How to Start Savings for College While in High School: 8 Strategies

 June 30, 2020
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If you’re already wondering how to start saving for college while in high school, you’re not too early to get started. That’s because a single year at a public university costs nearly $10,000, on average, and a private school is likely to set you back further.

With the high cost of an education — and with or without your parents’ financial support — saving up could be left to you. Fortunately, it’s doable.

8 strategies to save money for college while in high school

Here are eight things you can do to save for college while in high school.

1. Boost your grades
2. Participate in extracurriculars
3. Apply for a part-time job
4. Research scholarships and grants
5. Sell stuff you don’t use
6. Take Advanced Placement (AP) courses
7. Open a bank account
8. Brush up on basics of paying for college

1. Boost your grades

Many colleges and universities offer merit scholarships for academics. If you have good grades or above-average scores on standardized tests, you could qualify for a scholarship that covers some or all of your tuition, fees and school supplies.

You can increase your chances of securing a scholarship by working hard to boost your grades. Putting in the extra time to study for a biology exam might sound boring, but it could help you save thousands later on.

Doing well in school will also open other doors. It could cultivate relationships with teachers and administrators, for example, who could prove helpful when writing recommendation letters for scholarship applications.

2. Participate in extracurriculars

When awarding scholarships, many schools look beyond grades. They like to find students who would be beneficial to the campus and will be active in the school community. If you can keep up your grades, it can be helpful to sign up for a few extracurricular activities, such as student council, sports or the school newspaper.

If you’re intent on snagging a full-ride scholarship, extracurriculars are key. Try joining clubs or leading events on or off-campus that fit with your passions. If you’re still discovering what you like to do in your free time, try giving back: There are scholarships for volunteers in their communities.

3. Apply for a part-time job

The jobs you can get while in high school might not be glamorous, but they can go a long way in helping you pay for school. By taking on a part-time job, you could save money for college while in high school. How much exactly?

Let’s say you got a job at the mall and work 10 hours a week earning $7.25 per hour, the national minimum wage. If you’re a high school sophomore and work year-round for three years, you could save up to $11,310 by the time you start college. That amount doesn’t account for taxes, but even saving up a few thousand dollars can reduce how much you need to borrow for school.

Working a summer job at a big-name retailer with a tuition reimbursement program could be your best move. Amazon, Chipotle and Starbucks are examples of companies with programs that could pay or reimburse you for at least some of your college costs.

4. Research scholarships and grants

Although your college might offer scholarships and grants, it’s not the only available source of financial aid. You can win scholarships from a wide range of organizations, including private businesses, nonprofit organizations and even individuals.

Some award scholarships are based on academics, but there are plenty of other reasons you could earn a scholarship. For example, there are scholarships for talented duck-callers and bowlers.

You don’t have to be in college or even be a high school senior to qualify. There are scholarships available to high schoolers of all ages. Use online scholarship search tools to get started. Also, review our guide to scholarships for high school seniors and speak to your school’s college guidance counselor.

5. Sell stuff you don’t use

Another way to save for college while in high school is to sell stuff you don’t use anymore. If you have books, clothes, old cell phones or electronics lying around, you could turn that clutter into cash. Sell those items and set aside your earnings for your college fund.

To get started, consider a traditional yard sale, posting to Craigslist or, for more unique items, try specialized online apps and websites. You might find success selling electronics on Gazelle.

6. Take Advanced Placement (AP) courses

Taking AP courses and passing College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests can help you graduate from college on time and reduce your education expenses.

When you earn a qualifying score on an AP or CLEP exam, you earn college credit. That can save you from having to take some classes in college, potentially helping you graduate early or fulfill requirements ahead of time.

Depending on the AP courses you take and where you go to college, challenging yourself in high school could help you save thousands.

Also, consider the difference between AP courses and dual enrollment. Taking college classes, perhaps at your local two-year school, is another great way to tick off college requirements before stepping foot on campus. Learn about your state’s programs via the Education Commission of the States.

While you’re at it, study hard for standardized tests: The PSAT has a national merit scholarship, for example.

7. Open a bank account

One of the best ways to prepare for college financially is to open a dedicated bank account in your own name. In fact, you can even earn money for doing so. The best banks for students offer cash bonuses for opening new accounts, giving you a head start on saving for college.

Once you open a bank account, you can direct a percentage of your earnings from your part-time job, scholarship winnings and yard sales. You might consider a high-yield savings account to grow your money and keep it accessible, or a 529 savings plan that can be used exclusively for qualified educational expenses.

If you’re really intent on optimizing your finances, you could also become an authorized user on a parent’s credit card to start building credit while in high school.

