A testimony from Kathi
It was important to my husband and I, as adults with college degrees and the student loan debt to prove it, that our children have similar opportunities for an education with none of the debt.
Given that my husband teaches at a college (not exactly the highest paid profession in the world) and I was a homeschooling mom working part-time, this was going to be a challenge and we were on a time limit because most scholarship money is available the year after one graduates from high school. This was a total family effort!
How We Did It
- We, the parents, put away what we were able for their future and grandparents contributed what they were able, but it was minimal given our own financial needs.
- Our students started out with getting excellent grades in high school and on standardized tests because most scholarship money is based on those two items.
- Both also spent a great deal of time volunteering with not-for-profit groups in their own field of interest. This became vital later on as they were offered part-time jobs paying more than minimum wage at those agencies while they were in college.
- When they turned 16, they started working for pay and continuing to volunteer as they could. They banked most of their earnings in anticipation of their college career.
- They both did dual high school and college credit at our local two-year college. In some states this is tuition-free but not in ours. It was worth the added investment because taking college classes before graduating from high school boosts both the GPA and the standardized test results! It also puts them on track to graduate from college sooner. Our son earned his BA three years after he graduated from high school; our daughter earned her AA a year after she graduated from high school. Being willing to complete as much as possible at a two-year college will allow scholarship money to go farther too!
- We became experts at searching out inexpensive textbooks. Part of that involves being willing to use used textbooks and part of it involves sleuthing! The first resource was other students who had taken the class who were willing to loan, rent, trade or sell a book. If that failed, Barnes & Noble Textbooks and Half.com became our new best friends! They tend to be less expensive than the college book store on used books and will also allow people to sell their no-longer needed books. We were sure to check with the professors to see if older editions of the textbook are usable because they are often available practically for free! We have been most successful with older editions for humanities courses. I also had my first experience buying a textbook from Amazon using gift cards I earned from Swagbucks just this semester!
- Decide what is important to your student. Our son decided he would prefer a local college that offered his major and to continue living in our home (saving housing costs) and purchase his car for cash instead of spending the money on living elsewhere. He also realized that riding the Express Bus (free for university students) saved on gas and parking. That allowed him to purchase the computer and cell phone service he desired. Our daughter preferred a more traditional college experience because of the lack of availability of her desired major in our area and will spend the money she has saved the last several years while finishing high school and her AA to supplement her living expenses (she also decided on a less expensive computer and cell phone service).
Kathi Regalbuto is a retired homeschool mom of 2, owner of Penny Wise CU. Visit her at PennyWiseCU.
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