Paying For College For Dummies
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If you’re thinking of sending your child to college one day (or attending college yourself), you have a lot of decisions to make: how to save money for college, which colleges may be a good fit, whether an alternative to a four-year college may be a better option, plus seeking financial aid, scholarships, and grants. Paying For College For Dummies can help you make the most of your money and guide you through the decisions of choosing which post-high school path is right for your child.

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Saving and schooling options: Tips to guide you through college decisions

  • The prices at four-year colleges and universities, especially private ones, are daunting to most people. So, you should absolutely, positively look around, inspect, and compare to see what you’re getting for all that money.
  • Increasing numbers of alternatives to traditional four-year colleges offer students lower-cost and shorter-term programs. Take some time to find out and consider what’s out there and compare those options to the best traditional colleges you’re considering.
  • Raising children is a long-term and costly endeavor. So, get your personal finances in top shape to run this financial marathon. You should also understand how colleges set prices based upon your financial situation, as that may impact how you save and invest your money.
  • As your kids grow up, be sure to expose them to important money lessons, including helping them to make the connection between working and earning money.
  • A challenging and rewarding part of raising kids is helping them recognize and develop their talents and abilities. Be careful not to steer them in a particular way thinking that may make them more attractive to certain colleges. More often than not, such perceptions aren’t correct. Teach your kids the value of hard work, integrity, and developing their strengths and interests.
  • There’s no substitute for visiting and investigating colleges and other programs of interest. Set aside time with your teen to discuss a process for checking out schools and what factors — including the cost and expected benefits — will influence the final selection.
  • Where appropriate and cost-effective, enlist experts to help with evaluating and applying to colleges. Understand the strengths and limitations of school-based counselors and outside experts. Spending lots of money won’t necessarily lead to better outcomes.
  • Understand how colleges collect and evaluate your personal and financial information to decide how much to charge you.
  • Four-year colleges are certainly one of the most popular options for high school graduates. But there are others including community colleges, trade schools, apprenticeships, boot camps, last-mile programs, and more. Visit schools, take tours, ask lots of questions, and do your homework on each.
  • Generally speaking, parents will be better off regarding financial aid applications and college pricing if they save and invest in their own names (as opposed to their kid’s) and take advantage of retirement savings plans.
  • Financial aid forms can be intimidating and tedious to complete. Understand how to complete those forms accurately and to your best advantage.
  • Colleges are the biggest purveyors of grants and scholarships — which are really a reduced price offered to those deemed in need of financial aid or displaying academic or some other merit (for example, sports). While some outside scholarships are significant, most are relatively small in amount and often reduce the amount of aid a given school will provide your family.
  • Ideally, your teenager will gain acceptance to multiple schools, which enables comparing the value (price and quality) offered by each to one another. You should also realize that you may be able to improve upon the financial aid offered by a given college.
  • Conduct more due diligence before making your final decision, which should include more campus visits.
  • Federal and state tax codes include numerous tax breaks for college expenditures. Find out what’s out there so you can take advantage of what you’re eligible for.
  • Getting through college in a timely fashion can greatly reduce your costs of attendance. Be sure you understand how to evaluate your likelihood of completing a given college program in four years.
  • As your teenagers enter young adulthood, be sure you’re sending them off with the financial skills and knowledge they can use and benefit from for the rest of their lives.
  • Know how to best deal with student loans. In addition to keeping track of them, be sure you’re aware of the myriad programs that help reduce your interest costs and repayment.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Eric Tyson, MBA, is a renowned finance counselor, syndicated columnist, and author of numerous bestselling financial titles.

Tony Martin, B.Comm, is a nationally-recognized personal finance, speaker, commentator, columnist, management trainer, and communications consultant. He is the co-author of Personal Finance For Canadians For Dummies.

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