1. Don’t take on more debt than your expected starting salary: By doing this you’ll be able to pay off your loans in 10 years or so. If you devote more than 15% of your monthly income to student loans, you’re going to be living on ramen noodles long after you’ve graduated from college and moved out of the dorms.
2. Start looking for free money now: Grants and scholarships do not have to be repaid and are available by just searching the internet. These grants and scholarships fund 30% of all college costs, which is up from 25% four years ago.
3. Stick with the federal loans and avoid private loans: It starts with filling out the FAFSA every year which qualifies you for federal aid. Federal loans have fixed interest rates, which are set at 3.68% for undergrads and 5.41% for graduate students, whereas private loans are variable and can be dangerous. Federal loans also offer a deferment period, where the borrow doesn’t have to make payments.
4. If you have to take private loans, only do so after you have maxed out your federal loans.
5. Consider a career in public service: There are several incentives to being a public servant including the Public Service Loan Forgives Program. Here are three career choices that can help you erase student loan debt.
6. Take some classes at a community college: By doing general requirements at a community college, you’re financing a low cost option for half of your education. Those credits are likely to all transfer to a four year institution that you will subsequently receive your degree from.
7. Plan out your course load and schedule: It is NOT your advisors responsibility to ensure you take the right classes and make the right schedule to graduate on time. That is YOUR responsibility. I’ve heard far to many people blame having to take a fifth year to complete a four year degree on their advisor. That is absolutely ridiculous! All the information you need to make scheduling and planning decisions about your education is published online and it is YOUR responsibility to know it. Don’t rely on someone else to make decisions that will significantly impact your life. Be active in your education and accountable to yourself.
8. Cut costs: Live at home or with a roommate. Buy used textbooks and sell the ones you’ll never need again back. Cook your own meals at home. Make a budget and stick to it. Take advantages of tax breaks given to those pursuing higher education. Social expenses add up too. Going out on the weekends is a large part of college and an expense that needs to be budgeted for.