We all know that paying for a higher education is more difficult than in the past because the cost of education is on the rise. As a result, there is a chance that you might need to get student loans to pay for your education. After all, sometimes there are college funding gaps even after you save money for college, get a job, and apply for scholarships.
Getting a student loan doesn’t have to be the end of your finances as you know it though. Here are a few tips so you don’t end up like those featured horror student loan stories.
Only Borrow What You Need
If you decide debt is the way to go, the rule is always to borrow as little as possible. Only borrow what you need to fill your college funding gap. You can reduce the amount you borrow by employing one or more of the following strategies:
- Start at a two-year school: Two-year schools often cost much less than their four-year counterparts. If you don’t have a scholarship to a four-year school, you can save money by starting at a two-year school and then moving to the more expensive school. In some cases, if you do well, you might be able to earn a scholarship for your final two years at the new school.
- Work through school: Even a part-time job can make a difference in how much you have to borrow. Consider applying for work-study if you qualify so that you can get a guaranteed stipend. Another strategy is to apply to be a resident advisor. In many cases, this means free housing and maybe even a small stipend. You might still have to borrow with a side job, but you won’t have to borrow as much.
- Choose a less-expensive public school: You don’t need to go to an expensive private school to be successful. A less-expensive school can provide you with what you need, especially if you plan to go on to grad school. You will need a smaller loan if you can get in-state tuition. Some schools offer legacy pricing for students whose parents are alumni. Consider taking advantage of this if it’s an option.
- Consider your major: Will you need to go on to get a graduate degree to be successful in your chosen field? The more schooling you need, the more it will cost. You can reduce your need for student loans if you choose a field that doesn’t require advanced study for a salary that meets your needs.
Don’t be seduced by the idea of getting more than you need. I borrowed more than I needed during my own undergraduate career. Instead of limiting my loans to the minimum I required to cover my very small housing and food gap (I had a full-tuition scholarship and a job), I took the full amount each semester. It made me feel rich, but the reality was it just ended up putting me an extra $12,000 in debt by the time I finished my four-year degree.
You don’t have to feel bad for choosing student loans to help you with college. However, it’s a good idea to consider how to reduce what you borrow so you don’t end up in over your head later. If you are already in debt though, then here is what you need to do to pay off your debt faster.