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10 Things to Consider in College As Told by a Recent Grad

Hello GT20 readers. Today’s post will be different. It will still be informative (hopefully!) but more conversational. For some of you, college is right around the corner. This post is for you.

In retrospect, college gave me the best four years I could ever ask for. It was engaging, challenging and eye-opening. Yes, from time to time there were tears, but also a lot of laughter. I have made a lot of good memories with some unforgettable people, and I have learned a lot about myself.

Throughout my years in college, I have learned a few lessons that I would like to share with you all. In no particular order, here are 10 things to consider in college, as told by a recent grad.

1. Take some classes for pure enjoyment.

The nice thing about college is that you can pick and choose what classes you want to take. College is a nice time to explore your interests. If you can, take some classes that sound fun to you. Going to class is a lot better when you enjoy what you are learning.

 2Join clubs and/or organizations.

College is not only a nice time to explore your interests, but it is also an opportunity to meet new people. Joining clubs or organizations are great ways to do this. There will be a club or an organization for almost anything. Find something you enjoy and hang out with people that enjoy it too!

3If your school has a recreational center, take advantage of it.

In college, the one thing that I regret was not using the recreational center as much as I would have liked. You are in fact paying for it through your tuition fee, so why not use it? It is important that you take care of yourself and stay healthy.

4. Network.

Trust me, it is never too early to start networking. If you are not on the social networking website LinkedIn®, it is time to create a profile and get connected with classmates, teachers and mentors. This website allows you to connect with people in your professional world, find job opportunities, and gain insight about your career. It is one of the best networking tools out there so take advantage of it! Your future-self will thank you for this. Once you graduate, it is not who you know, but who knows you.

5. Pay attention in class.

You do not have to be a perfect student, but make sure you know what is going on in your classes. If you have questions for your professor, make sure you ask them. Getting an A in the class means nothing if you do not retain any of the information.

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4 Tax-Saving Strategies for College Funding

Tax CheckIt seems there are as many ways to save for college as there are colleges. It pays to do some research and understand ways you can not only save for your child’s education, but also save on your yearly tax bill.

Depending on how much college costs, it’s possible to use tax strategies to save as much as you spend on college tuition (particularly in the long run). Here are a few tactics to consider:

      1. Income shifting.  This is the practice of “shifting” earned and unearned income to your child, so that you avoid paying taxes on that income.  Your child may have to pay some taxes, depending on the amount and the age of your child, but will be subjected to a much lower rate.  Note that unearned income (gifts) tax rules allow for a $13,000 annual exclusion per person, or $26,000 on joint returns.
      2. Standard deduction and personal exemption.  Parents can claim a personal exemption for their child as long as they provide more than half the child’s support.  If your child uses their own income as a personal support (more than half), then they can claim the exemption instead.
      3. Tax credits.  There are several tax credits your child can claim, including the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC)—worth up to $2,500 a year per student—the Hope Scholarship Credit, the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit, or the tuition and fees deduction.  However, keep in mind that you can only use one.
      4. Watch out for the Kiddie Tax.  “Kiddie Tax” is tax on unearned income to minors.  It applies to children under age 19 and full-time college students under the age of 24.

Strategies used for each family will undoubtedly vary.  Some strategies, such as income shifting, only makes sense for a family who will not qualify for need-based financial aid.  Income shifting may save taxes, but also might consequently decrease financial aid eligibility.

Curious which of these strategies might work for you?  Contact me for advice specific to your family’s situation!

Westface College Planning can help navigate the financial aid process from start to finish.  To learn how we can help you call us at (650) 587-1559 or sign up for one of our Tackling the Runaway Costs of College Workshops or Webinars.

Photo Credit: Great Beyond


Life After High School: 4 Alternatives to College

Going to college right after high school is not for everyone and that is okay. The important thing is that you are constantly learning and growing as a person. Actress Natalie Portman once said, “I don’t love studying. I hate studying. I like learning. Learning is beautiful.” Learning is beautiful and people learn in different ways. Some may find learning in a four-year college, while others may find it in volunteer work. That is the beauty of learning–it is everywhere. If you feel like college may not be the right path for you, here are four alternatives to college.

 

1. Volunteer

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

If you are unsure about your future and the idea of college, volunteering could be an option for you. Not only is it a great way to give back and do some good in the world, but it also teaches you about compassion, humility and selflessness. Through volunteer work, you can learn about social issues, and gain a great amount of life and work experience.

Here are a few programs that might interest you:

AmeriCorps: Here, you can volunteer to become a mentor, build homes, clear trails and many more. Members serve in nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community and faith-based groups. There are many programs within AmeriCorps such as the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) and AmeriCorps State and National.

Habitat for Humanity: In this program, volunteers build homes worldwide for those in need.

If the two above does not interest you, check out Idealist.org for more volunteer opportunities.

Lastly, look around locally and see if there are any organizations that you would like to get involved with.

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