A family celebrating a graduation poses for a picture after the ceremony.
Personal finance

Saving for college made easy

6 minute read

Saving enough for college might seem impossible. But families like yours are doing it every day, and it's easy for you to start too.

You can do it

Millions of American students are entering college for the first time. For many of them, their college journey began when loved ones started planning and saving to make the college dream a reality.

Like you, these families had lots of questions along the way. And that's why we're here—to help you get started with your college planning. It only takes 3 steps, so you can begin today.

  1. Find the right kind of account for your college savings.
  2. Choose investments for your account.
  3. Open the account online.

Let's go!

Find out which college savings plan is right for you

Open a Vanguard 529 account

Test your knowledge!

When it comes to saving for college, there are a lot of myths out there. What's true? What's false? We have the answers.

False. About half of all American families are currently saving for college. And you don't need a lot of money to get started. The most important thing you can do right now is to take the same first step they did: Open an account.

Find out which college savings plan is right for you

Most likely false. Getting a full scholarship or enough financial aid to cover the whole cost of college is unlikely. Only a small percentage of students have their entire tuition covered, let alone housing, books, and fees. (And, in case you were wondering, an even smaller number of students pay for college by winning the lottery.)

True. It's never too late to start saving for college. The more you save now, the less you'll have to borrow. So if your child is in high school, don't let that stop you.

Find out when you should start saving for college

False. Even if you save in a type of account that's specifically meant for college, you can use the money to pay for many trade and vocational school expenses. Or you can give the money to someone else (a qualified family member) to use for college or even graduate school. Even the least flexible account types will give you your money back for whatever reason, no questions asked, although you may have to pay taxes or penalties on any amount your account has earned (but not on your contributions).*

Find out what happens if you don't end up needing your savings

True. It's easy to figure out what account type best fits your needs. As for figuring out which college meal plan to choose … we can't help you with that.

False. The amount you've saved for college or any other goal has much less of an impact on your financial aid than your overall income does. In other words: If your income is high enough, you'll be expected to pay for at least part of your kid's college expenses, whether you bothered to save anything or not.

Learn about financial aid

Questions? No need to raise your hand—ask away

How much do I need to know about investing to manage a college account?

Some types of investments can be managed for you, like age-based options offered through 529 plans. But it's also good to have some basic investing knowledge—it's not hard to learn, and it will help you save for any goal. We'll teach you the few important things you need to understand.

Learn the right ways to manage your college savings

How should I balance college saving with retirement and other goals?

There's a definite order in which you should approach financial goals. We've spelled it out.

Learn how college saving should fit into your other priorities

Am I going to lose this money if I don't use it for college?

Nope. Depending on whether you get tax breaks for your college savings, you might have to give up some of your earnings, but not any of the money you've saved.*

Find out what happens if you don't end up needing your savings

When's the best time to start saving for college?

The earlier you tackle college saving, the better off you'll be in the end. The best time is now.

See when you should start saving

What's the best kind of account for college savings?

For most people, it's a 529 account, and here's why—tax breaks equate to more money in your account and less you have to borrow. But there are also other options.

Find out which college savings plan is right for you

We're here to help.
Talk with one of our education savings specialists.

Call 877-817-7066

Monday to Friday
8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Eastern time

Handy tools

You're planning to put money away for their future, but how do you know if you're saving enough?

Use our college savings planner to see if you'll have enough for college

Tips for grandparents

Learn some smart tips on giving the child you love a head start on college.

College saving for your grandchild (or niece or nephew or …)

The Vanguard 529 Plan

Discover the many benefits of our premier college savings plan.

Learn more about The Vanguard 529 Plan

More about 529 and your options

Which account is right for your education savings goals?

What is a 529 plan?

Find the right 529 plan for you

FAQs about 529s

College saving for your grandchild (or niece or nephew or…)

529 portfolios backed by our premium brand

*If you received a tax deduction on your contributions, your state might require you to pay it back if you use the money for expenses that aren't qualified. Some states also adjust the amount owed for inflation.

All investing is subject to risk, including the possible loss of the money you invest.