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How to Hire An Attorney

Maybe you’re buying or selling real estate, trying to resolve a dispute with a neighbor, starting a business, or going through a divorce. When life gets legal, you’ll likely need access to a good attorney.

But there’s a lot to think about when hiring the services of a lawyer, especially if you’ve never retained one before.

While personal referrals can be a great place to start, it’s also important to find an attorney who has experience that is relevant to your legal situation.

Fortunately, there are a number of resources and websites that can help you hone in on a reputable lawyer that fits your needs, as well as your budget.

Knowing the right questions to ask before you sign on the dotted line is also key to getting the right fit.

Here are some beginner tips and tricks to help guide you through the process of hiring a lawyer.

Finding the Right Attorney

Most lawyers concentrate in a few legal specialties (such as family law or personal injury law), so it’s important to find a lawyer who not only has a good reputation, but also has expertise and experience in the practice area for which you require their services.

Below are some simple ways to begin your search:

Word of Mouth Referrals

One of the best ways to find a lawyer is through word of mouth. Ideally, your family and friends may have worked with someone that they can refer you to. Better still if their situation is similar to yours.

But even if a recommended lawyer doesn’t have the right expertise, you may still want to contact that attorney to see if they can recommend someone who does.

You might consider asking your accountant for a recommendation as well, since these two types of professionals often refer clients back and forth.

Local Bar Associations

Your local and state bar associations can also be a great resource for finding a lawyer in your area.

County and city bar associations often offer lawyer referral services to the public (though they don’t necessarily screen for qualifications).

The American Bar Association also maintains databases to help people looking for legal help.

Your Employer

Many companies offer legal services plans for their employees, so it’s worth checking with your human resources department to see if yours does.

You’ll want to understand the details, however, before you proceed. Some programs cover only advice and consultation with a lawyer, while others may be more comprehensive, and include not only advice and consultation, but also document preparation and court representation.

Legal Aid or Pro Bono Help

Those who need a lawyer, but can’t afford one, may be able to get free or low-cost help from the Legal Aid Society. You can often find out who to contact by searching online and typing “Legal Aid [your county or state]” in your computer’s search bar.

Consider reaching out to local accredited law schools as well. Many schools run pro bono legal clinics to enable law students to get real world experience in different areas of law.

Online Resources

There are a number of online consumer legal sites, such as Nolo and Avvo , that offer a way to connect with local lawyers based on your location and the type of legal case you have.

Nolo, for example, offers a lawyer directory that includes profiles of attorneys that clue you in on their experience, education, fees and more. (Nolo states that all listed attorneys have a valid license and are in good standing with their bar association).

Martinedale-Hubbell also offers an online lawyer locator , which contains a database of over one million lawyers and law firms worldwide. To find a lawyer, you can search by practice area or geographic location.

Doing Some Detective Work

Once you’ve assembled a short list, it’s a good idea to do a little bit of sleuthing before you pick up the phone.

This includes checking each attorney’s website–does it look cheap or professional? Is there a lot of style but little substance?

By perusing the site, you can also get details about the lawyer or firm, such as areas of expertise, significant cases, credentials, awards, as well as the size of the firm–and, size can actually be an important consideration.

A solo practitioner may not have much bandwidth if they have a heavy caseload to give you a lot of hand holding if that matters to you. However, their prices may be more budget-friendly than a mid-sized or larger firm.

While larger firms may be more expensive, they may have more resources and expertise that makes them the better option.

You may also want to make sure the lawyers on your consideration list are in good standing with the bar, and don’t have any record of misconduct of disciplinary orders filed against them.

Your state bar, once again, is a good place to get this kind of information. Some state bar websites allow you to look up disciplinary issues. The site may also have information on whether the attorney has insurance.

You may also be able to search the state bar’s site by legal specialty, which can help you confirm the lawyers you’re looking at really do have expertise in the area of law you need council in.

The Martindale-Hubbell online directory can be helpful here as well–it offers detailed professional biographies and lawyer and law firm ratings based upon peer reviews, which may help when choosing between two equally qualified candidates.

Asking the Right Questions

Many lawyers will do a free initial consultation. If so, you may want to take advantage of this risk- and cost-free way to get a sense of the attorney’s expertise and character. This is also a good opportunity to get a sense of the costs.

