If you don’t have anyone in college you can skip this article without missing a thing.
As I’ve said before to many clients(and heard from plenty of parents who disagreed) if you have less than 20 years till your retirement age and have less than $200,000 saved in your pension fund you have no business funding your child’s college education in total. Period!
Do you really want to spend your retirement working to pay off your Child’s college bills while failing to take care of what’s coming at you?
Remember, your child will have over 40 years to pay off those bills and save for their own retirement. You, on the other hand, will have less than 20 years to pay college bills and save for your own retirement. You simply can’t do both. That said, let’s get started on how your child can pay for her own college and keep her loans low.
The main thing you need to realize is that tuition for colleges range from unbelievable to very affordable.
George Washington University is one of the highest private colleges in the U.S. with annual tuition of $39,210 per year (housing not included). One of the most reasonable colleges is San Diego State University with annual tuition of only $3,428 per year. This applies for resident students but residency is very easy to establish. My point is that you need to check into colleges and tuition before deciding where to send your child.
Private colleges are good but very expensive. The total cost can be as much as some houses are selling today. Your student can get the same education at a highly rated public college for a fraction of the cost.
And your student can make just as many important contacts affecting their futures at a public college as at Harvard (though Harvard grads will argue that point).
Helping your student make the best decision can be a tough assignment.
A former college roommates is now Dean of Students at a very well known college and I spent time pumping him for info on what colleges look for in giving out scholarships. Here’s what he said – it makes for very interesting reading.
First, grades and scholastic scores are important but they are only one of many things most colleges look at. They also look at what a student does outside of school. Your child gets huge marks if they spend some time volunteering in your community. They also get major points if they have a part time job.
This shows the college your child’s dedication to something larger than themselves and the drive to pay for part of their own education. If your child is active in her school it shows a desire to share her time and talents with her classmates. Generally, these activities are other than sports related. Sports scholarships are something different.
If your child participates in any or all of the above and still maintains a high GPA, it shows any college that she has the talent and ability needed to succeed in school.
Second, decide on a college she will be attending early in her junior year of high school. You want to do this for several reasons.
1- You want to visit the college with your daughter to make sure it has the curricula she needs.
2- It will give her an opportunity to visit with an advisor (pre-appointment strongly suggested).
3- You will be able to spend time with the Financial Aids Department (very important).
According to my former roommate, students who visit a college before they can actually apply can make a huge impression for forward planning and organization. Staying in touch with the people she meets means that she will be remembered when she finally does apply (especially in the Financial Aids office).
In your community, your child needs to research all the sources that give scholarships to graduating seniors and then start applying early in her senior year. Fraternal organizations like the Lions, Rotary, Elks and Eagles all give annual scholarships ranging from $100 to $1000/year for 4 years.
Some organizations like your local Chamber of Commerce or FFA give scholarships to qualifying students. And don’t forget the church you attend regularly. If your child has been an active member she could qualify for any scholarships they may give.
Finally, if your child intends to go to a private college, contact their Alumni Association to find out what kind of aid is available to qualifying students who are going to have trouble paying for college. Don’t forget the Federally Guaranteed Student Loans either. These are great loans that will tailor a repayment schedule to your child once they graduate.
One final tip that is used by very savvy students. After your child gets to college have your child visit her Financial Aids Counselor before the end of the 1st semester. Reason? Many scholarships go unclaimed because students figure they may not qualify for them so they don’t apply. If there are unclaimed scholarships the counselor can point them out to your student and tell her how she can qualify.
Remember, the worst thing they can say is no – but if your student doesn’t even try these things, they can never say yes, either! Just make sure she starts applying early in her Senior year and for as many scholarships as she can. The final prize always goes to the most creative, the earliest and the most persistent.
Finally, encourage your student to find and then keep a good part time job in college . Doing this will boost her resume in was you can’t imagine. Not only will it dramatically lower her college debt but it will show future employers and higher schools (Med. School or Law School) of her drive and organizational skills.
Trust me, nobody gives high marks for being known as the leading party animal – on campus or off!
Please feel free to e-mail this article to anyone you think might benefit from the information. Copyright information and my Sig File must be included. Copyright 2006 by Steve Wieland http://wwwhealthylife-longlife.com
About the Author
Steve Wieland is a former Financial Advisor who now deals with the financial problems facing far too many retiring Baby Boomers. Information in his articles should not be acted on without help form your own advisor.