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18 Steps to College Success

Follow these tips to get one step closer each year.
Year 0:

Establish a 529 plan prior to birth or adoption and encourage friends and family to celebrate your new arrival by investing in your child’s college savings fund.

Year 1:

Encourage your baby to communicate emotions and needs through baby sign language. For many children, it reduces frustration and strengthens bonding with adults. You can find the basics online.

Year 2:

Play recordings and make music with your toddler. Music develops beginning math skills such as counting, sequences, order, and tempo. The inevitable dancing, hopping, and twirling builds motor skills, as does home-based rhythm instruments such as pots and pans.

Year 3:

Planting and tending carrots, sunflowers or tomatoes with your child is a great way to teach environmental awareness and explore the workings of nature.

Year 4:

Encourage a sense of self by chalk outlining your child on pavement or butcher paper having them add the special features as they see themselves. Surprise Grandma and Grandpa with a newspaper stuffed, life-sized surrogate grandchild to keep them company.

Year 5:

Begin a permanent library with your child’s favorite book and add a new book for each celebration throughout the year. Be sure to revisit the early books often, reading them aloud with your child builds vocabulary and confidence.

Year 6:

Teach financial responsibility to your child by establishing an allowance. Make sure there is enough to share with the piggy bank. 50 cents to one dollar per year of age is a general rule of thumb.

Year 7:

Teach your child to set financial goals by matching their saved amount toward something they want. Make deposit day at the bank a special outing. Encourage relatives to gift to your child’s college savings account for birthday gifts instead of giving toys.

Year 8:

Develop leadership and organizational skills by having your child plan a Saturday afternoon family outing including the budget for the excursion.

Year 9:

Introduce the concept of investment with your child. Show them how their college savings account or other investment grows over time. Explain that their future is your greatest investment.

Year 10:

Introduce community involvement by helping your child find ways to serve the community such as a neighborhood clean-up, passing out water at charitable walks, volunteering to write get well cards, or reading at a nursing home. Share with them the joy of service, lead by example.

Year 11:

Have the family read a new book of interest together monthly. Discuss the book during “family meal time”. Biographies of successful individuals in your child’s interest areas work well.

Year 12:

Check with your child’s school to ensure that your child is ready to take algebra or another higher-level mathematics course by 8th grade. Mathematics skills and appropriately sequenced courses are critical for college admission and early graduation.

Year 13:

Help your teenager explore career paths by setting up experiences at friend’s or relative’s workplaces. Explore online with the teen the education and income from these careers and talk about the lifestyle each provides.

Year 14:

Work with the school counselor early to ensure your child is on track for 4 years of Math, 4 years of English, 3 years of Science, 2 years of Social Studies, 2 years of a foreign language. Consider the possibility of your teen graduating and entering college early.

Year 15:

Encourage your teenager to take the PSAT as a Sophomore. Explore the International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement (AP) and community college dual enrollment options in your school district. The cost savings from reducing the time spent in college are surprising, especially when additional income earnings are considered.

Year 16:

Research colleges and scholarship programs with your teenager (resources:,,, and Make college visits, spend time on campuses in your area, encourage your teenager to shadow a student at the college.

Year 17:

Support your teen in applying to colleges in fall, completing the FAFSA in October, and applying for scholarships throughout the year. Complete the FAFSA early, by Halloween, to ensure your teen meets all priority funding deadlines and has access to early financial aid award offers.


Your child is on their way to College. Have you saved enough?

Arizona’s Education Savings Plan is not insured by the State of Arizona or any of the program providers. Neither the principal deposited nor the investment return is guaranteed by the State of Arizona or the program providers.

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