5 Tips to Help Your Children Pay for College

September 28, 2016
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5 tips to help your children pay for college? Yes, please!  Today we have a friend guest posting here at LAAB!  I know many of you have children of your own or you will soon, so this is a topic worth exploring. I figured who better to get advice from than someone who has actually graduated college debt free?! Take it away, Jacob…


My wife and I said hello to our beautiful little girl, Kori, nine months ago (December 21, 2015).  Since then, like all good parents, we have constantly been asking each other questions about the future.  One of the questions that have come up recently has been whether or not we want to help our children pay for college.  

Personally, I worked myself through college without receiving any help from my parents; so I would rather have my children pay their own way.  However, my wife’s parents helped her pay for school, so naturally, she wants to pay for college.

Needless to say, we are still trying to compromise on this issue! However, we have come to a consensus that regardless if we help pay for their schooling or not, we want our children to work hard and save as much as they can on their own.

With this scenario fresh on my mind, I want to give you 5 tips to help your children pay for college.  This will ease your financial burden and also help nurture and raise hardworking children who understand that money truly doesn’t grow on trees!    


If you have kids, it's never too late or too early to create a plan to pay for college. Here are 5 tips to help your children pay for college, coming from someone who graduated debt free.


Tip #1 to Help Your Children Pay for College – Help them Save Before They Start

In my mind, there are three main ways to help kids save money before they start college:

  1. They can work part-time in high school.  I worked part-time in high school, in addition to playing sports and doing my homework.  By the time I graduated high school I had $10,000 in my savings account.  That was an incredible help as I started working my way through school.  Allowing your kids to work part-time will help them gain valuable life lessons and help them save personal money for college.
  2. They can take college courses in high school.  Many high schools and local colleges have dual enrollment programs.  Your kids can take regular high school classes, add in a little extra study time, and a few extra tests and they will graduate high school with college credits.  The icing on the cake is that most of the programs are free (or reasonably cheap).
  3. They can wait one year before starting.  I don’t think there is any shame for our children to wait one year before starting college.  As parents, we should consider supporting our children going out into the real world for one year, working hard and saving money.  If they were about to get a job making $10/hour, and they worked 40 hours/week for one year, they would have earned $20,800 before taxes.  That is some serious money to help pay for school.


Tips #2 to Help Your Children Pay for College – Get a Job During College & Keep It

I really enjoyed working my way through college (weird, right?).  I worked 40+ hours every week for all five years I was in college.  It was definitely hard… and I gave up a lot of things for it, namely my social life, but in the end, I learned valuable skills and a host of life lessons along the way.

As parents, we need to encourage our children to work a part-time job during school. In addition to earning money, working during school also helps provide life experiences and an education that goes beyond the walls of college, like how to be on time, on task, and work as a team.  

After a few years of working, I finally ended up landing an entry level accounting position.  At the same time, I had just started my upper-level accounting classes.  Working and studying accounting at the same time allowed me to apply the knowledge I learned at school to my job.  Subsequently, I learned things at my job that then made school a whole lot easier and it allowed more topics to finally click in my brain.

I believe that your children will also have similar opportunities presented to them if they have been in the workforce during college.  I might also add that employers really like kids who have a degree and work experience.


Tip #3 to Help Your Children Pay for College – Start at a Junior College

I still don’t know why anyone actually goes straight to a 4-year college right out of high school. You pay more, you have bigger class sizes (so less help from teachers), and it is often a really big jump for a lot of students mentally and emotionally.  

If you are a parent who is paying for at least some of their child’s schooling, you really should consider having them start at the junior college. It’s cheaper and they will probably have a better transition.  After they graduate, they can transfer to a four-year college. They will get the same degree as a student who was at that school for all four years.


Tip #4 to Help Your Children Pay for College – Maximize Scholarships & Grant Money

It is wise to apply for and seek out grant and scholarship money.  Help your children do this.  It may be complicated and hard for a teenager to locate, apply, and then qualify for scholarships and grants.  If they are able to land some scholarships or grant money, your financial burden will be lifted and they will feel achievement at being awarded something so valuable.


Tip #5 to Help Your Children Pay for College – Learn How to Budget & Live True to It

Budgeting is a big deal.  Not only as parents should you be budgeting, (especially if you are planning on paying for your children’s’ college) but your children should learn how to budget as well.  

Creating a budget isn’t enough… it’s living true to that budget that is the hardest part.  If your children see you sacrifice for their schooling, they will be more appreciative of the help you are providing.

