It’s never too early to start thinking about your financial plan for next year. I know days at the pool, summer vacations, and spending time with your friends seems waaay more fun but trust us, you’ll be glad you have a plan -especially if you’re flying solo when it comes to paying for college. More often than not, students and families who don’t create a financial plan for college are more likely to over borrow –putting themselves at risk for having a high debt burden upon graduation. If you are responsible for funding your own college education, it may seem that loans are the only option but we’re here to debunk that myth! Follow these tips to help minimize your debt :

Create a budget
All great financial plans start with a budget. If you do plan to borrow, this will help keep your borrowing to a minimum. If you already know your housing plans for this coming year, sit down and take a look at how much you will need per month – including rent, utilities, food, books, etc. Don’t forget to factor in the income you’re projecting to take home from your part time job. Are you planning to use your financial aid refund to help cover these costs? Use our Expenses Estimator tool to forecast your Ubill for next year and see what financial aid will cover.

Spend wisely
If your parents are leaving the college experience completely up to you, be sure you’re making wise spending choices. Don’t sign up for an off campus apartment that is $600/month and don’t get a meal plan if you don’t need it. Try and find affordable housing, and grocery shop for your meals. Yes, it’s okay to live off mac and cheese, frozen pizza & ramen if you have to! It may be tempting to use your financial aid refund and buy unnecessary things, but remember that money is intended to help pay your tuition, fees and living expenses only.

Accept your loans on a semesterly basis
Unless you know for sure you need the entire amount for Fall & Spring, you can hold off accepting the loans through your A+ account. If you decide you need the loan later on, we can always add it for you, or charge back the loan if you took out too much. Feel free to call our number at any time if you need help with this -->515-294-0677

Work full time in the summer
If you’re not taking classes this summer, chances are you have plenty of free time (refer to aforementioned “pool” time :) but we challenge you to work full time over the summer to help pay for your living expenses during the school year. If you find your financial aid refund and part time job income won’t be enough to cover your monthly expenses, this is a great alternative. If you’re living at home with your parents rent free this summer, try and save as much of your paycheck as you can so you can use that money to pay your rent. Saving money is key to any college financial plan!

Apply for scholarships
If you’re paying for your college education by yourself, the free money (AKA: scholarships and grants) is the number one way you can reduce your loan indebtedness. Always file your FAFSA every year by December 1st to be considered for priority aid (the automatic awards based on your need like the ISU grant) and fill out the FinAid Scholarship application through OneApp. Your college or department will also have their own separate application for their scholarships. The deadlines can vary, so look here to get an idea on timelines but generally, winter break is an excellent time to sit down and complete the applications. Don’t forget about the outside sources as well, like Fast Web and TFS.

Do you still need help creating your financial plan for next year? Schedule a one-on-one appointment with us! Email loaneducation@iastate.edu or give us a call @ 515-294-0677.