High School

Paying for college is a family affair

By Diane Schwemm

Last Saturday, I sat with family and friends in the bleachers by the high school football field, watching my son and 426 classmates toss their purple graduation caps in the air.

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High School Parent | College Parent

After the truly enjoyable ceremony (kid-performed music, inspiring speeches, laughter and tears in just the right proportion, no rain!), I trotted after my graduate snapping photos of him with his friends and feeling, I think, nearly as giddy as he did.

Now we’ve all settled back to earth. His dad and I gave him the long weekend to bask, revel and sleep. Today he’s hunting for a summer job.

Fortunately he doesn’t think we’re cruel for pushing him out the door to pound the pavement. In fact, we didn’t have to push. He started dropping off resumes and filling out applications a few weeks ago. He’s had a couple of informal interviews and hopes to line something up by the end of the week.

My new high school grad is motivated to find a summer job not only because they’re going fast and some of his friends have already landed positions at local ice cream and bagel shops. More importantly, as he went through the process of looking at, applying to and choosing a college, we talked a lot about finances. He put considerable energy into financial aid and scholarship applications, and we discussed how his own savings and earnings would factor in. A job was always going to part of his summer vacation landscape.

Turns out we have lots of company. A new survey by Upromise by SallieMae finds that about three quarters of students and parents expect that the student will work part-time during college to help cover expenses.

The cost of college is a top concern for many students and their families. Almost half are worried about covering those costs and wish they’d saved more. Students heading to college and their parents agree that, when it comes to the next four years, staying on track financially will be as important as staying on track academically.

That agreement is the up side. Tackling the challenge of paying for college can bring students and parents together onto the same team. This summer my son, his father and I will sit down and look closely at the expenses Evan will have during the school year — what everything costs and where the money will come from (college savings accounts, financial aid, work-study, etc.). To help him create a budget, I’ll turn for guidance to UniversityParent’s financial expert Judy McNary. Judy’s “Money Talk” series and “Budget Basics” offer a goldmine of practical tips and advice for college-bound students and their parents.

My own parents never had this conversation with me. I pitched in financially, but didn’t understand the big picture. In that sense the challenge of paying for college today has a silver lining. It’s a big incentive to increase my student’s financial literacy…and my own.

Check out the Upromise infographic below.

UPromise infographic

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