I’m 15. How Do I Save for College Now, So I Get the Most Out of My Financial Aid?

Her parents have saved nothing, so she’s getting a job herself. What should she do next?

5 min readMar 5, 2021


By Howard Dvorkin, CPA

I’m 15 years old. I’ll go to college in a few years. My parents haven’t saved up any money, but I’m getting a job soon so I can start saving. Where should I put the money? A 529 plan? A Roth IRA? Somewhere else? I don’t want to leave all of my savings in a savings account because FAFSA will see that and I’ll get less aid. Thanks!

– Cheyenne in California

Howard Dvorkin CPA responds…

First of all, Cheyenne, congratulations on being wise beyond your years. Not many teenagers realize that saving money is so important. Sadly, many adults don’t realize it, either.

You’re also smart enough to understand how the financial aid system works (or doesn’t work). FAFSA stands for “Free Application for Federal Student Aid,” and you fill it out on a federal website. But like everything else run by the government, it’s not explained in the clearest terms.

(Here are Debt.com’s tips for making the process less time-consuming and stress-inducing.)

The truth about FAFSA and Financial Aid

One big FAFSA myth is that you can’t apply for student aid if your family earns too much money each year. In reality, you can fill it out no matter what they make. That’s because most aid is indeed “needs-based,” but not all of it.

I want to get back to your original question, Cheyenne, but since you’re the studious sort, you can check out all the aid that filling out a FAFSA gives you access to:

  • Direct subsidized loan
  • Direct unsubsidized loan
  • Direct PLUS loan
  • Federal Pell grant
  • Federal work-study programs
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)

So, my first piece of advice is: Don’t worry about exceeding the government’s income limits. That’s called the “Expected Family Contribution,” and…




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