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Student debt is at an all-time high, yet perhaps the most terrifying part of this is that many students (myself included) still aren’t ready to shift the way we think about spending and saving. Chances are, students do not have a lot of interest in saving money, even if they don’t have a lot of it.
Why is this?
The answer is pretty intuitive. Instant gratification derived from spending provides us with the short term thrills that we can conceptualize and that we crave in the now. It is much more difficult to visualize the gratification we will feel four years down the road when we aren’t buried in student debt. It’s an abstract thought as opposed to a tangible beer, designer pair of jeans, new laptop, etc.
Secondly, university and college is supposed to be about experiences! This idea that “these are the best years of your life” are drilled into our minds and I would speculate the amount of times I have felt guilt over not going out and not studying have been equal. The Halloween Boat Cruise, the costumes, the parties, the Spring Break trips are arguably as big of a part of our education as the courses themselves.
But the debt is real. A TD Economics study found the average student debt after university is $27,747 ! How does one stay on top of this mountain of experiences and education without going through school with a heavy heart and a light wallet?
LocAZu has outlined some realistic and helpful measures to make sure you keep yourself above the student debt blues and into a reliable stream of income:
- Get experience! This cannot emphasized enough. The economy is shifting, and employers aren’t willing to take as many risks as they once were. While it used to be enough to apply as a bright, bushy-tailed and eager student, these days employers want someone who has already been in the field a few years. Even when job postings boast ‘no experience required’, the market is so competitive that more often than not somebody with experience will have that edge to butt out the competitors. So obtain an internship, go on co-op, even volunteer while you are still in school. Companies are usually more eager to help active students (especially when it’s free), and the experience and competitive edge you will obtain is invaluable.
- Be resourceful: Ideally, don’t take on debt if you don’t need to. Be crafty in scoping out ways of keeping money in the bank whether it’s finding affordable housing or negotiating student deals wherever you go, from sushi-to-go to drop-in yoga classes. There are resources out there other than financial aid that can still be of major assistance in spending smart.
- Hone your skills: You have your degree, or perhaps you have a diploma in a skilled trade. Guess what? It’s not enough. Good news, the peripheral skills you develop can go a long way in filling the gap between degree and job. Regardless of your option, almost all employers are looking for a set of fundamental skills such as critical thinking and communication, says Carl Van Horn, director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. Take time to familiarize yourself with Powerpoint and Excel, even if your degree is in music, or perhaps, especially if your degree is in music. Best news is this extra skill development doesn’t need to cost you a penny. With the likes of YouTube you can find tutorials on everything from how to tie a tie to how to give an effective presentation. Make yourself well-rounded, and you become a more valuable and marketable asset to any team.
- Apply for bursaries you don’t believe you are qualified for: This seems counter-intuitive. Of course, apply for bursaries and scholarships you do qualify for, but don’t limit yourself to that. There is money out there and people who want to help students financially, often times it’s the recipients that are lacking! According to Kam Holland, director of awards and financial aid at the University of Winnipeg, students simply overlook grants and financial assistance that is available to them. At York University, when a $45,000 scholarship was posted recently, out of 50,000 students only 5 had applied. Acknowledge that it takes time and effort to apply, sometimes up to 12 hours per application. The requirements, whether they are official transcripts or letters of recommendation, are enough of a factor to deter many students from applying. Don’t let that be you. Instead, put the hours in, the odds are in your favour.