Paying for college is hard enough without having to worry about covering the day-to-day expenses of being a college student. Participating in activities outside the classroom is an important part of the college freshman experience, but many of these pursuits cost money. Field trips and study abroad opportunities, internships, lab experiences, entertainment, and even late-night study sessions at a late-night coffee house can all expand a student’s capabilities and understandings. If the family’s finances are focused on tuition and there isn’t enough left to provide the student with extra money, though, the overall experience can be diminished.
What can parents and students who are already walking a financial tightrope do about this part of the college life? While financial aid is an important piece of the money puzzle, there are some ways your new college student might be able to get a little more money to help. Here are five financial rewards you can talk about with your rising freshman that could enhance the entire experience:
1. Rewards for good grades: Some colleges and states offer programs that reward students for academic achievement, or provide disincentives for those who do not make sufficient academic progress. Most often, these come in the form of tuition rebates or additional fees, depending on the student’s achievements. Check with your particular college or state to determine if any of these programs are available. Certain private student loan lenders, also offer incentives for receiving good grades.
2. Rewards for working: Working while attending college is a good way to prepare for the realities of adult life. Not only does it provide additional income, it also exposes the student to new people or provides valuable ground-level experience in potential fields of study. Most colleges participate in the federal work-study program or offer their own opportunities to obtain employment at various jobs around campus. Students can also ask their professors about job or internship opportunities in their field, or look to private enterprises off-campus for part-time jobs.
3. Rewards for being in college: Some scholarships are only available to students who are already in college. The sponsors want to make sure that applicants are committed to academic achievement or a particular field of study. Keep researching scholarship opportunities once your student is making significant progress, and watch for deadline applications so you don’t miss out on this “free” money.
4. Rewards for planning ahead: As you start thinking about whether your student will attend college in the future, look at opportunities to save or earn money for participating in routine activities. Upromise operates a free-to-join loyalty program where family members and friends accrue credits on eligible purchases that are directed to a college savings plan or to pay down student loans. SAGE Tuition Rewards is a unique private college savings program where participants earn rewards points for participating in various activities. Any amount saved in advance that lowers out-of-pocket costs puts real money back in your student’s pocket.
5. Rewards for achieving goals: Some families get creative when it comes to establishing goals. Instead of merely passing out money, or providing a monthly allowance, parents and students set achievable goals for the coming college semester. Financial rewards are then tied to goal accomplishment. While the parents will certainly continue to meet the student’s basic financial needs, extra dollars could be tied to grades or positive extra-curricular activities. This is a good way to keep your student on track, while helping to foster and maintain a goal-directed attitude.
Although it might seem that good grades and an improved life outlook should be all the rewards your student needs, financial incentives can go a long way towards “sweetening the educational pot.” Have some serious discussions with your college freshman regarding your expectations for the college year, and explain how he or she might be able to receive financial rewards for all their hard work. It will give them more motivation to excel, and will provide you with a more positive feeling that you are setting your child on the right path for success.