With college debt hitting all-time highs, one of the greatest gifts you can give your children is to allow them to graduate without the burden of monthly loan payments. But how do you make sure the money you set aside will be invested well?

If your offspring are still at least five years off from setting foot on campus, investing in individual companies with a competitive advantage is a good choice to make sure your investments are working for you and your kids.

Here are three companies that are leaders in their fields and will be much bigger five years from now: Mastercard (MA 0.18%), DocuSign (DOCU -4.38%), and Veeva Systems (VEEV -3.15%)

Worried young couple looking at a letter received in the mail.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Mastercard: Capitalizing on a powerful network

Mastercard has built a tremendous payments network since it was founded in 1966. Today, customers carry 2.1 billion cards, enabling them to buy goods and services in 150 currencies in 210 countries and territories. Over the past 12 months, customers have swiped their cards more than 103 billion times to charge a mind-blowing $6.3 trillion in value. Its cards can be used just about everywhere, which gives the company incredible staying power, but its growth is why investors stick around.

Last quarter, transaction dollar volume grew 15.6% outside the U.S. and 11.7% domestically. This performance drove currency-neutral revenues and earnings per share both up 16%. It's incredible that a 50-year-old company with $16.3 billion in trailing 12-month revenue is racking up healthy double-digit growth. Its "other revenues" line is a fast-growing segment for investors to watch. It consolidates sales from safety and security fees, loyalty programs, automated clearing house payments, and other services including consulting and data analytics. It's grown to be 23% of revenues year-to-date and will continue to get bigger as this segment grew 33% year over year in its most recent quarter, faster than the core business.

There's lots to like about Mastercard's business. Its huge network and continued growth will leave the company much bigger five years from now.

2. DocuSign: Making the process of business agreements easier 

With the advent of digital signature technology, the hassle of being somewhere in person to physically sign a piece of paper to reflect your agreement has been greatly reduced. DocuSign has built a $900 million revenue run rate business on making electronic signatures the preferred way of getting your John Hancock. But it turns out that digital signatures are only the tip of the iceberg to making the agreement process easier for businesses.

Getting parties to sign a contract is only one step in a lengthy process of executing an agreement. The company sees four key steps to a system of agreement: preparing, signing, acting, and managing the agreement. It has built state-of-the-art software around all of these processes to make it easier for companies to ensure contracts are executed properly. Written agreements with a signed contract are more prevalent than you might realize. Whether you are in sales, human resources, information technology, or facilities, contracts are used to get things done. DocuSign sees this space as a $25 billion opportunity that technology hasn't touched until recently.

With the most recent quarterly growth numbers coming in at an impressive 40% year over year, it is demonstrating the power of its platform and its ability to grow.

3. Veeva Systems: Enabling the life sciences industry and beyond

Unless you're in the life sciences business, you might not have heard about this cloud-based software specialist serving that industry. Veeva Systems has become a trusted partner to the life sciences industry by focusing on the challenging compliance and demanding regulatory documentation problems facing its customers. This area was underserved, and the company built an end-to-end system in the cloud for life science companies to be able to research, develop, manufacture, sell, and provide after-the-sale support of its innovative products. 

Once customers install part of the software suite to fix a compliance-related issue or local inefficiency, they can further benefit by expanding the software into other areas of the business. For the last three fiscal years, net-dollar retention rates have exceeded 120%, meaning that customers spend 20% more every year with Veeva. The company has experienced tremendous growth, tripling its revenue over the past three years to over $1 billion expected for its full-year ending Jan. 31.

The company is taking its winning formula and expanding into other industries. Adding chemicals, consumer goods, and cosmetics will bring its annual addressable market to over $10 billion, giving this industry-focused software specialist plenty of room to run.

Creating a better future for your loved ones

Whether you're just now looking into paying for college or have started saving already, you are to be congratulated. You're doing the hard work of sticking to a budget or cutting back on fancy coffee to make a better life for your kids. Now it's time to make that money work for you by investing in stocks. It isn't a get-rich-quick guarantee, but these three companies are proven winners and have plenty of opportunity still ahead. Investing in these growth companies now should help you get one step closer to having your kids graduate debt-free.