It’s best to begin your College Finance Plan’s (CFP’s) “Before College” phase when your child is born, if not before. But don’t give up if you didn’t. Instead, get going as soon as you can.
Consider initiating these strategies as your student gets closer and closer to college:
Birth through Junior High:
- Invest and Save. Let time multiply your money, even if you can only put away a little. For example, a $50 month deposit into a 1% savings account beginning at birth will yield $14,820 through college commencement.
- Prepare Your Child to Pursue Scholarships. Some scholarships are awarded based on grades and test scores, some stress essay and interview responses, and others go to students with strong resumes. So help your student do well academically, develop verbal and written communication skills, and persist in extracurricular and leadership activities she enjoys.
- Identify a General Career Direction. He needn’t decide on cardiovascular surgery by age 15, but helping him develop in broad subject areas about which he’s passionate can save your student from being among the 80% who change majors — some two or three times — generating extra costs for extra courses.
High School through Junior Year
- Get Some Work Experience. Over 70% of undergraduates work while enrolled, earning multiple benefits. Help your student learn to balance academics and employment before she goes to campus.
- Attend College in High School. Secondary schools often provide opportunities to earn college credit through AP and dual credit courses. This can shorten time-to-degree, a big money saver.
- Search and Apply for Scholarships. Start early, and keep at it. Be realistic, but aggressive. Try for every relevant scholarship. Scholarship dollars reduce the need to borrow.
- Begin the College Search. Don’t disregard schools with high sticker prices. Financial aid may make their net prices affordable.
- Consider Community College Options. Core courses transferred from community colleges can, at today’s costs, reduce university-level costs by an average of $15,000.
High School Senior Year:
- Apply for Aid. Filing the FAFSA is a necessity. If your student’s seeking institutional or state aid, too, other application forms may be required.
- Analyze Affordability When Selecting a College. Public data can help project what you’ll pay for a degree from each school to which your student is accepted.
- Select a Good Fit. Fit helps reduce the chances of your student transferring, which amplifies tuition costs for repeating courses not accepted by his new school.
Why implement a College Finance Plan? Go to “Before, During, and After College: You Need a Plan!” for answers. A review of “During College” strategies will be posted on this website October 2, and “After College” strategies will be outlined here October 9. More in-depth discussions of individual strategies can be found here through the end of academic year 2017-18.
Contact College Affordability Solutions at (512) 366-5354 or firstname.lastname@example.org for free help if you have questions about your CFP.