8. Learn the basics of paying for college

The first seven strategies above could help you save money for college in high school, but it could all be for naught if you leave for college without fully understanding how to pay for it.

Opting for an expensive private university across the country over the public college in your own backyard, for example, could double your higher education costs. That’s not something you’d want to undertake unknowingly. Saving up for college while in high school could be made harder — or easier — by choosing a school that’s within your means and strategizing a payment plan.

To determine if your dreams schools as affordable, take these steps before you finish the 12th grade:

By taking these steps now, you’ll not only save up for college — you’ll also save for the right college.

Andrew Pentis contributed to this report.

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LenderVariable APREligibility 
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1.64% – 11.45%4Undergraduate

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1.89% – 11.92%5Undergraduate

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0.00% – 23.00%8Undergraduate

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1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

CollegeAve Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through Firstrust Bank, member FDIC, First Citizens Community Bank, member FDIC, or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC.. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a first year graduate student borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7.10% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $141.66 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $16,699.21. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

Information advertised valid as of 4/19/2022. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.

2 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.

3 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 3.49% APR to 13.03% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 1.19% APR to 10.14% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Although the rate will vary after you are approved, it will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for this loan). Please note, Earnest Private Student Loans are not available in Nevada.

4 Important Disclosures for Ascent.

Ascent Disclosures

Ascent loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills, Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit:

Rates are effective as of 05/01/2022 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 1.00% (for undergraduate outcomes income-based loans). Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit:

1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions, please visit Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student borrowers must meet certain minimum credit criteria. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner. Lowest APRs are available for the most creditworthy applicants and may require a cosigner.

5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

Sofi Disclosures

UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 3.47% to 11.16% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 1.89% to 11.92% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.60to 11.06% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 2.59% to 11.82% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.48% to 11.16% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.69% to 11.92% APR (with autopay). For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30-day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 05/04/2022. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. Loans originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. NMLS #1121636 (

6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 3.47% – 9.99% (3.47% – 9.35% APR).

Graduate Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 4.47% – 9.49% (4.47% – 9.29% APR).

Business/Law Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 4.45% – 9.49% (4.45% – 9.29% APR).

Medical/Dental Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 4.43% – 8.99% (4.43% – 8.47% APR).

Parent Loan Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 4.80%-8.23% (4.80%-8.24% APR).

Bar Study Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 7.39% – 12.94% (7.40% – 12.83% APR).

Medical Residency Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 6.99% – 10.49% (6.98% – 10.09% APR).

ERL Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates are based on the 30-day average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”) index, as published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. As of May 1, 2022, the 30-day average SOFR index is 0.29%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the SOFR index, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable interest rate is the greater of 21.00% or the prime rate plus 9.00%.

Fixed Rate Disclosure: Fixed rate ranges are based on applicable terms, level of degree, and presence of a co-signer.

Lowest Rate Disclosure: Lowest rates are only available for the most creditworthy applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, immediate repayment, a graduate or medical degree (where applicable), and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.

Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer.  Borrowers should carefully review federal benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are considering possible loan forgiveness options, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision on our website including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.

Eligibility Criteria: Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. Citizens Bank private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/Promissory Note, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens Bank participating school.

Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.

Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.

7 Important Disclosures for Funding U.

Funding U Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are made by Funding University which is a for-profit enterprise. Funding University is not affiliated with the school you are attending or any other learning institution. None of the information contained in Funding University’s website constitutes a recommendation, solicitation or offer by Funding University or its affiliates to buy or sell any securities or other financial instruments or other assets or provide any investment advice or service.

8 Important Disclosures for Edly.

Edly Disclosures

1. Loan Example:

  • Loans from $5,000 – $20,000
  • Example: $10,000 IBR Loan with a 7% gross income payment percentage for a Senior student making $65,000 annually throughout the life of the loan.
    • Payments deferred for the first 12 months during final year of education.
    • After which, $270 Monthly payment for 12 months.
    • Then $379 Monthly payment for 44 months.
    • Followed by one final payment of $137 for a total of $20,610 paid over the life of the loan.

About this example

The initial payment schedule is set upon receiving final terms and upon confirmation by your school of the loan amount. You may repay this loan at any time by paying an effective APR of 23%. The maximum amount you will pay is $22,500 (not including Late Fees and Returned Check Fees, if any). The maximum number of regularly scheduled payments you will make is 60. You will not pay more than 23% APR. No payment is required if your gross earned income is below $30,000 annually or if you lose your job and cannot find employment.

2. Edly Student IBR Loans are unsecured personal student loans issued by FinWise Bank, a Utah chartered commercial bank, member FDIC. All loans are subject to eligibility criteria and review of creditworthiness and history. Terms and conditions apply.