Reduce your debt while in college – don’t wait


There are still ways debt can be reduced while in college. So here are 10 tips we recommend for minimizing your debt while you’re still a student.

Meet with your academic advisor. Early and often. Freshman year, fill out a four-year plan.

Decide on a major as soon as possible, and stick with it. Almost 80% of students change their majors at least once.

Maximize free money first. Loans are a reality for most college students now, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t options that provide hardworking students an opportunity to learn without an interest rate. Grants and scholarships are a good place to start.

Next, look into installment plans. These are for people who can afford to pay for their school, just not all at once. They divide one big tuition bill into manageable installments every month or so.

Apply for federal financial aid every year. FAFSA is a fickle friend, and it changes often. Reapplying every year is vital to making sure you’re maximizing the amount of federal aid you can get.

Apply for departmental financial aid every year. These scholarships are a gem hidden from most financial-aid-hunting freshmen who haven’t yet become part of an academic department. Most universities award scholarships to top students in each department, and they renew every year.

Apply for third-party financial aid every year. Believe it or not, there are even more people besides the government and your college that are dying to give money to eager students who seek them out. Websites like Kantrowitz’s and are great for connecting students with scholarships that might be able to help them.

Once you’ve exhausted all options and still need to borrow, borrow federal first. These loans are cheaper, more available and have better repayment terms than private loans.

Buy used textbooks. And sell them back after the semester! It’s an easy way to save money on a college expense that really does add up.

Finally, economize your living expenses. It’s easy for little things to add up. If you’re paying for a meal plan but you don’t like the cafeteria food, so you order take-out three times a week, that can get to be an expensive habit.

You should aim to owe less on your loans at graduation than the annual starting salary of whatever job you accept.

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