The Five Best Reasons For Starting EARLY With College Preparation… Both Financial And Otherwise

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The new year is now in full swing, and since we are in the early stages of 2015 we thought it would be an ideal time to focus a newsletter on one of our favorite (and often, sadly, ignored) topics… getting things moving EARLY with college preparation!

Yes, it may seem like a refrain that parents have heard from many sources over many years, but this old chestnut still holds plenty of truth. We see it in every aspect of our college preparation work, and starting early on all fronts is one of the most effective engines for creating a successful preparation for a student’s higher education.

It honestly affects every aspect of the college preparation exercise, as well… not just academics, not just finances, but literally all of the moving parts work better when a family gets an early jump on things. This does not mean that all is lost if a family gets a later start, necessarily, but it does tend to limit how effective the student will be in applying for colleges and universities.

Time For Your Child To Develop… EARLY

Parents of elementary school parents often think that it is too early to start thinking about their child’s college education… but they would be wrong. It’s honestly never too early to start! The early years are a time to observe your child and discover what his or her interests and strengths are and to begin the thought process about funding a child’s education in the future.

With regard to getting kids thinking about college, it is not necessary to be overbearing or strict in the approach. The early years are obviously not the time to start talking about essay writing or degree choices, but it is absolutely the appropriate time to start asking what types of things are exciting and fun for them, both academically and otherwise.

Perhaps your child is excelling in mathematics. You might consider enrolling your child in after school math programs. Does your child love to play an instrument? Start with music lessons, and encourage their growth! It is difficult – or impossible – to know exactly the direction in which each child will go, but that is not the point… the most important thing is that there is a lot that parents can do that can help in the development and talents and aptitudes of their children. Instilling a love of learning and growth is one thing that will be of great benefit for them in high school, in college, and further in the future.

Starting your child early in clubs, after school activities and lessons where s/he shows the most promise will give him or her the head start this is so essential for success in college. Studies have shown that children who excel early often tend to continue to excel throughout their academic career.

College admissions committees are looking for applicants with varied interests. It is always very interesting to them when a child stands out in a particular area. This, of course, takes time to develop excellence. This is why it is so important to observe and nurture those budding interests and abilities of your child. Not everything will stick, (and honestly, remember that not everything needs to stick!), but it will certainly help to provide a clearer picture of what his or her interests are and where s/he excels.

Starting Late Can Lead to Unintended Consequences

If there is one thing we know it is that college is not getting any cheaper. Estimates for a state school are reaching as high as $25,000 per year in some areas, while private schools are often twice… that if not more. Planning early will help to ensure that parents have the resources they need for their child’s college education.

Starting a college savings plan that will maximize potential financial aid early can play a part in the preparation, but doing so must be managed properly or it can literally cost thousands of dollars… not only from potential compound interest, but from managing the funds improperly. Regardless, even a smaller amount started earlier – and managed appropriately – will earn more than socking away more cash but at a later date. It pays, literally, to save (properly) early on, and to make sure that the savings are managed well with regard to college financial preparation.

Early Preparation = Peace of Mind

There is no question about it, planning for college is stressful. Just filling out the FAFSA forms is often enough for any parent to start reaching for the headache medicine. Starting these steps early gives a family more time to prepare properly for all of the necessary steps that will lie ahead.

Talking to other parents of college age children can be a resource for discovering how the process worked for their family (or didn’t work, in some unfortunate cases), and gives an idea as to what will need to be prepared.

Starting early will give parents the opportunity to chart out the course in advance. Parents can then keep notes and files regarding the different requirements that will need to be completed- the earlier one starts, the less stressful the process becomes.

Keep Abreast of Changes

Laws change regularly and financial aid laws and tax laws change with little attention from most Americans. Starting early will give parents a clear view of what is currently happening right now with college funding. Staying current with these changes will be a massive boon to parents who are already in the know right from the start.

Tax laws also change with little notice, and these things can definitely affect financial aid packages and eligibility. Understanding what is happening with changing tax laws will certainly keep you informed and ahead of the game.

Starting Early Sets The Expectations – On Both Sides!

If the talk of college happens very early with your child, the expectation that college is just a part of his or her future becomes firmly embedded. In 2011, The Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that less than 70% of high school graduates went on to attend college. With the necessity of a college degree to attain many jobs in this current job market, that leaves a significant amount of young people who are left to take traditionally lower-paying jobs.

When college is discussed and expected from a very early age with your child then your child understands that college is a very important part of life and a desirable milestone to be achieved. Enthusiastically discussing the benefits of a college degree will make an indelible mark on a child in a positive way. On the other hand, it also serves as a reminder to parents that this monumental even is looming in the future, and it is important to prepare for it!

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