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Student Loans 101

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Student Loans 101

If you’re considering financing your college education with the help of a student loan, the smartest thing you can do for yourself is to only borrow what you truly need. (This advice applies to pretty much all loan products, by the way.) Pursuing post-secondary education should be an exciting time in your life. You’re making decisions and opening up possibilities that will shape your future—a future that is adventurous and fulfilling and that decidedly does not include years and years of crippling debt.

1. Do the Two-Step

(No, we’re not referring to the dance.) The college two-step means splitting your studies between two schools. You start by attending a more affordable institution for your general education courses, and then transfer to your school of choice to complete your degree.

2. Go for Extra Credit

Find out if there are any opportunities to earn college credits while still in high school. Beyond reducing college tuition costs, advanced college credit programs are an excellent way to explore your interests more seriously and to get a sneak preview of what your college workload will look like.

3. Seek Out Scholarships

Apply for every form of scholarship, grant and tuition waiver that you’re eligible for. It’s never too early to start your scholarship search—reach out to your high school guidance counselor or the financial aid coordinator at the college you wish to attend. Visit scholarship search engines and online resources. Reach out to your current employer and your family members—you never know, there may be some form of tuition subsidy or grant opportunity available to you through an employer or alumni network. 

4. Location Scout

Geography can play a significant role in determining your total education costs. A single school may have different tuition rates for in-state, out-of-state and international students. Generally speaking, staying in-state is usually the most affordable option—in addition to saving on tuition, you can also sidestep some of the larger expenses associated with studying abroad (like travel costs, meal plans and living in residence).

5. Double Down

Some schools offer accelerated programs that enable you to complete a four-year degree in just three years. This is a great option to consider—that’s one less year of tuition to pay!—but bear in mind that you’ll be squeezing more classes into a shorter period of time. The intensive schedule might make it difficult to accommodate a job while you’re in school, for example, so weigh your options carefully before committing to a more ambitious schedule. 

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