How to Save for College When Your Child is in High School

NC 529 IMAGE How To Save For College In 4 Years

You’ve heard it all along: it’s never too early to start saving for college. But perhaps you didn’t know where to begin. Maybe your family had other priorities, or it was difficult to earn enough money to save for the future. Somehow, after your baby was born, years went by, life happened, and you haven’t been saving the way you planned to. Guess what? It’s also never too late to start saving for college.

The drive to save for college often kicks into high gear when a child starts high school. If you haven’t been putting away money like you’d hoped, don’t fret! Here are some tips to help you get moving.

Open an NC 529 Account

An NC 529 Account can go a long way in four years. The NC 529 Plan is a tax-advantaged education savings program run by the state. Contributions to an NC 529 Account grow tax-free, so they money you’re saving in this type of college savings account has the ability to expand.

Every minimum contribution of $25 helps the account grow, but you can consider setting more money aside now if you were not previously able to save. Did you get a bonus at work or receive a large lump sum? Great! The maximum contribution per year is $17,000. Larger contributions are allowed, but they may be subject to the federal gift tax. Your high school student can also contribute to the account by working a part-time job during the school year or summer.

Plan to Save Through College

Many parents and students create a goal to have funds for four years of college saved by the time a student is ready for the first year. This sets many people up for failure — and isn’t always necessary. You can withdraw funds from your NC 529 Account at any time without penalty, as long as they are used for educational purposes. In the meantime, you can keep saving for the future.

Use this college cost calculator to see how much college will cost by the time your student enrolls. This will help you determine how much money you need to save for college by your student’s first year and for the following years.

Get Family and Friends Involved

More grandparents are lending their support to college funds as the cost of college continues to rise. Whether it’s through estate planning or giving gifts for birthdays and holidays, a contribution to a child’s NC 529 Account is a popular choice.

Grandparents, other family members, and even friends can easily help you save for college by giving to your child’s account with NC 529 gifting. Activate your unique gifting link and share it with loved ones via text or email. When they’re ready to make a gift contribution, they just need to click the URL and then choose “contribute.” They can give a preset amount or a custom amount. They can even add a personal message with their gift.

Find Financial Aid

Financial aid is available for most students who need assistance paying for school, but first, they need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form determines how much money students are eligible for with state and federal aid, which can come in the form of grants, loans, or work-study programs.

There are different forms of federal aid and college-based funding, all of which are determined by the data included in your FAFSA. You can learn about college funding sources here.

Apply for Scholarships 

While most students wait until their senior year of high school to look for scholarships, some scholarships exist that allow younger students to apply, so students can start researching those opportunities now! Check with local civic organizations and businesses for scholarships that support people in the community. These types of scholarships generally have fewer applications, which can tip the odds to your child’s favor. Be sure to check out the CFNC Scholarship Search tool as well for North Carolina specific scholarship opportunities to help you save for college.

Apply for an Alternative Student Loan 

Another way to bridge the gap between savings and the cost of college is by applying for a private student loan. Consider the NC Assist Loan, which is an alternative loan offered by College Foundation of North Carolina, our state’s nonprofit lender. Students, or parents of students, can take out a loan with no fees and competitive interest rates.

Start Saving Today

Whether you’re trying to figure out how to save for college in four years or you want to save for a young child, now is the right time to open an NC 529 Account. Visit to create an NC 529 Account now and start saving for your child’s future today.

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