My Facebook feed is swamped with friends sending their children back to school to begin another year. Summer break might be gone, but the opportunity to plan and prepare for college is just beginning. With the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opening in a few short months, scholarship and admissions deadlines looming, and college savings goals approaching, Fall can be an busy time for families looking to take the next step in their educational journey.

What’s next on the college planning checklist for your family?

If you have younger children, the best thing to do is develop an college funding strategy and college savings plan. Notice those are in a specific order. I work with many families who have started to save, but have set no goals or expectations for what college will look like for their children. Although saving at any point is a good thing, developing a plan beforehand is even better. Here is a short video on developing a college funding strategy:

What is a college funding strategy?

A college funding strategy is the basic conversation (or better, document) that outlines your family’s vision, parameters, and plan for financing college. Developing this document typically starts with a heart-to-heart conversation with your spouse or partner, asking questions such as:

  • What percentage of our child’s projected education expenses will we agree to save for, or finance? (note: this can then be projected forward to develop a savings goal or backward to a monthly savings amount)
  • Are we in agreement regarding the purpose of education after high school?
  • Can we form consensus on our child’s involvement in campus life, outside work arrangements, and extracurricular activities?
  • Do we want our child to acquire student loans?
  • Will we limit our child’s education options by geographic location, prestige, or the schools we attended?
  • What type of degrees, majors, and schools – if any – do we favor for our child?
  • How, and when will we communicate these expectations to our child?

Your college funding strategy is also a guidepost to engage others, for instance, grandparents who want to contribute. You might even decide to involve them in the creation process.

For families approaching college from middle school or high school, your first step is even easier. Simply check out one of our college checklists and start checking items off the list. As you need additional guidance, feel free to schedule a totally free college planning session with me. We can schedule through email at jason@gradmetrics.com.

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