During the college application season, the main priorities of many students are to get into their top choice schools. However, the cost of attendance is a small factor for these students, especially as they start to eye top tier schools that give out minimal financial aid.
As future students, we frequently fail to understand the financial burdens that college brings, and overlook the different strategies to finance these expenses.
When a student opens the application portal to their top choice school and sees the words “Congratulations!” they are usually overjoyed and are prepared to spend the next two or four years there. Although some students may need to pay over fifty thousand dollars a year to attend, the usual response is “who cares; I got into my number one school.” For most seventeen and eighteen-year-olds, fifty thousand dollars seems like a future problem or even just their parents’ problem, and they would rather pay that bill than go to another school with a significant scholarship.
This inability to truly comprehend how much college costs eventually cripples students financially. The average student loan debt is about 37 thousand dollars, whereas the average starting salary of a college graduate is around 50 thousand dollars before taxes and expenses, according to NerdWallet. It’s the lack of knowing just how expensive college costs and the amounts they need to pay pack that will haunt students.
Another financial decision that many students regret is the lack of financial planning throughout college. Most students find out after college that they could have taken out a different loan or invested their assets in reducing their financial burdens. What hurts them is the realization that they could be paying thousands less if they took a moment to reorganize their assets.
Also, many students don’t truly understand the importance of financial literacy in the real world. According to Forbes, many students fail to grasp the concepts of budgeting, investing, and even the terms underlying their student loans. If students don’t even understand their own students’ loans, how can they prosper in a rapidly changing economy?
The truth is that most students fail to plan out their finances until it’s too late. What hurts more is knowing that if they spent ten minutes talking to anyone with financial experience, they could have an extra thousand dollars in their pocket today.
Although it seems simple to get a financial advisor and pick an economically favorable school, it is difficult to make those hard decisions as high school and college students. When I worked at Starbucks for three months, I found myself spending the majority of my biweekly paycheck on an unhealthy mix of candy, Chipotle, and League of Legends.
At the time, I had no qualms about my spending, and I wasn’t thinking about college loans. A few weeks ago, I was admitted into the University of Pennsylvania under the school’s early decision policy.
It wasn’t until I saw my tuition for the 2019-2020 school year when I became grounded in the reality of college expenses. After all, nobody wants to pay sixty-five thousand dollars a year when they only make nine dollars an hour as a part-time cashier. It takes the experience to truly understand the gravity of the financial burdens we take on, and unfortunately, many students start to realize it when it is too late.
In a consumer-oriented society, students are encouraged to go out and buy everything even if we can’t afford it. From giant inflatable snowman during the winter to the newest trek bike in the summer, the crisis of American consumerism has never been more severe.
According to The Motley Fool, the average first time home buyer requested to take out a mortgage of around $309,000 at a 4.1% interest rate over 30 years. Rather than save up or buy a smaller house for the time being, many graduates come in with the mentality that they can just pay it off over time without it being a real problem. Unfortunately, they won’t regret it until the mortgage bill comes in after the first month.
On top of college loan debt and poor financial planning, millennials are struggling to comprehend the downside of consumerism and face a compulsive urge to buy products that cannot afford.
Although the future may sound bleak with massive debts and expenses, many of these can be prevented with proper financial planning and smart economic decisions. As future students and homeowners, you still have time to plan out your future. So don’t be afraid to say “I want to save my money,” because the reality is that saving a dollar now will save you thousands in the future.