Before your student applies to any college, we suggest you discuss the following topics:
The college application
The College Application is the final step in the process, NOT the first step!
Assess Family finances
College is a huge investment in time and resources. You will want to discuss openly what monies have been saved for college, what you as parents are willing to pay, the possibilities of loans and debt, and which colleges are a good fit financially. If you are not comfortable discussing this with your student, you will need to decide on what you are willing to do to support your student.
We have met many parents who are worried that their child is only going to college to get out of the house and party. I have the perfect suggestion for these parents! Discuss your concerns with your student, and offer to make them a deal. If they pick a college that does not make sense financially, you can either tell them No, or you can offer to meet them halfway.
Some of our clients have made a deal that the student may attend the college of their choice and take out a loan to pay for it. If the student graduates with a certain GPA determined by the parent, the parent will pay off the student loan. This is obviously a judgment call by the parent.
Decide whether the student’s desired college is a want or a need.
Why does the student want to attend a certain college? Is it because their boyfriend or their best friend is going to attend there? Is it because they have a great football team or Greek system? Try to get your student to verbalize why they want to attend a certain college. Write a list of pros and cons! Then ask them if their choice makes sense financially, compared to all of their other options. Is it worth starting their adult life with debt?
Determine if the major they pick will pay for their wants and needs after they graduate.
Picking the wrong major can be costly. On average, most students change their major 3 times while attending college. If not done properly or with a plan, these changes can cost you both time and money.
Before your student picks a major, ask them to write down 10 things they are passionate about.
Set that list of passions aside for the time being. But do follow up with asking your student what he or she would like to major in and why. If your student is unsure and has little or no direction, consider that a red flag! I recommend that you work with your student to figure out their passion or seek the advice of a professional. This will cost them time and money. Especially if your child selects a college based on what they “think they want to major in.” Not every college has every major. Picking a college based on a maybe I want to do something attitude is asking for trouble.
Ask your student to pick three majors and make sure each college they apply to offers at least two of their options. Changing majors while in school may mean taking unnecessary classes, which means wasted money.
Majors to consider:
Again, a plan is very important. Finally, based on your specific major, there are plenty of follow up questions to consider:
- What does your student want to do after graduation?
- What are your student’s career goals and aspirations?
Starting with the end in mind will save your student a ton of time and money. If your student picks a career that you know will never be able to pay back their college debt—Consider this another Red Flag!
It is time to start from the beginning and discuss the cost of living on their own and taking care of their family. Try not to shoot down their dreams while still being realistic about their future.
Note the graduation rate of the colleges your student is considering.
Less than 1/3 of all public and non-profit four-year colleges have a 4-year graduation rate of 50% or better. What does this mean to your student? Each additional year will cost more money. Not only will the additional year be an added expense, it will also take money away from your student. No salary for an additional year, no retirement for an additional year, no health insurance for an additional year. A low graduation rate usually means that the college is over-crowded, and students cannot get the classes they need to fulfill their requirements.
Learn about the acceptance rates at the colleges your student would like to apply to.
Acceptance rates show supply and demand for a specific school. A school with a low acceptance rate means that it is in high demand and will most likely not be offering many merit scholarships.
Consider the size of the college.
Approximately three-quarters of all colleges have less than 5,000 undergraduates. Most students prefer colleges larger than 5,000 students. There are many smaller schools than there are large schools. Because the larger schools are better known, they do not have to offer money to compete. You are more likely to get a better financial package at a small school.
Know that other add-ons to college add up.
Beyond tuition as well as room and board, please consider these expenses when completing your budget: Health insurance, gym fees, parking and car registration, activity fees, dorm damage deposit, computer insurance, dorm room stuff, technology fees, lab fees, Greek life, spending money, travel money, and quite possibly the most expensive add-on…the cost of books.
Here is a tool to help you with some of your college planning:
When you buy a house, you hire experts like a realtor, banker, broker, escrow agent, etc. When you pay your taxes, you hire a professional accountant. Trying to navigate this college process alone can make you crazy. The reality is that even with all the information you can find online, you do not know what is reliable. You do not have an expert offering you suggestions on what you can do to NOT go into debt. This process can be scary and overwhelming for your family. But knowledge equals stress relief and savings.
There is so much to know about the college application process and what you do not know will cost you and your student both time and money.
If you would like to save yourself a lot of time and frustration, contact College Ready for a free 30-minute consultation to see if your student can get a FREE or reduced college education, CLICK HERE.