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Save for College

College can be expensive, whether you're considering a four-year school, a two-year community college or a technical program. Don't wait until you're a senior to start figuring out how you're going to pay for it.

So what can you do to save for the future?

Understand your goal.

Start looking at what your college education might cost you and your family. Look at websites for schools you might want to attend, and check out how much they cost. Remember that the price is likely to go up before you're ready to go to college.

Don't be discouraged.

College probably seems expensive but remember, more education will usually pay off with a higher salary later. You'll also have the chance to apply for and receive financial aid.

Financial aid is money you receive to help you pay for college. It includes scholarships, grants, work-study and student loans. You don't need to pay back scholarship or grant money, and money you earn through work-study is yours. A student loan, though, is money you need to pay back with extra charges called interest.

  • Grants. Grants are given by the government, schools or organizations to help you through school. Grants do not need to be repaid and are usually based on need.
  • Scholarships. Scholarships also don't need to be repaid. They are usually awarded because you need the money or because you've earned it by being good at something. Or, you might win a scholarship if you agree to play a college sport or because you belong to a certain ethnic group.
  • Work-study. You might get a work-study job that pays you to work somewhere on campus part-time while you're in college.
  • Loans. Loans should only be used if you absolutely need them to attend college. The extra charges, or interest, you pay for borrowing the money builds up so you have to pay back more than what you borrowed. Federal student loans come from the U.S. government, while banks and other lenders offer private student loans.

Get involved now.

Scholarships are one of the best ways to pay for college. And one of the best ways to get scholarships is to get involved in organizations, camps, clubs and groups that award them. Find out if any of the local, regional or national groups you're involved with help with college costs.

Talk to your parents. Find out if they are putting any money away in the College Savings Iowa plan or another program for your education. Discuss your plans with them and talk about ways you can work together to save money.

Open a savings account. You can put money away on your own. Visit the bank with your parents to open an account in your name. Then, when you receive or earn money, you can put at least part of it away for your future.

Start learning more. As you get older, you'll have more chances to earn money and, of course, more opportunities to spend it. Make sure you're making smart decisions about your money by learning how finances work.

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