Saving for College

Whether you’re heading off to college in a few weeks or a few years, now is the time to save. Not sure you want to go to college? Just keep in mind that college grads typically earn almost twice as much as people who didn’t attend college.

If you’re already going to college in the fall, then you probably already know some of these tips. But, there might be a few things you haven’t already thought of or student loan-related websites you might not know about – so stick around! If you’re just starting to think about college, then we promise it’ll be worth it your while to keep reading.

  • Talk it over.
    Sit down with mom and dad and see how much they have, or will have, saved for your college education. Find out if they are looking into any loan options.  Knowing how much you have to work with can help guide the rest of your decisions.
     
  • What do you want to be when you grow up?
    If you know the answer, then it will further guide you on what schools to consider. If you don’t have an answer, that’s okay too. To save money and help you figure it all out, you might want to think about attending a local community college for the first year or two.
     
  • What are you really good at?
    You could be an all-star athlete or GPA-busting student. If you truly excel at something, chances are there will be a college scholarship out there for you. Just do a little online searching and talk to your teachers or coaches – they might be able to point you in the right direction.
     
  • Compare, compare, compare.
    Narrow down your college list to the top 3-5 and then start doing your research. Find out what the costs really are – from tuition and room and board, to default rates and transportation. Many colleges even have cost calculators on their websites to help you with the math. Also, look into what your employment prospects will be once you graduate. Put them all together into a spreadsheet and see how they all add up. It’s likely that one or two prospects will stand out over the others.
     
  • Where to get help.
    According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2013-14 school year was $30,094 for private colleges and $8,893 for state colleges (if you’re a resident). Your parents probably don’t have that kind of money just sitting around. If they do – congratulations! If they don’t, here are some good resources to get help:
      
    • consumerfinance.gov – The Consumer Protection Bureau’s Paying for College tool lets you compare financial aid offers.
       
    • fafsa.ed.gov – The Financial Student Aid FAFSA4caster tool can help you estimate your financial aid.
       
    • studentaid.ed.gov – This site from the U.S. Department of Education lets you research student loans, scholarships and grants. It also has calculators to estimate your monthly payments.

Don’t forget to check with your credit union for student loans as well. Credit unions are known to have some of the best loan rates around! And most of them offer their student members the chance to win small scholarships.