Paying for College

College is an expensive investment. It’s also a big part of reaching your big dreams.

Many families don’t know where to begin when it comes to how to pay for college. If college is in the near future for yourself or your family, consider some of the following points to put your dreams back within reach.

Include Everyone and Start as Soon as Possible

It’s easy to think that college only impacts the person going to school. Yes, the student is directly impacted by the college decision, but it also impacts the entire family.
Paying for college requires involvement of both the parents and the student. If your parents haven’t discussed college with you yet, now is a good time to start the conversation. Reach out to your extended network of high school teachers, counselors and family friends for a well-rounded view on the cost of college and best schools to consider for your unique situation and educational goals.

If you’re a parent reading this post and have time to prepare for your child’s college days, one great way to start early is by regularly funding a savings account. You can also consider a 529 Plan for your child. If your child works, consider having him or her put a portion of each paycheck away for college. Every little bit helps, and it pays to start early.

Exhaust All Your Options

Paying for college often requires a patchwork of different sources of money. You want to consider the following as you look at financing college:

  • Federal student loans
  • Scholarships
  • Grants
  • Work-study programs when in college

Scholarships and grants are hard to come by but are a great resource as it often doesn’t require being paid back like loans. Fill out your FAFSA as soon as possible to see what kind of Federal student loans you can get.

If you’re planning to study a specialized field, look for scholarships and grants specific to that field to have a great chance of success.

Stay Close to Home

Much of the college experience is about going away from home. The problem is that moving out significantly increases cost. Staying close to home, such as at a community college, is a great way to lower the cost of college for the first few years.

You can attend a community college and get your basic coursework out of the way, at a significantly reduced cost – then transfer to a four-year university. Just make sure the courses qualify to be transferred, so you don’t lose out on the savings.

Consider Future Earnings

It’s reality that not all degrees pay as well as others. The last thing you want to do is take out significant loans to fund a degree with low-income potential. You can protect against this by openly discussing what you’re interested in with your parents and counselors early on to determine the best ways to achieve your career goals. Take a good, long look at the burden and costs that come with student loan debt.

Try to get on the same page with your parents about your career aspirations and college expectations. Make sure each of you is clear on where the other stands. Then, work together to come up with a plan for making your dreams come true!

Paying for college is a serious decision. Many variables are at play, but with wise decision-making, you can set the foundation for success now and in later years.