Monday, June 22, 2015

How I Paid Off $15,000 of My Student Loans in 6 Months

Don’t ever pay for graduate school, in fact you should take as few loans as possible to pay for your undergraduate education as well. - College Advisor during my freshman year 2005
I wish I had that advice before I signed my loan papers! Actually I wondered why was this not said to me in High School. I was a first generation college student, who bought into the idea that once you go to college and graduate there will be a job waiting for you. 

My advisor’s advice and early intervention during my freshman year led me to save up and pay 70% of my student loans six months after graduation. 

I went to a private liberal arts institution and tuition was about $22,000 a year. I was a good student and received quite a few scholarships that paid a significant portion of my tuition, however my working-class parents could not contribute much and they did not want to risk taking out a parent loan, so I took subsidized federal student loans to pay the rest. By the time I graduated, I owed about $23,000 for my undergraduate and graduate education over five years. 

Sadly enough, this amount is relatively low considering the student loan average is around $35,000 just for an undergraduate degree. 

So how did I manage to pay 70% of my student loans only a few months after graduation? 

My first step was asking the financial aid office for a flat tuition rate throughout my 4 years of college. I had to pay an extra $1,000 more the first year, but in my research I noticed my school’s tuition consistently went up over $4,000 each year. Without that flat tuition rate, the student loans I owed would have been double. 

My second step was to participate in many student activities…especially the ones that helped pay a portion of my tuition. This included Orientation Leaders, Student Ambassadors, and other student leadership positions that had stipends. 

Third, I took a part-time retail position. Initially I started off with minimum wage, but by the following year I had been promoted to supervisor with a 40% hourly wage increase. During the summers and holidays, I would pick up all the available shifts with a goal to save at least half of my paychecks. During mid-terms, finals, or special events, I decreased my work hours. Thankfully I had a very flexible part-time job that made adjustments for their college work force. 

In College you are supposed to develop lasting friendships and skills that will enable you to succeed in your chosen career field, but my worry about student loans led me to plan my time carefully. Between studying, campus activities, and a part-time job I had quite a busy schedule, but I also made sure to enjoy my college experience and graduated magna cum laude. 

Even though I was quite successful paying off a majority of my student loans, I believe the amount students take out should be more manageable especially for middle and working class families.

About the Author

Zoey B. Davis

Author & Editor


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