For many young adults, college is usually the first big decision they have to make. The implications of this decision are huge, particularly the financial implications. The price tag of a college education is more than many cars and in some cases more than a house.
That is a huge decision to make yet many make the decision flippantly and deal with the consequences over the next decade or two of their lives. There is good news though. You don't have to settle with a mountain of student loan debt. There are simple steps you can take that make a big difference over time.
What to Do if You're Still in School
If you're still in school you have the opportunity to make a tremendous impact on your student loans. Interest has not yet started accruing on your loans and you, of course, don't have loans for future semesters yet.
You need to make every effort to avoid incurring additional debt. The best way to do this is aggressively pursue scholarships. Talk to your professors and the other faculty. They often know of scholarships that aren't widely publicized. Not only that, they are sometime able to provide a recommendation that will give you an advantage over the other applicants.
The second thing you should do is look at opportunities to work in your field that don't require a full bachelor's degree. You may be able to get a certification or even your associates degree with minimal effort as your work towards your bachelor's.
Some programs actually offer the opportunity to earn a certification you can use to work in your field during the course of earning a full 4year degree. Just one example is Gwynedd Mercy University, one of the radiation therapy schools in PA, which allows you to earn a Radiation Therapy Certification in 20 months which then counts towards the credits needed to earn your degree.
Working in your field provides valuable experience that will help when searching for a job postgraduation. It also provides an income while you are in school that you can use to pay for tuition, fees and books out of pocket. You may even make enough to reduce debt that you're already accumulated. Even $20/hour makes a big difference on a student loan.
What to Do If You've Already Graduated
If you've already graduated, see if you are eligible for one of the many loan forgiveness programs available. By working for a certain period of time in a public service position you can have a portion or all of your student loans forgiven.
If that isn't an option in your field, look at side work that you can do to bring in some extra income. It only takes a few hundred extra per month to shave years off your student loans.
Those extra payments also reduce the overall interest amount that you will pay, saving you even more.
Don't let your student loan balance discourage you. Do everything you can to save on expenses, bring in extra income and lower your student loan balance.
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