Whether you’re able to arrange a face-to-face meeting, or just speak over the phone, here are some key topics and questions you may want to address:

•  Do they have experience in the area of law that applies to your circumstances?

Further, you may want to get the percentage break-down of their practice areas. If you need someone to help you with setting up a business, for example, and that’s only 10 percent of what they do, that practice may not be the best fit.

•  Do they work with people in your demographic? If the practice only represents high net worth clients, and you’re not in that income bracket, they could be a mismatch. You can also get a sense of their typical clientele by asking for references from clients.

•  How much time can they commit to you? And, how do they like to communicate–phone calls? Email? Ideally, you want a lawyer who can make you a priority and is able to respond to your questions in a timely manner, rather than leave you dangling for days or weeks.

•  What are the fees and how are they charged? For example, they may charge hourly, or they may work on a contingency basis, meaning if you successfully resolve your case they get paid. Also find out if they require a retainer (an upfront fee that functions as a downpayment on expenses and fees), as well as what is included in their fees, and what might be extra (such as, charges for copying documents and court filing fees). Ideally a lawyer will explain their fees and put them in writing.

You may also want to use this meeting or conversation to judge the lawyer’s character and personality, keeping in mind that chemistry counts.

The attorney you’re interviewing could have all the right credentials and awesome experience, but in the end, if their personality strikes you as a little prickly, or the vibe is off, even if you can’t exactly put your finger on it, you may want to trust your gut, walk away and keep searching.

The Takeaway

Choosing an attorney is an important decision–much like choosing a financial advisor, doctor, or other professional who will have a significant impact on your life.

As much as you want to just get on with what may be a challenging or stressful situation that you need legal help with, it’s a good idea to take your time, cast a wide net for referrals, then create–and carefully vet–your short list.

Finally, you’ll want to have an open conversation with any lawyer you are considering to make sure you feel he or she is a good fit for you and that you understand, and can afford, all the fees involved.

Whether you’re looking for a lawyer to help you buy a home, start a business or facilitate any other life transition, it’s a good idea to get your finances in order as well.

One simple move that can help is to open an online bank account with SoFi. SoFi Checking and Savings® is a high yield account that allows you to earn competitive interest, spend and save–all in one account.

Another perk: SoFi Checking and Savings doesn’t have any account fees, monthly fees, or many other common fees.

Check out everything a SoFi checking and savings account has to offer today!

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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Financial Benefits of Going to a Community College

Attending community college instead of a four-year public or private university is a choice many students and parents consider because the student can live and eat at home and spend less on tuition.

This can translate to taking out smaller student loans and paying them off sooner after graduation.

Here’s a closer look at community college benefits.

What Is a Community College?

Community colleges, also known as junior colleges or 2-year colleges, provide a two-year course of studies that either ends with an associate degree or equals the freshman and sophomore years of a four-year college.

There were 942 public community colleges in the United States that enrolled 5.6 million students as of 2020, according to Statistica.

A four-year program isn’t the only way to be successful. Community college, trade school, apprenticeships, and entrepreneurship can be alternatives.

Benefits of Attending a Community College

What are the benefits of going to a community college? The first advantage that usually comes to mind is cost, but there are others.

A Smoother Transition

The transition from high school to college can be challenging, but attending a community college is easier for some people.

Community college classes are smaller and less intimidating. If you prefer smaller class sizes and not having to walk across a large campus daily with thousands or tens of thousands of students, then a community college may feel less overwhelming.

Transferring to a four-year college could also be easier for students who have taken classes from a community college.

Tips to ease the transfer:

•   Ensure that the credits earned will count at the four-year college.
•   Sign up for a transfer program at the community college.
•   Ask: Does the two-year college have a transfer relationship with any four-year colleges? Will the credits you earn be accepted at the four-year colleges you’re considering? What GPA and grades are needed to successfully transfer?


One reason that many students opt for community college is the flexibility. You can take as many classes as you want, and it can vary from semester to semester.

Community colleges also give students the option to enroll when they want, unlike four-year universities, where one needs to enroll by early fall.

