Financial Preparations for College: Essential Steps as the Start of School Approaches


The current moment signifies the appropriate time to proceed. After meticulous planning and preparation, the imminent arrival of your student’s college years marks a significant milestone in achieving this crucial financial objective. When considering the various choices, it is imperative to establish a comprehensive approach to financing college expenses. This entails devising a well-defined strategy encompassing savings, investments, financial aid, scholarships, and potential loans.

During the preparation phase, a financial advisor from Ameriprise will assist you and your student in assessing your financing options, providing advice on tax strategies and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and determining the most suitable course of action based on your long-term goals.

Below are the essential steps to consider before making your initial tuition payment.


1. Initiate a comprehensive discussion regarding the financial aspects of college education within the family.

During the college selection process, engaging in a comprehensive discussion regarding the financial implications of your student’s potential college choices is essential. This includes evaluating their expected contribution and aligning it with your predetermined college budget. It is advisable to consider the anticipated expenses associated with the preferred options while submitting applications. Every educational institution must possess a net price calculator on its official website, facilitating access to a comprehensive breakdown of the actual expenses of attending the school.

2. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), regardless of income level.

The essential step in obtaining financial aid is the completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The data collection involves gathering pertinent details regarding a family’s financial circumstances. This information serves the purpose of evaluating the level of assistance required and determining eligibility for government aid and support provided by most colleges and universities. It is advisable to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) regardless of the assumption that your family’s income exceeds the eligibility criteria for financial assistance. This is because multiple factors are considered when determining eligibility for aid under the FAFSA. The data submitted to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is utilized for obtaining several federal loans that are based on something other than financial need. Additionally, numerous educational institutions mandate the submission of the FAFSA to assess merit-based financial assistance included in your overall economic package.

3. Direct your attention towards your assets.

Please proceed with the finalization of your college payment plan. Assess the balances in your 529 plan and other anticipated funding sources, such as savings and investments, to ascertain the aggregate sum you intend to allocate toward your student’s educational expenses. Additionally, it is essential to consider the potential impact of other funding sources, such as financial contributions from grandparents, when assessing the various alternatives available to cover college tuition expenses.

4. It is advisable to carefully evaluate your financial aid packages and third-party scholarships and grants.

Once the financial aid award letters have been received, thoroughly examine the packages and associated expenses of the preferred educational institutions for your student. The financial aid package for your child may consist of scholarships, grants, and work-study opportunities. However, supplementary opportunities beyond the confines of this package exist for which your child may meet the criteria.

Scholarship-finder websites offer a range of opportunities based on different criteria, such as financial need, merit, community service, heritage, gender, sexual orientation, and life experience. These websites can assist individuals in identifying suitable scholarships. These platforms also offer advantages to students with distinctive skills and hobbies.

5. Decide regarding student loans.

Once the costs have been clarified, it is possible to assess whether obtaining a loan is suitable for your family. One option to consider is the extension of a personal loan to a student, providing them the opportunity to finance their education. Alternatively, encourage your child to apply for a federal loan, allowing them to contribute to their education funding and establish a credit history. Many financing options exist, necessitating a meticulous evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of each alternative. If you and your student opt to engage in borrowing, you must assist them in comprehending the associated terms comprehensively. It is recommended to adhere to a general guideline where the anticipated post-graduation salary of the student should be at least 1.5 times the outstanding balance of their student loan. The recommended approach is to ensure that monthly debt payments do not surpass 12% of the after-tax take-home pay.

6. Determine the method by which tuition payments will be made.

When it is time to issue a payment to your student’s school, it is essential to consider the specifics of your preferred method for paying college tuition. This involves deciding between making a single payment for the entire amount or opting for a series of installments. A tuition payment plan, commonly provided by numerous higher education institutions, facilitates the achievement of the objective above. This option is appealing as it enables individuals to make consistent payments over a predetermined duration, such as the academic year or semester. Enrollment in these plans may incur a fee.

If an individual, such as a grandparent or other family member, provides financial support for a student’s education, they might consider utilizing the tuition gift tax exclusion. This exclusion can be beneficial in reducing the taxable estate of the donor.

7.When formulating your payment plan, it is essential to consider the impact of taxes.

When making college payments, it is essential to consider all tax implications carefully. If eligible, federal incentives such as the American Opportunity Tax Credit, Lifetime Learning Credit, and student loan interest deduction can be utilized to mitigate education expenses. Ensuring proper coordination of 529 plan withdrawals with the credits above is important. Costs related to tuition that funds cover from a tax-free 529 plan are not considered eligible for a tax credit.

8.To ensure the success of your student, follow these steps:

Before your student’s departure from school, it is advisable to discuss college budgeting and their strategies for effectively managing expenses as they transition into young adulthood. In higher education, numerous students are immersed in many novel encounters, with financial autonomy being a prominent example.