Students who hastily choose a major often waste a lot of time and money when they later change their plans. Changing a program or major can easily add thousands of dollars per semester to a students overall debt load. The longer you stay in a program that isn't right for you, the costlier the result.
If you are unsure of what major to choose, consider enrolling in "career exploration" that will allow you to take core classes that are applicable to many different programs while you learn about career options and find the program that is right for you. This can save you thousands of dollars down the road.
Once you decide on a program or major, look at the various job choices that you will have with your degree in that field. Also look at the earning potential for that degree. Do a job search as if you have already earned your degree. Will the beginning salary range for the field you have selected be enough to comfortably allow you make your student loan payments? If not, are you willing to sacrifice your financial future to stay in the program you selected?
Many students entering college are accustomed to a lifestyle that their parent's have established through years of hard work. Unless your parents are willing to continue supporting you in that lifestyle while you are in college, you may have to make some difficult choices to ensure your own personal stability for your future.
- Examine your finances and establish a budget.
- Stick to your budget.
- Avoid credit-card traps.
- Don't make compulsive purchases you cannot afford.
- Don't eat at restaurants if you have a meal plan.
- Drink coffee at campus dining facilities versus pricier vendors.
- Utilize free or low-cost campus entertainment options.
- Start saving your pennies and spare change in a jar for emergencies.
- Get a part-time job to help cover your expenses.
- Get a roommate. Private rooms can add thousands of dollars to your overall housing bill.
- Hold off on purchasing a personal computer until you graduate. The laptop computer you purchase as a freshman will likely be obsolete when you go into the workforce. You don't want to pay interest on loans that you used for outdated technology.
- If you have money saved from open houses or other savings plans, use those resources before you borrow.
Re-taking classes because you did not pass them the first time is very costly. Not only do you have to pay each time you re-take them, but you may have to pay for extended living expenses for additional semesters as well.
Work with your academic advisor to develop a plan to take all of the necessary courses to earn your degree in as short a time as possible, and stick to that plan. Adding electives, taking reduced course loads that allow you to "coast" through the classes that you do take, can add thousands of dollars to your education costs.
Student loans are often necessary to help families cover the cost an education. When you and your family determine that you must borrow money to finance your education, keep the following tips in mind:
- Sources Of Financial Aid Are Limited. The Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid presents each student with the best possible financial aid package. That package usually includes federal student loans. As far as loan options go, students are encouraged to take advantage of federal loans before resorting to private loan sources, as they are typically much more flexible than private lenders when the student goes into repayment.
- Borrow From Reputable Lenders. Ferris State University maintains an Alternative Loan webpage that can act as a starting point to search for a private lender.
- Look At Fixed Interest Rate Options. Student loan interest rates are currently as low as they have ever been. If the economy improves, however, interest rates will likely increase as well. Variable rate student loans often do not have a capped or ceiling rate. The average student pays back student loans over a period of 15 years. With no ceiling rate cap, interest rates on variable loans could potentially skyrocket in the next 10-20 years, greatly affecting a student's ability to repay.
- Look At Parent Loan Options. The Parent PLUS Loan option through the federal government allows parents to borrow for their student's education, thereby reducing the financial burden on the student.
- Don't Over Borrow. Students often borrow the maximum allowed under federal financial aid regulations, which includes enough money to cover personal expenses and transportation costs. Most families have budgeted household funds to cover their student's personal and transportation expenses before they enter college. If the family continues to cover those expenses, that can reduce a student's loan debt by a few thousand dollars per year, or several thousand dollars over their college career.