Rolling admissions give students more flexibility in planning studies, especially if they are working part time or need to save money to pay for tuition and books. The community college website will include key deadlines and requirements, such as transcripts from high school or another college, and any prerequisite classes.

The schedules at community colleges also tend to be more flexible, allowing a student to work and take classes in the evening. If a break from classes is needed, the enrollment requirements are also more lenient.

A Possible Bachelor’s Degree

Ninety community colleges were recently offering 900 bachelor’s degree programs, according to Beth Hagan, executive director of the Community College Baccalaureate Association, a Florida-based trade association, in a Pew Charitable Trusts report.

As of late, 19 states allow at least one two-year college to offer a four-year degree, and a growing number of states have started offering this option, according to the Pew report.

This means students do not always have to transfer to another college after taking classes the first two years. While many of the degrees are focused on a particular industry or skill, community colleges are adding more degree options.

Obtaining a four-year degree at a community college could save a student the time of researching other universities and colleges, transferring credits, having to move, and accruing more student loan debt.

Community colleges are updating the type of degrees offered to meet the needs of the workforce and include ones in information management, nonprofit management, and health care.

Price Tag

The tuition at community colleges is significantly lower than public and private universities’. Tuition and fees average $3,730 a year at two-year public colleges, according to the College Board’s 2019 Trends in College Pricing Report.

Room and board add more than $9,300, on average, to the tab of a public community college student living off campus, according to

So you can see the benefit of living and eating at the parental home or another relative’s, for free or not much, while taking classes. Even sharing an apartment or house with friends is likely more affordable than a dorm and meal plan at a four-year college or university.

Speaking of the four-year college route, the average price of tuition and fees alone for the 2020-2021 academic year came to $10,560 for in-state residents and $27,020 for out-of-state residents at public colleges, and $37,650 at private colleges. Room and board add more than $12,000 on average.

Taking classes at a nearby community college gives students the flexibility to work part time and earn income that they can put toward necessities. That could ease the pressure to take out higher levels of student loans.

Financing a Community College Education

Students can obtain both federal and private student loans to attend community college.

Those who move on to four-year colleges might find that scholarships, grants, and federal aid do not cover all of the costs leading up to a cap and gown. A private student loan can fill in the gaps.

The Takeaway

Going to a community college has its benefits. The price tag comes to mind, but a 2-year college can also be a better fit socially for some students, transferring to a four-year college could be easier, and rolling admissions offer flexibility.

If a private student loan is of interest, for community college or after a transfer, consider a SoFi variable- or fixed-rate loan.

Many undergraduates have a sparse or nonexistent credit and income history and can increase their chances of private student loan approval by having a co-signer. Both applicants can view the rates and terms by prequalifying.

Get a quote in just two minutes.

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Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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How Much Does it Cost to Adopt a Child?

Growing your family is a huge decision, and adopting a child will change your life forever. And while making the decision to open up your home and your heart to a new child seems like a natural next step for you and your family, the process can actually be pretty complicated—and costly.

There are a few different adoption methods and each comes with its own unique costs and fees. Read on for a breakdown of some expenses you might run into in the adoption process.

Cost of Adoption from Foster Care

Adopting a child from foster care tends to be less expensive than other options. According to a 2017 survey from Adoptive Families , the average cost of a foster care adoption was about $3,000.

Home Study

One of the most important costs to account for is the home study, which is when the prospective parents’ home is screened such that the adoption agency can get a sense of their day-to-day life. While the cost of a home study might be included in the overall adoption fee from an agency, the fees can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.

Foster care adoptions will also generally have a home study where a social worker observes the interaction between the potential adoptive parents and the child. In some cases, there may be state or federal programs to offset

Tax Credits for Foster Care Adoptions

The good news is there are also plenty of government resources for foster care adoptions—The Children’s Bureau, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has a wealth of resources available discussing the ins and outs of adoption.

The Children’s Bureau further explains that thanks to amendments to the Social Security Act in 1994, families adopting children from foster care could qualify for federal assistance depending on the child’s eligibility. This assistance includes:

•   A one-time, non-recurring reimbursement for adoption transaction costs
•   Recurring monthly maintenance payments for the child’s care (Not to exceed what the state would have paid to keep the child in foster care)

Families contending with medical expenses for the birth mother or child, attorney’s fees, or those who need extra travel for visits before placement might experience higher expenses than average with a foster care adoption.

