5 Tips To Avoid Taking Out Student Loans

Finding the money to attend school can be a stressful experience. Each year the expected costs of private and public schools increases. Over the course of my undergraduate experience, I believe my expected costs increased by almost $10,000.

Before you enroll in a school, you need to be aware of how you will fund your education and understand that during the following years your expected costs might increase.

Here are some tips to help you minimize the amount of student debt you take on:

1. Avoid living on campus

I know one of the major perks of going off to college or grad school is being able to live on your own. But not living in your college dorms can seriously save you money.

Even if you do not want to live at home, finding an off-campus apartment can be a much cheaper alternative to living on campus. In the close vicinity of college campuses, you can typically find rent that's much cheaper, as long as you don’t live in a major city. 

Of course, you will have to spend money on food, but you can keep your food budget small as long as you are buying groceries and not eating out all the time. 

2. Consider the benefits of going to college in-state

Attending community college is probably the best way to ensure that you will not be overspending on your education, at least for the first 2 years. Even some masters programs partner with community colleges. For example, certain physician assistant programs collaborate with community colleges.

Staying in-state can mean lower tuition fees, and some schools offer benefits for in-county students. You can also receive grants from the state if you decide to attend an in-state school. For example, Pennsylvania has the PA grant, which offers grants to qualified in-state students. My sister received a $6,000 grant from the state of Pennsylvania alone this summer!

3. Keep your grades up before and during college

Many scholarships target students who do well academically. If you want any of these scholarships, in addition to making a list of the scholarships and their requirements, you'll need to work to either get your GPA to the required cut-off or work to maintain and increase your GPA if you are above the cut-off.

Most scholarships require at least a 3.0, while some require you to maintain a 3.5 while you are in college. Make sure you are aware of the requirements, so you can keep your scholarship. Maintaining this GPA can be much harder than it would have been in high school or even undergrad, that is why it is best to seek out academic support if you need to.

4. Avoid taking out private loans

Private loans tend to have much higher interest rates than federal loans. If you can, avoid taking out any private loans otherwise you might find yourself fighting to keep up with the interest rates on your private loans.

Although a loan is a loan, federal loans also provide more benefits to work around financially especially around if you lose your job post-college or experience a reduction in your income. 

5. Take advantage of work-study

Unfortunately, I waited until my last couple semester to take advantage of work-study. It is possible to maintain your grades as well as work a couple of shifts per week. To really benefit from this, pick a job that is low maintenance. Working in a library or administrative environment gives you the opportunity to work on your assignments while you are not busy helping other students.

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Finding the cash to further your education can be quite difficult. But it is definitely possible if you follow these tips and prepare well ahead of time. Trust me when I say, your college experience will be much more enjoyable if you iron out how you will pay to attend before you start.

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