At kitchen tables across the U.S., families are having conversations on how to pay for college. For many parents and guardians, there is an emotional attachment to the idea of supporting their child through the collegiate years, and that desire to want to help should be met with a strategy to get college ready.
Drawing from personal experience, preparing for college can be a mixed bag for many parents. Parents have the foresight to help their child plan for expected expenses like tuition, room and board, and a monthly cell phone bill. Some parents may soon realize that unanticipated expenses can rack up quickly, sometimes prompting uncomfortable conversations with their child on the importance of being budget-conscious.
Because conversations about expenses are an important step in preparing for college, here are three tips that could help parents, families and guardians to get college ready.
Explore free online resources. Wells Fargo’s Get College Ready website, https://wellsfargo.com/getcollegeready, helps students and parents financially prepare for college and make informed decisions around credit, insurance needs, budgeting and money management. At the site, visitors will find features like a college cost calculator that can help estimate how much a student may need to borrow for college, an easy-to-follow guide on financial aid requirements, and a feature to monitor spending habits and set budgeting goals. More information can be found on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #GetCollegeReady.
Discuss the financial picture. Having an honest and transparent conversation about family finances and the costs associated with college can be a good way for your child to understand how vested you are in helping them successfully reach their higher education goals. Before your child heads-off to college in the fall, consider scheduling a monthly family meeting to discuss any college-related financial matters. It may also be worthwhile to create and circulate an agenda beforehand to help guide the conversation and give your child enough time to research in advance any items you’d like to discuss. If your child is already away at college, consider having a monthly video finance conference call. Establishing a regularly scheduled financial discussion early on could make it easier for the family to quickly come together and decide on a course of action if there were an unforeseen financial hardship.
Don’t underestimate the value of scholarships. Scholarships are free money – you don’t have to pay it back. They can be used to help pay for books, tuition, computers, commuting and other school-related expenses. Scholarships aren’t just for incoming freshmen, athletes or star academics. There are scholarships that reward students who have a unique talent, an inventive spirit, or who have overcome personal obstacles and challenges. One great resource to research scholarships is www.TuitionFundingSources.com. It’s the largest scholarship database in the U.S. and according to the website, on average, 5,000 new scholarship awards are added to the database each month.
Find the deals. It’s important to be on the lookout for interest rate deals, discounts, or special promotions being offered by financial institutions on consumer loans like private student loans or auto loans. By researching and taking advantage of various financial product offerings, students, parents and families could experience significant cost savings.
As a family, chances are you’ve worked hard to support your child emotionally and financially, and your child may have worked equally hard to position themselves for what lies ahead of their high school years. By investing time in exploring and testing a variety of cost-saving measures, you just might alleviate some of those difficult “how to pay for college” conversations at the dinner table.
Darryl Montgomery is the Wells Fargo regional president for Greater Houston.