From the Rummel Wealth Management mailbox, where, as always, these are real questions from real readers.
From Kari in Saline: My two boys are in 8th grade and 6th grade. We know college gets more expensive every year. What are some steps we should be taking to help prepare for the boys for college?
Ed: Hi Kari, and thank you for your question. With two daughters currently in college, and having helped work through this scenario with a few dozen clients, below are some ideas based on their high school years…
Freshman year of high school
Don’t be an overbearing parent. Help your child find a summer job working with adults that can share the importance of going to and/or staying in college. Having a summer job is first step to building the skills necessary to make it though college and be a productive member of society.
If the GPA is under 3.0 at end of the the Freshman year, might be time to have your child consider other skills that may translate into more alternative college routes.
College can be expensive. Make sure with your now-teenage children college is the best path.
Sophomore year of high school
While many parents fixate on sports, very few high school athletes (roughly 2%) receive an athletic scholarship. Other school activities such as band, choir, debate, forensics, robot building, e-sports, theatre, or dance may be more beneficial in the long run. The key is to be involved in activities outside of the classroom that help add exposure to relevant experiences like teamwork and leadership. If they have the opportunity to take a practice SAT or ACT type exam, do so.
Summer jobs continue to be important to help reinforce work ethic life requires. (I have a fence that needs to be stained for those with kids in the Frankenmuth area.)
Junior year of high school
Parents - beware! Driving, stress from classes, boyfriend and girlfriend trouble... lots of potential landmines this year. Oh yeah, practice tests for standardized tests will hit the calendar. Continue involvement in after-school activities and/or volunteer activities.
It's a good idea to visit a few college campuses over the summer. Understand the guided tours provide a glimpse of what the college wants you to see. Specific dorm rooms make the guided tour for a reason.
Take advantage of dual enrollment programs or other programs like Advanced Placement courses in high school and earn college credits at little to no cost!
Senior year of high school
Keep on truckin’ and enjoy life a little bit. Michigan History and US Government aren’t the end of the world. If the plan is to go to college, calculus wouldn’t be a bad idea. And pay attention in English class so able to write papers with an introduction, thesis, supporting facts, and conclusion.
The highest score on standardized tests is the one that counts. Take ‘em early and take ‘em often if need be.
FASFA forms - if you don’t complete will guarantee zero financial aid. Sit down and work through it.
Again, dual enrollment programs and AP classes are way to pick up college credits at low cost point.
Parents - don’t stress out your kids. They have enough already.
Students - learn how to do the laundry, jump start you car, and change a flat tire. Practice each of these things a few times. Weird stuff happens in your late teens and early twenties. You shouldn’t have to text mom or dad for help EVERY time. Earn your way to being treated as an adult.
With one barreling through college 1/2 semester ahead of schedule (thank you AP classes!) while working part time and living with a group of girls in East Lansing, we have one on the more traditional route.
Meanwhile, the other one is taking slightly alternative route by living in the basement, working, and going to a local university while working toward her degree.
Nothing wrong with either version. Both will do well.
But there's also nothing wrong with becoming certified in skilled trades like welding, plumbing, electrician, or going to barber college. Don’t force your kids to re-live what you wanted high school and college to be. Help them make wise choices to further their lives. Going $80,000 into debt for a French Literature major might not work out as well as 2 year associates auto mechanic degree with industry certification from the local community college.