Higher Education

Preparing your child for college at every age

It's becoming increasingly apparent that higher education is necessary for a better-paying job. Preparing your child for college takes more than putting pennies in a piggy bank - you'll also have to consider his or her academic, social and moral development. Here's a quick outline of what you'll need to consider in both this areas to get your child started on the path to the future:

Academics

To be accepted at college, grades and courses matter. Check college requirements early so that you and your child can prepare for high school. Senior geometry probably requires math courses in every year, so plan ahead. Ensure variety, as most colleges require courses in English, Math, Science and Social Sciences. Some may require a foreign language as well. Consider hiring a tutor if your child needs to improve his or her grades in particular areas.

Experience

Increasingly, colleges are searching for well-rounded students. Encourage early involvement in sports and other activities in the school system. Community service also looks great on an application. These social experiences will help your child acclimate to life on their own, and will also teach them responsibility and time management.

Paying for College

Set up a savings plan or invest - regular deposits of small amounts will add up quickly, especially if the amount gains interest. The earlier you and your child start saving, the less you will have to contribute every month. Encourage your child to start contributing as soon as they begin making money. Viewing their education as an investment will help your child appreciate its value.

529 Plans

Designed to encourage saving for education, 529 plans may offer tax deductions, scholarships or matching grants to help you save. The savings version of the plan earns money on your savings based on the performance of mutual funds or other investments. The less common prepaid version of the 529 plan allows you to purchase tuition at the current rate, and then your tuition is paid out when your child is in college, regardless of what the cost has reached by then. As an added bonus, these savings are now exempt from federal income tax.

Early discussion and preparation for college with your child are vital in avoiding debt or disappointment. Do your homework!