Welcome to the newest fork in the road on your parenting journey! Now it involves a (maybe slightly bumpy) ride with your soon-to-be college student. I’m sure you’re experiencing mixed emotions — joy, trepidation and excitement.
About the Expert
My name is Melissa and I’m a longtime admission professional, personal finance writer, editor and parent of two (very!) busy kiddos. I couldn’t make it all happen without my husband, Steve.
I hatched my site because I’ve heard so many head-scratching questions from parents. I’ve journeyed in the footsteps of hundreds of families, trekked to dozens of college fairs and even weighed the (billions?) of college savings options for my own two kiddos.
I worked at my alma mater, Central College (Gooooo Dutch!), for 12 years as an admission counselor. Later on, I planned all the visit days for the admission office as senior associate director of admission.
Fast forward: I switched career gears to tap into another passion of mine — writing about personal finance. I’m currently the Money editor at Benzinga and get to work with a whole team to produce content that helps people make excellent financial decisions.
Squish those two interests together, and what do you have? College+Money+Tips. It’s like it was meant to be.
I want to help you along this exhilarating journey with one goal in mind: To simplify it. Let’s go!
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What’s the No. 1 secret to the college search?
Hands down — it’s building relationships. I’d encourage you and your student to make friends with admission counselors, coaches, financial aid professionals, students — anyone you meet at each college you visit. Sure, it’s their job to give you all the information you need. But I promise you, a dozen cookies goes a long way. (I used to be an admission counselor — trust me when I say cookies were a genius move!)
Here’s a great perspective: A person who feels appreciated will always do more than is expected.
2. I’m overwhelmed by the cost of college. Seriously overwhelmed. What do I do?
It’s the number one fear and you’re not alone. Let’s talk about tackling college costs in the context of goal-setting. The best way to set goals is to set mini-goals in order to achieve your big goal.
It’s the same with paying for college. Break it down into tiny, manageable chunks so that you’re dealing with the smallest amount possible. Don’t look at a $30,000 bill (after scholarships) and start to get sweaty palms.
Instead, can you sign up for a monthly payment plan? Suddenly, it’s actually $3,000 per month. How do you break it down from there? I love to help make college costs more palatable, and I write about it a lot in my blog.
Here’s another wise saying: What’s the best way to eat an elephant? One nibble at a time.
3. What’s the best way for my child to get scholarships?
There are many different ways to learn more about scholarships. Tap into:
Colleges and universities
Your child’s high school college and career office
Online scholarship search tools
Then, set some goals with your child. Talk about how much you’ll need to cover college costs and apply for scholarships that aim to meet those goals. Will it take some work? Of course!
4. What’s the first thing we should do to start the college search?
Great question. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. To complicate matters, the hardest part is often taking the first step. But once you and your kiddo do take that first step, you’ll realize it wasn’t so bad after all. The first thing you can do is answer this question: What makes sense for our first step?
The truth is, the first step in the college process is different for everyone. You’re a unique individual and your child is a unique individual, so why would everyone’s first step be the same? Here are a few targeted ideas:
Research colleges online.
Have your child sign up for the ACT or SAT.
Contact an admission counselor at a college via email or phone.
Your student may even want to dive right in with an application!
Identify something that you both feel comfortable doing — even if it’s small — and take action! It helps to have a date marked on your phone so you can check it off your list.
“College Money Tips is among the best overall college prep resources of its kind I’ve seen. Truly our essential go-to as our son prepares for the world of college (and much has changed since I’ve ventured into that daunting journey)!
Covering more than the financial side — which is really thorough and extremely helpful — the other practical subjects and issues you address have given us incomparable insight… and really minimized the stress of this new phase of life. Thank you for your research and work!”
Mom of Two High Schoolers
Beverly Hills, Michigan