Can You Stay Out of Debt and Still Get A College Degree?
While Most Of Us Have A Plan To Attend College, The Plan To Pay For It May Not Be As Clear…
Investing in your future by attending college is a dream for many, but many students are held back by the fear of taking on student loan debt. Some of these students have heard stories from family and friends of unbearable debt, while others simply don’t believe they can afford to attend college without taking on a large number of loans.
Whatever your situation or outlook, it’s possible to lower (and possibly eliminate) the need to take out student loans. In this article, we’ll discuss the dangers of student loan debt and what you can do to avoid taking out more loans than you need.
The Dangers Of Student Loan Debt
For many people, student loans offer a path to making college financially possible. Without student loans, many would not be able to afford a higher education. In fact, there are families who include taking on student loan debt in their plan to pay for college from the very start. However, these loans come with their own dangers that students and their families should be aware of before diving in.
Many students are drawn to taking out student loans because of the promises of a high paying job once they receive their college degree. Yet student loans come due long before many college graduates find their dream jobs with high salaries. Many students end up making career sacrifices, from low pay to a less than ideal location, to make sure they can make their student loan payments on time.
Beyond these dangers, there’s also the aspect of interest. If a student takes on too much student debt or fails to create a solid plan for paying their loans off in a reasonable time, they find themselves with loan payments that balloon out of control. The average American spends $393 a month repaying their student loans, and this payment can grow even larger with interest and unnecessary or unfavorable loans.
Of course, these are risks that many are willing to take if it means getting a higher education. As we already mentioned, student loans do open doors that would otherwise be closed to students without college savings or a strong financial background.
Still, students should do everything in their power to avoid student loan debt any way they can. Below, we’ve outlined five ways you can pay for college while taking on as little debt as possible.
5 Ways To Avoid Student Loan Debt And Still Go To College
Avoiding student loan debt is a crucial goal for many college students. From learning how to write down and budget your expenses to squeezing all the money you can out of your FAFSA, there are multiple ways you can avoid student loan debt.
While you may want to implement several of these tips and tricks, don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to cut costs and make sacrifices at every level. Start with small commitments to saving money, and over time you’ll find yourself saving hundreds, even thousands of dollars on potential student debt.
FIND FREE MONEY FIRST
Thankfully, there are more forms of aid available to help students pay for college than ever before. Every student should start paying for college by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Even if you don’t believe you’ll qualify for scholarships or grants, filling out the FASFA is essential for every student. Not every form of financial aid is based on your family’s finances, and you may qualify for much more aid than you expect.
Along with filling out the FAFSA, ask your counselor and consult search engines to find additional scholarships, work-study, and grant opportunities. In order to avoid student debt, you’ll want to find as many sources of financial aid as possible.
Note: “Free” money refers to money that does not need to be repaid after college. However, many forms of financial aid come with requirements that students must meet. Common requirements are a minimum GPA or graduation timeline. If students fail to uphold their end of the bargain, they may be required to repay grants and loans after college.
CONSIDER MORE AFFORDABLE OPTIONS
When trying to avoid student debt, one of the best things you can do is consider all your college options.
If one of your major goals is getting your college degree without going into debt, your reach, target, and safety school list should include a range of affordable options.
For many students, in-state schools will be one of the most affordable ways to attend college. A majority of colleges charge tuition differently based on where a student comes from. Colleges offer students from within their state the best tuition prices to encourage students to earn their education (and eventually put it into use) in their home state.
In addition, completing your associate’s degree at a community college before transferring to the four-year college of your dreams is another way to make your college costs more affordable. Community colleges, especially those local to you, are often cheaper than any other type of college due to their size, course offerings, and facilities. Many students have used their community college earned degrees as a stepping stone toward attending the college of their dreams.
USE YOUR TIME WISELY
There are several ways you can use your time wisely in order to lower the number of student loans you need to take out. There are three main ways you can use your time to make your education more affordable:
- Enrolling in college courses during high school (often at much lower prices)
- Working through college and summers to pay down loans before graduating
- Completing a work-study program to help pay for college costs without loans
The best way to make good use of your time in college is to focus on your studies, but if your schedule allows the time for a work-study job or even an off-campus part-time job, you should consider the option. Not only will paying for part of your education out of pocket help you appreciate it a bit more, but you’ll also avoid taking on debt and paying interest later on.
CUT YOUR EXPENSES
During your college years, it’s a good idea to cut down on your costs wherever you can. Nearly half of your college costs will come from textbooks, room and board, and other non-tuition costs. Not only does this help you avoid debt, but it also prepares you for life after college when you’ll be paying off any student loans you did take out.
Small changes to your college budget and lifestyle can add up to a big difference over four years. Used textbooks, affordable rooming situations, and cheaper transportation can cut your costs as you earn your college degree.
UNDERSTAND HOW DEBT WORKS
If you do decide to take out student loans to help pay for your college education, it’s important you understand exactly how taking on this type of debt works. In order to set yourself up for the best possible chance of success out of college, it’s essential that you take out student loans as needed and only after you’ve filled out the FAFSA.
You must take the time to plan for handling student loan debt both during and after college. Before you take out any loans, learn how interest and deferment work with student loans. You may be able to save yourself money by knowing what type of loan fits with your goals and situation.
Paying For College And Avoiding Student Debt Is Possible
In the end, there is only so much you can do to avoid taking on student debt. If you have your heart set on a college that costs more than your financial aid will cover, you are left with few options. However, it’s important to note that every dollar of student loan debt matters: for every $500 you can cover with work, savings, or free financial aid, that’s $500 dollars you don’t have to pay back later with interest added.
If you need help analyzing all your financial aid options, please get in touch with our WeAdmit counselors. We know that the financial aid process can get complex, and we’re here to help make it simple.
Our Team Will Work With You On A Personal Level, Without Trying To Fit You Or Your Situation Into A One-Size-Fits-All Mold.
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