If you want to learn more about budgeting, need help creating your first budget, want to use an online calculator, or download free templates and spreadsheets, then head over to my blog to learn more.



I was able to get through school debt free, without help from my parents.  Think how much better off your children will be if you employ these 5 tips to help them pay for college.  

Your personal financial burden will be eased as your children save their own money to pay for college.  In addition, you will also help your children cultivate a desire to work hard and better prepare for their own future.  Isn’t that what parents are for, anyways?


Jacob Merkley is a Part-Time blogger who focuses on teaching others about Life Skills that put YOU in control.  He blogs over at PowerOverLife.

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Latoya Scott
CFEI/Social Entrepreneur
Latoya Scott is a Certified Financial Education Instructor and personal finance writer with a mission to help millennials learn how to stop living paycheck to paycheck so they can become financially carefree.

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  • Carissa September 28, 2016 at 11:31 am

    As a former Financial Aid Counselor and someone that started at a Community College then transferred I believe everyone has a different path and you have to let your child determine that path. As for scholarships and grants, you get less when you transfer versus you coming in directly after high school. However, I understand that some need that Community/Junior College experience before they go. I totally agree with working in school, and helping your children with tuition. My husband and I both took loans out and I had help from my parents…however, we have started savings accounts for them now (4 & 1 years old) so they will have the additional help. And once they are teenagers if they work I will make sure they are also contributing to those accounts on a monthly basis!

    • Latoya Scott September 28, 2016 at 9:22 pm

      Carissa, this is great feedback. I totally agree that you have to allow them to find their own way, but I believe as a parent I have to do as much as I can to keep them informed of their options and to present as much info as reasonable so they can carefully decide if going to school is worth the extra debt. I for one would be thrilled if my child is able to score a bunch of scholarship money right out of high school and get to go their school of choice. And knowing what I know now, I can help them with that process as early as possible.

  • Kemkem September 28, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    Cool! I think it’s good to get kids started the right way, and l definitely think they care more when they have skin in the game. A little side job is humbling and teaching responsibility :-). Good post!
    Kemkem recently posted…Ponta de Piedade is the most beautiful spot in the Algarve!My Profile

    • Jacob September 28, 2016 at 2:35 pm

      Kemkem – I agree with you… a side job always does more than just provide money. Thanks for reading!

    • Latoya Scott September 28, 2016 at 9:23 pm

      Yes, a little side job can go a long way in making them great, responsible workers:)

  • Amanda @centsiblyrich September 28, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    We are getting ready for college with our oldest, who is currently a junior in high school. He just announced to us last night that he knows where he would like to go to college. And, while I love the enthusiasm he has, the cost of tuition + room/board at his school of choice is $50,000/year. Not doable. We have some 529 savings, but it will only cover about 1 semester at that school. He is open minded about looking into the option of starting at a community college and he plans to work throughout college, so at least he is thinking it through ahead of time. Great advice in this post!
    Amanda @centsiblyrich recently posted…Money Saving Tips and TricksMy Profile

    • Jacob September 28, 2016 at 2:37 pm

      Thanks Amanda. It is really hard with how much school costs have risen over the years (and continuing to rise), but these tips will certainly help you get him through school either debt free (or pretty close).
      Jacob recently posted…Start BudgetingMy Profile

    • Latoya Scott September 28, 2016 at 9:24 pm

      That’s good to hear, Amanda! I hope mine uses the same caution and consideration when it’s time for them to go.

  • Mimi Green September 28, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    When I became pregnant with my first born his Dad and I decided to start saving for his college. Our son is almost 12 and we’ve saved up a ton and continue to save. For us we committed to an amount that auto deposits into an account each pay period. After having kid #2 we decided to do the same thing for her. We won’t stress over cost because breaking up the amount is helpful.

    With that said we encourage our children to get scholarships. We want to use a little of our saved money for tuition as possible. I’d love to give them some of that savings towards the purchase of their first home.

    • Latoya Scott September 28, 2016 at 9:24 pm

      Yes, that would totally be awesome if they were able to do that. It will give them a nice little head start!

  • Tamika Hall September 28, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    What a great, great, post! I’ll be honest, while i think employment during high school is important, i NEVER thought about having my children save a portion for college. That’s such a smart idea and one we will be implementing in our home!!

    • Jacob September 28, 2016 at 2:40 pm

      Tamika…thanks for the feedback! Because I had $10,000 saved during high school, I was really able to get ahead of the game for paying for school. You’ll never regret having your kids start saving now!

