How to Prepare for and Save Money on College Student Health Care

How to Prepare for and Save Money on College Student Health Care

A college education is essential to career development and lifelong learning, but there’s no denying that it can be a costly investment, especially with tuition, fees and accommodation becoming increasingly expensive every year. 

Our previous post guides parents through ways to reduce college costs, such as taking advantage of dual-enrollment programs to give kids a headstart in transitioning to college while also saving money on tuition for a few courses or even an entire semester.

However, beyond tuition and boarding costs, one of the essential college expenses to prepare for is health care. How do you. handle college student health care?

Financial services company Bankrate estimates that medical care costs can reach up to $2,500 per year, with the costs being higher if your child needs prescription medication or medical services not covered by the campus health centers. Since health and wellness significantly influence academic performance, below are ways to prepare for and meet your kids’ health care needs in college while still saving money for other essential expenses like technology and emergency funds.

Your Options for Health Care Coverage

What exactly are your options for health care coverage?

  1. Parent health insurance: Your child can remain on your health insurance plans until they turn 26, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. This option provides coverage for a wide range of medical services and is often convenient for students.
  2. University health plans: Many universities and colleges offer their own health insurance plans specifically designed for students. These plans typically cover services provided at the university health center and may include options for both on-campus and off-campus care.
  3. Government programs: Undergraduate students with low incomes may qualify for government-sponsored health insurance programs like Medicaid. Eligibility requirements vary by state, so check with your state’s Medicaid office to see if your child will qualify.
  4. Private health insurance: You can also purchase private health insurance plans if your child doesn’t qualify for coverage under parent insurance or through their university. Private plans offer flexibility in choosing providers and coverage options but may be more expensive.
  5. Health insurance marketplaces (ACA): Through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace, undergraduate students can explore and purchase subsidized health insurance plans based on their income level. You may want to look into this if your child doesn’t have access to other coverage options.
  6. Student health centers: Most campuses have on-campus health centers that provide basic medical services to students at low or no cost. While these centers may not replace comprehensive insurance coverage, they offer convenient access to care for minor illnesses and injuries.
  7. COBRA coverage: Undergraduate students who recently lost coverage under a parent’s health insurance plan may be eligible for COBRA continuation coverage, which allows them to continue the same coverage for a limited time period. However, COBRA can be expensive as the individual is responsible for the entire premium.

Get an idea of all your options and compare costs and coverages so you know which works best for your child. Understand enrollment deadlines and other factors so you don’t lose out on any one type of coverage, including university coverage.

Review Your Child’s Current Health Insurance Coverage

Young adults stay under their parents’ insurance plans until age 26, but it may not be the most ideal if your child moves to college out of state and can’t stay covered by the plan’s network of care providers. 

Ensure you understand the details of their coverage so you can compare it with campus health plans, which can cost an annual average of $2,924 for public universities and $3,874 for private schools. 

These school-sponsored plans can be more affordable than getting health insurance through the marketplace and help you save money by lumping the price of on-campus care with tuition and fees. 

Consider Additional Coverage

If you choose to stick to your child’s current plan, then at least consider additional coverage, such as vision insurance, which costs an average of $95. Considering college students are at risk of eye conditions like computer vision syndrome and myopia due to increased screen time and online learning, vision insurance can help reduce out-of-pocket expenses for routine eye exams and corrective eyewear. Fortunately, many optical retailers, including the budget-friendly Eyebuydirect, accept vision insurance even when you order glasses online for new or updated prescriptions. While the platform already provides stylish and affordable frames starting at $6, the cost savings from insurance can help your child afford additional protective features like blue light filters while still staying on budget.

Look into Online Health Services

Health-related expenses can also rack up easily if your kids attend school outside of your home state, whether it’s due to kids traveling for routine care or their insurance coverage being geographically limited. Fortunately, online health services are a viable option for saving time and money while still getting them the quality care that they deserve.

Given that more than 60% of college students meet the diagnostic criteria for at least one mental health problem, virtual health providers like TimelyCare can make mental health services more accessible to college students. The platform partners with over 300 institutions worldwide and provides up to nine free scheduled sessions of counseling and therapy every year.

In addition to these money-saving tips, instill healthy habits and choices into your kids’ daily lifestyles, such as eating well and sleeping on time. Continue to check in as they settle into college life, and you’ll find that the transition will be smooth and stress-free. Continue reading College Money Tips for more helpful resources.

Debt-Free College Dream: How One Family Earned Thousands of Dollars in Scholarships and Transformed Their Kids’ Futures

Debt-Free College Dream: How One Family Earned Thousands of Dollars in Scholarships and Transformed Their Kids’ Futures

Are you worried your child will graduate with crippling student loan debt? 

Meet the family who cracked the code to debt-free college education and transformed their kids’ futures forever! With determination and strategic planning, they embarked on a dedicated scholarship hunt. From meticulous essay-crafting sessions to scouring for scholarship opportunities, they left no stone unturned. 

And the results were staggering.🎓💰

LaWanda Hanes mentors first-time single moms in Waxahatchee, Texas, and at her church. 

“Nobody can afford college, but everyone can go,” LaWanda often says.

It’s one of her favorite phrases, and she repeats it often with the single moms she mentors, many of whom believe they can’t make college happen for themselves. 

She, of course, mentors her own kids as well. Hanes and her husband, Thomas, vowed that their two children, Jasmine and Tre, wouldn’t face the same student loan burdens that they encountered after their own graduations. 

“We decided our kids would not borrow for school,” LaWanda said emphatically. 

No ifs, ands or buts.

The dream is coming true. 

LaWanda and Thomas’ daughter, Jasmine, graduated with no debt. Jasmine went to college at University of North Texas for interior design and graduated in two and a half years. She went into the university with an associate’s degree through a dual-degree program. 

Their son, Tre, is on his way to graduating debt-free with an engineering degree through the University of Oklahoma’s merit program. He’s currently in his third year of college.

The Hanses on vacation in Italy: They're debt-free, and their kids have debt-free degrees!

The Spark for a Debt-Free Degree

The Haneses’ desire for their children to achieve a debt-free education grew out due to their own student loans.

“Our journey with our kids started with our journey to get out of debt ourselves. We have five degrees. [Thomas] has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree and I have a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees,” LaWanda said. “Fast forward 10 years, and we are 30 years old, with two young kids and $110,000 in student loan debt.” 

They started with less debt, with about $75,000 to $78,000 to their names out of college. Some twists and turns required them to take deferment and unemployment, and they found themselves $110,000 in debt in no time, with both subsidized and unsubsidized loans. (The interest that built on itself didn’t help, either.)

The Payoff Day: The Very Best Christmas Present

LaWanda said her kids sacrificed just as much as she and her husband did. LaWanda said Tre and Jasmine had grown up understanding that there wasn’t a lot of money available to purchase “extra” things at the store. “They understood how hard it was for us to get out from under these student loans,” LaWanda said.

After one Christmas with few gifts, LaWanda said she and Thomas took their kids to the bank and gave each child $500. Both kids turned the money over to a loan officer. 

The whole family felt like screaming with happiness. They were finally out from under their student loan debt burden.

Immediately after, LaWanda and Thomas took them to dinner at Red Robin, where everything the kids had asked for Christmas sat under the table. The excitement bubbled over so much that they actually did need to scream. 

Their waitress heard the commotion and said, “I just want to know what’s going on here. It sounds like something amazing.” When she heard their story, the waitress almost jumped up and down alongside them — their excitement was infectious.

The Panic Moment

Early in high school, however, Jasmine worried that she wouldn’t be able to pay for college.

Turns out, Jasmine thought it was a money problem.

A worried LaWanda reassured her, but was firm. She told her daughter, “You have to go to college or have a skill set.” She added that the family had a 529 but said that the savings wouldn’t take care of everything. She informed Jasmine that the less they would have to pay out of pocket, the better.

The Haneses enjoying Italy

Two Debt-Free Degrees: How They Did It

“We started junior year. Nobody told us we should start looking for scholarships earlier,” LaWanda said. If she knew she needed to look earlier, she would have. 

Jasmine and LaWanda had a system — they met every Sunday about the scholarship plan for the week. LaWanda paid her kids $5 for every scholarship application they completed, but they had to write the essay. LaWanda agreed to put the packages together for them. 

Jasmine put about 60 to 70 scholarships on her list, and Tre had about 30. 

Jasmine had an interest in the hobby space, danced, sang and competed in softball. She was also a cheerleader. She looked into scholarships in all those areas, as well as local sorority and fraternity chapters, local banks, mom’s clubs and the chamber of commerce. 

At a certain point, Jasmine had a system down so that all she had to do was tweak her essays to fit the scholarship. They had a color coding method on a spreadsheet — green was for anything not submitted, yellow indicated scholarships “in process” and red indicated “in danger of missing the deadline” or “denied.”

“Both of them got merit scholarships. People were just throwing things at us. Jasmine’s story was she got so much money in scholarships that the school ws sending us checks back!” LaWanda even said that the pastor of their church called Jasmine the “rich kid.” 

“A lot of wins were local wins. We didn’t get a lot of national scholarship.We kept things more local and at church, people would send us stuff and just want to help us,” said LaWanda. She added that they both received $10,000 to $12,000 every year from churches in Dallas-Fort Worth and Oklahoma., which helped make up the bulk of their awards.

Their son’s path to engineering scholarships wasn’t quite as easy, but with perseverance and a little help from diversity and inclusion programs, he secured the funds needed to take care of college.

By the time it was all said and done, Jasmine went to college for free.

Financial Discipline for a Lifetime

But it wasn’t just about scholarships. LaWanda and Thomas instilled financial discipline from a young age, teaching their kids the value of budgeting and saving. Jasmine now has a paid-for car (in cash!) and the freedom to pursue her passions without the shackles of student loans.

From prioritizing scholarship applications to leveraging local resources, the Haneses prove that it’s possible to graduate without student debt.

Now that she’s out of school, Jasmine has noticed how her peers have begun paying back their student loans and struggle to make ends meet. 

“She thanks us all the time that we helped her go to college without student loans,” LaWanda said.

So, if you’re ready to say hello to a debt-free future, join the debt-free revolution today! Get the exact steps in the College Money Tips debt-free degree checklist so your child can avoid loans. 🌟

3 Degrees to Pursue to Achieve Financial Stability

3 Degrees to Pursue to Achieve Financial Stability

Everyone in this world wants to become financially stable—the sooner, the better. Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula for becoming financially stable. Even Google can’t help everyone become rich fast. 

Spending less than you earn and saving as much money as possible might help to a certain extent. But in a world where the cost of living keeps increasing, saving more money than you spend may seem impossible. 

The right degree, however, can offer a pathway to stability and prosperity within a reasonable number of years after graduating. Here, we’ll discuss three degrees — an MBA, nursing and computer science degrees — that can pave your way to financial stability. 

Whether you’re a parent looking to change your educational situation or want to pass on some advice to your high schooler, let’s dive in! 

Key Takeaway

An MBA, nursing and computer science degree all offer financial stability through increased earning potential, job security, career advancement opportunities, access to benefits, networking and personal development. These degrees can equip you with the skills and credentials needed to thrive in today’s competitive job market.

What is Financial Stability?

What does it mean when we talk about “financial stability,” exactly? Sounds like one of those terms a stuffy old bank manager would talk to you about, doesn’t it?

The financial stability meaning refers to having control over your financial situation and can handle unexpected events or emergencies when they come up, meaning you don’t experience significant hardship or disruption to your standard of living. 

Financial stability means you may be able to:

  • Navigate financial challenges like job loss or medical emergencies.
  • Avoid excessive debt burdens that lead to an inability to meet financial obligations.
  • Cover essential expenses with emergency savings.
  • Stay afloat with consistent financial support.
  • Create and stick to a budget.
  • Make informed investment decisions and plan for retirement.

