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10 Strategies to Reduce And Repay Your College Debt

10 Strategies to Reduce And Repay Your College Debt

When I finished college, I was lucky to find a great job in my field in less than a year. That was the good news. The bad news was that I had a lot of college debt. I had attended a wonderful, but pricey university. Because I was in an academically challenging program, there were several semesters where I opted to live on loans rather than working. That’s something I now look back on with regret.

I can now happily say that I am debt-free (at least as far as college loans go). It took a while to make it happen, and I learned a few tough lessons along the way. If I had to go back and do things over again, there are definitely some decisions I would reconsider.

Knowing what I know now, here are 10 strategies I would like to pass on to current and prospective college students to help you avoid my mistakes:

1. Apply For Scholarships

I was fortunate enough to receive a small scholarship through a foundation that my father’s employer started. It definitely helped. I wish that I had sought out more scholarship opportunities. Unfortunately, at the time I assumed that these were limited to academic superstars and athletes.

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What I know now is that there are thousands upon thousands of dollars in untapped scholarship funds. These funds are rewarded by a variety of groups and organizations. They are given to students who a pursuing specific career paths, who are able to write convincing essays, who have a history of community service – even students who are exceptionally tall. Do your research and you will likely find at least a handful of scholarships you qualify for to apply to.

Here are some sources to consider:

  • Your local Chamber of Commerce
  • Fraternal organizations and charities
  • Your employer and your parents’ employers
  • Associations and trade unions in your field of choice
  • College and high school alumni associations

2. Seriously Consider Work-Study

This is where I made a big mistake. I didn’t want to work a part-time job off-campus because the standard 20 to 25 hours per week was just too much for my demanding schedule. However, if I had taken a work-study job for twelve to sixteen hours each week, I could have cut the amount of student loan funds that I allocated to personal, living expenses by about half. Considering the high amount of interest that student loan debt accrues, that can be pretty significant.

3. Trade Service for Tuition or Loan Forgiveness

In addition to offering scholarships, some companies will reward students, especially employees, with college funds if they participate in a minimal number of customer service hours. Students who are willing to really commit a significant chunk of time to serving others can participate in government programs that offer tuition payments or loan forgiveness in return for service. However, it is important to note that many of these programs require 10 to 12 months or more of service. Examples of service opportunities include: AmeriCorps, Fema Corps, Peace Corps, and Teach For America.

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4. Look Into More Interest-Friendly Options

Private student loans can be expensive. This is especially true because most college students have not established the credit-worthiness or accumulated assets that they can leverage to negotiate loans at better terms. One thing to consider is asking your parents or another supportive family member to help you to finance your education by co-signing or taking out loans in their names. For example, a personal loan that your parents secure with a certificate of deposit at their hometown bank may be half the interest of an unsecured student loan from a large bank.

5. Avoid For-Profit Schools

The two best ways to deal with student debt is to simply pay less tuition and attend a school with a great post-graduate employment rate. One of the best ways to make this happen is to steer clear of for-profit schools in favor of public and private colleges and universities. You will pay significantly lower tuition rates and increase your chances of obtaining a good job post-grad. If you choose to, you will also increase the likelihood that you will be accepted into a decent graduate program.

6. Cut Back on Spending and Delay Major Purchases

Once you have finished school, it is time to sit down and create a five-year financial plan. If you have a lot of debt coming out of school, this plan should focus on reducing spending and being conservative when it comes to taking on new debt.

It is also important to prioritize ensuring that your student loan payments are made without fail. This way, if there is ever a significant financial emergency in the future, you are in a better position to renegotiate terms. For some graduates, this may mean finding alternative ways to deal with emergency expenses. According to First Choice Title Pawn, there are easy ways to get quick cash in the case of emergencies, while still keeping up with your other financial obligations.

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7. Consider Community Colleges and Public Universities

If you are unsure about your major or the career you want to pursue, are you sure you want to go into thousands of dollars in debt to attend a private university? Many students opt to do this and end up owing banks and the federal government lots of money.

If you do have your heart set on attending a private college or your future goals require that you attend a four-year college, take a look at commuter schools and community colleges anyway. You may be able to earn credits during summer sessions by taking a couple of classes at the local community college that you can apply towards your degree.

