As a student heading home for the holidays after your first semester at college, paying off your student loans probably isn’t top of mind. But, it’s actually the perfect time to review your borrowing for college, so you can graduate with less debt. After all, those who manage to graduate without the burden of overwhelming debt can typically achieve life’s milestones and get on the path to financial freedom sooner than their debt-strapped counterparts.
FAIRWINDS is here to help you guide you toward graduation with less debt with these six strategies you can use to keep it from spiraling out of control.
Borrow only what’s essential.
Now that you have a full semester under your belts, you likely have a better idea of your costs. So this a great time to take a look at your loans to make sure you’re not borrowing more than what’s needed for tuition, books and living expenses. That way you can make adjustments for future disbursements accordingly, after all you don’t have to borrow the full amount you’re offered if it’s not needed.
Apply for everything and do it on time.
From federal grants to little-known scholarships, there’s plenty of money up for grabs, if you make an effort to find and apply for them. You just need to ensure that you don’t miss any deadlines — especially the federal student aid deadline.
Select your classes carefully
While selecting only the classes you need to graduate may seem like a no-brainer, it’s pretty easy to sign up for a class that isn’t necessary or beneficial toward your major. Meet with your advisors regularly to make a plan for which classes you’ll take. That way you don’t spend money and time on something that’s not going to help you get across that graduation platform.
Get a paid internship or part-time job.
Working a paid internship or a part-time job in college is a great way to get extra money for school supplies, discretionary spending and other expenses without having to borrow money. Plus, it will give you work experience that can be used on resumes after graduation, and possibly make a few career-building connections along the way.
Learn to live like a student.
Expensive nights out, new designer label clothing, and lavish spring break trips are all things that college students probably can’t afford. And they’re certainly not things that should be paid for with student loans. Instead, you’ll want to learn how to live within your means. You can start by taking advantage of student discounts, bargain hunting and using what you already have on hand. This includes eating mostly what’s offered by your dining plan, putting off major purchases until after graduation and keeping impulse purchases to a minimum.
Start paying down student debt before graduation.
A few small payments made early on can reduce what’s owed after graduation and save you money on interest. If you find they have money left over at semester’s end, you can use it to start paying down the principle on your loan before it starts earning interest. You can also use money that you’ve earned from part-time jobs along with tax returns and money from selling back your books.
Do you need more help making a plan to reduce student debt while in college? Use our Debt Snowball Calculator to see how quickly you can pay off your student loan once and for all.