Some of us may recollect when going to college was a realistic and reasonably affordable way to a secure career path. Today, that notion is long gone. Now, parents desperately scramble to scrounge up funds so their teenage children can attend their dream schools. ‘Get in first and deal with the costs later’ is a common message from school guidance counselors, but it is poor advice for parents trying to navigate the financial aspects of planning for college.
Recently, Gates Pass invited well-known college planning expert, Nancy Paul, to a podcast session to share some tips with our audience. Here are her top money-saving tips:
1) Plan As Early as Possible
Start planning when your kids are toddlers. Those tykes?! Yes. Their college career may seem far away, but by starting early, they’ll have a better track record and a stronger resume. Plus, many parents don’t realize there are scholarships available to elementary-aged kids. For example, “Doodle for Google” is a scholarship for toddlers to submit artwork and win a certain amount of funding reserved for future college tuition.
2) Look Into Private Scholarships
Many families and students miss out on the opportunity to apply for financial aid awards offered by private companies or organizations. For example, a local science center may give out scholarships to students who are interested in studying Astronomy. Or consider a local law firm practice that will provide a substantial scholarship for students with an interest in law. What’s more, private scholarships tend to be less competitive and give out more funds.
3) Have a Conversation With Your Spouse
This tip may be the most important part of college planning: it is essential that you and your spouse are on the same page when it comes to financial planning for college. Many financial advisors meet with parents who disagree about what their child should do. Have a conversation with your spouse about your options, make plans, and continue to have the conversation throughout the years as your child grows. For example, some parents come to an agreement to put away 10% of every paycheck toward college tuition. These decisions are best made through effective communication.
4) Have A Conversation With Your Child
Too often we see parents try to mold their kids into a career path in which their teenagers have no interest. Nancy advises parents to let their kids explore different things to discover what they enjoy the most. While parents want the best careers for their kids, it is important that they choose a field where they will flourish and feel most happy.
Volunteering is not only excellent for scholarship consideration, but it’ll give your child a chance to explore different fields to see what they love doing. For example, have your child volunteer at the art museum and then next at Habitat for Humanity where they’ll be tasked with helping a team build a ramp. Your child might learn they love building, designing, or planning. Volunteering will also help your child become acquainted with several organizations that may offer private scholarships. And not to mention, it’ll look great when they apply to colleges.
6) Consider Community College
Some people are not eager to embrace the idea of sending their kids to community college first. However, community colleges are an excellent way to save money and get elective courses out of the way. In addition, many community colleges offer programs where students can job shadow in different fields and get a better sense of what they want to major or minor in.
7) Stop Idealizing Ivy Leagues
Many families dream of putting on a maroon Harvard University sweatshirt or donning a Yale cap to show pride for their Ivy League-bound kids. Unfortunately, getting accepted to these desirable universities is not always enough. Ivy League schools come with an insanely hefty price and parents often find themselves in a position where they can’t afford to send their children even if they’re accepted. This can lead to feelings of shame. Instead, even if your child is overqualified for a state or less expensive school, have them apply anyway. In addition to lower tuition, they’ll have the opportunity for more scholarships.
Interested in learning about more ways to plan for college? Contact us today and, together, we’ll work toward a bright (and affordable) future.