The following is a post from staff writer Crystal at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff, where she writes about finding the balance between paying your bills, saving for your future, and budgeting for the fun stuff along the way.
Student loans are a convenient way of financing a college education. They can also be very expensive. I am sure the thought of an entry level salary for the college graduate saddled with high monthly student loan payments can be bittersweet. However, there are some ways to minimize the amount of student loans needed to make it through any degree.
Start Saving Early
Parents could begin planning for their children’s college education in advance. Considering the constant increase in tuition, it’s extremely helpful if parents start their child’s college savings plan about the same time as they plan their baby shower. A new family may not have a ton of extra cash, but they could save money by giving up expensive habits or cutting other regular costs. Any cash gifts to the child can be squirreled away to help as well.
I don’t personally think it’s a parents’ responsibility to help, but it is so nice when it happens.
Get a Scholarship
Scholarships are the most inexpensive and convenient way to avoid college loans. However, the scholarship market is competitive. A child can pretty easily finance most of their education by learning how to fill out scholarship applications like a pro.
Keep in mind that the poor people reviewing these applications have probably seen the same old stuff a thousand times, so try to be unique but not crazy. Try to put emotion into your personal stories. For the academic scholarships, take the tests like ACT and SAT until you are at least in the top 10% if you want a shot at thousands.
I personally paid for 60% of my 4 year degree through 3 main scholarships, one was for academic achievements and the other two were simply because I applied and impressed the reviewers with creative writing.
Attend State Schools
There are many benefits to students who attend schools in their state of residency. Generally tuition costs are lower because your parents pay taxes in that state. This could save you as much as $2,000 dollars per semester. This could lower your need for student loans by $4,000 dollars a year and $16,000 over the course of your undergraduate studies!
I attended the state school that offered me the biggest scholarship and ended up saving more than $15,000 compared to my second choice. Public universities are also cheaper than private universities, so you should keep that in mind too.
Load Up On Grants
Pell grants and other federal grants are given away by the federal government to help students just like you. It would be really smart to apply for this free money. The application should be filled out in full and all required documentation should be attached correctly the first time. Do not leave any excuse for rejection.
Get a Job
My part-time jobs throughout college saved me thousands of dollars in student loans. Some jobs even allow a little time for studying. I was able to find dead periods while being a tax office receptionist that allowed me to catch up on tons of reading. I wrote a few of my best papers while working the on campus bowling alley counter on dead week nights.
Some employers even offer tuition reimbursement for their students. Since it costs an employer so much money to train a replacement, many businesses are willing to work with you as you attend school. In addition, the skills that you earn while returning to school could benefit the organization in the future.
By earning your degree through an online university, you will not have to miss any time at work and can complete your education in your spare time. While not all employers will go for this type of arrangement, it is worth proposing the idea.
No matter which way you cut it, student loans stink. Using the methods above may help you need less of them or maybe none at all.
Readers, What tricks have you come across to reduce the need for student loans?