White man with messy hair and hand covering face sitting at kitchen table

Don't Fret the Debt: 5 Ways to Conquer Student Loans

Finances are only good if you put in the effort. If the future of your wallet feels burdened by student loan debt, these five tips can help you stress less.

The cost of student debt in the US has leaped by 129% since 2008, according to the Experian firm. College students experience the pressure of being the “future of the world,” yet they’re expected to pay heftily to be that future. Scholarships, grants, and outside funding for education are a wise solution—but what’s the answer for those who missed that window or need to bridge the gap to pay for their education? Are graduates condemned to make their bed of debt and bury their credit score in it too? If the future of your wallet feels doomed by student loans, these five tips may interest you (without the interest charge).

1. Make a smart school selection 

The price tag of college varies from program cost, fees, housing, residency, and more. If you calculate these factors early, you can find a school match that’s manageable for your financial situation and reduce the cost of your loans. Financially savvy options include in-state colleges, which often have lower tuition rates than out-of-state schools, and online courses, which cost considerably less than traditional on-campus tuition and fees.

Related: Our Best Advice on Making Your Final College Decision

2. Start at a community or state college

A convenient and affordable option to reduce student debt is to attend a community or state college for two years before transferring to another institution (often referred to as a 2+2 plan). This route will cost you less in the long run, as you’ll pay less for tuition, fees, room, and board the first two years, then finish your degree at your university of choice (without paying the four-year price tag!). Transfer programs and articulation agreements are often affiliated with in-state universities and can make transferring your credits much more seamless.   

3. Sign up for work-study

Work-study programs are an effective route for those paying for student loans out-of-pocket. A work-study program employs you through the school or a local nonprofit (if you qualify through the FAFSA), and you’ll earn at least the federal minimum wage. Your paycheck can be applied directly to your school account to pay for tuition, or you can use it for personal expenses or to pay off your loans a little (see below)—it’s up to you. Work-study is also an effective way to strengthen your résumé for future employment.

Related: What Is Work-Study and How Do I Find a Position?

4. Pay a little at a time

When your tuition bill creeps up each semester, the number can spook you. But you’ll thank yourself later if you start paying off some of your debt now. A minor payment of  $20­–$100 per month might not seem like much compared to a huge price tag, but it can steadily decrease your student loans if you stay on top of it.

5. Don’t blow your refund

Too often do college students accumulate unnecessary amounts on their loans, simply because they aren’t informed as to how they work. After the financial aid office applies a loan to your bill, you may receive a sum of money that was leftover, often referred to as a “refund.” Say this with me slowly: It’s. Not. Free. Money. Even if your refund check goes unused, it’s able to accumulate interest on your student loans. Returning the refund, or only using a considerable portion, will reduce your student loans and save you in the long run.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Taking Out Student Loans

If you’re short on money, using your refund for academic items like books, supplies, and software can be an appropriate investment. But it’s wise to consider anything you receive in student loans like a credit card—none of it is yours, only the debt.

Find money for college that you don’t have to pay back—check our Scholarship Search tool.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

avoiding debt community college money for college paying for college student debt student loans work-study

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
CollegeXpress Logo


Are you our next winner?

Register now for our scholarship giveaway

Melanie Kajy

Melanie Kajy

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me tremendously during my senior year of high school. I started off using the college search to find more information about the universities I was interested in. Just this tool alone gave me so much information about a particular school. It was my one-stop shop to learn about college. I was able to find information about college tuition, school rank, majors, and so much more that I can't list it all. The college search tool has helped me narrow down which college I want to attend, and it made a stressful process surprisingly not so stressful. I then moved to the scholarship search tool to find scholarships to apply for because I can't afford to pay for tuition myself. The search tool helped me find scholarships that I was eligible for. The tool gave me all the information I could ever need about a particular scholarship that was being offered. The CollegeXpress scholarship search tool is so much better than other tools offered, like the Chegg scholarship search. Thanks to CollegeXpress, I was able to apply to tons of scholarships in a relatively easy way!

Courtney Smith

Courtney Smith

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has been a huge help! The website is very organized with finding the right scholarship for anyone and anything. With CollegeXpress, I've been able to find many scholarship opportunities to apply for. Not only that, I'm also able to search for the colleges I have interest in and see what’s required and what scholarships they offer. I've learned a lot from CollegeXpress. They've helped me in many ways to achieve my goals!

Damian Rangel

Damian Rangel

September 2021 Mini Scholarship Winner, High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has helped me tackle college expenses, which will allow me to put more of my time and effort into my studies without the need of worrying as much about finances.

Ana Sophia Garcia-Cubas Assemat

Ana Sophia Garcia-Cubas Assemat

$10,000 Scholarship Winner, 2020

CollegeXpress has been an instrumental resource for my scholarship search and has given me the opportunity to try my best so I can graduate from college debt-free.

Tariq Adam Khatib

Tariq Adam Khatib

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress helped me a lot. I am a Tanzania boy who finished my high school studies in Tanzania. I never knew I could get an opportunity to get a scholarship to study abroad. I am happy that now I know how to find the school to study abroad through CollegeXpress.

College Matches