Things to do before, during, and after college to minimize the impact

How I Paid Off My College Debt in a Year

by Kim Dyckman

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The price of college is rising. The amount of loans that a student graduates with is rising. To help pay off those college bills, there are things a student can do before, during, and after college to minimize the impact.

Before College

1. Apply for scholarships.

The only way to get a scholarship is to apply for it.

2. Have a part-time job.

A part-time job will help a student learn to balance a schedule and a bank book.

During College

1. Say no to credit cards.

I had several friends who extensively used credit cards while in college. Later, they were stuck paying off credit card debt at a higher interest rate, when they could have been paying off their college loans.

If students are going to have a credit card, they should learn to use them wisely. I have a credit card to help build up my credit score, but I only use it when I have money in the bank (basically, I think of it as a debit card). For example, when I wanted to buy a laptop, I saved one thousand dollars and then I charged it to the card.

2. Continue to look for scholarships.

Always be looking for new scholarships. Many students quit looking for scholarships after high school. I joined the speech and debate team during my senior year of college and received another scholarship. This also allowed me to travel more without having to pay for it.

3. Get a part-time job.

This can be a good stepping stone to a real career. As an accounting major, I was able to secure a paid internship, which means college credit and extra spending cash. My part-time job during the summer helped pay for text books in the fall, which I bought online at half of the price as the school bookstore.

4. Make forced contributions.

Every time I got paid, I cashed my check at the university's business office. I generally applied half of it to my student account and lived off the other half. That way I would not be tempted to spend money that I did not have.

5. Cut out useless expenses.

I have already mentioned that I bought books online. Look for other cost savers. Do not buy a latte. But do go to the dollar theater and go hiking.

After College

1. Say no to credit cards.

2. Consolidate student loans.

This is a good option, if it can lower the interest rates that are being paid. It also makes life easier since most lenders have an automatic payment system. Once I set everything up, I did not have to remember to write a check every month.

3. Make forced contributions.

I set up two checking accounts: my regular account and my loan account. A couple hundred dollars from each paycheck was directly deposited to my loan account. This forced me to budget accordingly. I also paid more than my minimum monthly requirement.

4. Cut out useless expenses.

I did not have a car while living in Washington, DC, because it has a great public transportation system. I was able to save a lot by not having to pay for insurance or gas. In more spacious areas (like my home state of Montana), think about buying a cheaper or more fuel efficient vehicle.

I also found roommates so that I could live in a safe/affordable location.

I realize not everyone will be able to pay off their school loans in a year, but by using strategies like saving up to buy a computer instead of charging it, making forced contributions, and cutting out useless expenses, paying off debt will be easier.

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