It’s Never, Ever Too Late to Save for College — Even for High Schoolers. Here’s How You Do It!

written by Melissa Brock

As you start to tentatively peel back the calendar to August, do you have butterflies in your stomach? Does this feeling have zippo to do with your high schooler wearing a mask in English class?

Does it have a little bit more to do with how much (or actually, how little) you’ve saved for college?

You’re in the right place because UNest can help.

Make Saving for College Your Back-to-School Goal

You might sit down with your high schooler before the school year starts and go over some ground rules. 

  1. “No, you can’t wear that to school — ever.”
  2. “Driving your sister to school is mandatory. And don’t forget to pick her up!”
  3. “You’re going to try harder in math this year, even though Mrs. Deal is your trigonometry teacher (again).”
  4. “We’re going to agree on some college application goals next week.”

Hopefully, your student’s all on board with those goals — whatever they may be! Why not make one big goal for yourself as well? 

If you’ve got that block of ice in your stomach, it’s time to melt it by saving for college. Here’s why and how.

Why Save for College? 

Have you lost the excitement and momentum to save for college? (Maybe there are other things you want or need.) Do you do things like tell yourself you’ve missed out on 18 years of compounding interest? Unfortunately, that’s just something you’re telling yourself. Change that mindset to I can.

Tell yourself: 

  1. “My regular earnings have amazing potential. Even small bills add up.” In other words, you can do a lot to contribute to college with your regular paycheck. 
  2. “I can do anything I set my mind to.” Start with a goal in mind and watch it bloom. It’s amazing how much sticking power that one small idea can have!
  3. “My family will help.” Many 529 plans make it easy for family and even friends to contribute — and it’s coming soon for UNest! The money can really start rolling in when you tell your child’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, etc. Ask family members and friends to forgo the clothes and video games for birthdays or holiday gifts. Ask for college money instead.
  4. “I might have already saved a bunch!” You can use money collecting dust in an already-existing savings account for college. It’s a matter of reframing your intentions, transferring that money to UNest and building more momentum.
  5. “I want to help my child take out fewer student loans.” The more you pay out of pocket, the fewer loans your student will need to take on. Pretty good reason, huh?

Take 20 Minutes and Download UNest

Trust me, this takes so little time. UNest is so easy. You don’t have to fill out mounds of paperwork and it’s not hard to choose your investments — a sticking point for so many families. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Download the UNest app.
  2. Put a monthly payment plan into place. 
  3. Track your savings.

You can choose investments based on your child’s age, add your bank account and you’re done. It takes minutes.

You’re done! Brush off those hands. Congratulations!

The Antidote to Fear and Indecision is Action

But wait… You have some questions?

Pushback questions you may have include:

  • But what if I don’t want to use a 529 plan for my kids? 
  • What if I want something with more flexibility? 
  • I’m scared. What if I don’t want to make a decision like this?

But I have a different question: What if you never take action? What if you bypass this incredibly easy way to save for college? 

I know it’s easy to put something off because you’re scared of the unknown. Open that account anyway. You won’t regret it! The antidote to fear or indecision is action. Go. for. It.

Here are a few other things to consider.

Determine How Much You Can Save

How much should you save? This is another tripping-up point for so many people, and the answer is simple: Save as much as you possibly can! 

Sit down with a pen and paper or a spreadsheet or a budget app — whatever you want! — and figure out how much you can contribute per month toward this wonderful app.

And make it attainable! Don’t pledge right off the bat to save every penny of what you think college will cost for your high schooler. That may be impossible. Don’t make that stop you. Again, save as much as you can.

Only take into account reliable income when setting your goal. If you need to adjust your goal, that’s okay, as long as it’s realistic.

Treat Savings Like Bills!

Don’t forget to treat your college savings like a bill.

Why is it that we’re more apt to scrape and pinch and divert money from one source to pay a bill like an insurance bill but we don’t do the same with really, really important things like college savings or retirement? 

Pretend like saving for college is another obligation — just like paying your bills religiously.  

Committing to monthly contributions with UNest:

  • Reduces the possibility of failure. Monthly contributions give you a constant goal.
  • Focuses you. Life is crazy most days, right? Goals help you be more strategic.
  • Allows you to see success. You can see savings growing before your eyes. Nothing feels better than seeing how far you’ve come!
  • Builds momentum. When you’re hitting your goals like crazy, you may feel like there’s nothing you can’t do. Chase that feeling by setting more college savings goals and achieving them!

You Can Do This — No Matter Your Child’s Age

As the calendar turns to August, UNest challenges you to take action on your child’s college savings. 

Doing something within 24 hours makes it more likely that you will meet your goals. The first step you can take within 24 hours is to download the UNest app

Keep a photo of your child with a sticky note on it that says something powerful, like, “He will graduate from college with my help!” Knowing your “why” will help you stay motivated in months that it can feel like a major challenge.

