1. I know how much college is going to cost our family.
- You probably know that college costs have skyrocketed in recent years. It is now possible to spend an incredible quarter of a million dollars to fund one child’s undergraduate program. The best way to accurately determine your true college costs is to conduct an individualized financial aid analysis that determines how much the financial aid formula will require your family to pay.
2. I have a plan to pay for college that does not involve mortgaging our home or taking on unsubsidized loans.
- Many families are so blindsided by the actual college costs they face that they resort to desperate and risky financial tactics such as tapping the equity of their primary residence or relying on high cost private loans. There are much better ways of paying for college than these last-ditch measures.
3. I understand how the financial aid system works.
- The more you understand about how the federal financial aid system really works, the less you will pay for college. Also, the sooner you learn this information, the better it is, because it allows you to make smarter investment decisions that do not affect your aid eligibility.
4. I know when I need to make financial changes to avoid triggering financial aid liability.
- Most families wait until the middle of their child’s senior year to determine their financial aid eligibility, because this is when the financial aid system asks you to fill out the required FAFSA form. Unfortunately, this is too late to allow you to have much of an impact on your aid eligibility. It is much better to determine your aid eligibility during your child’s sophomore year or early in their junior year of high school.
5. I understand how my assets and investments will impact my family’s financial aid eligibility.
- Many financial investments that are sold to parents for college purposes can actually reduce your financial aid awards. It is best to shelter your assets in investments that will not increase your college costs.
6. I know how I am going to manage college costs and still have enough money to fund my retirement.
- How old will you be when your last child graduates for college? For most parents, retirement planning follows fast on the heels of college planning. If you are not careful, your child’s college decisions can wipe out your chances of having a financially secure retirement.
7. My child knows what career s/he plans to pursue and has chosen a college that will provide the appropriate preparation and connections.
- Students with a clear college plan tend to make the best, most economical use of college. Students without a plan are more likely to make inefficient course choices, change majors repeatedly, lose academic motivation and focus and even drop out. Ideally, college planning should always begin with guided career planning.
8. My child understands what employers are looking for and where college fits into his/her career plans.
- To succeed in finding a job today, college graduates are going to need more than just a diploma. They are going to need to develop skills in demand and to acquire suitable work experience that will convince employers to take a chance on them. This means using college wisely and developing the necessary connections to land that crucial entry-level position.
9. My child has a solid plan for turning the degree into a career and beating the high unemployment odds.
- More than two million college graduates are currently unemployed in the United States. Even worse, about half of all young college graduates are underemployed, meaning that they are working in jobs that do not even require a college degree. Families must become more savvy about maximizing their child’s college opportunities to beat these scary employment odds.
10. My child knows what major s/he wants to pursue and is looking at colleges with this in mind.
- 60% of college students will either change majors or transfer to another college. The result is that a majority of college students now take five years to graduate, which can easily add 25% or more to your already exorbitant college costs. The solution to this unaffordable problem is to make career planning and major selection a crucial part of the college planning process.
11. My child understands the long-term implications of student loan debt and how much s/he can expect to earn after graduation in order to make the expected monthly payments.
- Most students have very little comprehension of the implications of the student loan documents they are asked to sign as part of their financial aid packages. In order to borrow responsibly, a student must have a clear understanding of his/her earning capacity after graduation. This means having a clear career plan based on factual information, not wishful thinking.
12. I understand how to negotiate with colleges to obtain the best financial deal.
- College prices are not fixed in stone. Some families get much better deals than others. Now, more than ever, you must know how to negotiate effectively with college representatives to secure the best possible terms for your investment in higher education.
How did you do?
If you answered “No” to any of the questions above, you risk paying too much for college or having disappointing career results from your college investment.
The more you understand about college and the financial aid process, the lower your costs and the better your results will be. There are many strategies that families at all income levels can use to make college more affordable and to make their graduate more employable.
To learn more about how to maximize your aid eligibility and improve your college-bound student’s career prospects, please contact us for a free consultation.