College Fair Strategies

This is the time of year for college fairs.  Perhaps you have already  received an invitation to your local event.  These kind of events offer a great amount of information for college planning.  According to BigFuture by college Board, “A college fair is a gathering of college representatives who are looking for the right students for their institutions. They’re there to spread the word about their college to high school students — and they want to talk to you.”  So attend!  But before you do, you need to have a plan.  So here are some college fair strategies that will help you make the most of your college planning adventure.

Don’t attend without a plan!

Here is the first of our college fair strategies…make a plan.  There will be many colleges at the fair and it may be impossible to see every single one. This is why a plan is so important.  If possible, get a list of the colleges that will be in attendance.  This information should be available at the college fair website.  Also, see if you can find a map of the college fair itself.  You may be able to map out your trip even before the doors open.  (Power Tip: You can eliminate every college that does not have you intended major.)  This will save you lots of time.

Also, make sure you have everything you need for your information finding adventure.  You will need a pen, paper, and clipboard (or something else on which to write).  Bring a small bag/tote, because there will be a lot of informational handouts.  It would be helpful to bring a bottle of water to refresh yourself after talking to the college representatives.  But the most important thing you will need to prepare prior to the event is a list of questions!

Make a list of questions!

Okay, let’s move forward with our college fair strategies.  Strategy #2: ask the right questions.  The entire focus of the college fair is information, but the wrong information will not help you.  So, take some time prior to the college fair and ask yourself what information is most valuable to you.  A quick search of the internet will help you find a lot of good questions to ask at your college fair.  These questions may or may not be the main questions you have, but at least they are a starting place.

In fact, we recommend you find a good college fair worksheet.  You can find many of these resources online.  We suggest that you find the most detailed worksheet you can and then start your research early online.  You can find financial information, demographic information, graduation rate, average debt load of graduates and much, much more.  If you use the college fair to find information that is already available online, you will miss the full potential of the college fair.  College fairs are most valuable when you ask the questions you can’t find elsewhere.

Plan time to Evaluate!

Here is the last of our college fair strategies today.  Take time to evaluate your college fair findings.  You should do this as soon after the fair as possible, while all the information is fresh in your mind.  Yes, you made good notes and asked great questions, but that information is not valuable until you place it in the context of your college plans.  Place your worksheets side by side and start to see what are your “likes” and “dislikes” about the individual colleges.  Then prioritize the list of college from the ones you like the most to the ones you dislike.

Congratulations, you have just made your college list!  And you already have many of your questions answered.  Breathe a sigh of relief and get ready for the next step in your college preparation…the college campus visit.

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.

Turning Diapers into a Diploma

Having children in n expensive proposition.  Depending upon whom you speak with, the average family will spend between $252,000 – $412,000 caring for their child over the 21-22 years of their life.  This of course includes everything from diapers to a diploma.  With all these expenses, it’s no wonder why so few people have plans when it comes to paying for college.  We need a plan for turning Diapers into a Diploma.

The Cost of Living is on the Rise

Where you live is a huge factor in determining the costs associated with raising a child.  Where we live, the cost is around $18,700 per year.  (We live in CT)  This includes costs associated with housing, transportation, education, food, health and the all important miscellaneous category.  Check out this calculator to see what your estimated costs will be.  And these are just the costs of living today.  These costs are not going to stay the same, and we are fooling ourselves if we think these costs are going to get less.

Student Debt is Out of Control

This is not a new topic.  We speak often about the rising debt load being placed upon the future of students.  In 2009, a concerning change in the national debt picture happened.  In that year student loan debt surpassed both credit card debt and auto loan debt.  Student loan debt has risen between 400-700% in the last 10 years.  This means that with each passing year, students will graduate with a greater and greater debt load.  We can not say this often enough, financial planning for the college years is essential.

Turning Diapers into a Diploma

So when should a parent start financial planning for their children?  Parents need to think diapers, not high school.  If you start planning for the college years when your child is in diapers, then you will be well prepared for the college years.  In fact, there are many opportunities where parents can set money aside through the years if they are willing to capture those finances before they are reallocated back into the budget.  One such expense is the diaper find.  Diapers cost the average family $1,000.00 per year.  If a family was to capture that $1,000.00 per year for 14 years at 1 % interest, they would have around  $17,000 dollars saved by the time the student was ready for college.  And that is just one expense that could be captured.

By making some simple adjustments, parents can turn those diapers into a diploma.  It is not too early to start preparing for the college years.  Do you have a plan?  If not, start today!  We can help in your planning process, give us a call.

Get Ready for Early FAFSA Filing

The new early FAFSA filing deadline is approaching fast.  This year the deadline to file your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is October 1st.  Do not be surprised by this early date…be prepared.  While the early deadline may catch some by surprise, it was fashioned for the student’s benefit.

