Most of us put off thinking about sending children to college and college readiness until they start high school. And once we start thinking about it, we are easily overwhelmed.
But every family should consider three essential elements of college readiness: parents’ financial ability to afford higher education, a child’s academic preparedness, and a child’s emotional readiness.
Parents’ Financial Readiness. This is the most challenging step for so many families as not everyone has the discretionary income to save. Yet, if it is possible to save, this essential step should start long before a child starts high school. It can make a significant difference in a family’s future. And this is the essential step for which parents must assume primary responsibility.
The best way to start saving for college is to establish a 529 investment account, and this account should be set up as early as possible, even before a child starts kindergarten. The longer families hold onto this tax free account, the more it will grow. Every state offers 529 plans, and most provide tax breaks if families invest in them. Parents can use the 529 plan funds to pay for kindergarten through 12th grade tuition, college, apprenticeship programs, and student loan repayments.
Matthew Masseo of UBS suggests that 529 plans have multiple essential benefits, including:
- Funds can be used to pay for room/board, books, and supplies; not just tuition (verify with CPA).
- The beneficiaries of these funds can be changed to any immediate or extended family member.
- There are no income restrictions on 529 plans.
- 529 plans offer tax free growth if used for qualifying expenses.
- Certain states allow families to deduct contributions to 529 plans from their taxes.
- Anyone can contribute to an established plan.
Academic Preparedness. When considering academic preparedness for college, children should be motivated to embark upon this next step in their academic journey. By exploring their academic interests throughout high school, figuring out their likes and dislikes, figuring out in which areas they excel intellectually and academically, reading to broaden their perspectives on the world, students prepare themselves for the challenges of college. Students must develop strong organizational and study skills in high school, key to academic success in college. And, most significantly, students must develop an ability to become a critical and analytical thinker. This skill is demonstrated through the ability to research, analyze, synthesize, and process information.
Emotional Readiness. Being emotionally prepared for college is as important to academic success as getting good grades. Throughout high school, children must develop confident self-management skills. They must learn to manage stress and multiple deadlines. Children who can overcome negative mindsets, whether it is a fear of being left out or unrealistic expectations about their college experience overall, are the most successful in college. Most importantly, children must learn to be willing to ask for help. If a child feels isolated, lost, unable to keep up academically or socially, it is vital that the child has the confidence and ability to reach out.
Ultimately, getting your child ready for college requires a commitment to growth, a willingness to be open to new perspectives and experiences, and an ability to start saving early.
For academic content support, to build study skills, executive functioning skills, and overall academic confidence, contact GAMECHANGER Tutoring Connection.
For more information about financial planning for college, contact Matthew Masseo.