8. Start Paying Down The Debt Immediately

Many students don’t realize this, but you don’t have to wait until graduation to begin making payments. Even small payments made while you are still in school can help you to reduce your overall debt. This is good information to pass onto your parents as well, if they have committed to helping you pay down your debt.

9. Pay More Than The Minimum Payment Each Month

If it helps, think of your student loan payments like you would a mortgage payment. If you only pay the minimum, the terms of your loan could stretch for decades. However, if you double your payments, or make a second payment each month, you can significantly reduce the length of your loan. Just keep in mind that all loans vary, and ask your lender for information on their specific policies.

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10. Consider Career Paths That Earn Loan Forgiveness

If you are interested in a career that serves others, you may be qualified for full or partial student loan forgiveness. Students entering fields such as nursing, social work, and public education can often have their debt reduced or even eliminated altogether. Just be aware that there are restrictions. For example, a teacher willing to work for five years in the public school system is more likely to qualify than a teacher who goes to work for an elite private school.

Student loan debt is a real problem. It significantly impacts the quality of life of many college graduates, and has also become a matter of political concern. By using the tips outlined above, you may be able to reduce or even avoid taking on too much crushing debt.

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Published on November 8, 2018

How to Answer the Tough Question: What are Your Salary Requirements?

How to Answer the Tough Question: What are Your Salary Requirements?

After a few months of hard work and dozens of phone calls later, you finally land a job opportunity.

But then, you’re asked about your salary requirements and your mind goes blank. So, you offer a lower salary believing this will increase your odds at getting hired.

Unfortunately, this is the wrong approach.

Your salary requirements can make or break your odds at getting hired. But only if you’re not prepared.

Ask for a salary too high with no room for negotiation and your potential employer will not be able to afford you. Aim too low and employers will perceive as you offering low value. The trick is to aim as high as possible while keeping both parties feel happy.

Of course, you can’t command a high price without bringing value.

The good news is that learning how to be a high-value employee is possible. You have to work on the right tasks to grow in the right areas. Here are a few tactics to negotiate your salary requirements with confidence.

1. Hack time to accomplish more than most

Do you want to get paid well for your hard work? Of course you do. I hate to break it to you, but so do most people.

With so much competition, this won’t be an easy task to achieve. That’s why you need to become a pro at time management.

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Do you know how much free time you have? Not the free time during your lunch break or after you’ve finished working at your day job. Rather, the free time when you’re looking at your phone or watching your favorite TV show.

Data from 2017 shows that Americans spend roughly 3 hours watching TV. This is time poorly spent if you’re not happy with your current lifestyle. Instead, focus on working on your goals whenever you have free time.

For example, if your commute to/from work is 1 hour, listen to an educational Podcast. If your lunch break is 30 minutes, read for 10 to 15 minutes. And if you have a busy life with only 30–60 minutes to spare after work, use this time to work on your personal goals.

Create a morning routine that will set you up for success every day. Start waking up 1 to 2 hours earlier to have more time to work on your most important tasks. Use tools like ATracker to break down which activities you’re spending the most time in.

It won’t be easy to analyze your entire day, so set boundaries. For example, if you have 4 hours of free time each day, spend at least 2 of these hours working on important tasks.

2. Set your own boundaries

Having a successful career isn’t always about the money. According to Gallup, about 70% of employees aren’t satisfied with their current jobs.[1]

Earning more money isn’t a bad thing, but choosing a higher salary over the traits that are the most important to you is. For example, if you enjoy spending time with your family, reject job offers requiring a lot of travel.

Here are some important traits to consider:

  • Work and life balance – The last thing you’d want is a job that forces you to work 60+ hours each week. Unless this is the type of environment you’d want. Understand how your potential employer emphasizes work/life balance.
  • Self-development opportunities – Having the option to grow within your company is important. Once you learn how to do your tasks well, you’ll start becoming less engaged. Choose a company that encourages employee growth.
  • Company culture – The stereotypical cubicle job where one feels miserable doesn’t have to be your fate. Not all companies are equal in culture. Take, for example, Google, who invests heavily in keeping their employees happy.[2]

These are some of the most important traits to look for in a company, but there are others. Make it your mission to rank which traits are important to you. This way you’ll stop applying to the wrong companies and stay focused on what matters to you more.

