The Financial Commitment of College

This is a Guest Post by Sam, who is passionate about helping folks find ways to better afford higher education. 

College costs are rising at a rate most American families’ income can’t match. Combined with the fact that many jobs now require a degree to remain competitive, it’s no surprise that the number of students taking out private loans has jumped 10% since 2003. The amount loaned has also nearly tripled, meaning that more young adults are graduating with more debt than ever before.

Unfortunately, for most undergraduates entering their first semester, the numbers in their financial aid packages are just that: meaningless numbers. As the classes fly by and graduation looms, however, the realities of being in debt start to hit home. By following a few simple guidelines, you can learn how to pay for college, come to terms with your commitment and still manage to avoid excess stress in the process.

Consider Your Return on Investment 

Not all degrees are created equal. Some, such as an engineering degree, are likely to result in a high-paying career that will make it easier to pay off your loans. Others, such as a degree in fine arts, are much riskier. That doesn’t mean that you should abandon your dreams in favor of a lucrative program, but attending a $40,000 per year university to major in English may not be a wise decision.

Make Your Loans Count

Repeating a course is a waste of time, but it can also cost you hundreds of dollars in tuition. Similarly, a poor transcript may mean the difference between your dream job and a minimum wage post at the local coffee joint. College is a time of transitions, growth and new experiences, but never forget that you are first and foremost a student.

Live Frugally 

Being broke goes a long way toward reducing expenses, but the worst mistake a college student can make is to sink into further debt unnecessarily. Use credit cards sparingly and avoid any loans with high interest rates. If possible, work through college to make ends meet; it may be more difficult, but when your payments start to come due you’ll be glad you paid for the extras out of pocket.

Most students enter college as overgrown children and leave it fully-fledged adults. Learning how to manage your own finances is a critical part of this transformation, and making smart decisions now will leave you better prepared to face the world with your degree, your new career and a plan to pay off the loans that got you there.

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