December Acts of Kindness - Managing Debt by Jessie Malatesta
As students, college debt weighs heavily on our minds. Each year the cost of going to college rises and schools become more competitive. The cost of going to college is a big deterrent for students because the value they see in an education is less than the value of the accumulating loans. This is a major problem because all students should be given a fair chance to decide if college is the best place for them. The debt from college can be overwhelming and cause extreme anxiety in a student . Here are a few ways to help reduce the burden that college debt can put onto you and how to mitigate expense while in school.
As a senior I have searched high and low for opportunities to reduce my student loans. I am a twin and paying for two college tuitions was a large imposition on my family. My sister and I are first generation college students, so we were unaware of the amount of debt involved with going to college. Once we applied for student loans, we were really able to see the weight of interest payments and that we would owe way more than just the face value of the loan. When I signed my loans it almost felt like a sinking feeling in my gut. It was like I was signing my life away to college debt. This is a hinderance to the college experience. As time goes by and I am on my way out of college the real shock takes over. The debt becomes real and monthly payments will start coming in. This is a scary feeling knowing that all of the debt that was pushed off during school is now coming full force at you. For me, the weight of any amount of debt, whether it be college debt or borrowing five dollars from a friend, is large in my mind. It causes me anxiety and makes me scared for the thought of being unable to pay it. After signing my first loan I realized I needed to begin looking for scholarships, no matter how big or small. I felt overwhelmed trying to sort through all the different websites offering scholarship money and hoping they weren’t scams. As a freshman, I was unsure of where to begin.
My best advice when starting college with any amount of debt is to get ahead of it. Over the summer before school, look to see if there are any school- offered scholarships. That would be my first step. Next, look through external scholarships through companies. Most of these opportunities require an essay of some sort. Websites I looked through were scholarshipowl.com, studentaid.ed.gov, and financialaid.org. These are just a few websites that offer a plethora of opportunities to earn some money toward your tuition bill. Secondly, I looked up specific scholarship that could pertain to me such as first generation scholarships, twin scholarship, women in finance scholarships, etc. These more-targeted scholarships tend to have greater funding and give you a better chance at receiving them because they are specific. There are some websites that allow you to filter through the type of award you can receive, and this will help you to narrow down and prioritize which scholarships will be worth your time. Getting scholarships is one of the best ways to mitigate your debt in a very direct way.
My second-best piece of advice is to try an get a job on campus. Getting a job on campus will help you to pay potential interest payments on your loans or help you to set a budget for weekly expenses. A job on campus can also help you to learn to balance work and school which will help you for real life. The job can also help teach you to save money and how to spend within your budget. As a freshman, my professor solicited my class for a position as a peer notetaker for another student in the class. This was my first job on campus. Next, I looked for a long-term job, so I was hired at Holy Grounds on campus. I worked this job for all of my sophomore year and into my first semester junior year. My first semester junior year I got a second job at a wealth management firm off campus. Holding two jobs helped me save to pay off my college debt and allowed me to afford my weekly expenses. Over the summer, I worked at Comcast and saved the majority of my paycheck to put aside for paying off my college debt. As a senior, I will continue my position with the wealth management firm. The money I make there I have decided to split up and keep a certain percent for my weekly finances and the rest went will go to my savings for my future monthly loan payments.
My final piece of advice for the best way to reduce college debt is how you budget for your expenses during college. The first step is to make a list of potential expense and budget for the week. Stick to the budget but allow for fun things in your budget as well. I think the best thing to do to save money for college debt is to make a budget and keep to it. Some tips and tricks to saving money on campus: first, do not purchase, but rent all of your textbooks. If you must buy them, try to split the cost between a few people in your class. Additionally, try not purchase a meal plan, and cook your meals if you have the option of a kitchen, because purchasing a meal plan is more expensive than cooking your own meals. Some other key tricks to saving money while still having a fun experience at college is to find free events on campus put on by CAT and doing fun free things with your friends like hiking or nature trails. Also, you can use coupons for groceries and shopping if you go shopping. It is all about being smart about your money and finding deals when possible.
In summary, my best advice for any incoming freshman or upperclassmen is that, to avoid stressing out about your college debt, be on top of it. Be proactive and thorough in searching for scholarships, and keep track of your finances. You have to watch how much you spend of the money you earn during the school year and think long-term about the amount of debt you will facing when you leave school. If you build a solid base for yourself throughout school, then you will feel more confident about being able to repay the debt you owe.