Choosing the right Career Path

It may surprise you that 80% of college students change their major at least once.  Sometimes these changes are small shifts within a field of study.  However, some changes constitute major shifts that can affect your financial plan for college. One of the ways you can minimize these changes is by exploring a career path before you make your college major decision.  Let’s look at some of the tools available to help students explore a career path.

Exploring a Career Path: Career Fair

One tool to help you explore a particular career path is a career fair.  Sometimes these fairs are held at local schools, sometimes they are held in conjunction with local college fairs.  The benefit of these fairs is that you get to ask any question you may have about a particular job.  It may not offer you the specific information you need, but at least you get to meet someone who actually works in that career.

Exploring a Career Path: Shadowing/Internship

Another valuable tool is shadowing or internships.  Shadowing is simply following a person in a particular career for a short amount of time.  While an internship affords you the opportunity to actually work in a particular career for an extended amount of time.  As you can see, these opportunities allow you to actually see what a particular career would entail.  This is beneficial information to help you make a good decision when choosing a career path.

Exploring a Career Path: Career Roadmap

One tool that may be available to you is a career roadmap.  A career roadmap is an assessment tool you fill out to determine what career path may be of greatest interest to you.  The career roadmap would ask you questions to determine what career may be the best fit for you.  It certainly eliminates any career choices that would not be a good fit and may help you choose that perfect fit major for you.  A good assessment tool will include information like: pay range, average job satisfaction ratings, employment opportunity, and testimonies of people currently employed in that field of employment.

No tool will ever be able to eliminate changes in one’s college major, they will give you better confidence in your decision.  Remember, not all tools are created equally.  So choose well, and use a variety of tools.  We offer one of the best roadmaps on the market, so if you would like more information, please contact our office.

 

 

Early Decision and Early Action

October is an important month in your college planning.  It starts with the important task of filling out your FASFA but also includes an important decision.  Do you want to try to obtain admission early?  For most colleges, the deadline for early admission is November 1st, that makes October the month to apply.  Early admission offers some benefits, but the terminology can be confusing at best, and detrimental at worse.  So here are the facts about Early Decision and Early Action.

The Facts about Early Decision

Early decision is the process of applying early to your specific college with the intention of attending that college if accepted.  This is a binding agreement between the college and the student.  It shows the college that you as a student are serious about attending their college.  While it does allow the student greater opportunity to be accepted before the admission spots are taken, this form of early admission is “usually” binding.

The word “usually” offers a great amount of confusion.  While many sources say that it is totally binding, others say that it is only binding if the financial award meets the financial need.  (See our post on words of confusion.)  Also, you need to note that it is up to the family to demonstrate that the financial aid package does not meet the need.  So make sure you read the information for your specific college regarding early decisions

The Facts about Early Action

Another option is early action.  “Early action is a type of early admission process for admission to colleges and universities in the United States.”(1) The greatest benefit of early action is the fact that it is not binding.  Another benefit is that students are free to apply early to other colleges.  The student will benefit from early action because it still shows that the student is serious about attending that particular college.  The student also benefits from being able to compare the financial offerings from different colleges before making a final decision.

A new kind of hybrid option is the single choice early action option (SCEA).  While not binding, it acknowledges the students’ willingness to attend that particular college by only applying there.  The student is free to apply to other colleges during the regular admission round.

The important thing to remember is to make sure you understand your colleges’ early admission guidelines.  These guidelines are usually available online and are always available through a conversation with your admission advisor.  We think the best early admission option is Early Action since it allows you to compare financial offerings to find the best fit for your family.

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_action

The Student Debt Juggernaut

More and more college graduates seem to be talking about the same thing.  How am I going to pay off my college loans?  We have created a student debt juggernaut that is overwhelming.  According to Student Loan Hero, a website that tracks the student debt statistics, just last year the average student debt of a graduate rose 6% to a new all-time high of $37,171.00.  Nationally, the student debt load rose to 1.4 trillion dollars.  That’s greater than what Americans owe for car loans and credit card debt.  In fact, this issue is so great that it was in the national spotlight during the campaign season last year, with both democrats and republicans seeking to resolve the issue.  If we are not careful, the student debt juggernaut will keep growing and cause many college students to stumble for years after their graduation.  What is the solution?

