College, student loans, career planning, and how to put it all together isn’t easy. Understandably, most of the deliberation centers around cost vs. potential earning. College funded by student loans has gotten a lot of press, and sometimes I see people shying away from college all together. They do this primarily because of the fear of debt. Going to college, and borrowing money to do it, are major life decisions. So, it makes sense to have a good plan first, and hopefully these ideas will help.
Learn About the Benefits of College First
I am big on gathering information before making a decision. I hope these Ten Tips and their links will help you and your youngster.
1. College Pays Off – Get your head around the proven fact that a college education can pay off – BIG! And, you don’t need a career as a brain surgeon for this to be true. This is not to say that everyone should go to college but deciding NOT to go can’t be based on faulty information about whether or not college grads earn more money. They do. And plenty more. As a committed parent, don’t you want this for your child if at all possible? Even a two year AA degree increases lifetime earning enough to make the effort and expense worthwhile. And, you and your teen can explore the actual income ranges of hundreds of careers right HERE. Didn’t find your career on the list? Just google the career name followed by the word income, and you will find plenty of information.
2. It’s Your Child’s Education/Career, Not Yours – Hey parents. Financial managers and advisors no longer recommended that you take responsibility for your child’s education. You need to be planning for the next stage of your life, and your child will have the rest of her/his own life to pay off any school expenses they have acquired. No PLUS loans. Don’t touch your retirement savings or investments, and stay away from home equity loans. And finally, resist the urge to feel guilty because you never saved up when the kids were toddlers. The lack of these money sources is not a dead end for your child. Read more HERE. And, this takes us to ….
Plan Plan Plan
3. Make an Awesome Plan – Help your youngster design a multi-part plan that includes several funding sources. Some resources include part time work, loans, scholarships (especially those that become available after a year or two of school), family, grants, work study, programs like AmeriCorps or Job Corps. Your young student might decide to take an extra year, carry a few less credits, and allow time for work.
And about working. Most college students work part time. Your child is an adult now, and, we adults do what we have to do if we want to meet our goals. Right? Helping your child develop a plan is the best teaching you can give them, and this teaching is excellent parenting. They will learn so much about problem solving, frustration tolerance, and perseverance, while you give them moral support when they need it, helping them stick with their plan.
Start a file, buy a spiral notebook, and get organized. Think about charting or mind mapping the plan since visuals help creative thinking. And…..be OK if the plan needs to be tweeked along the way. A good plan is flexible and organic, not a hunk of rock. Find creative ways to fund a college education HERE
Finances – Job – Student Loan – ?
4. Find the Money First – Now, with an emerging career plan in hand, you and your youngster can start figuring just about how much money they will have access to. Not how much they will need. How much they will have access to. How much they need comes later. Find a calculator and a new piece of paper, and get started. No fear – It’s just a big math problem. Go to the FAFSA site and become an expert on how this federal student loan funding source works. You can call them directly and they are very helpful on the phone. You can go to your closest college and visit their financial aid office and find out more.
Total up, as close as you can, the amount your youngster can tap from all the sources you have thought of, and think of more sources while you are doing this. See if you can make a list of at least ten solid possibilities for money, …..and then try to come up with five more! Now you’re getting somewhere! Put every idea on the list, even if it seems absurd because you never know what might come of that idea later on.
5. Shop ‘Till You Drop – Thinking about the academic plan, and a beginning idea of how much money is available, it’s time to shop for a school. So many things to consider! I hear, “I want to get away and go out of state because I am tired of where I live.” That does not sound like a career goal to me, and it sounds expensive. Get away if there is enough money for that out of state tuition, and if that is how you want to spend that money, but, if not, just save getting away for a little later. Or, consider a career with built in travel!
Many people design their college/career path – two years, four years, more years – around attending more than one college along the way. Start as close to home as possible and go from there. Glamour costs money, and the degree from the glamorous school has NOT proven to outweigh the degree from the affordable school in the long run. Yes, specific programs require looking at specific schools at some point. The last thing I have to offer here is, keep it flexible and don’t forget why you are doing this. Find out what colleges cost HERE
6. Get Serious – College is a blast! Really! I never felt so free in my life! On the other hand, college is serious, because, this is your career and life you are assembling. So, it makes sense to take it seriously. Unfortunately, partying, skipping class, flunking, and dropping out happens, so, not finishing college makes those parties pretty expensive evenings.
7. Stay in School – You know all that press about monstrous student loan debts and no way to pay them back? It turns out that many of those people had dropped out of college before finishing, therefore, ending up with double the problems – no degree and a sizable debt. However, the many studies that have analyzed why these same students dropped out reveal that no single factor explains every case. Anyone is vulnerable.
Another interesting statistic notes that first generation college students in a family have the highest risk of dropping out! If, for any reason, you are thinking of dropping out, get to the college counseling office and get some help first, because a small change in your organic plan might be all it takes to keep you going so you can finish.
8. Academic Support – If you had ANY academic support of the formal kind in high school you can most likely get some in college, too. Gather up your paperwork, evaluations, 504 Plans, IEPs, anything, take it with you to the college counseling office, and they will help from there. Accommodations can make a huge difference in success in post high school education.
9. Your High School Performance Is Not Your Destiny – High school is not the best years of life for many people, in fact many people are just glad to get OUT of high school. Maybe your grades were marginal, or you didn’t have much for a resume with little time for volunteer work and so forth. The false belief that high school determines your future just holds you back. I know a grown man who did very poorly in high school. He tried college three times, started college over from scratch at the age of 40, and subsequently went on to accomplish a Masters Degree in a very lucrative field. True story! And, by the way, he used student loans to fund a large part of it!
10. Don’t Listen to the Nay Sayers – People have opinions and love to share them, however, this is your plan. You do not need approval from anyone else in the entire world. You just need your plan. Read HERE for a good story about a young woman who found herself deep in college debt, and her remarkable, and do-able, plan for paying it off. She was in a pickle and got herself out in just three or four years. So, if you are strategic and don’t get yourself in a pickle, you know you can deal with the costs of post high school education, too.
What ideas for college success can you add here. I’m sure other readers would like to hear your story.