Monday, October 27, 2014

Parenting Pointers: Tips for College

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.

I recently had a chance to interview Monica Betson Montgomery, author of The Keys to College: A Road Map for Parents to Guide Their Children, to get some great pre-college tips.

Why did you decide to write The Keys to College?
The purpose of this book is to encourage parents.  I want all parents to know that your children are capable of great things!  Many times the only difference between children who go to college and those who don’t is that in one home it is an expectation and supports are in place to ensure the children are prepared for college and in the other the parents nor children held college as an expectation.  The Keys to College empowers all parents with the information needed to ensure that their children are prepared to apply to, be accepted and successfully complete college.
What sets it apart from other college-preparation books?
First, The Keys to College provides insight into how the primary and secondary education system works and how to make it work for your children.  Parents are given tools on how to help their children establish good study habits, where to find academic support and learning resources, as well as the importance of raising college awareness in the home and setting college as an expectation for ALL of your children.

Finally, this book reminds and encourages parents to: Make sure you enjoy your children and that they know you love them regardless of their successes and or failures.  Rest assured that your children are capable of achieving great things.  Be aware of their strengths and weaknesses.  Build on their strengths and help them or get help for them in their areas of weakness.  Begin visiting your local college campuses and build college visits into your family vacations.  Set college as a standard in your home for your children.  Let your children know that they will attend college, and that you look forward to them expressing their thoughts and ideas about the schools visited and learning about the colleges that they research themselves and would like to visit.  It is the insight and encouragement along with the solid college road map that sets this book a part from any other.

One major key to college is being able to afford it. What are some sources of funding that are often overlooked?
Establish a college savings fund for your children.  All fifty states and the District of Columbia sponsor 529 Tax Advantage College Savings Plans. This is a tax-free way for families of all incomes to save for college and can nearly be used at any accredited college in the US and at some foreign schools.  There are two types of plans: prepaid tuition plans and savings plans.  Minimum monthly contributions can be as little as $10 and in many states the maximum total contribution is $300,000.00. Withdrawals from this account are managed by the parent/ grandparent and withdrawals for your student’s college expenses remain tax exempt.  Benefits of 529 Tax Advantage Savings Plan varies by state.  Take a little time to look into this financial planning option and be sure to take advantage of it!

What are some habits that students should develop before they get into college?
Some habits students should develop before going to college include:
1)     Good study habits: Setting aside sufficient time, daily, to complete and revisit your work
2)      Discipline: Use your time wisely, i.e. study, work, cyber space, friends, etc. Make a plan  for each day and stick to it!  
3)     Budgeting: Students should have a free checking and savings account at least two years prior to going to college.  This will allow the student to learn and apply budgeting techniques.  Establishing good budgeting habits is crucial prior to attending college. 
4)     Credit: Understanding credit is important.  The first week of college classes, credit card companies are on campus seeking out new students to receive an enticing gift to sign up for their credit cards!  All that glitters is not gold. In other words, understand that with an extension of credit comes responsibility.  Always pay your bill early and at worst, on time.  Always pay more than the minimum amount and at worst, the minimum amount.  It’s best to spend only a third of the limit and at worst half.  If you spend more it begins to count against you; it is deemed poor planning and bad money management.  Ultimately, you want to spend each month that which you can pay off completely.  Otherwise the purchase (due to interest) costs you more than the service or product you gain.
5)     Overall Choices: The purpose of going to college is to finish, right?  Not everyone imagines themselves completing college; some students just stay in the moment (making poor choices without considering the impacts on their future).  It is important to think about next steps after college: graduate school; employment; travel?  Consider your alternatives after college prior to entering college as the future should serve as a motivator to make  good overall choices like internship opportunities, study abroad, etc.  Be sure to avoid classmates that “just stay in the moment;” this may be the most overall important choice of all.
6)     Research: Make it your business to understand the nuances of where you are headed.  What are the best classes to take and which are the best professors/instructors?  What support resources exist on campus and how do you access them?  What internship opportunities are available in your area of interest?  What travel abroad opportunities are available and how do gain and when will you have access to such opportunities? And, again what resources exist to ensure it happens? Make it your job to know who you should know on campus and make sure you meet them!

Monica Betson Montgomery completed her undergraduate studies in Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley, and later completed her MBA at St. Mary's College of Moraga. The Keys to College is her second book. Her first work, You Too Can Prepare Your Child for College, was inspired by the ongoing need to increase parent awareness of the education process and the importance of their role therein.  She also subsequently designed a series of interactive workshops for parents and students that complement the book.
Monica and her husband commit a great deal of time and resources to impoverished communities to help ensure that information and opportunities are provided where the need is greatest. For more information, please visit:

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