Monday, 23 March 2009

Get Through College Debt-Free

Image thanks to Banalities

This is a guest post - enjoy!

There are many reasons to be excited about starting college, from leaving home for the first time, to being able to choose your course of study, but there are also concerns, and one of the biggest is how to get through college without debt.

Before You Leave for School

While there's no denying that your student loans are one of the best kinds of debt you can incur, it's also true that you should avail yourself of every possible scholarship and grant you can find. Here are a few ways you can do this, before you even leave high school:

Bond with your Guidance Counselor: Your high school guidance counselor is a direct source for everything from lists of smaller colleges and universities that are offering grants and scholarships in order to attract students, to scholarship competition information (and assistance with the applications) to helping you narrow down your field of study before you ever get to campus. He or she can also give you information on low-cost student loans that you and your parents can consider.

Consider a State School: Private universities come with prestige, it's true, but they also come with huge price tags and heavy competition. State schools generally offer an equally excellent education and a considerably lower price – and smaller state schools sometimes waive tuition for residents. If money is really tight, you can also do some of your core classes at a junior college.

Know What You Want: The best education is useless if you don't really want it, or have no clue what you want to study. Before you commit to college at all, think very carefully about your goals for the future. While a higher education is important, sometimes you'll serve yourself better by taking a year off – what the British refer to as a "gap year" – to work or travel before resuming your education.

After You're on Campus

Once you arrive at school, you'll be confronted by all sorts of people trying to sell you things, some of which you need, and some of which you don't. Schools, after all, are businesses, and want your money. Here are several ways to save money in such situations:

Credit Cards: Major credit card companies are on every college campus looking for young consumers, and offering free gifts in exchange for an application. It may be your first opportunity to get a credit card of your own, but unless you have excellent self control, it's better to decline the offers.

Books: Your campus bookstore is convenient, but is it cheaper? If your financial aid package doesn't include your books, consider buying them online – you'll almost certainly save money, even on used books. You can also check out another campus resource: the library.

Housing: If your parents live close to campus, and your college of choice allows freshmen to live off-campus, consider living at home while you go to school. If that's not an option, remember that off-campus housing is usually less expensive than dorm living, and rooms with roommates are cheaper than singles.

Parking: If your school is on an urban campus consider leaving your car at home – you won't have to pay for parking, and you'll save money on insurance, as well. Even if your campus isn't in an urban neighborhood, chances are you won't really need it at school. If you do, and your school requires that you pay for a parking permit, try to find parking close enough to campus that you can easily walk home, but far enough away that you don't need a pass.

Food: If you live in a dorm, you're probably required to buy a meal plan, but if you live off-campus, or are not required to – don't. You'll spend far less bringing snacks from home than you will in the food-court equivalents that have taken over so many college cafeterias.

Other Sources of Funds

If scrimping and saving still leaves you a little flat once your tuition, room and board have been covered, you should consider an on-campus job. Work-study is generally offered as part of a financial aid package, but there are other jobs on campus, including internships, research assistant positions, and becoming part of the resident advisor staff (which also tends to get you a discount on housing.) Keep your ears open, and get to know your fellow students and your professors, and it will be easier to find a job if you need one.

Getting the money for tuition is relatively easy if you have good grades, and are motivated. Getting through school without debt is more difficult, but these tips should help you manage a bit better.

For more information visit us at Premier Student Loans with some top tips for managing debt whilst at college or university.

Were these tips helpful? What are your opinions on managing college debt?







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1 comment:

Harriet said...

I'm not sure how it is for everyone but I'd say in the UK it's probably cheaper to live in a non-catered hall of residence rather than living off campus as you say, as bills are usually all included and you don't have to pay for the summer holidays - but that's just from my personal expirience. Plus we don't have private/state universities - everything is the same price (although it keeps going up!), it's just rent and such like that vary from place to place.

I'd definitely agree with not getting catered options though, as where I am (Bristol) they are pretty over priced and don't include lunch or weekends.

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