Many millennials are doing one thing wrong when it comes to college. Can you guess what it is?
Sleeping through class and not doing homework? Taking out way too many loans and knowing nothing about them? If you guessed the latter, then you’re right! Millennials are taking out more in student debt than they can handle. And when it comes to repayment, they are clueless. According to a survey by Citizens Bank, 45% of those surveyed didn’t know what percentage of their salary went towards loans and a shocking 15% didn’t even know how much they owed in student loans.
In the past decade, the number of students in debt hasn’t gone up much (about 5%), but the amount of debt they are in has doubled. This is in part to ill preparation before and a lack of knowledge of the funding that goes into paying for college. Most recent graduates regret taking out as much as they did and some say they wouldn’t have ever gone to college if they would have known how expensive it really would be.
Student debt is also adding up for this younger generation because parents are relying on PLUS loans to pay for the remainder of college expenses. Students can only take out $31,000 for their entire undergraduate education, but parents can take out as much as they want, even if they know they won’t ever be able to pay this off. Their children then feel like it is their responsibility to pay it off, and debt goes into the $100,000 range. Preparing for college is more than just getting good grades. Educating yourself on the types of loans and repayment options should be the first step. There are many other things you can do before, during, and after college as well to make your higher education a reality without drowning in debt.
Starting young is the most beneficial way to be able to pay for school. Get a part-time job after school or in the summer and set a chunk of your paycheck aside for a college fund. If a job isn’t possible for you during school, like it is for some people, work your butt off in school and get ahead. Many high schools offer AP classes that give you college credit if you pass the test or classes that are offered through the college at your high school. This can put you semesters ahead and cut down the time it will take to get your degree.
Getting good grades or being involved can get you scholarships — AKA free money. You don’t have to get scholarships only from the college you are going to or only in a certain area (i.e. academics). Dip into scholarships from different organizations for different interests. There are hundreds of organizations that offer scholarships for all sorts of things. From being part of the National Honor Society to just being tall, a quick Google search will help you find the perfect scholarship for you. It won’t come easily, but there are plenty of options for you to apply for. The more money you can rack up in scholarships, the less you will owe back after college.
Avoiding debt doesn’t stop once you get into college. There are four years where work can be done to avoid debt. Continue looking for scholarships. Things change while you are in college and you might find yourself qualified for more scholarships than you were when you came to the school.
Find ways to cut down on costs so you don’t need as much in student loans. This could be as simple as staying close to home in order to live at home for a few semesters or even taking a semester off to work and save up. Renting or buying used textbooks can also save you from many unnecessary expenses. While spring break in Cancun might seem like part of the college experience, it’s not. Cutting down on luxuries like this for four years will cut down on debt drastically.
There are plenty of part-time, flexible jobs that are perfect for college students. Being an Uber driver only takes having a car and a license, and you can pick when you work. It can be as simple as signing up for medical transcription training online and spending nights converting recorded medical notes into text. You may not spend college with the most glamorous job, but at least you won’t be as in debt as your roommate who spends his weekends playing video games.
Paying off Student Loans
After college, there are a couple of options to get out of debt fast. Understanding the different repayment options is key to paying off Uncle Sam in a few years. There are options that allow you to pay a fixed rate and be paid in full in 10 years or there are options that work to your income. Some loans even have forgiveness programs where you no longer have to pay after a certain amount of time if you meet the criteria.
Understanding your options and what you can do to save money at all points of your college career is vital to being able to get out from under your student loans soon after graduation. If you know what you are doing beforehand and not just winging it with your loans, you’ll be out of debt and into that new Toyota Corolla LE and four bedroom house in no time.