One of the biggest problems facing college graduates today is student loan debt. College costs are rising dramatically and with that comes increased debt to pay for those costs. Today’s students graduate with tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Higher education is required for a good career in most industries, but a college education can be obtained without racking up high amounts of student loan debt. With the right strategy, you can get your degree and keep your finances healthy. Here, we will explore several things that might help you skip student loans altogether.

Make Sure You Pass Your Classes And Finish Your Degree In Four Years

Some college students find themselves having a bit too much fun. This can sometimes interfere with passing classes, taking enough units to graduate in four years, etc. Be sure that each semester you take as many credits as you can comfortably handle, as this will allow you to graduate in four years or less. If you can graduate school in 4 years as opposed to 5, think of the money you will save. This might also be the difference between taking student loans and just roughing it out with part time jobs, good budgeting, and living a frugal lifestyle.

Apply For Any And All Scholarships That Fit Your Situation

College scholarship application to obtain free grant money for schoolOne of the reasons many students take student loans is that they don’t feel that they would qualify for scholarships. Understand, scholarships come in every shape and size you could imagine. There are an untold number of specialty scholarships available that are very easy to qualify for. Are you a female majoring in marine biology? There is likely a scholarship that only you and your counterparts would qualify for. Are you a male, United States emigrant, and English as a second language learner? Yes, there are scholarships with your name on them. We use these examples to show that scholarships are plentiful and the more precise the scholarship criteria, the easier it is to qualify for. So, before you take student loans make sure you uncover every possible scholarship opportunity that you can. Then, apply for them!

Use The College’s Meal Plan To Your Advantage

If you plan on living on campus while you are at college one great option for food is the student meal plan. Using this meal plan accomplishes several things at once. First, it can be paid for ahead of time or in installment payments. Secondly, it keeps your food costs fixed which is very important in managing your costs and expenses. Many school meal plans offer many different dining options from buffet style restaurants, to cafes, and even coffee shops (caffeine and college kind of go together). Again, if your goal is to remain on budget, a school sponsored meal plan can keep you on track.

Use Any And All Student Discounts For Everyday Items

When you are in college, particularly if you live close to the school you are attending, many local businesses will offer student discounts. We recommend buying everyday items like toothpaste, household cleaners, etc while shopping at these businesses that will offer you a discount. Any way that you can save money from your everyday expenses should be embraced, and might just allow you to skip those student loans. Every little bit helps as they say, and student discounts should be one more tool in your chest.

Consider A Cheaper University

Online colleges or universitiesSome high school students have their heart set on their favorite university. When you don’t have to worry about paying for classes it’s easy to just pick your dream school. However, when you are facing college tuition you might want to rethink your decision. For instance, is there a State school where you live? These are usually much cheaper than University’s and private colleges. An example of this would be the University of California system versus the California State schools. The price difference can be dramatic. So even if your heart is set on UCLA, your budget might better fit Cal State Dominguez Hills. Regardless of the state you live in be sure to shop around for a school that fits your budget. Let’s face it, when you get that Bachelor’s Degree often times your future employer doesn’t really care what school it came from. One last item you might want to look into is an online university. This might not fit in every situation and definitely an online college doesn’t fit with the traditional school you might be looking for, however, why not look at the costs so you can decide for yourself?

Work a Part-Time Job

Working part-time defrays the costs of college and helps you jumpstart your career. In college, you can easily skip class (oops did we say that?), show up late and cram for deadlines at the last minute. Of course we say that in jest as you want to remain focused on your courses. By working while in college, you demonstrate your understanding of good employee practices. Plus, an internship or part-time job related to your major gives you practical experience in your future career. Even if you work at a fast food restaurant or as a barista, you’re putting yourself ahead of your fellow classmates and earning money to offset the cost of college. No doubt you are going to have to work harder to stay up on your studies, and work hours at your job. However, any money you can earn is money that you won’t need to borrow in the form of student loans.

Avoid Unnecessary Loans

Your Financial Aid office will offer you tens of thousands of dollars of student loans every year. Viewing this money as free cash is an easy way to end up with large amounts of debt. Instead of accepting the entire amount, decide exactly how much you need. What income will you be getting from your part-time job, from scholarships or from your parents? Only use loans to pay for the cost of tuition; use other sources to cover your living expenses. This strategy will encourage you to work and prevent you from wasting money on frivolities.

Attend Community College

Universities can cost ten to twenty times more than community colleges. Taking introductory courses and general education requirements at a local community college can save you thousands of dollars without affecting your education. Basic mathematics, writing, philosophy and history classes are going to be the same wherever you take them. Today, many universities offer easy transfer programs that guarantee your community college courses will be accepted by the university. Talk to your academic advisor to see how you can save your tuition money for upper-level specialized courses that you can only take at a university.

Don’t Buy Brand-New Textbooks

Every year, a new crop of freshmen appear at the university bookstore, ready to spend hundreds of dollars on textbooks that will be opened once. Don’t be part of this crowd. Instead, shop off-campus or online, consider renting books instead of purchasing them and look for older editions. Some textbook publishers release new, expensive editions every year but change very little of the content. For lower-level classes, you will be fine with a previous edition. World History and English 101 don’t change from year to year, so why should your textbook?

Make Sure You Explore State and Federal Financial Aid Options

It should go without saying but in order to avoid student loans, you should apply for any and all free financial aid that is available. Make sure you fill out both your State and Federal financial aid applications. Also, whatever documentation your financial aid office asks for, give it to them. You might be surprised how many financial aid applications go half submitted. Don’t be that person. If your goal is to forego the student loans, your primary focus should be on obtaining free financial aid.

Earning a college degree is an amazing opportunity that will benefit you for the rest of your life. Don’t let your future be ruined with tens of thousands of dollars of debt. You’re smart enough to get into college, and that means you’re smart enough to avoid student loan debt.

Do you have any other tips for college students looking to skip student loans? We’d love to hear them…

Jason

Founder of FinancialSumo.com, his writing has appeared on many financial, entrepreneurial and small biz sites across the internet. When not writing, Jason enjoys spending time with his family in San Diego.
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