College Financing: Should Kids Just Do It Themselves?

Some parents try to save a little time, energy, and money by putting their kids in charge of planning their own college financing. 

“She’s nearly an adult—let her figure it out herself and live with the consequences,” some parents think.

But—is it actually a good idea to put kids in charge of college financing?

The purpose is to make parents consider whether it's a good idea for kids to handle their own college financing.

The answer? An emphatic no.

Parents, pleasedon’t put kids in charge of college financing.

No matter how busy you are, and no matter how bright and capable your son or daughter seems to be—please take charge of the college financing task yourself.

Figuring out college financing is too complex a task for kids.

Parents, though—you can do it!

Especially with the clear, step-by-step help I provide below.

Your teen’s brain is not yet ready for the task of college financing.

Studies show that before the age of 24, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of the adolescent brain is not developed sufficiently to be able to succeed at large-scale tasks requiring high-level evaluation of risk and preparation for the future. 

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Parenting a Late Bloomer? Here’s Help.

Most of my time on this blog is spent helping parents get their teens and college students to careers they’ll love as quickly as possible. This makes sense—because years spent dragging feet in underemployment or treading water in undergrad can be expensive. But what if you’re parenting a late bloomer?

late bloomer

Here’s hope for your late bloomer.

What if you’re parenting a teen or 20-something who doesn’t yet seem motivated to take steps toward education, job training, or fulfilling career?

Today I’m discussing three specific factors that could be contributing to this.

The good news? All three are fixable.

1. Your late bloomer feels overwhelmed by the whole process of picking education and career.

Other kids are pushing frantically for Harvard and Stanford. Should she do that? What other alternatives are there? What if she makes an expensive mistake when it comes to school or job training? The many options can feel paralyzing.

Chapter 13 of my book provides clear instruction on how your family can pinpoint an exciting possible career goal for this late bloomer based on personality type, deep ongoing interests, and personal strengths.

Can’t afford the book? Ask for it at your local library. Go straight to chapter 13.

I urge you to ignore the lightweight, inaccurate, computerized “career assessments” given to your child at the high school. Instead, access a highly qualified career consultant on the “Approved Consultants” tab on this website. You’ll feel immediate relief.

Recently, one son said this about doing this career assessing with Cindy Mattson of definingpointconsulting.com: “I did not expect this experience to be this useful/important, but it ended up great—very helpful, and I am very happy we did it.”

2. Your late bloomer thinks that “30 is the new 20,” and that she has a whole decade she can kill doing nothing.

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7 Ways to Encourage Teen Summer Jobs—Starting Now

Teens tend to think summer jobs are all about the money—but parents know different.

The very act of getting off of the couch, identifying job opportunities, and then actively going after those opportunities builds life skills into your teens that they’ll need long after their summer jobs are over.

If you find your teens resisting the idea of applying for summer jobs, here are 7 strategies that will help. (Even if weeks of summer have already passed.)

1. Let your teen feel the sting of poverty.

If you hand your daughter plenty of money to satisfy her every wish and need—she’ll never feel motivated to work hard and earn money for herself.

Give her a tiny allowance and ask her to stretch it to cover all her own teen life expenses, though—and a grocery store job might start to look pretty good to her!

See my clear instructions for parents on exactly how to implement this “tiny allowance strategy” here.

2. Remember—even June and July are good months to look for summer jobs.

The month of May was insanely busy for your family, just like it is for all families. If your teens didn’t have time to look for summer jobs then, that’s OK. June and July are not too late. Employers are still adjusting staffing in June and July—and some of their summer hires aren’t working out. Your teen may be applying just in the nick of time.

3. Encourage teens to go in person to ask about summer jobs.

Teens who fill out job applications online and then wait passively at home for phone calls are a dime a dozen.

Show up in person and talk to managers, though? Let these managers see a bright, eager-to-work face? That’s something not everybody does, so it can make a powerful impression.

Your teen will likely still be asked to fill out an online application, but the initial in-person, face-to-face contact will give him or her an edge over all other applicants.

4. Have your teen list 6 local businesses where she might like to work. Then…

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5 Ways to Keep Kids From Living Off You in Their 20s (AUDIO)

Most parents worry at least occasionally: “What if these kids don’t find good jobs and become independent adults? What if they want to lie around on my couch until they’re 30?”

debt-free college podcast

Join me, Jeannie Burlowski, for episode 6 of the Launch Your Teens podcast, and you’ll learn the one sentence that savvy parents cheerfully drop into casual conversation, here and there, during the years their kids are ages 12–26. It’ll make you laugh—and it’ll create a firm boundary that just might save you later.

(14 min.)

Prefer to read the content I talk about in this podcast? There are Jeannie Burlowski articles on this same subject here and here.

The show notes for this episode are below.

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Can’t My College Kid Just Declare Independence From Me?

Won't This Get Him More Money for College?

This article originally appeared here on November 2nd, 2015. It was updated on September 26th, 2019.

The dad was smiling at me, like he had a special secret that no one else knew. He folded his arms, rocked back on his heels, and got ready to tell me just why he was never going to need my help getting his kids’ college paid for.

“I don’t have to worry about that,” he told me. “I’m going to have my kids ‘declare independence’ from me. Then my income won’t count on their financial aid forms, and the money for college will just roll on in.”

Then he tilted his head and smiled at me.

“That’s what I did when I was in college, and it worked out great for me.”

I’m so sorry to tell you, Dad—your information is long outdated.

Here’s why declaring independence from parents no longer helps students get extra financial aid for college.

independence

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