COLLEGE SAVINGS 101

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College Savings Timeline: Now entering the world of high school
http://www.savingforcollege.com/articles/college-savings-timeline-now-entering-the-world-of-high-school

Posted: 2014-04-05

by Kathryn Flynn

It seems like just yesterday you were teaching him how to tie his shoes, and now your child is about to enter high school. Where did the time go? You might not want to believe it, but college is right around the corner. This week’s College Savings Timeline post focuses on five things you can do in the next four years to ensure an easy transition that won’t leave your child burdened with excessive debt.

Saving for your new baby's future college expenses?

1. It's still not too late to benefit from a 529 plan.

Of course, the earlier you start to save, the more time you have for your account to grow. But your time horizon may be longer than you think. Your child will likely attend college for at least four years, which means if he or she is a freshman in high school your last tuition bill could be over eight years away. That could mean eight years of tax-free earnings growth in a 529 college savings account.

In addition to the federal tax savings, your state’s 529 plan may offer additional tax benefits for residents. For example, some states offer an income tax deduction on contributions no matter how long you hold the money in the account. If this is the case, you can claim the deduction even if you deposit funds today and withdraw them next week, as long as they are used toward qualifying education expenses. This could give your savings an extra boost as the time for college draws near.

Find out if your state's 529 plan offers state tax benefits for residents.

2. Begin researching colleges and universities.

You may have an idea of where you’d like your child to go to college, but now is a good time to see if they are on the same page. Narrow down your choices by deciding on public vs. private, 4-year vs. 2-year and in-state vs. out-of-state. Next, see which schools offer the academic programs you’re looking for and find out what you need to do to get accepted. Don’t forget to consider the social aspect as well. After you take the official campus tour, talk to students and professors to make sure the school is a good match for your child’s personality and interests.

3. Get to know your high school teachers and counselors.

Have your son or daughter meet with their school counselor before selecting classes. Despite what you may have heard, freshman year does count. If nothing else, taking honors or high-level classes during the first year of high school will instill good study habits needed for the upcoming ACT and SAT.

High school teachers are also a great resource when it comes to planning for college. Not only are they college graduates themselves, but each year they help students by giving advice and writing recommendation letters.

4. Start thinking about AP classes.

According to the College Board, 85 percent of schools report that AP classes have a favorable impact on admission decisions. What’s more, advanced placement courses will give your child exposure to college-level schoolwork that will strengthen their time management and problem solving skills. While freshman year may be too early to take an AP class, if your child feels comfortable and meets prerequisites they may be eligible when they are sophomores.

AP courses can also help financially. Many universities offer college credit for qualifying AP exam scores, which can save a family thousands of dollars in tuition, books and other fees.

5. Build your scholarship resume.

If you’ve seen our "How Much Do You Need to Save for College?" Infographic, you know that the typical family in 2013 paid for 30 percent of college costs with grants and scholarships. With tuition prices rising faster than we can blink you can’t afford not to apply for awards. However, good grades alone won’t get you very far these days. Today’s scholarship applications include everything from work experience, community involvement, languages spoken, hobbies, athletics and visual and performing arts. As a freshman, your child has four years to dedicate to a sport, club or other area of interest.

Although they may be too young for a traditional job, they can always look for volunteer work. While it won’t offer an immediate financial reward, volunteering promotes growth and self-esteem and can even reduce stress. If nothing else, it can be a great way to meet people and impress admissions officials.

Learn more about applying for scholarships.

Don't miss the other great posts in our College Savings Timeline Series!

It seems like just yesterday you were teaching him how to tie his shoes, and now your child is about to enter high school. Where did the time go? You might not want to believe it, but college is right around the corner. This week’s College Savings Timeline post focuses on five things you can do in the next four years to ensure an easy transition that won’t leave your child burdened with excessive debt.

Saving for your new baby's future college expenses?

1. It's still not too late to benefit from a 529 plan.

Of course, the earlier you start to save, the more time you have for your account to grow. But your time horizon may be longer than you think. Your child will likely attend college for at least four years, which means if he or she is a freshman in high school your last tuition bill could be over eight years away. That could mean eight years of tax-free earnings growth in a 529 college savings account.

In addition to the federal tax savings, your state’s 529 plan may offer additional tax benefits for residents. For example, some states offer an income tax deduction on contributions no matter how long you hold the money in the account. If this is the case, you can claim the deduction even if you deposit funds today and withdraw them next week, as long as they are used toward qualifying education expenses. This could give your savings an extra boost as the time for college draws near.

Find out if your state's 529 plan offers state tax benefits for residents.

2. Begin researching colleges and universities.

You may have an idea of where you’d like your child to go to college, but now is a good time to see if they are on the same page. Narrow down your choices by deciding on public vs. private, 4-year vs. 2-year and in-state vs. out-of-state. Next, see which schools offer the academic programs you’re looking for and find out what you need to do to get accepted. Don’t forget to consider the social aspect as well. After you take the official campus tour, talk to students and professors to make sure the school is a good match for your child’s personality and interests.

3. Get to know your high school teachers and counselors.

Have your son or daughter meet with their school counselor before selecting classes. Despite what you may have heard, freshman year does count. If nothing else, taking honors or high-level classes during the first year of high school will instill good study habits needed for the upcoming ACT and SAT.

High school teachers are also a great resource when it comes to planning for college. Not only are they college graduates themselves, but each year they help students by giving advice and writing recommendation letters.

4. Start thinking about AP classes.

According to the College Board, 85 percent of schools report that AP classes have a favorable impact on admission decisions. What’s more, advanced placement courses will give your child exposure to college-level schoolwork that will strengthen their time management and problem solving skills. While freshman year may be too early to take an AP class, if your child feels comfortable and meets prerequisites they may be eligible when they are sophomores.

AP courses can also help financially. Many universities offer college credit for qualifying AP exam scores, which can save a family thousands of dollars in tuition, books and other fees.

5. Build your scholarship resume.

If you’ve seen our "How Much Do You Need to Save for College?" Infographic, you know that the typical family in 2013 paid for 30 percent of college costs with grants and scholarships. With tuition prices rising faster than we can blink you can’t afford not to apply for awards. However, good grades alone won’t get you very far these days. Today’s scholarship applications include everything from work experience, community involvement, languages spoken, hobbies, athletics and visual and performing arts. As a freshman, your child has four years to dedicate to a sport, club or other area of interest.

Although they may be too young for a traditional job, they can always look for volunteer work. While it won’t offer an immediate financial reward, volunteering promotes growth and self-esteem and can even reduce stress. If nothing else, it can be a great way to meet people and impress admissions officials.

Learn more about applying for scholarships.

Don't miss the other great posts in our College Savings Timeline Series!

 

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