How a Degree Can Help You Achieve Financial Stability

Choosing the right degree can help you achieve financial stability, and that’s obvious, right? After all, the more education you have under your belt, the more you’ll earn.

However, a degree can help you achieve more financial stability in other ways, including: 

  • Higher earning potential: It’s not just about how much you’ll make out of the gate. Individuals with higher levels of education tend to earn more over their lifetimes compared to those with lower levels of education. You’re also facing far higher career advancement job opportunities. 
  • Job security: You’re less likely to face unemployment or underemployment with the right degree, especially during economic downturns.
  • Access to benefits and perks: Some employers offer additional benefits and perks — retirement plans, health insurance, tuition reimbursement and bonuses. These “extras” can bolster your financial well-being.
  • Networking opportunities: You can network! Being part of a network of peers, professors and professional alumni from your college or university helps tremendously, and is one of the fringe benefits of financial stability. In a way, you’ll always have someone who can “catch” you if you fall. If you lose a job, why not just dip into your network?
  • Entrepreneurship: If you want to start your own business or pursue entrepreneurship, a degree can help you get there. You may be able to multiply your success and financial stability as an entrepreneur. 

Does a degree guarantee financial stability?

No. Plus, it’s important to consider factors like the cost of education, student loan debt (taking on tons of need-based student aid can affect you negatively) and job market trends when making decisions. However, pursuing the right degree for your situation, needs and personality will give you a better chance of success than never pursuing it at all.

Degrees to Consider for Financial Stability

The three degrees are likely ones you’ve already heard of. Why not consider a Master of Business Administration, nursing or computer science? Let’s take a look at each, as well as the potential salary you might earn in each field.

Degree 1: Master of Business Administration

Many executives believe that attending business school has contributed to their career success. Earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) will contribute to yours. 

An MBA serves as a gateway to management roles and business leadership positions, which pay higher salaries than non-management jobs. Poets and Quants discloses that the average salary for MBA graduates in 2022, as reported by 17 business schools, was $147,648.

If you want to work in a management or business-related field, consider enrolling in an MBA program. This degree will equip you with a deep understanding of business principles and management practices. You will study a wide range of subjects in depth, including marketing, operations, finance and strategic management. 

MBA graduates possess strong leadership and decision-making skills, which make them valuable assets in both entrepreneurial and corporate settings. Many business schools even offer online MBA programs, which makes them suitable for working individuals. Opt for them if you cannot afford to enroll in a traditional in-class program. 

Degree: 1 Master of Business administration diploma image.

Degree 2: Nursing

Health care is the fastest-growing industry. It is predicted to create about 45% of all the projected job gains between 2022 and 2032. 

Health care workers — surgeons, physicians and registered nurses — are always in demand. However, of all health care workers, registered nurses (RNs) are in the most demand. That is because the U.S. will experience a shortage of RNs in the upcoming years. Why not pursue a degree in nursing and fill the positions of new or retiring nurses?

A career in nursing is not only fulfilling, but also offers financial stability. With a nursing degree, you can earn between $62,253 and $140,275. 

As a nursing student, you will be exposed to a diverse range of subjects, from the principles of nursing practice, patient care, and communication skills to responding to urgent situations. You can pursue your career as an RN in a variety of settings—clinics, hospitals, schools, and community settings. 

There are several paths to becoming a registered nurse. Some earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), whereas others opt for an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). Nowadays, many universities are offering an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN). These programs are designed for people with bachelor’s degrees in another discipline. 

If you plan to switch your nursing career, go for the ABSN program. Quite a few nursing schools offer online accelerated nursing programs. Consider enrolling yourself in an online program if you’re a working individual. One significant benefit of online ABSN is flexibility. You can learn at your own pace and schedule without attending the traditional classroom every day. 

Finding the right program, however, can be daunting. As per Online ABSN Programs, accreditation, student support and clinical placement assistance are three criteria that you must consider to narrow your options. Go for an online ABSN program only when a university is CCNE-accredited, offers advisors or counselors and assists with placements. 

Image of the nursing symbol representing nurses.

Degree 3: Computer Science

The demand for computer science is high in today’s digital world. If you are tech-savvy, you must definitely pursue a degree in computer science. This degree will equip you with a strong foundation in programming, algorithms, and problem-solving skills. Your knowledge will prepare you for diverse roles. 

A degree in computer science opens doors to an array of career opportunities in fields like cybersecurity, data analysis, software engineering and artificial intelligence. These fields, as the world embraces everything digital, are booming and will continue to in the future. 

For example, the median pay for a cybersecurity analyst is $112,000 per year. Their average additional cash compensation is $13,097. The average base salary of a data scientist, on the other hand, is $103,500 per year. 

Image of a computer with the listing of computer science as the third degree.

Choose the Right Degree for You

The degree you pursue will have a significant impact on your financial stability as well as long-term success. So, should you go for one of these if you know in your heart that they’re not right for you? 

No. If you can’t stand the sight of blood or bodily fluids, you shouldn’t choose nursing just because you’ll earn a decent salary. Think through your talents, skills and natural tendencies so you can choose your options wisely. 

Whether you’re interested in business, healthcare or technology, there are plenty of degree options that can lead to financial stability and a rewarding career. Considering your passion, interests and long-term goals will help you choose a degree that aligns with your passions as well as position you for financial success. 


Let’s look at a few frequently asked questions you may still wonder about with regard to pursuing financial stability. 

What should you do to reach financial stability?

There are endless possibilities for reaching financial stability, including creating a budget, building an emergency fund, paying off high-interest debt, investing in your retirement, diversifying income sources, maintaining insurance coverage, educating yourself on personal finance (including reading books!), setting financial goals and seeking professional advice when needed. Finally, the most important one of all: Practice disciplined spending and live within your means.

Do you need a college degree to be financially stable?

You can attain financial stability in various ways — college isn’t your only option. You can also pursue vocational training, skilled trades, entrepreneurship and other routes to achieve stability. Higher education can enhance opportunities, but it’s not the sole determinant of financial success.

What degree makes the most money?

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) field degrees typically bring home the most bacon, particularly in engineering, computer science and certain branches of medicine. Specific disciplines such as petroleum engineering, computer engineering, electrical engineering and medical specialties like orthopedics or anesthesiology often command higher salaries due to high demand and specialized skills. However, other factors come into the mix, including experience, location, industry and individual career trajectory.

How to Start a Dog Walking Business to Pay for College

How to Start a Dog Walking Business to Pay for College

Parents, have you ever considered how you’ll pay for college? What’s a great way to get in shape and grow a side hustle? Why not consider a dog walking business?

Starting a dog walking business isn’t just about earning an income. You can tap into so many other benefits — schedule flexibility, offering practical solutions for dog owners and a pathway to take care of a portion of your child’s college education. Plus, who can resist those puppy licks and love?

Here’s how to start a dog walking business to pay for college, and if you want to start small, how to start a dog walking business in your neighborhood. 

Key Takeaway

There are approximately 29,000 dog walking enterprises in the U.S. Starting a dog walking business can be a lucrative way to pay for your child’s college education. Arm yourself with a love for canines, some treats, dog training knowledge, credentials to start a successful business.

Why Start a Dog Walking Business to Pay for College?

Starting a dog walking business to pay for college has so many benefits, including the opportunity for supplemental income, flexibility, low overhead costs and long-term financial planning:

  • Supplemental income: The most obvious benefit of starting a dog walking business is that it offers a reliable source of income to contribute toward your child’s college fund. It can help alleviate the burden of college tuition and expenses.
  • Flexibility: Luckily, you don’t have to commit to a nine-to-five job with a dog walking job. You can walk dogs whenever it works for you! (Well, obviously within the confines of your clients’ schedules — the people, not the dogs.) Ultimately, you can balance your responsibilities as a dog walker with your existing commitments.
  • Can work on the business with your child: Why not take your child along? Your college-bound child can learn more about building their own business in college. This comes with dozens of lessons, including entrepreneurship, financial management, customer service and the value of hard work. Plus, you can get in some quality bonding time. Who doesn’t love connecting with their high schooler and at the same time, teaching them about responsibility and work ethic? Your child can even learn how to start a dog walking business as a teenager.
  • Low overhead costs: Luckily, you don’t need much in the way of capital to start a dog walking business. You likely don’t even need to purchase leashes, because the dog owners will likely have those for you. You may just need basic supplies like waste bags and great tennis shoes for walking. There’s no need for a physical storefront or expensive equipment.
  • Long-term financial planning: Starting a dog walking business now means you’ll fund your child’s college education and set a foundation for long-term financial stability. You can keep growing your business even after your child graduates from college!

The amount of money you can earn is limitless, so consider setting a goal and going to town (literally!) with a dog in tow!

How to Start a Dog Walking Business to Pay for College

So, how do you get a dog walking business going? Is it as simple as grabbing a couple of leashes and hitting the pavement? Let’s take a look at some steps you can take.

Step 1: Understand the market.

Before diving in, it’s essential to understand the dog walking market in your area. Research the demand for dog walking services, what competitors are charging and any additional services they offer. Remember, your service isn’t just about walking dogs; it’s about offering peace of mind to pet owners who are unable to provide their pets with daily exercise due to work or other commitments.

Step 2: Craft a flexible business plan and build credentials.

A clear plan serves as the foundation of your dog walking business. Consider the following:

  • Services offered: Besides walking, you might offer pet sitting, feeding or even basic grooming.
  • Pricing structure: Determine how you’ll charge (per walk, per day, per week) and whether you’ll offer packages or subscriptions.
  • Branding: Create a memorable name and logo that resonate with your target market.

Clients may also want you to demonstrate your credentials, such as your ability to do pet first aid/CPR, which you can get through the American Red Cross or Pet Professional Guild; basic dog training knowledge, insurance, bonding and membership in professional organizations. 

In addition, do your best to build client testimonials that can help establish trust and bring new customers to your business.

Step 3: Streamline operations with technology.

Leverage technology to manage your schedule, client communications, and payments. Platforms like ThriveNeighbor can be particularly useful, offering tools designed to streamline the administrative side of your business. This allows you to focus more on your studies and less on paperwork, all while providing a professional service to your clients.

Step 4: Market your services.

Utilize resources, social media and word of mouth to promote your dog walking business. Tailor your marketing efforts to highlight the benefits for busy college students, professionals and local residents. Emphasize the flexibility of your services, the health benefits for their pets and the peace of mind your reliability offers. Create flyers and business cards to leave in local pet stores or vet offices. Remember, your marketing should highlight the benefits of your services. 

Step 5: Deliver exceptional service.

Excelling in the dog walking business requires more than just showing up. Build strong relationships with your clients (both human and canine) by being reliable, professional and genuinely caring. Incorporate personal touches, such as sending updates during walks or remembering individual preferences to set your service apart.

Step 6: Manage your finances wisely.

Keep meticulous records of your income and expenses. Use financial management tools or software to track your earnings and budget effectively. Your goal is to make money while minimizing debt, so financial prudence is key. Consider setting aside a portion of your earnings for business growth or unexpected expenses.

Step 7: Balance business with everyday life.

The flexibility of a dog walking business is its greatest advantage. Schedule walks around your regular nine-to-five job and other commitments, ensuring you’re never compromising the rest of your schedule. Use the business as an opportunity to enhance your time management skills, balancing client commitments with academic deadlines and opportunities for rest and relaxation.

Step 8: Embrace the benefits beyond income.

Apart from the financial rewards, your dog walking business offers numerous benefits. It’s a chance to engage with your community, build a network, and develop entrepreneurial skills. Furthermore, the physical activity and time spent with pets can be a great stress reliever, offering a welcome break from the pressures of everyday life.

Step 9: Leverage online resources.

