The day you leave for college may still seem like a long way off, but high school can be a great time to start saving for future college expenses, especially as the cost of higher education continues to climb each year.
Just making a few simple moves, like picking up a part-time or summer job and signing up for AP classes (which may allow you to skip some college classes and save on tuition), can go a long way once you get to campus.
Read on for more tips on how to start saving up money for college while you are still in high school.
Advancing Yourself With AP Classes
Achieving an AP Exam score of 3 or higher may allow incoming freshmen to skip introductory college courses or gain credit toward graduation. The College Board reports that nearly all colleges and universities in the U.S. offer credit, advanced placement, or both based on your AP scores.
Most colleges have a policy outlining the minimum scores needed to earn credit for specific AP Exams, plus how much credit will be awarded and how it applies to your degree or graduation requirements. The College Board offers an AP credit policy search online, but it’s wise to double check with your individual school.
Earning college credit before you even step foot on campus freshman year can be a great way to save money on future college classes in the long run. You might even be able to graduate early, which could mean thousands of dollars in savings depending on which university you attend. Of course, there are fees to take the AP Exams, but that amount may be offset by the amount of credit hours you’re able to gain if you score well.
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Picking up a Part-Time or Summer Job
Working in high school and setting aside at least a portion of your earnings in a savings account earmarked for college can definitely come in handy when it comes time to cover expenses like books, meals, entertainment, or off-campus rent.
Recently, some companies with part-time and entry-level jobs — perfect for high school students — have started offering tuition support or reimbursement for eligible employees. At Starbucks, for instance, part- and full-time employees are able to get 100% of their tuition reimbursed for a first-time bachelor’s degree through Arizona State University’s online program. Working at Chipotle, you may also be able to receive some tuition assistance every year.
Managing Expenses by Budgeting
It’s never too early to start good money habits, such as maintaining a balanced budget. You might start with a simple spreadsheet that tracks your monthly income (like allowance or any paychecks you earn) as well as your monthly spending, separating your expenses into essential and nonessential. You may be able to free up more money for college savings by cutting back on nonessential expenses. The popular 50/30/20 budget rule suggests putting 20% of your income toward savings for long-term money goals, like saving for school.
Starting to save in high school could potentially help minimize the financial burdens you face during college. Maintaining a budget in high school could also help prepare you for keeping your expenses in line as a college student.
When making a college budget, make sure you research what things like books, transportation, rent, and groceries are going to cost in the area. You can then look at what you might be able to cut in order to save more, like smaller meal plans, off-campus housing, renting used textbooks, or taking the bus rather than bringing your car.
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Switching up Your Savings Account
A high-yield checking or savings account could earn you significantly more money by paying a high-than-average interest rate. This could help your college savings fund grow quicker.
If you earn a regular paycheck, one easy way to save is to split up your direct deposit between your checking and savings account. This way, you guarantee some money automatically ends up in savings, making it a little harder to spend. You could also set up an automatic transfer within your account so that you don’t have to constantly remind yourself to save.
Researching Scholarships and Grants
Scholarships and grants are both forms of aid that don’t need to be repaid, essentially making them free money. Getting a scholarship, or a few, can go a long way in lessening the financial burden you face in college. Some scholarships are awarded to incoming freshmen so spending some time researching scholarships and grants could pay off in the long run.
There are online databases, like FastWeb or Scholarships.com, that aggregate information about different scholarships and what their application process looks like. Each scholarship is likely to have their own eligibility criteria and application requirements so pay attention to the details when you are applying.
Different Ways to Pay for College
The U.S. government offers aid in the form of federal student loans, but also grants and some scholarships, which can significantly reduce the cost of college. It’s important when applying to schools to consider all of the costs involved. You can estimate your financial aid online ahead of time, so you can make an educated decision about where to attend school.
If savings, financial aid, and federal student loans aren’t enough to pay for college, private student loans are another option to consider. These loans are made by private lenders and aren’t required to follow the same regulations as federal student loans. Because of this, they lack the borrower protections afforded to federal student loans and are generally considered an option only after all other sources of funding have been reviewed.
💡 Quick Tip: Even if you don’t think you qualify for financial aid, you should fill out the FAFSA form. Many schools require it for merit-based scholarships, too. You can submit it as early as Oct. 1.
High school is the perfect time to start preparing for college and how you’ll pay for it. Taking on a summer or part-time job can boost your income and allow you to start socking away money for future college expenses. Other ways to make the cost of college more manageable include taking AP classes, researching scholarship options, applying for federal financial aid, and taking out federal or private student loans.
If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.
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