It’s a good idea to start planning for your kids’ college by the time they hit middle school, if not sooner. And once your student gets older, there are chances to prepare for financial aid, academics, and college life itself. There are several ways you can help your kids prepare for this important time in their lives so they will be successful.

Paying for School

It’s a good idea to think about your savings strategy every now and then. For example, as your child gets older, you will want to move your investments to more conservative options, including money market funds, CDs, or bonds. That way, any dips won’t affect the amount so significantly. As your child continues through high school, your investments won’t be as able to absorb risks associated with options like stocks. If you don’t feel you will be able to meet your savings goal, there are a few things you can do, including using low-rate private parent student loans. That way, you can still help out with some of the expenses of education.

Meeting with the High School Counselor

You and your student can meet with the counselor during freshman year to talk about classes to take and their academic performance so far. You can also talk about schools to potentially consider. A counselor can recommend some activities that will look good on a transcript and prepare your child for college. For example, you might want your teen to take Advanced Placement (AP) classes. With dual enrollment or AP classes, your student can earn college credit and high school credit at the same time. Often, these are taken during junior or senior years. That’s why it’s best to talk about these options early on with the counselor.

One of the benefits of dual enrollment is that you can save money on tuition. Still, each one has different requirements. For example, an AP class allows your child to take an Advanced Placement exam, and if the score is high enough, they can get college credit. On the other hand, dual enrollment classes are done in place of high school ones, but your student needs to get at least a C.

Visiting College Campuses

The choice on which college to attend can be a difficult one and is not one to be taken lightly. It’s a good idea to spend a bit of time visiting different campuses so you can get a better feel of what to expect. Even freshman and sophomore years of high school are not too early to begin these visits.

Besides the obvious benefit of seeing what the campus looks like, students can also meet in-person with admissions counselors and financial aid staff. And they could even make friends with current students and meet faculty in their desired area of study. It is a good idea to explore the dining hall and dorms, so your child knows what life on campus is like. Some schools even offer weekend visits, with special activities designed to showcase college life.