Children adopted through foster care may also be eligible for health insurance coverage under Medicaid, and other medical assistance to cover some or all of the child’s needs like special education or therapy.

Planning for Private Agency Adoption

Private adoption costs in the U.S. can vary from state to state. According to the Children’s Bureau, the cost of a private, agency-assisted adoption can range anywhere from $20,000 to $45,000 on average .

Agency Fees

Court Documentation Fees

U.S. domestic adoptions must also be finalized in a court. Court documentation fees can be in the range of $500 to $2,000 , in addition to the cost of legal representation for the adoptive parents, which can range from $1,500 to $4,000 . Depending on the state, these fees may or may not be covered as part of an agency’s overall pricing.

Independent Adoption Costs

Some families choose to adopt a child without the assistance of an adoption agency and instead work directly through an attorney. It might seem like a cost-saving measure at first, but pricing can still vary. Expenses might be low if you match with a birth parent through word of mouth, or if the birth mother’s expenses are minimal.

However, these adoption costs can still range from around $15,000 to $40,000 . This typically includes most of the same costs of any other domestic adoption, including the home study, the birth mom’s medical expenses, and legal and court fees for the adoptive parents and birth parents.

Expenses for Intercountry Adoption

Adoption fees will differ depending on which country you plan to adopt a child from. Intercountry adoption costs tend to be higher than a U.S.-based adoption because there is usually foreign travel and immigration processing to factor into the equation, in addition to other higher court costs, mandatory adoption education, and other documentation. The U.S. government says the average cost can range from $20,000 to $50,000 for a foreign adoption.

Costs can depend on the organization managing the adoption as well: whether it’s the government, private agency, orphanage, non-profit organization, private attorney, or some combination of the above. Some intercountry adoptions are finalized in the child’s home country, while others must be finalized in the United States. Finalizing an adoption in U.S. court can come with extra costs, but also provides additional legal protections and documentation.

Other costs to adopt a child from another country can include:

• Escort fees for when/if parents can’t travel to accompany the child to the U.S.
• Medical care and treatment for the child
• Translation fees
• Foreign attorney or foreign agency fees
• Passport and visa processing
• Counseling and support after placement

Financing the Cost of Adoption

So, with costs ranging from at least a few thousand dollars to up to $50,000 or more, financing an adoption may require some planning. Financially preparing for a child typically means looking into all associated costs, including raising your new child and tackling your own debt.

Some employers may offer financial and other support to help with the adoption process. According to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption , the average policy offers a reimbursement of around $10,000.

Additionally, companies with 50 or more employees are required by federal law to grant parental leave to employees who have adopted a child. Mothers and fathers are eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave after the birth or adoption of a new child.

To offset some of the high costs of adoption, there are currently also federal adoption tax credits. The actual amount depends on family income, tax year, and employer adoption benefits, so it’s a good idea to talk to your tax attorney if you’re interested.

Grants and loans also exist to help with the cost of adoption and can help with any type of legal adoption, whether a foster care adoption, private agency or overseas adoption. Most grants and loans have their own eligibility criteria based on things like marital status, income level, or even specifics like religion.

You can also consider taking out a private loan from a lender like SoFi to cover the adoption costs. If you qualify for an adoption loan, you can use it for whatever qualifying personal financial need arises. Or perhaps you want to pay down your credit card debt, or build a new bedroom before the baby arrives, which a personal loan can help with as well.

Recommended: 5 Tips for Saving for a Baby

The Takeaway

The cost of adopting a child can vary widely, from a few thousand dollars to $50,000. Foster care adoptions tend to be less expensive than private agency or intercountry adoptions. There are state or federal tax credits that may help offset the cost of adoption. Other resources to pay for adoption include grants and loans.

Use our personal loan calculator to see how an unsecured personal loan with SoFi could help you prepare for the anticipated costs of adopting a child.

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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The ACT and SAT: Comparing and Converting Scores

Other than three letters and hours long exams, do the SAT and ACT have much in common? After taking both, students receive a score from each, but the ranges between the two vary wildly.

