So, your kids are in high school. Honestly, you’re already crushing it as a parent, especially if you still have your sanity! Before you celebrate too hard, though, there’s one more thing to think about—college.
If you’re like most parents, the idea of paying for your kids’ college gives you nightmares. Let’s be real, we’re in the middle of a pretty scary student loan crisis right now. But the truth is, it’s not your job to fund your child’s degree. You’re there to help them out along the way, but they have skin in the game, too.
With that in mind, here are five things they can do while they’re still in high school to help them save up and go to college without student loans (yep, it is possible). These steps shouldn’t just happen during summer vacation, either. They can do this stuff all through the school year.
Avoid debt—no matter what
Teach your high schooler that debt should never be an option—for anything!
Encourage them to stay away from car payments (they can find a used car in their price range), teach them to use cash or a debit card instead of credit cards, and most importantly, forget about taking out loans to pay for college! Bonus tip: If their school offers a personal finance class, tell them to sign up!
Have a savings account
Any extra money they have, after budgeting for monthly expenses like gas, clothes, and maybe some fun every once in a while, should go straight into savings!
Work a part-time job
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If their schedule allows, working 20 hours per week can actually be healthy for high schoolers. Not only does it help them stack up cash for college, it preps them for the college or technical school search process by teaching them leadership and responsibility—plus, resume-building and interview skills. Colleges look at that stuff when they’re considering students for merit-based scholarships.
Weigh all the options
Your high schooler might be worried about getting into their dream school, but here’s some real talk: Their only “dream school” should be the one they can go to debt-free. This might mean going to a public, in-state school instead of a private university, starting at community college and transferring later, or even checking out a two-year trade school. Make sure you guys talk through all the options together, so they know you have their backs when it comes to making smart choices.
Start applying for scholarships
It’s never too early to start applying for scholarships and grants, and they really can make a difference in being able to pay for school. Encourage your teen to apply for as many as possible during the school year. I always tell kids to spend at least one hour per day applying for scholarships. Seriously, they could earn thousands of dollars in just part of the time they normally spend scrolling through Instagram!
And if you have a high school senior, help them fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Be sure to stay up to date on any financial aid award letters they receive to make sure they’re not being offered a loan—it can happen!
I know how overwhelming this whole process can be. That’s why I wrote my new book, Debt-Free Degree. If you and your teen need more tips on getting through college without student loans, check it out. I walk you through a step-by-step plan for sending your kid to college without debt.
You can do this!