The Intent of the Early FAFSA Filing

There are many benefits to the new early FAFSA filing deadline, but the most beneficial intent was to give the student and family more time between receiving their award letters and having to make their college selection.  When the FAFSA deadline was January 1, the student and family would receive award letters around March and then would have only a month or two to decide which college to choose.  Theoretically, with the deadline pushed three months earlier, the student and family should receive that important award letter earlier.

However, this idea may not materialize for many colleges.  The college will need to adjust their internal time lines to match the new early FAFSA deadline.  According to a recent Time Magazine article, colleges may not be ready to give these early award letters.  “So this year, there will be a variety of responses to early FAFSA: Some colleges will move their deadlines up and release their aid offers months earlier. But most will not. And the burden largely falls on students to keep track of where the colleges they’re applying to stand.”

Other Benefits of the Early FAFSA

Our college financial planning advisor sees great benefits even if the colleges are slow to respond.  First, there is the benefit of using “known” numbers.  The old FAFSA deadline had the student and family use projected numbers in its calculations.  The student and family would fill out the FAFSA in January using projected numbers from the previous year’s income.  These numbers would then be verified by the student and family’s tax returns filed after the FAFSA was already filed.  As you can see, this method has a few drawbacks.  Now, the student and family simple use the past two year’s tax return for filling out the FAFSA.  This information is not a projection, but the actual numbers found on the previous two years’ tax returns.

Second, there is the benefit of having a greater time to appeal any specific financial information.  There may be special circumstances regarding a previous year’s income that may not be an accurate reflection of one’s continuing annual income or expenses.  Having known numbers allows the student and family to craft an appropriate appeal letter to make these special circumstances known.

Third, the earlier FAFSA deadline demonstrates the need for early planning.  The greatest deficiency that we see in college financial planning is that people start planning way too late.  The early FAFSA forces the student and family to start thinking about college at least one year earlier.  Even that is not early enough to start thinking about your financial plan for college.  How early should one start financially planning for college?  The earlier you start financially planning for college, the better plan you will have.

If you do not have a plan or are running behind in developing a plan, you can call our office today and schedule a free appointment with our College Financial Planning Advisor.

 

Unexpected Costs of College

College is one of the greatest investments in a student’s future.  As you plan for your student’s future, don’t forget the unexpected costs associated with college.  Many colleges try to show these expenses in their award letter, but it is hard to calculate these costs precisely simply because there are way to many variables.  Some of the costs are associated with particular majors, while others are related to the location of a particular college.  Let’s examine some of the unexpected costs of college.

The Unexpected Costs of College: Travel

No matter where a student attends college, they will have some kind of travel expense.  If you attend close to home, it may be as simple as a tank of gas and some fast food. However, If you are attending across the country, this cost could include plane tickets, perhaps some shipping expenses, or maybe even addition set-up costs.  In a recent College Parent of America article, “Top 7 – unexpected cost of college”, they listed college travel expense as one of the top 7 unexpected expenses.  You need to consider travel costs in the overall costs of college.

The Unexpected Costs of College: Books

Every student is going to need textbooks each semester, therefore, textbooks are also an unknown expense.  While we know textbooks are needed, the cost of textbooks is greatly dependent upon the chosen major.  Princonomics revealed that the cost of textbook is souring.  The average students spends around $1200.00 a year on textbook alone.  Princonomics breaks the cost of books down to show what majors have the most expensive textbooks.  You need to consider the costs of text books in your college planning.

The Unexpected Costs of College: Set-up

The student and family will also need to plan for “set-up” costs.  This expense includes: technology, learning supplies, dorm room supplies, toiletries, etc.  There is no way to figure out what these needs will cost.  There are just to many variables.  However, it is an expense that is often overlooked and therefore needs to be considered.  The best idea would be to establish a budget.  While textbooks and travel expenses are pretty inflexible, you may be able to make some small adjustments with your set-up costs that can lead to lower expense.  Make a plan, and if you start early enough, you may be able to take advantage of some great deals.

The unexpected costs of college can add up! Proper planning can alleviate some of the pressure of these expenses.  In upcoming posts, we will share some money saving ideas to help alleviate some more of the pressure of these unexpected costs of college.

 

 

 

 

GOAL

Great goals are vital to success in any endeavor, but why are they so important in college planning?  A goal is nothing more than a plan, and a plan is vital to your college experience.  In fact, in our experience every minute of planning can yield financial dividends.  With that in mind, here are some goals that can help you prepare for the college years and beyond.

High School Senior…GOAL!

The final year of high school is finally here, and it is not time to slide through this final year.  In fact, this can be the best year of high school!  Often the student has more control of their class schedule, and some times that schedule is greatly reduced.  By now the student should have some good study habits and some good financial habits as well.  In essence they are learning some great life skills.  The student should have a condensed list of probable schools.  Here is the GOAL for high school seniors…Refine.  Yes, Refine.  Here are some things you should refine.

