It’s Not Cheap
College isn’t cheap. Even community college can put a dent in a parent’s monthly household income if they haven’t been able to save for it. If you’re not rich, you must find ways to pay for it. There are lots of scholarships out there to pursue, but there are criteria that must be met to earn them. Start checking out prospective college financial aid offices early. Ask about institutional scholarships. If you state has an education lottery, go online to learn about state scholarships and the criteria for qualifications.
Have your child make a list of colleges he/she is interested in attending. Learn about the total cost of attendance for them (including fees and books) so you won’t be blindsided, especially if it’s your first rodeo. This gives parents a heads up about how much they must contribute to tuition, or they can begin working with their child on their plan to locate and secure scholarships and grants to attend the college. The lack of financial aid is the primary reason kids dropout of college. Be ye ready for the tuition bills.
It’s Takes Tests To Get Into Them
Getting into college isn’t easy. Most parents forget about the college entrance exams (ACT or SAT). To get into college, your child will need to secure a certain test scores. If your child receives free or reduced lunch or you know who are eligible for free or reduced lunch, ask the guidance counselor for fee waiver vouchers to take the tests. Both SAT and ACT offer fee waivers for low-income students. These test waivers aren’t advertised by most schools, so you must go to the guidance office to secure them, or you can contact programs like Upward Bound, Talent Search or Gear Up to see if your child can join programs that help ready teens for college.
College prep testing is stressful. Don’t wait until the last minute to work on test prep. There are lots of free test prep sites and resources like Khan Academy, SAT, and ACT Academy. Start the free online test prep your child’s sophomore year so your child will be familiar with testing junior and senior year. The more practice your child gets, the higher the scores could be. Don’t be the parent trying to do it all your child’s senior year and fail. If you can’t afford tutors and expensive academies for your, do what you can. There are alternatives.
It’s Not For Everyone
College isn’t for everyone. Some kids need a gap year or two before enrolling in a trade school or postsecondary education. Some kids barely made it out of high school, asking them to enroll in college is not always a good thing. They may find work that doesn’t involve college because they are tired of school. We overrate college these days, and it doesn’t offer the return on investment (ROI) it used to. Kids go to college for two or four years and then the job market changes. My kid graduated college and worked part time with his employers for almost 2 years. It was after the last recession. We can have the best intentions, but there are some people in the world who insist on making life hard for the rest of us.
Forcing your kids to go to college when they tell you they don’t want to could be a waste of time and money for your family. Consider other alternatives such as apprenticeships before giving up on college altogether. There are many ways to learn, and a child may go to college later after living some. That’s just fine, don’t let other parents make you feel bad because your child chose a different route to join the workforce.
Look At Scholarships
There are millions of scholarships (see the link above) for high school and college students. Parents should begin looking at scholarships when their child reaches their junior year of high school. Scholarships are often awarded based upon state academic achievement in addition to future career goals. If you can’t pay for school, there are plenty of other ways to pay for it. You need to work with school officials, search your local libraries, the school district, investigate local and state colleges and universities, and search legitimate scholarship sites to find opportunities for your child. Fraternities, sororities, and faith groups offer great opportunities to pursue renewable college funding. Don’t overlook free money.
Finding scholarships to meet your needs is like looking for a job when you don’t have one. It’s that serious. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. And don’t rely on your teenager to do anything without prodding and oversight. If you depend on your teen to find scholarships, they probably won’t get any, especially if they have a smart phone.
It’s Okay To Ask For Help
I used to work in a college financial aid office. There is always something to know about paying for college. Ask questions. Make an appointment with financial aid offices at colleges and universities your child is interested in attending. Every school has their own list of scholarships and endowments. You won’t know what’s available if you don’t ask. It’s worth the time.
It’s Okay To Say No
Start having conversations with your child about money early so your child won’t get his/her dreams dashed at the last minute. If you can’t afford the dream college or university your child wants to attend, just say you can’t afford it. Say no, it’s okay. Be honest about your finances. Don’t send your kid to a college for reasons that have nothing to do with the degree they want to pursue. Some kids will want to go to a college with a good sports team, but the school doesn’t have degree they desire to pursue. Just say no. You’ll be tasked with trying to piece-meal an education for your child with no guarantee of oversight or student support, and you can’t trust the college will do the right thing to help you achieve your goals.
You can’t count on your kid to be responsible much either. Freshmen year of college is the 13th grade for many of them. They still need monitoring.
You as the parent must make the best choices to support your child based on a lot of different circumstances and scenarios, including your finances. Don’t be guilted into making a choice both you and your child could spend a lifetime paying for. Get an education you can afford. A big fancy name doesn’t mean your kid will make more money and it doesn’t even guarantee a job anymore. Make wise choices and extend your life.
It’s Okay To Choose Your Method of Payment Wisely
You may have figured out a way to pay for college within your budget long ago, but your kid comes up with a new plan, a new school, in a new state, which comes with an out-of-state tuition rate you weren’t prepared for. The change in plan comes with frantic parents taking out lots of private student loans and PLUS loans to cover outrageous tuition costs for an education that will probably never pay for itself. Parents must understand how student loans work.
My personal advice for parents is not to co-sign for your child’s student loans if you can’t afford it and don’t take on loans you’re unable to spend the next 20–25 years paying off. Your child will have more time to pay off the debt than you will, and you could literally spend a lifetime taking care of your adult child’s college debts. Meanwhile, you’re killing yourself working. Is it worth all that?
Parents won’t have to begin repaying loans until the kid graduates from colleges (6 months after graduation) or at least 6 months after the child has completely stopped attending classes, but depending on how much your child borrowed, you could spend the rest of your life paying the loan(s) off. Think long and hard about student loans. If you lose your income or get ill, the loans will still need to be paid. Have a plan.
There Is Nothing Wrong With Community College
Children pick colleges for dumb reasons. I know kids who selected colleges because they had a good football or basketball team, a pretty campus, a great band, cool school gear swag, or other superficial and entertainment reasons which have absolutely nothing to do with the purpose of attending college. If you can’t afford $30,000-$40,000 per year in tuition, tell your kids the truth and start telling them early. If you and your child aren’t planning on doing the scholarship shuffle, then perhaps you should consider community colleges.
Community colleges are less expensive than state and private colleges and universities, they are local so kids can commute if they need to stay at home, and most community colleges allow students to earn college credits transferable to state and private colleges.
Earning college credits at a 2-year college then transferring to four-year school can save parents thousands of dollars, and a 4-year community college is even better. Don’t make college be more complicated than it is. College is about your child getting an education to prepare them for the workforce, nothing more. So don’t be guilted into feeling less than if you can’t afford Stanford, Brown, Howard, University of Florida, or MIT.
It’s Okay To Not Have All The Answers
People will make you feel bad because you don’t know all the answers about getting your child into and out of college. Something changes with the college admission process annually, so it’s impossible to know everything. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Have no shame. If you want something ask for it. If you need something, ask about it. Make connections early. Visit colleges early. Do your own research online. If you don’t understand something, pick up the phone and make a call. Having worked in a college for nine years, I recommend showing up in person. Keep names, notes, and dates too, because people will give you wrong information, leaving you in a pickle.
At the end of the day, we are all on the same team. If you and your child succeeds, I succeed too. Have questions, feel free to ask below. If I can’t answer them, I’ll point you in the right direction.
2019 Marley K. All rights reserved.