Paying for College: Should I Take Out Student Loans?

Choosing the right college is an exciting time, but is full of a lot of decisions. While you’ve probably already chosen what school you want to attend, are you worried about how you’ll pay for it? Are you confused by the types of financial aid and student loans available to you? You may have heard negative things about student loans in the past, but is it all actually true? Maybe you’re wondering if a student loan is the right choice for your situation?

Before we can really talk about student loans, the best kind, when to take them out and how about to go about the process, we need to first answer the most important question…

Are student loans the right choice for my situation?

This question may seem confusing and figuring the process out might seem daunting, but it’s simpler than you think! We’re here to walk you through paying for college, considering student loans, and creating a college budget over the next few weeks. But, where do you start?

Step 1: Put your financial ability on paper, before considering student loans.

Many times, students automatically think they need to take out a student loan when they may not need to, at least not for the amount that they think they need to. So, what does it mean to put it out on paper?

Look beyond tuition alone: The cost of college is so much greater than just the amount of money it takes to actually go to school. Think about it – are you going to go off to college and quit eating? Never go shopping again? Miss out on all the fun? Of course not! But, the reality is that all of those things cost money, far beyond what school actually costs.

Consider your dorm, books, cost of living like groceries, gas and other bills. These are the basics, but small costs will continue to come up as well – basic hygiene products, getting a hair cut, buying medicine or other wellness products. And don’t forget about having a little fun. Concerts, going out to eat, and going away for the weekend with friends are all awesome things to take advantage of, but again, they cost money.

In order to see these things from a bird’s eye view, you’ll want to create a comprehensive budget so you can understand exactly how much everything will be and where the gaps might be for your personal finances. We’ll be going into this in further detail next week on the blog!

Talk with your parents or guardian: Chat together about the level of financial commitment they can make to your education so you understand how much money you can expect to receive from their contribution. The last thing you want to do is expect a certain amount from your parents or guardian each month, only to find out they simply can’t commit to that and you’re left searching for the money to fill the gaps. Have an upfront and honest conversation before everything is set in motion. 

Consider other aid you’ve already secured: Take into account all of the scholarships – big or small – that you have been awarded, look at the financial aid you’ll be getting from your state program if this applies, and any awards given through your school’s financial aid office. Take all of this into account so you can determine what aid you already have before diving into taking more money out.

Think about work options: Will you have the ability to work during school? Have you looked at a job or have anything lined up? Are you going to do a work-study program or take a job off campus like babysitting or waiting tables? How much money can you expect to get monthly from a job? Considering this will be very helpful in knowing what you can personally contribute to your college financial plan.

Once you begin to understand what your financial situation will look like and where the gaps are, it’s time to start looking at and discussing if a student loan is right for you. We’ll be discussing this in our post next week so stay tuned!