Kick Start Your College Financial Planning

Kick Start Your College Financial Planning

BIG Ideas:

  • Early financial planning for college can help parents and students better manage the rising cost of college.
  • Opening and funding a college savings account, such as a 529 plan can help you grow tax-advantaged savings to make college more affordable.
  • As part of your college planning, consider tuition increases and apply for financial aid, even if you think you won’t qualify.

Time flies when you’re having fun. So, even though college may be months or even years away, it will be here before you know it.

Unfortunately, that means those high college bills will be coming, too. NOT FUN!

You don’t have to be an economist to see that the cost of college has been on an upward trajectory. According to U.S. News and World Report, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2023/2024 school year is more than $42,162 for private schools, $23,630 for students attending out-of-state public schools, and $10,662 for in-state residents at public institutions.

Wondering what you can do about it?

Well, there’s a lot you can do to get yourself and your family financially ready. And because learning what not to do is just as valuable, we’re sharing this list of Do’s and Don’ts to help you kickstart your college financial planning

Let’s take a look.


  • Have the “money talk” in your family to ensure expectations are clear about who in the household will help pay for college.
  • Start a college fund. A tax-advantaged 529 account will allow your money to grow tax-free. Check out more information on additional tips here.
  • Research scholarships and grants early. There are many unclaimed scholarships each year, so do your homework.
  • Create a family budget now. Review your income and expenses to look for ways to boost your college savings.
  • Plan for your son or daughter to make money in college. Work-study, side hustles, and off-campus jobs can help make college expenses more manageable for students.
  • Get a part-time job or side hustle yourself now and use the money toward college savings.
  • Plan for the student to go to a community college and transfer to a four-year school after that. It could save your family tens of thousands of dollars.
  • Consider attending a less expensive or local school and living at home for some of the time.
  • Prepare to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine your eligibility for federal grants, loans, or work-study.
  • Compare college costs and read your financial aid award letters carefully. Look for creative ways to address unmet need.
  • If your circumstances change after you apply for aid (for example, you experience a job loss), consider filing an appeal with your financial aid office.
  • Protect and improve your credit score. It’s critical for qualifying for a private loan and earning a better rate that can be a game-changer to save you money.
  • Learn more about ways to pay for college.


  • Ignore deadlines. Since financial aid offices often operate on a first-come, first-served basis, the early bird does get the worm.
  • Rely solely on loans. Look for scholarships and grants (“free money”) and use your savings.
  • Overlook hidden costs. If you choose an out-of-state school, consider travel expenses back and forth on breaks. Also, know that a school located in a city is more expensive than one located in a rural area. Of course, living at home is the closest and least expensive option.
  • Assume you won’t qualify for financial aid. Even higher-income families may qualify, especially if they have multiple children in college.
  • Forget to factor in living expenses, such as rent, utilities, subscriptions, etc.
  • Ignore future tuition increases. Tuition goes up every year.
  • Overlook employer benefits. Many companies offer tuition reimbursement or other tuition assistance programs that can help lower your costs.
  • Sacrifice your financial future to pay for college. This is important. It’s harder to borrow money in retirement. Debt is more burdensome when you have fewer years of working to pay it back.
  • Choose a school you can’t afford just because of its reputation or prestige.

Plan to talk to make Brazos part of your college planning. We’re here for you

For more than 40 years, Brazos Higher Education has been helping make education more affordable for students and parents. As a non-profit, we can offer you low rates and personal service to help you prepare for college costs and a bright future. Contact us today!