Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What Can I Do to Minimize My Student Loan Debt?

As a financial aid administrator, I often get many questions from students and parents about how to qualify for financial aid, or what they can do to get more financial aid. Rarely do I get the question of how they can graduate from college with the minimum amount of debt. Just recently, this was the topic of a meeting I had with a current college freshman.
Considering that in June 2010, student loan debt outpaced credit card debt and is now over a trillion dollars, this question should not surprise me as it continues to concern students enrolled in college. So what exactly can students do to minimize their student loan debt? The answer is quite simple; focus your energy on winning scholarships. The how-to is much more difficult to achieve, but it does not have to be.
In my experience, many students spend a large portion of their time searching for scholarships and a lesser amount of time preparing to become a competitive applicant. Students need to invest more time into writing an excellent essay in which they tell their story and include not only their academic goals, but also their life purpose. They should also include in their essay their family background while maintaining focus on themselves, their most difficult obstacle and more importantly how they overcame it, what character qualities they learned, their experiences serving others in the community, and finally why they need a scholarship.
Gerardo Ochoa, Associate Director of Financial Aid, Linfield College, Portland, Oregon
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