you arrived as part of the class of 2016 is done, what you make of it is up to you.

You can access Parts 1-9 of this series at and on the Lyons Recorder website.
*529 plans have tax advantages and are designed for higher education savings.

Life 101 May Parent’s Guide

Below are tips for parents to help their high school senior make the transition to life beyond high school:

  • Discuss how money for postsecondary expenses will be handled.
  • Consider taking your child off your car insurance while away at school
  • The absence of a child will impact everyone including siblings: consider setting up scheduled phone/video chat time.
  • Drop a note in the mail regularly.
  • Send care packages filled with essentials, silly toys/games, and homemade cookies.
  • Take advantage of care packages offered by the institution your child attends.
  • Wait for “parent’s/family weekend” to actually see your child. This gives them the time to embrace their new surroundings.
  • When you get the “homesick” call – listen, love and remember this almost always passes.
  • Encourage your child to get a phone app to track spending, or suggest a money management blog for them to follow.

College Saving Tips

  • Learn what constitutes “qualified” expenses at to take advantage of deductions and credits for education.
  • Checkout for discounts on airlines and other student related services. Eligibility is based on enrollment in a college, read the fine print.
  • Avoid loans for the first year; once you have established your choice for post secondary education is a good fit, loans are more appropriate.
  • When buying textbooks always check with the professor if you can use an older edition. Often times they will say yes and you can buy them online for a fraction of the cost of the newest edition.
  • Also consider renting from the university bookstore or Amazon, and investigate book swaps.
  • If you live off campus pack snacks/lunches so you can avoid buying food last minute for higher prices.
  • Take advantage of all of the services/events your campus offers. There will be free events, concerts, food, t-shirts, programs, trainings, etc.
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