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College 4 . Us

Plan and act today so you have no regrets tomorrow...

More Q&A for Parents

What is the proper role of sports?

I’ve seen quite a few cases of kids spending lots of time on sports because they think one must be really good at sports in order to get a scholarship to go to college.  Unfortunately, most kids will not be star athletes, and in most cases spending too much time on sports will hurt their grades and make it less likely for them to go to a four-year college directly.  In 99.9% of the cases, sports should be a secondary part of high school education, not a main focus.  Sports-based scholarships are just one of the many ways of paying for college.  In most cases, unless your child is extremely talented, he will not get the sports-based scholarships.  Therefore, making that the main way of college financing is extremely risky.

Should a student get a job while in high school?

In short, YES.  Holding a job is an extremely beneficial educational experience that I encourage all high school students to get a paying job before graduation.  They learn things like work ethic, responsibility, value of money, superior-subordinate relationship management, customer service, etc.  It really doesn’t matter what job is it.  One can learn many of the same lessons from any job.

Some parents don’t want their kids having paying jobs because they feel embarrassed about it.  Some wrongly see it as a subtle admission that they don’t make enough money to support their families.  This is totally the wrong mentality and they should get over it.  Remember: kids work to learn, not to earn.  If you are worried about the potential impact on their grades, then let them take up jobs only during summer vacation.

Unfortunately, during recessionary time such as now, employers have many applicants to choose from and youngsters, who are often seen as lacking in work ethic, easily distracted, and unreliable, are generally not on the top of the consideration list.  So for those without some connections, even getting a summer job could be hard.

Should a student be encouraged to go to a community college first, in part to save his parents some money?

With rising cost of higher education, spending the first two years at a community college sounds like a good deal.  But that’s another two years where things can go wrong.  Unless your kid is really motivated to transfer to a four-year college after meeting all the transfer requirements, you run the risk of them not transferring at all. Many get distracted by other things and lose their motivation.  In fact, the majority of community college students do not transfer to four-year colleges.  So, if your child gets into a good four-year college, you should encourage him to go.

Money is a real concern, but remember that time is money and time cannot be earned back.  Going to a community college for the first two years or so can save you perhaps a few tens of thousands of dollars, but your child may finish his bachelor’s degree one year later than his peers.  How much would he make in that lost year?  Once you see it in that perspective, then suddenly the “savings” from going to a community college don’t seem to be good deals anymore.

How much should parents contribute to their kids’ college education?

If you can afford it without taking out another mortgage or HELOC, then by all means do it.  For those of us who don’t have that kind of cash sitting in the banks, the choices are much less clear.  Generally, college education is a worthwhile investment that benefits the child for the rest of his life, and therefore he should be the one incurring the cost.  So ask him to take out loans if he needs it.  There’s no reason to bear the total costs of something that benefits the child and not you directly.

Student loans are, in most cases, extremely good deals.  Most do not accrue interest while the student is in school, and no payments are due until a few months after graduation.  So even if you have money to pay for your child’s education, let them take out the favorable student loans and pay it off soon after graduation.

For those parents who have a bit more cash to spare, I recommend saving some money for the kid’s first car out of college, and money for the downpayment of his first house or condo.  The downpayment will really help him get ahead in life by not wasting tons of money on rent while he saves up to buy his own house.

As for the kid’s first car out of college, it should be a used one.  Chances are it’ll get damaged very quickly and the insurance rate would be outrageous for a new car.

Parents: Are there other things you want to know?  E-mail me so I can cover them.