More on involving the kids in saving for college
(Editor's note: This is the second of two parts. Read Part One.)
Students may gain a deeper appreciation of their family's financial sacrifices when they realize how expensive college is. They can learn about college costs from the College Board at www.collegeboard.com, the U.S. Department of Education at www.ed.gov, and high school guidance offices.
Researching scholarships -- There are numerous websites with information about sources of financial aid. For example, www.fastweb.com and www.finaid.org contain search engines with data about thousands of scholarships with varying eligibility criteria. In addition, www.fafsa.ed.gov provides an overview of federal student aid programs, including Pell Grants, campus-based aid programs, Stafford Loans, PLUS Loans, and others. Also, local libraries and high school guidance offices may have information about state-sponsored aid programs and scholarships sponsored by local organizations.
Earning money -- High school students can set aside a portion of their wages from part-time or summer jobs for higher education expenses. Also, students may be able to obtain jobs that build on career interests as a way of solidifying their future plans.
Getting organized -- College planning encompasses numerous details, including visiting institutions that a student may want to attend, applying for financial aid, obtaining transcripts and letters of recommendation and meeting deadlines. A high school student can take responsibility for making sure that important matters are tended to ahead of time. For example, if a student has a school vacation coming up, he or she could help organize a family trip to visit colleges of interest or spend some time completing college applications.
You and your prospective student may be able to think of more ideas that could add value to your family's efforts to save for a college education. Getting your budding scholar involved in the process -- financially and otherwise -- could ultimately be a pivotal lesson in responsibility that impacts his or her later success in life.
A Family Affair
Young people can assume varying levels of responsibility for college planning depending on their age and interests. Consider the following if you are looking to get a middle or high school student involved.
6th to 8th Grades
- Continue good study habits
- Enhance computer and Internet skills
- Participate in arts activities or sports
- Start saving money
9th to 10th Grades
- Enroll in college-preparatory classes
- Establish high academic standards
- Research careers that match personal aptitudes
- Learn about college costs
- Identify prospective colleges
- Research financial aid
- Set aside money from babysitting, yard work, or other odd jobs for college expenses
11th to 12th Grades
- Get a part-time job and continue saving for college
- Visit colleges of potential interest
- Take the Scholastic Aptitude Test
- Enroll in Advanced Placement classes, if available
- Apply to colleges and for financial aid
Points to Remember
- Although young people may not have access to the same level of assets that their parents do, there are many ways they can help their families plan for college -- maintain good study habits, take college preparatory classes, and set aside money from part-time jobs for college expenses.
- Many experts recommend introducing children to college planning when they are in the sixth, seventh, or eighth grade, depending on the child's maturity level and interests. Children at this age can be encouraged to maintain good grades, enhance computer skills, and think about potential careers.
- High school students can explore college planning at a deeper level, including using the Internet to research college costs and sources of financial aid. Websites such as www.ed.gov, www.collegeboard.com, www.fastweb.com, www.finaid.org, and www.fafsa.ed.gov provide considerable information in these areas.
- Since attending and financing college requires planning and attention to detail, high school students can help their parents develop a plan to make sure things get done on time. For example, the plan could encompass visiting prospective colleges, completing applications and other paperwork, applying for financial aid, and other tasks.
- Parents and students can work together to develop a budget for college expenses. Average costs for various types of two-year and four-year colleges are available at www.collegeboard.com.