Today we see articles published daily declaring that “student loans delay young couples from marrying” and “Americans owe more in student debt than credit card debt”. These articles are discouraging, stating that student loans are the horrible epidemic of our generation. Students should understand that all of these people are just trying to feed off of your fear of debt. Debt is absolutely scary and stressful, especially during college. It can be hard to maintain an income during school and every day in the classroom feels like another hundred dollars plopped onto your debt. What we have to realize is that debt is an excellent motivator; it can drive us to go after opportunities we would have otherwise overlooked. Debt can be your best friend.
Student debt is often much healthier debt to take on than that of credit cards, mortgages, or car loans. Obtaining a bachelor’s degree has turned into what used to be earning a high school diploma, one third of hiring managers seek bachelor’s degrees for positions previously filled by people who held a high school diploma. There are several things to be understood about the value of a college education, and there are repayment options and outside resources available to anyone who wants to finish their higher education.
Education Does Not Depreciate
Student loans are healthy loans to take out as a college student. You are young and motivated; taking out a student loan is much safer than taking out a car loan or mortgage. When you buy a car you end up making payments that can be higher than your student loans, you get shaken down by the higher interest rate as well. Eventually you will try and sell your beloved vehicle and learn that in just five short years your car has depreciated about 60%. However, when you go in for a job interview five years out of college you are not told your diploma is only worth 60% of its value. It is actually quite the opposite. College is becoming more expensive, because we have put more value on it. If you are graduating this spring it is likely that your degree will be even more valuable in ten years. Additionally, with work experience and projects to show for, your resume as a whole will increase your value.
Education is An Investment
It is important to think of your education as an investment, rather than a financial burden. Investments are exciting and terrifying, but student loans are an investment to get excited about. By furthering your education you are picking up skills; in the classroom, on your sports team, even in your dorm room. However, the greatest takeaway from college is leaving home and learning to budget on your own. Taking ownership of your education and “having skin in the game” is crucial to this process. Take advantage of this opportunity, repaying student loans is part of the learning process. Focusing on the process by making monthly and yearly goals towards achieving repayment is much more important than getting hung up on that big scary number.
What You Can Do Now
Stay calm my friends, we are all in this together. College is a marathon, not a sprint, and applying this mindset to your daily routines can help out. Setting long term goals for yourself as far as tracking your GPA, scheduling classes, and setting deadlines for projects will take the stress off of your everyday tasks. It can be very easy to get caught up in the stresses of a term paper or a capstone project, long term goals can help broaden the focus outside of these assignments.
Maintain your Routine
Studies have been conducted to determine the outcomes of high stress levels derived from student loan debt. It is said that students with high stress levels often exhibit signs of depression; feelings of hopelessness and the inability to complete daily routines. In fact, around 44% of American college students suffer from depression, a leading factor could be stress from student debt. There are several simple everyday behaviors that can combat these feelings of depression.
First, eating healthy and regularly is a no-brainer. Second, maintain a healthy sleep schedule. Third is exercise, the hardest part of going for a walk or a quick jog is that first step out the door. Finding the motivation to strap on your running shoes and shuffling out the front door is a huge step. Each of these habits work hand in hand, if you are not getting enough sleep it will be difficult to find the energy for a run. Similarly, eating unhealthy snacks will steal your exercise energy and make you feel sleepy. To achieve all of these healthy habits it is important to focus on what motivates you. For many students the end game is graduation. It is important to understand that every single thing you do, every day, affects your end game.
Keep Track of Time Frames
Upon graduation every FAFSA borrower is given six months to get their act together before loan bills start trickling in. There are several easy things you can get done in this time. First, you need a job, right? Well, what if you didn’t get your dream job affiliated with your field of study; this is not a waste of time. Now is a good time to take on a side job, do something you enjoy to bring in extra bucks while you look for a job more aligned with your degree. A great term for this job is the “Side-Hustle” it’s a fun, unique part time job to combine with your full time job. For example, I was able to use my ski racing experience to score a part time coaching job right out of college. I was getting paid to do something I loved, and it helped me save up money during the six month grace period.
Another way to get ahead of your repayment is to actually make a schedule before your first bill rolls in. Contact your lender and get specifics on how much you owe, and break it down into monthly payments. Determine whether you will be able to deliver the minimum payment, maybe you can afford to pay more than the minimum (which is a great idea). As long as you are able to incorporate your student loans into your current budget you should have no problem making that first payment.
Find your Passion
As I just mentioned from my own experience, I sought out a side job that I knew I would love. It is important to stay happy throughout the college experience; it is in fact supposed to be fun! Finding things you like to do is the best way to relieve stress. If you are a student still looking for that one thing you love, then you are in the perfect place. College is a great environment to find you passions, you are given so many opportunities to try new things out and find adventure. Take advantage of the extensive course lists many colleges offer and go on a school trip that makes you nervous. If you are so lucky to find something you are passionate about the college experience and transition to “the real world” will come with ease, and with that success will continue to follow you.
Coping with Student Loan Stress
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Daniel & David