In Debt And Getting A Degree: How To Balance Them Both

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  • Getting a college degree doesn’t mean having debt for the rest of your life, as there are many ways for students to find ways to pay for college without resorting to large student loans. Even when loans for a small part of your education can’t be avoided, there are still ways to save money while in school to make the loan re-payment easier down the road.

    Here’s how to manage getting a degree while limiting debt.

    Select an In-Demand Career Field

    Unless you have unlimited funds for college, you’ll need to select a field of study that will lead to a lucrative career. That’s not to say that you should do something you don’t enjoy. Just look for a way to apply your skills and interest to a career that’s in demand. For example, if you love helping people and are very organized, UIC’s Nursing Informatics Degree program would put you on the path to a rewarding and well-paying career. For those interested in drama or performing arts, communication degrees can offer better paying career options than a performing arts degree.

    Apply for Federal Financial Aid

    If haven’t already done this, be sure to fill out the Federal Student Aid Application. This form is the key that unlocks the major financial aid opportunities. Even if you don’t think that you’ll qualify for any federal assistance, you might be pleasantly surprised. Once you file the paperwork, you will be able to apply for grants and other types of help. Also, colleges look at your FAFSA form to decide the amount of need-based scholarships they may provide.

    Apply for Scholarships

    It’s worth the time and energy to research and apply for every scholarship you can possible qualify for. There are resources that categorize grants and scholarships by qualifying criteria. Was your grandfather in the military? Are your parents poultry farmers? Are you returning to college after a long absence? If so, there’s probably a scholarship for that.

    Don’t Take More Credit Than You Need

    Once you’re a full-time student, you’ll be given credit card offers at every turn. Some companies even set up booths at college events and offer free gifts just for applying. Don’t fall for it. It’s tempting to take advantage of these offers and use them to finance school fees, trips out with friends, and other luxuries. When the bills come due, however, it can be a huge hardship. Be smart about your credit and don’t apply for anything you don’t need. Passing up an evening out with friends today is easier than paying hundreds of dollars in interest on it later.

    Get a Part-Time Job

    When you’re in college, your focus needs to be on your studies. However, getting a part-time job, especially if it’s in a similar field as your major, is a great way to earn money while learning. For example, if you’re studying nursing or medicine, working part-time at a doctor’s office or hospital will give you real work experience in your field, making it easier to find a job once you graduate.

    Look For Textbook Alternatives

    By far the biggest college cost, aside from tuition, is textbooks. Textbook manufacturers know that you don’t have much choice, so they intentionally price textbooks higher than average. It’s a scheme that’s been going on for decades; however, there are other options. You can share a textbook with a classmate and each pay half the costs, or you can look for low-cost options like buying used copies from college textbook auction sites. Also, many textbooks are available in electronic format for a discounted price. This can be a great way to save money, and an e-reader is much easier to carry to class than a stack of thick textbooks.

    Getting a college degree is expensive, but there are many options to help limit the amount of debt graduates will have to repay. Scholarships, grants, and financial aid can help cover a large part of tuition costs. Combined with good credit and money management strategies, graduates can look forward to a healthy financial future.

    Image via Flickr by ota_photos

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