Tips For Surviving College Planning Together
Spring is here! For Floridians, it’s a bit of an anticlimax because we live in perpetual summer (ha!), but for our Northern friends, it’s a time where flowers bloom, birds chirp, and college campus tours are in full swing.
Did I say, ‘college?’ I sure did. Yikes.
The process of planning for and sending your children off to college is daunting, to say the least.
If the idea of college for your kids makes you nervous, believe me, you’re not alone. I’m a financial planner and I was overwhelmed. For me, it started the day my boys were born and I thought, “How on earth am I going to take care of this child, let alone be able to afford college for them?!”
As time progressed (and my worry stayed the same), I realized my most important step was to get a plan in place. Now, we all know the earlier your start saving, the better. Easier said than done, right? Well, here’s the amazing part: you really don’t have to save that much if you start right away.
But what do you do if you have a child in middle school and you’re just starting to think about it?
It’s not too late, but it is a bigger mountain to climb. With a proper plan and a strategy in place, it can be done.
The college experience—from application to graduation—should be a joint venture. I can’t stress enough how critical a time in life it is for kids to learn about money. Every little bit helps your child, and one of the greatest gifts you can give them is the opportunity for a higher education. With your contributions and practical guidance, every child can do it!
Here are some tips our Team has compiled to help you navigate the ups and downs of planning for college with your children.
Be sure to read Devon’s story and tips below for a first-hand student perspective!
KIM SAYS! TIPS FOR PARENTS FROM PARENTS
- Take a deep breath. The process of selecting and applying for colleges is stressful for both parents and kids. The landscape is super-competitive, and the worrying starts early. Testing, essays, applications, and costs are overwhelming. Do yourself a favor and take an objective step back and carefully assess your situation.
- Mark your calendars. If you’re the parent of a rising Senior, mark your calendar now for next year, so you know when applications are due. That way, you can be supportive both emotionally and financially when the time comes.
- Listen to your children. They may or may not know where they want to go (or if they want to go), but they still have an opinion. Whether it’s a community college, or a 4-year campus (in-state or out), you need to try not to limit their options and have an open mind. It’s your job to keep the conversation rolling, and educate them about the reality of their choices regarding costs. Everybody’s situation is different, and sometimes with good planning a dream can become reality.
- Set a weekly or monthly budget with your child that will follow them to college. This is something you both agree on and discuss together. Teach them the value of money, and how to differentiate between needs and wants. Share the amount you are paying for tuition, room and board, insurance, groceries, clothing and entertainment. Don’t be afraid to talk realistically about money with your children. The earlier you include them in these conversations, the better they will understand the real world. If your child is paying their way alone for college, support them and help them understand the process.
DEVON’S COLLEGE STORY
Devon moved from the Boston area to Fort Lauderdale to work as FSG’s Client Services Coordinator in the spring of 2015. Prior to that, Devon worked for 6 years as the receptionist and assistant manager for Orange Salon. Devon selected a local community college when she graduated from high school because she had determined moving away for a big on-campus experience wasn’t for her. She loved her family and wanted to stay close to them. With the help and support of her parents, Devon spent one year at community college, pinpointed her interests, and then transferred to a 4-year school to complete her Bachelor’s in Communications. She shared financial responsibility for college with her parents, and learned the ins and outs of budgeting in the process. Because of Devon’s experience weighing options for her college education, she was able to make the move from Massachusetts to Florida with confidence. As a young working professional, Devon knows how important it is to make sure her lifestyle choices fit her budget. She considers herself very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Financial Strategies Group, but also knows that her hard work and planning helped land her the job.
DEVON SAYS! TIPS FOR STUDENTS FROM STUDENT
- Weigh your options based on cost. How you will pay for school? What’s your future job outlook? Is the school that costs more going to guarantee you a job in your chosen career field, or can you get an equivalent education and score the same job by attending community college? A lot of times, it just takes some talking through things to realize what you really want. Remember, student loans can get BIG, especially for out-of-state schools. My advice is to start your career as debt-free as possible. You won’t regret it!
- Start off at a community college. Then you can transfer to a larger school later. It allows you to fulfill prerequisites in a setting you’re comfortable with, and gives you time to make a solid decision about what 4-year program you want to enroll in.
- Stay in-state or in a boarding state. If you want to start at a 4-year school, take advantage of your location. Not only will traveling home will be more affordable, but your education costs are lower. I had a close friend who was never able to travel on Holidays and Long Weekends due to the expense of flights. She ended up transferring back to her home state the following year.
- Rent or purchase your textbooks second-hand. Buying from the school bookstore can be hundreds of dollars more. A little research goes a long way with your bank account.
- Consider a winter or summer semester instead of a regular school semester. Although winter and summer semesters are more work in a shorter amount of time, they can be cheaper. I chose to take two summer semesters and paid about $1,000 less than a regular semester. In return, I was able to pay off my student loan faster. Debt-free is awesome!
HAVING TROUBLE TALKING ABOUT MONEY AND COLLEGE WITH YOUR KIDS?
Sometimes the conversation doesn’t go well, so we offer to talk to young adults about financial planning prior to going away to college. Call our office at 954-888-4680 to set up an appointment. If you have questions for Devon about her college planning experience, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.