Robert is a Junior at the University of Central Florida currently majoring in English. He is a finalist of the Student Debt Relief scholarship program, and needs your votes. If you like his advice on how to avoid student debt while attending school, please use the above social icons to like, tweet, +1, and share his essay across the social networks. The finalist with the most social shares will be awarded $2,000 to help pay for their education.
How to Keep Down Student Loan Debt
by Robert F.
According to a Wall Street Journal article, the graduating class of 2014 has an average student loan debt of about $33,000. If a student decides to go on to graduate school, that debt can easily skyrocket into a six figure sum. Who wants to “start out” with that kind of financial burden? In the next few paragraphs, I’ll give you some of the ways that I’ve kept my student loan debts to a minimum.
Sit down and take stock of your expenditures. Many of us have unnecessary expenses that we could turn into tuition money. Write down all your monthly expenses and find ones you can trim that aren’t absolutely necessary. If you cancel that $150 a month cable bill, not only will you have some extra money, but you’ll have more time to study, as well, when you’re not binging on Game of Thrones. One huge area to save money is avoiding eating out. Eating out often gets expensive real quick, and you can make quality meals at home for a fraction of the cost. If you do feel the need to occasionally treat yourself to a nice meal out, avoid the expensive alcoholic beverages.
Shop around for your books. It’s real convenient to have your textbook bill taken out of your financial aid, but most times university bookstore textbooks are uber-expensive. Online sites such as Amazon will often offer much lower prices on both new and used textbooks. For instance, last semester I bought a used, like new book online for $35 that was only available as a new book for $200 at the university bookstore. For even cheaper options, consider searching E-bay for used books or renting your books. Shopping around for your books can save you hundreds of dollars a semester. If you pay for your books with student loans, that could turn into thousands of dollars a semester.
Take only the loans you absolutely need. It can be real easy to look at that loan offer and think that you can ride on easy street for the semester. You’ll have all this extra money. You can buy some new clothes. You can go out whenever you want. You don’t have to kill yourself working so much. Get all those thoughts out of your head because that money does have to be paid back—with interest. If you need the money, take it, but do not try to use it as a free ride for a while because nothing is ever free.
Be organized. At the beginning of the semester, create a calendar of the entire semester. Take your syllabi and fill in all due dates so that you can prioritize your entire life—school, work, and personal. Work ahead on course work whenever you can. If you let your school work pile up until the last minute, you will probably have to take some time off of work to catch up, which will reduce your earning potential to pay for school and create more need for loans.
Work as much as you can. Earn and spend as much of your own money as you can on schooling instead of taking out loans. Yes, between school and work, many of your personal and family relationships will suffer, but it’s only for a short time. Sacrifice today so that you don’t have to tomorrow.
Take your course work seriously. It can get really expensive if you have to retake courses in order to receive a passing grade. Do everything you can to get that passing grade the first time, so that you’re not paying for the same class two or three times. Make your classes your number one priority, and get outside help if you’re struggling. Nearly every school has a place where you can receive free tutoring. Don’t be afraid to use it.
Apply for scholarships. That means each and every scholarship you can find that you might be eligible for. I did say earlier that no money comes for free, and while scholarships are not entirely free (you do have to do some work to get them), they’re about the closest thing you can get to free. I know it can be tough to find time in between school, work, family, friends, etc. to research and apply for these scholarships, but the ability to have your school paid for with money you don’t have to pay back in exchange for just a bit of your time is extremely valuable.
I have personally done all of these helpful hints in order to keep my own student loan debt to a bare minimum. Keeping that debt down doesn’t come easy. It requires hard work, commitment, and sacrifice. In the long run, though, it’s all worth it. That money that you would be spending every month on repaying student loans can go to much better uses, such as a new house or car.