The college preparation checklist for parents

February 09, 2022

Families that have conversations about college are more likely to establish a savings plan and identify key factors that influence the selection process.

 

Once your child reaches high school, you might start thinking about how to help them find the right college. When considering admissions, most colleges value grade point average (GPA), extracurricular activities and standardized test scores. You and your student will also need to consider a school’s atmosphere and your financial situation.

But before making decisions about schools, it’s important to work on building a college education fund. If you’re a new parent you may be wondering, “what kind of account should I open for my baby?” Whether you want to create a college fund for kids or are focused on long-term k-12 preparation for college, we can help you create the best savings plan for children and students. Use the following checklists to develop a successful (and realistic!) plan, and ultimately choose the right college when the time comes.

Learn more about how you can save for your child's education with a U.S. Bank savings account or 529 Plan from U.S. Bancorp Investments. 

From when a child is born to age 15 

  • Establish a college savings plan. Set a savings goal and contribute on a consistent basis without dipping into your own retirement savings plan.
  • Help identify your child’s academic and extracurricular activity strengths and take an interest in their study habits and homework.
  • Encourage grandparents, family and friends to contribute to the college fund rather than giving gifts of clothes and toys.
  • Sign up for summer camps that offer hands-on experience in areas identified as your child’s academic strengths and interests.

 

How to prepare for college in high school

  • Use the FAFSA forecaster to estimate the amount of financial aid available. This information will help you plan ahead.
  • Attend college planning and financial aid sessions and research financial aid programs.
  • Sit down as a family and identify important factors in choosing a college (two-year or four-year, location, cost, campus feel, academic requirements, etc.).
  • Discuss funding (parent and child contribution goals) so there are no surprises later. To get a good estimate, outline the costs of attending prospective schools.
  • Encourage your child to take challenging classes and develop good reading and study habits. 
  • Ask grandparents to give the gift of a living legacy to their grandchild – paying tuition directly to college is exempt from gift and estate tax.

 

During student’s senior year of high school

  • Work with your student to research scholarships and find good matches. Ask your student to complete the listed requirements and apply. Create an FSA ID. It is used to access your personal information on Federal Student Aid websites and to sign the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) online. Submit the FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1. 
  • Submit the FAFSA at www.fafsa.ed.gov to determine eligibility for federal, state or college financial aid.
  • After submitting the FAFSA, a Student Aid Report (SAR) will arrive within three days to three weeks. Review, make corrections if needed and submit them to the FAFSA processor.
  • Review your family’s plan for paying for college. Once acceptance letters arrive, compare options of financial aid awards to determine out-of-pocket costs. Help your child clarify goals and priorities.

 

The final decision 

Take the pressure off your student by letting them know that there’s no perfect choice – and reassure them that they’ll be getting a great education no matter what. After offers arrive, have an honest conversation about finances. Although the final decision of where to attend college should reside with the student, there should be compromise between what the student wants (best match, best offerings for a major, location, etc.) and what the family and student can afford.

 

Let us help you plan ahead. Continue learning more about our 529 Plan or other savings account options. 

Related content

How grandparents can contribute to college funds instead of buying gifts

Parent checklist: Preparing for college

Using 529 plans for K-12 tuition

How to open and invest in a 529 plan

Webinar: 11 insider tips for student debt

What’s your financial IQ? Game-night edition

How can I help my student manage money?

U.S. Bank asks: Transitioning out of college life? What’s next?

Personal finance for teens can empower your child

U.S. Bank asks: Do you know what an overdraft is?

U.S. Bank asks: Do you know your finances?

College budgeting: When to save and splurge

Student checklist: Preparing for college

6 questions students should ask about checking accounts

Webinar: Uncover the cost: College diploma

How to save money in college: easy ways to spend less

The A to Z’s of college loan terms

Co-signing 101: Applying for a loan with co-borrower

How to build credit as a student

5 things to know before accepting a first job offer

Learn to spot and protect yourself from common student scams

How I did it: Paid off student loans

Webinar: Bank Notes: College cost comparison

Webinar: U.S. Bank asks: Are you safe from fraud?

Should you give your child a college credit card?

Is a home equity loan for college the right choice for your student

How to apply for federal student aid through the FAFSA

Be careful when taking out student loans

Your financial aid guide: What are your options?

Webinar: Cash management strategies for higher education

Managing the rising costs of payment acceptance with service fees

3 reasons governments and educational institutions should implement service fees

Higher education and the cashless society: Latest trends

CFO report: Driving growth via new business models and technology

CFO insights: Leading the recovery for sustainable growth

CFO survey: A shifting focus on ESG in business

Achieving their dreams through a pre-apprenticeship construction program

Start of disclosure content

Loan approval is subject to credit approval and program guidelines. Not all loan programs are available in all states for all loan amounts. Interest rate and program terms are subject to change without notice. Mortgage, home equity and credit products are offered by U.S. Bank National Association. Deposit products are offered by U.S. Bank National Association. Member FDIC.

U.S. Bank is not responsible for and does not guarantee the products, services or performance of U.S. Bancorp Investments, Inc.