College Planning – Where Do We Start?


Welcome to the panic room. It’s more of a state of mind than a real play, and it usually infects parents of college students when their kids are entering their first or last year of high school; the looming cloud of college selection and the daunting task of how to manage college spending without destroying retirement.

Interestingly, there is a very logical approach to this extremely expensive and complex task, which can eliminate a lot of the pain and anxiety. A first system works for most efforts, and college selection and planning is no different. It is the approach of the heart, head and hands to college.

Think in terms of building a house. The first thing you might do is start imagining what qualities you would like. The number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the size and style of the kitchen and living room, the two floors or ranch and the perfect location. This is the dream. It is the HEART.

The next step could be to start separating needs from wants in order to identify the minimum standards that our house should be built by. If we have a particularly large family, we may need a number of bedrooms and perhaps a large garage to store things other than cars. We can also expect to run a small home business in which case we need to consider a home office. This is the practical element. It is the HEAD.

Finally, by accepting that the bank account is not an inexhaustible source of resources, we must begin to place a value on our wants and needs in order to recognize, prioritize and finalize the plans. While we might want granite countertops, the budget may only consider textured and stained concrete; an acceptable alternative. This process is the financial appraisal where we set the budget. It is the MAIN.

Now think in terms of developing a college plan. The dream: What school, regardless of cost, practicality, or any measure of reason required, would our student like to attend? What about the 2nd most desired school? A third and a fourth choice are welcome. This step is simply to prioritize the choice of school based on criteria that may or may not be rooted in a standard of your reality or perceived financial limitations. It is the HEART.

With this list expanded, we now take a very different approach. We apply reason to our selection. The most effective way to select a school is to first understand the desired outcome of graduation. With few exceptions, this desired outcome is a career in an area of ​​particular passion for the student. Pursuing a career in an area where the student demonstrates or does not express any particular passion will be one that serves to frustrate, irritate and ultimately force the student to change. The change will be about either their careers or their feelings of happiness, neither of which are particularly comfortable endeavors. If this change is recognized in college, the direction of the degree may change and this invariably adds time and cost to the process.

Once the career is considered the target, the major (s) that could best lead to that career are identified. The schools offering this major are a natural extension that allows us to build a list of qualifying schools. From this list, the application of all other criteria can be applied. These criteria can include a number of characteristics, including school size, location, student / faculty ratio, and even the quality of the food on campus. The short list of possible university choices was born. This is the logical approach to college selection. It is the HEAD.

Finally, and probably the most intimidating part of developing a college plan is the financial aspect of higher education. Unfortunately for most parents, financial advice or the truth about college can be a big deal. guided by myths.

In general, there is a great misconception about eligibility for financial aid. Too often it is assumed that eligibility for financial assistance is restricted to families most in need. In fact, financial assistance in one form or another is available to almost all families, regardless of their wealth or income. Therefore, the first financial step that a family should take is to fully understand their eligibility. A visit to FAFSA is a great first step.

Another common mistake is to assume that a public school is a cheaper alternative to a private school. While it is true that the college sticker price can adhere to this rule, the actual expenses can produce a very different picture. When aid eligibility is considered, the personal expenses of a private school costing $ 10,000 to $ 20,000 more per year than their state-sponsored competitors may in fact be cheaper. Without understanding eligibility for help, an unfortunate majority of parents and students will never recognize this opportunity.

Another factor to consider is the likelihood of graduation within 4 years. Statistically, there are a number of studies that suggest that private schools graduate in 4 years at a significantly higher rate than many public schools. Yet most families forget to include the time it takes to get a degree as a cost factor. Five or six years in a public school can end up costing over 4 years in a private school, regardless of how they could offset the cost of education with their endowment funds. This process is the most powerful key to proper college selection.

Finally, a family must identify a budget for college. The timing of college spending coincides very closely with the onset of retirement. If parents spend too much on college without recognizing the impact on their other financial goals, especially retirement, they may not have time to recover. This holistic approach to the financial aspect of college is the MAIN.

Instead of an act largely dictated by convention and the application of common knowledge, college selection is much better approached with an informed plan. If a family uses the HEART, HEAD, and HAND approach, measuring wants, needs, and financial capability, they will take on a daunting task with great insight and be much more likely to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Source by Andy Hickman

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