Investing Smartly in the Future


$68,000. $33,000. $18,500.

Chances are at this point, you have a dream school in mind and maybe you have looked at the cost of attendance, or maybe you haven’t. Perhaps now would be a good time to pull out a piece of paper, write down a few colleges and do some research on the amount of money that you can expect to spend on your college education. Annual cost of attendance times four years of schooling and you’re more than likely to have a six digit number on your hands. Surprised?

Let me be clear: investing in the future through higher education is a smart (and frankly necessary) decision in today’s modern world; signing yourself up for almost half a million dollars in undergraduate student loans is not. Note that I am not a financial advisor, nor do I want to be the crusher of your dreams – but before you commit to a school, please do some research. Through the course of my readings, here are a few items for you to consider when looking at schools.

No undergraduate degree is worth over $200k in loans.
Spending this much money on a bachelor’s degree is ludicrous. Do not bend over backwards trying to borrow enough money for you to purchase a house for  your undergraduate degree. In short – it’s not worth it. If you plan on pursuing a level of education higher than a bachelors, whether it be medical school, law school or getting your master’s degrees, that is understandable. Do yourself and your parents a favor (because they will be cosigning on these loans), do not sign yourself up for a lifetime worth of debt. At 7% interest per year, after 10 years you will have accumulated $140,000 of debt on top of the $200,000 principal. Let that sink in.

As a general rule of thumb, if you absolutely must take out loans, do not borrow an amount over your estimated starting salary following graduation. With a degree in archaeology, entry-level jobs start at around $38,000. It’s simple, don’t borrow over $38,000.

Public school? Stay in-state.
If you are able to finance an out-of-state public education through grants or scholarships, don’t worry about this. For those who are debating between going to a public out-of-state school and staying in-state, let me persuade you to staying in California. Assuming you don’t mind the weather and location, we truly are lucky. California has the best public university system in the nation which includes University of California and the California State University system. You have outstanding opportunities at your fingertips for a fraction of the cost if you were to pay out-of-state tuition fees somewhere else. Make a smart decision, and don’t needlessly spend more money.

Private school? Financial aid.
Private schools are known for giving out a lot of financial aid with the amount of money many have in their endowments. I understand that many are leery of applying to privates for the fear of not being able to afford it, but I have found that many people are getting enough aid to make private schools cheaper than going to a UC or CSU. If this is the route you would like to take, by all means, go for it. But remember Tip #1, do not sign yourself up for an egregious amount of loans to cover what scholarships/grants don’t cover.

As a middle-class senior in high school, I have unfortunately been rudely awakened to the frightening prospect of student loans by looking at the cost of attendance figures at my dream schools and educating myself about the different types of financial aid thats exists, or for some people, do not exist at all. Financing your education is something you really need to sit down and think about. Weigh the costs and benefits of going to a particular university.

Do not take this article as a hinderance to applying to your dream school because you know that you cannot afford tuition; instead, take it with a grain of salt. Of course we have our own preferences when it comes down to choosing a university to go to, whether it be weather, campus location, or the fantasy of experiencing all four seasons for once, it is up to you where you go. Scholarships, grants and other merit-based aid is available if you look in the right places. Apply broadly, and see what you can get. You never know, that full tuition scholarship could be yours.

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