Attending college is a great way to educate yourself and get the job you want. Whether you’re going right out of high school or going back to school for a career change, college is expensive. Between tuition, housing expenses, and books and supplies, you can easily be in debt for many years after you get your diploma. When I covered 6 Ways to Deal with Student Loan Debt, I mentioned that it’s vital to do your best to avoid student loans. Before you head out the door for college in the fall, consider these six tips to save money in college.
How to Avoid Student Loan Debt
- Apply for financial aid. Every year you need to reapply for financial aid by filling out the FAFSA. By filling it out, you may qualify for grants or federal loans. A grant is money you will never have to pay back while a federal loan is simply a loan at a lower interest rate. Also, you can see if you qualify for work study. These grants and loans are based on the student and the student’s family’s financial need. But even if you think you make too much to qualify, you may be mistaken so still fill it out.
- Look for scholarships. Scholarships aren’t only for the top of the class and the star athletes. Scholarships are offered by many organizations, and there is a great chance that there are many you can qualify for. Check out scholarships offered by the college you’re applying for and your intended major. Where you work, your parents work, the city and state you live in, and any organizations you and your family are affiliated with can have a scholarship for you. Research scholarships online and by filing out a profile at Fastweb.com. The site matches scholarships you qualify for by asking you questions about your education, race and ethnicity, religious background, and career intentions.
- Only take out loans you need. It’s easy to get tempted to take out more loans for vacations or to live more comfortably, but it’s a slippery slope. Only take out the amount of loans you need to pay your tuition, books, fees, supplies, and living expenses.
- Stick to a budget. It will be even easier to only take out your needed loans if you stick to a budget. When I first went away to college, I always justified being broke by saying all college students don’t have a lot of money. So I definitely did a lot of unnecessary spending. Learn from my mistake and have a monthly budget. Figure out how much it will cost you for rent, transportation, food, books and supplies. Then you will know how much you have to spend on entertainment and other items.
- Work while you’re in school. It may be difficult to find the time, but even working a few hours each week can offset some of your debt. The best situation would be to find a job that is also gaining you experience in your desired field.
- Be smart about supplies. You don’t need to get the most expensive supplies. When buying textbooks, try to buy used books or buy them online. Before you buy a computer, see if your college has a computer lab you can use free of charge.