Higher education may seem like a luxury, but it is essential for many careers in today’s job market. Thanks to the Higher Education Act of 1965, higher education is more easily accessible to students of all socioeconomic groups, especially in the lower income brackets.

The high cost of college and alarming statistics about student debt may scare some students away, but there are many reasons to attend college. There are also many things you can do to keep your debt manageable after attaining the valuable college degree.

Higher Earning Potential

College graduates have higher earning potential on average than people without a college degree. Though it is a risk to borrow the money to attend college, it is worth it for many people. In fact, the pay gap between college grads and high school-only grads is at a record high, so now is the time to consider pursuing that college degree if you’ve been on the fence about it.

Make Connections

In college you have the opportunity to meet a lot of new people. These people can be great friends for life or valuable network connections. Wherever you meet them, they could be the link to your dream job after college.

The best way to get a job is through connections, by talking to people. The best way to get connections is to go out, join clubs, try new things with new people — even if it’s scary. They might just be the key to landing that job that will help you achieve your financial goals.

Opportunities

College provides many opportunities to explore. Whether you’re looking for new friends, new hobbies or trying to figure out what you want to do with your life, college is a great place to explore. Try out new things by checking out clubs. Meet new people. Go on adventures.

Additionally, colleges often have career planning offices that help students look for jobs for after graduation. These resources shouldn’t be the only way you search for a job, but they can help with job search essentials like getting together an effective resume and cover letter. They may even help you set up a LinkedIn account or get on a job board or newsletter. These are free opportunities meant to help set you up for success after graduation.

Don’t Worry

College is not the time to worry about the loans you had to take out, though it’s always a good idea to try to minimize your loans (that’s a topic for another article). No federal loans expect to receive payments while you’re in school, so try to focus on academics and networking.

Most importantly, enjoy college life while you’re in it!

After Graduation

Federal student loans have a built-in grace period of 6 months after graduation before you are expected to start repayment. In that time you should commit to your job search and get acquainted with your loans. Make sure to look closely at your loans; make note of how many loans you have, their interest rates and repayment details.

Managing Student Loan Debt

Once you’re out of college and looking your student debt in the face, you may be feeling fear, guilt or remorse. First, try to focus on the positive things you already got out of your college experience. Feel good about what you’ve achieved and try to be optimistic about your loans — you have options.

Your loans will automatically enter into a Standard repayment plan after the grace period in which payments are calculated to be fully paid off in 10 years. For many, this Standard repayment amount is too high, but again, you have options.

  • You can consolidate all your loans into one loan with an interest rate averaged from the original interest rates of each loan.
  • You can enroll in a repayment plan based on your income. In these plans your student loan debt may be forgiven after a set amount of time, usually around 20 years. With this option you need to re-enroll each year. We recommend setting an annual reminder in your calendar a couple months before re-enrollment is due to make sure you don’t miss it.

If you’re having trouble deciding what to do with your loans, especially if you can’t afford the payments, reach out to someone who can help. Specialists who can help you understand your options and choose the best one are just a phone call away.