If you're like the rest of us, life is full of stress, obligations and demands. As a parent of a college student, the stress only increases as you try to help them stay focused on school while balancing the rest of what life throws their way. The good news is they've already taken one of the most important steps in improving their financial health -- setting the goal of furthering their education.
College graduates can expect to earn much more than those with just a high school diploma. In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, adults aged 25-34 with a bachelors' degree earned an average of 50 percent more than those with just a high school diploma ($45,000 compared to $30,000).
While the recent recession has been a wake-up call for many and has led some to question whether a college degree is worth it, a recent study by Georgetown University entitled "The College Advantage: Weathering the Economic Storm" should put your mind at ease. It found that those with advanced education fared much better. Since 2010 when the recovery began, job gains have been limited to those with more education -- with the greatest job gains among those with a Bachelors' degree or higher.
Are you ready to help your college student start reaping these rewards? Here are some tips to pass along for staying on track:
• Complete your coursework in as little time as possible. Stretching out your time in school tends to cost more in the long run, so take some time to reevaluate your priorities. Are you tempted to take fewer classes so you can work more hours? See if you can cut back on some of your living expenses instead. Studies have shown that students who limit employment to less than 15 hours per week are more likely to stay in school and earn a degree.
• Avoid changing majors. Often changing majors requires taking additional courses; thus making it very difficult to graduate on time. If you do decide that a change may be necessary, sit down with an advisor first so you will know exactly what's required and how much more time it will take.
• Set up a budget. At the beginning of each semester, make a budget for how you are going to spend the money you may have saved over the summer and/or plan to earn during the school year. Take a look at the results of this online poll for some ideas of how other students cut back on costs.
• Take full advantage of meal plans and other free amenities at school. Eating out is the number one budget buster for many students, so if you already paid for a meal plan, be sure to fully utilize it. If your friends ask you to join them for a concert or movie and you are short on funds, explain your goal of wanting to stay on track and suggest some free alternatives on campus. They may appreciate the gentle reminder as well.
• Look for internship opportunities. Internships can help make the connection between your studies and potential jobs, and provide you with valuable skills that may give you a leg up in the marketplace. Check with your schools Career Placement Office for listings in your area, or search on employment sites such as Careerbuilder.com.