Getting ready for college and beyond

Where and when do you begin?

As soon as high school starts, you’re already planning for college. Here’s how to track what you need at every stage of the game.

Freshman Year - Sorting options, checking possibilities, thinking about what you’re looking for in a college, getting the facts on how to make your money grow and go further.

Plan
Here's how to get started:
   
Possible Major: Professional, business, technology, finance, arts, medical, science, other
   
College Options: Large public college, small private school, two-year community college, arts college, technical college, other
   
Pluses: Scholarships and other financial assistance, academic standing, teaching specialists, arts and technology programs, sports programs, community involvement.
   
Financining: Think about the long term. This is a good time for parents to look into the College Savings Plan. It has great advantages over a 529 as it is not locked in to educational purposes only.
   
Now that you've started investigating what you want in a college, try a few different scenarios to help determine the financing that can get you there.

 

Sophmore Year - Narrowing in on the things you like to do, finding schools with the courses you want, taking a new look at how to support your goals, and building a financial plan that outlines all your options.

Plan
Here's how to get started, determine what works best for you:
   
Planning: Start researching colleges with the major fields and options you prefer. Search online, get printed information and check out the articles and brochures on this site.
   
Resources: Now is the time to set up an initial meeting with your college advisor and with the financial aid advisor for your school. Review college choices and funding options, then begin to develop your own college funding plan.
   
Pluses: Look for scholarships and other financial assistance, academic standing, teaching specialists, arts and technology programs, sports programs, community involvement
   
Financining: Start looking into federal loans, like PLUS loans (for parents) and Stafford loans. Bank of America also has secure private loans that give you low interest rates and special discounts. You and your parents should also take a look at investment Certificates of Deposit (CDs).
   
Now that you've started investigating what you want in a college, try a few different scenarios to help determine the financing that can get you there.

 

Junior Year - Picking the colleges you want to visit, meeting students who can fill you in, adding to your financial plan, reassessing goals to determine if the dollars you have match the dollars you need.

Plan
Here's how to get started, determine what works best for you:
   
Planning: This is an important year. It's the year when you should start setting up appointments to tour schools you feel fit the criteria for what you want in a college. Decide what the main issues are for you, and make sure to take notes when you actually take a college tour. It's also time to start thinking about college entrance exams (SATs, etc).
   
Resources: Meet again with your school's college advisor and financial aid advisor to make sure you have the latest facts on college stats and education funding. Talk to people you know who have actually attended the schools that interest you.
   
Pluses: Scholarships and other financial assistance, academic standing, teaching specialists, arts and technology programs, sports programs, community involvement
   
Financining: See if you can establish a "ball park" figure for what you think you'll have to spend for college over the next few years.
   
To further develop your education plan, try some additional scenarios to help determine the actual financing you'll need.

 

Senior Year - Putting in applications to the schools you’ve chosen, talking with advisors and financial specialists, applying for student loans, setting up credit cards, solidifying savings and consolidating the help you need to start you on your way.

Plan
This is it! This is the year you actually will be applying to the colleges you prefer. Take a minute to review these final planning details and good luck!
   
Planning: For each college, make a list of requirements and due dates. These dates include additional visits, application and application fee due dates, interview dates and submission of any additional required paperwork. Don't forget about preparing for and taking college entrance exams such as the SAT.
   
College Options: Large public college, small private school, two-year community college, arts college, technical college, other schools.
   
To Do: Make applications for scholarships and other financial assistance.
   
Financining: Determine where you stand in accordance the costs of the school you land on and determine what your costs for not only school will be but living expenses as well.