The student loan crisis is in full swing, with Americans owing $1.71 trillion in total. To put that number into perspective, that’s $739 billion more than the total U.S. credit card debt. If you have graduating debt or are considering taking out a school loan, it’s vital to understand how graduating debt can affect your life long-term.

Acquired debt poses significant challenges post-graduation as you journey into the world of big-ticket purchases. With hoards of debt tacked to your name, purchasing a home, buying a car, or tying the knot may be put on hold as you struggle to pay back thousands of dollars, often with incurred interest. Additionally, missed payments can tank your credit score, causing difficulties down the line as you attempt to open other loans.

However, you can dodge the adverse effects of student loan debt by working hard to graduate debt-free. If you refuse to be another student debt statistic, implement the following tips for debt-free graduation.

Stop underestimating the power of scholarships

Stop underestimating the power of scholarships

Scholarships can be invaluable resources as you work your way through school. They will help you have a graduating debt-free life. It’s never too late to apply for relevant scholarships from all kinds of organizations — from broader, more general scholarships to more niche alternatives.

Using a scholarship finder can help hone in on the perfect scholarship. You can refine your search according to GPA, ethnicity, area of study, and many more to narrow down results and up your chances of success. Aim to spend a few hours each week applying to scholarships that are a good fit for you and reap the benefits.

Keep applying for financial aid

Just like scholarships, when it comes to financial aid, it’s never too late to apply. Fill out FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) every year to claim grants, a type of loan you don’t have to pay back. You can also look into work-study opportunities at your school to make money while earning your degree. Continue to apply for aid throughout your college career and end on debt-free graduation.

Save on living expenses

Save on living expenses

Once you have financial aid in place to help with academic costs, look for ways to cut back on living expenses while in school. Living at home instead of a dorm, renting textbooks instead of buying new, and utilizing a cafeteria meal plan instead of going out can save you hoards of cash in the long run. Remember, the cost of living can add up fast. Try to cut back on living expenses any way you can, allowing you to put extra funds toward tuition and loans.

Don’t get behind in your studies

Don’t get behind in your studies

The longer you’re in school, the more money you’ll pay, so it’s essential to stay on track and graduate on time if possible. Work with an academic advisor to map out the best schedule and stick to it, avoiding major changes or school transfers at all costs. Additionally, take a full course load each semester to graduate in good time, preventing prolonged payments.

Choose a less expensive school

Finally, if you haven’t chosen a school yet, make sure affordability is a driving factor in your college search. Do the research to compare colleges based on tuition, available scholarships, and other financial factors. You can also look at small community colleges in addition to larger state or private schools, which offer excellent educational options. After comparing and contrasting, consider all the information and select the most cost-conscious school.

To wrap up

In today’s day and age, graduating college debt-free might seem like a tall order. But with the right strategies, it’s entirely possible to step into your adult life without any graduating debt dragging behind you.

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