Acceptance into college means deciding how you will pay for it. For many students this means student loans. If you are considering loans to pay for college, you are certainly not alone. Currently, there is over $1 trillion of student loan debt in America, with an average of $29,000 in debt per student.
It’s not surprising this amount is so high: taking on student loan debt is almost too easy. By the time you are offered loans, you’ve gone through the entire college application and selection process. Once it’s time to pay, it can seem all too easy just to hit the ‘accept’ button next to the loans presented as part of your school’s financial package.
But don’t give in just yet. Here are some options to keep you from simply clicking ‘accept’ on student loan debt:
Scholarships and Grants: Scholarships and grants equal free money, while loans must be repaid. Scholarships and grants in any amount can help you meet education costs without taking on debt. Your chances at a scholarship might be better than you think, as millions of dollars in scholarship funds go unclaimed each year. Here are some tips to help you find this free money:
• Don’t let a less-than-stellar GPA keep you from applying – many scholarships are based upon your location or field of study.
• Don’t discriminate against small rewards – any amount will help.
• Do check with your high school counselor and your college’s financial aid representative for lists of scholarships.
• Once you have applied for all of the scholarships and grants you are aware of, look for some more. It’s likely they are out there.
Partial and Delayed Loan Acceptance: You don’t have to take all of the loans that are offered, and you don’t have to accept all loans right away. Consider all of your options for funding your education, apply for any and all scholarships you can find, and save as much as you can before school starts. Take time to research what your costs will be and look for savings before you begin school. Pay for items like books and meal plans with cash if you can, to minimize the amount of loans you might eventually take on.
Understand how much your loans will cost you after school: Before agreeing to take on any student loan, it’s important to use a loan payment calculator to determine how much your monthly payment will be once you are out of school. Compare the estimated monthly payment with what you expect to be able to earn as you begin your career. This step is crucial before taking on any debt, and it certainly applies to student loan debt as well.
If you or someone you know is already facing the challenge of repaying student loans, visit studentloans.takechargeamerica.org for help and guidance.