Before College: Strategies for Your Pre-College Finance Plan

We’ve described affordability crisis in postsecondary education. Simply put — there’s not enough money for low and middle-income Americans to pay the exploding price of education after high school.

But don’t give up! Whether you want your child to college or hope to go there yourself, you can make it more affordable with an effective plan for keeping such learning within your means — a Pre-College Finance Plan.

A Pre-College Finance Plan includes strategies you select and implement to maximize your financial resources for postsecondary learning and to reduce your postsecondary costs. Begin your plan as soon as possible, because some of these strategies are very time sensitive. But if you don’t yet have a Pre-College Finance Plan remember, it’s never too late start one.

Here’s a breakdown of possible strategies for this plan. They’re divided by the four phases in the 18 – 19 year lifespan of one who begins postsecondary study within a year of finishing high school. But even if those aren’t your circumstances, many of the can still help you.

Birth – Elementary School

  • Invest and Save: The earlier you start, the better, even if you don’t have much to put away.
  • Promote Math, Reading, and Writing: These can help children capture scholarships later.
  • Teach Money Basics: Educating little ones on money basics now can help them handle it wisely in college.

Middle School

  • Identify General Career Directions: It’s too early to decide if children should study brain surgery, but not to early to recognize their interest in, say, health care or the sciences. This’ll help cut college expenses in many ways.
  • Start Enhancing Online Skills: Even after COVID-19, web-based communication and research will be increasingly critical in navigating America’s education and scholarship systems.

High School Years 1 – 3

  • AP and Dual Credit Courses: Students can generate big savings by taking college-level courses in high school, then transferring those credits to quicken postsecondary completion.
  • Community and Extracurricular Activities: These helps make students stronger scholarship candidates.
  • Scholarship Search: Start this in the spring of junior year.
  • Summer and Part-Time Work: Student employment can generate significant savings and other postsecondary financial resources.
  • Political Activism: Work in your own, and your country’s, interests by pushing to make federal and state financial aid programs better serve needy students.

High School Senior Year

  • Dates and Deadlines: They make a big difference in whether students get grants and scholarships.
  • Rip-Offs and Scams: Beware of crooks as you seek and apply for financial aid, and understand games postsecondary schools play in disclosing their costs and scholarships.
  • Comparative Shopping: Select schools that are good fits, but don’t shun community colleges as a place to start. Be careful about high-priced private and out-of-state public colleges. Avoid profit-driven schools.
  • Year One Preparation: Help students prepare to live frugally and independently — e.g. to manage money, do laundry, cook meals (if they’re not living on-campus or at home), etc. You’d be surprised how much can be saved.

College Affordability Solutions will post an article about each of these strategies every Wednesday for the next 15 weeks. So become a follower of this website to make sure you get the latest!

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