College Plan Timeline:

To get the maximum financial aid, college money should be saved in your parent’s name, not yours.

Take time to discuss college expenses and start thinking about a budget for school.

Assuming that your parents are going to be involved with financing at least a part of your college education, you’re going to need to sit down with them and talk about exactly how you’re going to accomplish that. It’s not going to be as fun as discussing where you’re going on vacation this summer but it will definitely be easier than explaining how you dented the family minivan.

In fact, it doesn’t have to be difficult at all. Discussing your college finances comes down to two main points: resources and goals/expectations.


Of course the first limiting factor to your college education is going to be resources. The term ‘resources’ in this case should be thought of as scholarship/grant money, family contributions, personal contributions, and loan money. Unfortunately, if you don’t have the resources to meet up with your expectations, your expectations will be the first to change.

You might have an idea of what kind of scholarships you could be in line for but you may have no idea what kind of financing your parent’s can take on. What to do? Ask them of course. Some important points you’ll need to cover include:

  • How much can your parents afford when it comes to college expenses?
  • What kinds of loans are they comfortable with you taking on?
  • How much scholarship money is realistic for your abilities – either athletic, academic, or performance?
  • How much will you be able to contribute to your college education, both if you work during college and if you don’t?

Once you come to a consensus on an estimate on how much you might be able to afford, you can talk about your college goals and expectations.

Goals and Expectations

What you expect out of college is going to need to be on the same level as what your parents expect for you out of college. If your goals and expectations don’t match, you’ll be in for some ugly disagreements down the road about where you want to go to college and what you want to accomplish there.

The first step to finding out where everyone stands is to, again, talk about it. Lay everything out there on the table. What do you want to accomplish? What majors are you thinking about? What about careers? Have your parents do the same. What do they expect from you and your college education? What do they expect to pay?

Since we are under the assumption your parents are footing some of the bill, they should be expected to have some say in your college education. You may find that you see relatively eye-to-eye on your goals, which is great. Other times you may be further apart, but compromise is the name of the game. Find a common ground now so there’s no resentment or disappointment later.

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Related Tools and Checklists

High School Sophomore Timeline and Checklist
High School Junior Timeline and Checklist

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