If you’re the parent of a college student, chances are you want to do everything you can to support them. If you have the means to contribute financially to their education, it’s important to get a head start before they go to school in the fall. Here are some steps to prepare for the extra expense.
Assess Your Finances
It’s a good idea to evaluate your finances, whether you are planning to pay 100% of the college costs or just a portion. You can use tools like a calculator at www.savingforcollege.com/college-savings-calculator to input your information and figure out college expenses, as well as the money you need for your own goals.
Consider Scholarships and Other Funding Options
Financial aid, scholarships, grants, work-study and federal student loans are available to students. Make sure to explore your child’s eligibility for these programs. A good place to start is https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/resources. Cosigning for a private student loan is another option. When you cosign, you take on liability for the loan if your child can’t pay it back. It’s much easier for your child to get aid if you cosign, but you take the risk.
Encourage Your Student to Work
You can help your kid own a piece of his education by encouraging part-time employment during school. The Federal Work-Study Program also helps college students with financial need to find part-time jobs. Even something small like babysitting or bagging groceries can help save a lot of money.
Look for Discounted Travel
Transportation to and from college can be expensive, especially if your student attends a school out of state. Try booking flights during off-peak hours. Look for student discounts and sign up for a frequent flier program to take advantage of the miles your student racks up. If your student lives closer to home, consider alternative travel to flying like the bus or train, or encourage your child to carpool with friends.
Cut Back on Recreational Expenses
Cutting back on extra expenses and investing the money into a fund for college expenses can help you save over time. Some things you can cut back on include expensive summer vacations, eating out at restaurants and activities like going out to the movies.
Watch for Holiday Sales
You can find some great deals on computers, tablets and other big school expenses by planning to purchase them during classic discount days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.