How Does College Debt Affect Future Life Choices Of Students?

Brandi Glass
5 min read
Man and Woman Studying at a Park

College debt in the US is growing every year and forcing many students to make tough decisions. Some are opting to balance their studies with hefty part-time work schedules so they can take on fewer loans. Others are choosing to forgo college altogether. And many are finding their post-college options are more limited.

Despite that, many students feel that they made the right decision in going to college and taking on student loan debt. While undeniably a serious decision to make as a teenager, they believe it provided valuable life experiences and enabled them to achieve a financially stable career.

Is college worth the debt? And how does college debt affect future life choices of students? If you’re asking yourself these questions, keep reading. We’ll explore what college debt means for students and prospective students like you.

How Does College Debt Affect Future Life Choices Of Students?

Having student loan debt can lead to less disposable income, greater financial vulnerability and a poorer credit rating. In turn, this can force college students to pursue higher-paying careers and postpone important life decisions.

Reduced Spending

As college-educated people find themselves allocating a significant portion of their salary to their monthly loan repayments, they are naturally less able to spend money on non-essential purchases.

As such, they can find themselves unable to go on vacation, purchase a new car or simply pay for small luxuries. These financial restrictions can also lead to heightened stress levels and a feeling of dissatisfaction with their lives.

Choosing A Career For The Salary

Having a college degree can open the door to a wider range of careers. It's one of the biggest long-term benefits of studying for a degree.

However, college debt may also mean that college students feel that their career choices are in fact more restricted. Some decide not to pursue artistic or otherwise creative roles for fear that it wouldn’t be enough to repay their student loan debt.

There’s no denying that a higher-paying career has many benefits, from a greater pension to a bigger home. Wealth has even been linked to better health and a longer life. That said, disliking your job also has a negative impact on your physical and mental health as well as your self-esteem. Making career decisions solely based on the potential salary can have severe ramifications.

Not Quitting Unfulfilling Roles

Depending on their monthly salary to repay their college loan debt means some students experience greater financial vulnerability. As a result, they may be unwilling to quit unfulfilling roles or unpleasant workplaces without another role already lined up.

This is a particularly big problem among workers whose salary doesn’t allow them to regularly contribute to a savings account. They end up living paycheck to paycheck, with the fear of losing their income driving their professional decisions.

They can also find themselves picking up more overtime hours and not taking vacation days. This can contribute to greater stress levels, which in turn can have a negative effect on their health.

Living With Family Members

Some college students benefit from a supportive family with spare bedrooms in a house that’s conveniently located for their work. Returning to their parents’ house or moving in with other family members is often a relief. It reduces their outgoings and financial vulnerability, and can even allow them to pay off their student loan debt more quickly.

That said, many people with student loan debt feel frustrated that they have to live with their family members instead of their own apartment. They can struggle with the lack of independence, longer commute times and a return to a more child-like relationship with their parents. While many appreciate the support from their family, they also wish they had the financial freedom to move out sooner.

Moreover, some people with student loan debt may find themselves forced to live with relatives that they dislike. It can lead to increased familial tension, which in turn can exacerbate stress levels and cause an unpleasant home environment.

Postponing Major Life Decisions

With less money, a poorer credit rating and greater financial vulnerability, some people with college debt can find themselves forced to postpone major events such as buying a house, getting married or having children.

Some also choose to have fewer children than they would like as they do not feel able to financially support them, especially if their children also choose to go to college.

This can be a frustrating and disempowering situation. It is often particularly stressful for women worried about decreasing fertility rates in their 30s, although men can also be concerned about this.

Is College Worth the Debt?

Given the consequences of taking on so much college debt, it's no surprise that some students are asking themselves if college is really worth it.

This is a deeply personal question, and the answer will depend on several things, including your level of financial support, personal and career ambitions, risk aversion, interest in academia and more. But while college debt levels keep growing, so does the wage gap between those with a college degree and those without one. For the average US American, going to college is a profitable decision.

That said, there are many factors that will affect your post-college salary. Having a college degree does not guarantee significantly higher wages.

Empower Yourself with a Financially Stable Career

Taking on five- or six-figure college debt means that achieving a financially stable, well-paying career is more important than ever for students. This means making smart decisions around college majors and internships, leveraging networking opportunities and honing resumes.

A well-written resume will help college students stand out from other applicants when applying for even the most competitive of jobs. It can also be used to leverage a higher starting salary.

Your resume needs to highlight the value of your college degree as well as your work experience. It should also be machine-readable so that it’s not automatically discarded by applicant tracking systems, tailored to the role you’re applying for and visually attractive.

Your resume is important, but building it doesn't have to be time-consuming. Resume templates designed for college students will help you quickly write an impressive resume. Our resume builder will also help you by suggesting the ideal structure based on your professional experiences, along with recruiter-selected phrasing to describe your skill sets.

Each one of our templates is machine-readable and easy to customize. Build your resume in 10 minutes so you can focus on studying for your degree and acing your job interviews.