Dear College Kid is a series I write to my younger self. I would send them too, if I could somehow teleport myself via time machine to my late teens and early twenties. I hope other college kids find these letters, and garner some foresight that I myself had lacked. It’s not finance advice by any means, but rather, personal anecdote. Still. I hope it changes lives.
Dear College Kid,
Specifically the college undergrad hoping to enter grad school. (I am also addressing my past self.) I beg you, choose the grad school that costs the least amount of money. It doesn’t matter how well known they are, it doesn’t matter if your parents or friends went there, it doesn’t even matter if you like it. It matters most that it’s the cheapest.
At the end of your grad school career, you will walk away, diploma in hand regardless. You may also walk away with a large student debt. If you choose the cheapest school you can possibly go to, you will have an advantage over your peers. You will be starting your life at a better starting point.
I would love to teach all college students to choose grad schools based on price. If more kids opted for cheaper schools, perhaps elite schools wouldn’t charge so much. A decrease in their applications will certainly give them pause. What if no one applied to the most expensive schools in the country? Trust me, those private institutions will start to wonder why. Let’s not feed them our young.
Starting a career with less debt is equally as good as starting a marriage with less debt. You want the foundation of your life to be on solid ground. If you begin life in the red, then you will encounter more struggles than the people around you. There will be more restrictions with what you can do.
This isn’t to say you can’t live a flashy and glamorous life. You certainly can, but you are restricted to a loan forgiveness program. Or you have to work more hours. Or you may be tied to a job that you hate in order to pay the bills.
But if you start your life with less debt, you will have more freedom to choose how that debt is repaid. You can be ahead of the curve and have a higher savings rate. With more savings, you will reach your financial goals quicker. You can work less hours, leaving time to learn about investments instead. Or you can focus on building careers around your passions rather than your degree.
There are so many benefits to having less student debt. I really implore you to consider the following:
Choose the college that will cost you the least amount of money, because that may also be the path of least resistance to financial success for new grads.
At least, that’s what I would tell my past self. I hope she listens.
If you’d like to speak to a professional, I have a recommendation! Speak to Travis Hornsby and his team at Student Loan Planner. They are knowledgeable and give great advice.