Student Debt: The Governmental Solution

Student debt has become so large that both republicans and democrats have taken notice.  And, although their solutions are quite different, even their acknowledgement of the problem should cause us to take notice.  President Trump, on the campaign trail, proposed revising the federal loan forgiveness program.  His idea was to shorten the length of the debt forgiveness program by making the minimum payments higher.  But many believe that this would only create a greater rate of default.  The current rate of delinquency and default looms around 11.2%.

Other governmental solutions include: eliminating PLUS loans and privatizing all student loans, using federal loans to refinance private loans, or even using some form of employer contribution system.  No one is turning a blind eye to the situation, however, no solution seems to be within reach.  The only prediction…greater student debt.

Student Debt: Good Financial Planning

Even though there are many who graduate college with a load of student debt, there is another alternative.  But this alternative is not for the timid.  It takes hard work and sacrifice.   It is possible to put a plan together that will allow you to get a college education and not incur a mountain of student debt.  Not many people plan enough for their college years simply because loans have become so readily available.  Again, you can create a college financial plan that will meet your needs.

Do you have a good financial plan for the college years?  The best plans start when the future college student is still in preschool.  But there is no bad time to start planning.  These plans should include both financial planning and college preparation.  Start a plan today.  If you need help designing a good plan, contact us!

 

The Value of College Mentors

Mentoring is a term that is often used in the college arena.  “Mentorship is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person.”(1)  There is great value in college mentors.  But what kinds of college mentors are most beneficial to your college needs?

College Mentors: College Life

Many colleges are aware of the need for incoming freshman to be connected with an existing student for the purpose of adjusting to college life.  This mentoring relationship provides a vital support for new college students.  As the University of Texas Dallas mentoring program explains, “The mentors in the program are successful undergraduates prepared to engage freshmen in campus activities and refer them to resources that can help them achieve their academic and personal goals.”  The needs of every student is different, so by having an individual college mentor you are setting yourself up for success.

College Mentors: Academic

We sometimes think of academic college mentors as tutors.  But that limits the true value of an academic mentor.  Tutors are mentors, in that they guide the student in a specific subject.  However, an academic mentor is more wholistic in their approach.  They offer advice about class scheduling, particular professors, general study habits, etc.  While a student may need specific academic mentors, they may also need someone to help them adjust to college life.  Many colleges try to meet this need through freshman orientations and student services.  Don’t be afraid to use these services, as they may lead to greater success in your college endeavors.

College Mentors: Sports

Sports mentors have many different names.  These mentors are coaches, fitness trainers, personal trainers and other team members.  But their goals remain the same as any other college mentor.  Their purpose is to help the student athlete perform in peak effectiveness.  For the student athlete, much of their student life revolves around practice, training and athletic events.  Without the help of a sports mentor, many find themselves unable to balance their academic and sports schedule.

College Mentors: Financial

One of the most overlooked areas of college mentoring is the area of finances.  These mentors offer advice on a variety of subjects such as college budgeting, scholarship management, and debt counseling.  For many students, college is the first time they really  need to manage their own finances.  They may have very little money skills, which can lead to improper management and increased debt load.  Developing a college spending plan (a budget) and evaluating that plan from time to time can be very beneficial.  This is one of the many services that we provide families who partner with us for college planning.

As you can see, college mentors play a vital role in success during the college years.  However, many students do not know or choose not to use the resources available to them.  Make sure you connect with and utilize these services.  For more information about financial mentoring, contact our offices today.

 

 

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mentorship

College Strategies for the High School Freshman

Your student has now reached the halfway mark through his/her first year of high school!  At this point, much of the nuts-and-bolts of specific college planning and financial strategies are still processing. However, you are currently in the ideal time to assess where things stand with your freshman student and his/her overall high school experience.  So here are some college strategies for the high school freshman

College Strategies for the High School Freshman: Pay Attention to the Fall Semester

The first report card of high school is a pretty big deal, and it is the initial indicator of how your student is performing at this new level.  We urge you to take the time to determine what has gone right so far, and help it to continue, as well as finding the best way to correct anything that may have gone awry or presented a challenge.  At this point it is still early, and there can certainly be an adjustment stage. Encourage your student in every way possible toward achieving academic excellence.

College Strategies for the High School Freshman: Consider the Big Picture

Yes, schoolwork is a huge part of the high school equation when it comes to college preparation.  However, do not ignore an assessment of how your student is adjusting to high school emotionally and socially, as well.  Activities are a fantastic preparation for college and for life in general, whether they are science clubs, leadership, athletics, or other interests.  There needs to be balance, certainly, but this is one area that also needs parental support.  Parents can make a huge difference in a student in discovering his/her areas of interest, and so can extracurricular activities.

