According to Time magazine, students in the United States in 2014, collectively, have accrued more than $1 trillion in debt after graduation. Sometimes, it just doesn’t seem possible to avoid student debt, AKA the “Angel of Debt,” sickle and all. Still, there are things you can do to ease your burden even if you aren’t born into money.
1. Get a head start.
Advanced placement, or AP, classes provide you the opportunity for earning college credits before you even leave high school. Many colleges charge by the credit hour, so any credits you build up beforehand are “money in the bank.” It may not seem like a lot, but every little bit helps. There are also college preparatory classes that you can take to reduce your college credit load further.
2. Get a job.
Speaking of “every little bit helps,” even waiting tables part-time can pay for a few books. Of course, you might not “have a life” outside of “eat-work-go to class,” including sleep, but it’s worth it in the end when you don’t have a student loan debt hanging over your head like the Sword of Damocles. You should also work all through the summer and save every penny.
3. Live at home.
Sure, it’s “lame.” Your friends shelling out thousands for on-campus housing and complicated meal plans might feel “cool,” but you’ll be the one doing the happy dance while they lament their five-figure debt. In fact, it’s “cooler” than you think to live at home. Nearly half of college students are doing so in the 21st century. If you want to live on campus no matter what, look in to becoming a resident assistant or resident director. Many colleges provide free room and board for those students who take on these jobs.
4. Go “community.”
In many cases, core classes are core classes. Many students take Composition 101, Psychology 121, and other courses like these at community colleges for two years and then transfer to the college of their choice for the “good stuff.” Two years at most community colleges cost less than just a quarter of one year at a prestigious private university.
5. Get a scholarship.
If you’re good at athletics, even if you don’t plan on “making it to The Show,” leverage that. Apply for scholarships. In fact, there are hundreds of scholarships available around the country. Some of them are targeted toward certain groups, such as the Gates Millenium Scholarship Program, which helps Pacific Islanders, Asians, and other minority students.
6. Apply for financial aid.
Remember the saying that finding a job is a full-time job? It’s the same thing when applying for financial aid. There is paperwork. There are deadlines. There will be meetings. No one is going to look out for you; it’s up to you to look out for yourself.
These are but six of the many methods you can use to reduce your overall costs during your college years and avoid student debt. When you come right down to it, most of these are common sense. Use and combine them at your leisure. Good luck!