College can be a really exciting time in your life. It is a time to finally spread your wings and learn more about who you are. Still, leaving home for the first time can be scary, and student loan debt can be incredibly stressful.
I personally did not have student loans, but I did watch a family member struggle through them. When I was a junior in college, my parents both got laid off and were living off unemployment right before my brother’s sophomore year. My parents were still considered high-income earners at that time and didn’t qualify for FASFA, so my brother had to get private school loans. I was the co-signer for one of them because I was the only one out of 4 of us that established good credit. There was a time that I carried guilt because I was able to graduate debt-free while my brother was stricken with student loan debt.
Luckily, there are ways to offset and make student loan debt easier. Besides helping you offset student loans in the present, learning financial wellness during your college years can set you up for success for the future.
Here’s some financial wellness advice for aspiring college students:
1. Start Saving Early
Save from the very first time you earn money, whether it be from gardening, babysitting, etc. You can easily set aside $20 a month in a high yield savings account. This money can really help you later on in college if you ever need extra cash for books, supplies, or loans. Check out Magnify Money to find high interest rates on savings accounts.
2. Set Up Investment Account
If your parents have the means, I suggest they start an investment account and choose a mixture of stocks and index funds ASAP so by the time you are a freshman in college there will be enough to cover all if not most of your total tuition depending on what college you plan on attending. To open up a 529 compare plans at Morning Star.
3. Get a Credit Card
Apply for a credit card as a joint account holder with a parent and/or guardian and make sure to pay it off in full every month. This will be a great start for you to establish credit. To get a head start in establishing your credit read more on Wallet Hub.
4. Shoot for Home State Tuition
Attending college in your home state will often be more affordable than out of state. Compare the benefits and pricing before making your decision.
5. Don't Stop Applying for Scholarships
Even if you are already in school, you don’t have to stop applying for different scholarships. Apply for every single scholarship possible to offset tuition costs, including your junior and senior year of college. Check out some of the best scholarships for high school students at Unigo.