Higher education involves dramatic lifestyle changes, a considerable time commitment, and an unwavering dedication to mastering course material and excelling in extracurricular activities. Planning for higher education should start far before your first day on campus. Failure to set yourself up for educational and financial success could result in crippling student debt post-graduation.
As of recent statistics, student debt in the United States totals to a whopping 1.5 trillion dollars. Each anxiously-awaited acceptance letter contributes thousands of dollars to the debt total. Nowadays, attending university without taking out student loans borders the impossible, given the steadily increasing cost of higher education, especially when attending top-tier and Ivy League colleges.
Student debt affects students’ futures in a variety of ways. Graduates report seemingly unbearable levels of stress due to swelling student debt. Because this student debt compounds over time due to potentially steep interest rates and late fees, graduates struggle to find reprieve from the anxiety induced by student loans.
Unfortunately, graduates must decide between paying off school debt and saving for future purchases, like a home or retirement plan. Although it may seem like the mountain of student loans is insurmountable, there are extensive resources available to help future college students proactively reduce their debt.
Choosing A University Wisely
It’s crucial to weigh the pros and cons of attending a prestigious four-year university versus a two-year community college. Four-year universities—like Stanford or Boston University—yield higher earning potentials and boost chances of scoring an interview and, thus, securing employment. On the other hand, community colleges have lower tuition costs while still offering reputable educational programs in most U.S. cities.
After considering various factors, like personal aspirations and financial ability, soon-to-be college students should research their top schools to find useful information, like acceptance rate statistics. After calculating the Boston University acceptance rate, for example, you’ll notice that more than 50% of first-year students were in the top 10% of their graduating class. With this institution’s high degree of competition in mind, students will need to allocate ample financial resources to boost their odds of gaining acceptance.
For instance, if your test scores are less-than-stellar, you’ll have to cover the costs associated with retaking the ACT or SAT, setting you back financially before you even enroll in your first college course. Remember, the more money spent polishing your resume, the less you’ll have to spend on textbooks or dorm living costs.
Start Saving Early
Successfully saving for college requires ample time and a thoughtfully-devised plan. Although a part-time job or successful side hustle can give you a financial advantage, there are plenty of other routes for cutting college costs.
Start by taking AP or concurrent enrollment courses in high school to shave off a few credits from your degree. College courses cost thousands, while credited high school courses usually land around one to two hundred dollars.
To keep student debt to a minimum, an aspiring college graduate should apply for scholarships. Universities award sizable sums of money and credits each semester via scholarships. Note that each scholarship opportunity will feature unique qualifications and prerequisites.
Implement A Solid Financial Strategy
After the excitement of ripping open your acceptance letter settles, you’ll need to prepare for the onslaught of emotionally-trying tasks that accompany this significant life adjustment.
Designing a detailed plan outlining your course load over the next few years is crucial. Additionally, a first-year student will need to test financial strategies guaranteed to propel you toward graduation without heaps of debt.
This financial plan will need to include a step-by-step savings plan and a detailed budget, which you’ll need to reassess as your college career progresses. Make sure you fully understand your payment plans to avoid late fees and steep interest rates. For those students barred from access to financial opportunities, a large chunk of your college tuition may be tax-deductible, which can save you a significant amount each year.
Student debt can be the ultimate deterrent for high school seniors on the fence about higher education. However, the terms and agreements of student loans don’t have to be a deal-breaker. By choosing a school wisely, saving from an early age, and organizing a detailed financial strategy, students can minimize debt and sprint down the path to success.