Planning early for college can change everything…

After more than 10 years of working with college bound students and families, it has become clear that virtually every family’s goals could be summed up in 3 words: Freedom, Options, and Opportunity.

We all want freedom FROM certain situations or constraints so we may have freedom TO pursue new goals or better outcomes. For example, maybe you want freedom from financial constraints, negative thoughts, or a career that seems like a dead end so that you may pursue a more fulfilling opportunity with greater financial blessing.

Maybe you want the freedom to pursue starting your own business venture, but your family and financial obligations make it seem as if it’s not an option. Not only do we want freedom, we want options. And we want the opportunity to pursue those options.

In reality, most great outcomes don’t happen by chance. You don’t just wake up with new freedom, endless options, and multiple opportunities. Successful outcomes require planning and preparation, and most of all – starting early. With a little preparation, the right plan, and an early start; every college bound family can enjoy “the college experience.” This ensures the freedom to choose between countless options and opportunities with the freedom FROM seemingly endless debt.  These three ideas will open a world of possibilities for both the student and parent.

Let’s start with freedom – specifically financial freedom for both the parent and student. A student with financial freedom – because they learned how to minimize costs and maximize resources before and during their college journey – has greater freedom after college. They aren’t bound by student loans, they don’t have to take the first job that comes along – they can take their time and now have the freedom from financial burdens and the freedom to pursue what they’re passionate about. But, how did this happen? By chance? No. This student started EARLY. They worked through college choices, started determining the amount of money they and they’re parents could bring to the table, they filled out their FAFSA on time, and found great scholarship applications. They did the work up front to experience freedom later.

As a parent, you don’t want to limit your child, but you also don’t want to sacrifice your retirement to send them to school. We understand! That’s why starting early is crucial. By starting early, you can do both and don’t have to sacrifice your retirement or other assets. Most importantly, an early start affords you the opportunity to support your student in identifying their unique abilities, passions and talents. This empowers them to identify all of the best college options that ultimately lead to a fulfilling and did we mention, financially beneficial career. As parents, there’s nothing we want more than to see our kids happy, healthy, and self-sufficient. Formulating a plan and starting early sets both your student and yourself up for financial success.

Freedom then leads to options. A student should have the freedom of options when choosing the right college. Finding the right college fit starts with finding a passion point and pursuing what they’re excited about. This HAS to start early in order to be effective. If a student is just starting to work through what they love and are passionate about in their senior year, it is far more difficult to find the right college and major fit, leading to greater expense as they are in college longer trying to figure things out.

Freedom and options go hand in hand. These options are only available when planning early and getting started are a priority. Options are crucial because the environment they are a part of during those four years is incredibly important, from both an academic and social perspective. College isn’t one-size-fits-all. A student should make visits, talk with current students and alumni and weigh different universities to find their ideal college fit. These things take time. If you don’t start planning early, you’ll miss out on things like this as well as early decision and priority financial aid.

Ultimately, this leads to opportunity. Every student deserves the opportunity to confidently and successfully prepare for and enjoy a meaningful career that is both personally and financially rewarding. We believe with the Fit, Finish, Funding model, this is possible for every single college student out there!

But once again, starting early is KEY. To maximize future opportunities, it requires responsibility. It starts by prioritizing grades during your freshman year of high school. It continues through sophomore and junior year as a student discovers what they’re passionate about and finds meaningful leadership roles and invests in their community. So, that well before their senior year begins, they are far more sure of who they are, what they want for the future, and can begin building a college list around these ideas. They’re not scrambling – they are prepared. These are the students who will have multiple opportunities opened to them and the financial resources available to pursue them both during and after college.

As a college bound family, parent or student, answer these questions for yourself:

Do you want to experience freedom in your career and in life? Do you want to have the options, to pursue your passion? Want to experience great opportunities that you dream about? It’s completely possible and well within reach. It starts with knowing the secrets and rules to the college game. Learn more in our free video series right here.