April 28, 2020
To an eighth or ninth grader, college may seem like a journey to be taken in the far distant future, but parents know that time moves much more quickly than their children can imagine. Parents also understand that preparing for college begins early. The key to success, however, lies in getting the child to understand it.
Do the math
Hopefully, your child has already established good work habits. If not, it’s time to help them understand how important it is to never slack off. One way to communicate this is to show your child the math. Explain how a grade point average works. Make sure your child focuses on the fact they have four years to contribute to or detract from that average. Then, show what happens to a beautiful 3.9 GPA if a good student slacks off just one semester.
Another important aspect of preparing your child for college is doing the math on how much money a college education will cost. If you have a 529 college savings plan, explain how much you have contributed and how much the fund is growing. Research the tuition costs of colleges your child could be interested in so that they understand just how much you are investing in their future. If you haven’t already opened a 529 plan, consider opening one now and contributing as much as you can. It’s never too late to start saving.
Elizabeth Giuliani is saving for her teenage children’s college expenses with a 529 college savings plan. She wants to make sure there is at least a financial beginning for their education, and she is enlisting her children as co-savers.
“Our children contribute with some of their birthday money and money they earn from jobs because it helps them learn to take on some of the financial responsibility. I show them the statements, so they know this is an investment in their future,” Giuliani said.
Make a plan
Help your child develop a four-year plan. If possible, set up a meeting for you and your child with a college counselor as soon as your child enters high school. The counselor can show you the challenging classes that colleges will want to see on transcripts. Your child also needs to understand how important it is that they get to know their teachers and that they ask for help as soon as they realize they need it.
Later in high school, your child should plan to take preparation classes for standardized tests, such as the SAT and, if possible, try to find an internship in an area that corresponds with what they think their career goals may be.
Make a good impression
Your child will want to put their best foot forward throughout high school. That means cleaning up social media so that any online presence is professional and admissions-worthy.
Of course, your child will also need to participate in extra-curricular activities and volunteering. Explain that not only are these activities impressive, but they’ll also help them find a passion and a place to lead.
Encourage your child to attend college fairs and meetings when they are offered and be sure they visit all schools that they are interested in attending. Schools will take note of which students are interested enough to make official visits to their campuses.
Most of all, enjoy your child’s high school years! And prepare for the college years by contributing to a 529 college savings plan.
About the author
Curtis Loftis is the State Treasurer of South Carolina. He also serves as the administrator of South Carolina’s Future Scholar 529 College Savings Plan. Visit treasurer.sc.gov or futurescholar.com for more information on ways to save through a 529 plan.