How to save for college while you’re still in high school

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Figuring out how to save for college can be just as important as deciding what you major or which school to attend. It’s never too early to start to save money as a high school student, especially as higher education costs continue to soar.

 

High schoolers can pick up a part-time or summer job to increase the amount of money they’re able to save toward college. Other options to prepare for the cost of college might include taking AP classes, which could help students skip introductory classes or even in some cases graduate early. Check for even more tips on how to start saving up money for college while you are still in high school.

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Related: 46 tips for joining the real world

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 number of credit hours you’re able to gain if you score well.

Picking up a Part-Time or Summer Job

Working in high school and saving for college can certainly help cut down some costs when it comes to paying for things like books, meals or off-campus rent.

 

Recently, some companies with part-time and entry-level jobs, which are perfect for high school students, have started offering tuition support or reimbursement for employees. At Starbucks, for instance, part- and full-time employees can get 100% of their tuition reimbursed for a first-time bachelor’s degree through Arizona State University’s online program. Working at Chipotle, you can receive up to $5,250 from the company for tuition assistance every year.  At Amazon, their Career Choice Program offers to prepay 95% of tuition and fees or certain certificates and associate degrees in high-demand fields, up to $12,000 over four years.

 

Working a part-time or summer job can help you tackle how to save money for college while in high school, as long as you keep your savings goals realistic and have a plan in mind for what the money will be used for in school.

Managing Expenses by Budgeting

It’s never too early to start good money habits, such as maintaining a balanced budget. For current high schoolers, you could start with a simple spreadsheet that tracks your income, like allowance or any work you do. Then subtract any necessities, like gas or car insurance. The remaining amount is what you have for fun and entertainment, but also what you have to contribute to savings for college or other finance goals. 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.

Switching up Your Savings Account

A high-yield checking or savings account could earn you significantly more money based on the interest. 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. 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.

 

Recommended: A Guide to Unclaimed Scholarships and Grants

 

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 its 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 help drastically 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.

 

Your savings for college will probably come from many different places and in various forms. Scholarships, credit hours or work-study jobs can also help finance some of your tuition costs.

 

If savings and financial aid 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.

The Takeaway

High school is the perfect time to start preparing for college and researching how you’ll pay for it. Students may look into summer or part-time jobs to boost their income and save some money for classes. Other options to help cut down on the cost of college include taking AP classes and researching scholarship options.

 

Students who are still looking for funding after exhausting federal aid, including federal student loans, may want to review private student loans.

 

Learn more:

This article originally appeared on SoFi.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

 

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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.
SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change. SoFi Lending Corp. and its lending products are not endorsed by or directly affiliated with any college or university unless otherwise disclosed.

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What is college like?

 

Whether you’re leaving home for the first time or enrolling in your local community college, you might have a lot of misconceptions about the college experience.

 

For students who are looking to prepare for college and are asking that key question — what is college really like? — keep reading to learn about some of the myths and realities and how to fund higher-education dreams.

 

Related: College move-in day tips for parents

 

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Pop culture has altered how we view the quintessential college experience, and although some of these myths are rooted in some level of truth, many don’t hold up nowadays.

 

College myths can stoke anxiety for incoming students. So let’s look for truths.

 

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Although traditionally students head to college for a “four-year degree,” many of them take more than four years to graduate. In reality, only about 41% of first-time college students (attending full time) earn a bachelor’s degree within four years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

 

Sixty percent of students take six years to graduate, the center reports.

 

There are lots of legitimate reasons it can take students more than four years to graduate. Some may change their major and need extra classes to meet their new major requirements. Others may take on a minor or a double major that requires extra classes. Adventurous students might take time to study abroad, which could potentially slow their progress.

 

Others may decide to transfer schools or might have to work to pay their way through school, which could lead to finishing required classes at a slower pace.

 

A student may simply need more time to master the coursework. Taking your time to make sure you get the most value from your education and accomplish everything you want matters more than following a strict timeline.

 

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Some students know exactly what career path they want to take and choose a major accordingly. Others may need more time to discover their passions and interests.

 

There is a misconception that you have to major in a subject that relates to your career path. Many degrees teach skills that can transfer to a variety of fields. Philosophy and history degrees can teach perspective. English literature degrees can enhance the art of critical thinking. Majoring in graphic design may lead to a career in marketing.

