Even working as a professional tutor (his father) and a college consultant (that’s me), when our son, Iirum, was born, ‘college planning’ became a real issue in our household. College planning is not a topic we can simply teach as theory to our students and their parents at a seminar: we had to learn how to live by what we preach.
Something we, as parents, also have to keep in mind is, the more money we spend for our kids’ college education, the less money we will have left in our pocket for retirement. However, I am not just talking about opening up “529 College Savings Accounts” nor purchasing other financial planning products. Studies show that our kids are growing into increasingly more competitive and academically challenging environment, yet our kids are learning less and getting into more debt for their college degree than ever before. If we keep going down to this path, is a college degree really worth the money?
Smart and early planning can save years of headache and heartache. Just like retirement planning and weight management, we all know that the sooner we start and plan (with a clear goal in mind), the better chance we have at succeeding. But how early is too early, and how late is too late? That’s why our company More Than S.A.T. is introducing a new and unique program called ‘Your College Roadmap.’ Based on years of experience in the field, we feel that parents need a more comprehensive educated guidance in terms of their student’s college preparedness, no matter how far or close the kids may be to college entrance age. Our approach may not be rocket science — it’s built on practical, solid principles. Our clients find our system helpful, especially because time flies before they know it.
Without going into too much details, I will share our best strategy: get your kids involved in the planning, preparing, and paying processes.
1. Educate your kids. As you teach them financial literacy, it’s good for them to understand the basic principle of having a budget and investments. Kids should learn what and how to choose the best value products and services for their money. For parents, instead of complaining how expensive college education is or giving kids guilt trip about it, it might be better to show how to prepare for this major “purchase” in the long run.
2. Study your children. We believe that each and every child has his or her own unique purpose and gift they bring to this world. Whether the child is an athlete, artist, or an academically accelerated or challenged student, the best thing we can do as parents is to pay attention to the area in which our children are gifted (no matter how unique they may be) and to equip them to use those gifts to their (and your) unique advantage.
3. Plan together with your kids. Just as it will be more fun to get your kids to be part of your big hom projects, such as ‘kitchen remodeling,’ it’ll be also fun to get them involved in college planning as well. In the earlier stages, it can be as simple as collecting coins in a piggy bank or making a list of books you’ve read together. As they get older and get to know more about where they are in the big scheme of college preparedness and how to prepare for it more in detail, it will get easier for them to personally own their education and its process.
4. Equip and support your kids to have specific goals and action plans. I am a born planner. I take joy in opening up my organizer and planning things away for the next day, weeks, months, and even years. But if I don’t take any actions, it will only amount to daydreaming. The best thing we can do for our kids is to have goal setting “meetings” at the beginning of each semester or summer, and to help your kids to come up with specific steps to move towards those goals. Don’t forget to have a mid-term and long-term plans in mind. For example, we are offering ‘High School Boot Camp’ this summer, so that our entering high school freshmen students can gain valuable study skills that will set them on the right habits. For our parents and students, together they can map out their next three and half years before the “big choice” of college options and applications through our unique and individualized ‘Your College Roadmap’ system.
Even though we may have small children right now, many of us have about a dozen or so years left with our kids before they go off to college and become independent, responsible adults (or we hope so, anyway). We strive to make that transition as painless and enjoyable as possible so the families can truly enjoy each other throughout the process. What memories, experiences, and values will you like for them to take with them to adulthood?