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College Planning

5 Ways to Prepare Your Kids for College

For a lot of parents, sending their kids off to college is a bittersweet experience. It’s a battle between being proud of their son or daughter for taking this next step and thinking back on how fast the time has gone—and how it seems like just yesterday that they were 2 years old.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was stepping onto a college campus for the first time, and I remember how thankful I was for the effort my parents put into preparing me for that experience. But I think a lot of teenagers head to college without any idea about how money works. Ten years from now, they’ll more than likely be loaded up with student loan bills. It’s a scary trend that keeps getting worse.

Don’t let that happen to your college kid. Help them understand these issues before they step into that first class.

1. Budget, Budget, Budget

If you haven’t been using a budget, it will be difficult to convince your kid to use one. So make sure you understand budgeting and you use one as part of your financial plan. Then, just walk them through the process—spending all of their money on paper and on purpose before each month begins. Everything should be broken into categories—food, gas, clothing, etc. (Don’t be afraid to start budgeting! Learn how to get started.)

2. Independence Means Responsibility

Stepping out on your own is a big deal, but it’s not all fun and games. Living away from home means you have to take care of yourself. Do your best to prepare your son or daughter for what that means. Food doesn’t just drop out of the sky, and gas doesn’t magically appear in their car. Independence means responsibility. (If your son or daughter loves to shop, find out my suggestions for shopping without busting the budget!)

3. College Isn’t Cheap

Even if your kid is going to a small community college, they’ll still probably have a few thousand dollars of tuition to pay—and that doesn’t even include books. That means skipping class or blowing off homework is a waste of money—and a big fat dent in the GPA.

4. Choose a Major Wisely

Help your teenager find his or her passion. This isn’t a must before they step on campus, but simply plant a seed that gets them started thinking about what they want to do with their life. You don’t want them graduating with a degree that leaves them unfulfilled or unable to find a job.

5. Friends Matter

New friends mean new opportunities and new social situations. Who you hang out with definitely influences how you spend money and the decisions you make. Without being overbearing, remind them how important it is to have positive friends who build them up instead of bring them down.

If your soon-to-be college student doesn’t seem to care, it might just take them messing up a few times to understand how important it is to have a plan for their money. They’ll come around quicker than you think once they have that first-hand experience.

Remember, you can make all the right decisions and give all the right advice, and it’s still possible that they will mess up. As a parent, just be there for support and to reinforce these principles throughout their college experience.


  • Emma

    These tips are great! But for the record, while I absolutely agree with the philosophy of budgeting,nsaving, and minimizing debt, I dislike the mentality that student loans arenalways a bad thing. The world today is different from the world my parentsnlived in, where working through college and footing their own bill was doable.nI held a job throughout college and high school and applied for (and earned!)nseveral scholarships, I still took out a hefty amount in student loans (morenthan six figures, as a matter of fact). Why? Because while my parents earn andecent salary, they do not make enough to pay for a college education out ofnpocket. Sadly, with the escalating costs of college, this is a reality for manynfamilies; unless you have parents who can write a check to cover yourneducational expenses, you have to take out loans.nnI may sound like I’m in a tough spot, but in reality I am thriving! I’m less than two years out of school and have half of my loans paid off. At this rate, I’ll have all of myneducational expenses paid for in less than the time it took me to earn myndegree, all the while saving and paying for a masteru2019s degree out of pocket!nAdditionally, I made the informed decision to go to an expensive school and itnhas served me well. (For the record, the state schools I applied for would have also been too expensive for my parents to pay for out of pocket.) I loved my university experience, and it has paved the way for me to not only do a job that pays reasonably well but a job that I love.nPaying off my loans is a reality that I am willing to cope with.nnObviously I am not trying to assert that this is an appropriate decision for anyone and everyone. What kind of education to pursue and how to minimize school costs is a heavyndecision that should be carefully considered. But I have watched countlessnfriends struggle to finish their degrees after 6+ years attending schoolnpart-time (which is usually at a higher cost than full-time education) whilenworking low-paying jobs, and Iu2019m skeptical that not taking out student loans isnalways the superior road. nnI typically like your financial advice, but I get tired of the jabs at those who take out student loans. and I would appreciate a more balanced view of educational expenses. After all, a college education is more than a mere investment; it also enriches your life.

    • Angie

      I’m just curious what would you do if you lost your job for an extended period of time or had another major financial altering situation, yet you still have 5 or more figures in student loans? How would you advise that person? nn And we are talking about the Ramsey family. They are NEVER going to tell you to borrow money. It’s their entire premise that the borrower is servant to the lender.

  • Laura

    I am attending college this fall and even though my parents are not helping, I will still be paying with cash. When I found you and your Dad’s teachings mid-high school, I made it a goal to go through college with no loans. I started saving my money, took this year off to work full time (getting 45+ hours working two jobs). I will have enough saved this year to pay for living expenses and rent (fingers crossed!) for the next four years if I stick to my budget! And I will work part time during school to pay for tuition. I’ll be able to give myself wiggle room with money from summer jobs in between years. nnnnIt definitely is not easy, but with a plan and hard work I am doing it! The end reward will be so worth it. I want to be able to live and give tons – not be held back by debt! Thanks Rachel!

  • Thank you for this article, i haven’t told by my parents all this. as i go along to college. I’d say I am 90% not prepare when it comes to financial. but thankful now I’ve passed those years and cannot hide the facts that we covered by debt for us to survive college. thank you, I really mean Thank You that I am now Prepared to teach my “soon” Children/childrens or my nephew the idea and lessons while they themselves preparing for college. And share also to my Brothers for their childrens.