Plan Now, Save Later

Your Money Magazine/TIME for Kids

By Hayden Field
September 1, 2016

When Jose Edouard finished her junior year of high school, she had saved nearly $7,000 to pay for college. How did the 17-year-old from Florida do it? When she turned 16, she landed a job at KFC. Her older sister helped her open checking and savings accounts and showed her how to manage them online. From that point on, in addition to paying for her own cell phone and clothing, she saved some of every dollar she made.

“I started seeing real progress,” she says. “It got to a point where I got obsessed with saving.”

Jose wants her money to go as far as possible. Since she has earned all the credits she needs for high school (and received good grades), she’ll complete her senior year at a local community college. Tuition will be free, and she will earn college credit. Then she hopes to go to Florida State University.

“I plan on applying for scholarships,” says Jose, who now works at Office Depot, “and continuing to work.”

Here are five things you can do now to help pay for college.

1. Get Good Grades
It’s a simple equation: Good grades plus good writing skills equals more money for college.

“It’s a fact that the biggest scholarships at colleges will go to the students with the higher grade point average,” says FastWeb’s Kathryn Randolph.

She says roughly 54% of scholarships are won by students with A averages.

The application essay you write is critical too. It lets you show off your creativity and is a good place to explain what makes you special. Keep a journal to record details about important events. That will help you improve your writing skills through practice.

2. Be a Smart Saver
Avoid the temptation to spend money by visualizing yourself at college. (Research shows that imagining yourself accomplishing your money goals can help you save for them.)

Ask your parents if you can set up a bank account that earns interest. The longer your money sits in the account, the more it will grow.

3. Look at Local Options
Some states have scholarship programs for kids who get good grades. Talk to a teacher or guidance counselor about your state. Also, consider that you can almost half the cost of a four-year college education by doing your first two years at a community college and living at home. Many community colleges have agreements in place with four-year colleges to help strong students transfer between schools.

4. Shop for Scholarships
Scholarships and grants aren’t only for straight-A students. There are tons of scholarships for special skills. Find the things you’re good at and stick with them through middle school and high school. Leadership also impresses scholarship committees. Whether it’s chorus, the track team, or student council, think: “What do I have to do to be president of this organization?” Then make your move.

5. Write Your Resume
A resume is a list of your accomplishments, like jobs, extracurricular activities, and volunteer experience. Entrepreneurship stands out, so consider starting your own business. But don’t feel you have to do everything.

“Colleges would much rather see a student excel at one or two activities or jobs than be a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none,” says Kat Cohen, founder and CEO of IvyWise.