College costs are skyrocketing. Americans have amassed roughly A TRILLION DOLLARS in student loan debt. We as consumers need to fight back and make better choices in order to help defray the exorbitant price tag of college. Here are six tips to get your university tab in line.
1. There is no perfect school. Unless you are the valedictorian (or somewhere close) who has their pick of the litter with a plethora of scholarships, heed this advice – there are lots of great schools out there. Weigh your options in a value conscious way. If your education is going to cost you more than you are going to make in your first year on the job it just isn’t worth it, plain and simple. At age 18 it seems like this is a life and death decision, but I promise, it isn’t Being saddled with debt for the next 25 years isn’t worth it to attend your “dream school.” If you HAVE to go there, consider attending a much cheaper community college for your first two years. You’ll get your core classes out of the way for chump change and then you can transfer.
2. Watch your debt carefully. The first tip will help you avoid crashing and burning on this one. I have friends with student loans equivalent to their monthly rent, and trust me, they hate it. It is also easy while in school to start racking up other forms of debt. Put off your first credit card until you get a real job and don’t take out a loan on a car. People expect you to drive a beater while in college anyway.
3. Get a job. You might say “education is the most important thing” or “getting a job will interfere with my studies.” Your parents might even say that getting a job while in school is bad advice. I hate to disagree but trust me, you actually have PLENTY of free time in college. On campus jobs that would only take ten hours a week of your time are perfect. Taking one of those can help you pay down tuition and possibly give you some extra spending money too.
4. Buy used books. I can’t believe I even have to say this. Some folks continue to buy new books when there is a perfectly good used option. If the book is only available new, ask the professor if the last edition would work for the class. Sometimes those edition changes are minuscule and the publisher does it just to make a few more bucks. If so, you could save a bundle by using that year older version. Another option is renting your textbooks. Check out Chegg.com. You could definitely save hundreds by renting instead of buying.
5. Hit up the free campus events. Colleges often throw great free events for their students that often include free food. That includes movie nights, lecture series, concerts, and sporting events. You might get a complimentary meal and you’re sure to meet some new people. And don’t forget to join some campus clubs too – it’ll look good on your resume.
6. Internships pay off – and sometimes even pay! I saved this one for last but it is probably the most important. In your junior and senior year it is often an option for you to participate in an internship program with a company in your field of study. Take full advantage of this. Networking is the number one way people find out about and get connected to jobs. The connections you can make by taking advantage of those internship connections are literally priceless. They can be the difference in having a job or not when you get out of school and can even earn you a little bit of cash at the same time.
I hope these tips help you make smarter choices when it comes to higher education. College is a blast. Just don’t let the costs get in the way of that.