Watch Out: College Planning Pitfalls Could Empty Your Pockets!

It’s almost as if every year, we embark on a long and exciting road trip, but many of us forget one crucial thing – the map. We’re sometimes too proud or too scared to admit that we’re a little lost and could do with some directions.

Some of us convince ourselves that we know the way, but then we just sit there, revving the engine, never really starting the journey. If you’re convinced you know the path but don’t set the wheels in motion, do you really know the route?

It’s a bit like deciding to traverse the winding roads and vast landscapes of America, from sea to shining sea, without a map or GPS, all the while claiming we know our way around. Come on, let’s be honest here, how many times have we declared with absolute certainty that we knew the direction, secretly crossing our fingers, hoping to stumble upon the right turn before our fellow travelers figure out we’re bluffing?

Consider all the precious time we waste trying to figure things out, when we could have simply picked up a map (or fired up the GPS) and cut our confusion, anxiety, and wasted time in half.

This analogy hits close to home when we talk about your child’s journey to college. Do you have a roadmap for their academic journey?

You see, according to statistics, many families invest more time planning their week-long summer getaway than charting out a plan for their child’s college future. The issue usually comes to light when we start chatting with students and ask them some fundamental questions:

Why do you want to go to college?

Where do you wish to go, and why?

What career path intrigues you, and why?

Do you know how much it will cost?

Who’s footing the bill?

The responses we often get are along the lines of, “I’m not sure,” or “Because my friends are going there,” or “I’ll work it out once I’m in school.” Such responses highlight a massive missed opportunity in planning, which could potentially cost families a whopping $15,000 to $30,000 in the long run.

Moreover, it’s a bit challenging because most families have not been given the right compass or guidebook for this journey. It’s not your fault because:

  • School guidance counselors genuinely want to help every student, but they’re juggling so many roles, and there’s only so much they can do in a day.
  • Financial advisors often lack the expertise to help families save on the cost of college. They focus more on how to save for college, which isn’t the same thing.
  • While independent educational consultants are excellent with college admissions planning, they might not have a deep understanding of how the financial side works.

Does it surprise you that student loan debt is a whopping 1.9 TRILLION dollars and that seven out of ten families resort to it to fund college?

With this in mind, it’s clear that creating a game plan to pay for college is a MUST today! 

Here are a few key points that my academic partner, Fitz Totten from Find The Right College, and I believe are crucial for students and parents as they navigate their academic journey:

For your students:

Career assessment: It’s like taking a test drive before buying a car. Avoid the costly mistake of changing majors mid-way. Get an understanding of their direction and their strengths.

College selection: Create competition among colleges by applying to 10-14, increasing your chance for tuition discounts.

ACT/SAT prep: Boosting your scores can increase your chances for merit scholarships, much like training can improve your performance in a sport.

Campus Visits: Meet face-to-face with admissions and financial aid officers. Know where you stand, just like knowing the rules of a game.

Extracurricular Activities: It’s like adding a cherry on top of your academic achievements. Align your activities with your career pathway.

Grade Transcript and Essay Preparation: Have them ready, like a player would keep their gear ready for the big match.

For you (parents):

EFC Planning: Know your financial aid eligibility, the scholarships your child can receive, and your loan options.

Loan Planning: Understand how much you can borrow without sinking your current budget or retirement plans.

Tax Planning: Look for potential tax savings that can help fund college costs, like finding extra change in your pockets.

Cash Flow Planning: Review your expenses to discover potential areas of cash flow improvement.

Investment Planning: Understand the “real rate of return.” on your investments. Convert hidden costs to cash flow for college.

FAFSA Planning: If you’re already filling out financial aid forms, check out our FAFSA Resource Page.

If all this feels overwhelming, we’re here to help. 

Remember, aim to “Save on College”  not just for college.

About the author 

Stuart Canzeri

Stuart Canzeri is a well-respected professional in the world of college funding and financial planning. He's known as the "College Financial Guy" on the internet, where he's helped countless families save significant money on college costs. With more than 20 years of experience in the field, he's become an expert in investment, tax planning, and overall financial management.

Stuart has a strong educational background, which includes a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tulane University, and a Master of Business Administration degree from Mercer University. These credentials allow him to effectively work with various clients, including business owners and corporate executives.


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