The 5 Things You Need to Know When Planning for College


July 16, 2021

Are you overwhelmed with the thought of sending your child off to college? Do you have the financial responsibility to get yourself through college? The financial liability of college can be a daunting burden and emotional toll on parents and students. Skylight Financial Planner Jeff Jarrell is all too familiar with these feelings as he has helped many families, and has also had to prepare for the moment of sending his own children off to college.

Luckily, with his experience and insight, he has laid out the five main lessons he has learned through his personal and professional life that can help anyone start planning for college.

#1: Start planning very early.

If you start planning right when you know you will be paying for a college education, whether it be when your child is a newborn, or you have to pay for your own, planning will make it less intimidating when the time comes.

Although it may seem hard to believe that your newborn will be attending college one day, you should start planning right away. “It truly is never too early to start planning and setting money aside for yourself or your child,” Jeff said. Each family may have a different way of planning that can either look like a 529 plan or just continually setting money aside. No matter what the plan is, the earlier you start, the less difficult it can be paying for college expenses.

#2: Make it a habit to save. Stay consistent.

When starting to save for college, it is crucial to make it a consistent habit. “It is just like getting in the habit of contributing to a 401k; the initial dollar amount is not going to matter as long as it is consistent,” Jeff stated. This habit can help relieve the intimidation and stress that comes along with college, whether it be for yourself or your child.

#3: Become friends with the high school college counselor.

Whether you are a high school student or a parent, getting to know the school’s resources, such as college counselors, can provide more opportunities. “Become good friends with the high school college counselor, especially at the beginning of the junior or senior year of high school, because they are the experts in knowing how to apply for scholarships,” Jeff said.

College counselors know the ins and outs of what can help students get into certain schools and figuring out the different types of financial help that they offer. Meeting with this counselor can open up opportunities that you or your child may not have thought were available.  

#4: Financial aid can come in many forms.

Each college is different, but there are usually unique scholarships or financial aid opportunities that are not always easily accessible or well-known. As Jeff helped his girls figure out where they should go to college, he realized “there are so many off-the-wall scholarships for different reasons.”

As mentioned earlier, college counselors can be an amazing resource in helping find these scholarships or financial aid opportunities. They know where to look and how to apply for them, as it can be a complicated process.

#5: Lay the foundation.

College planning can be essential in the eyes of a parent, but there should be a couple of other plans in place before planning for child’s college.“As a holistic planner, the foundation has to be laid out before the investment part of college is discussed,” Jeff said.

If a parent does not have life and disability income, it can be very difficult or impossible to pay for college if something were to happen to them. Once those are in order, then planning for their child’s college can become a top priority.

These five simple steps can help alleviate the pressure of planning for you or your child’s college. It does not have to be as stressful or overwhelming as it first seems, as long as you develop a plan early and stick with it throughout the years.

Thanks for sharing, Jeff! For professional help planning for you or your child’s college education, reach out to one of our dedicated team members here.