College planning

5 Keys to Successful College Planning

We all see the headlines: student loan debt in the trillions, single digit college acceptance rates, people cheating to make sure their child is admitted to the “right” college, and so on. The news can be overwhelming and make college planning seem complicated. It wasn’t like this when we went to college!

You are so right — things have changed, but college planning does not have to be some well-kept secret that only a few have access to. At The Core has helped families for close to a decade with a commonsense approach to providing confidence and clarity in this journey to college and career. We’ve put together 5 keys to help families be successful.

1) Consider the cost and your family’s plan to pay for the expense.

We hate to start off with the money, but any talk about college must address it! The average annual cost (tuition, fees, and room/board) to attend a public 4-year in-state college is $22,180. A private 4-year college will cost $50,770 per year on average. Most families do not have $90,000 to $200,000 to spend on college, so families need to get educated about financial aid, scholarships, funding sources, loans, etc.

We suggest families start by doing two things. First, families need to have a college money talk. Everyone needs to be on the same page. Second, register for one of our Smart Money Moves for the College-Bound webinars. This program informs parents about how the system works.

2) Strategize ways to create experiences for your kids during middle school and high school to expose them to potential interests/strengths.

Why does anyone go to college? In our programming, we always ask students this question. The most common answer is “to get a better job.” Since that better future career is their goal, we need to help students make solid choices of the college and major that will support this purpose.

To identify a good career/college major fit, students need to be aware of and explore their interests, strengths, values, skills, etc. How do they do this exploration? Try stuff out! Electives courses, summer programs, part-time jobs, hobbies, volunteering, clubs, sports, etc. Use these experiences as the basis for understanding what a student knows about themselves and what careers they might find interesting.

At The Core was founded to help older high school students with this thinking through our process called Guided Self Assessment. It has been a game changer for many students struggling to connect what they know about themselves and potential future careers.

3) Learn about and leverage the options built into your child’s schooling that can provide preparation for college.

Today’s high schools offer a wide variety of course options beyond the “college prep” courses we took in school. Those options can help students be prepared for the rigor of college courses.

Students can take actual college courses through dual enrollment programs (called College Credit Plus in Ohio). High schools may have honors, Advanced Placement (AP), or International Baccaulearate (IB) courses for those ready for more challenge. Mentorship classes can help explore careers. Career-tech opportunities are so valuable for college-bound students and provide certification, college credit, and real-world career experiences.

4) Plan to supplement with outside support where there are “holes” in your college planning.

College planning is not rocket science; however, the process is different than it was for us. We want families to find trusted resources in areas of need like test prep tutors, writing coaches, IEP/504 advocates, counselors, etc. Often, families find free resources like our blog posts helpful.

5) You are not behind. Jump in right where you are!

Our most important tip is get started now. You don’t want to get to fall of senior year and panic. Planning for college is a series of small steps—each with the accumulation of some knowledge (the who, what, when, where, why, and how) and then the execution of the task.

For example, we receive a ton of questions about ACT and SAT testing. Take the time to learn about testing, create a game plan, seek out support if needed, get it scheduled, and check that item off your list.

How can families gain knowledge and confidence about college planning?

At The Core is honored to be able to help, and we always welcome quick questions via email or by phone at (614) 404-0646.

Thousands of families find our free weekly newsletter to be a great tool to guide them. In addition, we have programming (either free or low-cost) to help families with all facets of college planning. We teach families about researching colleges, ACT/SAT testing, high school course options, career exploration, extracurriculars, and more. Visit our Upcoming Programming page to explore these options. Our best to your family at this exciting time of life!

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