The cost of college education has skyrocketed in the US. This has led to a massive affordability crisis, and many students are left wondering how to save up for college without stacking up hefty sums of student debt.
How Much Should You Save For College?
How much you need to save up will depend on the type of college you want to go to, where you plan on living, your family’s financial background, and how much you expect to get in financial aid. Add up your estimates for how much you’ll have to pay in tuition fees, accommodation costs, and school supplies. From this sum, deduct the total amount of financial aid you expect, and you can estimate how much you will need to save for college.
A college graduate’s student loan racks up to about $40,000 on average: and that’s only the average! Given this, it’s easy to see why Americans have amassed $1.75 trillion in student loan debt. As a student or parent, you might wonder if there is a better way. Luckily, there is!
In this article, we look at some ways that you can start saving up for college, so you can go through college without worrying about debt.
Apply For Scholarships
Scholarships are immensely helpful in supplementing your savings and cutting off student debt. It’s essentially free money for college that a student doesn’t have to pay back. If you’re a parent, motivate your child to excel in academics, athletics, and extracurricular activities so that they can qualify for scholarships. And make sure to apply for any scholarship you’re eligible for – even a small award goes a long way.
Apply For Aid
Any student that wishes to attend college must fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Schools use this form to understand how much money they can offer students. This aid covers work-study programs, school aid, federal grants, and state aid.
Attend AP Classes
AP or Advanced Placement classes allow high school students to earn college credit. International Baccalaureate and Community College Courses are also ways of earning college credit. When you do this, you can skip some general education courses in your first year of college, which goes a long way in bringing tuition costs down.
Enter Contests and Win Cash
There are plenty of youth organizations that run contests for high school students. Winners receive monetary and other prizes. For example, the YoungArts’ National Art Competition offers rewards up to $10,000.
Some other contests include the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, MIT THINK Scholars Program, and FRA’s Americanism Essay Contest, to name a few. Not only are these competitions a way to earn extra money to help cover some of your college expenses, but they can also be an impressive addition to your resume.
Find Yourself A Part-time Job
You can pick up a part-time job during the summer holidays – or even for a few hours after school – to save up money for college. Consider doing jobs like babysitting, tutoring, working for a local business owner, or mowing lawns. Besides earning money, you also gain work experience that you can add to your resume.
Open a Savings Account
When you get serious about saving money for college, you need a safe place to stash it too. Many banks offer student savings accounts, which come with no monthly maintenance fees and no minimum balance requirements. You can also open a college savings account, like Coverdell ESAs or 529 plans. These come with benefits such as tax-free growth and withdrawals without any profound impact on your financial aid eligibility.
Be Conscious About Saving Money
It’s tempting to spend it all when you get your paycheck from a part-time job, gifts, or birthday money allowances. However, it would be best if you were smart about your expenditures. Chances are that your parents take care of your daily needs, so there’s no need to spend any of the money. It would be better to put that money into your savings account so you’re not tempted to blow it all away. If you feel like it, you can keep a small portion of your earnings back to treat yourself.
Sell Stuff that you’re Not Using
Do you have sports equipment, electronic items, or clothing you’re not using anymore? Why not put up a garage sale and make a bit of extra cash for college? If you cannot set up a physical garage sale, you can advertise your items online through eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or Etsy.
Ask Your Family Members to Pitch In
Your family and loved ones probably buy gifts for special occasions such as a birthday or graduation. You can request them to donate money to your college fund instead. There are several 529 plans that have gifting platforms so people can make secure electronic deposits straight to your college fund.
Choose a Cheaper College Close To Your Home
Attending a prestigious college is always a dream, but there is nothing wrong with going to an in-state college that offers the same degree programs but at a fraction of the cost. When you decide to stay local, it also eliminates the expenses of moving, travel, and accommodation, which could all amount to thousands of dollars a year.
From the perspective of parents, children grow up very fast. One moment they’re crying in the school bus, and the next, they’re slinging their backpack and moving across the country to pursue their college education. This is why it’s never too early to start thinking about a college savings plan.
That said, parents are not the only ones responsible for paying for college. If you’re in high school and thinking about college, you’re old enough to prioritize your education and put in the effort you need to pay for your future. You can do so by studying well and qualifying for grants and scholarships or working part-time to earn money – or better yet, both!
It’s empowering to see how children start taking ownership of their education by building their own savings fund. Not only does this allow them to save money for college, but it also establishes healthy money habits that can be carried forward into the future.