In the past two years, about 65% of students have graduated with a cumulative average of $23,000 in debt tied to educational cost. And the average payback period for these loans is 10 years. While the excitement of graduating college may serve as a motivation for taking on life’s challenges, debt proves to be a persistent burden in weighing one down in one’s career.
The question now becomes if these loans could have been avoided. Certainly! However it takes diligence and proper planning for this to work. How can you avoid or eliminate school loans? The first and probably best attack against school loans is to study hard for the SAT and get outstanding scores with which one can get a full ride scholarship. Often times when one gets a scholarship of this sort, there is usually a GPA requirement to be maintained. This will mean that time that would have been otherwise channeled to some other extra-curricular activities will now be focused on studying and career advancing activities. However in reality many will see this as a feat to be accomplished, so here are a few steps that will be taken in order to keep a tight limit on student loans.
1. Have a plan
Understanding that a college education is a means to an end is a very valuable mindset to embrace. Proverbs 29:18 reveals that without a vision, people are unrestrained. A plan for your college life, courses, finances, social life etc is very important, and will keep you in check against distractions.
Time is money, and this could be no truer here. Every additional semester spent in college above the prescribed time for the coursework will cost extra money. However with a plan, forces you to walk a straight path. You are able to ask yourself most times if your actions are contributing the success of your plan. Through a personal plan, you can eliminate or severely reduce these additional costs in addition to school loans.
2. Live a frugal life
“…for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing…” Philippians 4:11,12, NLT.
Living a frugal life will help reduce, or eliminate the need for school loans. To be frugal doesn’t mean to be stingy, meaning to be slack in giving, however it means being able to live an inexpensive life. While I’m advocate of prosperity, recognizing that your college education is a means to an end will require you to live a financially disciplined life. I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, then you probably need the knowledge on avoiding student loans. Not everything you see is worthy of you spending your dollar on. 4 years of college translates to 48 months, and if you can save yourself $50 a month by living a frugal life, you can save yourself about $2000 through college.
You will have to learn to say “No” to some things. When making a decision, you have to ask yourself the question of if to buy the $100 pair of shoes or the $35 dollar shoes, or make a decision to strategically plan your shopping during seasonal sale s at departmental stores, cooking at home versus eating out.
I’ll add, live at home for as long as you can. Picture this, the average room and board per year is $12,000, this translates to $48,000 a year.
3. If possible avoid buying text books
Text books usually range between $150 and $300 every semester, and it has been tagged amongst the top ten overpriced expenses for college students. Avoiding buying text books could be very tricky, as it could mean the difference in you excelling in a class or barely making it through. Often times the class texts are available in the school library, or in public libraries. If not, check with a friend or a friend-of- a friend, or search on craigslist. The point here is to keep text book cost at a minimum. Only purchase books when it is necessary.
4. Apply for grants and scholarships
Grants and scholarships are typically reward based money that will go a long way in eliminating loans. Grants are different from scholarships and financial aid in that they are free gift money given on a need basis, rather than merit based like scholarships. Most financial aid offices have some allocation for grants. So what do you do? Make an appointment with your college advisor or go to your financial aid office and show determination and desire to complete your college education. In essence show that you need the money, and make a case for why the money given to you won’t be a waste. Don’t be discouraged if you’re turned down the first couple of times. I have a friend who persistently asked, and he received grant money of about $20,000 over a period of two years from his school’s financial aid office.
Also don’t stop applying for scholarships! A simple search on google with the search string “college scholarships” will bring up a bunch of different options, and this is what you spend most of your free time doing. Some are given based on you GPA and community service work, some are given based on how convincing you are in an essay; Whichever the case, keep applying, get as much free money as you can.
In line with this, build good relationships with your professors and advisors. Their favorable recommendations will be of great value when applying for scholarships.
“Choose a good reputation over great riches; being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold” Proverbs 22:1, NLT
5. Go to a community/2yr college for pre-requisite
For every degree program, there are a series of general education courses that need to be taken before courses that focus on your major. But why pay so much for the same set of courses that can be taken at a 2yr college and transferred to your university of choice? The tuition at community/2yr colleges are significantly lower than tuition at universities, and most times the credit for gen-ed courses are transferable. Do proper research here to ensure the outcome is positive for you . This will probably be the initial best use of money that may have been saved up for college.
6. Get a job, or work study
Certainly this was going to come in, get a job! Whatever free time you have can be used to earn some income. If possible get a job that will allow you some free time on the job to look over class work. Most on campus jobs are pretty lenient with this because they understand that you need the income while you go to school. My recommendation will be to work about 20hrs a week, at least this will give you enough to cover some of your basic expenses.
The best jobs are academic work study jobs. These are part-time jobs that are given based on need to those who meet certain requirements. At a minimum, you can expect to earn the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25 an hour. But beyond this, you will get a portion of your tuition paid, and this can be as much as 50% off your tuition in some cases.
7. Request cash as gifts
Throughout your college experiences, there will be events, celebrations where people will want to give you gifts. At a minimum, Christmas and birthdays, at these events make it clear to people who ask that you would prefer cash donations as gifts. This means that a person that would have bought you a pair of shoes for $120 will probably just write you a check for $100. That’s cash in hand and it’s worth more than the shoes. Some people may find this a little sensitive, but truthfully this doesn’t mean you’re begging. You’re just making it easier for people who would have otherwise gotten you a gift, but this time, its money that you can channel to some area where you need it most.
8. Be diligent in your studies
Need I say this? As intuitive as this may sound, many people think it’s enough to just make it through college, but really that is not good enough. You are supposed to excel above all, be the best where you are. Being diligent will give you an edge over everyone else, your academic excellence puts you in a better position to get scholarships, and with better grades you are in a better position to get a good paying job quickly. This verse of scripture puts the point in its simplest form: “All hard work brings a profit…” Proverbs 14:23, NIV
9. Be a giver
You may think: “but we’re talking about saving money here…” That’s true, however spiritual laws supersede natural wisdom, and one of the spiritual laws that exist as it relates to our finances is the law of seed time and harvest. God promises a blessing in return as we sow a seed of goodwill into the life of another (Luke 6:38). Having a giving attitude psychologically breaks the tendency to become self absorbed financially.
Another thing to realize when it comes to giving is that not all that you receive has to be financial. However there are benefits that are received that are intangible. Pay attention to these and if you would like, try and quantify them in cash, and you’ll resolve for yourself that being a giver pays!
“Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything.” Proverbs 11:24, NLT
10. If you must take loans, make sure every dollar goes towards the tuition
The point of this article is to keep student loans at $0, realizing that all the above are suggestions that have been proven; however the choice to follow them is left to you. If you have done all these and you still have to take a loan, please don’t use the money to buy a Gucci purse or Prada loafers or the likes. Ensure every dollar is spent wisely; towards your college education. Always remember you’re on a journey, and every decision counts towards the fulfillment of the vision.
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Be blessed and live debt free!