Debt is something we all should avoid, but it seems like Generation Y is piling it on in droves. Recent grads – and even those still in school – are running up both student loan and credit card debt. The average graduate collects their sheepskin with almost $30,000 in student loans and $2,500 in credit card debt. As finding a job continues to be a challenge for many new graduates, this amount of debt can be catastrophic. So what’s a student to do?
Here’s some ideas…
#1 Scour for Scholarships There is a ton of money out there in scholarships and you don’t have to be a 4.0 student to get it. Check with your college financial aid office, search for local church or business scholarships, have your parents check to see if their jobs offer funds for children of staffers and be sure to check for heritage scholarships such as Daughters of the American Revolution, Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy. Every dollar of free money you can get is money you don’t have to borrow, earn or beg from your parents. Many require an application or an essay and some offer modest awards of $100-$500 up to larger awards of several thousand dollars, but it all adds up and competition may be less heated for smaller dollar awards.
#2 Go Out for Grants Grants are as good as scholarships because they don’t have to be paid back! Grants are available from Federal and State governments, colleges, public, private and professional organizations. This will likely take research – as will #1 above. No one is going to back a money truck up to your dorm and give you cash for school – you have to go looking for it. Leave no stone unturned for free money. Bug your college financial aid office, go back and bug your high school guidance counselor, resign yourself to hours of internet searching and just go for it. Your entire financial future may depend on it!
#3 Work, Study, Work, Study (repeat as necessary) Just because lenders are willing to loan you money for school doesn’t mean you have to take it. As a matter of fact, it should be your very last resort. There are a few options to earn money for college while in college:
$$ First, you can go to school full time and work part time during the year and full time every summer and devote every penny you earn to paying tuition, board, fees and books.
$$ Second, you can go to school part time and work full time year-round. This is more challenging and will take you more time to complete your degree, but if you can graduate debt free with a nice employment track record, it will be well worth it.
$$ Third, alternate work and school. Most scholarships and grants allow you take a semester off here and there so long as you don’t take two or more off in a row. Check with your financial aid office to see if your free money will be there when you get back.
This is also a great way to get experience in your field. You may be able to get a paid cooperative education position through your college placement office. You’ll not only be earning money to pay for school, you can be gaining valuable job experience. For highly competitive fields like the film and video game industry, a co-op or internship could mean the difference between getting a job after school or being unemployed.
Certainly the easier route – for the short term – is to take the student loans offered and skip out on a job. This will leave you with plenty of time to party and enjoy life for those four (or five) short years you’re pursuing your Bachelor’s. Or… You can be responsible now and say no to the easy money, and inevitably, no to many of the parties you’ll miss by working during school. Your reward? When all of your college compadres are struggling with student loan debt and stuck living back at home, you’ll be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor – your own apartment, a nice car – and time and money to party for many years to come!
If you have student loan debt, check out Tuition.io’s free tool to manage your student loans in one simple application. You can see repayment options, contact your lenders and a host of other services – all for free!