College: OMG! Good Thing I’ve Done all the Research for You

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StressedIf you had told me when I was 25 that I would one day spend the better part of a week considering the pros and cons of a 15-student SAT course versus a one-on-one, I would have told you that you’re crazy. But now that my daughter Abby is getting ready to apply for college, I’m finding that the list of things to think about and research is only growing (for the record, we ended up choosing a 4-student class). There’s just so much involved with college prep these days, and even though we started early, with easy activities like visiting universities during family holidays when Abby was younger, it can be hard to feel confident that you’ve covered and prepared for everything.

In this article, I’ve tried to put together some solid information on a variety of topics that are relevant to your child’s college journey. I’ve found a lot of this to be useful in our own planning and decision-making for Abby and I want to pass along some of the important issues we’ve considered and the lessons we’ve learned (and have yet to learn).

Although there is an abundance of information out there, I hope the resources here can be of help to you and reduce any stress and feelings of not knowing where to start and what you should be doing next, so that you can enjoy the college prep process for what it is: an incredible and important milestone in both your life and your child’s life. Make sure you click through all the  links in this article so you can get the most out of it!

Financial Planning

Saving for College will give you an overview of the different savings accounts you can use for your child, and some of the benefits and special considerations for each one. I chose the 529 plan for my kids when they were very young, but another option might be better for you.

Already at the application phase? Eight Tips for Reducing the Financial Burden of College is geared both for parents of students who are already applying and for those who are thinking ahead. There’s so much to consider when planning a financial strategy for college, and this article covers some of the most critical basics, such as residency, tax breaks and federal programs, and investment strategies.

Check out A Winning Strategy for College Scholarships for even more practical advice. This article outlines 6 important tips about making the most of you child’s scholarship and financial aid opportunities, including how to get them involved and things to think about when applying to colleges.

Wealth Management also has some great tips for tackling financial aid, and I recommend the article The Ticking Time Bomb, which directly addresses common pitfalls that people experience in filling out (or forgetting about!) the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It’s written by Lynn O’Shaughnessy, bestselling author of The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price and Shrinking The Cost of College, a workbook for families looking to reduce the price tag of higher education. You might find the book to be a useful resource as you plan your child’s college journey.

Finally, no article about college would be complete without mentioning The College Board, a very informative website devoted to higher education.

ACT vs. SAT

Which admissions test is the right fit for your child? The Princeton Review and Peterson’s both have quick guides that highlight the main features of each test and give some guidance on deciding which is best for your child (most universities accept either). While  the ACT and SAT are similar in many ways, there are some differences that might help you strategize so that your child’s abilities are best highlighted. However, a lot of kids take both tests, so you don’t have to choose just one. In our case, Abby is taking the SAT for now, but she might take the ACT later on as well. Also, you might find this ACT/SAT score conversion chart helpful when trying to understand how each test score is equivalent to one another.

Application Time

Applying for College outlines the general application process and timeline that you’ll most likely be facing. This article also sheds some light on important topics that can be confusing for many people, such as the differences between various early admissions programs and their potential costs and benefits.

Peterson’s also has a wealth of articles about choosing a college and the application process. Clicking through these links could help you strategize any current applications and help you prepare for the future if your child is younger.

While it can feel overwhelming at times, the college application process can be smoother and more manageable with some strategizing, good information, and planning. I hope these resources can be of help to you, and I wish all of us good luck as we prepare to send our kids into the next chapter of their lives!
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photo credit: katiew via photopin cc
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To learn about retirement savings, download my free eBook, “10 Tips You Need to Know About Your IRA Rollover.” This short book is packed with critical information that will help you make the right decisions about your retirement savings.

Written by Bradford Pine
Bradford Pine Wealth Group – New York City Financial Advisors

The views and opinions expressed in an article or column are the author’s own and not necessarily those of Cantella & Co., Inc. It was prepared for informational purposes only. It is not an official confirmation of terms. It is based on information generally available to the public from sources believed to be reliable but there is no guarantee that the facts cited in the foregoing material are accurate or complete.

Comments may not be representative of the experience of other investors. Investor comments and experiences are not indicative of future performance or results. Views and opinions expressed in the comments section are the author’s own and not those of Cantella & Co., Inc. No one posting a comment has been compensated for their opinions.

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