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Any tips on saving for university?

Hi! I’m hoping to attend university in a few years and the financial burden of it all has been worrying me. I’m a high school student, and the only source of income in my family comes from my dad. I’ve spoken with my parents about plans for college and it seems that they expect me to at least partially rely on scholarships and financial aid to be able to afford an undergraduate education. I‘d be willing to take up a job or whatever other options there are for someone in my position. I know it’s a pretty vague question, but I’d really appreciate it if anyone would share how they managed their tuition fees. What would you recommend I look into so that I can avoid any serious debt in the future? What can I do throughout high school to take some of the stress off of my parents’ shoulders? Any general guidance would be very helpful!
#college #financial-aid #scholarship #financial-planning #university #high-school

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Sheila’s Answer

Hi Aria:

Xavier provided some very good tips. . . I'd like to also add that you may want to consider getting a part-time job. I know people that had a part-time job and work study job at the same time while in college. I'm sure it would be hard working and trying to go to college but, at least you're thinking about how your finances could impact your education.

May I suggest checking out places such as your local church, family & friends, do research on scholarships/grants/loans, check with teachers, guidance counselor, and local businesses. To get you started on your research here's the link to College Board Scholarships. . . . . https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/scholarship-search

I wish you much success on your journey.

~ Sheila

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College Board Scholarships: https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/scholarship-search

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Xavier’s Answer

I was in a very similar position before attending college. I actually had no helps from my parents at all. My guidance counselor helped me look up as many scholarships as possible. I know this may sound crazy, but there are a lot of people who are just giving away money to people who really need it. These scholarships look for students who are worth the money though, so to show that you're worth the investment, perform very well in school now. Make sure you're grades are the best that they can be. Take time to be involved in school as well, whether it be sports, volunteering, or class president. Being involved and giving back to your community helps when you're applying for scholarships from the school directly, because they want students who plan to be highly involved on campus.

Also look into taking up a work study. I spent a lot of time working through college, especially during the summer time, so I could pay for school and finish as early as possible. If you have to take financial aid that has to be paid back after graduating, make sure you have an adult with you who understands finances before you sign up for anything.

Lastly, asking your friends and family for help. I've seen people start GoFundMe accounts for college. Some people get donations from church. Never be afraid to ask for help.

Aria, I know you are in a tough spot when you're trying to think about going to college , but please don't allow it to worry you too much. I'm sure things will work out for you. Good luck!

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Mathew’s Answer

The first thing I would like to point out is that there are several ways for you to make your way through college without a huge debt. The first option is scholarships, the more you apply the greater your chances of getting awarded. So apply for as many scholarships as possible. I would start with approaching your current school for advice on which ones you should apply for then approaching your college to see if there are any in-house scholarships that are open and that they can recommend. My biggest award was from this later option, my college advisor suggested a scholarship that paid half of my tuition. Then lastly, apply widely and wildly.
The second option is to work and pay a portion of your tuition as you go. A part time could help cover your cost of college and keep you from having to take out loans you do not need. I worked all through college and if I can do it I am confident anyone can.
Another thing that can reduce your cost through college is finding transferable classes offered in community colleges and taking them there. I took as many classes as I could at a community colleges because those same classes are offered for much lower cost.
Lastly, do not stop your efforts throughout your journey. Keep your grades up and keep applying and you will pull through.
Good luck!

Mathew recommends the following next steps:


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Dexter’s Answer

Hi Aria,

You have a great attitude about this and I was very happy to even read your post. I was in your exact situation in high school, so I thought maybe you'd like to hear about it.

In California, the least expensive universities are state universities, these are a step up from colleges and provide a 4 year degree. If you did really well in school and can afford a bit more, you can go to one of University of California schools. Those two are the public options, and if you're really well off, you can go to a private school. I did well in high school, and did decently in my SATs, so I applied to a UC school and just in case I really wanted to pursue my aerospace engineer dream, I also applied to a private school. When I got my acceptances back, I had three choices in front of me. I got into UC Berkeley, Indiana Institute of Technology, and California State University, Long Beach. I was advised to go to UC Berkeley because it was less than 1/2 the cost of the private school, and because it was such a better school than Long Beach. If I could go back in time though, I would have advised myself to go to Long Beach, which offered me a full ride scholarship (I didn't apply, but they sent me a letter anyways). I now know that the school matters, but not as much as I previously thought, and not being in debt at the end of it matters quite a bit.

