Like many parents, you may be worried about how you're going to help your child pay for college. Even if you're comfortably well off, the cost of tuition plus supporting your child for four years can be a daunting prospect, and many families have never saved enough to cover all those costs by the time their child is ready to go to college. If there are two, three, or more children in the family, the situation can begin to seem almost impossible. While your kids can take out loans to cover expenses, another option is scholarships, and as a parent, there's plenty you can do to help them with this.
As the parent, you also have the option to turn to other funding sources, such as your retirement account, but it's generally not a good idea to put your retirement in jeopardy in this way. In fact, even as you're looking at ways to help your kid get scholarships, you should also be looking at ways to improve your investment strategy. Financial security means that in a couple of decades, your children won't be struggling with supporting you while also paying off student loans or trying to send their own children to college.
You may not be aware of the potential for real estate investment through your retirement account. This is possible since real estate is considered an alternative investment, and you can use a Self-Directed Individual Retirement Account for it. If you're self-employed or a business owner, you can invest in real estate using your self directed 401k. This might also be called a one participant, individual, or Solo 401k. Using your retirement account to invest in real estate is smart because it helps you manage risk better and continue to grow your money for a lifetime of financial stability.
One of the most important roles you can play as you're helping your child with scholarships is simply giving them support. On top of figuring out how to fund all the college expenses to be prepared for in general, the application process can be stressful, time consuming, and demoralizing, and it's important to emphasize that losing out on a scholarship isn't a judgment on them as a person or a student, nor does it indicate what kind of success they can expect in the future. Most people who apply for any scholarship aren't accepted. However, by applying for a variety of different ones and targeting some that are likely to draw fewer applicants, they increase their chances of success.
Your child should do more of the work of finding and applying than you do, but there's plenty you can do to help them get organized in this process. First, encourage them to begin researching a year or more in advance. In addition, help them put together some kind of spreadsheet or other document that includes information such as deadlines and what materials are required for each application. It's helpful to know which ones will require personal essays.
Searching for Scholarships
There are websites that can help you track down many scholarships, but don't assume that this is the only place that you need to look. There are many other sources of money for college, some of which actually go unclaimed because they are so little known, or their parameters are so narrow. Ask people in real life about any opportunities they may be aware of. Community organizations and local businesses are among the entities that might offer them. Alumni groups are another.
It can be difficult to find the time to fill out all the applications, especially the ones that require essays. However, there are some things you can do to streamline the process. You can help your child get multiple copies of their school transcript. You can also encourage them to get multiple copies of recommendation letters.
Make sure they understand that they need to give the writers of these letters a few weeks’ notice in advance. Furthermore, you can assist them in assessing where their time would be best spent working on applications. There may be a few scholarships they could apply for that offer a relatively low amount of money but are also low effort. These can be balanced with those that have more time-consuming requirements, such as personal essays.