It’s possible to compare test scores across the two tests using a simple conversion chart or formula. It’s also worth understanding how the two tests are different, and what a student can expect when taking each test.

In 1926, the SAT was developed as the Army Alpha, to measure the IQ of Army recruits. Over time, the format and audience for the Scholastic Aptitude Test changed. The scoring method, format, and subjects have been adjusted over the years to better reflect the high school curriculum and college application process.

The current version of the SAT takes three hours (three hours and 50 minutes when including the essay portion) and includes sections on math, reading comprehension, and writing, and the optional essay section. The highest score a person can achieve on the SAT is 1600.

The American College Test, created in reaction to the SAT, was first administered in 1959. University of Iowa professor of education Everett Franklin Linquist developed the standardized test to better evaluate a student’s practical knowledge instead of reasoning skills that the SAT focuses on.

The modern ACT takes two hours and 55 minutes (add 40 for the optional writing section) to complete. The test includes sections on English, math, reading, and science, and the optional writing portion. The highest score possible is 36.

Colleges and universities generally accept both the ACT and SAT, but prepping for and taking the two tests is not the same. Understanding the differences between the ACT and SAT might help students decide which test to take and how they might best maximize their score.

How Do the SAT and ACT Differ?

Other than the score a test taker receives, the SAT and ACT have several differences that might inform a student’s decision to prepare for one over another. Students are taking both tests now more than ever, but preparing for each is different, and it’s possible to prefer one test experience over another.


One of the most obvious differences between the two tests is the score. An ACT score ranges from 1 to 36, and there’s no penalty for getting a question wrong. The score is calculated by adding the raw scores of each section, then dividing by four to get the composite score (out of 36).

SAT takers get a score between 400 and 1600. Once again, there’s no penalty for answering a question wrong, and the score goes up with every right answer. Section scores are added together to yield the total score (out of 1600).

Type of Testing

There’s a common belief that students’ strengths in the classroom might allow them to test better on one standardized test over the other. The ACT, with a deeper focus on verbal skills, might be a better fit for students who excel in English classes. Those with strong math skills could prefer the SAT, with a bigger emphasis on math questions.

Both tests have a math section, but the SAT covers data analysis, while the ACT will have questions about probability and statistics.

Format and Subjects

Even when the essay portion is included, the ACT is shorter than the SAT. However, the SAT has 154 questions, while the ACT has 215—how does that compute? SAT takers have an average of one minute and 10 seconds on each question, compared with 49 seconds for the ACT.

Time per question could be important to a student’s test taking strategy, especially when factoring in the difficulty levels of each test. In the SAT’s math section, the questions become harder the further a student moves along. The same goes for the ACT’s math section, as well as its science section, where passages and the questions become more difficult as the test progresses.

The ACT has more sections than the SAT, including multiple-choice questions on:

•   English: grammar, punctuation, sentence structure
•   Math: algebra, geometry, trigonometry
•   Reading: passage comprehension on fiction, humanities, and sciences
•   Science: comprehension, including summaries, charts, and graphs
•   Writing (optional)

The SAT has fewer sections, with all multiple-choice questions about:

•   Reading: comprehension questions based on passages
•   Writing and language: grammar, editing, and vocabulary
•   Math: algebra, trigonometry, and geometry
•   Essay (optional)

The major differentiator between the SAT and ACT experience might be the ACT’s dedicated science section. The SAT includes questions about science, but they are dispersed across the test.


The cost of taking the SAT and ACT is similar:

•   SAT: $46, $60 with optional essay
•   ACT: $50, $67 with optional essay

The cost of taking the test shouldn’t keep a student from doing so. Both the College Board and ACT offer fee waivers for students who meet the requirements.


Because the ACT was founded out of a Midwestern university, the test is somewhat more popular in middle America. The SAT has its origins in testing aptitude for admission to Northeastern educational Army institutions. Students on the East and West coasts are slightly more likely to take the SAT than the ACT.

Because of these geographic trends, students on the coasts might find more SAT prep courses than ACT prep courses, and vice versa.

Converting Test Scores

SAT to ACT conversion is a hot topic. Comparing the tests on their face is like comparing apples to oranges. However, if a student takes both, it helps to figure out which one they performed better on. That means finding a way to compare one test score to another.

