It's June – Are You Ready for Student Loan Decisions?

It's June – Are You Ready for Student Loan Decisions?

You're not done yet!

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If you're the parent of a high school senior, you may think the worst is behind you. Your child has chosen a school, applied, and been accepted. Financial aid packages are disbursed.

Now you just drink lemonade and wait for fall, right?

I wish that were true. Unfortunately, there's another gauntlet ahead of you – student loans.

Federal Loans Often Aren't Enough

A student can take out a maximum of $5,500 in federal student loans their freshman year. Altogether, the max for federal loans totals $27,000 over four years, and $31,000 total over an entire career.

I don't think I have to tell you that many schools cost $27,000 for a single year, once you factor in room and board, books, transportation, and fees.

Hopefully the school you selected isn't too expensive and provided a generous aid package. However, even in the best case, you're probably facing a funding gap.

Where do you turn when federal loans aren't enough?

Parent Plus Loans

Many schools tout federal Parent Plus loans as the answer to a parent's concerns. However, these funds are not always the best source of money to pay for school.

Benefits of Parent Plus Loans

There are several benefits of using a Parent Plus loan. If your credit isn't excellent, you likely won't get a good rate from a private lender. Also, Parent Plus loans have a fixed interest rate and flexible payback terms if you fall into trouble.

If you're concerned about your ability to pay back your parent loans, a Parent Plus may be a good choice.

Disadvantages of Parent Plus

The biggest disadvantage of Parent Plus loans is that if you do have good credit, they are very expensive in terms of interest.

The actual fixed interest rate isn't that high, but with a 4% origination fee removed from the principal every time it's disbursed, the effective interest rate is much higher.

Before you choose a Parent Plus loan, make sure you compare it with private loans options. Pay attention to the full cost of each loan, including fees, duration, and interest payments.

Private Student Loans

Private student loans are available from national banks and local banks and credit unions. If a bank in your town doesn't offer a private student loan, don't worry – you can apply with a variety of reputable loan providers online.

These providers include Sallie Mae, Discover, Citizen's Bank, College Ave, Commonbond, and more. Don't be shy – shop around!

Many of these lenders will only approve you for money one year at a time. Don't worry – you don't have to pay four payments a month for years to come. Instead, consolidate student loans after your student graduates.

The biggest advantage to private student loans is that you can compare providers and find the best rates. The biggest disadvantages include needing excellent credit and facing less flexibility with repayment if you have financial trouble.

Other Options: Home Equity and Investment Savings

If you have home equity and/or investment savings, you may consider using those to pay for college. You want to do this very carefully so that you don't put yourself into a bad position financially.

Home Equity

Many parents find that a home equity line of credit (HELOC) is a better option than a home equity loan. You have access to credit for multiple years, which can be helpful if you're looking at the big picture of paying for school until graduation.

A HELOC also allows you to use only the amount of money you need. You can pay it off as you go, using the same credit line again and again.

Investment Savings

It can be tempting to dip into your retirement or investment savings to help you children pay for school. This should be a last-choice option unless the investment account was intended for school, like a 529 plan.

If you do choose a 529 plan, by the way, make sure it's well-managed and not loaded with fees.

You never want to put yourself in a position where you're compromising your future so that your child can attend school. A university education is not the golden ticket it once was, and there are always less expensive options. Your retirement should never be sacrificed for college tuition.

How Will You Pay for College?

There are a lot of options, but all of them have significant advantages and disadvantages. The real key is to choose a school that's affordable – even if it means starting at a local two-year college, or living at home during university.

Only you can make the choice that's right for your family. Just be sure that everyone – including you – still has a financial future after graduation.

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My Best Original Screenplay Oscar Predictions Based Solely On The Writing, As It Should Be

Let's focus on the writing, not the politics.

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The Oscars are almost here, so it's time to make predictions.