  • Refine your study habits.  Small changes can often offer large rewards.  So reevaluate your study habits.
  • Refine your college list data.  Make sure your information is up to date.
  • Refine your college financial plan.  Check with your College planning Advisor to make sure your financial plan is adequate.
College Freshman…GOAL!

Success!  The College years has finally arrived.  Now one more GOAL to help you succeed in the college years.  Make fresh GOALS! Here is where the process starts over.

  • Set academic goals.
  • Set academic financial goals.
  • Set social goals.

Make a list, write them down on a piece of paper and make them visible!  Once you have made your goals, start to stretch toward them.  Pretty soon, you too will be celebrating the attainment of your G..O..A..L!

So go ahead, set some goals for your upcoming year.  It will pay off in your college preparations.  Need help? Schedule with one of our college planners today.

GOAL

The 2016 Olympics have been such a source of American effort and pride.  While watching a soccer match over the past few days,  I was reminded of the importance of each and every G..O..A..L!  Yes, I am referring to that announcer who goes crazy and extends that long pronouncement that a particular team has just scored.  Well, that G..O..A..L, is the result of many small milestones that were set and rehearsed over the course of many, many years.  That got me thinking about another kind of goal…the kind of goal that each and every student should be setting at the beginning of each and every year that will help them prepare for the college years and beyond.

High School Freshman…GOAL

Yes, planning for the college years starts here.  Actually, it should start much earlier, but for most people, the freshman year marks the beginning of their college preparation.  Why?  Because every academic grade you make from here on out has a direct impact on your college future.  So here is the GOAL…Develop good study habits!  Parents, help your student stay on top of their studies.  Help them develop proper academic planning techniques (Buy a planner).  Learning the skill of asking good questions both in and out of class will be essential.  Keep on top of you grades.  Remember, this year’s grades will be on your transcript, and college will see these grades.  Therefore it is essential to develop good study skills early.

High School Sophomore…GOAL

Here is a quick GOAL…Start saving for college.  Getting into college is a family affair and the saving doesn’t have to fall entirely on the parents’ shoulders.  Having your student share some of the responsibility can help build character and will teach him/her life skills that will be beneficial throughout his/her life.  Teach him/her to save some money, as well.

You’ve worked hard for your money.  Protect that money by talking to our College Funding Advisor about keeping those dollars out-of-sight from the financial aid formulas.

High School Junior…GOAL

You are half way through your high school years and college is right around the corner.  Good study habits should be in place, and there is a small savings account in place.  So what now?  Here is a GOAL for your Junior year…make a list of potential colleges.  Make a list, check it twice, and then collect as much information as you can.  We have actually already spoken about this in one of our previous posts.  So check that out here.  The college list is important, because you begin to see a clearer picture of the finances needed for the college years.

As you can see, there are important goals in the student’s life on their way toward college.  Next week we will look at a few more goals that will help prepare for the college years and beyond.

Financial Game Plan for College

Do you have a financial game plan for college?  This is a question we ask frequently when we sit down to talk with families about their college needs.  Many will tell us that they have some money set aside in savings, but they admit that is is not enough to cover all the cost associated with a 4 year college experience.  It does not seem to matter if one is of average income or above average income, most do not have a financial plan in place.  So, if you are like most, and have not started the process, here are a few thoughts to consider as you begin to develop your financial game plan for college.

Consider your options!

Let’s start here at the most basic thought for developing your financial game plan for college.  What kind of college experience will work best for your unique circumstance?  Are you looking for a 4 year on campus college experience?  Or are you thinking about going to a community college for the first two year, then transferring?  Are you willing to commute to the college of your choice?  As you can see, you can not even start planning without having at least a conversation about what college options most interest the individual student.  It is usual that some of the preliminary plans may change over the course of time, but it is better to start the preparation, than to wait until the finalize plans visualize.

Once you have laid out a few options, put some numbers to your dreams.  List the options and begin to calculate the costs.  You will need to find as much information as you can about that option.  Don’t forget about travel expense if the college is not close.  Once you know the cost for the options you have chosen, you are ready to move to the next step, funding.

Save for College!

529 College Savings Plans are not the only option when it comes to making a college funding game plan.  However, there is a tremendous amount of money spent in advertising this product.  In fact,  we have attended many “college planning nights” where the only option mentioned was a 529 College Savings Account.  Don’t misunderstand, saving accounts are great venues to raising funds for college.  In fact, that’s where everyone starts.  They are just not the only vehicle one can use to create a good financial game plan for college.

Restructure for Success!

There are many restructuring options to help one achieve the goals of their financial game plan for college.  However, it is not a good idea to begin restructuring without the proper guidance of a college financial planner.  This planner need to look at your finances holistically, keeping in mind not just your college goals, but also your long term goals, including retirement.