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3. Continuously invest in yourself

Investing in yourself is the best investment you can make. Cliche I know, but true nonetheless.

You’ll grow as a person and gain confidence with the value you’ll be able to bring to others. Investing in yourself doesn’t have to be expensive. For example, you can read books to expand your knowledge in different fields.

Don’t get stuck into the habit of reading without a purpose. Instead, choose books that will help you expand in a field you’re looking to grow. At the same time, don’t limit yourself to reading books in one subject–create a healthy balance.

Podcasts are also a great medium to learn new subjects from experts in different fields. The best part is they’re free and you can consume them on your commute to/from work.

Paid education makes sense if you have little to no debt. If you decide to go back to school, be sure to apply for scholarships and grants to have the least amount of debt. Regardless of which route you take to make it a habit to grow every day.

It won’t be easy, but this will work to your advantage. Most people won’t spend most of their free time investing in themselves. This will allow you to grow faster than most, and stand out from your competition.

4. Document the value you bring

Resumes are a common way companies filter employees through the hiring process. Here’s the big secret: It’s not the only way you can showcase your skills.

To request for a higher salary than most, you have to do what most are unwilling to do. Since you’re already investing in yourself, make it a habit to showcase your skills online.

A great way to do this is to create your own website. Pick your first and last name as your domain name. If this domain is already taken, get creative and choose one that makes sense.

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Here are some ideas:

  • joesmith.com
  • joeasmith.com
  • joesmithprojects.com

Nowadays, building a website is easy. Once you have your website setup, begin producing content. For example, if you a developer you can post the applications you’re building.

During your interviews, you’ll have an online reference to showcase your accomplishments. You can use your accomplishments to justify your salary requirements. Since most people don’t do this, you’ll have a higher chance of employers accepting your offer

5. Hide your salary requirements

Avoid giving you salary requirements early in the interview process.

But if you get asked early, deflect this question in a non-defensive manner. Explain to the employer that you’d like to understand your role better first. They’ll most likely agree with you; but if they don’t, give them a range.

The truth is great employers are more concerned about your skills and the value you bring to the company. They understand that a great employee is an investment, able to earn them more than their salary.

Remember that a job interview isn’t only for the employer, it’s also for you. If the employer is more interested in your salary requirements, this may not be a good sign. Use this question to gauge if the company you’re interviewing is worth working for.

6. Do just enough research

Research average salary compensation in your industry, then wing it.

Use tools like Glassdoor to research the average salary compensation for your industry. Then leverage LinkedIn’s company data that’s provided with its Pro membership. You can view a company’s employee growth and the total number of job openings.

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Use this information to make informed decisions when deciding on your salary requirements. But don’t limit yourself to the average salary range. Companies will usually pay you more for the value you have.

Big companies will often pay more than smaller ones.[3] Whatever your desired salary amount is, always ask for a higher amount. Employers will often reject your initial offer. In fact, offer a salary range that’ll give you and your employer enough room to negotiate.

7. Get compensated by your value

Asking for the salary you deserve is an art. On one end, you have to constantly invest in yourself to offer massive value. But this isn’t enough. You also have to become a great negotiator.

Imagine requesting a high salary and because you bring a lot of value, employers are willing to pay you this. Wouldn’t this be amazing?

Most settle for average because they’re not confident with what they have to offer. Most don’t invest in themselves because they’re not dedicated enough. But not you.

You know you deserve to get paid well, and you’re willing to put in the work. Yet, you won’t sacrifice your most important values over a higher salary.

The bottom line

You’ve got what it takes to succeed in your career. Invest in yourself, learn how to negotiate, and do research. The next time you’re asked about your salary requirements, you won’t fumble.

You’ll showcase your skills with confidence and get the salary you deserve. What’s holding you back now?

Featured photo credit: LinkedIn Sales Navigator via unsplash.com

Reference

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