When people are high school students thinking about college, student loans may seem like a distant challenge. Indeed, high school students usually did not need to borrow debt for anything else before in their lives, so it can be difficult to evaluate the consequences of student loans and how educational expenses should be covered. However, everyone should make a plan for student loans as soon as possible, preferably as soon as they know that they will enter college or another educational program so that they have the best chance at reducing their student loan burden.
When I was in high school, I did not think much about student loans. Until I was a teenager, I kind of assumed that my parents would take care of my educational expenses and that they had saved money for this. It seems like a common assumption that parents are responsible for paying their kids’ college tuition and expenses, and I did not worry too much about this since I thought this was someone else’s problem.
However, when I was a freshman or sophomore in high school, my family said at the dinner table that I would be on my own when it came to paying for college. I asked them how I would pay for school, and they related that I could borrow money and that there was financial aid available at many universities. My father and grandmother did not graduate from college, and they were the family members most active in raising me at that time, so they did not provide too many details about how I would pay for college.
I did not make a plan for student loans and put this off basically until my senior year of college. I did not want to think of difficult subjects as a teenager, and perhaps I believed that things would work themselves out on their own if enough time passed. Around that time, I thought that I would enroll in ROTC to pay for college, but there were not any detachments close to the colleges I wanted to attend. Other than that, I banked on getting admitted to a school that had a robust financial aid program which could cover most of my expenses.
I got lucky, and I was accepted to a college early decision that also provided me with substantial financial aid. I just needed to borrow some private loans to bridge the gap between the financial aid and the cost of tuition and expenses. However, people should make a plan for student loans because you cannot count on financial aid alone covering all of your educational expenses.
Children can take steps earlier on to pressure parents to make preparations for their educational expenses. At earlier points in my life, my family had significant financial resources. However, my family did not save money for the college costs of myself and my brothers. None of my brothers or myself took an active role in imploring our family to save more money for us while they had the funds. However, I wish we had taken more acts to compel our family to save such money. It is an open question about whether this would have had an impact on my family, but at least we would have tried to steer them toward making preparations for our college costs.
When students make a plan for student loans, they should have backup options in place in case their initial plan to cover tuition and expenses falls through. For instance, if you wanted to enroll in ROTC to help pay for school, but your college does not have an attachment nearby, you can apply to a state school that costs less money so that you can protect your bottom line. In addition, if one of your student loan cosigners falls through, you should have a backup in place so that you are able to secure funding to attend college.
When students make a plan for student loans, they should also start as early as possible. Of course, it is difficult for children to have agency over their own situation since financial decisions are usually an adult subject to manage. However, as kids become teenagers, they are usually given more responsibilities including financial responsibility over their own affairs.
Teenagers can insist that relatives make gifts to their college funds for birthdays and holidays instead of providing more traditional presents. Moreover, children can begin to research schools that might be more affordable earlier on so that they are more prepared to choose cheaper educational options if this is desired by the child. Furthermore, teenagers can get part-time work that can provide valuable pocket money when they attend college. Of course, it is not too traditional for teenagers to be so involved in preparing for student loans early on, but such an approach can help set someone up for financial success in the future.
All told, it is easy to make a plan for student loans, and individuals should usually have backup plans if they are unable to pursue their first option to pay for educational expenses for whatever reason. In addition, if children and teenagers begin to prepare for student loans as soon as possible they can save the most resources possible and acquire more information necessary to make informed choices about student debt.