If you have already saved money for college, then it’s never too early to get your financial plan together

College Strategies for the High School Freshman: Protect the money you’ve saved.

If you have money saved outside of your company’s retirement plan, talk to your College Funding Advisor about re-positioning those assets into accounts that are not exposed to the financial aid formulas.

  • This strategy was used with permission from our College Planning Network.  It is one excerpt from our monthly email that gives tips and strategies to help students and families prepare for the college years.

It’s Never Too Early to Start

“It’s never too early to start” is a statement that is often over used but underutilized in the area of financial planning for college.  We meet with hundreds of people each and every year to open a discussion regarding college financial planning.  Many people had great intentions, but few actually put a plan into action.  Which means, that when they walk into our offices with college just a short two to three years away, they have no idea how they are going to afford college.  So here is a great thought…start early!

Start College Planning Early

How early should you start thinking about your college financial plans?  We actually want you to think preschool not high school.  “It’s never too early to start” planning for your student’s college years.  In fact there are many options available that can guarantee a steady return and build a great college fund.

But perhaps your student is a bit older than preschool.  That’s okay, because we still think, “It’s never too early to start!”.  So whether your student is in grade school, middle school, or high school, start to develop and follow a financial plan for the college years.

Protect Your College Money

You’ve worked hard for your money.  Protect that money by talking to your College Funding Advisor.  As mentioned earlier, there are ways to keep your money away from the high risks and guarantee a steady rate of return.  You  may be surprised to hear that many of the college savings options carry a small amount of risk and fees.  You need to consider this when planning to protect your college investments.

Another consideration is the way the federal government and college assess individual need.  These “formulas” are somewhat confusing and they seem to change from location to location.  Here is a recent Forbes’ article that highlights the complexity within the formula.  One way to protect you money is to keep college dollars out-of-sight from the financial aid formulas.  This will take the help of a College Funding Advisor.

It’s Never Too Early to Start

Did we say this already,  it’s never to early to start saving for college…but not all savings plans are created equally.  You need to ensure that you are saving smart, and that your savings are protected.  By developing your plan early you can ensure your student enjoys the college of their dreams.

 

Turn Daycare Dollars into a Diploma

Lately we have been focusing on early planning for your college needs.  We believe that the secret to saving for college, or saving for any reason, is to capture funds before they get re-allocated into other ares of spending.  This has been commonly referred to as Parkinson’s law.  This law was first outlined in a 1955 edition of the Economist magazine.  This simple law states that expenses will always rise to the level of income.  This is true: think of your last pay raise.  Where did that raise go? If you did not capture it for a particular purpose, it just got absorbed into you normal spending habits.  Well, here is a plan to help you resist Parkinson’s Law and turn daycare dollars into a diploma.

The Soaring Cost of Daycare

What would you say the average family spends for daycare?  The number may surprise you.  There are many sources to check for the actual numbers in your specific area, but a quick search lead us to 2-1-1 Childcare where we found that the average cost of daycare in our area was around $250.00 per week.  Even that cost varies significantly from area to area.  With a few punches on the calculator keys we found that the annual cost of day care is around $13,000.00 per year.  Over the course of 4 years, that would be roughly $52,000.00.

But what happens at the end of the daycare years?  First, there is usually a large sigh of relief, maybe a night on the town, but then the money usually gets absorbed into the normal spending habits.  If you fight that temptation and make a plan, you can save some substantial money for college.  This will take some discipline, but it will save your student thousands of dollars in debt later.

Turn Daycare Dollars into a Diploma

Let’s do some math.  If you were to capture $1,000.00 of those day care expenses and set it aside in a small savings account.  Let’s say that that savings account was earning 1%.  You would have to search high and low to find such a thing, but let’s just use it as a simple illustration.  We used bankrate.com to run a quick illustration.  At the end of 12 years you would have saved $144,086.83 for your student’s college education.   That is just one expense that can be captured.  Can you find some more?  Probably!

You can resist Parkinson’s law and turn daycare dollars into a diploma!  Want to know more?  Make an appointment with our office today.  We can help you design a plan to capture these expenses and not create a debt crisis for you and your student.