Here’s how the ACT’s composite scores compare to the SAT:

ACT Score

SAT Range

36 1570-1600
35 1530-1560
34 1490-1520
33 1450-1480
32 1420-1440
31 1390-1410
30 1360-1380
29 1330-1350
28 1300-1320
27 1260-1290
26 1230-1250
25 1200-1220
24 1160-1190
23 1130-1150
22 1100-1120
21 1060-1090
20 1030-1050
19 990-1020
18 960-980
17 920-950
16 990-910
15 830-870
14 870-820
13 730-770
12 690-720
11 650-680
10 620-640
9 590-610

Other Important Numbers

With test scores converted, here are other figures to consider: college tuition, fees, meal plans, housing, books, parking fees, and so on.

Federal loans and scholarships are a first line of pursuit, but if all costs are not covered, or if a student does not qualify for federal aid, a private student loan from SoFi® can help. With no fees and a simple online application, students and parents can explore loans with competitive rates to finance an education.

SoFi® membership also means complimentary access to Edmit Plus. Using data-driven technology and tools, Edmit offers school recommendations, scholarship estimates, and post-college salary estimates.

Interested in financial aid to cover the cost of your college tuition? Apply for a private student loan with SoFi today.

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Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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College Planning Checklist for Parents

College planning is an exciting time for you and your child. But, as exciting as it may be, there is a lot of preparation involved.

So, whether your child is entering into their freshman year of high school or a few months away from graduation, there is no better time to start planning than the present.

From figuring out your financials to helping your child prepare for admission exams, this post will provide you with a college planning checklist for parents to streamline your child’s transition from grade school to college.

Starting a Savings Plan

Paying for college is expensive. According to The College Board , the cost of a public four-year school in 2009-2010 was $8,420 per year for tuition and fees. Currently, a public four-year school costs $10,440 in tuition and fees. That’s a 123% increase over the last decade, just for tuition and fees.

As prices continue to soar, it’s easy to become worried about how your child will pay for college or that they will have to take out a crushing amount of student loans in order to pay for the college of their dreams.

With this reality top-of-mind, it’s wise to start saving for your child’s college tuition and fees. But, while many parents may have the best intention of helping their children pay for their college expenses, they often fail to prepare.

So, even if your child is just now entering high school, you can still start saving and preparing for college costs. It’s never too late to start setting money aside for your children’s education.

Paying Close Attention to Grades and Curriculum

According to a 2019 report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling , students’ academic achievements, which include grades, strength of curriculum, and admission test scores, constitute the most important factors in the admission decision.

Since grades and curriculum are crucial to getting an acceptance letter, you may want to keep close tabs on your student’s grades and study habits. From helping with studying to supporting homework expectations, getting involved with your kid’s coursework may help them perform better in school.

You may also want to encourage them to take Advanced Placement® courses. Since AP® courses allow you to tackle college-level material while your child is still in high school, your student may get ahead by taking some.

Also, if your student passes the AP® exam at the end of the class, they could be rewarded with college credits. Racking up college credits could save you time and money in the future.

For example, if your child takes AP® English in high school, they might be able to skip freshman-level English once they get to the college or university of their choice.

There are fees associated with taking AP® exams. Fee reductions may be available for qualified applicants.

Encouraging Involvement with the Community

According to the same report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling , colleges are seeing more applications than ever. Between the Fall 2017 and Fall 2018 admission cycles, the number of applications from first-time freshmen increased 6%and international student applications increased by 7%.

With the increase of competition, your child must stand out. While the top factors in admission decisions were academics, the next most important factors included a student’s demonstrated interest and extracurricular activities.

That said, encouraging your child to get involved in the community could potentially help them write a solid college application or it may even help them decide what they want to do with the rest of their lives.

For example, if your child loves to run, they may want to try out for the track team to round up their classes or volunteer as a track coach for a youth team. Or, if they prefer journalism instead of sports, they may want to try writing for the school newspaper.

Not only will getting involved help with their college application but it will help sharpen their skills. So, don’t be afraid to encourage them to explore their passions and get involved with the community. Even better, you could get involved with them.

