By: Jon Yankee
My wife and I completed (notice, I didn’t say “enjoyed”) the entire process of college planning with my daughter, Jordan, who is in the second semester of her freshman year. Our diligence and care paid off. We are thrilled that she was accepted via early decision to her first-choice school, Colgate University, in upstate New York. It is a joy to watch Jordan settle into her new adventure (and get good grades!). I can say without hesitation that she is in the right place for her!
I would like to share with other parents the parts of the college planning process that I think we did well. Here are key decision points and times that helped us along the way:
College planning starts with saving, and you should begin that as early as possible. I was fortunate to have a grandfather who left me a small inheritance (~$30,000), which I used to open 529 college saving plans for each of my two children (read FJY’s previous blog on 529s for more details). My wife and I were consistent and diligent about saving to these accounts, so the magic of compounded interest could do its thing for the subsequent 18 years. Consider using any windfall you are fortunate enough to experience (inheritance, raise, bonus, promotion) to get started on your own 529(s). The earlier you begin saving, the more dramatic an impact market growth will have on your success.
Line Up Quality SAT/ACT Exam Preparation and Do It Early
Another smart move we made was to find a reputable, high-quality SAT prep course in time for Jordan to take the exams the summer before her senior year. Because she prepared well, she did well and avoided spending parts of her senior year worrying about, studying for, and re-taking the exams multiple times. I know many families who had to juggle school, sports, studying for the SAT/ACT, social life, AND college applications, all during the fall semester of their students’ senior year…a daunting balancing act.
Visit Schools – As Many as Necessary
People may say that we overdid it when it comes to visiting schools. Although some students have a more defined path, Jordan did not have a clear sense of what she wants to study. We had to work with the following criteria for her dream school: “A cold place, a small school, a football team, and no red bricks!” We decided that one way to help Jordan find her fit was to let her see what was out there.
We visited 17 colleges between January of her junior year and the end of the summer before her senior year. Our travels took us to three schools in North Carolina, a few stops in Virginia, a trip out west to Colorado, and, finally, our summer trip through Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts.
We aimed to allow Jordan to consider a broad range of schools—a couple of big ones (to make sure she was sure about the small school thing), a few with very high academic standards, a few in warm weather states, and even some with red brick buildings!
It’s All About Your Child’s Happiness
I have been told by some great friends who are veterans of college planning that every person has a school that is right for her or him. We worked to create every opportunity for Jordan to find her right fit. It was all about her happiness at school, NOT where her parents wanted her to attend.
Is higher education part of your dreams for your family? Contact the financial planners at FJY to turn those dreams into a comprehensive, customized strategy.