In previous posts, we’ve discussed at length myriad ways to improve, repair, and rebuild your financial standing. But what if you’re a young adult, financially fresh and only just beginning to get your feet wet in the world of self sufficiency? Navigating life on your own is unquestionably scary, and many people fall victim to debt very early on. Read on to learn more about one of the biggest ways in which you can prevent future debts – avoiding student loans.
Whether you’re 18 or 88, making the decision to apply for college can be daunting – especially when faced with the prospect of paying upwards of $250,000 to complete your degree. Fortunately, with a little hard work and strategic effort, it is entirely possible to further your education without taking out a mountain of student loans. Let’s first take a look at some less than savory facts surrounding student loans: Aside from mortgages, student loans are currently the single largest type of consumer debt in the country – outpacing both car loans and credit card debt. As of June 2017, the cumulative nationwide student loan balance in America was 1.34 trillion dollars. And finally, according to a study by U.S. News & World Report, the average length of time it take for a bachelor’s degree graduate to pay off their loans is 21 years.
If your head is beginning to spin, don’t panic! KLS is here to provide you with the tools you need to make education affordable and still focus on long-term financial security. The first of which being…
Scholarships are your best friend! To bring a bit of anecdotal wisdom into this post: During my junior year of high school, I began to get serious about college applications. I had finally decided on the educational path I wanted to take (or so I thought), carefully curated a list of the top schools in my field, and mustered up the courage to tell my parents that I was in fact planning to obtain a degree in…art. After I was able to revive my mother with smelling salts and platitudes about the importance of following one’s dreams, she gently pointed out that I had failed to take into account one of the most important factors in choosing a school: tuition cost. Once I realized that my dream school was likely to cost me nearly $60,000 a year, reality set in. Never one to give in to defeatism, I turned to research, and to my happy surprise found a world of opportunities.
- If you are still in high school, utilize your guidance counselor. Guidance counselors are there to help you in any way they can, and this includes providing you with a lengthy list of scholarship options.
- Research your local businesses, charity groups, and commercial organizations to see if they offer scholarships. Local scholarships are an excellent tool in funding your education because you are only competing against applicants within your immediate community, rather than thousands upon thousands of prospective students nationwide.
- Don’t scoff at small numbers! While you should still apply for the coveted $25,000+ a year scholarships, keep in mind that it is both more likely and more profitable to apply for a multitude of smaller scholarships. The bulk of my tuition was ultimately covered by more local and obscure scholarships in the $500 to $1500 a year range.
- Do your parents’ workplaces offer scholarship opportunities? If you are not in high school, does your own job? Does your spouse’s? If so, apply!
- Examine your strengths before you begin applying. In addition to merit-based scholarships, there are endless opportunities available that focus on unique talents and skill sets you may have to offer.
Grants are the beautiful antithesis of student loans – money awarded to you by schools, business, and financial aid programs that you never have to pay back! Contact state aid agencies for a list of grant possibilities in addition to utilizing FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid). FAFSA is a form that determines how much assistance you will receive based on a number of family and financial factors. Any grant money you receive will be an enormous help in reducing educational costs down the line.
Stay in State
As a general rule, staying in state is a far more economical choice than applying for a school halfway across the country. Lower tuition rates apply to students who choose schools in their home state, in addition to the possibility of scholarships offered specifically to those in-state individuals. You also eliminate the debt involved with travel costs – gas spent on a two to three hour drive or tickets purchased for a bus ride are negligible compared to the thousands of dollars you would otherwise spend on multiple yearly flights to and from school.
Work-Study programs are yet another wonderful way to reduce your out of pocket expenses. Employment through your school can help pay for tuition as well as books or housing costs, with some programs even providing living stipends per semester. Work-study also makes for a great addition to your resume, and may help lead to future internship opportunities in the future. While the thought of simultaneously attending school full time and holding a job may not seem ideal, having work experience while enrolled will likely make it easier to find a position in the workforce upon graduation.
College can be scary enough before you pay a single penny – so don’t resign yourself to the idea that the only way to get an education is through financial ruin! Now that you’re aware of a number of ways to help eliminate the monetary stress associated with college, keep in mind these last few tidbits of advice: study hard, keep the partying to a minimum, and always, always remember – call your mom.