Avoiding Student Loans
College is the new high school but unfortunately it costs money. It is very difficult to get a decent-paying job without a college education yet at the same time you can graduate with a four-year degree and the equivalent of a house’s worth of debt to pay back. What can you do?
There are grants and scholarships to apply for and these may lower the amount of money you have to borrow. Grants and scholarships are moneys awarded to you which lower the amount of tuition you owe and thus the amount of money you must borrow.
Every college is going to have people to help you with federal financial aid; they want you to attend their college and they will do whatever they can to make it cheap. Talk to the financial aid people wherever you apply for details about this.
There are two basic sources of scholarships: inside the college and outside the college. Inside the college, scholarships moneys are often provided by alumni or in memory of people important to the college. Some of these scholarships may be very small-a couple hundred dollars for example. Yet others may be substantial. These awards may be for academic achievement, special talents such as playing music, or for characteristics you may possess. For example, there may be a scholarship for students who are the first generation in their family to go to college. For award possibilities, talk with the financial aid people and be sure you ask them about the types of scholarships available for various characteristics people possess to see if you fit any of their categories.
Outside the college, you may want to consider the types of grants given to people who agree to major in a certain area and then to work in that area. For example, if you are interested in being a teacher, there may be grants available if you are willing to work in under-served schools. The advantage of this is a reduction in what you owe. This disadvantage is that you owe some years of service. If you are thinking of going into a service-oriented field, look into this type of grant as a possibility.
Various organizations also offer scholarships. For example, students who have parents working at certain corporations may be eligible for scholarships from those corporations. Churches or church associations may also have scholarship funds that can help out. You might also look into civic clubs because occasionally the Rotary Club or some other equivalent organization may offer a scholarship.
When you are applying for college, apply several places, even at colleges you do not think you can afford. Sometimes the financial aid package you get from a private school may make it cost less than a public school. Remember also that your chances of financial aid are less at a highly prestigious school and much stronger at a place where you can get a good education but the name of the school is not as highly prized.
Finally, the time-honored way of avoiding student loans is to work. There are some real advantages to working your way through school. One is that when you graduate, you will have real jobs on your resume, not just field placements. Even if your jobs are not in your major area, having a job while in school demonstrates that you have the basic skills of any employee (able to show up to work on time, etc.). Another is that working will require you to learn some excellent organization skills in order to keep up with work and classes. These skills will help you the rest of your life.
Even with all these tips, you may still have to borrow in order to complete your education. Yet perhaps you can cut the amount of debt back to something manageable, which will give you a great start on your career life.