How to Help Your Teen Financially Prepare for College

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A recent survey found that 48% of parents expect their children to pay for some or all of their college. Many young adults are now graduating with some amount of student loan debt. It is possible to get a college degree without having to spend the next twenty years paying it off?

How to help your teen financially prepare for college so they don't graduate with staggering student loan debt.

Forecast college costs  

You can’t be prepared for the expense of college if you don’t know how much it costs. Look online for an interactive calculator that will help estimate the cost of tuition and room and board. Don’t forget to factor in books and living expenses (aka four years of pizza).

Compare several schools to help figure out what works best with your budget.

Dual enroll or take AP classes in high school

I know many teens who graduate high school with a year or two of college credits under their belt. This can be a great way to get a head start in college and save money.

Commute to a local college or university 

Not only will you save with lower in-state tuition, your teen can save money by living at home.   I did this and was able to save thousands of dollars in room and board.

If your child has their heart set on going away to college, consider having them go to a local school the first year or two and then transferring to their dream school.

Apply for grants, scholarships and work study programs

This is something your teenager should do while they are still in high school. Every school offers grants, aid and scholarships for students. Start researching early what your school of choice has available because the sooner you apply the better.

When I was in college I was paid to take notes in class. These notes where used for students who had disabilities and were unable to take notes in class.  I was paid by the hour and this helped cover the cost of my tuition for several semesters. 

Save on textbooks 

Years ago you had to buy all your textbooks at the school bookstore and if you were lucky there was a used copy available. Not anymore. Today you can rent textbooks, buy them online, or even share with another student.

With the price of textbooks rivaling tuition for some courses, shopping around and finding the best deal is a simple way to cut college costs.

Shop for a student loan

Not all student loans are created equal. For many families, the cost of college is not something they can afford to pay for upfront. If your teen does need to take out a loan, do some research to make sure you are getting the best option that fits their needs.

Discover Student Loans offers helpful advice for students and parents, including student loan and tips on paying for school.

Take advantage of student discounts

If your child lives in a college town many restaurants and stores offer discounts for students.

Don’t just take advantage of local discounts, many online retailers offer great student discounts as well, including Apple and Adobe. All your teen needs for the discount is their student ID or college email address.

Delay college for a year

One of the most cost effective ways to get a degree is to finish it in four years. A student who switches majors multiple times or changes schools halfway through a degree program will end up paying more for their education.

Allowing your teen to wait a year and work (also saving up more money) while they figure out exactly what they want to do is a viable option for many families. Not every 18 year-old knows exactly what they want to be “when they grow up.”

Waiting a year can be a great way for your teen to earn extra money, get some real life experience, and help them decide on their educational goals before they start spending money.

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