Except, if you're like me, you probably haven't seen all the nominated movies. This year, I realized I had not seen any of the films up for Best Original Screenplay. This was a bit of a failure moment for me as a hopeful future screenwriter, but I took the opportunity to do something everyone always says to do when you're learning—read scripts.

I decided to read these scripts and make my predictions based solely on the writing, as it should be. I read each script, then watched the trailer and read a few articles about the movies to answer any questions.

And here's what I decided.

"The Favourite"

I'd heard great things about this movie before reading it, so I was excited to study this screenplay. It was well written, I will be honest, so bravo to Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara. But, it still left some to be desired. It definitely has its good qualities and is justified in its being a, well, fan favorite.

Except, the script relied heavily on subtext for commentary. Any narrative, no matter what time period it takes place in, will be held against the current societal environment regardless of intentions. However, it was clear that this film's intentions were to place a female voice in history and in current outlets. Which, of course, is not a bad thing. However, this film does so with disregard for true equality. The female focus is at the men's expense, which is not true equality (but that's an argument for another time).

I actually found the story predictable. The story tried to build suspense around the war, but even that seemed like a second priority to the writers after the love triangle. The script didn't explicitly tell the reader "how to feel," but it was strongly implied by the end.

"First Reformed"

This was a solid film written by Paul Schrader. Each scene really does move the plot forward which is story 101 but still important to note sometimes. Even the scenes that seemed like they would be time fillers allowed for the voice-over narration of Toller's journal.

This voice over was a nice touch of characterization and introduced well in the first scenes. This introduction was so well written, I could see exactly how it would play out, which is textbook screenwriting. The dialogue was believable. The setting description was a good balance and told part of the story too.

But there was that ambiguous, "La La Land"-dream-sequence-ish ending though.

"Green Book"

Okay, this one. This film is important and was skillfully written, so definitely a bravo to Peter Farrelly, Brian Currie, and Nick Vallelonga.

This film spoke to racial equality in the sense of true equality—meeting on the same level. It took place in one of America's shameful times and followed a white man realizing how things really are for those different from him and learning how to use his privilege in a way that helps and not harms. Like Dr. Shirley said, "You never win with violence." And as far as movies nominated in this category based on true stories, this did the best at maintaining the integrity of the original.

The writing was phenomenal. There was a personality in the action. The characterization was shown, not told. This was done through the actions, letters, reactions, how the characters treat others and how other characters treat the main characters. There was evident development in growth in the two main characters Lip and Dr. Shirley. It ended nicely, and the scenes were paced well.

"Roma"

This story would be better as a novel, in my opinion. The descriptions were beautifully written, so much so that every time there was dialogue or a scene change, I was roughly drawn out of the story. For a script, the action was almost too artsy and I could tell that it would be better visually than in writing. There were a few inconsistencies, like how Pepe calls Cleo "mom" in the beginning when Señora Sofia is actually his mom. Of course, this was probably meant to be just a kid crying for his mom when he was tired, but it leads to some confusion going forward when introducing characters.

This film was artfully written by Alfonso Cuarón. Most of the time, there was a good balance between detailed and vague descriptions (except that one part that described the color of the sky even though this is a black and white movie). I was struck by the impactful use of sound descriptions woven into the script, such as the car horn or the plane flying overhead. This was something that was present in the other scripts but didn't make as much of an impact, in my opinion, as it did in "Roma"

"Vice"

Oh goodness, where to begin? Adam McKay begins this script with an indignant tone in the superimposed text saying they "did their f***ing best" to tell a true story. But did they? No. If this Best Original Screenplay award is based on the writing, then "Vice" is shockingly nominated. If it's based on political people-pleasing, then I guess the nomination makes sense. The film is riddled with a bias to the left. It assumes the viewers agree with the flat narrative of the film and that we all see the characters as the one-dimensional people they movie portrays. The film even addressed this bias at the end, but the way they did didn't level the playing field at all, but just pandered to that bias, trying to pick a fight. Well, they shouldn't be dignified with a response, in my opinion.

