student loanSchool loans can seem like a good idea on the surface – they allow you to go to school without working a job, focus on your studies, and usually have a low interest rate which often doesn’t kick in till after you’ve graduated. But frequently the math just doesn’t add up.

Sometimes, students take out loans without thinking about the fact that they will, eventually, have to pay them back! College loans are bad in the same way living on credit is bad: it may seem like a good idea at the time, but it’s impossible to know what the future holds and if you’ll be in a better position to repay the loans in a few years than you are now.

Calculated Risk

That’s not to say there aren’t any scenarios in which using loans to finance your education is an ok option. When seriously considering taking out school loans, it’s crucial that you objectively weigh the potential outcomes of the decision. For example, what will your earning power be with your desired degree? There’s no way of knowing for sure what job you’ll get – or that you’ll get a job right out of college – but some industries will automatically pay better than others. Getting loans for an education that won’t pay well once you’re done with school is not usually a wise choice.

Another scenario is to consider the school you’ll be attending. Some schools – like Ivy Leagues or some private schools – carry a high price tag but also provide their graduates with high job placement rates, high earning potential, and a network of people to help them through their career. In these situations the benefits of such an education may outweigh the risks or detriments of taking out loans.

Put Yourself Through School

If you won’t be getting any help from your family, and it’s up to you to foot the bill for college be sure to exhaust all your options before looking to loans. There are a plethora of scholarships out there – check with governmental and local organizations to see what you can qualify for. Also look at Fastweb.com for a list of smaller and sometimes obscure scholarships that are worth entering. Your high school and college should also be a good resource for finding scholarships.

Working to put yourself though school isn’t fun, but it can be done. There are the “typical” college jobs like bartender or barista but also check into jobs that provide a higher return both money-wise and career-wise. It’s possible to get a jump start on building your resume while still in college – jobs in professional fields typically pay more plus they can give you the experience you need to get a leg up when job hunting after college. Looking for jobs within your school is a good place to start to ensure that they’ll be able to accommodate your school schedule. Positions like marketing assistant, research assistant, lab assistants and so forth may be available on your campus.

And there’s also the option to work as a self-employed contractor. If you want to beef up your writing portfolio, look for freelance writing gigs. Fields like web development, graphic design, fact checking and research are also other areas that can be a good fit for a student. Craigslist is a valuable source for this type of work, but again use all the resources that your school provides.

Getting through school debt-free may require a bit of creativity but it’s a very viable option and you’ll have much more to look forward to once you’re done besides paying down school loans!

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