Tap into online resources to grow your business, such as running continual Facebook ads or promoting your business to a list. These resources can provide valuable insights, tools and networking opportunities to help grow your business and reach more customers.

Step 10: Seek feedback and adjust.

Ask for feedback regularly and be open to making adjustments. Whether it’s changing your routes, offering additional services or adjusting your pricing, being responsive to your clients’ needs will help your business thrive.

How Much Can You Make with a Dog Walking Business?

The cost of dog walking services can vary depending on various factors:

  • Location
  • Walk duration
  • Number of dogs
  • Additional services offered
  • Reputation of the dog walking business

The average hourly pay in California is $16.99 an hour, according to ZipRecruiter. Pay ranges between $14.23 to $19.47 in California, though you might make more, such as up to $25 or $35 per hour.

Some dog walkers may offer discounts for regular or multiple walks per week, while others may charge extra for additional services such as feeding, administering medication or longer walks.

Dog walking rates may be higher in urban areas with higher living costs compared to rural areas. Research local dog walking businesses and compare prices to find one that fits your budget and meets your needs.

How much can you make with a dog walking business? The average is $16.99 an hour.

How Effectively Can a Dog Walking Business Help Pay for College?

So, can it really help pay for college? It entirely depends on the number of clients you have and what you charge. For example, let’s say you walk three dogs for an hour each day, and you charge $25 per dog. 

3 x $35 = $75 per day 

If you walk them for seven days (three dogs, each day of the week), that’s $525, and if you do that for four weeks, you earn $2,100 per month. (That might be on the higher end of what you might be able to charge, depending on your area.) 

Throw in some extras, like grooming or giving pets medication, and you could earn even more! This one small business could easily help pay for your child’s college tuition, but again, it depends on the number of consistent clients you have and the amount they’re willing to pay.

Consider a Dog Walking Business to Pay for Your Child’s College Education

If you love dogs, this type of business may make a lot of sense for you! If you like animals in general, you could consider expanding your business — though it’s not likely that you’ll get a lot of traction from a cat-walking business! However, there is a great need for pet sitting when families go away on vacation or on holidays. 

Ultimately, consider how you might want to create a side hustle that revolves around pets and helps you craft a lifestyle that helps pay for college and gives your child countless opportunities.


Is it hard to start a dog walking business?

Anyone can start a dog walking business because no formal qualifications are needed, though you do need to know a bit about handling dogs and dog training. You may also need to know some formal skills, such as pet CPR. Also, you may need a firm understanding of how to market your business to your area.

How do I start being a dog walker?

Start advertising your services everywhere — in coffee shops, in restaurants, in other businesses. Start running Facebook ads to dog owners in your area to make them aware of your services, and get one or two clients to give you a positive testimonial. Consider setting up a Facebook page and website to advertise your services as well.

Where do dog walkers make the most money?

As you might expect, dog walkers make the most money in large cities, so if you live in a large metropolitan area, you’ll have a lot of benefits in the form of potential clientele. Dog walkers make the most money in cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and New York.

What Does an Admissions Counselor Do? Demystifying the Role

What Does an Admissions Counselor Do? Demystifying the Role

It’s a Tuesday at 6 p.m. 

You head into the school gymnasium, where you see tables and tables of smiling admission counselors. You’re there with your teen, who looks overwhelmed. 

You know she’s thinking it too: “Where do we start? What should we ask? Do these admission counselors just tell people about the school they work for? Do admissions representatives make decisions? What the heck does that admission counselor do all day?”

If you wonder about any of these things, read on.

Key Takeaway

A college admissions counselor is your child’s resource, providing school information, aiding in visit scheduling, assisting with applications, explaining financial aid, and equipping you to make a college decision. They guide you through the college search journey, offering invaluable support along the way.

What is an Admissions Counselor?

An admissions counselor works in colleges, universities or other postsecondary schools. Their primary responsibility is to assist prospective students with the admissions process. 

Admissions counselors play a pivotal role in recruiting and enrolling students by providing information about academic programs, application procedures, financial aid options, campus life and other relevant aspects of the institution. They also typically offer the following:

  • Relationships: If your child applies to a “reach” school, an admission counselor might have some sway with an admission committee. You want someone to go to bat for your child when you might need a little extra push, and a relationship with your admission counselor might be able to do that. 
  • Advice: College and university admission counselors (unlike a school counselor) can’t set your child’s high school class schedule. Still, we can tell you what our institution might view more favorably if you aren’t sure which class (or classes) your student should take in high school. 
  • Honesty: We’ll also be honest with you if you’re not the caliber of student who would succeed at the college or university we work for, which can save you a lot of time. We might not do general college application counseling, but we can tell you precisely what you need to apply to our institution.
If your child starts at a community college or didn’t make the right college choice coming out of high school (which is okay!), they will work with a transfer admission counselor when considering starting at a new school. 

A transfer admission counselor is a specialized type of admissions counselor specifically focusing on assisting students transferring from one college or university to another. These counselors work with students transitioning from a two-year community college, another four-year institution, or any other educational setting to a new academic environment.

The primary responsibilities of transfer admission counselors are similar to those of traditional admissions counselors but with a focus on transfer students’ unique needs and concerns. 

Some of their key responsibilities include:

  1. Assessment of transfer credits: Transfer admission counselors evaluate transfer students’ transcripts to determine which credits will be accepted by the new institution and how they will apply toward the student’s degree program.
  2. Providing information and guidance: They offer guidance to transfer students regarding the application process, deadlines, required documentation and any specific requirements for transfer applicants.
  3. Assistance with academic planning: Transfer admission counselors help students understand how their previous coursework aligns with the requirements of the new institution and assist them in planning their academic trajectory to ensure a smooth transition.
  4. Address concerns and questions: They address any concerns or questions transfer students may have about the transfer process, academic programs, campus life, housing and financial aid.
  5. Transfer credit policies: They inform students about the institution’s transfer credit policies, including any limitations on the number of credits that can be transferred and the criteria for accepting transfer credits.
  6. Facilitating connections: Transfer admission counselors often serve as a point of contact between transfer students and various departments, such as academic advisors, financial aid offices and faculty members.

The transfer admission process and timeline are different at every college. Talk with the transfer counselor at your child’s potential new college to learn about the transfer timeline. If your child comes from a different four-year institution, talk to the transfer counselor to see what steps they need to take to go through the transfer admission process. 

The documents needed as a transfer student may differ from those that first-year students need, which is why talking to a transfer admission counselor is key! Scholarships available for transfer students are often different from those offered to first-year students, so you can speak with a transfer counselor about that, too! 

Understanding the Responsibilities of Admissions Counselors

So, let’s dive in to understand exactly what admissions counselors do. 

Interviewing Prospective Students

When prospective students come to campus, an admissions counselor will typically be on hand to meet with them. Each part of the country is divided into territories, meaning that each student gets “placed” with an admissions counselor. When your child comes to campus, you’ll sit down with an admissions counselor to discuss all the opportunities, admission requirements, campus life and more. 

Many admission counselors are campus-based, so you’ll see them when you visit campus. Others are regionally based, meaning they live where they are recruiting students. 

Admission counselors like working with people, plain and simple. The relationships we can build with students (and families) we work with make our jobs fun and rewarding. 

Sometimes, high schools encourage (or require) prospective students to have an interview as part of their application or for scholarships. 

Admission counselors who do this have an idea of what they are looking for out of this interview, and your child may receive the information they need to review ahead of time, such as if something on an application stands out (either good or bad). 

I’ve said it before and will repeat it: Use the relationship you can forge with an admission counselor. 

Evaluating Recruitment Techniques and Data

Counselors follow the directives of the college or university to recruit their next class, and we ask questions like: 

  • What was missing in our last class? 
  • Did we enroll too many students into a certain program (if the college admits by program) or not enough students from a specific geographic area? 
  • All these factors determine who the college will admit to the next year’s class (and maybe more pronounced at selective schools). 

Your child needs to let us know what you bring to the table that we don’t already have.

Making Admission Decisions

Different schools use different methods to determine admission decisions. Sometimes, it’s strictly a numbers game: if your student meets certain criteria, you’re in! Other schools view students holistically, which means they look not only at grades (and possibly test scores) but also at essays or personal statements, letters of recommendation, etc. 

Admission counselors are real people reading your application. We have emotions and experiences that we come in with, and a good essay or letter of recommendation can make a difference when reading an application! 

Don’t think the admission counselor is looking for a reason to deny your child; they’re looking for reasons to admit your child. Does your child’s application have grammatical errors or inconsistencies? 

Does your child have a GPA rigor on the transcript that the college is looking for? These are the things that stand out to admission representatives. Admission counselors who read applications read many (and sometimes don’t have time to pore over them), so you want to ensure that your child stands out for good reasons, not bad ones. 

Recruiting Students

Those of us in the admission counseling role work with prospective students and want to find students who will “find their fit” at the college or university we work for. It doesn’t serve anyone to admit students who won’t be successful and ultimately leave for whatever reason. 

Building a relationship with a student can show us more than simply reading an application, and it can be helpful for a student to see what life might be like at that college! 

Do you need a bit of hand-holding and can’t get someone on the phone to answer a question? That might indicate what being a student there is like, and it might not be what you need to be successful.

How Admissions Counselors Work with Students During the Year 

Different seasons in the year bring various responsibilities for admission counselors each year. If the school you’re looking at works on rolling admissions (reviewing applications as they come in) the timelines might be slightly different, but for the most part, the role of an admission counselor is seasonal.


During the spring, admission counselors ensure that high school seniors have all the tools they need to make a college decision. Talking through financial aid awards, ensuring their housing forms are in, setting up campus visits, and working admitted student events occur now. 

Most colleges have a May 1 decision date, so everything works up to that. 

In addition, we college admission counselors are switching to working with current juniors, traveling to high schools and spring college fairs to get information for the next class so that they can start figuring out their campus visits and narrowing down the list of colleges they are considering.


Summer is the most restful time in a college admissions counselor’s year. We will help tie up loose ends with the incoming class and maybe help with summer orientation and registration, but we’re also looking back at our incoming class to see if there are any trends and what could (or should) be changed process-wise for the coming year. 


Ready, set, GO! Fall is go time! 

High school visits, fairs and pushing applications from interested students are highest on the list of priorities. Many of us will spend more days on the road than in our offices during the fall. We get out and talk to your child and their school counselor to get as much information as possible about you — my favorite part of my job. 

Colleges and universities on rolling admissions will also release decisions after an application is reviewed, so your admission counselor will be reaching out to let you know what your next steps are after receiving your decision! 

Pro tip: Is writing not one of your strengths, or have you struggled, and your GPA isn’t the best? Talk to the admission counselor to see what elements are the most important in an application. 


Winter is review and scholarship time. For admission counselors who review applications, we will spend much of our time in the winter reading applications and working with students to go through their next steps. 

Some schools hold scholarship events in the winter months so that you can have a complete financial aid award (and understand it) before deciding where your child will land the following fall. 

How Admissions Counselors Work with High Schoolers

Your interactions with admission counselors will change throughout your child’s high school career as much as the schools they consider may change. What they want as a high school freshman will differ from what they prefer as a senior! 

Here’s a rough overview of what you can expect from an admission counselor throughout high school.

Freshmen and Sophomores in High School

As students are likely just starting to think about “what comes after high school” as freshmen and sophomores, they will probably have limited contact with an admission counselor. 

If you want to get out and visit colleges, do it! The more exposure you get, the less confusing this process will be later. 

You should expect follow-up from an admission counselor, but most communication will come from you, not the admission counselor.

Juniors in High School

Juniors receive more communication from colleges and their admission counselors. We want juniors to think more seriously about “what comes next.” 

You can expect admission counselors to encourage you to visit colleges, and you’ll find that many schools offer visit days specifically for juniors. 