For me, I worked part time in my junior/senior years at UC Berkeley (and summers), but still, graduated with tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Working part time and bits of scholarships helped, but well, it's expensive living somewhere by myself. I also sent money back to my parents during those last two years, and I was proud to do so. I have a friend who I went to college with who found a part time research assistant job that she worked for all four years of college. At first, she had a secretary role, but after the first year, she worked on the robotics team and because of that job (which paid better than my part time IT job) and the few scholarships she was able to get, she was able to graduate debt free.

So, putting everything together, I would advise you the following in order of most to least important:
* Focus on school and get the best grades that you can possibly get. A minimum wage job helps, but it won't help as much as the chance to get a full ride scholarship because your academics are amazing.
* If you're doing great in school, get a part time job. It'll help you earn a bit of income that you can save up, and it'll give you real life experiences that'll teach you the worth of money.
* If you're doing great in school and you can't find a job, volunteer to help. These volunteer experiences will be helpful for you to get into college, and it'll teach you real life skills that you'll use when you get into the workforce.
* When applying to schools, don't waste money applying to schools you can't afford. It'll just make it hard for you to stare at an acceptance letter and realize that you just can't afford it.
* In college, get a part time job. It's especially great if you can work for a professor, as that relationship will be helpful if you ever need a recommendation letter to get into graduate school (if you're looking for that).

I wish you the best of luck, and I really hope parts of my story can be relatable to you in Canada. I hear great things about your country, and I hope that you'll be successful in reaching your goals.


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Eleanor’s Answer

Good question. There are some things that you may want to look at:
1. Take high school classes that give you college credits.
2. Look into CLEP testing (much cheaper than taking a class), which give you basic college credits like English, Social Studies and History so you won't have to take pay for those classes.
3. Community College is a very good way to get your other basic classes in without costing a lot of money and you can also get your first degree -Associates. Many community colleges have agreements with 4 year colleges that allow all of your credits to transfer.
4. Look for scholarships, the more obscure the better. There are many that remain untaken every year because of the unusual requirements but you may just fill that!!

You can work full time and take classes part time. I know that may not be an optimal answer but my husband did this and he now has a masters degree. It may seem like a long road but it happens faster than you can believe at this point in your life.

Good luck to you!!!

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Michael’s Answer

I too had to pay for most of my college. My dad helped me with getting financial aid started. Their are programs out there that as long as you are in college you do not have to repay until you graduate. I was able to find one of these and then when I graduated I refinanced my loan to lower the interest rate. I only have a few years left to pay the loan off. All of this was done without any scholarships. If you can get some scholarships that would be a bonus! Hope that it works out.

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Katya’s Answer

Hi, I can understand and relate to your overall story of future college tuition. I will share with you my experience. When I was in high school, the only source or option I had in attending college was taking student loans-that included private loans that had variable interest rate and a two digit interest-which very high.

First, I recommend you really think about what do you want to study in college- your major minor. You need to stay focus on your degree . Then do some research around private and city colleges -find out about the tuition fees. I also applied to many scholarship programs while still being in high school. I did received a scholarship for the freshman year in college and after I had to sustain a certain grade average in order to keep the scholarship.

To be honest- if I had to do it all over again- I would consider a city college instead of a private one for my bachelor degree-first it’s less expensive. Second, when planning to attend a graduate or master degree that’s where it makes the difference but again- it all comes with your work experience. So keep in mind- that the most expensive tuition might not necessarily be needed always.

