You've made it to college, so naturally you're intelligent. The problem, though, is that intelligence doesn't necessarily mean that you're more likely to make good, common sense decisions.
#1: Avoid Student Loans As much as you can, stay away from loans. I've had friends come up to me, telling me all about their "great financial aid" package. Everything is covered! What they neglect to mention, though, is that most of that package comes from loans. The problem with loans is that they have to be paid back. If there's another route you can take - being a bit more careful with your spending, getting scholarships, living at home, or getting a part time job - I'd suggest doing that instead. If you have to get a loan, you can minimize the amount you'll have to pay back. First, see if you qualify for a subsidized federal loan. After you fill out the FAFSA form, which you have to complete if you want financial aid, it will tell you if a subsidized loan is available for you. If it is, take it. That means you won't have to pay while you're in school, and it won't collect interest until after you graduate. Plus it has a low interest rate.
#2: Choose Your School Wisely
The best school for you isn't necessarily the most prestigious. Long term, my advice is that while other factors are important, one of the biggest is financial aid. So, unless you're guaranteed great scholarships, I would always choose a public university over a private one. If you stay in-state, your education will almost always cost less, because in-state students are given far lower tuition than out of state. Florida is actually one of the lowest states for tuition in the USA and if you're a resident you get even lower in-state tuition, so financially unless you get great scholarships out of state (or another factor, like a huge difference of prestigiousness of the school, is driving you), it makes sense to stay in-state here. The long term problem of debt isn't worth the short term gain of going to a university with a great location or that's slightly more prestigious. To be honest, the degree that employers care most about is the last one you receive. If you're going into a career that requires more education like medicine or law, it's probably better to go to a less well known undergraduate university and save money. Then you can go to a better known graduate school, which is what employers care about, and not have already dug yourself into debt.
#3: Get a Job
A part-time job, like work-study which goes directly towards your college costs, can help keep down debt and support you while you're still in school. That said, don't overwork yourself. 20-hour a week jobs are great for making money, but as soon as they start affecting your grades they're not worth it anymore. My advice is to try for an on-campus job.
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