I graduated from Humber College’s Bachelor of Music Program in April of this year, and during this week in October I fully paid off my student loan! I posted my success on my personal Facebook account and received a lot of positive responses. Quite a few of my friends messaged me personally asking how I did it and if I could offer them some advice on dealing with their own debt.
Please note my earlier comment that I went to school for music; I am no business major, going to the bank used to make me cry, and the word ‘math’ automatically hits the off button in my brain. Therefore, I will not be offering mind-blowing secrets worthy of TED talks and viral BuzzFeed articles, but I am happy to share with you my experience. That being said here is the honest truth about how I (yes, even I) managed to do it!
First and foremost, I need to address that the most significant reason for my success is that I have been incredibly lucky. Firstly, my father saved enough money for my post-secondary education that I only had to take out a loan for one school year. Not only did I have a small loan but I was also receiving a monthly $200.00 orphan’s benefit from the government. The majority of students are facing much greater financial struggles than I have had to deal with but I hope I can still offer some relevant information.
Notes on Scholarships
There are a lot of scholarships, grants and bursaries that are funded by every level of government as well private foundations. When I applied for my loan I was awarded a $2,000 scholarship because of a personal letter I attached with my application. Some good resources to check out are: Scholarships Canada, Yconic, and CanLearn.ca.
Furthermore, take advantage of College resources. I am always surprised how few people do this. There are financial advisors, co-op advisors, counsellors, professors, writing tutors etc. who are paid to help you succeed.
Think about it this way: You got a loan to pay for your tuition, now your school is spending a part of your tuition on financial aid resources for you! Ironically, there is also a lot of money spent trying to find incentives to get you to simply use them. Crazy, right?
Finding these people can be done using the internet, those ‘College Services’ pamphlets that are printed throughout the school year, or asking the person who works under the sign conveniently labelled “Information”. From there you can a) send them an email b) give them a call on their work line or c) book a meeting during office hours.
Take into account that these people are servicing a large community and that you may not get an appointment with them during the first week of September. Calling once and saying, “They were busy” does not constitute truly making an effort. Set yourself up for success by being conscientious of the schedules of the people you want to help you get ‘free’ money.
These same people can help you get those coveted work study jobs within the college. This is something I did for the last two years of my degree. I also worked in the summers and throughout the school year sometimes multiple jobs. Work Study jobs are great for multiple reasons: They are flexible of your school schedule, do not require you to endure commuting if you live on campus (or close by), potentially provide you significant work experience in your field, allow you to connect with an amazing community of people, and typically pay above minimum wage. Most colleges require that students who receive these jobs demonstrate financial need in order to make it easier for you to be hired.
In my college experience, it was these people who made all the difference. My phenomenal work study bosses, my inspiring teachers, and our program’s amazing office staff gave me so many opportunities that helped me financially, emotionally, and intellectually. Make sure that you always thank them and recognize the work they do for you.
# 3 Budget
The last thing I want to talk about is budgeting. As previously stated, I don’t do numbers but I do do a lot of thinking and this is what I’ve found has helped me.
How you spend your money and how you spend your time will greatly determine your level of success. Time and money are totally connected with both making and losing money. For me being aware of that helped me make some more responsible financial decisions.
While I was at college I didn’t go out a lot. That helped me quite a bit financially and I found other ways to socialize through work, school and hanging out with friends who didn’t need to go out in order to have a good time.
However, sometimes it is a good use of our time and money to do something fun because it fills an emotional need. Other times it is irresponsible to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the local bakery because it does not save as much time as the financial cost it is taking (guilty). Needs and wants can be flexible and it is up to you to be accountable for recognizing what is appropriate.
Be careful that you do not fall into the bad habit of treating long-term products (i.e. laptop) like short term products (i.e. gum). I would also argue that you should question your need vs. want for some of the short-term products in your life (i.e. coffee at the bakery everyday).
At the beginning of this article I attributed luck as the greatest factor in my success. This remains true from a financial standpoint because had I required a larger loan I would not have been able to pay it off as quickly as I did. That being said, I would still do everything the same. I have learned that having a positive attitude, an incredible work ethic, and practicing conscientious thought will serve you well in your budget, your education, and ultimately your life.