Planning for the SAT and ACT

Another key component to receiving acceptance letters from colleges and universities is having acceptable SAT® and ACT® scores. Some schools require the Scholastic Aptitude Test® known as the SAT®, while others may require the American College Testing®, known as the ACT®. Some schools will accept either one, but it’s a good idea to check the preference of the schools your child will apply to.

To help your child prepare you can encourage them to sign up for an after-school prep class or practice at home by using online resources such as Khan Academy’s free SAT practice program in partnership with The College Board©.

Another option is to have your child take an SAT® and ACT® preparation course from Prep Expert. As an ed-tech company, Prep Expert specializes in online SAT® and ACT® test preparation and offers full-length live online courses, prerecorded video courses, private tutoring, and more.

Researching Schools

One of the most important components of college planning for your child is helping them decide which university or college is the right fit. Fortunately, there are plenty of options available to help you find a school that will fit your child’s education and experience needs.

To get started in the decision-making process you may first want to help your child decide what degree they would like to achieve. If they know they want to be an engineer, you may want to focus on schools with good engineering programs.

Even if you may think their degree is too niche, there is often a program that will support it. Whether they want to study astrobiology or comic art , there is often a program for your child. However, if they are unsure of a major, they may want help finding a school with more program options available.

It’s also wise to consider factors such as location and the type of college experience your child wants to have. For example, if they want to go to a school close to home and commute to save money, that desire will limit the search parameters.

Remember, while you may be the voice of reason, the ultimate decision is up to your child—the student. Simply help them evaluate all of the key factors in making an informed decision.

Scheduling College Visits

According to the University of California’s American Freshman Survey published in 2019, 51.7% of respondents said college visits were highly important in deciding which college to go to.

With this in mind, you may want to help your child plan a college visit well in advance of making a decision. The College Board recommends scheduling your visits during your child’s junior year in the spring if you have already researched schools.

For seniors, it may be best to schedule visits in the fall through the winter months. This may help seniors narrow down their options.

Since you want your child to get a feel of the college experience, you’ll want to make sure classes are in session. Therefore, it’s also wise to avoid visits during holidays or break weeks.

Investigating Financial Aid Options

Even if you have saved for your child’s education, you may want or need to explore other financial aid options which could include your child taking on some of the cost.

Completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) is one of the first recommended steps to applying for student financial aid, whether that is in the form of grants, scholarships, federal loans, or work study. Filing opens on October 1 each year and the deadline to complete the form is June 30 of each year.

It’s recommended to complete the form as soon as possible because there are differing deadlines to be aware of, including for individual colleges as well as federal and state deadlines. The sooner you submit your FAFSA, the better your chances of receiving aid will be.

Colleges and universities will use the information reported on the FAFSA® to determine how much aid a student is eligible for. Even if your child has not applied to a school yet, they can list that school on the FAFSA®, so encourage them to include their dream school as well as those they consider safety schools.

A Student Aid Report (SAR), which is a summary of information provided on the FAFSA®, will be sent within three weeks—sometimes sooner. Corrections to the FAFSA®, if needed, can be made after reviewing this report. The SAR contains information about a student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC) . It is recommended that the report be kept for your records.

The schools listed on the FAFSA® will have access to the information within a few days of when the form is submitted. If your student is approved for financial aid, they will receive financial aid award letters from each school they applied and were accepted to. These letters will include information such as the cost of attendance (COA) , EFC, grants, scholarships, loans, and other financial aid that your child might be eligible for.

Comparing each financial aid award letter can help you and your child determine the financial obligation of attending each school. It is recommended to exhaust all federal aid options before considering a private loan. But if you are looking for supplemental funding for your child’s education, private student loans may be an option.

Private student loans and parent loans at SoFi have no origination fees, no late fees, and no insufficient fund fees. The application process is entirely online and flexible repayment options are available.

If deciding between schools is still a struggle, try using a resource like Edmit to compare the cost of attendance, estimate financial aid needs, and learn more about merit aid or scholarships available.

SoFi members receive complimentary access to Edmit Plus for data-driven facts and figures to help you and your child decide which school is the right choice.

Learn more about private student loans and parent loans offered by SoFi.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change. SoFi Lending Corp. and its lending products are not endorsed by or directly affiliated with any college or university unless otherwise disclosed.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.


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