In order to save for college- I would recommend to save as much as you can. Before buying anything- think if you needed or really want it first. If you are working- try to save at least 60% of your earnings and put it aside or open a student saving account without a debit card. This way- you won’t have cash in your wallet and won’t have the debit card to use it-it will be safer in the bank account. For example, if you earn $200 per month- set aside $120 *12 months= $1440*4 years of high school= $5760- is your total saving. So, it all depends how much you are making and how much is the tuition and how much do you anticipate to spend when you go to college on monthly basis. Look,the reality is-lunch and breakfast and snacks could be brought from home. There is no need to spend money at the vending machines and pay double or triple price for the soda. You might not realize- but once you have cash in your pocket-it goes away so fast on items that you don’t need.

And of course- do research around scholarship and submit as well.


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Brent’s Answer

Hello Aria!

I would personally go get a part time job and start saving as much money as you can. You'll be surprised how quickly it will accumulate!

I would get with your counselor at school and begin the process of finding any and all scholarship opportunities that are and will be available for you and then apply, apply, apply!!

I would look at the various educational options and plan out where you need to be financially to achieve your college goals. For instance, two years at a community college and two at a university, four years at a university, etc.

Good luck!!

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David’s Answer

Beside scholarships and financial aid for helping to get through undergraduate degree, did you try the bank yet, there are banks who have some program for college saving. Also you can do couple part time job at the moment to help save up some money for college, if you can able to take some AP or Community College coursework offer for low cost or even free that will help you knock out couple classes. While you apply for college see what kind of grants and funds that is available where you can hope on and grab it to help you pay for college as well, even though there is also scholarship you can compete again for, but still do everything you can to get as much as you could. You can also find organization or corporation to do some volunteer work and they will as well fund you some money. Once you are in college you can work on campus and they will give you discount or the money you are getting paid can go towards your tuition. I see you are from Canada, which I am not sure if you can do what we do in USA. I have people telling to join the military services and they will pay for your whole college tuition but in return you have to serve for a set amount of years. I have tried it and yes it true. That is something you can think about if you have this option as well.

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Doug’s Answer

A couple of different ideas for you.

1. You and your parents can start a 529 plan. This is a device that can help you with saving for college and the interest you earn is not taxable. The other good thing is that there is not a set amount of money you have to contribute every month or year. You can just contribute as you or your family can. Also, you can let other family members, like grandparents that are always thinking about what to give you for your birthday or other holidays can contribute small amounts to this plan. Of course, these funds must be used for education; however, it is amazing how much you can see this add up to over a few years.

2. Amy mentioned this idea below about searching out scholarships or grants for college. This is something you can do from home and doesn't really cost you anything but your own time. You can apply for 10, 20, 100 or more and even if you only receive a small portion of them the money really adds up. Also, we have children getting close to going to college and recently went to a school event hosting counselors from college. Something I didn't know if that there are scholarships you can be applying for even as a freshman in high school. I am sure your school guidance counselor can help you find these scholarship options or if you are close to a community college or other colleges they will have counselors there that are usually available to assistance potential students with findings these even if you don't end up going there.

Good luck!!!

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Ann’s Answer

Some companies provide scholarship opportunities for the children of their employees. You should ask your parents if their employer might have such a program.

If you do get a job, remember this advice...it works for you in high school, and it is the best advice for life. Always pay yourself first. When you start getting a paycheck, it is really fun to treat yourself, and there is nothing wrong with that. But always, always, put a certain amount away in savings first. What remains then goes to the basics you need, and only then should you splurge. Splurging is not a bad thing, but too many people never get ahead of the paycheck-to-paycheck life because they fail to pay themselves first. Money works for you. So you work, and then you have something working when you aren't. :-). Best of luck to you!

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Jim’s Answer

You have taken a vital first step in acknowledging the potential pitfalls. I see many good answers but I’ll add my opinions, having just completed the college process with my son. You asked about saving for college but I’d like to approach the topic from a different angle--making good economic choices from the start, which begins with your selection of a school.

My son worked hard in high school and had options. Four years ago he was accepted as high up the food chain as UC Berkeley. We spent a couple days there, and being an iconoclast like his father, he decided it wasn’t a particularly good fit for him. I had saved for his education and he knew it. But he chose to accept a full-tuition, academic scholarship from a school in our state system. He had his own ideas.