Seniors in High School

As your child approaches their senior year in high school, you’re likely navigating the maze of college applications and decisions together. It’s a pivotal time, and I want to assure you that admission counselors are here to support both you and your senior throughout this process.

First and foremost, admission counselors are your partners in ensuring your child’s smooth transition to college. They serve as invaluable resources in providing information about various colleges, universities and programs. From admission requirements to application deadlines, they help demystify the college landscape.

Whether it’s discussing campus culture, program offerings or extracurricular opportunities, admission counselors help your senior find the best fit.

Moreover, admission counselors provide hands-on assistance with the application process itself. From deciphering application requirements to crafting compelling essays, they offer invaluable support every step of the way. They help your child put their best foot forward in presenting themselves to colleges and universities.

Financial considerations are also part of the equation, and admission counselors are well-versed in navigating the complexities of financial aid and scholarships. They provide guidance on available options and assist your family in exploring avenues to make college more affordable.

As standardized testing often plays a role in college admissions, admission counselors offer resources and strategies to help your child excel on exams like the SAT and ACT. They ensure your child feels confident and prepared when test day arrives.

Throughout the entire process, admission counselors serve as advocates for your child. They offer unwavering support, address any concerns or questions, and help your child overcome obstacles along the way.

As your child transitions from high school to college, admission counselors continue to offer assistance. They provide information on orientation programs, housing options and academic advising services, ensuring a smooth transition into college life.

Building Relationships with Admissions Counselors

Please use admission counselors as the resource that we are. We don’t visit high schools and college fairs just to hand out brochures. We want to know more about your child. The more we know, the better we can help guide them through this process. 

If you don’t need anything, that’s okay! If you do, it’s good to know you can always contact your admission counselor for help.

Do Admissions Counselors Make Decisions Regarding Admission?

Sometimes, yes! This is why your child should develop that relationship with admission counselors, especially if they’re looking at a school that might just be out of your child’s target academic range. 

If we have any pull with the admission process, we will certainly go to bat for your child (if we know them). 

The Role of Admissions Counselors Beyond Acceptance

In my position, I don’t stop reaching out once your child has been admitted. I’ll ensure that you stay on top of scholarship and financial aid deadlines, complete those next steps on time, and then help you ensure you have exactly what you need to make your college decision. 

The bulk of an admission counselor’s role involves working with prospective students, but it isn’t like a door is closed and students on campus never head into the admission office again. Developing a relationship with your admission counselor can lead to a job in the admission office when you enroll at a college or help you find your footing once you get to campus. 

Navigating Special Circumstances

The college admission process can be confusing, especially for first-generation college students. I’m here to help navigate you through the process and help whenever I can. 

The same goes for students needing accommodations to help level the playing field. Working with your admission counselor can be to your student’s advantage, as we can connect you to current students who were in similar circumstances not long before you. Plus, we’re generally more helpful than a Google search.

Tips for Parents in Supporting Their High School Students

I often say that the college search journey is like a road trip where students are the drivers. 

Are you (as the parent) sitting in the back reading, only looking up occasionally, or are you giving turn-by-turn directions (and occasionally grabbing the wheel in fear)? 

Most parents I work with are somewhere in the middle. Whatever your road trip style, you should feel like you can also build a relationship with your admission counselor. Reach out when you have questions because, in the end, we both want what’s best for your family. Think of us as your GPS. You can get turn-by-turn instructions interrupting the music from the minute you leave your block, or you can just use us when things are less familiar.

Common Misconceptions About Admissions Counselors

We admission counselors don’t usually have the final say about whether a student attends our college or university. 

We enjoy working with families and know that not every student we work with will choose to attend our school … and that’s okay! Our main objective is to develop a relationship with the students we work with so that even if your child doesn’t choose our school, you’ll have an experience that you’ll want to tell your friends and family about when it becomes their turn to go through the admissions process. 

More than an Application Collector

From the first meeting at a college fair or high school visit to greeting you on move-in day, we, as college admission counselors, are your guide and advocate. We’re there for you when you have questions, including parent questions! 

My teenagers tell me I’m good at asking “mom questions,” and I get that what parents want to know is often quite different from what students think to ask. Asking questions can only help you and your student come to a college decision that is right for you… and you don’t have to stop asking questions just because your student has paid their enrollment deposit. 

If this has brought up more questions for you or if you’ve had a good experience with a college admission counselor, please share that in the comments section. So many people don’t know how to utilize a college admission counselor, so please let us know how you worked with yours! 

Choosing a college or university to apply to should be a fun process! If you can take advantage of attending a college fair (or several), you should! This is a great time to meet with admission representatives and ask questions. What questions should you ask admissions counselors at college fairs? Here’s our list. 

Don’t treat an admission counselor as a stranger. We want to help you through this process! It’s not about selling you a college or university (although yes, that’s part of it), but it’s about selling you the right college or university for your child

Written by Jen DiSessa, senior assistant director of admission at Central College. I worked with Jen professionally during my time there. She’s amazing!

Contact College Money Tips at [email protected] if you have questions about the college search process and achieving a debt-free degree.

Best College Towns for Rental Properties: The List May Surprise You

Best College Towns for Rental Properties: The List May Surprise You

With college tuition soaring, families and students nationwide face the daunting challenge of funding higher education. Traditional savings plans, scholarships and financial aid often fall short of covering the total cost of college, leading many to seek alternative solutions. 

Enter the innovative strategy of starting a rental property business — a venture that promises financial returns and teaches valuable lessons in entrepreneurship and management. 

This approach addresses the immediate financial needs for education and sets the foundation for long-term financial independence. By investing in real estate, students and their families can create a stream of income that helps bridge the gap between scholarships and savings, making the dream of a college education a more achievable reality. 

So, what are the best college towns for rental properties? Let’s take a look.

Key Takeaway

Approximately 10.6 million American tax filers declared rental income — among 17.7 million properties, about 7.1% of 1040 filers are possible landlords. 

The best college towns for rental properties: Athens, Boulder, College Station, Madison, Gainesville, Ithaca, Chapel Hill, and Ann Arbor.

The Best College Towns for Rental Properties

You want just the right combination of steady demand, robust rental market in a neighborhood close to campus. Here’s a quick view of the best college towns for rental properties and the top colleges for real estate:

  • Athens, Georgia (University of Georgia): Athens is known for its vibrant music scene and thriving college community. The University of Georgia attracts a large student population, creating steady demand for rental properties.
  • Boulder, Colorado (University of Colorado Boulder): Boulder offers a picturesque setting with access to outdoor activities and a progressive culture. The University of Colorado Boulder contributes to a robust rental market driven by students and young professionals.
  • College Station, Texas (Texas A&M University): College Station benefits from a stable economy and a growing population due to Texas A&M University. The college town’s relatively affordable housing market and strong rental demand make it attractive for real estate investors.
  • Madison, Wisconsin (University of Wisconsin-Madison): Madison boasts a dynamic arts scene, outdoor recreational opportunities, and a diverse population. The University of Wisconsin-Madison sustains a strong rental market, particularly in neighborhoods close to campus.
  • Gainesville, Florida (University of Florida): Gainesville offers a warm climate, cultural attractions and affordable living costs. The University of Florida’s large student population creates a consistent demand for rental properties in the area.
  • Ithaca, New York (Cornell University and Ithaca College): Despite its small size, Ithaca benefits from its picturesque surroundings and the presence of Cornell University and Ithaca College. The student population contributes to a competitive rental market, particularly in areas close to campus.
  • Chapel Hill, North Carolina (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill): Chapel Hill features a charming downtown area, access to research opportunities, and a strong sense of community. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill drives demand for rental properties in the area.
  • Ann Arbor, Michigan (University of Michigan): Ann Arbor offers a blend of cultural amenities, a thriving arts scene and a highly educated population. The University of Michigan’s prestigious reputation attracts students and faculty members, supporting strong student rentals in a robust rental market.
The Power of Real Estate Investment

What are the advantages of real estate investment? Real estate can offer investors incredible potential beyond simply investing in college.

Passive Income Generation

Real estate investments offer the opportunity to generate passive income through rental properties. Rental income from tenants provides a steady stream of cash flow without requiring active involvement in day-to-day operations.

Diversification and Stability

Real estate investments can serve as a diversification strategy within an investment portfolio. Diversification means you spread opportunity and risk in your portfolio. 

Unlike stocks and bonds, real estate values tend to be less volatile, providing stability and a hedge against market fluctuations.

Tangible Asset Ownership

Real estate investment involves tangible asset ownership, providing a sense of security and control over the investment. Property ownership allows you to leverage physical assets to generate income and build wealth over time.

Appreciation Potential

Real estate properties have the potential to appreciate over time, increasing your net worth. Strategic property selection in high-demand areas or emerging markets can lead to significant capital gains in the long term.

Equity Build-Up

As you make mortgage payments and property values increase, you can build equity in your real estate holdings. Equity accumulation allows you to leverage your properties for future investments or access liquidity when needed.

Retirement Planning

Real estate investment can be a key component of retirement planning, providing a source of passive income during retirement years. Rental properties can be a reliable income stream to supplement retirement savings and social security benefits.

Tax Deductions and Benefits

Rental property owners are eligible for various tax deductions, including mortgage interest, property taxes, maintenance expenses and depreciation. These tax benefits can reduce taxable income and increase cash flow from rental properties.

Depreciation Advantage

Real estate investors can use depreciation deductions to offset rental income and reduce tax liabilities. Depreciation allows investors to allocate a portion of the property’s value as an expense over its useful life, providing significant tax savings.

Hedge Against Inflation

Rental properties hedge against inflation, as property values and rental income tend to increase over time. Real estate investments offer protection against the eroding effects of inflation, preserving the purchasing power of investment returns.

By highlighting the advantages of real estate investment, including passive income generation, long-term wealth accumulation, and tax benefits, investors can better understand the potential rewards and opportunities associated with owning rental properties.

Understanding the Basics of Starting a Rental Property Business 

Before diving into the world of real estate investment, it’s crucial to understand the basics of starting a rental property business

This journey begins with thorough market research to identify promising locations, understand the initial capital requirements and familiarize oneself with the legal landscape of property management. Planning and education are pivotal in this journey; prospective landlords must educate themselves on property selection, financing options and tenant management to ensure the success of their venture.

Key considerations include:

  • Assessing your financial readiness
  • Understanding the responsibilities of property management
  • Developing a solid business plan

It’s not just about purchasing a property; it’s about creating a business model that aligns with your college funding goals. Engaging in this business requires learning and adaptability as the market constantly evolves. 

For students and parents alike, embarking on this path offers a hands-on learning experience in financial planning and real estate, providing a means to fund education and valuable life skills that extend far beyond the classroom.

7 Steps to Launch Your Rental Property Business 

Launching a rental property business requires meticulous planning and a step-by-step approach to ensure success. Here’s how to get started:

Step 1: Begin real estate research. 

Begin with comprehensive research to identify lucrative rental markets. Look for areas with strong demand, such as nearby colleges, which can be particularly appealing to students and parents.

Step 2: Financially prepare. 

Assess your financial situation to determine how much you can invest without jeopardizing your or your child’s education savings. Ideally, you will have paid off the main home you live in and can use cash to pay for your investment property. Otherwise, if you must borrow to finance the property, ensure that everything makes sense financially. It should not be an emotional decision but a business decision.

Step 3: Choose a property.  

Choose a property that matches your goals and budget. Consider factors like location, condition of the property and potential rental income. Properties near campuses can be ideal due to the constant demand from students.

Step 4: Consider legal and tax requirements.

Understand the legal requirements for landlords in your area and consider the tax implications of owning a rental property. Consulting with a real estate attorney and a tax advisor may be beneficial.

Step 5: Decide on your management strategy. 

