Are You Focusing On the Wrong Things In Your College Plan?

When we meet with families for college planning, our goal is to set you on a path to success – both with your college plan, and in a general financial sense. However, often when we sit down with people to discuss their college plan, we find they are focusing on the wrong things when it comes to college planning.

For example, a few families we met with recently have been very concerned with making the right decision when it comes to their students taking A.P. classes versus some of the newer dual-enrollment options.

While dual enrollment can be a great way to get some college classes out of the way while still in high school – thereby lessening the time (and money) spent in college, some feel that A.P. classes are more prestigious on a resume, and may lead to more financial aid opportunities.

In our opinion, spending a lot of time and energy worrying about these distinctions is not all that helpful.

The bottom line is, you need to get your child into the right college for them, and do so in a way that is not going to be a financial hardship for your family. This should be your main focus.

Both A.P. classes and dual enrollment in high school are great options, and we encourage you to explore these opportunities.

But don’t lose sight of what’s most important: Planning for college.

Here are some things that you and your student should make top priority over the years leading up to college:

1. Keeping grades & test scores up. If you’re going after merit-based money, having good grades is a prerequisite that almost goes without saying – but we’re saying it anyway, just so you don’t forget how important it is! If your student is able to take some advanced classes and do well in them, this is even better.

You will also want to make sure your student is maximizing his or her standardized test scores – sometimes even a few points’ difference can mean thousands of extra dollars in financial aid. Taking a good ACT or SAT prep course can really help.

2. Defining interests and passions. Figuring out what your student is really interested in doing will help them choose an appropriate major, as well as reduce chances of dropping out or switching schools while in college, which can be a huge waste of money. While they may not yet know what they want to do for a career, spending some time focusing on figuring out what it is that they love is a great start. Assessment tests are a starting point, but you may also want to seek individual guidance from a career planning specialist.

 (Attribution: By Tim Evanson [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)
(Attribution: By Tim Evanson [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)
3. Researching schools. Once your student has an idea of what they may want to major in, it’s time to build a school list. You should work with your student to come up with a good list of at least 6-8 schools to apply to, which are strong in the major areas they are interested in, and which give a fair amount of financial aid. Visit campuses and see how your student feels about them. Ask good questions that will help define whether the school will be a good fit. (Our college planning team can help a lot with these things, and would be happy to consult with your student during this process – just contact us at 614-536-0246 to schedule a free college planning consultation.)

4. Building a plan to pay for college. Last but not least, make sure you have a solid plan in place to pay for whatever college costs are not met with financial aid. While we’d all love to get that elusive “free ride,” unfortunately those are few and far between.

With the ever-increasing high cost of college these days, it is more important than ever to be strategic in planning your approach to paying for these costs. The sooner you start planning for this, the better! And hey, if you plan and prepare well and your student happens to get that free ride after all, the worst that can happen is you have extra money saved for retirement and other financial needs!

Our clients make it a point to consult with us regularly on an ongoing basis to make sure their college plan is on the right track to accomplish their goals as things change throughout the high school and college years. We recommend you do so as well.

To discuss these and other aspects of your college plan, please contact us today at 614-536-0246 to see how we can help!

We look forward to helping you plan for a secure financial future, throughout the college years and beyond.

 

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