What you need to know

Preparing for your child’s college education can seem daunting, but breaking it down into manageable steps can make the process smoother and less stressful. Here are some basic tips to help you get started, with a focus on the financial aspects of college preparations.

Start Saving Early

One of the most important steps is to start saving as early as possible. Consider opening a 529 College Savings Plan, which offers tax advantages and allows your savings to grow over time. Even small, regular contributions can add up significantly by the time your child is ready for college. Additionally, you might explore other savings options such as Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) or custodial accounts under the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA) or Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA).

Understand and Budget for All College Costs

Familiarize yourself with the different costs associated with college education, including tuition, room and board, textbooks, supplies, transportation, and personal expenses. Public universities often have lower tuition rates for in-state students, while private colleges tend to be more expensive, but might offer more substantial financial aid packages. Create a budget that outlines the potential costs of college and consider all possible sources of funding, including savings, financial aid, part-time work, and family contributions. Reviewing your budget regularly and adjusting it as needed can help you stay on track and avoid surprises.

Explore Financial Aid Options

Understanding and leveraging financial aid options is crucial. Research and apply for various types of financial aid, including:

  • Grants and Scholarships: These do not need to be repaid and can come from federal and state governments, colleges, private organizations, and nonprofits.
  • Work-Study Programs: These provide part-time jobs for students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses.
  • Student Loans: Federal student loans generally have lower interest rates and more flexible repayment options than private loans. Be sure to understand the terms and conditions before borrowing.

Encourage your child to apply for scholarships early and often, and make sure to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as it becomes available each year.

Involve Your Child in the Process

Engage your child in discussions about college planning and the associated costs. Help them understand the importance of seeking out scholarships and financial aid. Encourage them to research potential colleges and consider factors like location, size, and academic programs, as well as the financial implications of their choices.

Research Colleges and Programs

Take the time to research different colleges and programs to find the best fit for your child’s interests, career goals, and your budget. Look at factors such as tuition costs, available financial aid, graduation rates, and job placement statistics. Visiting campuses can also provide valuable insights and help you compare costs more effectively.

Prepare Academically

Encourage your child to focus on their academic performance throughout high school. Good grades, challenging courses, and extracurricular activities can enhance their college applications and improve their chances of receiving scholarships and admission to competitive programs, which can also result in better financial aid offers.

Plan for Standardized Tests

Most colleges require standardized test scores as part of the application process. Help your child prepare for these exams by providing study resources, enrolling them in prep courses if necessary, and ensuring they take the tests at the appropriate times. High scores can make your child eligible for merit-based scholarships.

Stay Informed

College planning can be complex and the landscape often changes, so it’s important to stay informed about new developments in college admissions and financial aid. Regularly check reputable sources for updates and consult with a financial advisor if needed. Websites like the College Board and the U.S. Department of Education offer valuable resources and tools.

By taking these steps, you can help ensure that your child is well-prepared for their college journey, both academically and financially. Starting early and staying organized are key to making the process as smooth and successful as possible. Rely Wealth can help you get started today.

DISCLOSURE: Investment advisory services offered through Rely Wealth Partners, LLC, a DBA of tru Independence Asset Management, LLC, a Registered Investment Advisor with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This material is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal or tax advice and is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified attorney or tax advisor.

We work with highly motivated individuals and families who want to be financially complete and value clarity.

Daniel Mauser — Founder and Managing Partner