You’ve probably heard the dire warnings about student loan debt, and how this type of debt is negatively affecting millions of Americans. On the other hand, you know that a earning college degree is one of the best ways to ensure a livable income as an adult. Therefore, it makes sense to invest in yourself and your future. But how can you avoid the type of excessive student loan debt that plagues so many?
Make a spending plan. After applying at several schools, and evaluating each aid package, compare those numbers to the cost of living as a student in that area. Investigate all of your options, such as dorms and off-campus apartments, the cost of meal plans, and the price of books (opt for used ones). Set a budget for each semester and stick to it. While cost shouldn’t be your final deciding factor with regard to choosing a college, it should weigh into your decision.
Try to avoid taking out loans just to cover things like gas and food. Apply for part time jobs immediately when you arrive on campus, so that you can establish a cash flow for regular living expenses, and save the loans for tuition and fees only.
Start saving early. True, you can’t go back in time and start a college savings account a decade ago. But you can take advantage of savings opportunities now. Stash birthday and graduation money in a bank account, and save at least half of your paychecks from part-time jobs.
Stay on course. If you’re not absolutely certain of your major, enroll only in core classes (which apply toward any degree) for the first year or two. Changing your major often results in the need to spend extra time in college, either during the summers or by attending for a fifth year. Don’t pay for classes you don’t need!
Apply for private scholarships. Each year, millions of dollars in private scholarship money goes unclaimed. Apply for any scholarship for which you might qualify; even a few hundred dollars here and there will quickly add up if you earn several of these scholarships.
Apply for financial aid each year. Even if you don’t qualify for federal financial aid during your freshman year, keep applying each year. If a younger sibling begins attending college, or if your parents’ financial situations changes, or if the formulas for determining aid change, you might qualify for more help in future years.
For more information on college planning, follow our blogs and contact us. We can offer advice on getting into your chosen school, and guidance on how to make your dreams a reality.