I’ve heard more than a few recent high school grads say they’re going to take a year to work and then head off to college.
These particular students have an idea of what they want to major in and where they want to attend school. Their primary motivation for waiting a year is to save money to help pay for college.
While avoiding student loan debt sounds like a wise idea, I don’t know if it is the best move.
The jobs you’ll work without a college education while you are trying to save money typically pay less than those you can find with a college degree.
The longer you’re out of school the harder it is (and less likely you are) to go back. As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”
Each year you’re not working in your desired career choice will mean a loss of higher income and other benefits such as health insurance and retirement funds. (And remember, retirement plans such as 401Ks have the beauty of compound interest working for them!)
So what should you do if you’re looking to get through college with as little debt as possible?
Consider starting your college education at a community college and work hard while you’re there. Then transfer to a four-year college with some transfer scholarship options.
Stay out of credit card debt and work your way through school as fast as you can. Treat your schooling as if it were your job. Show up on time, work hard and get as much as you can from the experience.
I used to be an academic adviser at a community college, and I saw both traditional and non-traditional-aged students waste years of their lives “working” to pay their way through college. Their grades suffered and they were miserable.
I’m not a big proponent of student loans, but I think that if they get you into a high paying job faster, they can be a useful tool for creating a better life.
Not all debt is bad. It’s your approach to managing it that can be.