What I Wish I Knew: Financial Aid and Student Loans

By Michelle Schroeder, Founder of Making Sense of Cents

Getting anxiety from student loans happens to all of us. In fact 30% of students who take out loans to pay for college end up dropping out due to financial anxiety. Just think about how much that sucks for a second. 

As financial aid application season is approaching with FAFSA Forms released January 1st (Pro-Tip: sign up at nextgenvest.com to receive free text reminders to save you time on financial aid apps!), we sat down with Michelle Schroeder, Founder of the personal finance blog Making Sense of Cents to get her advice. 

You have a great story about turning around your student debt - how much did you owe and what do you do now? 

I graduated with around $40,000 in student loan debt from three college degrees. While some may say that's little and some may say that's a lot, it was too much student loan debt for me! Even though I worked full-time all throughout my undergraduate and graduate degrees, I lived on my own and wasn't the smartest when it came to budgeting and expenses.

I paid off my student loans mainly due to side hustling like crazy. My side hustles are now my full-time business too, so a lot of good came from my mistake. Now, I'm a full-time blogger and writer. Check out the awesome work life balance Michelle has here

Did you understand how loans would impact your future career and living options at the time? 

In all honesty, my student loans weren't too crazy high so they mainly impacted me in that I got extremely stressed out thinking about how I may be paying them back for 10-20 years, which seems to be what many college graduates end up doing. I knew I could pay them back, but I didn't want to be paying them back for THAT long.

Did you apply and receive financial aid for college? If so, any tips? 

Yes, I received a decent amount of financial aid and scholarships for my two undergraduate degrees. My top tips are to make sure you have good grades in high school and that you turn in any financial aid and scholarship paperwork on time. This is a step that many students forget.

Were you aware you could negotiate financial aid packages to get more money? If so, did you do this? 

I honestly had no idea! This would have been great to know.

Did your high school's guidance counselor help you with applying to financial aid? 

No, I did everything on my own.

Looking back on taking out loans for college, what are 2 things you wish you did differently? 

First, I wish I would have taken out less student loans. I definitely could have budgeted my money better and cut back on living expenses. While due to certain situations I was forced to move out when I turned 18, I know I could have cut back on shopping, restaurant spending and more.

Second, now that you said it, I wish I would have negotiated when it came to financial aid!

NextGenVest helps keep students on track with money over text, what's one text message you wish you received in high school?  

Back then, I wish I would have realized that while everyone else may be spending money like crazy when you are that age, that not everyone has to spend money! Keeping up with the Joneses is not a good idea and material items will not make you happy.

Keep these valuable insights in mind when applying for financial aid and take a moment to think about the real cost of college! Even more important, start getting excited about developing your own #SideHustles.