For parents and students summertime is a time of vacations, no school, and great weather – generally an all around good time to kick back and relax. If you have a college bound student anytime in the next few years, there are some real opportunities that you are going to waste if you don’t do some active planning during the school break.
First, you should be clear that if you do not have a large six figure investment account set aside for college, if somehow the last 16 or 17 years flew by as did your good intentions for saving for your child’s education, then you are in need of “short-term” college planning. While this planning will even work for parents with kids already in college, ideally we like to see moms and dads of sophomores and juniors. I am always amazed when I get the question from the parents of Freshmen, Sophomores and Juniors if it is too soon to come see us for planning. My standard response is “I wish you would have come in 10 years ago- NO, IT IS NEVER TOO SOON!”
There is income planning, asset planning, and college aid profiling that can be done if you start today. With every passing day the opportunities for increasing financial aid may be passing you by. Summer time is the best time for parents of sophomores and juniors to be preparing for the strategies as many of these things need to be wrapped up before you base financial year starts.
Summer is also a great time to put your kids to work. If you have the opportunity to receive financial aid (if you don’t know, you better find out and DON’T ASSUME) your child can earn up to $ 2577 without negatively affecting your financial aid. If you are a Category III and will not qualify for financial aid, there are no limits on what the student may earn. Having your child earn money to pay for their incidental expenses is a great way to have them participate in this major expense you are about to incur for their future. Having some “skin” in the game may be a good way to see the importance of this nest step of their academic career. Use the 50-50 rule (or some derivation) which allows them to keep half for spending money today and half gets saved for college. This also instills wonderful saving disciplines that will last a lifetime.
This is also a good time for juniors to review test scores and academic short comings. Increasing SAT and ACT scores by even a couple of points can open up admissions to schools that may be out of reach with current scores. More schools mean more opportunity to find financial aid. There are great companies around that specialize in helping students improve their SAT and ACT test taking skills. It may be money well spent.
If working is not in your child’s summer plans, then volunteering should be. Remember schools are looking at the complete student picture, not just their academic prowess. Volunteering can certainly add value to a college application and may possibly give you opportunities for additional aid.
As you can see, while summertime is a great time to enjoy, it is also a great time to get your college planning in gear. Don’t let this time pass by without doing anything, because as you know, it will before you know it!
Sending children to college is a major life transition for families. For many it will be the most expensive time of their lives and if not handled properly, could cost them their retirement. Remember, you shouldn’t have to choose between your child’s college and your retirement.
Scott Moffitt is the President and CEO of Summit Financial Group, Inc. and Summit College Funding. He is one of the nation’s authority on short term college planning. You may visit his web site at http://www.summitohio.com