Student loan debt has become a huge burden on recent graduates, with the average college grad carrying $33,000 in student loan debt in 2014. If you can’t afford to make payments on your student loans, you can try to buy some more time with deferment or forbearance, but you will still pay the price in the long run.
When loan payments are postponed through one of these programs, they still accrue interest. When it’s time to start back up with payments, the balance will have increased even more. If you just avoid or ignore paying your loans, they could go into default. That can cause lenders to take legal action against you and will leave negative remarks on your credit for at least seven years.
This all sounds like bad news for college students with debt -- and the reality is, it’s not easy to balance this financial responsibility right out of college. Trying to reduce your student loan burden now while you’re in college is the best solution. Try one (or all!) of these ways to keep your student loan debt burden to a minimum as a college student.
Search for Scholarships
Scholarships are a great way to earn a large sum of money to go toward your education that you won’t be required to pay back. Unfortunately, scholarships are often overlooked and underestimated.
Sometimes, it’s much easier to apply for a quick loan than write an essay, fill out an application, and ensure that you meet other requirements for a particular scholarship. But if you take the time out to search for scholarships and grants and apply for ones you qualify for, you’ll lessen your financial burden in college and not need to rely so heavily on borrowed funds.
Check with your college or university to see if they have a scholarship office or list of current scholarships that are open for applicants. Ask your advisor if he or she knows about any public or private scholarships that you could apply for. And double-check scholarships that you might have applied for in the past but didn’t receive. You may be a more attractive candidate now than the first time you applied.
Don’t forget about private scholarships and grants. You can search online for private scholarships on sites like FastWeb.com or Scholarships.com. When searching online, just make sure the scholarship sites you look at are legitimate. Scholarships.com has a A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (and you can check with the BBB before sending in your info to any source that claims they provide funding).
Focus on Saving More Money
College can be such a fun experience, but the cost of an extremely active social life adds up on top of the rising cost of tuition and fees. It’s important to learn how to save more and live well on less if it means avoiding extra student loans.
You can get a roommate to help cut your cost of living. You can also get rid of extra expenses like cable and transportation costs by switching to cheaper alternatives, like Netflix and Hulu and walking or biking instead of maintaining your own car.
Invest in a crock pot and cook more easy meals at home, and in batches, so you can have plenty of leftovers for additional meals. Check out thrift stores first when you need clothes, take part in free events around campus, and opt for nights in with friends instead of dropping a lot of cash at bars.
The money you save from cutting your expenses can go straight to the bank to use toward the following semester’s tuition. You don’t necessarily need to miss out on the college experience. You just need to make smart swaps and choose inexpensive options over things that cost more cash than you really have.
If you fund your fun with money you received from student loans, you’re effectively financing your lifestyle -- and you’ll have to pay it back one day, plus the interest. Is spending money you don’t have really worth having to pay 5% more than the actual cost when it comes time to repay your student loans?
Increase Your Income
If you make more money during college, you won’t need to borrow as much to help fund your education. Getting a part-time job in college is one of the best ways to earn some money when you’re not in class.
You can also take advantage of other flexible ways to earn money on the side like babysitting for family or others in your neighborhood, tutoring other students, working on campus, or working online.
You can earn a nice income from working online whether it’s becoming a virtual assistant for busy business owners and bloggers, writing for other websites and blogs about topics that interest you, or taking surveys and selling items online via sites like eBay, Amazon, and Poshmark.
Freelancing can even help your future career, and there’s no reason to wait until graduation to start gaining experience. Set up your own blog or profile, connect with influencers in your field, and start pitching yourself!
Empower Yourself to Stop Student Loan Debt Before It Starts
Student loan debt statistics should not be taken lightly. If you’re still in college, you have a few options to take when it comes to lowering your student loan debt burden. Focusing on obtaining public and private scholarships, increasing your income, and saving more of what you have can all help lighten your debt burden upon graduation -- and make it that much easier to start your fully independent, adult life on the right financial foot.
About the Author: Chonce is a freelance writer who's passionate about helping others get out of debt and work toward financial stability. You can connect with her on her blog, MyDebtEpiphany.com.