And ideally, they’ll do it when their students are in middle school for the best results.
The first step for designing any plan is to “start with the end in mind,” advised Stephen Covey in his bestseller, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”
That’s true of college planning, too…especially if you earn too much for financial aid.
Before families can create a plan and know which strategies to follow, they need to know what they are trying to achieve.
The first step in creating a plan that covers getting into college and paying for college is for each parent to get very clear about their own values and priorities and to then share those objectives with the other parent.
That may sound simple, or even obvious. But it often isn’t.
Happily married couples (and happily co-parenting adults) may THINK they know where the other parent stands but they may not.
Getting into college is one thing. Paying for it is another. ®
Everything stems from that answer.
Let me share a story.
Recently, a dad was referred to me by his financial planner. The family was already working with a very popular private college counselor but wanted to be sure his daughter, a high school senior, was doing the right things to win institutional merit scholarships – the renewable, often large type of merit scholarships. She had strong SAT scores and a very high GPA.
The dad booked a private 90-minute custom assessment for his daughter. When I asked if his top priority for the meeting was to learn what to do to lower the cost of college, or whether they wanted strategic advice to help Molly get admitted to specific schools. He said he was very worried about the cost of college and wanted to know what Molly needed to do to lower college costs. Like so many other parents, he had nightmares about Molly getting into colleges the family couldn’t pay for.
Great, I thought. We’ll focus on how to lower the cost of college using Molly’s achievements and efforts in a variety of ways, including how to get institutional merit scholarships, which schools to add to Molly’s college list because they’ll cost less, and where to find private merit scholarships.
At the start of the family’s assessment, however, Molly’s mother announced that she was fully prepared to spend whatever was necessary. Her priority was Molly getting admitted to highly selective colleges. Cost was not an issue.
So, the family was in a stalemate. We had a conflict.
The reality is that for families that don’t qualify for financial aid, it isn’t possible to send our kids to the most competitive colleges AND pay less for college.
Ivy League and other highly selective colleges do not offer merit scholarships.
Families need to choose their priority.
Molly’s parents both presumed they had the same priority. But they didn’t. They actually had opposite goals.
Before you can create a plan to pay less for college, you need to be very clear about your objectives and communicate those values to the other parent.
The first step in creating a plan that covers getting into college and paying for college is for each parent to get very clear about their own values and priorities and to then share those objectives with the other parent
The first step in paying less for college is creating a plan that begins with your objectives. There isn’t a one-plan fits all colleges…or all students.
To get clear on your values and goals regarding paying for college, consider:
Once you’re clear on your family’s priority, you can design a follow an effective plan. But remember, you do need to have a goal before identifying the right strategies to get there.
What’s the second step? Letting your student know if the cost of college will be a factor in where they go to college.
I urge you to be honest. If college cost matters, tell your student as soon as possible so they don’t falsely believe they can go to any college they get into.
Rest assured. There are indeed strategies to reach your goals as long as you start soon enough and are prepared for your student to take specific steps.
(We’re launching a new movement around empowering families to lower the cost of college. The whole college landscape needs to change but until it does, we parents must protect our families and control the cost of college for our own families. Because college cost matters! Join our movement here.)