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You can help your child go to college. It’s a lot easier than you might think. Here are some tips to help your child on his/her way to college:

Step 1 – Save for College

There are many ways to save for college – set aside money every week, open a savings account at your bank…

529 Plans are also a popular option. A 529 Plan is an education savings plan operated by a state or educational institution to help families set aside funds for future college costs. They are called 529 plans, because they were authorized by section 529 of the IRS code.

Mississippi offers two savings plans, administered by the State Treasury Department:
MPACT – Mississippi Prepaid Affordable College Tuition Plan
MPACT allows Mississippi residents to pre-pay for college tuition and mandatory fees (thus locking in the rates) at Mississippi public colleges and universities or for private or out-of-state colleges based on Mississippi’s average tuition rates.

MACS – Mississippi Affordable College Savings Plan
MACS is an investment program that allows families to invest money for tuition, books, room and board, required supplies, and graduate school. MACS funds may be used at any accredited college or university anywhere in the U.S.

americorps_ms_small.png  AmeriCorps and America Reads – Mississippi

AmeriCorps, the domestic Peace Corps, engages more than 50,000 Americans in intensive, results-driven volunteer service each year. Students who join AmeriCorps as members can earn education awards of varying amounts depending on the type and length of service.

America Reads – Mississippi (ARM) is a statewide literacy-focused national service AmeriCorps program funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service.  ARM is dedicated to improving the reading skills of students, encouraging public awareness and support for literacy, and helping to increase the number of certified teachers in Mississippi.

AmeriCorps members tutor K – 3rd grade students during the school day and in after school programs, support school and community efforts to increase parental and community support and involvement; recruit volunteers to assist with community service projects; attend regular training to gain skills necessary to meet service obligations; and assist in generating and supporting statewide and local community service projects and activities. Each year, an average of 75% of ARM members indicate their desire to become certified teachers. Many former members have used their education award to become certified teachers and are now teaching in schools where they once served.


Military service offers a number of education benefits that can be used while you are on active duty or after you leave the service.

The GI Bill, is the main piece of legislation that outlines the educational benefits of serving in the military. There is one GI Bill for Active Duty Members and Veterans and another for Reservists. All of Mississippi’s public universities and community colleges offer services for veterans and military personnel. Get started by contacting the Veteran Affairs office of the university, college or community college you want to attend. Click here for a list of Veteran’s Offices on Campus.

Education Tax Credits

Find out about education tax credits that are available from the IRS.

Step 2 – Encourage Your Child

Career Planning

  • College preparation can begin early in your child’s life. Begin talking with your child about different careers during their preschool years (or now, if he/she is already in high school).
  • Make sure your child understands, from an early age, that you expect him/her to pursue a college education because you want him/her to realize his/her dreams of a good, successful life.


  • Help your child appreciate the value of learning. Take a personal interest in your child’s studies, and help him/her understand the relationship between academics and a successful career.
  • Help your child understand the importance of math and science and how it relates to his/her interests and the technology he/she uses.
  • Be active in your children’s school. Join the PTA, attend open houses, and volunteer to help make your school better.
  • Limit television viewing. Kids who do better in school tend to watch less television than their peers.
  • Encourage your child to take challenging courses, especially in math, reading, science, and foreign language.
  • If your child begins falling behind at school, help him/her get back on track. Work with your child’s teachers to get to the root of the problem and find appropriate solutions.


  • Don’t let anyone tell your child that he/she isn’t cut out for college. It’s not uncommon for average students to find their focus in college. And, even poor students, if motivated, can succeed in vocational programs after high school.
  • When you give your children gifts, be sure to include educational games, books, and hobby supplies.
  • If your child attends a high school where most students choose not to attend college, help him/her understand that he/she deserves better. Your child may find that his/her interest in college will encourage other students to go, too.

Step 3 – Talk About Careers With Your Child

  • College preparation can begin early in your child’s life. Begin talking with your child about different careers during their preschool years (or now, if he/she is already in high school).
  • Make sure your child understands, from an early age, that you expect him/her to pursue a college education because you want him/her to realize his/her dreams of a good, successful life.
  • Help your child make decisions about his/her college, major, or future career. But resist the temptation to steer him/her in the direction you think is best.
  • Allow your child to make mistakes in his/her decisions. What you consider to be a mistake may actually end up being the right choice for your child. And remember that no college or career decision is irreversible.

Step 4 – Gather Info and Visit College Campuses

  • Be patient. The process of choosing a college can be stressful for both parent and child. Your child may change his or her mind several times throughout the process. Be supportive, and offer guidance. But allow your child to “own” the process.
  • Break college planning into several small “sessions” so that your child doesn’t feel overwhelmed. Be sure you know the process, yourself, and look for opportunities to talk about career planning and potential colleges.
  • Take advantage of the Internet. All colleges in Mississippi have a website, and most offer lots of valuable information about their school and the admission process.
  • Recognize the importance of campus visits. Brochures and websites can be helpful, but they can’t take the place of a personal visit. Plan to go at a time when classes are in session and students are likely to be on campus.
  • If you plan to visit several colleges, encourage your child to bring a notebook, camera, or both. Having a record of your visit can help tremendously when decision time finally arrives.
  • Assist your child with the application process, and help him/her stay on top of deadlines.

Step 5 – Explore Financial Aid

If you’re the parent of a student, you’ll want to know all you can about sources of financial aid:

Step One: Create a Savings Plan

Your greatest asset is time. The sooner you start saving for your children’s college education, the more time you will have for your savings to grow.

Step Two: College Approaches

  • Determine how much aid your child will need and how much your family will be expected to contribute with the Cost of College Calculator.
  • Encourage your child to search for Scholarships – it takes only a few minutes and it’s free.
  • Your child won’t be able to pay for college entirely on his/her own. Low-cost Parent Loans provide education financing that can help you manage your cash flow.
  • Private Loans can provide additional money.

Step Three: Apply for Financial Aid

Have your child apply for financial aid every year, even if you think they won’t get any. More than two-thirds of families qualify for financial aid.

  • Apply by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
  • It is best to review your finances with your child. But if you want to keep the information private, rest assured that the school will not reveal the information you submit on the FAFSA to your child (or any other third party) without your permission.
  • The Education Tax Credits can help you defray college costs through tax deductions, tax credits, and exclusions from taxable income.
  • Read up on the Financial Aid Award Letters, which gives a few tips on decoding your financial aid package and tools for comparing award letters.

Step Four: Still Have Questions?

Confused by all the terminology? See the glossary.

  • Still have unanswered questions? Read the FAQ, a collection of answers to frequently asked questions.

Step 6 – Apply to Colleges

We have created a tool that will walk you through the whole process of applying for college. We start with the college requirements and end with the financial aid process.