Get help making your financial game plan for college!

Get your financial game plan in place. Make sure you are not at risk of having unnecessary calculations count against you in the financial aid process. Talk with our funding advisor for ideas on how to develop a financial plan.

College Tips (Junior)

The junior year of high school is one of the most important years to prepare for college.  There are so many ways you can start planning.  So let’s look at a few college tips for high school juniors.

Make a list of collegeshelpful tips

If you haven’t already made a list of prospective colleges, start now!  You want to start listing colleges and checking them out online.  Here are a few items you want to make sure you include in your college list.  Does the college have the specific program of study in which you are interested?  What are the expected costs associated with that particular college?  How much financial aid is available from the college?  What is the graduation rate for this particular college?  A great resource for gathering college related information is collegedata.com.

Once you have created this college list, it’s time for a visit.  Can you say road trip!  Check out our article on college road trips.

Study for the SAT and ACT tests

Summer is a good time to study for the SAT and ACT tests.  Begin taking practice tests and going over missed answers to really get a good idea on how to approach the material.  Soon you will be scheduling your test, and before you know it you will be sitting in the testing center.  The SAT/ACT test scores are directly tied to financial award letters, so being prepared is one of the most important college tips to be heeded.

Start scouting out scholarship opportunities

It’s a good time to start researching scholarship opportunities.  You can start by researching the scholarship opportunities of each school on your list.  You can also take advantage of search engines like fastweb.com and cappex.com.  Make sure to check the specific requirements for each scholarship and due dates.  Many scholarship opportunities are missed simply because the filing deadlines are not followed

Get your financial game plan in place.

Make sure you are not at risk of having unnecessary calculations count against you in the financial aid process.  Talk with our funding advisor for ideas on how to develop a financial plan.

These are just a few college tips to keep in mind during the junior year of high school.  Remember college is just around the corner, so use these tips to help prepare for this exciting time of life.

 

Start Right

The first days of college life are just around the corner.  This brings a great amount of excitement, but also carries a small amount of anxiety.  Will I be able to handle my class load?  Will I be able to make friends quickly?  Will I be able to manage my athletic schedule or academic schedule? Where is the next party?  Each student must give great attention to starting each new school year right.  However, for the freshman class, starting right is so much more important.  So here is some advice to help you Start Right your first weeks of college.

Start Right by Establishing your Boundaries

A common struggle among first year college students is establishing good boundaries.  A boundary is simply a limit.  In high school, our limits were predefined by teacher, school administrators and parents.  But in college many of these predefined limits are removed.  It would be easy to allow your time to be given to extremes.  However, you can start right by establishing limits that govern your college life.

Many colleges have seen the need for additional training in this area, so they offer freshman orientation classes.  These classes will help the first year student adjust to college life.  They cover issues like academic planning, time management, pitfalls of college life and many other topics.  In essence they are designed to help the incoming student body establish boundaries.

Start Right by Establishing an Academic Routine

College classes are not like high school classes!  They are more difficult and require much more out of classroom work.  In fact, the average college class uses a 1:3 ratio of class work.  This means that for every 1 hour of classroom work, there is an additional 3 hours of outside classroom work.  You will need to establish a good academic routine.

Here are a few tips to help you establish a good academic routine.  Take time to read through each class’ requirements and mark the major happening of that class on an academic calendar.  If you have any questions about the class or its requirements, meet with the professor to clarify.  In fact, don’t be afraid to meet with the professor throughout the semester to help clarify instructions.  Find a great place to have uninterrupted study time.  Okay, this may be simplistic, but actually attend classes.  In other words, take the first weeks to get really organized.  This small amount of time on the front end will pay great dividends throughout the semester.

Start Right by Establishing a Financial Plan

If you’ve never had to create a budget, now is the time to do so.  Wise students find ways to stretch their money, and live more frugally while in school.  In our article First Year College Expenses we talk briefly about how much money the average college student needs each month.  Most college students need about $100.00 per month for incidental expenses.  Another article from US News and World Report shares a discussion about  college budgeting.  Toward the bottom of the report, “Lindsey” talks about the additional cost of college not found on any financial assessments from the college.  These additional costs must be considered in the financial plan.

Things to include when establishing a financial plan: coffee, snacks, coffee, eating outside the cafeteria, coffee, off campus events (like movies, bowling, pizza run, etc) oh and did I mention coffee.  These little expenses add up.  So make a plan.  You need to write down the details of your plan.  Then once a month evaluate if the plan is being followed.  You can also make some adjustments once you have evaluated the plan.  Not only will you be making sound financial judgments for the college years, but you will be establishing a habit that will help you the rest of your life.

While the first few weeks of your freshman college year may be a bit daunting, with a little planning to start right, they can also be the most productive.