June 19, 2013

One Student’s Plan for Dealing with Student Loan Debt, Cost of College

Source: Matt Franks is a student at Michigan State University, currently holding down two jobs while serving as the president of one of the largest student groups on campus.

With the cost of college on the rise, a growing number of students are beginning to realize that student loans are a way of life. While financial aid can help to a certain extent, most students find themselves bogged down with loans sooner rather than later.

When it comes to paying on student loans, there are two basic approaches:

  • Wait until graduation, hope to find a job and begin to make minimum monthly payments
  • Plan as far in advance as possible by creating a strategy for landing a job after college that will allow for a more efficient process of paying off the debt

When you look at these two options, which one sounds more appealing? Everybody has to make up their own mind, but the second option will go a long way in making your life easier when it comes time to “join the real world.”

The Experience of One Student

Matt Franks knows a thing or two about student loans, paying his way through college, and doing whatever it takes to land a job after graduation.

Rather than let student loan debt get him down, Franks is making decisions now, during his college career, that will payoff in the long run.

Here is what he had to say about holding down two jobs to pay for college, his approach to paying off student loan debt, and much more:

1. How do you balance going to school with holding down two jobs as a means of paying your living expenses?

Balancing two jobs – which together equal nearly a 40 hour work week – class, and being the president of a student group of more than 100 is a challenge. It requires organization, time management and dedication. One of the things that I’ve learned about college, especially in my field of public relations and advertising, is that real-world experience is invaluable. I’ve been lucky enough to surround myself with the most passionate, hard working and dedicated mentors that have instilled a skill set in me that is unrivaled to the education that I receive in classrooms. I work to pay my bills and provide the lifestyle that I want to live, I’ve been lucky enough to work hard and find jobs, and mentors, that provide me with real-world experience.

2. Do you have a game plan for paying off your student loans upon graduation, or are you going to figure that out as you go along?

As far as student loans, I plan on working hard and devoting much of my savings and income in my first job to getting my loans paid off as quickly as possible. I plan on getting loans paid off when I’m young so that I can focus income later in life on more important things like planning for a family and retirement.

3. What advice would you give other students about not only finding a job in college to earn money, but doing so as a way to gain real world experience?

My advice to students looking to get a job where they can get real-world experience would be to (1) get involved in student groups and organizations that relate to your field. PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America) and other pre-professional organizations give students access to professionals in the field you’re studying to be in. (2) Reach out to professionals and ask to be a mentee or to job shadow them – developing relationships is key to your professional development and could be important when trying to secure an internship or job down the road. (3) Don’t over value your education – bachelor’s degrees are a dime a dozen, if your field doesn’t require you to have more than a bachelor’s degree I would suggest focusing on getting real-world experience, and less on grades (let’s face it, employers rarely came about your GPA; experience is key), to make you stand out and make yourself as employable as possible after graduation. (4) Once you get an internship or job dedicate yourself to in, immerse yourself in the company culture, and get to know everyone around you. Act like you’re a full-time employee with similar responsibilities and you’ll start to perform at a higher level (I’m more likely to answer a work email or do work at home than I am to do my homework because I view that experience as more valuable).

Final Thoughts

From his answers alone, it is obvious that Franks is not your average college student. He knows what it takes to get things done, he has a strategy for reaching his goals, and nothing is going to stand in his way.

Any college student (or soon to be) can learn a lot from his advice.

College may be expensive and working a job while in school may be a challenge, however, you are responsible for your future. Are you going to take charge or simply hope for the best?

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