Resources for College Planning

Many parents and students know they should make a plan for college or other options after high school, but knowing exactly where and how to start is another issue. That’s why we offer free tools and resources for both students and parents on our website. Don’t let your questions stop you from taking the first step.

Here are some common questions and the resources to help you answer them.

When should parents start planning for college?

Making a plan for college can begin very early, even before the birth of a child. However, as with most types of financial planning, even a late start is better than never making a plan. Knowing how a 529 plan, also known as a college savings plan, works and understanding how much to save for college are two of the first steps you should take.

Your college investment is worth the time and effort it takes to get started, especially when it comes to financial planning for college.

Start by:

  • Signing up for Student Planning Pointers for Parents, a free twice-monthly newsletter for parents of eighth- to 12th-grade students with discussion topics and tips based on your students’ grade levels. Subscribers also have the opportunity to enter quarterly drawings for 529 plan deposits.
  • Checking out the Parent Handbook for parents of sixth- to 12th-graders. This tool provides quick, useful tips in multiple categories related to financial and academic planning for college and other postsecondary options.

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Is college worth the investment? What about a graduate degree?

A college degree of any type is an investment of time and, most especially, money. How do you determine the return on college investment? When you make a plan for college, explore majors and their related careers to understand more about potential starting salaries and future job availability. You should also consider how much the different educational paths to reach the goal cost, and how much loan debt will need to be repaid, to calculate your college ROI.

These steps will help you understand if or why college is worth it.

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How does the student loan process work?

Once students have settled on an education path, the cost of college often means families will rely on student loans to fill the gap after using savings, earnings, scholarships and other types of financial aid. You might have questions about the student loan process, such as: What is the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)? What is “expected family income” or EFC and how is that calculated? How do student loans work? How do we apply for student loans?

The basic steps are understanding how much money you have or will have available to pay for college costs (your expected family contribution), filing the FAFSA to apply for financial aid like grants, work-study and federal student loans and, if necessary, applying for private student loans to cover remaining costs.

Start by:

  • Signing up for Student Planning Pointers for Parents, a free twice-monthly newsletter for parents of eighth- to 12th-grade students with discussion topics and tips based on your students’ grade levels. Subscribers also have the opportunity to enter quarterly drawings for 529 plan deposits.
  • Checking out the Parent Handbook for parents of sixth- to 12th-graders. This tool provides quick, useful tips in multiple categories related to financial and academic planning for college and other postsecondary options.
  • Estimating a total cost of college based on your situation with the College Funding Forecaster.
  • Understanding maximum recommended borrowing level based on a specific college major and how that level of borrowing affects future lifestyle by making a Student Loan Game Plan.
  • Exploring starting salaries, job duties and educational paths for careers associated with particular majors with the Return on College Investment tool.
  • Using our student loan payment calculator to estimate potential student loan payments.

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How much student loan debt is reasonable?

A student loan can be a useful tool to help students attain a college degree and a desired job, but it’s important to use college planning tools to determine how to reduce overall student loan debt load and avoid the consequences of being unable to repay student loans. Whether they are thinking about student loans for undergraduate programs or graduate student loans, students should consider applying for college scholarships and working a job for college students to help pay expenses and reduce total loan cost.

Start by:

  • Signing up for Student Planning Pointers for Parents, a free twice-monthly newsletter for parents of eighth- to 12th-grade students with discussion topics and tips based on your students’ grade levels. Subscribers also have the opportunity to enter quarterly drawings for 529 plan deposits.
  • Checking out the Parent Handbook for parents of sixth- to 12th-graders. This tool provides quick, useful tips in multiple categories related to financial and academic planning for college and other postsecondary options.
  • Estimating a total cost of college based on your situation with the College Funding Forecaster.
  • Understanding maximum recommended borrowing level based on a specific college major and how that level of borrowing affects future lifestyle by making a Student Loan Game Plan.
  • Exploring starting salaries, job duties and educational paths for careers associated with particular majors with the Return on College Investment tool.
  • Using our student loan payment calculator to estimate potential student loan payments.

Read more about:


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