But I digress. The writing. That's what we're here for.

Unfortunately, even the writing was objectively bad compared to the other scripts. And I don't say that lightly. It read like a school project that was completed the night before it was due. There were typos everywhere (notably, "due" was spelled "do"). The story and scenes seemed willy-nilly thrown together with the only goal of pushing an opinion. The framework and organization were centered around how best to convince the viewer of McKay's views, not tell the story. It's a very serious subject that's covered here and could've been handled better instead of this script that reads like a comedy with political propaganda tendencies.

And now, my predictions for best original screenplay go to...

I'll break this down into categories.

My favorite: "Green Book."

What should win: "Green Book."

What will probably win: "The Favourite."

They all have a chance, but if "Vice" wins, then what are we all here for? The writing, or politics?

The other films all had their stance in politics without taking away from the story being told. "The Favourite" was female-driven with LGBT aspects and classist themes while telling the story of Queen Anne and her ladies. "First Reformed" critiqued megachurch culture, environmental activism, and big business while telling Toller's story of grief. "Green Book" also had some classist themes and attacked racist tendencies in a way that can educate and change minds by telling a historical story. "Roma" was the story of a family set in cultural and political context. But "Vice" was just about politics and not the story.

Let's focus on the stories. Let's focus on the writing.

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What Do You Do if A Loved One Needs an Intervention?

When stepping in can save a life.

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I watch the A&E; TV show Intervention on a regular basis, and the stories are both sad and frightening. There are so many things that can trigger someone to become an addict, and once they begin it's very, very hard to stop.

So what if you have a loved one that needs help? How do you pull off your very own intervention?

Form a Group

Who's going to participate in the intervention? Who's going to help plan it? There should be a specific group, although not everyone who helps with planning has to participate.

It can be helpful to have a professional present at the intervention, or you could choose to consult a professional during the planning but not have them physically attend. It depends on how big the group is and how likely you are to need an outside perspective.

Having one or more non-family members present can be helpful, though, especially if things get heated. A more neutral point of view can help keep everyone calm.

Know the Situation

Even though you may be angry at your addicted friend or loved one, remember that there's always a reason that they began taking drugs. Drugs tend to be an escape mechanism from pain.

What painful events has your friend or loved one faced? Have they been abused? Dealt with death or divorce? Had a bankruptcy or other financial embarrassment?

Knowing the core of the matter can help you be compassionate instead of angry, and if you address these core problems you may be able to get through an addict's defensiveness.

Find a Good Treatment Facility

Part of the strategy of a good intervention is to not give the addict a chance to change their mind once they agree to treatment. They should be moved as quickly as possible to the treatment facility.

Finding a good facility can be difficult since it shouldn't be too close to home. Everlast Recovery can be a great option since it's set in a beautiful location in California.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) can also be a very valuable resource. It's essential to have a facility selected before the intervention.

Plan Statements and Consequences

There to need to be clear, and often severe, consequences if an addict decides to stay on drugs. Perhaps they will be cut off from the family, or you will report them to social services so their children can be in a safer environment.

Have each person make notes about specific instances of problems, how they feel about the behavior, and how much they want the addict to get help. Some members of the team may want to simply write out their statement as a letter.

Do a Practice Run

Of course, the addict should not know about the intervention until it happens. However, the rest of the group should have one or more practice runs so that they can rehearse their statements. It's also important to practice emotional control.

You can have someone from the planning group stand in for the addict, and you may want to work through more than one scenario about how he or she might react.

Having a calm, united front will be vital on the day the actual intervention occurs.

Hold the Intervention and Follow Up

The intervention should be secret from the addict until the last minute. Once the person does or doesn't agree to go to treatment, the consequences should be immediate. This means an immediate trip to the facility or immediate negative consequences from family and friends.

Don't shy away from carrying out your ultimatums. When you're serious, they may reconsider!

Having a family or friend struggling with addiction is very hard. An intervention may save their life. Don't wait another day – get started!

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