3 Strategies for Students and Parents to Start Saving for College Now
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Students and parents can be surprised to find that paying for college starts way before the student gets their admissions offer. In addition to the enormous costs of college itself, there are the application fees, the registration fees for each standardized test, the travel costs of visiting colleges, and many more expenses. With these mounting college costs coming faster than you think, it is important to start saving for college as soon as you can.
The earlier you start saving for college, the more money you are likely to accumulate and the better off the financial situation will be. After all, if you start putting money in college savings account like a 529 plan early on, the account will have more time to accumulate interest so that you will have more money to spend later on. Even without the help of a bank, saving for college sooner rather than later gives you more time to build up funds, allowing you to cover more college costs in the future.
The question then arises: How can a family start saving for college early and often? Some families choose to set aside a certain amount of money every month while the student is in high school to use for college costs later. The amount each family chooses depends on a number of factors including a family’s financial situation and the student’s goals for college (public or private university? In-state or out-of-state? etc.).
We at CollegeVine recognize that sometimes families don’t have extra money to set aside each month or put in a savings account. In that case, there are some strategic changes you can make in your family’s daily routines that will help you save money for college. Read on to discover three strategies that students and parents can adopt while the student is in high school to start saving for college as soon as possible.
Strategy 1: A Student Job
In some communities, it is fairly common for high school students to work some entry-level, minimum wage job once they are old enough. Some common jobs for high schoolers include grocery store clerk, cashier, pizza delivery person, and other basic jobs that do not require a diploma.
By getting a job, the student is simultaneously earning money to pay for college and building their college resume by gaining work experience. Maintaining a high school job shows that a student has learned time management skills, developed a good work ethic, and can handle multiple responsibilities.
If there is some reason why the student can’t get a job (inflexible work hours, lack of transportation, and so on), he or she could always try earning money outside of the official workforce. For example, students could work in their community by babysitting, mowing lawns, or tutoring other students (see How To Turn Your Interest In Tutoring Into A Successful Business for more information). These jobs allow for flexible hours, and they can still look impressive on your college application.
One of the best jobs to build a great college resume, however, is a competitive internship. Many internships for high school students take place during the summer, which takes away scheduling conflicts that may arise with other after-school jobs. In the same way, a student could gain invaluable experience working in a genuine office setting doing real office tasks.
If you want to pursue an internship, however, it may not be that easy. High school internships tend to be ultra-competitive, so you’ll need to carefully craft your job application and prepare for any interviews well ahead of time. For more help in getting an internship, you can check out our blog post How to Get an Internship. It’s also important to figure out which ones are paid and which ones are not.
In addition, you could sign up for CollegeVine’s Mentorship Program. Through the program, your one-on-one mentor will help you discover your interests and passions and build your profile for colleges, making the process of getting a good job faster.
Ideally, most of the money that a student makes at his or her job should be put aside for college. However, we at CollegeVine recognize that it is difficult to not spend some money on things you need or even something to treat yourself every once in awhile. In fact, buying yourself a little gift every few months could be a great motivational tool to keep you going steadily at your job.
Note, however, that most students cannot get a job unless they are at least a certain age. Before you fill out any job applications, check the local labor laws in your community to find out whether your student is eligible to join the workforce. Usually, the minimum age is around 16, but it could vary based on your circumstances.
Strategy 2: Cut Down on Unnecessary Purchases
Every family has some expenses that are unavoidable, such as those for food, clothing, and housing. However, there are some things that families spend money on regularly that aren’t a necessity. If you cut down on some of those unnecessary purchases during the high school years, you may find yourself with some extra money at the end of each month to put aside for college.
Here are just a few examples of some unnecessary purchases that are fairly easy to cut down on:
- Small daily purchases: You don’t need that Starbucks latte, newspaper, or other daily purchase you seem to buy out of routine. Try to substitute those little purchases for something more cost-efficient like a coffee maker at home or a subscription to an online newspaper.
- Eating out: This is not to say that you should stop eating at restaurants until college. However, it wouldn’t hurt to opt for a less expensive home-cooked meal instead of a dinner out every week or so. You can make it fun by having the whole family cook together or trying a new recipe.
- Extravagant vacations: Perhaps instead of going on that big international tour, you could opt for a more reasonably priced family vacation that is closer to home. If you want, you could even try a stay-cation, where the whole family stays at home and relaxes. If you must travel far to an expensive place, however, try to cut down your costs by doing things like staying with family instead of in a hotel or eating at less expensive restaurants.
- Borrow your school books, don’t buy them: If the student has to read a book for class, odds are that their older classmates did too. Instead of buying all the school textbooks and other required reading brand new, you can ask a friend or neighbor to borrow their old ones or even buy it from them for a smaller fee. You’d be amazed how much money you’d save, and you may even get some free annotations while you’re at it!
- Reuse school supplies: Some families choose to buy new binders, pencils, erasers, and other school supplies at the beginning of every school year; however, if your materials from the previous year are still functional, there is no reason why you can’t use them again this year. Simply spend money on the school supplies that need replacing — everything else is worth saving.
Strategy 3: Apply for Scholarships Early
Many students think that the time to start applying for scholarships is their senior year; however, there are many scholarships out there for high school students of all grade levels. You just have to start looking for them early enough.
To find scholarships for high school students, you can do a simple Google search, visit your school’s counseling office (many counselors have scholarship applications that are directly applicable to their students), or even search your local community boards to see what the local businesses are offering.
For more general help on your scholarship search, see our Helpful Scholarship Resources and Tips.
If you are looking for more high school scholarship resources, you can check out our blog post on college scholarship resources for high school students.
Lastly, you can go through some of our previous blog posts to see if any of these scholarships targeting certain groups or activities apply to you:
Final Tips for College Savings
When it comes to saving for college, starting early is key. Saving for college is often a family affair, so it’s worth having a family talk and deciding what you’re all going to do to make sure that your student can afford to go to the best-fit college.
Once the student enters his or her senior year of high school and starts applying to college, you’ll notice a lot of financial aid opportunities open up. These come in the form of fee waivers, university financial aid, FAFSA, CSS Profiles, student loans, and so on.
To learn more about all the financial aid opportunities coming your way, check out these blog posts:
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