Preparing Your Child Financially for College

Whether your child is still a toddler or in their final year of high school, you may be thinking about what college will cost and how to pay for it. Most students get the money for college from a variety of sources. Its never too late or too early to start making financial plans for college, and with the tips below, you can help your son or daughter get ready at any age.

529 Savings Plan

You can start a 529 account when your child is an infant or when they are older. If grandparents, aunts or uncles want to create one, they can do so as well. It is simply necessary to name the future student as a beneficiary. Taxes are deferred on contributions to a 529 savings plan, and as long as they are used for educational expenses, withdrawals are also tax-free. There is also an option for a prepaid tuition plan, which locks in the cost at current rates but may be tied to a particular institution. The specifics of 529 plans vary by state, so you should find out more about the rules in your area.

Student Loans

Your child’s first step in determining what kind of federal financial aid is available is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. If your child is not eligible for federal aid or the aid offered is not enough to cover all costs, they can also apply for private student loans. Students may need a cosigner for approval due to limited credit history. This way they are more likely to be approved with a cosigner than without, not to mention securing a low-interest rate that adds up to lower payments after graduation.

Grants and Scholarships

The FAFSA will also let you know whether your child is eligible for any government-based grants, but there are also a number of other grants that may be available. Colleges and universities, community organizations and foundations are among the many sources of grants and scholarships. Thorough research is the key here, and there are search tools online that can help you look for scholarships. Keep in mind that in some cases, depending on the financial aid and scholarships offered, a school with higher tuition can actually end up costing less than a cheaper school offering less support.

Work and Savings

Your child may be eligible for a work-study position on campus, but there are many other jobs on and off-campus that could help pay for school as well. In fact, some parents prefer their children to contribute to their education, and they can begin saving while they are still in high school if they have a part-time job. Holding down a job in college should not interfere with studies, but a job can also teach them valuable skills and put them well ahead of their peers when it comes time to interview after college. Some internships are paid, and these can also be excellent opportunities for them to learn more about the field they plan to work in.

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