Decide whether you’ll manage the property yourself or hire a property management company. A management company can save time and stress as a busy parent, though it will impact your profits.

Step 6: Market your rental.

Develop a marketing strategy to attract tenants. Utilize online platforms, local advertising and college bulletin boards to reach potential renters.

Step 7: Balance responsibilities.

For college students and parents handling the opportunity together, balancing the responsibilities of managing a rental property with academic and personal commitments is crucial. Effective time management and organization are vital to ensuring your educational and business ventures thrive.

Financial Planning: Budgeting for Your Business and College 

Effective financial planning is critical when balancing the start-up costs of a rental property business with college expenses. If you choose to balance real estate with the cost of your child’s college education, check out some strategies to manage your finances effectively:

  • Outline all anticipated expenses for both your rental business and college costs. 
  • Include initial investment, ongoing maintenance, tuition, books and living expenses.
  • Prioritize the allocation of rental income toward covering college expenses, reinvesting in your property and building a contingency fund for unexpected costs.
  • Don’t overlook traditional financial aid options. Scholarships, grants and student loans can supplement your income from rental properties, reducing the financial burden.
  • Regularly review your budget. As your rental business grows, you may find opportunities to increase your rental rates or reduce expenses.
  • Consider how your rental business can support you financially, even after your child has graduated from college. Long-term planning can help ensure your investment provides sustained income and contributes to your financial independence.

By following these steps and focusing on immediate and future financial goals, students and parents can effectively manage a rental property business while covering college education costs.

Pros and Cons of Using a Rental Property to Fund College

Using a rental property to fund college expenses via FAFSA can have several advantages and drawbacks.


In addition to the tax benefits and asset appreciation benefits already mentioned, other benefits include: 

  • Stable income source: Rental properties can provide a steady income stream through rental payments, which can help cover tuition fees, accommodation costs and other educational expenses.
  • Long-term investment: Investing in rental properties offers the potential for long-term wealth accumulation and financial stability, which can be beneficial for funding college education and future endeavors. 
  • Ownership control: Unlike other forms of financial aid or loans, owning a rental property provides individuals with a tangible asset and a degree of control over their financial situation.


What are the downsides? Unfortunately, you’ll want to consider these potential downsides to investing in real estate for college costs: 

  • Initial capital requirement: Acquiring a rental property often requires a significant initial investment, including down payments, closing costs and ongoing maintenance expenses, which may pose financial challenges for some individuals or families.
  • Market risks: The value of rental properties and the rental market can be subject to fluctuations, economic downturns and changes in local market conditions, which may affect the property’s profitability and ability to generate income.
  • Property management responsibilities: Owning and managing rental properties involves various responsibilities, including property maintenance, tenant management, legal compliance and financial record-keeping, which can be time-consuming and require specific skills and knowledge.
  • Tenant issues: Dealing with problematic tenants, rental vacancies, property damage and legal disputes can be stressful and may impact the financial viability of the rental property as a source of funding for college education.
  • Cash flow variability: Rental income may not always be consistent or sufficient to cover all college expenses, especially during vacancy periods or economic uncertainty, which could require you to pull alternative funding sources or financial planning strategies.
Rental Income Can Fund Education, but Be Wise

Rental income provides a steady, passive revenue stream.

Many have leveraged this strategy successfully, such as buying a duplex for your daughter near campus so she could live in one unit while renting out the other. 

This approach can cover her tuition fees and provided living expenses, illustrating the tangible benefits of integrating real estate investment into education funding strategies. 

This practical application of entrepreneurship in real estate offers a viable pathway for students and parents aiming to mitigate the high costs of college education. However, it also comes with financial risks, management responsibilities and market uncertainties that you should carefully consider before pursuing this option.

What is Need-Based Financial Aid?

What is Need-Based Financial Aid?

Need-based financial aid: It’s one of these mystifying terms that admission offices throw around when you visit colleges. I can vouch for that — I worked in college admissions for 12 years.

There are many ways you can take care of college costs. You can pay for it all out of pocket; your child might earn a scholarship because of her violin-playing talents or other skills. Or your child might get need-based financial aid.

What is need based financial aid, exactly? It’s exactly like it sounds — it’s aid you receive based on your family’s financial situation. Or, in rare cases, it’s based on your financial situation if you are an independent student. Your grades, test scores or extracurricular achievements don’t factor in. 

Key Takeaway

Colleges award need-based financial aid, determined by your family’s financial situation, upon filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Colleges assess income-related answers to grant your child a financial aid award, comprising grants, scholarships, work-study and loans. Per the National Center for Education Statistics, over 85% of students receive financial aid, including need-based assistance. 

Simple enough, right? 


An Overview of Need-Based Financial Aid

Need based financial aid depends on several factors, such as income, assets and the cost of attendance at a particular institution. Examples of need-based financial aid include grants, scholarships, work-study programs and subsidized loans. 

Types of Need-Based Financial Aid

Need-based financial aid comes in various forms, each designed to help students meet those. What qualifies for need based financial aid? Here are some common types:

  • Grants: Grants are financial awards your child doesn’t have to repay — yay! The government, colleges or private organizations often provide them. Need based grants examples include the Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) and state-based grants. In other words, always say “yes” to grants if your child receives them on the financial aid award! However, check into the requirements for the grant. For example, your child may stop receiving it if they drop out of school.
  • Scholarships: Like grants, your child does not need to repay scholarships. (Scholarships should always prompt your family to celebrate!) Now, the tricky thing with scholarships is that your child may receive them due to financial need. Still, they can also earn them for non-scholarship reasons, including due to academic achievement, athletic ability, talents or other criteria. Many colleges and universities offer scholarships to help students afford tuition and other expenses.
  • Work-study programs: Students can work part-time jobs, called work-study, typically on campus, to earn money to help pay for educational expenses. Many people don’t realize that work-study is need-based, but it is! Your child’s wages earned through work-study are often subsidized, meaning the employer (usually the college or university) pays a portion of your student’s wages. (Note that your child will not receive the work-study money if they don’t sign up to work a job on campus!)
  • Subsidized loans: Subsidized loans are a type of federal student loan where the government pays the interest. In contrast, the student is in school at least half-time, during the grace period after leaving school and during deferment periods. They differ from unsubsidized loans because unsubsidized loans are not based on need. If you have to choose between subsidized and unsubsidized loans, choose subsidized!
  • Tuition waivers and discounts: Some colleges and universities offer need-based tuition waivers or discounts to students who demonstrate financial need. These waivers and discounts can significantly reduce the cost of tuition for eligible students.
  • Fee waivers: Fee waivers may be available for standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT and for college application fees. Students from low-income families may qualify for fee waivers to reduce or eliminate the costs associated with these tests and applications.

These are just a few examples of the types of need-based financial aid available to students. It’s a great idea to research all options and work closely with your child’s college’s financial aid office to determine the best package for their needs.

Need-Based vs. Merit-Based Financial Aid

You may have heard about something called “merit-based aid,” and it’s different from need-based aid, but how?

Merit aid (which can come in the form of scholarships, grants, tuition waivers or other awards) is awarded based on the student’s academic, athletic, artistic or other achievements rather than financial need. The merit aid awarded is determined by the student’s performance in standardized test scores, GPA, extracurricular activities, talents or leadership qualities.

Students may be automatically considered for merit aid based on their application for admission to the college or university, or they may need to submit additional materials or applications to be considered.

Who Qualifies for Need-Based Financial Aid?

Qualifying for need-based aid includes a few important requirements. Your child must demonstrate financial need, be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen, and enroll in an eligible degree or certificate program at a qualified college or career/trade school. 

Check out the other eligibility requirements.

How to Qualify for Need-Based Financial Aid for College

Students typically qualify for need-based aid by completing the FAFSA. However, they may qualify for need-based aid by filing the CSS Profile, another online application colleges and scholarship programs use to award non-federal institutional aid to students. 

The FAFSA will ask questions such as:

  • What is your tax filing status?
  • What was your adjusted gross income?
  • How much did you earn from working?
  • What is the total current balance of your cash, savings and checking accounts?
  • What is the net worth of your investments?
  • What is the net worth of your current businesses and/or investment farms?
  • What were your total tax-deferred pension payments?
  • How much did you pay to your IRA or Keogh?
  • How much total child support did you receive?
  • What was your total tax-exempt interest income?
  • What were your total untaxed portions of IRA distributions?
  • What were your total untaxed portions of pensions?
  • What were your total allowances received?
  • What were your total veterans noneducation benefits?
  • What was the total of your other untaxed income or benefits?
  • What other money has been paid on your behalf?

This is just a short list of questions it asks (and yes, they are kind of a snooze-fest). However, the great news is that it takes less time than it has in the past due to the FAFSA Simplification Act put in place, which overhauled the processes and systems used to award federal student aid, starting with the 2024–25 award year. 

This is a common question, by the way: Is FAFSA need based financial aid? The answer is no, it is the tool you use to get need-based financial aid.

How is Need-Based Financial Aid Calculated?

Yep, common question: How is need based aid determined? 

Here’s how financial aid works: Submitting the FAFSA collects information about your family’s income and assets (as seen above). The information provided on the FAFSA is used to calculate your Student Aid Index (SAI), which is the amount the federal government believes you as a family can contribute toward education expenses.

What is the SAI? 

The FAFSA now uses the SAI to measure your family’s ability to pay for college. It has done a few new things, including removing the number of family members in college from the calculation and allowing a minimum SAI of -1500. 

With the introduction of the SAI, allowing a minimum of -1500 means that some students may have a negative SAI, indicating that they have very high financial need and may be eligible for additional financial aid beyond what was previously calculated using the EFC.

The SAI also signals separate eligibility criteria for Federal Pell Grants. The Federal Pell Grant should now reach more students with financial need.

Note: The SAI should have consequences for families with a small business. For the first time, parents who own companies with less than 100 employees will have to count the value of their business toward the financial aid calculation. You can find your child’s SAI on the FAFSA Submission Summary after you complete the form.

How Financial Aid Offices Use the SAI

The financial aid office at each college or university uses your child’s SAI to determine your child’s eligibility for need-based financial aid. They subtract SAI from the total cost of attendance to determine your financial need. The financial aid package includes grants, scholarships, work-study opportunities and federal student loans, all designed to help cover your financial need.

Each college or university may have its policies and procedures for awarding need-based financial aid, so the specific calculation methods and available aid may vary from institution to institution.

Does Your Child Have to Pay Back Need-Based Aid? 

You’ll pay back financial aid if it’s a loan, but your child won’t have to repay grants, scholarships or work-study money. (Note that some grants may require repayment if your child doesn’t finish their degree or drops out midway through the semester.)

You don’t have to begin repaying most federal student loans until after you leave college or drop below half-time enrollment. 

A repayment schedule will explain when your first payment is due, how many payments you’ll make, the frequency and payment amounts.

You might get a grace period, a set period after you graduate, leave school or go below half-time enrollment. You don’t have to repay your loan until after the grace period. The grace period gives you time to select your repayment plan. Not all federal student loans have a grace period. Interest will build during the grace period in all cases.

How Does Need-Based Aid Affect College Affordability?

Need-based aid is crucial in making college more affordable for students from lower-income families and those with demonstrated financial need. Here’s how it affects college affordability:

  • Reduce costs: Need-based aid, such as federal Pell Grants and institutional grants, can significantly reduce out-of-pocket college costs. This can make higher education more accessible to students who might otherwise struggle to afford it.
  • Expand options: With need-based aid, your child has more options when it comes to choosing which colleges to attend. They are not limited solely to schools with lower tuition fees but can consider a broader range of institutions that may offer the programs and environment they desire.
  • Minimizing debt: By providing financial assistance upfront, need-based aid helps students avoid excessive student loan debt. This is particularly important for students from lower-income backgrounds who may be more vulnerable to financial challenges after graduation.
  • Early financial stability: Need-based aid enables students to focus more on their studies and less on financial concerns. Always a great bonus for parents, right? By minimizing the financial burden of attending college, students can start their careers on a more stable footing and work toward achieving other financial goals, such as homeownership, at an earlier stage in life.
  • Universal application: You must apply for financial aid, regardless of your perceived income level. Need-based aid programs often have eligibility criteria that extend beyond poverty lines. Many factors beyond income are considered when determining financial need. 