As he completes his college career this month, I believe it has worked out well for him. He has done well academically and socially, and he now has a marketable degree. And he has no student debt.

My son completed the fall semester of his college sophomore year at a university in Asia. While there he made several side trips, including a 10-day tour of Japan with his new-found friends from the Asian school (two Italians and a Croatian). Five months later he was back in the same Asian city with a paying, summer job. Again, he made several side trips around the continent. So, by the start of his junior year, he had lived abroad for seven months and traveled Asia extensively.

A year ago he had a well-paying, summer job at a successful, local company (based upon the overall strength of his resume). He loved the work, the people, and the company. At the end of his summer job, the company immediately offered him a quite lucrative, permanent job upon his graduation, which he accepted. (As of two weeks ago, the job was still there for him. Fingers are crossed in a Covid-world.) And he has no student debt.

I think a college degree is important for many reasons. I don’t know the Canadian system, but in my view the U.S. system is completely broken. Colleges care about one thing—making money. They will charge as much as the market will bear, and they are eager to direct you to student loans. They don’t care, they don’t have to pay the loans back. I think it’s disgusting and borderline criminal.

I believe it is ridiculous to take on a lifetime of student debt for a “Name School” and its associated high tuition. For many students (and more parents), the priority in selecting a school is bragging rights. (I never thought this would matter to me but I underestimated the power of this force. Yes, a "Name School," may help you get a better first job, but after that, who cares?)

I work in the apartment loan business. The jury is out on the pandemic’s impact, but until two months ago we were in the golden age of apartments. Why? Because many young people are so crippled by student debt the prospect of paying it back and also saving for a down payment on a house is overwhelming. They have resigned themselves to a lifetime of renting (and trying to pay off their student debt).

I don’t believe there is anything wrong with choosing a more affordable option for college. Public schools are generally half the cost of private schools. I recently ran into the father of a girl who went through public school with my son. His daughter attended a local community college for two years (while working and living at home) and then transferred to the local UC school (while working and living at home). I’d like to know how much her family spent on college for a quality degree. And how many people will know she attended a community college her first two years? Only those who were there with her.

A college degree is the key to a better life. But if you have talent and work hard (mostly work hard), you’ll succeed in life—regardless of where you go to school. One of my son’s college roommates was a friend from high school. The friend wanted to attend UCLA, but his father believed as I now believe and bribed his son to attend the state school. The friend was graduated in three years (while working many hours at a high-level job given he was still a college student) and immediately went to work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. Yes, rocket science. I’d say his is not a bad outcome either. And no student debt.

In the U.S. there are many paths to paying for college. I hope you’ll minimize debt whenever possible, and college selection is an important piece in that puzzle.

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Amy’s Answer

Two things:

1) apply for any and all scholarships like someone is paying you to do it. In essence, someone is paying you. If you applied to 10 scholarships and you receive $1,000 from 1 of them, then ultimately you are paid $100 per application! That's more than any other hourly wage!

2) get a part-time job that is flexible and allows you to focus on your schoolwork and scholarship applications. Walking neighbor's dogs, mowing lawns, picking up leaves in the spring, cleaning gutters, all things that people don't like to do because they take time and effort (both of which you have).

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Carolyn’s Answer

Hi Aria,

I would first recommend getting a part-time job such as being a server in a restaurant. I worked as a server throughout my whole college career and it was very helpful because the job is very flexible and can pay very well. I would also recommend talking to your university's financial aid office. They are always willing to help out and find a plan to keep you in school. They might have more information on scholarships and grants that you can apply for as well so I would recommend reaching out and giving them a call.

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Riley’s Answer

If you do not already have a job, I would definitely look into getting one. With the money you make you can make a savings account and maybe put 50% of the money into that every week; after a few years it will build some interest and you will probably be able to save up a couple thousand. Also, definitely look into the highest paying scholarships that you can obtain, they will usually be academic. One scholarship I earned in high school that helped me out was the AICE diploma. I'm not sure if your school offers AICE or AP classes, but if they do I would definitely look into scholarships related to that because they will probably be very good!