College is supposed to be the best four years of your life, where you get to experiment, meet new people, go to wild parties, and where you get to find yourself, who you want to be and what your life will look like as you get older. It’s full of life and fun, unless of course, you’re riddled with debt and are struggling to stay afloat at school. So check out these 12 easy tips to avoid student loan debt, your wallet will thank you later.
Live at home
Don’t shoot the messenger! As much as you want to break free from your parent’s house and to be independent and all that jazz – staying at home while at college is a huge money saver. If you’re considering attending a college near your hometown, then it makes sense to stay at home. Your parents might even let you live there rent free and would be happy to have you around. College life is more than partying and living in a dorm room, trust me. And if you’re worried you’ll miss all the excitement, you won’t. No one is stopping you from going out and having college fun but when you have a rent-free home to go to where you’re comfortable and have space to yourself, it’s kind of a no-brainer.
Work study options
As a student, if you qualify for federal financial aid, then you may also qualify for the Federal Work-Study Program. Work-study will help you tremendously, not just to gain experience in your field of choice but you will also get paid to go to school, whether you’re a part-time or full-time student. The catch is, most work-study programs get allotted pretty quick so as soon your enrollment application is accepted, you should talk to the financial aid office as soon as you can.
Grants are a huge help, unlike scholarships, a grant is based on your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and financial need. If your family makes under a certain amount per year or your family falls into a certain bracket, this grant is a life saver. Schools give grants to the students who need them most and if you apply early so fill out your free application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible. There are all kinds of grants out there, you’re bound to be eligible for one of them.
Consider a community college
I proudly went to a community college before throwing on my big girl pants and jetting off to a four-year school to get my bachelor’s. And let me tell you, best decision I ever made. First of all, while at community college, you’re earning credits that will transfer and apply toward your bachelor’s. Some community colleges and big universities have direct programs that allow for an easy transition, so that way while in community college, you know exactly which credits will transfer over. Plus, community college will save you so much money. On average, a community college costs about $3,500 for tuition and fees while a university is about $32,000. You can also get grants and scholarships at a community college so that will only end up saving you money in the long run. And it will help you get familiar with what college life is all about so you’re more prepared when you do go get your bachelor’s. Have I convinced you yet?
If you were a good student, got good grades, participated in extracurricular activities or sports – you’ve got what it takes to land a scholarship, or many in fact. There are so many different kinds of scholarships out there, it can be as small as $500 dollars up to $1,000 or more. Plus it can be anything, an accounting scholarship or art or teaching or entrepreneurial, the list goes on. Some scholarships you can apply for directly with your high school (if you’re about to be a college freshman) or you use some websites out there, such as Fastweb and Scholarships.com. Don’t wait around, start applying now.
Work part time
Getting a part time job or a small “gig” is a good way to make some money on the side. There are lots of options out there, such as being an Uber driver, babysitter, tutor, freelance writer, accounting, or even a house cleaner. Having a small time job like this gives you a lot of flexibility and you have lots of options to choose from, no one say you had to flip burgers at McDonald’s.
This is a personal favorite of mine, some websites have set up for the specific need of crowd-sourcing for college students to pay off or avoid loans. You can even do volunteer work in exchange for crowd-sourced funds, that’s pretty amazing. Check out some options like zerobound and SponsorChange.
Ask your employer about education benefits
If you are working then your employer could pay for your college education. Basically, first you need to talk to your employer because there are circumstances that the IRS will allow your employer to write off any reimbursement they make to you for tuition, and it doesn’t matter how much it is. Especially if your work is directly related to your field of study. You should definitely get a job that offers reimbursement.
Talk with an academic advisor
If you plan out your degree and the path you need to take to graduate as quickly as possible, then you need to talk with an academic advisor. But you will need to have chosen a major before you can map out the next four years. An academic advisor comes in handy on both counts.
Pay in installments
Tuition installment plans are a huge help, be sure to consult the financial aid office to get the full low down. It’s like paying rent, you have to be 100% positive you can make monthly payments or you’re in big trouble. But this way you won’t have to pay large sums and instead small amounts that you can actually commit to.
Stick with federal loans
So if you got a Federal Direct Loan then you know it has lots of options on an income-based repayment. Which really helps out as it fixes your payment at 10% of your discretionary income and forgives your debt after 20 years. Now that’s awesome. Plus, the Direct Loan allows for debt forgiveness if you’re working in a public service field and have made 120 payments without defaulting. Your interest rate will be fixed, unlike a private loan, which burdens you with a variable rate. Pay the loan as you go through college, and even make large payments so you can avoid paying too much on interest. When you do your taxes, write off interest payments. Plus, use your tax returns and other windfalls to make large payments.
Go to college when you’re financially stable
Maybe this sounds counter active because you believe that if you don’t go to college straight out of high school, you’ll fall behind. But that’s not the case at all. If you stay committed to what you want in life and in your career, then forgoing college until you can actually afford it is the smart thing to do. Just think about it, if you rush off to college and you’re not ready financially, you could be like the other 24% of graduates who end up back at mom and dad’s house with no career. Or you could end up like the other 35% of graduates who fall behind on loan repayments. You could be in debt for 20 years until you’ve actually paid everything back. Your life will be so much easier if you wait and you don’t have to get some low paying job after you graduate just to stay afloat. Think about it!