New Year's Resolutions That Will Help You Pay for College

Once we have all sung “Auld Lang Syne” and celebrated joyously as the ball dropped in Times Square, we really need to think about how to make the best use of the next 365 days. It’s a brand new year and we want to use the allotted time effectively. For parents and students, one topic that should be at the top of the resolution list is saving for college.

Media reports often tout the difficulty of getting a higher education, yet for every college alumnus who is looking at a high amount of student debt, there is usually another graduate who is starting out without those intense money worries.

The difference is often in the long-term planning and approach the student’s family takes to preparing for college. With that in mind, here are some resolutions that families with students of every age group can take to help pay for college:

  • Newborns, infants and toddlers: No, it is not too early to think about college! Many parents make the mistake of thinking they have all the time in the world, and are surprised at how quickly it flies. Make a resolution to keep college as a top priority and start saving for it now. You’d be surprised how quickly little amounts saved regularly can add up over 18 years or so. Every thousand dollars saved is a thousand dollars you won’t have to borrow.
  • Elementary school: This is the perfect age to have students start learning about how to manage money wisely. Resolve to teach your youngsters about “good” debt and “bad” debt, and the relationship between work and rewards. This will form the foundation for their later beliefs about paying for college.
  • Middle school: This is really the time to start thinking about college, instead of waiting until your child is in high school. Start talking about the reality of what a college education costs and how much your family can really afford. Share that there is sufficient time to build a solid resume that will attract admissions and potential scholarships. Help your student start a potential college list, so that you can explore the possibilities as time goes on, and discuss whether they will be a good financial and academic fit.
  • High school: Parents of these students must realize that the October FAFSA and the use of prior-prior-year income information requires a new financial mindset. Current high school juniors will be completing their FAFSA in October of 2017 to determine their eligibility for financial aid in 2018. Parents of current high school freshmen and sophomores need to familiarize themselves with the new financial aid timeframes, so they can make any necessary financial adjustments in 2017. Current high school seniors should resolve to carefully review all of their financial aid offers, to learn about the differences between federal and private student loans, and to get thoroughly educated about repayment before using any type of student loans to help pay for college.
  • College: For students who will begin college in the fall, and to those who are returning, the best resolution you can make is to be very careful about your use of money. Earn as much as you can, borrow as little as possible, and constantly be on the lookout for ways to cut college costs. If you are graduating this year, start gathering information about your student loans so you will know what kind of income you need to earn to repay them.
  • Graduates: It’s been over half a year now since most of you graduated, so you really should be settling into your adult life. If you haven’t got a handle yet on your student loans, make a resolution that you will address this situation immediately. Ignoring it will not make it go away, and defaulting on your loans is a terrible way to start your own life. You need to treat this like any other life challenge, size up your options, make a plan, and move forward.

Don’t ignore these resolutions or let them fall by the side of the road as the year goes on. Review your resolutions each month to make sure you’re on track.