Planning for College: Don’t Wait Until High School is Over!

September has come and gone yet I’m already focused on next August. Focused on the days, events, holidays, and changes inevitably in my future. My oldest…my baby…my son…will leave our home and head off to university. He was accepted into his top choice—which is, of course, 14 hours away during perfect driving conditions—and we have “the list” already printed and preparations have begun.

Yes, you read that right.

I’m starting planning for college now. I’m shopping for what he needs now. We’re researching with him where he can save money…and where I can as well. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far….

  1. Stock up on essentials. All college kids who live on campus need a few essentials. Those essentials are on clearance right now as this year’s freshman have already settled into their dorms. Comforters, pillow tops, pillows, sheets, towels, trash bins, bulletin boards, and other standard items will keep and hold their style for another season. Laundry baskets, storage totes, and the like are never out of style. They are perfect for storing your finds until it is time to pack up the car and head out into the world.
  2. Gift cards for the rest. I’m picking up gift cards here and there to coffee shops and restaurants I know my son likes. Then I’ll have something ready to mail him on a regular basis and it won’t always come with an expense.
  3. Express shipping membership. We’ve signed up for an online ordering membership to one of those big sites. You know, he can tell us what he needs, we can order said items, and have them shipped right to his dorm. Free shipping is HUGE.
  4. Put the word out: second hand is great. Recently a family member made some living arrangement changes and my son scored a microwave, television, and some basic dishes to stock his room. Having a break on those few things is huge as $100 here and $100 there adds up quickly. Check with family and friends – you never know when someone is ready to upgrade and you can save yourself a few bucks.
  5. Don’t forget comfort. We’ve been watching the big box building stores for carpet remnants on special or clearance to serve as a rug or flooring cover for whatever dorm room he ends up living in.
  6. Grades are still important. We’ve always stressed learning and doing your best in our home. We are fortunate that our son did well on standardized testing required in the states. He received a scholarship that will cover the out of state costs for his school, allowing him to pay the in-state tuition rate – all based on his score on this one test. Having decent grades makes your child eligible for many scholarships and opportunities that can offset the cost of university. It makes their hard work pay off when they seek and find scholarships to apply for.
  7. Especially for scholarships. Along with #6 above, seeking out and applying for scholarships is a huge way to impact the cost of tuition. Academic and sports scholarships are available. Club-based, activity-based, volunteer-based, and interest-based opportunities exist as well. For example, my son is “almost” an Eagle Scout, plays football, and is a snowboard instructor. He will apply for Boy Scout scholarship opportunities, write the essay to compete for the football scholarship offered by the parent group, and will check with his employer about funds available to college students who instruct.
  8. Get a leg-up before college. One option for some kids is taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes. They are college-level classes offered in high school and at the conclusion of the year, there is a national based test. If the student scores high enough, he or she will receive college credit. My son has taken three already and has six this year. He’ll graduate with enough university credits to enter as a sophomore. The cost of the exam is minimal when compared to the cost of that same class taken at the university.
  9. Get a job. My son has been a snowboard instructor since he was 14. Back then we set in place a requirement of saving 60% of his paycheck and the other 40% was/is his to do with as he wishes. He should be able to pay for his books and a few other things with the money he’s earned in the last few years.
  10. Enjoy the journey. Planning to embrace this time my child is home—in the middle of the chaos—is #1 on my list – even though it’s 10 on this one. This is the last year my son will live under my roof. He will venture out and begin making his own path. I want to enjoy these last months immensely.

The planning has commenced. We want to set up our son to be successful, confident, and independent. He can still call home and talk to his mama anytime though. I so hope he does. Here’s to great university planning leading to a wonderful university experience.

What tips and tricks are you using to prepare for upcoming changes in your world? Tell me! I’d love to know!

 

Joy Hedding

Joy aka Evil Joy is wife to one Dr. Evil and mother to four children she often refers to as spawn. Joy is a snowboarding fanatic and loves to share her exploits - snowboarding and otherwise - on Instagram. She currently spends copious amounts of time taxiing her children from one place to another. Frequently funny, always honest, and occasionally serious Joy blogs about everything from dealing with messy teenagers to navigating life after PTSD. Joy has been published in the anthologies "Surviving Mental Illness Through Humor" and "Only Trollops Shave Above the Knee" and has been featured on Sammiches and Psych Meds and UrbanMommies.com. Her blog is Evil Joy Speaks and you can find her on Facebook and on Twitter.

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