I’m so happy to finally write about this! I was a little conflicted initially because I am a huge advocate of higher education and considering this topic made me feel as if I was betraying that view. Yet, after 4 years in higher education financing, I’ve come to terms with the fact that college may not be for everyone, or that you really need to be in the right mindset, time, and place to pursue it.
Before moving forward I have to say that I honestly believe that I would not be where I am today if I had not gone to college. I loved my college experience and feel that it was essential to my success as a professional. Not only in terms of what I learned, but more so the people that I met along the way and the opportunities that became available to me. So, why am I writing about college debt? For one simple reason:
People are borrowing more money and dropping out of college without a degree, a job offer, but with massive amounts of debt.
Yep. You read that right. Just a few years back the belief was that by going to college and getting a degree you were guaranteed a good job. By now, we all know that it’s not the case. The job market is much too competitive now and with globalization taking over, you’re competing with not only people in your region (or country) but with talented individuals all over the world.
How can you make yourself stand out when compared to other people who can do your same job at half the cost? (At least that’s the most common business reason I’ve seen when outsourcing). Then you start re-thinking your life choices and if your $80K debt was really worth it? What were you chasing after for 4 years?
Conversely, what about people who are very skilled and don’t have a degree. Those that have been able to climb up the ladder without a paper certifying their amazing skill-set.
Really think about the reason you are pursuing an education before you take the plunge. Not only will a degree require time and effort, but whole lot of money (I don’t care what school you go to). So today, I want to share with you 5 things to consider before going to college –or going back.
Why are you pursuing your degree? What do you plan to do with that skill-set?
If you want to be a doctor, engineer, lawyer, even a professor, you are required to have a degree, there is no ifs and buts about it. But there are other careers that do not necessarily require a degree that you might want to pursue. For example, graphic design. Yes, there are a world of art schools out there teaching you how to use photoshop, illustrator, etc. and at the same time there are online courses that can teach you the same (there’s also Youtube). You can look for online tutorials, or go to a community college in your region to explore this more. You can even teach yourself. It’s all a matter of creating a portfolio where you demonstrate your qualified.
This was just an example to get the point across. But if you really think about it there are plenty of jobs out there that do not require a degree and can allow you to live modestly.
What about the great online entrepreneurs we see online, either through blogs or (again) Youtube? The majority of their skills were learned along the way through trial and error and they seem to be doing okay. Granted, many of the entrepreneurs that I admire have a degree or certification, but more often than not that was not the reason they became successful, and much of the skills they needed to get where they are, they learned in the business itself.
So think about what you want to do with your life. You may be young and have not necessarily figured it out, or you might have. But take your time in exploring your interests and what really brings you joy. While it’s never too late to change course and pursue your passion, it’s always better to do it without unsurmountable debt on your back.
In state? Out of state? Private? Public?
So, say you decide you really want to go to school because you want to get educated or pursue a field that requires it. That’s fine. There is still a lot that you can do to stay away from the college debt trap. For one, is choosing the right college.
And I don’t mean an Ivy League school or a top 50 school. Look at the factors that really matter. Such as: location, tuition, financial assistance, resources… You don’t need to go to the best school in the world to be the best at what you do. The business woman in me, encourages you to do a cost benefit analysis on this one. What will one school give you that another more inexpensive one will not?
The reality is that you are in control of your experience, and you get out as much as you put in.
Don’t be blinded by rankings that no-one cares about, as long as you make the best of your experience and make use of all the resources available to you, it will be worth it.
WILL YOU BE ABLE TO PAY BACK YOUR DEBT
To pay or not to pay…
Alright. You realized that there is no way you can pursue your dream job without a degree, and you’ve zeroed in on the college you want to attend (after a thorough cost-benefit analysis), now how do you pay? Assuming that you’ve already read Financing Your Education 101, and you still must incur debt to make it. Fear not padawan.
There are several loans out there available to you, but we’ll focus on the most common ones: federal unsubsidized and subsidized loans.
- ALWAYS take the subsidized loan first, as it does not accumulate interest while you’re in college -the unsubsidized loan accumulates interest as soon as you accept it
- REMEMBER that you do not have to take out the full amount, you can always request a partial amount, just enough to cover what you need
- PAY BACK a partial amount or the full loan amount while you’re in school -yes, you can do that- you don’t need to wait until after graduation to start making payments, every little bit helps
Please be mindful of the debt that you sign up for. Take into consideration the amount, interest, and create a potential payment schedule to see if you will be able to pay it. These loans are (for the most part) to be paid within 10 years of your graduation, so keep that in mind. Also consider the average salaries of the career you want to pursue and if it will give you enough money to pay you debts and support your lifestyle.
BONUS: OTHER OPTIONS
I’m a lifelong learner and I’m sure many of you are as well. So never stop learning something new. Pursue other options and look into e-courses, certification, freelancing, even taking internships. These help build your portfolio but also add value to your skills and can provide guidance in finding your true passions. You will meet amazing people throughout your life and don’t be afraid of being different. Always be willing to put in the effort in what matters and whether you decide to go the traditional route or the non conventional one, when it comes to careers, do it without regrets.
What do you think? Is college debt worth it?