Student loans are helpful to afford college but there are ways you can minimize student loan debt before graduation. I used student loans to help me afford college but after 4 years I had well over $30,000 of student loan debt.
Today, I’ve learned some useful tips that can keep student loans use low reducing future financial stress associated with large amounts of debt.
Having too much debt can often delay your personal and professional growth. You may choose to remain at a job you dislike simply to afford the payments as opposed to a job that aligns better with your goals. As student loan payments grow, you may find yourself delaying buying a new car or afford your own place. You may even be forced to live a less than ideal lifestyle that impacts your mental and emotional wellbeing.
Here is a list of ways to keep your student loan debt to a minimum.
Get free money
Research and apply to as many scholarships as possible. There are billions of dollars of scholarships not awarded. Also, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form to determine your grant eligibility from the college, state and federal government.
Use your savings
Whether your parents saved money for your college education or you saved all the birthday gift money, using your savings is an ideal way to minimize the amount of borrowing. And if you happen to have a couple more years before college, continue saving money earmarked for college expenses.
Work before and during college
Working can serve a dual purpose, you’ll receive a paycheck and gain some skills you can apply in your future career. It’s okay to have a job that doesn’t relate to your degree. But as your senior year approaches, switch gears and get work or an internship in the profession. Pay attention to the amount of money you can earn with a job while in college to not impact your financial aid. Find creative side hustles to make extra cash.
Take college credit courses in high school
Speak with your high school counselor to learn how you can earn college credit for classes taken at your school. Also, inquire with the local community college about courses you can take now that can meet the requirements for a college degree. Often general education requirements can be taken for free while in high school helping you graduate college earlier.
Enroll in a community college
Many community colleges have relationships with universities. Take all your prerequisites at the junior college at the fraction of the cost then transition to a four-year university.
Choose a less expensive university
Consider a state school or a university which often are a much more affordable option while maintaining a competitive advantage. Narrow down your choice based on the grants and aid offered without stacking up on student loans. Compare the list of schools and the associated cost from tuition and fees, room and board, books, and transportation.
Borrow or rent your textbooks
Many forget the hundreds of dollars per semester you’ll spend on buying new textbooks. Consider borrowing books, trading books with other students, and renting your books for the semester. Not only will you save money, you’ll also have less stuff collecting dust after graduation.
Pay interest on your student loans
Don’t wait until after you graduate to start paying on your loans. You can lower the total cost of borrowing and keep those balances low by paying the accrued interests. This mostly pertains to private students. Interest accrued on loans is capitalized growing the total debt balance.
Make payments to student loans
Use any money you make or receive to pay your student loans. Speak with your financial aid office or servicer on how you can make payments on your student loans while still in college. Small payments add up over time and can reduce the amount of debt you’ll have to repay after graduation.
Consider your lifestyle
College comes with some unexpected lifestyle expenses. From choosing to live on campus, having a car, going away for spring break, attending events and joining clubs, there are costs. Having a budget can offer a framework to spend your savings and use financial aid with fewer student loans. Watch out for college lifestyle creep that’ll require you to borrow more.
Don’t mess around and graduate
In college, stay focused on expanding your mind and building a network. It’s okay to have a good time but don’t let that cause you to fail classes and delay graduation. The longer you stay in school the more you’ll pay. The purpose of college is to become educated so you’re more prepared to land a job in your ideal profession.
Managing your student loan use while enrolled in college can support a healthier and more stress-free post-college life. Graduated college with student loans? Learn how to make extra student loan payments and how refinancing might help with student debt payoff.