3 Unique (and Cost-Effective!) Ways to Support Your Grandchild’s College Plan
With college admissions as competitive as they are, we know a lot of our clients want to do everything they can to support their grandchildren in their college journeys.
You may have planned for 529 college savings, earmarked resources so the grandkids have spending money through the college days, or talked to your children about what kind of support they might need.
But as you’ve probably noticed, the college journey starts all the way back in high school, and it can be exhausting and stressful for striving kids. With that in mind, here are three unique ways you can contribute to your grandchildren from day one.
Spring for test prep
Some kids seem to have an innate talent for standardized testing. For the rest of us, the SAT and ACT exams generally require studying and strategy. These tests can be important for gauging where to apply, for winning scholarships, and even for admissions.
If you’re looking to help boost your grandchild’s chances at admission, consider helping out with test prep tutoring, courses, or an online program that allows the learner to go at their own pace.
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Our client Renee did this for her granddaughter, an ambitious high-schooler who was intimidated by the SAT.
“I got her a subscription to an online test-prep course, and she loved it,” says Renee, who adds that as a studious and well-organized person, the online course’s flexibility was perfect. “For my other granddaughter, her cousin, I’d talk to her parents and probably spring for an in-person course. She needs people around to focus!”
When considering something like this, we suggest communicating with the parents first: they’re on the front lines of the college admissions effort, after all, and probably have a keener sense of what type of help would benefit your grandchild the most.
Talk about the future
In all the stress of coursework, application essays, and exams, it can be easy to lose sight of the ultimate goal: to get a great education that helps further your grandchild’s ambitions and dreams.
Talking to your grandchildren about what they hope for, what they like or dislike about different campuses, and what they’re worried about can really help. Just getting a teenager talking can feel like a huge step in itself, and letting him or her walk through their own thoughts and feelings out loud can give an opportunity to get closer to their own answers.
Open communication can also help set the stage for giving advice come decision-making time. By being part of the process from the beginning, you’ll have insight into your grandchild’s concerns, and you’ll also be able to offer the benefits of experience and big picture planning.
This is one of the great gifts of being a grandparent: you’re close enough to be a source of unconditional support, but you’re far enough to be considered objective.
As Renee put it, “My granddaughter is quiet but has a very strong character. She often feels like her parents want to control her every move – and while I know as a parent that this is just a phase, I’m able to give her essentially the same advice but with more credibility. It’s like she can hear it better because we’re not living in the same house and having debates about curfews and screen time.”
Take on the scholarship search
There is a seemingly limitless supply of scholarship opportunities out there: half the trouble is vetting them all.
If you have the time, interest, and capability, talk to your grandchild about possibly spearheading a scholarship search. The process can be time consuming, but the rewards can be immense. After all, even a few thousand dollars of free money every year can make a difference over the long term.
We suggest asking first, though, because you want to make sure the help is welcome and that you’re searching for opportunities that your grandchild will be willing to pursue.
For example, our client John has a grandson who loved the idea of finding scholarships, but he also felt that lengthy essay-based applications would be completely out of reach during the school year. So, John made sure to search primarily for scholarships that had shorter essay requirements or which were based on other factors.
John says, “I was even able to help him fill out a number of applications to get the ball rolling. It was fun for me – I am retired after all, and don’t mind spending an hour or two on the computer in the afternoons – and it really helped him. We applied to dozens of scholarships in total, and he ended up getting a fair amount of funding for college. It was extremely rewarding.”
Again, communication is a critical part of making this type of project work, as is the willingness to spend the time! But it can be a great way to support your grandchild from behind the scenes.
Keep your momentum going
College planning is a multi-faceted financial planning challenge that can also be incredibly rewarding. We suggest starting early, setting financial priorities that fit your family, and building a personalized plan from there.
Saving for College
What You Need To Know