    • Latoya Scott September 28, 2016 at 9:24 pm

      I know right – I’m considering it as well!

  • Daria September 28, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    Starting to save early for college is certainly a must these days. With the rate of tuition sky rocketing nearly every year if not per semester it almost seems impossible without scholarships. Setting aside as Mimi stated with having it auto drafted is an excellent strategy. I do agree with having children work during college as well. There’s no better to teach them responsibility. In my hometown now a days many young adults are opting to go to Junior Colleges first then transfer for the last two years. Thanks for the enlightening post.
    Daria recently posted…Tuesday’s Talk With D ~ Motivational TalkMy Profile

    • Latoya Scott September 28, 2016 at 9:25 pm

      And I’m sure it will be worth it to graduate with less debt than their peers too!

    • Jacob October 1, 2016 at 4:37 pm


      The key line in your comment for me was “there’s no better [way] to teach them responsibility”. I agree. I know kids who have everything paid for, including school, and they just don’t get it. They aren’t grateful. They don’t do well in school. If you can teach your kids to work hard for something so big as school, then when you do help them out financially (because they probably can’t pay for it all with the rising costs) they are actually grateful and want to naturally do better in school.

  • Ty September 28, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    These are a great tips. I once say a show where a woman made her kids spend four hours a week applying for scholarships and grants. That was their “job.” They had a timecard and everything. By the time the graduated from high school they each had been awarded $1 milion in scholarships and grants. There is so much money out there that kids are even applying for.
    Ty recently posted…Single Because? “I am not willing to compromise who I am for another person”My Profile

    • Latoya Scott September 28, 2016 at 9:26 pm

      I recently interviewed someone for the Huffington Post whose daughter scored half a mill in scholarships. She gave all kinds of good inside info and tricks to use. There is money out there, they just have to dedicate the time to doing it as you’ve mentioned.

  • Marsha September 28, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    These are good tips. My kids already have money in savings that have come from gifts and earning it. I’m always happy when I hear them say they’re saving for college.
    Marsha recently posted…September Ipsy Glam Bag 2016!My Profile

    • Latoya Scott September 28, 2016 at 9:27 pm

      We do the same, Marsha! It’s good to start saving early and giving them a goal to work towards.

  • Kim September 29, 2016 at 1:17 am

    These are all great tips. I set up an auto savings plan for my daughter. We return our bottles, and give her the earnings for her savings; the nickels add up. Birthday money is deposited into her account. She’s so into saving that any coin she sees lying around she picks it up, and places it into her piggy bank. She’s 5. Start them young.
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    • Latoya Scott September 29, 2016 at 9:20 pm

      That’s awesome, Kim!

  • Joanna September 29, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    Great tips. My friends worked in HS and took a few college classes. I personally worked my way through college and graduated debt free. I’m pro scholarships and grants.
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  • Tiffany H September 29, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    When I have children I plan to implement some of these strategies. I wish my parents had thought about things like this but they didn’t go to college so i don’t think they seen it as important. Scholarships are the way to go, so much unused money goes to waste because people don’t apply for various scholarship.
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  • Donna Shana September 30, 2016 at 12:54 am

    Awesome post. I really wish I’d know some of these tips earlier. Scholarships aren’t always the way to go!

  • Eva September 30, 2016 at 2:02 am

    I absolutely love the idea of kids having jobs to pay for school. I already told mine that he is responsible for his higher education. We are up with him studying for the SAT now! He betta get that money.
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  • Cleverly Changing October 3, 2016 at 10:05 am

    Love your suggestions. My great niece, got scholarships, but she still had books and housing to pay for. Just as you suggested she got a job (part-time) and is paying for her education. I know when I was in school, working helped reduce my idle time and encouraged me to work harder.

  • Ayanna October 13, 2016 at 11:02 pm

    Great tips! We started saving early for our girls’ education, but only partially. We have no intention of funding their entire education. We want to help them, but they need to take ownership in it as well. And I believe that they have to work, either actually having a job or working hard to get scholarships, they will actually work harder while in college.
    Ayanna recently posted…It’s Hard to Plan Without a PlannerMy Profile

    • Latoya Scott October 16, 2016 at 1:10 am

      I feel the same way, Ayanna.

  • Laurie October 16, 2016 at 9:11 pm

    Whether you start a fund for them when they are little and grow it over time, they get a job, or get scholarships/grants there are many different ways to help your children pay for college. Great information, thanks for sharing!

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