The college years are, without a doubt, some of the best and most memorable in a person’s life. For many, it’s the first time they’ve enjoyed a large degree of independence, having finally moved out of the their parents’ home, and into their own space. For others, it’s the first time they’ve really been exposed to such a diverse group of people, gaining awareness of different cultures, thoughts, and ideas. For more still, it’s a time when they start to discover who they are, both as a person, and where their talents lie, whether in the degree path they’ve chosen, or within the decision to swap majors. And, of course, college is tremendously expensive.
As of this year, more than 44 million college graduates have accumulated more than $1.5 trillion dollars in debt. College debt now ranks as the second highest source of debt in the country, second only to mortgages, but beating out the usual suspects like credit card and auto loan debt. Not only that, but the cost of college, including tutions, room and board, food, books, and miscellaneous classroom supplies, is continuing to grow at an unprecedented rate, faster than the various forms of aid, like grants and scholarships, can keep up.
There’s no other way to put it – college is an extremely high expense, that the majority of people can’t afford to go without. Even as people debate how much value a bachelor’s degree really holds in the modern era, and still more people are beginning to urge trade and vocational programs over the traditional four year university, the statistics show that, if you want a competitively paying job, in any industry, you need at least a bachelor’s. That being said, with that kind of debt, you’re going to need money to live on while you attend classes, let alone pay off your debts. How then, can college students make money, while also maintaining the high GPAs that they’ll need to receive honors and qualify for more scholarships (or, at least, not fail any classes)? The following are a few ideas to help you combat debt, while keeping your GPA at an acceptable level.
Get a Part Time Job on Campus
While colleges seem to have no reservations about raising tuition and associated fees year after year, even the most stalwart of them will admit that paying for all of it can be very difficult without accumulating high debt. Acknowledging this fact, many colleges offer options to students to work on the university grounds, and it’s definitely an option that any college student should consider. Aside from a stable paycheck, an on-campus, part time job offers several other perks you won’t get from a traditional employer.
The first most important on-campus job perk is the flexibility it affords you. Traditional jobs have a set schedule, with certain times that the bulk of employees have to clock in and clock out, and you can’t deviate from it. On-campus jobs, on the other hand, fully acknowledge that their student workers have classes, athletics, homework, and other obligations on their time that they can’t just ignore. Since most on-campus jobs are paid by the hour, many of them will allow you to set which hours you work, and on what days.
Second, on-campus jobs usually offers special benefits that traditional jobs don’t. A great example is that students can work as desk or dorm managers in the dormitories. Many of them will enjoy a reduced cost of room and board, and some colleges will eliminate this debt all together, which will be a godsend when you’re trying to manage your time, make some money, and keep your grades up.
Do Some Freelance Work
As the digital domain begins to permeate more and more facets of everyday life, and more and more jobs become flexible, work from home, all-online affairs, people now have plenty of opportunities to do the kind of work they want, when and where they want. For college students, this is a perfect way to net yourself some cash, while keeping up with your class assignments. It also means that, no matter where your talents lie, there are options for you.
Common freelance work that college students take on include writing, graphic design, and tutoring. Freelancing will also allow you to get some much needed real world experience, and prove that you can manage your own schedule, something that will make you stand out from your job-seeking peers once you graduate. As a final note, freelancing will also build for you a solid reputation, and a solid list of contacts, and your freelance gigs can either morph into a full time position, or put you in touch with someone you can get you your first full time job.
Take Out a Loan
I understand completely if you think I’m crazy to suggest that you get a loan, when you’re probably already reeling from just glancing at what your first semester is going to cost, but hear me out. Yes, a loan will obligate you to pay back funds in the future, but there are some critical benefits that you’ll be glad you have, once you graduate.
One of the most important factors in a person’s life, at least financially, is their credit score. It will dictate everything from what your interest rates will be on future loans, to whether or not a car dealership will let you buy the car you want, to whether or not an apartment complex will consider you as a tenant – it’s that important. Despite that, many college students ignore their credit, thinking that they can start building it after they graduate, if they think about it at all. With a loan, you can start to establish a solid credit history (so long as you pay your bills on time), and access money that you’ll need to pay for your classroom supplies, food, gas, or, bless you, maybe even a trip to Panama City to celebrate the end of your senior year.
Get a Credit Card
While a credit card won’t exactly get you money, in so far as you’re borrowing against your credit, by the time you start college, you’re going to need a credit card. A credit card, like a loan, will help you start building the credit history and score you’ll desperately need once you graduate, and you decide when you do or don’t swipe your card. Additionally, with any of the previous options, you’re limited in the amount you’ll receive at any given time, whether it’s the amount your job pays or the amount you’re approved for a loan. With a credit card, you don’t have that problem – the only restriction is your credit limit, provided you avoid overspending.
With a credit card, you have the peace of mind that, in the event of an emergency, you have access to funds. While you want to avoid having a high balance for any other reason, if your car breaks down, or you have an accident and end up in the hospital, you’re going to have to pay those bills one way or another, and a credit card will allow you to do so.