How to Get the Most Need-Based Financial Aid Possible 

Filing the FAFSA is the best way to get the most need-based aid possible. Be sure you know how much need-based financial aid you’re taking out and plan to pay it back when you’re through school.

  • Be intentional: Make less during the preceding years you know you’ll be filing the FAFSA
  • Don’t realize capital gains or take retirement distributions
  • Defer work bonuses
  • Decrease reportable assets

What to Do if Need-Based Financial Aid Isn’t Enough

Did you know you can get your child’s financial aid awards reevaluated if need based aid isn’t enough?

The process for requesting a reevaluation of aid packages varies among institutions but typically involves submitting a formal appeal letter to the financial aid office. 

This letter should clearly outline the changes in financial circumstances and provide supporting documentation. You should: 

  1. Adhere to the institution’s deadlines and procedures for appeals, as missing deadlines could result in missed opportunities for additional aid. 
  2. Some schools may also require students to complete specific forms or participate in interviews as part of the appeal process. 
  3. Your child should follow up with the financial aid office to ensure their appeal is processed and to inquire about the expected timeline for a decision.

Documenting special circumstances is a critical aspect of the appeal process. It involves gathering relevant documentation to support the claims of financial hardship or unusual circumstances. 

This documentation may include tax returns, pay stubs, medical records, statements from employers or any other paperwork that provides evidence of the changes in financial circumstances. 

Students and their families should thoroughly document their situation and be prepared to provide additional information or clarification if requested by the financial aid office. Clear and comprehensive documentation strengthens the appeal and the likelihood of a favorable outcome.

Your Child Can Get Need-Based Financial Aid — Just Apply!

Now that you understand the need based financial aid meaning, do you intend to apply for need-based financial aid or are you asking, “Should I apply for need based financial aid?”

Yes, you absolutely should.

Even if you don’t think you’ll demonstrate financial need or meet the qualifications for need based financial aid, you should file the FAFSA anyway.

Though it’s financial aid based on income, you may be surprised at how the institutional aid equation comes through for your child. If you’re “just on the bubble” from one aid category to another, it is possible to benefit.


Still have questions? Take a look at these questions and answers.

What is the difference between financial aid and need-based aid?

Financial aid encompasses all types of financial assistance available to students to help cover the cost of education, including scholarships, grants, loans and work-study programs. 

Need-based aid refers to financial assistance awarded based on a student’s demonstrated financial need, including income, assets and the cost of attendance at a particular institution. While financial aid encompasses a broader range of assistance, need-based aid is specifically awarded based on financial need.

For example, merit-based aid is also financial aid but isn’t need-based. Need-based aid typically comes from filing the FAFSA, while you can get other types of need-based aid without filing the FAFSA.

What is a need-based financial aid example?

A subsidized loan is an excellent example of need-based financial aid because it is awarded to students based on financial need, as the FAFSA determines. Unlike unsubsidized loans where interest accrues while the student is in school, the government pays the interest on subsidized loans. In contrast, the student is enrolled at least half-time, during the grace period after leaving school and during periods of deferment. 

Should I put “Yes” for need-based financial aid?

When you receive your child’s financial aid award, it’s up to you and your child whether you choose to “accept” need-based financial aid. You may have a hard policy of not taking loans, while you accept grants and scholarships. However, you may need subsidized loans to get through your child’s school years. Talk about it together.

Questions to Ask Colleges and How to Get A+ Answers

Questions to Ask Colleges and How to Get A+ Answers

It’s important to arm yourself with a list of questions to ask colleges, but not just when you and your student are on campus. It’s important to know what you’ll ask year-round, at every point through the college visit. 

I used to work in college admission, and one family asked me such difficult questions when I was an admission counselor that I gave them an “A+” for “hardest questions of the year” and said, “You should go talk to my boss.” 

They asked me questions like, “What does the college pay for water and electricity and how does that work into my son’s tuition?”

Relevant questions get to what you need to know. Asking the right person the right questions is paramount.

What are the questions you should be asking? Whether you shoot a list of questions over to an admission counselor or want to pull a list before you go to a college fair, here’s a well-rounded list of questions to ask. 

General Questions to Ask Colleges

The topic “questions to ask colleges” is a bit interesting because there are general questions to ask colleges, and then there are ways to break it up because you’ll meet lots of individual people during the visit, including admission counselors, financial aid officers, coaches, 

What are some general questions to ask colleges? Let’s take a quick look at some questions you must ask:

  • What is the student-to-faculty ratio?
  • Can you tell me more about the academic support services available on campus?
  • What opportunities are there for undergraduate research or internships?
  • How does the college support students in finding housing options?
  • What clubs and extracurricular activities are popular on campus?
  • Are there study abroad programs available, and how are they facilitated?
  • Can you describe the campus safety measures and resources?
  • What career services are offered to students and alumni?
  • What percentage of students receive financial aid, and what types of aid are available?
  • How does the college foster diversity and inclusion among its student body?

Now, let’s dive into more pointed questions you can ask during other points in the college journey. Specifically, we’ll walk through questions to ask college admissions, coaches, college interviewers, financial aid officers, professors and career services personnel.

Questions to Ask College Admissions

I frequently received the following questions about college admissions, and I welcomed them! I’ll add another bonus question that I think is a super great one: What would you change about this college/university. Whoo, that gets the admission counselor’s wheels turning!

  • What are the application deadlines and requirements?
  • Can you explain the process for applying for financial aid or scholarships?
  • Are there any special programs or initiatives for first-generation college students?
  • What criteria are considered during the admissions review process?
  • Can you provide information about the acceptance rate and the profile of the incoming freshman class?
  • Are interviews with admissions officers or alumni recommended or required?
  • How does the college support students’ transition from high school to college?
  • Are there opportunities for early admission or dual enrollment programs?
  • Can you share insights into the college’s retention and graduation rates?
  • What resources are available for students with disabilities?

Questions to Ask College Coaches

If your child plans to play sports in college, whether they’re considering a Division I, II or III program, here are some common questions you should ask any college coach:

  • What is the team’s philosophy and approach to training and competition?
  • How do you support student-athletes in balancing academics and athletics?
  • What are the expectations for off-season training and conditioning?
  • Can you provide information about the team’s schedule and travel commitments?
  • How are playing time and positions determined within the team?
  • What academic support services are available for student-athletes?
  • Can you talk about the team’s recent accomplishments and goals for the future?
  • How do you handle injuries and medical support for athletes?
  • What are the team’s facilities like, and are there plans for upgrades or expansions?
  • How do you assist athletes in pursuing opportunities beyond college sports?

Questions to Ask College Interviewers

As part of the college search process, your child may interview with an alumnus or alumna of the college or university, and while they may ask your child questions, you may wonder about what your child should ask them. Your child must have questions in mind to ask! Here are a few suggestions:

  • Can you tell us about your own experience at this college/university?
  • What qualities or attributes is the college looking for in its students?
  • How does the college support students in exploring and declaring their majors?
  • Can you share some examples of unique opportunities or experiences available to students here?
  • How would you describe the campus community and student life?
  • What advice do you have for students transitioning from high school to college?
  • How accessible are professors and advisors for students seeking guidance or mentorship?
  • Can you describe any recent changes or developments on campus?
  • What do you think sets this college apart from others?
  • How does the college foster a sense of belonging and inclusivity among its students?

Questions to Ask Financial Aid Officers

When you’re on a college visit, you want to talk with financial aid officers as well. If you didn’t schedule a college visit and include a financial aid officer, you want to call up the admission office and get that added to your schedule.

  • What types of financial aid are available, and how does my child apply for them?
  • Can you explain the different types of loans and their terms?
  • Are there any scholarships or grants specifically available for incoming freshmen?
  • How does the college determine financial aid packages?
  • Are there work-study opportunities available, and how does my child qualify for them?
  • Can you provide information on the FAFSA and CSS Profile deadlines?
  • What happens if my financial circumstances change after I’ve submitted my financial aid application?
  • Are there any additional forms or documents required for financial aid consideration?
  • Can you explain the process for appealing a financial aid decision?
  • Are there resources available to help students understand and manage their student loan debt?

Questions to Ask Professors

You can meet with professors when you visit college campuses. It’s a good idea because your child can get an idea of who they will take classes from in college. Consider the following questions:

  • Can you tell us about your research interests and current projects?
  • How accessible are professors outside of class for student questions and discussions?
  • What opportunities are there for undergraduate students to participate in research or collaborate with faculty?
  • Can you describe the typical class size for introductory and upper-level courses in your department?
  • What teaching methods do you employ to engage students and facilitate learning?
  • Are there opportunities for students to work as teaching or research assistants?
  • How do you encourage critical thinking and intellectual curiosity in your courses?
  • Can you share examples of how you integrate real-world applications into your teaching?
  • What resources does the department provide to support student success in your courses?
  • How do you approach advising and mentorship for students majoring in your field?
Questions to Ask Career Services Personnel

If you get a chance to meet with career services (and I recommend it!) you can put forth a few questions from them.

  • What types of career development resources and services does the college offer to students?
  • Can you describe the process for students to access career counseling and advising services?
  • Are there workshops or seminars available to help students develop essential career skills such as resume writing, interviewing and networking?
  • How does the college assist students in identifying internship opportunities related to their field of study?
  • Does the college have partnerships with employers or alumni networks to facilitate job placements for graduating students?
  • Can you provide examples of companies or organizations where recent graduates have secured employment or internships?
  • Are there opportunities for students to participate in career fairs, networking events or informational interviews with professionals in various industries?
  • What support services are available to alumni who may be seeking career advancement or transitioning to new roles?
  • How does the career services office collaborate with academic departments and student organizations to enhance students’ career readiness?
  • Are there specific programs or initiatives aimed at helping students from underrepresented backgrounds succeed in their career pursuits?

Don’t forget to check out a list of questions to ask on a college tour

Questions to Ask Current Students

Current students and alumni can provide valuable insights into their personal experiences, challenges and successes at the college. Gather as many firsthand accounts as you can while you’re on campus.

  • What do you enjoy most about attending this college/university?
  • Can you describe the academic atmosphere and classroom dynamics?
  • How accessible are professors outside of class for questions and assistance?
  • What are the most popular extracurricular activities or student organizations on campus?
  • How would you describe the social scene and campus community?
  • What are some common challenges that students face here, and how does the college support students in overcoming them?
  • Can you share your experience with housing options and campus living?
  • How do students typically spend their weekends or free time on campus?
  • What opportunities are there for undergraduate research, internships, or study abroad programs?
  • How has your experience at this college/university prepared you for your future career or graduate studies?

How to Get Great Answers to Your Questions

Conduct thorough research about the college, its programs, campus culture and other relevant information before you even get on campus. This will help you ask more specific and targeted questions during your interactions. Don’t be afraid to write down the questions ahead of time and refer to them during the college tour. Better yet, print questions from this list!

