Seven in 10 parents who have children younger than age 18 worry about how they’ll pay for college, according to Gallup polls taken in 2015 and previously. Our advice? Get a head start by setting aside money early and often.
The Gerber Life College Plan, for example, provides a safe and easy way to put money aside for college while also providing adult life insurance protection.
Although cost is an important consideration when planning for college, it’s certainly not the only one. The following timeline serves as a helpful guide through the college-planning process, from baby’s high chair to high school graduation.
From Birth to Preschool
- Compare the different ways to pay for college and decide which would work best for your child and family.
- Start setting aside money for college as soon as possible. The earlier you start, the more money you'll have for college.
- Read, play and talk with your child. Engaged families raise children who will likely become successful, according to the Harvard Family Research Project.1
- Take an active role in your child's education.
During Elementary and Middle School
- Continue to squirrel away money for college. Make sure that the funds are growing to your expectations.
- Encourage your child to pursue activities that interest her or him. Extracurricular activities also look good on a college application.
- Continue to spend quality time with your child, and take an active role in his or her education.
During High School
- Now is the time to kick your college planning into high gear.
In the 9th Grade:
- Consider enrolling your child in Advanced Placement (AP) courses for college credit. AP courses can help reduce the overall cost of college by enabling your child to earn college credit while still in high school.
- Encourage your child to start considering career options. What might your child like to do? To study? Where?
- Stress the importance of studying and getting good grades. Your child's grade point average (GPA) will play a role in his or her admittance into his or her college of choice.
In the 10th Grade:
- Encourage your child to meet with a school counselor to discuss college/technical school options.
- Consider the options for college preparatory tests, such as the Preliminary SAT (PSAT).
- Attend any college-planning workshops or events at your child's school.
- Continue to encourage your child to consider career and college/technical school options.
- Encourage your child to get a part-time job. Working can help students build confidence and time-management skills, in addition to providing a way to earn money toward future college costs, according to The College Board.
In the 11th Grade:
- In the spring, make sure that your child is registered for the SAT and/or the ACT exams.
- Start narrowing down the college choices. Obtain applications and visit prospective colleges/technical schools with your child, if possible.
- Encourage your child to research scholarships that may be available. (The deadline for some scholarship applications is the summer between the 11th and 12th grades.)
In the 12th Grade:
- Encourage your child to keep studying hard. Curb any "senioritis" by reminding your child that his or her senior grades can affect scholarship eligibility.
- Remind your child to solicit letters of recommendation long before college applications are due.
- Work with your child to prepare college applications, paying special attention to instructions and deadlines.
- If your child has been accepted by various colleges, review and compare the offers together, based on total cost and student aid available.
Whether your child’s journey leads to college or elsewhere, planning ahead as a family can help him or her to get there.
1 “Family Involvement Makes a Difference in School Success,” 2006, Harvard Family Research Project