“OMG, I have finally discovered what’s wrong with my Brain: on the left side, there is nothing right, and on the right side, there is nothing left…” ― Minion Quote
Speaking of food...And so the backyard barbeques will soon begin. The celebrations of summer and both College and High School graduations will soon be in full swing. Perhaps you have one of these events to attend, or simply attending makes you think of your own family situation with regards to college costs? Even if your kids are grown, are they still paying down their own college debt, which prohibits them from saving for other goals? A few big questions might be, how much do I need to save, how much will college cost, what can be done to reduce those costs? My goal this month is to educate you on these options. Throughout the month of May my theme will be focused on college planning.
Often the term college planning is equated to “how much do I need to save,” but what if instead we turn that thought into how much can I spend? I took a course not too long ago and the terminology used was “pre-qualifying” for college; similar to when we want to buy a house and we have to go through the pre-qualification process. Here’s the thing I really liked about the process, it really shows you that sometimes a college that you think is way too expensive, really is less expensive based on available scholarships and/or grants.
How many of you, or your kids, went to college and had an exact figure of how much you were going to borrow prior to ever stepping foot on the campus? It’s a pretty small percentage, so if you are in that club, you are rare. Have you looked at the cost of college recently? Here are a couple of websites for you to check out the cost of college:
http://www.collegecalc.org/colleges/new-york/?view=all (note the cost of Corning Community College versus a school like Ithaca - a $35,000 swing!)
http://www.collegecalc.org/colleges/florida/?view=all (note the cost of College of Central Florida versus Eckerd College - a $38,000 swing!)
College planning is no different than planning for any other goal, the first step is taking a look at your current status. I don’t mean just the financial side of the picture either, let’s include the aptitude and interests of the student. I’m not saying that they need to have a final decision on a job that they will have for the rest of their lives, but we all have our talents that are stronger than others. This is where you need to form a strong friendship and partnership with the guidance counselors; but you have to be proactive. Their case load is enormous, so, like any relationship, you need to work at it.
Also, encourage job shadowing and interviewing; ask your network of friends if your child can interview them and for them to share their career journey and especially what they would have done differently knowing what they know now (better to come from them than you)!
As your child explores different career fields, mentor them on the expected compensation opportunities. It’s okay if if your child wants to save the world, but it’s important that they understand the life they will be living in order to do that. It’s also important to explore what type of “service” could be done to help pay for college if that is how they want to live their lives. A great online website that offers a bit of this is: https://www.careeronestop.org/ExploreCareers/explore-careers.aspx; this website is sponsored by the US Department of Labor, so it is completely unbias.
In my opinion, with some general assumptions, college savings can start prior to them actually being born, but college planning really needs to “kick-it-up” a notch about 8th grade. In fact, a fair portion of the college decision making should be done by the junior year of high school - which is when college visits should be taking place. This is the “negotiation” year in my opinion. The earlier you start and get accepted, the higher up on the list you are for potential scholarships and grants; add the admissions counselors to your list of new found friends and ask them, “is this the best financial aid package the college can offer?” Your child is special, so make the colleges realize that and make them compete for their attendance!
Stay tuned for next week's blog on what to ask when you visit colleges of interest.
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