 

The bottom line is, if you focus on the skills you learn while earning your degree more than the specific subject matter, you can apply those skills to many different career paths.

 

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Here’s a fun fact for students who are debating whether or not they have to live on campus to get the full college experience: Only 22% of university students live in on-campus dormitories. Living on campus can be convenient, but can also be expensive and a big step for students fresh out of high school.

 

Even if students don’t live on campus, they will still have access to on-campus resources and perks such as clubs, events, libraries and gyms.

 

Choosing to live on campus is a personal decision and needs to be one made based on a student’s particular financial, social and educational needs.

 

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Thirty percent of community college students end up transferring to a four-year school, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

 

Attending community college has multiple benefits worth considering. Students can receive a high-quality education for a fraction of the price by taking their general education classes at a community college. Taking these classes at a cheaper tuition price can give students more time and leeway to experiment with subject matter they are interested in.

 

For those who have their hearts set on prestigious universities, it can be easier to transfer to one of those schools from community college than it is to be accepted straight out of high school.

 

Some community colleges have deals with local universities that can guarantee admission to your dream school if you meet certain qualifications. It’s known as a transfer admission guarantee, or TAG.

 

In California, six University of California campuses offer guaranteed admission to students from all California community colleges who have completed at least 30 semester UC-transferable units.

 

And in Florida, state community college graduates with an associate degree are guaranteed admission to one of the 11 state universities (except to limited access programs, which call for additional admission requirements).

 

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If you’re looking for a dose of reality before you start college, consider these tidbits. Knowledge is power, after all, so it can’t hurt to know what to expect.

 

 

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Let’s start with some good news: Almost any student can find help paying for college no matter what their financial background is.

 

While students from more privileged economic backgrounds may qualify for less federal student aid such as grants, both colleges and private businesses offer a variety of merit-based scholarships and grants that students can apply for.

 

It’s worth considering all of your aid options before you foot your entire college bill by yourself.

 

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You’ve heard it from your teachers, you’ve heard it from your parents, and chances are you’ve heard it from countless other adults who like to reminisce about the good ol’ days: Your time spent in college will be some of the best years of your life.

 

College is a unique time when young adults can follow their passions. Even if you choose a major that doesn’t align with all of your interests, there are many elective classes you can take and clubs you can join that will help you foster your passions.

 

Learn Portuguese, take a class in 3D printing, hit the stage for some dramatic arts, or simply explore the library archives. Take advantage of this special time in your life to learn more about what interests you.

 

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You’ve known your whole life that you want to be a doctor. Or a lawyer. Or a beekeeper. Or so you thought. One of the many joys of college is that you have the time and space to learn and grow.

 

You may discover after two years of being a psychology major that the statistics classes you had to take were more interesting than your clinical psychology classes.

 

It’s never too late to switch majors (that extra year of sticking around campus will be worth it) or start interning in a new career field.

 

Some students may find that the college they chose while they were still in high school isn’t a good fit. Guess what? You can transfer to a new school if you wish. You can change your mind about what you want to study and what career path you want to take, too.

 

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For some, college parties are a rite of passage. For others, they are stressful and distracting. If the party lifestyle is something you’re not interested in or is something you know you’ll get swept up in, it’s OK to stay home on a Friday night.

 

Focusing on your studies is why you’re at college, so don’t let peer pressure or societal expectations make you feel bad for prioritizing that.

 

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As mentioned, students can apply for scholarships and grants to help pay for their college education. But if a student needs a little more help in the funding department to supplement their college savings, grants or scholarships, chances are either that they or their parents will consider student loans.

 

Students can apply for federal and private student loans. Federal student loans often have lower interest rates than private student loans do and don’t have to be paid back until a student graduates or leaves school.

 

Private student loan lenders may require the borrower to begin paying back the loans before graduation day. That said, private student loans can help with college costs that federal student loans may not completely cover.

 

If students consider private student loans, they should research each lender and review the terms and rates offered.

 

Learn more:

This article originally appeared on SoFi.comand was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

 

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

 

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements.

 

SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change. SoFi Lending Corp. and its lending products are not endorsed by or directly affiliated with any college or university unless otherwise disclosed.

 

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

 

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