These days, it feels like we need to start saving for college for our kids while they’re still in the womb. As the costs of attending post secondary institutions continue to rise, it's no wonder that many are left wondering how it can be possible to prepare for such a financial undertaking.
So how do we get our kids ready to take on this huge financial challenge? The good news is that there are lots of tools out there to help get them ready. Here is a list of top nine ways that can help your kids accumulate less debt, save money and improve their financial literacy before they even get to college.
1. Find and Apply for Scholarships with the U.S. Department of Labor
The U.S. Department of Labor has excellent tools that students and parents can use to look for a wide variety of scholarships. You can search by grade level, degree, award type, location, or even interest. Chances are that your student will be able to find several scholarships that can help offset some tuition costs.
2. Explore Federal Financial Aid with the FAFSA Forecaster
If you haven't already, it's probably time that you looked into the ins and outs of FAFSA, the Federal Student Financial Aid program run by the U.S. government. The FAFSA forecasting tool helps students prepare for the financial undertaking that college demands by estimating how much financial aid each student should expect based on income, scholarships, and other factors.
3. Save Money on the Necessities with Amazon Prime Student
If you're going to take the plunge and invest in higher education, you might as well try to save some money while you're doing it. Amazon Prime Student is an excellent place to get all of your supplies and needs for less than you would normally pay. They run regular promotions and deals to maximize savings throughout the year. All you need is a student email address and you're good to go!
4. Get All The Discounts With Student Discount Finder
Student Discount Finder is a free browser extension that lets you know about student only discount at over 1,000 retailers. This nifty tool can be easily installed on the Chrome browser and ensures that you don't miss a single student available online. The best part is that you don't have to go looking for discounts, it automatically notifies you.
5. Budget, Budget, Budget with Mint
This is a big one. If you only take away one thing from this list it should be this: Budgeting can make or break you. Before your student heads off to college, teach them budgeting! Mint combines credit cards, loans, bank accounts and other incomes and expenses in one, easy-to-read place. Keeping track of your money (and saving) starts with visibility. If you haven't already, create a Mint account for free and get started with the budgeting adventure.
6. Squeeze in Some Extra Hours with a Part-Time Job
For many students, taking on a part-time job is a good way to offset the costs of a college education. The good news is that having a part-time job can be manageable. Look for job opportunities on-campus because they often understand the demands of pursuing a degree full-time. If there aren't any opportunities on-campus, reach out to recruiters and employers on LinkedIn about possible internships which can later translate to paid jobs.
7. Take Courses Early
Many community and local colleges offer night, weekend and summer courses that can earn high school students college credit. These courses can be substantially cheaper to take while students are in high-school. Plus, it can free up time throughout the week for a part-time job. And it can also reduce the amount of time that it takes to complete the degree. The quicker that students can graduate, the better. This reduces the amount of time that they will need to financially support college expenses.
8. Expect the Unexpected
Most people budget for the obvious expenses that come with a college education. Tuition will obviously be one of the most significant chunks of change that you'll need to plan for. But don't forget about the "smaller" expenses that can really sneak up on you if you're not careful. Many students forget to consider the cost of supplies and textbooks. Costs like these don't just include textbooks and notebooks. You'll also need to budget for expenses like laptops, calculators, and other digital technologies that are often required by many lasses.
9. Lists are your Friends
When all else fails, you can always resort to the good, old-fashioned method of list-making. List out expenses, incomes, potential roadblocks - all of it. Laying it all out on paper helps to visualize the mountain that you're about to climb.
So what do you think? Financially planning for college can seem like a daunting challenge, but there are plenty of tools and resources available for students and parents to help make the process a bit easier. Are there tools that you've used before that helped you and your kids out?