​The road to college can be filled with potholes, smoothly paved or somewhere in between. It all depends on whether you fail to plan, scramble to plan just before it’s time to launch or plan with a longview and a long runway before take off. My guest, Debbie Schwartz, founder of Road 2 College and College Money Search, and I dive into this week’s discussion about the road to college acceptance, the pitfalls to avoid and some tips for a successful launch.

We discussed a few common challenges that come up often when working with parents and students:

  • Common Challenge:  Failing to plan early enough. Often parents say, “I wish I would have known” or “I have time.” Many procrastinate because they want to avoid the numbers. They often take a head in the sand approach.
    Proactive Solution: Begin planning when the student is in 9th or 10th grade; 11th and 12th grade is the time to execute the plan.
  • Common Challenge:  Failing to do the necessary research and a lack of understanding that these are all systems – college selection, college funding, scholarship mining.
    Proactive Solution: Select a list of 50-60 schools you can afford and whittle it down to a smaller list of 3-5 that meet your other criteria. The same approach can work with scholarships.
  • Common Challenge: Many miss out on several of the options available. Often parents say, “I’ll figure it out later.”
    Proactive Solution: Parents get educated early and first, then get your child involved. Explain the various processes; lay out the options. Remember: this is a parent/student partnership.

In the retirement planning arena, it’s often said that more time is often spent planning vacation than planning for retirement; in many cases, the same is true when it comes to college planning.

It’s so important to begin your college strategy with a longview and long runway so the student’s take off is as smooth as possible. There may be a few bumps along the runway and a little turbulence at take off, but not nearly as much as will be experienced with last minute planning or no plan at all.

We also discussed a few “need to dos” for parents and students:

  • Focus on the fundamentals through middle school and into early high school – develop good study habits, notetaking techniques, test taking skills – the basics that will will prep them to take the ACT and SAT (it’s hard to start thinking about and prepping for these when the student is in 11th and 12th grade.
  • Focus on a strong GPA – more options are available.
  • Explore what you like/love to do and have a pretty good idea which path you want to follow.
  • Understand college costs.
  • Understand EFC (Expected Family Contribution), which s a number that determines students’ eligibility for federal student aid. 
  • Understand scholarships (needs-based, merit-based, etc.)
  • Disregard college rankings info – it’s meaningless.
  • Understand and use the net price calculator for your school of choice (if there are glaring discrepancies between your calculations and your college’s costs, don’t be afraid to rock the ivory tower – don’t accept any large differences in costs, ask questions.
When it comes to successfully navigating the road to college, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Keep in mind that the details are in the fine print. Ask as many questions as you need to ask about these processes. It’s also important to remember that getting accepted into college is just the beginning.

It’s not the destination that’s most important, it’s the journey.

​For more information about Debbie Schwartz and the work she loves, visit Road 2 College and College Money Search. Want more info about college admissions and financing, subscribe to their newsletter. And, check out their Paying for College Facebook Group.​

​Take a peek at RobbiCrawford.com where you’ll find a resource hub and services for students and families eager to play the college game better.Join the RCS Online Community for more info, where you can ask questions and discuss the various topics I address on the show with other listeners.

Sign up for a College Prep Consultation; available for students and parents. Let’s discuss your biggest challenge right now and some next steps to get you moving in your desired direction.

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