How Your Teen Can Save for College


If you’re a parent with a kid in high school, the costs of sending them off to college can be anxiety-inducing. According to the College Board, the “moderate” budget for the 2015–2016 school year at an in-state college averaged $24,061. And the moderate budget for a private institution? The average hovers at $47,831. With the steep price tag of higher education, by enlisting your teen to do their part in helping pay for their schooling, they can lift some of the burden off your shoulders. Here are some ways you can get your high schooler involved with saving for college:

Talk It Out

Robert Farrington of The College Investor recommends having an honest and straightforward conversation with your teen about funding their higher education. “You need to be open with them early about how much you’ve saved for college, what they can afford, and what the student can expect,” Farrington advises. “These conversations should be taking place in early high school, so that there are no surprises junior and senior year when the student is making college choices.”

It’s also important to understand what expectations your teen have about their college experience. Will they be applying to both private and public institutions? Do they prefer to stay in-state or go to school out-of-state? Is taking a year off or starting at a community college something to consider? Help walk them through their options and understand the pros and cons of both. It also helps to have a discussion with them on student loans and how they work.

Work Out an Agreement

Carissa Uhlman, vice president of student success at Inceptia, suggests doing the math on the costs of college so you have specific dollar amounts to work with. Talk it out with your teen and work out an agreement with them on who will pay for what. “Shift the discussion from ‘what we can afford’ to ‘how we can afford it’ so that the student is engaged in the decision-making process and has some skin in the game,” says Uhlman.

Look into Scholarships

A great way to get free money for college is through scholarships. Scholarships can be either merit-based or offered for people who fall under certain groups. For instance, there are scholarships for academic, athletic, and creative achievements and for women, minorities, and those whose parents are members of certain organizations. There are plenty college scholarship finders on the web, such as, CollegeNet, and Fastweb. Your teen can also get more information at the local library or career counselor at their high school.

Your family may also qualify to apply for federal financial aid. Work with your teenager on looking into the requirements and application process of a FAFSA early on. Make sure you have the information on hand before you start will ensure you don’t fill out the application improperly or miss any critical deadlines. In fact, last year high schoolers missed out on as much as $2.7 billion in free federal grant money. Getting an early start and being prepared will make sure you take advantage of essentially free money your teen may be qualified to receive.

Save Money They Earn

Money your teen socks away from an after school or summer job could add up quickly if they diligent about saving. Better yet, encourage them to start their own business. Young teens who get a part time job or start their own business could have five years to save up for college expenses if they start when they are 13 years old,” explains 19-year-old Eva Baker of TeensGotCents.

There are myriad ways to earn a buck, Baker points out. For instance, they can earn money through photography, babysitting, dog walking, teach music lessons, or academic tutoring. Talk to your teen about what kinds of things they might enjoy and have a knack for and use that as a starting point to explore options. Your teenager will not only be saving money to knock down college expenses, but they’ll also learn savvy entrepreneurial skills that will help them in the future.

Match Their Savings

If you can afford to, offer to match any money they’ve saved up to a certain amount. This will this provide great incentive for them to get started on a college savings fund.

If you are currently a member of a credit union, your teen is eligible to open a savings account by association. Having a savings account early on will teach them to manage their money and establish good saving and spending habits. Contact your local branch to see how you can open an account in your teen’s name.

While paying for the costs of college can be daunting, getting your teen involved in helping pay for higher education not only helps with the high costs of college, but it helps your child learn the costs of things and the importance of financial responsibility. And instead of relying on the Bank of Mom and Dad to foot the bill of going to college, your teen will gain confidence in learning that they have the skills to earn money and save for things they want.