How to Avoid Student Loans: How Parents Can Help

Avoiding Student Loans

How to Avoid Student Loans: How Parents Can Help

Published July 14, 2023

Avoiding Student Loans

As an 18-year-old, it’s easy to see the world as nothing but possibility. And it’s true! But those possibilities come with costs and trade-offs, which is hard for teens to realize. As a parent, you play a big role in giving a big-picture view as your student makes choices about college. Being strategic about the colleges your student applies to, can help him or her avoid taking out student loans for college.

Don’t Wait Till Senior Year for the Talk

No, not that talk. The talk about money. When you put off the discussion about costs and financial budgeting, you’re missing the chance to set expectations. Students need to realize that their biggest financial boost will come from choosing the right school. They should make wise choices financially, not based on brand names or where their friends are going.

Start Estimating EFC and Net Prices in 9th Grade

We consistently hear from parents that are shocked by the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) they are given. Avoid the sticker shock by starting to work with those numbers in early high school. Also, show your student how to understand the net price of a college, starting their freshman year. They’ll become much more savvy about where they want to apply.

[How Is Your EFC Calculated?]

Don’t Procrastinate on FAFSA

No one loves paperwork, and it can be especially hard when your family is involved in a variety of activities. However, the FAFSA is one of the key determinates to how financial aid is done. Your student will be eligible for lower cost loans, loan consolidation, state aid, and much more.

[Can’t-Miss FAFSA Resources]

Don’t Rely on “Hope and Pray” as a Strategy

Teens often want to apply to competitive schools to see if they can get admitted. If they are, it’s natural to want to support them in attending this “dream” school. But the dream can quickly become a financial nightmare, for both you and your student. Instead, help them understand the importance of only applying to schools they can afford to attend.

Don’t Pay Out of State Tuition for a Public University

Public universities really stick it to out-of-state students. They use out-of-state tuition as a way to make up for state budget cuts. They also don’t usually give out-of-state students any financial aid. There’s no reason to pay the cost of a private school and only receive the resources of a public university. If your student has an in-state option, that’s the public school they should attend.

Don’t Believe Private Scholarships Are Your Payment Solution

Great grades don’t automatically equal a great scholarship to pay for school. This is especially true since many private scholarships are $1,000 or less, and only last for one year. Think about how many scholarships your student would have to apply for to make a difference in school costs. And if the awards don’t come through, a student often ends up with loans instead.

[5 Things To Know Before Looking For Private Scholarships]

Stop Believing College Rank Equals Better Salary

Remember that there are no guarantees regarding graduation and jobs, even at the top-ranked schools. Even if your student has a slightly higher salary due to the brand of the school, it won’t make up for all the extra debt and debt payments they will have as well. The total amount borrowed shouldn’t be more than the annual salary upon graduation – and top-ranked schools are much more expensive than that.

Parents Make a Difference

As a parent, you play a vital role in helping your student understand the impact of borrowing money and the fact that it will follow them for years – sometimes decades – after they graduate. Help them avoid a nightmare of debt by setting boundaries during the college search process, and ensuring they only look at schools within their financial resources.

Students can only borrow $28,000 over four years or $31,000 over five years. Beyond that, a private student or parent loan is required. High schools, colleges, and banks don’t do a good job educating kids about the impact of debt. You’re the only line of defense your student has. Stand strong!

Steps to Use Road2College’s R2C Insights to Build Your College List

If you’re building a college list, find out which ones offer the  most generous merit aid with our R2C Insights tool. R2C Insights gathers the most useful information from the Common Data Set and allows you and your family to quickly make comparisons across data points from multiple schools. 

You do not need to do anything special if you’re using R2C Insights for the first time, but we recommend these steps:

  1. Create a free account and set up your student profile.
  2. Do a search of colleges based on a specific characteristic, such as whether they offer merit aid or if standardized testing is required. 
  3. To see more than the sample list provided, upgrade to a paid account.

Try a broad search of colleges, especially if you are looking for colleges that can offer their student merit. By casting a wide net, such as all colleges where student GPA and test scores are at or above a college’s 75th percentile, you can see more schools. Then, sort by the average merit amount to narrow down schools that offer the most aid.  

R2C Insights is most helpful in helping families do a “reverse look-up” where they can enter their student’s academic stats and any requirements for location, school size, and major. Once entered, R2C Insights provides a list of schools that meet that requirement and where the student has a likelihood of also receiving merit scholarships. 

Whether you are finding out the affordability of a given list of programs, your child’s chances at admission, or simply figuring out if the college graduates most of its students in four years, R2C Insights can greatly simplify the process.  

Without R2C Insights, a family needs to find and review each college’s CDS on their own, but you wouldn’t be able to filter, sort, and compare colleges as quickly.

R2C Insights Road2College Ultimate tool to find merit scholarships and compare colleges
Try R2C Insights for FREE




In this article:

Upcoming Events

Similar Articles for You

Dear Roadie, My Son Insists on Borrowing $200K For a School We Can’t Afford. Did I Fail Him as a Parent?


Dear Roadie, My Son Insists on Borrowing $200K For a School We Can’t Afford. Did I Fail Him as a Parent?

Dear Roadie, My child committed to a school we cannot afford. He’ll be in debt for potentially $200,000. We fought...

Colleges Offering Merit Aid to 95%+ of Students Without Need

College Financial Aid Costs and Stats

Colleges Offering Merit Aid to 95%+ of Students Without Need

If you’re a family that won’t qualify for need-based aid, it’s time to start looking for merit scholarships. What Are...

Six Key Strategies to Lower Your EFC/SAI


Six Key Strategies to Lower Your EFC/SAI

Colleges use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine eligibility for financial aid grants and loans. The...

Become a Member

At Road2College you’ll find everything you need to make the admissions and paying for college process less stressful and more transparent.


Explore R2C Insights™ — your source for finding affordable colleges and merit scholarships.


Get coaching on admissions and college financing.


Join Road2College where parents and experts work together to inform and inspire college-bound families.