Here are some tips regarding asking smart questions:

  • Go for open-ended questions: Frame your questions in a way that encourages detailed and meaningful responses. Open-ended questions typically begin with “how,” “what,” “why” or “can you describe.”
  • Listen carefully: Pay close attention to the responses you receive and ask follow-up questions to clarify any points that are unclear or require further elaboration.
  • Seek multiple perspectives: Don’t rely on a single source for information. Seek out insights from various individuals such as admissions officers, professors, students, alumni and support staff to gain a well-rounded understanding of the college experience. Ask the same question of all of them — my favorite is, “What would you change about this place?” It’s fun to watch them stumble around to answer it!
  • Utilize information sessions: Take advantage of information sessions and admission events to interact directly with college representatives and explore campus facilities.
  • Ask for specific examples: When seeking information about academic programs, support services or extracurricular opportunities, ask for specific examples or anecdotes that illustrate how students have benefited from these resources. Get them to tell stories!
  • Follow up via email or phone: If you have additional questions or need further clarification after your initial interaction, don’t hesitate to follow up with individuals at colleges via email or phone.

Finally, pay attention to how your questions are received and whether the responses align with your expectations and goals. Trust you and your child’s instincts when evaluating the information provided to make informed decisions about your college options.

Embracing the Power of Questions

One family once astounded me with their insightful inquiries during an admissions office visit. Their probing questions about the finer details of college operations left me impressed. From inquiries about utility expenses to sustainability initiatives, they demonstrated a keen awareness of what matters. While I may not have had all the answers, their questions underscored the importance of seeking relevant information.

Key Inquiries for Savvy Parents

Savvy parents ask questions related to the following things.

1. Who’s Your Child’s Admission Counselor?

Getting to know your child’s admission counselor is paramount. This dedicated individual serves as your family’s liaison to the college experience. From financial aid guidance to insider knowledge about campus life, admission counselors offer invaluable support.

2. Understanding the Admission Process

In today’s evolving educational landscape, understanding the admission process is essential. Whether it’s navigating test-optional policies or grasping COVID-19 protocols, staying informed empowers both parents and students.

3. Connecting with Key Individuals

Facilitating connections with professors and other campus figures can profoundly impact your child’s college journey. Whether it’s through virtual meetings or campus visits, fostering these relationships fosters a supportive academic environment.

4. Engaging with Current Students

Encouraging your child to interact with current students provides invaluable insights into campus life. From firsthand accounts of academic rigor to candid discussions about campus culture, these interactions offer a glimpse into the student experience.

5. Clarifying Expectations and Values

Asking about the unique experiences a college offers helps align your child’s expectations with institutional values. By understanding what sets a college apart, you can ensure a better fit for your child’s academic and personal growth.

6. Exploring Financial Aid Options

Navigating the complexities of financial aid early on empowers families to make informed decisions. Utilizing net price calculators and engaging with financial aid offices enables you to plan for college costs proactively.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Tough Questions

As parents, it’s our responsibility to advocate for our children and seek the answers we need. Don’t hesitate to ask tough questions and push for clarity throughout the college search process. Remember, you’re the customer, and your child’s future deserves nothing less than your diligent inquiry.

In conclusion, embracing the power of questions is the hallmark of savvy prospective parents. By asking the right questions and engaging with college stakeholders, you pave the way for a transformative college experience for your child. So, let’s put a zip in our step and embark on this exhilarating journey together!

Powerful Methods for Saving Money for College

Powerful Methods for Saving Money for College

Pursuing higher education is an investment in your child’s future. It demands careful financial planning and consideration. With tuition, textbooks, housing and other expenses steadily rising, adopting a savvy approach to saving money for college is imperative. We all know what, right?

The solution: This guide will walk you through a comprehensive strategy designed to bolster your financial readiness for college, ensuring that you are academically and financially prepared when the time comes.

Early Planning: The Keystone of Financial Preparedness

The adage “the early bird catches the worm” holds profound truth in the context of saving for college. 

  • Begin by setting clear, achievable financial goals: Whether your child’s in their first year of high school or a bit closer to college, it’s never too early to start. An early start provides a longer runway to accumulate savings, leverage compounding interest and explore various funding sources and scholarships.
  • Understand the cost of various colleges and potential career paths: Research your child’s target institutions’ tuition rates, living expenses and additional fees is crucial. This way, you can forecast the financial commitment required and tailor your savings accordingly.
  • Consider the return on investment of different degrees and careers: Having a clear understanding of your child’s ROI can significantly shape their career choice. Some fields offer higher starting salaries, which could help your child pay off student loans more swiftly, influencing your savings strategy.
  • Engage in conversations with family members about expectations and contributions: These discussions can help align your student’s financial goals with your family’s, ensuring everyone pursues the same objective. It can provide clarity and set realistic targets. 
  • Explore income-generating investments or high-yield savings accounts early: Utilizing this strategy can significantly boost your savings over time. The power of compound interest means that even small amounts saved early can grow substantially, providing a larger financial buffer when your child starts college.

Proactive planning prepares you financially and educates your student on the value of money and the importance of investing in their future. Understanding these principles early on can pave the way for a lifetime of sound financial decisions.

Budgeting: Your Financial Blueprint

Crafting a detailed budget is your roadmap to financial discipline. You can summarize “money saving tips for college students” to your child till you’re blue in the face, but you may still need to employ a budget. You can achieve this by:

  • Assessing your current income and expenses: Identify potential areas for savings — perhaps minimizing discretionary spending on entertainment or dining out. Allocate a portion of your income or allowance towards your child’s college fund. Tools and apps designed for budget tracking can be invaluable, helping you stay on course and adjust as necessary.
  • Adopting a zero-based budget: Beyond basic budgeting, consider adopting a zero-based budget where every dollar goes to a specific purpose, including savings, expenses and investments. This method ensures you make the most of your income and not overspending, allowing you to reach your college savings goals.
  • Regularly review and adjust your budget: As your financial situation changes, align your budget with your current lifestyle to stay on track with your saving journey. Life’s circumstances can shift, and your budget should be flexible enough to accommodate these changes while prioritizing your savings.
  • Seek guidance: Consider getting a financial advisor in your corner to offer different perspectives and ideas for saving more efficiently or cutting unnecessary expenses.
  • Set aside an emergency fund: You can prevent your college savings plan from derailing due to unforeseen expenses. Unexpected events, such as a car repair or medical bill, can impact your savings ability unless you have a financial buffer, which can equate to three to six months’ worth of expenses in an emergency fund.

Embracing budgeting as a lifestyle choice rather than a temporary measure can instill lifelong financial management skills. This mindset shift is crucial for saving for college and achieving long-term financial stability and success.

Education Savings Accounts: A Smart Investment

Consider opening a dedicated savings account for your child’s college fund. Education savings accounts (ESAs) or 529 plans offer tax advantages that can amplify your savings. These accounts allow your investments to grow tax-free, provided you use the funds for qualified educational expenses. 

Research the specifics of these plans in your state or country, as benefits and limitations can vary. When considering ESAs or 529 plans, it’s also wise to look into the impact of these savings on financial aid eligibility. Understanding how different financial aid algorithms assess savings vehicles can help make strategic decisions that optimize savings growth and aid eligibility.

Some accounts may be viewed more favorably than others in the financial aid process, influencing your choice of savings account. For example, assets held in a parent’s name may have a different impact than those held in the student’s name. Consider:

  • Diversifying your savings approach: Consider combining these accounts with other investment vehicles, such as custodial accounts or Roth IRAs for teenagers, as it can provide flexibility. This strategy allows for optimizing tax benefits and financial aid outcomes based on each family’s unique circumstances.
  • Engage a financial advisor: Seeking the counsel of someone specialized in educational savings can offer personalized advice tailored to your unique financial situation and long-term goals. Their expertise can be invaluable in navigating the complex college savings landscape, ensuring you’re making informed decisions that align with your college funding strategy.

Scholarships and Grants: Untapped Resources

Scholarships and grants are essentially free money for college, and they come in all sizes and for a vast array of talents and interests. 

Do Some Due Diligence

Commit time to research and apply for scholarships; even smaller awards can add up and reduce the amount you need to save or borrow. Don’t overlook local scholarships, which may have less competition. Remember, persistence pays off in the scholarship hunt.

Expanding your child’s scholarship search to include niche areas such as hobbies, community service or specific career interests can uncover hidden opportunities. These less traditional avenues often have fewer applicants, increasing your chances of success.

Use scholarship search engines, school counselors, and community organizations to broaden your search. These resources can provide access to a wide range of scholarships, including those that may not be widely advertised.

Help Your Child Prepare a Personal Statement

A compelling personal statement and strong academic and extracurricular record can strengthen your child’s applications. A well-rounded application showcasing achievements, aspirations, and community involvement can make you stand out in a crowded field.

  • Be patient: Encourage your child to apply for scholarships annually, not just before college, as many are available to students already in higher education. Continuous applications throughout your child’s college career can provide ongoing financial support, reducing reliance on student loans.
  • Network: Encourage your child to build relationships with mentors and advisors who can provide strong recommendations. These individuals can attest to your child’s character, work ethic and suitability for the scholarships, adding weight to those applications.

Part-Time Work for Your Student: Earning While Learning

A part-time job can serve dual purposes; it provides valuable work experience while supplementing college savings. Not only can your student consider summer jobs, internships or work-study programs, you may also want to consider part-time work for extra cash. Why not?

Not only do these opportunities contribute financially, but they also enhance your child’s resume and provide a glimpse into potential career paths.

Leveraging part-time work for skill development and financial gains can be incredibly valuable. Encourage your child to look for jobs or internships that offer transferable skills relevant to their future career. This dual focus can enhance your employability upon graduation. 

Networking through your part-time jobs can open doors to future career opportunities and internships, making these positions more than just a paycheck. Furthermore, saving a portion of your earnings specifically for college expenses can instill a sense of responsibility and accomplishment, reinforcing the value of your education.

Minimizing Expenses: The Art of Frugality

Adopting a frugal mindset doesn’t mean sacrificing quality of life; it’s about making informed, value-driven decisions. 

For college students, this could mean:

  • Buying used textbooks
  • Choosing housing that offers the best value
  • Taking advantage of student discounts

Every dollar saved is a dollar that can be redirected to your college fund.

Embracing a minimalist lifestyle can further extend your college savings. Evaluate your needs versus wants, focusing on spending that brings long-term value. Leveraging student discounts for technology, software and services can significantly reduce educational expenses. 

Additionally, consider alternative transportation options to save on commuting costs. Participating in campus events and activities, many of which are free for students, can enrich your college experience without straining your budget. This mindful approach to spending and saving highlights the importance of resourcefulness and creativity in achieving financial goals and saving for college options.

Strategic Course Planning: Reducing the Road to Graduation

Careful planning of your child’s course load can save money in the long run. 

  • Advanced Placement (AP) courses, community college classes during high school and summer sessions can reduce the number of credits your child needs to graduate, potentially shortening their time in college and reducing tuition costs.
  • Engaging with academic advisors early and often to map out your course plan can ensure your child takes the most efficient path to graduation. 
  • Investigating dual degree programs or accelerated tracks can reduce the time and money spent on education. 
  • Staying informed about changes in degree requirements or course offerings can prevent costly surprises. 
  • Consider the financial implications of changing majors or transferring schools, as these decisions can impact educational expenses. 

Strategic course planning is a dynamic process that requires flexibility and foresight. It emphasizes the importance of being proactive in one’s educational journey.

Financial Aid: Navigating the Process

Grasping the intricacies of the financial aid process is essential and contributes to ways to save for college:

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is key to uncovering your federal and state assistance eligibility. Pay close attention to submission deadlines and the necessary paperwork. Additionally, financial aid advisors at your potential colleges are invaluable for navigating your financial options.

Institutional Aid

In addition to federal aid, investigate institutional aid offered directly by colleges. These can include merit-based scholarships, need-based grants and other financial aid packages unique to each school. Understanding the nuances of each college’s financial aid policies can reveal opportunities to maximize your aid package. 

