5 ways to save for college this summer

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Kathryn Flynn

By Kathryn Flynn

May 31, 2023

“Oh I don’t know why, but I’ve always loved the idea of summer, sun and all things hot.”

Like Olaf and the other characters from Disney’s Frozen, many of us have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the lazy, hazy days of summer. But before you let yourself or your kids get too comfortable, here are five ways you can spend the summer preparing and saving for college. Just make sure to carve out some extra time for the pool!

1. Summer reading programs – Check your local library for summer reading programs that encourage kids to stay interested in books while school is out. This summer, college savings plans from Kentucky and North Dakota are partnering with local public libraries to run promotions for students who participate in summer reading programs. Winners are eligible to receive a contribution to a 529 account. Check with your state’s 529 plan to see if they do anything similar, or consider coming up with your own incentives. Set goals with your child and make a contribution to their 529 plan as they are achieved. 

2. Summer jobs – For those of you with children old enough to earn a paycheck, summer is the perfect time to get them into the habit of saving. Work experience not only helps teenagers save additional money for college, but also helps them figure out the direction they want to take when its time to select courses.

3. Volunteer work – Volunteer experience can often be just as rewarding as a paid part-time job, and looks great on a college admissions application and scholarship resume. Many scholarships and grants actually list community service experience as a prerequisite, and most high schools require it for graduation.

Teens who spend time volunteering for a worthy cause will build responsibility, learn new skills and help build a social and professional network. Ideally, they should focus on finding something related to their interests or area of study. TeenLife.com offers a great resource to help search for community service opportunities by location.

4. Summer college courses – Many local community colleges offer summer courses for current high school or college students. Whether your child attends a four-year university during the school year and is home for the summer, or if he or she plans on transferring later, this can be one of the easiest ways to cut down on tuition costs. According to the College Board, the average annual tuition and fees to attend a public two-year college in 2022-23 was $3,860, versus $10,940 for a public four-year university and $39,400 for a private nonprofit four-year university. To save even more, your child can take flexible online courses over the summer while working a part-time job.

5. Summer study abroad – A summer abroad can offer just as many benefits as a semester abroad, but is usually more affordable. This type of program is ideal for students who can’t be away from campus during the regular school year due to athletic or academic commitments. It’s also a safer bet for those who receive institutional financial aid from their school because summer programs usually do not affect their required full-time enrollment status. Your child will be able to earn college credits while exploring a new culture and learning about a global economy, which is yet another excellent resume builder. You may even be able to use your 529 plans funds to pay for a summer abroad if the program is through an eligible institution

This post has been updated from the original, first published on June 19, 2017.

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