After 5 brutal long years, I can say that I am finally graduating college in just a few *short* months.
To be completely honest, I had no plans to go to college after high school. I didn't think much of my life or myself and didn't think I'd amount to anything. The fact that I am graduating college making $10k per month on my blog is mind-blowing.
It's really crazy how much you grow when you get out of that toxic mindset.
Anyway, before I run off on a tangent about how amazing life is and how we are all capable of anything, let's get back to student loans. Ah, the dreaded student loans.
I am graduating with $14,958.28 in loans, including that whole dollar of interest (pictured below).
The average student loan amount for a college graduate is $30,100, so $14,958 is pretty good.
I was not the type of student to get a full ride to college and didn't like sports, so a sports scholarship wasn't in the works either. I took part in no extracurricular activities and simply went as a regular full paying student.
My student loan covers going to a community college, a private university ($20,000 per year) and ending at my current school which is a public college for approximately 3 years. I've been in school since 2013 (I changed majors once).
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Below are a few things I did to make sure I graduated with “little” in student loans. (Little is relative, for sure).
1. Community College
Before heading off to college, I enrolled in a local community college and paid only $94 per credit hour. I completed my general education courses at this rate and saved a crap ton of money. Seriously. Why are people heading straight to university if their education isn't covered?
Maybe the extra $20,000 per year is worth it to some, but kids should at least be educated on student loans and how they can take FOREVER to pay off.
- Make sure your university or college takes ALL of your credits from the community college
- Choose a community college in your local town. Local residents will get the cheapest rate for the community college versus someone who lives in the same state but is from out of town
- Community colleges have tons of scholarships and grants just like regular college. Make sure to talk to your financial aid counselor about this before signing up for a financial aid plan
- Going to a community college lets you figure out if you're passionate about a certain major. Instead of heading off to a $20,000 a year school to figure out what you want to do with your life, go to a community college. Better yet, take a gap year like Malia Obama did and travel the world. This is common practice in Europe and is slowly becoming more popular in the U.S.
Also, did you do poorly in high school? Go to community college! This is your chance to raise your grades and then you can apply to a school and have a much better chance of receiving scholarships and getting accepted.
2. Paying out of pocket
Paying out of pocket when you can is extremely helpful. Every dollar counts.
Once all of my pell grants go through, I pay whatever is left over out of pocket when I can. I go to a school that is fairly inexpensive, and my blogging income helps a lot, so I can afford to do this.
I've been steadily working 3 jobs throughout my college career which has allowed me to pay out of pocket when I can.
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3. Scholarships and Grants
Scholarship Owl is a handy tool to use if you're heading to college or currently in college. Scholarship Owl is an online service that applies to hundreds of scholarships for you. All you need to do is go through the registration process (it's easy) and then you can start applying for scholarships all at once.
Many people are afraid or intimidated by scholarships. Don't be! There are seriously so many scholarships and some are so easy to get.
For example, most schools have transfer student scholarships.
These are worth up to $10,000 at most schools and the higher your GPA, the higher your scholarship will be. Just for being a transfer student! This is another reason to go to a community college first.
There are even scholarships for being a “First Generation College Student”, meaning your parents didn't graduate from college. Or, if you're going to the same college your parents graduated from, you can get an alumni scholarship!
Grants are also known as “free financial aid”. You typically do not need to pay these back. However, there are some situations when you would need to pay these back, which you can learn more about here.
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4. Never take out more than you need
I've never taken out more than I need for student loans.
Typically, students will get a refund which is the leftover money from the loan. This is bad news! I know of way too many people who take out 100% of what is awarded to them and spend the leftover on things such as shopping or vacation. This ends up hurting you in the long run since this money comes with interest.
It may feel nice to get some extra money that seems to be “free money”, but you should avoid this at all cost.
5. Pay off interest
If you can, pay off interest (if you have unsubsidized loans) throughout your student career. And when possible, use all grants and then subsidized loans, and then unsubsidized loans.
Subsidized loans usually don't charge you interest while you're in school and up to 6 months after you graduate.
Unsubsidized loans start accruing interest as soon as the loan gets taken out. When you take out loans, these are the loans you want to take out the least amount of.
Paying off interest early is helpful for several reasons. This in-depth article from Great Lakes on reducing your student loan payments will explain and show you how to reduce what you owe.
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6. Stay home with parents
Don't be ashamed to live with your parents! I would've lived with my parents forever if I had the chance to, instead I had to move out after high school and start paying my own bills immediately.
You can save so much money while living with your parents, which sets you off to have a much better chance of being financially independent after college. Student loans suck and unfortunately, most people don't understand the burden they place until it's too late.
If you're reading this before you've even applied to college, awesome. You're going to be way ahead of the student loan game. If you're reading this after you've graduated college, read this incredibly helpful guide to get you on track to pay those loans off.
I'm seriously so grateful for having a sister who gave me the low-down on student loans before I went to college. If it weren't for her, I would've probably taken out 100% of the financial aid award given to me, which means my loans would probably be TRIPLE or more what they currently are.
In a nutshell:
1. Go to community college before a university.
2. Pay out of pocket.
3. Take advantage of scholarships and grants.
4. Never take out more than you need.
5. Pay off interest ahead of time.
6. Stay home with your parents either while in college or when paying off student loans.
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How are you saving money on college tuition?
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