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How to Graduate Without Debt

How to Graduate Without Debt

We all know college is expensive. Average student loan debt has skyrocketed in recent years - some experts put the average student's debt burden at $35,000! That's a lot of money, especially for a young person just starting out. Too much loan debt can prevent grads from moving out, buying cars, and starting families. 

So how can you graduate without student debt? Great question. Here are our tips.

Start Planning ASAP

  • Don't procrastinate. Start saving for college as soon as possible. Even babysitting money or wages from your part-time job can be helpful.
  • Fill out your FAFSA as soon as you can; money is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Waiting diminishes your chances of getting free money.
  • Start applying for scholarships freshman year of high school. Many awards are open to underclassmen and winning a few a year can add up to a significant amount once you head off to college.

Apply to a Variety of Schools and Compare Aid Packages

  • While private schools have a higher sticker price than their public university counterparts, that doesn't mean they're always more expensive. Review your financial aid award letters carefully to figure out if a private school may offer more in scholarships than a public one. Here's a guide to understanding your award letter.
  • If your award packages show you'll need to take out loans, call the financial aid office at your college and see if you can appeal the award letter.
  • Consider options closer to home. Dorming can easily cost $9,000-$10,000 a year. Living with family isn't as glamorous, but it could save you about $40,000 in the long run.
  • If you're set on a school far away, review the cost of living on campus as opposed to renting a place with friends nearby. Finding your own apartment could be cheaper.

Live Like a Broke College Student (After All, You Are One!)

  • Cut back on nonessentials like eating out, clothes, and new electronics. 
  • Rent your textbooks instead of buying them (or, if possible, share with a friend or classmate).
  • Learn to love campus events rather than going off campus for fun. These events are usually free and often have free food.

Work Hard

  • If you qualify for a work-study program, take full advantage of it. If not, find a job that is flexible with your class schedule.
  • Look into becoming an RA. If you live on campus, being an RA can come with free room and board, saving you thousands.
  • Consider military options. Serving your country comes with financial benefits when it comes to college.
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