Who knew we’d be a week away from the end of the year at this point? Kidding of course. If you’re among the many who want a year-end to do list, here goes!
Anywhere in the education process:
- Check if you’ve maxed out your deductible 529 contribution for the year. Most states require this to be done by 12/31, though some allow you to contribute up to your tax filing. Oregon residents: determine whether the current tax deduction or 2020 tax credit scheme is more advantageous to you. If it’s the former (deduction), get your account funded up to the maximum 4 year carry forward before 12/31.
- Set up your 529 account for gifting and send the link to anyone who’s said they want to help or asked what to give you or your student for a gift.
- Make a new year’s resolution to increase your college savings rate. Even if you’re only adding $10 per month more to your account, it adds up quickly. Or, find an alternative way to save such as UPromise.
- Read about the impact student debt has on young adults and commit that you’re going to find education options that minimize your family’s borrowing, even if it means not attending your top-choice school.
If you’re a high school senior (or parent of a high school senior):
- Review the list of schools you’ve applied to and make sure there’s at least one that meets your budget. If not, find one and apply before the window closes!
- If you haven’t already, do the FAFSA and, if needed, the CSS Profile.
- Discuss what the financial aid package needs to look like from each of the schools you’ve applied to so that you can review coming offers objectively.
- If your state offers free community college tuition, find out how to sign up for it. Many of these programs only allow students to sign up during senior year, but the free tuition benefit can be used at any point up until the student has completed the equivalent of two years of college. Many many students end up spending time at a community college, for many many reasons– illness, not liking the school they ended up at, family circumstances, whatever– so think of this as an insurance policy.
If you’re a high school junior (or parent of a high school junior):
- Make sure you have a clear understanding of your college budget.
- Start making a list of schools you’re interested in. Then do the net price calculator for each.
- Project whether your GPA is likely to earn you merit aid, including figuring out which GPA (6 semesters or 7) is the one that counts.
- Project whether your likely SAT or ACT score (based on PSAT or other practice scores) is likely to earn you merit aid. If not, start looking into test prep options.
If you’re a freshman or sophomore (or parent of one of those):
- Review the FAFSA Formula to see if you should make any adjustments now, before you hit a base year.
- Review your budget– savings, student contribution, ability to pay from cash flow, tax credits, gifts from others– to ballpark your annual college budget.
- Review admissions and scholarship requirements for your in-state public schools to make sure you’re on track for admissions and financial aid.
If you’re a college student (or parent of one of those):
- Fill out the FAFSA for next year.
- Check if you need to do any retirement contributions to come under the income threshold for the AOTC or LLC.
- Make any 529 distributions for 2019 expenses.
And with that, I’m off to enjoy the holidays with my kiddos who are home on winter break. I wish you and yours a very happy holiday season! And one of the world’s best holiday wishes, which I learned in my several years of living in Germany: “Guten Rutsch ins Neue Jahr”– literally, “Have a good slide into the new year.”