There’s nothing like the feeling of opening the mail and finding an acceptance letter to the college of your choice. But just when you thought you’d gotten through the most harrowing part of the application process, there’s another issue to contend with: paying for college.
Unfortunately, college costs only seem to be going up. Tuition costs rose around 3% for the 2014 to 2015 school year, and until that college bubble bursts, you’re not likely to see education costs come down anytime soon.
It’s for this reason that so many college students find themselves with no choice but to take out loans to finance their educations. According to a recent report by The Project on Student Debt, roughly 69% of 2013 graduates took out loans in order to afford college. Furthermore, those who borrowed racked up an estimated $28,400 on average in student loans.
If the idea of taking out a large chunk in loans sounds unappealing, worry not: There are a few steps you can take to reduce your student debt:
- Apply for grants. It pays to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and see if you happen to qualify for free money that you won’t have to pay back.
- Apply for as many scholarships as you can. You don’t necessarily need to be your high school’s top student to get a scholarship. People get scholarships these days for all sorts of reasons. Some are need-based; others are merit-based. A simple online search can reveal ample scholarship opportunities, and from there, it’s simply a matter of taking the time to apply. You can also visit sites like com, which make the process of finding the right opportunity even simpler.
- Work during college. Lots of people work part-time while pursuing their studies, and if you manage your time properly, part-time work shouldn’t negatively impact your performance as a student. Some colleges offer work-study programs where students are matched with employment opportunities on campus. If you have access to a car, you can pursue a part-time job off-campus, which may, in some cases, offer better pay than a campus job. You can also try looking for work you can do online. While working part-time during school might not be ideal, it could also end up being a decent social outlet, as there’s a good chance your fellow employees will be students as well.
- Graduate early. You can easily lower your overall tuition bill by cutting out a semester or two. You can accomplish this by taking an extra class every semester during your first few years of college, or by earning enough advanced placement credits in high school to allow you to finish your studies early. The less tuition you have to pay, the less you’ll need to take out in loans.
Remember, despite your best efforts, you may still wind up with some debt upon ending your college career. The key is to keep that loan amount as low as possible so that you can pay it off quickly and move on with your life. After all, it’s one thing to graduate college with great memories, but you want that memory of a nagging student loan balance to be as distant as possible.