A Guide on How to Prevent Unmanageable Student Loans


Image courtesy of Dylan Gillis on UnSplash

Jay Reyes

Student loan debt grows six times faster than the American economy, and the average student debt is nearly 40,000. If you want to prevent becoming one of those students try some of the following strategies  before you enroll, during your college years, and after earning your college degree to reduce or avoid student loan debt entirely.

Have good grades

The first step is fairly simple and that is to try and obtain good grades for yourself in high school. 

If you find yourself not being the greatest student I’d recommend you find a tutor or ask your teachers about any extra credit possibilities. I would also advise you to study and prepare hard for your ACT or SAT, even though most schools do not require you to have ACT or SAT scores it is a good thing to have on your record it could also be very helpful for scholarship applications. 

Take AP or higher level courses 

Taking Advanced Placement classes or higher level courses to earn college credit can be difficult as the standards are raised quite a bit compared to regular classes but the extra hard work is worth it as it could lead to shaving off a year from your college attendance which leads to you saving thousands of dollars in college savings.

Start the search for scholarships and grants 

You can simply start your search on the internet and use websites like scholly and scholarships.com, Many organizations, such as nonprofit volunteer clubs, religious organizations, and civic groups, offer scholarships to students with good grades. You can also ask your counselor to see if they can show you unique scholarships opportunities or check with your employer to see if there are any scholarship opportunities there and lastly you can check with your bank or credit union. If you are also gifted in sports, music, art, and theater, there may be specific scholarships for you as well.

Start a 529 plan 

The sooner you start saving the more you can save and the more you can shave off your tuition. Also getting a part time job during the school year and a full time job during the summer could help you pay off your tuition. Make sure you take a part out of your paycheck and put it in your 529 plan. A 529 isn’t your only option you could also start an Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA). The benefits of an ESA is that it’s an after tax which means you don’t have to deduct it from your annual tax return and you won’t  pay additional taxes when it’s time to pay for college. The downside to an ESA is that you´re maxed out at a $2,000 contribution limit per person per year. You also have to use the money from your ESA to pay for qualified education expenses like tuition, room and board. You can also just use a standard savings account from a bank though this does mean you will miss out on the tax advantages. Lastly you can use a Roth IRA account which is a retirement plan but has a loophole that lets you withdraw from the account during school as long as you don’t go over your higher education expenses for the year. 

Fill out a FAFSA

The earlier you fill out the FAFSA the better. A FAFSA is the free application for federal student aid and can help you obtain money to pay your college tuition. Even if you think your parents make too much money you should still apply you can submit your application through the government’s website Federal Student Aid.   You can apply from October  1 to Jun 30. After you submit it you will get a student loan report which will tell you whether you qualify for a federal grant or any other type of aid. However this will not tell you the amount of money you receive as that is something the school decides; some schools have more funding than others and the funding is usually limited so the sooner you apply the better.

Apply for the right college 

Probably the most important decision you will make is choosing the right college. This could drastically affect how much money you end up having to pay. The first option you have is to attend a free college. You will have to pay room and board as long as living expenses but tuition and other fees are completely covered by the school and the acceptance ranges vary from as low as 7% to as high as 40%. Some of these schools do require you to work on campus for several hours but a majority are specific focused colleges. Another smart option would be to attend a community college instead of instantly going into a 4 year university and wasting thousands of dollars. Community college classrooms are also smaller so you end up having  a more personal experience when taking your desired class and after two years of getting all your credits you can transfer to the university you want to attend. Make sure that all your credits are transferred so you don’t take unnecessary classes and waste money.


Live on a manageable budget and avoid credit cards both during college and after graduation to minimize student debt. Better yet, with proper planning in the years before and during college, you can avoid student loan debt entirely.