Financial Aid Officers

Regular communication with financial aid officers can also alert you to new funding opportunities or changes in your financial situation that may affect your aid eligibility. Documenting all communications and keeping detailed records can simplify the financial aid application process and help you advocate for yourself effectively.

Online Degrees as a Cost-Saving Strategy

As you explore the landscape of higher education, consider the benefits of geo-based online degrees as a strategic way to save on costs. 

Opting for an online business administration degree in Texas or choosing a specialized nursing program in Pennsylvania, for instance, cuts down your tuition and related college expenses and ensures your education aligns with the needs of your local employment market. This geographical focus boosts the relevance and applicability of your studies, equipping you with targeted skills for specific regional demands. 

By selecting such programs, you can significantly reduce your educational expenses while enhancing your career prospects in your area. This is a smart approach to managing your finances and achieving your professional aspirations.

Investing in Your Child: The Ultimate Asset

While this guide focuses on saving money, it’s also important to invest in experiences and opportunities that enhance your child’s education and personal growth, through:

  • Extracurricular activities
  • Internships
  • Networking opportunities 

While saving for college is important, investing in experiences that build your child’s character, skill set and network is invaluable. Seek leadership roles, volunteer opportunities and extracurricular activities aligning with your child’s interests and career goals. These experiences enhance your child’s college application and develop the soft skills employers value. 

Balancing academics with personal development opportunities can make you a well-rounded individual and a compelling candidate for scholarships, internships and future employment. Remember, the ultimate goal is to build a foundation for a successful life.

Saving for College is Possible

What’s the best way to save for college? There’s no one “best way to save for kids college,” as you’ll note after reading this article. As you navigate the path to saving for college, remember that this journey is as much about financial preparation as it is about personal growth. The discipline, planning and foresight you and your child applies today will pave the way for a smoother college experience and instill habits and skills that will serve you well beyond your academic years. 

By embracing these strategies, you’re not just preparing to meet the financial demands of college; you’re setting the stage for a future filled with possibilities. Let this guide be your companion as you embark on this exciting saving for child’s college journey, equipped with the knowledge and confidence to realize your child’s educational dreams.

How to Master the Financial Journey Through Online Learning

How to Master the Financial Journey Through Online Learning

Picture yourself cozied with a laptop, sipping your favorite coffee, and diving deep into your studies. For countless learners choosing online master’s programs, this is the everyday reality. 

Science, technology, engineering, math and business have found a firm footing in the online learning landscape. It’s not just about convenience; it’s about fitting a complete master’s level education into the packed schedule of a full-time job without missing a beat.

The Advantage of Learning at Your Own Pace

Forget about the rush-hour races to campus; online learning brings the lecture hall to you or your student. (This could be a few years away for your high schooler, but it’s worth considering now, or it might make sense for you!) 

Imagine planning your study schedule around your work routine or family responsibilities. That’s the level of flexibility online master’s degree programs offer. Personalized learning means the classroom if you’re an early bird who excels at dawn. If you’re a night owl, your lectures await. 

This tailor-made academic journey of online master’s degrees draw professionals to further their education without sacrificing career momentum or life balance.

An additional benefit of self-paced online learning is the reduction of stress and an increase in information retention. Without the pressure of immediate deadlines, learners are more likely to engage deeply with the material, leading to a thorough understanding that serves them well in their professional lives. This relaxed pace can also accommodate different learning styles, ensuring that visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners find their best path to mastery.

Moreover, learning at your own pace allows room for those lucky “Aha!” moments outside a scheduled class environment. 

As you move through the material, the freedom to pause, reflect and apply concepts to your real-world experiences can cement learning in a way traditional classrooms sometimes struggle to achieve. The self-paced nature also means you can revisit complex topics as needed, ensuring a solid foundation before advancing.

Another dimension of learning at your own pace: The benefit it provides for international students. With the flexibility to study across time zones and the absence of geographic constraints, learners from around the globe can advance their education with a level of accessibility that traditional brick-and-mortar institutions can rarely match. 

This universal access contributes to a more diverse learning environment, fostering cross-cultural exchanges and a broader perspective in the academic discourse.

Financial Strategies for Virtual Academic Pursuits

Dream big, but spend wisely. Online learning can be a more economical option, but it still requires intelligent financial planning. 

Look into scholarships and grants aimed specifically at online learners. Scour through listings and apply for those you qualify for. Moreover, many employers offer tuition assistance or reimbursement for courses that further your industry expertise. Part-time enrollment is also a clever way to stretch your budget, allowing you to pay as you go and sometimes avoid student loans altogether.

As a cost-saving measure, some learners combine their online studies with free webinars, workshops and industry conferences that align with their curriculum. This proactive approach not only enhances their learning experience but can also help build a professional network. 

These additional sources of knowledge and networking often come without extra costs, thus enriching the education received without straining the wallet.

Consider subscribing to financial advisory newsletters or following finance-oriented blogs that provide regular insights and tips on managing education expenses. Keeping abreast of financial strategies and trends can empower you to make smarter, more informed decisions, leading to substantial savings throughout your online education journey.

The Hidden Savings of STEM Online Studies

STEM fields are notorious for high tuition fees, but moving these programs online reduces costs. For starters, online courses often have lower tuition fees than their on-campus counterparts. Using digital textbooks, open-source materials and virtual simulations reduces the hefty price tags of expensive books and lab equipment. 

These savings are real and can be the deciding factor for someone looking to advance in their STEM career.

STEM learners engaging with online programs also benefit from collaborative projects and peer-to-peer learning platforms readily available across the internet. These interactive online communities often offer simulations, coding challenges and DIY project guides that can substitute for hands-on experience while minimizing expenses traditionally involved with lab-based or in-person group work.

In addition to direct-cost savings, the efficiency of online STEM programs can lead to indirect savings by reducing the amount of time spent on commuting, campus meals and other incidental expenses associated with on-site programs. These conveniences allow students to allocate funds to other areas of their lives or save for future investments.

Industry-Specific Financial Aid and its Impact

It pays to research industry-specific financial aid options, which can significantly lower your educational expenses. Numerous organizations offer scholarships for students pursuing particular fields, especially technology and business, as high-demand areas. 

Don’t overlook less traditional funding avenues such as crowdfunding, which can rally the support of your community behind your educational goals. Remember, every little bit can help reduce the cost of your online degree.

Exploring financial aid can often lead to discovering mentorship programs as well. Many organizations providing scholarships also offer mentorship opportunities, which can be instrumental in a learner’s career progression. These mentorships provide guidance and can result in interning positions or job offers post-graduation, thus adding value to the scholarship’s monetary benefit.

Don’t forget to regularly check for updates on financial aid offerings, as new scholarships and grants can arise anytime. Engineering professional societies, tech companies and business forums often update their funding opportunities based on industry needs and contributions, providing fresh chances for financial support.

Understand the Full Cost of Your Online Journey

Financial planning goes beyond just tuition. When choosing an online program, factor in all possible expenses, including technology requirements, potential travel for on-site residencies and subscription fees for online resources. Know what you’re getting into financially. 

Draft a comprehensive budget that includes your regular expenses plus your educational costs to keep your finances healthy and stress-free through your studies.

It’s also wise for learners to account for potential upgrades in their technology setups as they progress through their online programs. Ensuring one’s computer and internet connection meet the technical demands of an online master’s program can be a hidden cost. Planning for technology updates or necessary software purchases in advance can prevent unexpected financial strains on a student’s budget.

Active participation in your program’s online forums can unveil additional strategies to minimize costs, such as group discounts on software or collective negotiations for access to professional databases. Fellow students may share similar financial challenges and can be a source of support and innovative ideas for cutting costs.

The Smart Investment in Your Future

Education is an investment, and online learning is no exception. Choosing a program that offers good prospects in terms of post-graduation employment and salary increments is pivotal. 

These considerations will help you measure the return on investment (ROI) for your online master’s degree. Self-paced learning could also translate to cost savings as you can potentially graduate faster than in traditional programs, reducing the overall cost and getting you into the market sooner.

Aside from the potential career and salary benefits, online learning imparts crucial digital literacy skills, positioning graduates to thrive in an increasingly digital world. As many industries embrace remote work and digital collaboration, these skills can put online graduates at a significant advantage, potentially opening up opportunities for them in global markets and within forward-thinking organizations.

Furthermore, as the digital landscape evolves, keeping an eye on emerging trends can help align your educational goals with future job opportunities. An online master’s program that adapts to the changing market can provide relevant, up-to-date skills that could command a higher salary or give you a competitive edge in the job market.

Cost-Effective Strategies for STEM Enthusiasts

The internet teems with cost-effective (and free) resources for those starting their STEM journey. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) offer a low-stress introduction to complex subjects at little to no cost. 

Additionally, many professional organizations host virtual networking events, allowing you to build relationships that might translate into learning opportunities or career advancements without the associated travel and lodging costs.

Open-source projects offer a treasure trove of opportunities for those passionate about continuous learning. By contributing to these projects, STEM students can apply what they’ve learned practically, gain experience and even make a name for themselves within the community. Such engagement carries the additional perk of being free and can be a powerful addition to your resume, showcasing real-world problem-solving and collaboration.

Joining online forums and subscribing to relevant tech and science podcasts are additional ways to enrich your knowledge base without incurring costs. When complemented with your formal online education, these platforms can offer insights and discussions on the latest industry trends, providing a well-rounded understanding of your field.

A Balancing Act: Working, Studying and Budgeting

Managing time is akin to managing money, especially for adult learners juggling work, studies and a family. Efficient time management can save you from extending your program, thus incurring additional costs. Explore whether you qualify for education-related tax benefits, such as credits and deductions. 

It’s crucial to vet an institution’s credibility and financial policies before enrolling to ensure it meets your fiscal requirements.

Another financial tip is to leverage digital tools and apps designed for budgeting and time management. Many of these tools are freely available, and they can help students track spending, manage study hours and keep a close eye on deadlines. This proactive approach to managing finances and time can lead to a more organized, less stressful and successful educational experience.

To further streamline your financial planning, using technology platforms for automating savings or tracing spending can provide a clear picture of your financial health. Automation ensures that you regularly save for your tuition while spending trackers help avoid unnecessary expenses derailing your budget.

Stretching Your Education Dollars Further

Ensure you get the most bang for your buck by researching and comparing the true costs of various online programs. 

Many institutions now offer intuitive cost-comparison tools to aid prospective students. When paying the tuition, consider student loans a last resort and investigate whether your school offers payment plans or financial advising services. 

These resources can provide significant support in managing the investment in your education.

Students can also explore alternative methods of gaining credits, such as competency-based exams or life experience portfolios. These options often come at a fraction of the cost of traditional coursework. 

For knowledgeable or experienced professionals, they present an efficient way to jump ahead in their academic journey while making the most of their education budget.

Another strategy to make the most of each dollar is to participate in online study groups or tutoring sessions that may be offered at a reduced rate or even for free by senior students or alumni. This collaborative approach reduces costs and deepens understanding through group learning dynamics.

Tackling the Financial Maze of Online Learning

The financial aspects of online education can sometimes feel as complex as the coursework itself! From filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for financial aid to understanding how accreditation affects aid eligibility, these are navigational tools every online student must master. Thankfully, a wealth of resources is available to help you build your financial literacy as you progress through your online studies.

As you can see, the journey to acquiring an advanced education online is much more than just logging in and studying. It’s a financial adventure that requires preparation, research and smart decision-making. Empower yourself with the knowledge to manage your education and finances effectively, and you’ll find that your investment in an online master’s degree is one of the smartest moves you could make for your future.

Finally, embracing online forums and education-based communities can provide invaluable insights and first-hand student experiences relating to financial aid, scholarships and budget-friendly study strategies. 

Through these communities, students can share their learning and tips and even collaborate to find the best deals on resources, thereby navigating the financial aspects of online education with collective wisdom and support.

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