Here in Oregon we’re not yet back to school (thankfully) but based on all the first day pictures I’m seeing on the socials, it looks like most of the rest of you are. With a new (school) year upon us, here are some resolutions your family might make for the coming school year. And, here’s hoping they don’t get broken as quickly as the typical New Year’s diet-and-exercise resolutions!

For families of high school seniors

  • I will do the net price calculator for every college my student is applying to in order to minimize financial surprises.
  • I will make sure my student applies to colleges our family can afford.
  • I will discuss our family’s ability to pay for college– how much we can afford, what skin in the game I expect them to have, what their options will be if their top choice schools don’t fit their budget– with my student before they apply so that they understand what their financial aid awards need to look like in order to accept.
  • I will have my student listen to these two podcasts to learn about what it’s like to owe money for student loans.
  • I will share my student’s 529’s gifting page with family and friends who might be considering a birthday, holiday or graduation gift.
  • I will encourage my student to follow schools they’re interested in on social media or to otherwise demonstrate interest.
  • I will balance excitement over my student’s next steps with enjoyment of the present, messy bedroom and all.

For families of other high school students

  • I will research our in-state colleges’ merit aid awards to understand what my student is eligible for and help them plan their course load.
  • I will do the Student Aid Estimator to get a sense of whether I’ll be eligible for need-based financial aid.
  • I will learn about the FAFSA formula and determine whether any of the available strategies to reduce EFC apply to my situation.
  • I will have a goals-based conversation with my student about paying for college. This means I will talk about our goals, not our constraints: “paying for public college or its equivalent so you can graduate debt-free” vs “you can only go to a public college” or “a little more effort in [insert class name] will get you eligible for some scholarships” vs “your grades are going to keep you out of a lot of colleges.”
  • I will increase our monthly contribution to our 529, or start a monthly contribution if I’m not already doing so.
  • I will reflect on why I want my children to go to college, rather than which college I want them to go to, and use that reflection to guide my conversations with them about college.

For families of younger students

  • Before buying my children any logo gear from my alma mater, I will do its net price calculator and decide based on that how interested I want them to be in my college.
  • I will increase my monthly contribution to my 529.
  • If I haven’t already done so, I will set up a 529 for each of my children, including a monthly contribution. (If you’re not sure which 529 plan is best for you, here’s how to choose.)

If you need step-by-step help on your college plan, please check out my online course, The College Financial Plan, or my book, How to Pay for College.

Happy back-to-school to you and yours!