It’s not too late, and you can do this. Set that goal, contribute each month and make it happen. Amazing things will come.


College Savings Calculator is a hypothetical tool that demonstrates how monthly contributions, age-based asset rebalancing, and tax savings may impact the long-term value of your account, and do not take into account a portfolio’s underlying investment management fees. Calculations assume the private institution cost inflation is 2.8%, public out of state cost inflation is 3.9%, public in state cost inflation is 2.7%. Portfolio is assumed to have only stocks and bonds. Monthly equity returns are based on the historical data from the 10-year track record of the stock market (SPY). Monthly fixed income returns are based on the historical data from the 10-year track record of the bond market index (AGG). The current college expenses are provided by the Actual account performance may differ due to market fluctuations, changes in recurring investments, and asset allocation. The information provided here is for illustrative purposes only and does not represent actual or future performance of any investment option and is not intended to predict or project the investment performance of any security or index.

Ksenia Yudina, CFA, MBA

Founder and CEO

Ksenia is the Founder and CEO of U-Nest, the first mobile app that makes it easy for families to save for college. As an entrepreneur and finance professional, Ksenia has focused on alleviating the impact of student debt on families across the economic spectrum. Previously, Ksenia was a Vice President atCapital Group/American Funds, the largest 529 provider in the U.S. In this role, she played a leadership role in helping parents plan and manage their finances, with a focus on the future well-being of their children. Prior to Capital Group/American Funds, she was founder of a residential real estate company. Ksenia earned her bachelor’s degree in finance from CaliforniaState University Northridge, and an MBA from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.

Mike Van Kempen

Chief Operating Officer

Mike joined U-Nest in September 2019 as COO. He was previously at Acorns, a financial wellness platform, where he spearheaded the analytics and growth initiatives. Mike successfully expandedAcorns’ paid acquisition strategy, adding over 4.5 million investment accounts. Mike began his career in strategy & analytics at Belly, a Chicago-based loyalty startup in 2012. At Belly, Mike led projects that fueled growth across all aspects of the business, growing the customer base from1,000 to over 11,000 merchants, and accumulating a membership of over 2 million customers.Mike holds a B.B.A. in Finance from Loyola University of Chicago.

Steve Buchanan

Chief Technology Officer

Steve has over 20 years of experience in delivering digital innovations in the financial sector. Steve previously orchestrated product architecture and innovation as a Solutions Architect/ Fintech consultant at Union Bank. Prior to Union Bank, he was Chief Architect and Director of Engineering at Calypso, a Silicon Valley startup, where he architected and built multiple financial solutions. He was also Head of Global Integrations at Globe One in Vietnam where he integrated its Peer-to-Peer lending products into core banking solutions. Steve also built the first ever electronic Equities &Equity Options trading systems for Scottish stock brokers Wood Mackenzie (acquired by CountyNatWest). He is a graduate of Edinburgh University.

Peter Mansfield

Chief Marketing Officer

Peter has built an impressive track record in multiple financial industry segments including payments, credit/prepaid cards and lending. He has played an instrumental role at a succession of financial industry leaders, co-founding companies such as Brand3 (acquired by American Express) and PropertyBridge (acquired by Moneygram), and, as the early stage marketing lead at Marqeta (where he was team member number two), BillFloat and WallabyFinancial (acquired by Bankrate).He has helped fast-growth companies reach an aggregate market value of close to $8 billion. Peter holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Angila, UK.

Sonya Kidman

Client Relationship Manager

Sonya Kidman is a Customer Success professional with a decade of experience in advocating for consumer through user research and genuine empathy. Sonya specializes in user behavior and regularly attends national and global training sessions in wellness and people analytics tools. Sonya is a true global citizen was born in Russia, grew up in Israel, lived and worked in Canada and NewZealand. That global expertise along with an undergraduate degree in Sociology from Tel AvivUniversity have helped to shape a bullet-prof Sonya's framework to develop a winning customer strategy.

Frank Mastrangelo

Board Member

One part banker and one part technologist, Frank spent his early days with the Annenberg Foundation and PNC Bank. His career path led him to Jefferson Bank, where he led the build-out of its electronic banking platforms, and where he would forge a powerful alliance with The Bancorp co-founder Betsy Z. Cohen. As President and COO of The Bancorp from its inception in 1999 Frank played a critical role in helping the organization become an industry bellwether for branchless financial services and a global leader in payments. For this, he has become a widely respected fintech expert, and thought-leader. Frank was recognized in 2013 by Banking Innovation, a leading industry journal, as an “Innovator to Watch.” and as one of the innovators shaping the future of banking. Frank is a graduate of West Chester University of Pennsylvania.