College Planning

Pro-Active College Planning…

Helping You Reduce the Cost of College

college-student-talking-with-edges.jpgWhen people find out that I am a financial planner who focuses on college planning the most common comment I get is “Yeah I’m putting money into a U.Plan for my children so I’m all set.” While 529 Plans (the U.Plan is Massachusetts’ Pre-paid Plan) are in general a good investment vehicle to help families begin the planning process for college funding they certainly are not the only way to cover the cost of college. They can be a part of the overall plan to fund college, however depending on your family’s financial situation they may not have the impact that you are expecting. As with all goals in life it is important to put a plan in place before you start working towards that goal.

What is your plan to pay for college?

How can I put together a plan to pay for college when I don’t know what school my child will attend? This leaves the question of how much I need to save and where I should invest it unanswered?

I think we can all see the problem with the above statement. While it is true that we don’t know where our child will apply or even be accepted we certainly know that the sooner we begin to save for college the easier it will be to accumulate enough to pay for their education. So how much will you need to pay for your children’s college education? Where should you invest those funds to provide you with growth for the long term, flexibility to attend the school of their choice and penalty free access just in case an emergency should happen? All of these questions and more should be addressed by your college plan. So what is involved in building a college plan?

College planning consists of three equally important areas:

Academic Positioning

The very first step in planning for college is to determine what school your student would like to attend and what the academic requirements are to gain admittance. There a plenty of tools out there available to today’s students to help them determine which college or university is right for them. They can be found on the web, your high school guidance counselor and college planning advisors to name a few. The key feature to look for in these tools is the ability to map the student’s interests, values, skills and personality to a career and then create a list of potential colleges that will ideally prepare the student for the types of careers the student would be interested in.

Financial Positioning

Once the potential list of schools has been compiled and narrowed down, the total cost of attendance must be determined. The total cost of attendance is then used to develop a financial plan so that when your student is ready for college the funds will be available. There are over 100 strategies available to families with college bound students that can dramatical reduce a families college expense. However many of these strategies require a pro-active approach to your student’s college planning. The sooner you begin the financial planning process, the greater the number of possibilities available to reach the student’s college funding goal.

Application Process

Lastly the application process must begin and follow a very precise path. The student and parents have to make sure the correct forms are filled out properly and by the deadlines set by the schools of choice. These forms must all be filled out accurately, timely and consistently. If not it can delay or even eliminate your financial aid award. In addition to the financial forms that must be completed the student has a number of activities that they must complete in a timely manner. Students these days have to be very organized to ensure that they cover all their basis. They need to be well prepared to sit for their SATs and AP exams as well as write their college essays and lists of accomplishments. All of this must be completed while the student is still hard at work maintaining their grade point average, class standing and extracurricular activities.

College planning for most families is a very important and expensive part of their financial lives. It impacts all other aspects of a families financial health and because of this it is crucial for families to build a strong goal oriented plan. Unfortunately in todays information age the amount of information bombarding families from the financial and educational community is overwhelming. Families are being financially pressured from all sides often resulting in a haphazard approach to college and financial planning. This sort of haphazard approach to college planning can cost a family thousands to tens of thousands of dollars in financial aid for their college bound student. In some extreme cases parents have even negatively impacted their own retirement assets for the benefit of their children’s education.

We Can Help

We work with our clients to help them in all stages of the college planning process. Our first step is to determine what their college funding goals are and their current financial situation. With this financial snapshot in hand and goals in mind we begin the process of putting together a plan to reach their college funding targets. We provide tools to help the students determine what careers most closely align with their desires and aspirations. This helps us narrow down the the field of colleges and determine a target cost of attendance. Now the planning begins. We work with our clients to assist them in building an academic plan as well as a financial plan to reach their college funding goal. We also have access to a really powerful online tool to help the student navigate the application process.

Ideally the sooner a family begins the process of planning their children’s college education the easier it is to reach their desired goals. So if you are ready to get started today contact us to set up a free no obligation consultation.

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