Unusual Tips to Avoid Student Loan Debt

crop businessman giving contract to woman to sign
Madeleine Karydes
Madeleine Karydes

Madeleine attended UC Berkeley and double-majored in English and Media Studies. She is now an integral part of the Empowerly team.

Are you looking for tips to avoid student loan debt? As we’ve discussed on this blog, there are a myriad of traditional avenues for families to help pay for college. For example, students and parents often hear about saving early for college. Many students aim to take college-level courses while they are still in high school. And of course, we encourage applying for financial aid and scholarships. 

However, if this is not enough, there are plenty of unconventional ways to save money and remove financial burden as well. Essentially, there are ways that students can save money for themselves while they are getting their education! This will help to eliminate some of the possible student debt left for the student after graduation. It also relieves pressure put on parents to make a large contribution upfront.

Start Out on the Right Foot

Apply to many schools

Applying for many schools is like flooding the market to increase your chances of getting a possible financial aid package. If a particular school really wants you to accept their offer, they will be more likely to tack on larger aid packages. They do this in order to entice you to join their university. Obviously, better financial aid offers mean less student loan debt in the end!

Bargain for a better package

When students are awarded a financial aid package, they will need to review this assessment as well as the money they have been awarded through the FAFSA or CSS. All these financial aspects should weigh against the features of the school itself, to decide if the final package is good enough. If you are a good student and the package is not up to scratch, you can open a conversation with the financial aid team. Begin this conversation by discussing a way you can be awarded more money to make attendance possible.

Go abroad

Going abroad can actually mean paying lower tuition costs than at many local colleges. There are universities in Canada as well as Europe that accept American students into programs for less than it would cost those students to attend a school of equal caliber at home. Just be sure to do your research (and of course, factor in necessary travel costs as well).

Stay home and save

Students can also consider the opposite of distance travel. Opting to stay at home and go to the local university or community college can be a very wise financial decision. Attending an affordable institution for at least the first two years can mean getting core classes completed for less, as well as saving on the living costs. You will not have to move your things or buy furniture until you decide it’s time to move to university for specialized classes. Saving on the first half of college may also mean being able to afford a more prestigious or expensive school for the latter years.

The experts right in front of you

The role of a guidance counselor can vary. For freshmen, this person offers support and a safe haven in a totally new environment. This relationship is similar for sophomores. The relationship between student and guidance counselor often shifts to college preparation when the student enters their junior year. A good counselor is also there for students as a resource when they are ready to think about financing their education. Students should take advantage of this advice, and let them know that you are looking to avoid student loan debt as much as possible. Your guidance counselor will have information about scholarships, grants, and other options that you may not have even considered.

Stay the Course

Pile on the credits

It may seem counterintuitive, but some universities allow you to take more than the average number of full-time credits. In other words, if your school charges for tuition by semester, you can take as many units as you like, without paying any extra! This will save money in the end, by accelerating the process of getting the degree.

On the other hand, if you must pay per credit, this isn’t a wise option. Always, you’ll need to take your capacity into account and avoid overloading your schedule.

Short terms

Many schools operate in two terms, one in the fall and one in the spring. There is often a large break in between them in which classes are offered at an accelerated rate in a short period of time. These shorter terms are often referred to as the winter and summer sessions. These classes can sometimes be cheaper than the ones offered in the normal class terms and because they will be completed in less time, this will also add to the overall acceleration of the degree. Finishing the degree sooner means the student will be able to seek professional employment sooner, so you can start paying off any loans you do take out.

The surprising benefits of online classes

As many students have realized over the course of COVID, online classes are a feasible (if not ideal) option. The negative reputation often given to online classes is unwarranted when you consider the level of education is the same while the costs may be less. Taking online classes means that all of the work will be done at the most convenient time for you. You will not need to schedule your life around class times. This often allows students to work while they are in school. This also allows for students with families the opportunity to take classes without disrupting their family life.

Students will save money if they do not need to find transportation to class and this may also help to save in terms of housing costs. Students will not need to live on or near campus in order to complete their education.


So there you have it! These are a list of unusual tips to avoid student loan debt. Being smart with your money in every possible way will help you later on in life. Though an education is a worthwhile investment for many reasons, it doesn’t mean you have to go bankrupt to access it. 

If you’re looking for more help, or need a private guidance counselor to help you explore your options, reach out today. You can book a free consultation below to meet with one of our team members and learn more about the Empowerly approach. We help students with the whole college application process, from start to finish. This includes financial planning! From scholarships to offer letters and more, we are here to help you on the path to your best future.

Questions? Let us know!