Last week I highlighted the new book by Alex Chediak called Beating the College Debt Trap. Today I wanted to relay one more helpful section from the book. Here’s how Chediak sums up what he wants us to take away from his work:
Eight Takeaways You Don’t Want To Miss
1. A bachelor’s degree is one of several options that can lead to a rewarding career. Before sleepwalking into a four-year college, make sure an associate’s degree or enrolling in a trade school isn’t a better fit for your talents and interests.
2. Being an informed customer is the best way to avoid spending a fortune on your education. Student loans should be a last resort, preferably limited to the last year or two of college, when you know you’re in the right major and graduation is clearly in sight.
3. When considering colleges, stick with a budget–the way you would when shopping for anything else. Consider what it will cost you, not just for one year, but all the way through graduation. Research the college’s financial aid track record students in your income bracket. Look for value–financial aid generosity and instructional quality. Don’t pay a fortune for prestige.
4. The phrase “financial aid” is nebulous. It can refer to grants (needed-based gifts), scholarships (merit-based; you must work to maintain), work-study (a job that pays hourly), or loans (which you’ll have to repay with interest). That’s why collegedata.com is a great site. It breaks down financial aid by category. Net price (list price minus scholarships and grants) is what matters. Work-study is a great because what you earn doesn’t raise your expected family contribution for the next year.
5. Choose a major that’s consistent with your interests and talents, but be mindful of your earnings prospects, particularly if you take out loans.
6. It is possible to earn most of the money you’ll need for college while you’re in college. It requires working smart–leveraging your skills, taking on internships and other kinds of strategic employment, and minimizing your expenses through planning and discipline.
7. Start looking for a full-time job in advanced of graduation. Prioritize identity capital in your search. Network, research your industry, and communicate clearly–always speaking to the employer’s interests–on your resume, cover latter, and interview.
8. Watch for housing and food expense after you graduate. Free up enough cash to make your student loan payments on time. Build a reserve of short-term savings so that unexpected expenses don’t kick you into credit card debt. As soon as possible, start throwing extra money at your loans to get out of debt faster (and save money by paying less interest).