College Pete

September Wake Up Call For High School Parents

September Wake Up Call For High School Parents

If you are the parent of an 11th or 12th grader and have been putting off dealing with this college thing until ‘after the summer is over’ — consider this your official summer’s over wake-up call!

Parents of 12th graders:  The awards and financial aid offers that your child will receive are based on THIS tax year (2011).  That means you have just four months to position your income, assets and personal finances to get the maximum amount of money  from each school.  Do you know what this year’s asset allowance will be?  Do you currently have money saved in your child’s name?  Are you planning on putting money into (or taking money out of) your retirement plan this year?  Do you know how much your pre-paid plan is worth?  If you’re not sure what the answer should be to any any of these questions, you’ve got to find out!  Now.  Remember, even Bright Futures (the state’s merit scholarship program), as well as many other non-need based merit programs, now require ALL applicants to file a FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid) regardless of whether you expect any financial aid.

Parents of 11th graders:  You are literally ‘on the clock’.  Since the offers your child will receive will be based on the 2012 tax year, it is imperative that you start (and ideally, complete) your college funding strategy BEFORE the end of this tax year.  A simple mistake in how you handle your finances in the next year can easily cost you thousands in lost financial aid down the road.    Soon enough, if it hasn’t already started, you’re going to be inundated with college literature.  Before either your child or you fall in love with a school, you need to take control of the process and understand how colleges set and discount prices, how financial aid works and how to compile a realistic list of schools that will meet your child’s academic and social needs, and your family’s budget.

For 9th and 10th grade parents: Planning for college expenses can be a stressful effort.  College costs continue to rise at a double digit clip.  And while financial aid is widely available, the rules are complicated and most families leave thousands on the table because they don’t understand the nuances of those rules.  By understanding the process and the rules of the game, middle class families can save themselves thousands off a 4 year education.  But this does not happen automatically.  For most families, there are a number of legal and ethical strategies to reduce the amount of money you will be expected to pay for college.  The earlier you start, the more strategies you will have at your disposal.

A college education is one of the largest investments you’ll make in your child.  To ensure the greatest return on that investment, it’s best that you make decisions while not in ‘panic’ mode with tuition bill in hand.

No matter where you are in the process, the best way to stack the odds in your favor is to arm yourself with information.  I’m holding two workshops in September on How to Pay for College in This Economy.  The first is on Thursday, September 15 at The Sagemont School, Upper School Campus in Weston.  The second is on Saturday, September 17 at Temple Beth Sholom in Miami Beach.  Both are free and open to the public and will be chock-full of current information about today’s college process.   To register, visit

During the class, we’ll cover:

  • What to do if your 529 is not enough
  • The biggest mistake parents make with FL Prepaid Plans
  • The critical questions you must ask of every school on your student’s list
  • Why it’s taking longer than 4 years to complete college, and how to buck this trend
  • How a pricey private college can cost less than a cheaper state university (even with FL Prepaid and Bright Futures)
  • More!

Registration is recommended so that we can confirm your seat and ensure you receive reading materials.  If you are a high school parent, you don’t want to miss out on this information.  It’s free to attend, but ignoring this message can end up costing you thousands of dollars.

If your student has worked hard to earn a spot at a top college, then do your part to figure out how to pay the bill.  I look forward to seeing you later this month.

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