If you have student loan debt as a recent nursing school graduate or if you’ve been in the field for years and have been paying the minimum payments on your loan, it’s a good idea to consider ramping up your payments.
You may have to sacrifice your lifestyle for a while to pay off your loans fast, but it will be worth it. Freeing up the monthly payment will allow you to use those funds for other goals such as saving up to start an advanced degree program or put you in a more stable financial position for large purchases such as buying a house.
Below are some practical steps you can take that will make a huge dent in your student loan.
Avoid Lifestyle Inflation
Once you graduate from nursing school and enter the repayment period on your loan, avoid lifestyle inflation. Instead, continue to live like you’re still in college. While it’s tempting to increase your lifestyle after you start making a full-time nursing income by getting a nicer home and new car, avoiding these lifestyle upgrades and instead focusing on paying off your loans will set you up for long-term financial success.
If you have been in the workforce a while, try cutting skimming the fat from your budget and redirecting those funds towards your loan repayment. Budget items for cable TV, cell phone plans, the latest tech gadget and eating out are all great categories to look at squeezing extra money from each month.
Nurses work in a field where there is often a shortage of qualified professionals to fill the needs of patients. If overtime is offered by your employer, take it with the goal of using the extra money to pay off your loans. If no overtime is available, consider taking a second job until your loan is paid off.
Paying off a student loan is often a longer-term goal, so it’s important to stay motivated and focused. Have a target date in mind for when you’ll pay off your loan and set some exciting life goals that you can begin working on after they’re paid. Try using an online debt calculator such as Unbury.me to create an optimized debt repayment plan to help minimize interest and keep you motivated throughout the process.
If you follow these tips, you will cut down the repayment period of your loan substantially. Just by delaying some lifestyle upgrades or cutting back your discretionary expenses for a few years, you’ll set yourself up for financial success for the rest of your career.
Even before they fill out an application for nursing school, nursing students know their particular academic path is not an easy one. In nursing school there are no classes where you can slide, no semesters where you know your schedule will be easier, and no time to take a breather because you know you’ll catch up later.
For nursing students who have any kind of learning difficulties or who might need specific accommodations to make sure they are able to participate at the same way other students do, nursing school is particularly daunting.
Lots of students come into nursing school knowing they might have a reason to request an accommodation or with an already documented history of successfully working with a classroom or testing accommodation. But plenty of other students who previously worked around whatever difficulties they had or logged extensive hours to keep up, don’t realize they need one until the rigors of the work load and the demands of the courses in nursing school make it very clear.
Whether you arrive at college having previously benefited from an accommodation or you are already in school and just realizing that your current approach isn’t working, a visit to your schools Office of Disability Services is in order.
Generally, the office will issue accommodations for students after really examining the difficulties they are having so they can find out what works, what has not worked, and what accommodation will best serve the student.
Among accommodations many schools see are those where students request more time to finish an exam or those who request a separate, distraction-free area to take an exam. Other students might need note takers in class or might request to have exam questions read aloud to them.
Students request classroom-based and testing-based accommodations for various reasons including a learning disability, anxiety, or a hearing or sight impairment. Being granted an accommodation doesn’t put the students ahead of the game, but gives them equal standing and an equal chance to be academically successful.
If you are granted an accommodation, it is then up to you to decide how to proceed. Many schools will allow you to use the accommodation as needed per class. So you might request extra time in one class, but not in any others or you might request extra time to take exams in all your courses.
Although you do not have to disclose your reason for your accommodation to faculty or teaching assistants, it’s especially helpful if you discuss the logistics with your professor at the beginning of the term or semester. Ask how the accommodation will be handled and how it will best be used for that specific class. Professors are used to accommodations and some even talk about accommodations in the course syllabus. Remember, you are welcome to share the reasons for your request, but you are under no obligation at all to do so.
And if you are struggling and think an accommodation can help you, reaching out for assistance will only be a positive. Today’s culture, especially on a college campus, is open and accepting of all the different learning styles people have. But if you don’t feel this acceptance, you don’t have to reveal your request to anyone but the office that grants accommodations.
In addition to reducing your stress and removing obstacles to your success, advocating for yourself now will be a huge benefit for you after graduation. Once you know what works, you’ll be able to ask for accommodations in the workplace if you need them and with a full and experienced understanding of how it helps your performance.
Kara Bellucci, this year’s Minority Nurse Scholarship winner, never considered nursing as a potential career. Lacking the confidence to dive into hard sciences, and with a real passion for family, race, and class issues, Bellucci’s life changed when she spent three years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi, Africa.
“When I came back to the States, I realized that one-to-one connection was the common thread,” she says. Bellucci began on a path to nursing that included taking some classes to prepare for nursing school and to complete requirements beyond her bachelor’s degree in women’s studies from the University of California, Davis. Now a nursing student at Columbia University’s intensive 15-month master’s program, Bellucci will launch immediately into Columbia’s 3-year-long clinical doctoral degree program upon completion of the master’s degree work.
“Nursing came to me organically,” she says. “I didn’t think connecting with people was a skill I could translate into work. Nursing was reaching out to people and it’s a holistic approach. It’s about physical and emotional wellness. I didn’t know that kind of nursing existed.”
The connections Bellucci forms with people is what grounds her to a career in nursing. In Malawi, she says one of her roles was to help connect a group of women bakers with other resources in the community so they could bake and sell products. The satisfaction in helping the women, seeing them thrive, and being a part of that made a huge impact on Bellucci. “A lot of that is in nursing,” she says. “It’s connecting people with resources.”
And Bellucci has also spent time as an outreach worker for people in single occupancy hotel rooms and on the streets in San Francisco. Bellucci, who was unfamiliar with the surroundings, says she had a lot of misconceptions about the community at first. And the realization that her own bias could impact her nursing was powerful. Despite different backgrounds and lifestyles, Bellucci says she still formed connections based on common threads with the people she was helping and the goal of safety and health.
“I realized that it’s going to be important through this career to check in on the different layers of my identity,” she says. The process will help her take a step back sometimes and consider how her own life experience could change how she sees something.
Eventually, Bellucci would like to go into family practice where the connections with patients often span decades and generations as well. “You can develop longevity with patients,” she says. “That’s an environment I would enjoy.” And Bellucci says she can see eventually circling back to her global experience to somehow get involved with international nursing.
For now, Bellucci says the scholarship will help her financially so she can get the skills she needs first. But it also serves as a reminder, she says, and a validation for how important nursing is.
“It’s a nice affirmation to find out there are others who think there’s more diversity to be brought into the field,” she says. “It’s an affirmation and the excitement for that.”
And like most nursing students, Bellucci says she is apprehensive about the student debt she is accruing as is her family. “To tell them I got the scholarship was reassurance that other institutions believe in me too,” she says. “It’s a nice confidence vote.”
As a nursing student you know one thing for sure—no two professors are alike. The benefits of having great professors are obvious, but even the most difficult professors will teach you some valuable skills.
Even if you know you’ll learn in a course, it doesn’t make dealing with an obnoxious professor easy. How can you make the best of a bad situation?
Start Each Class With Good Communication
Sometimes, students and professors get off to a bad start that never seems to resolve itself. Professors deserve and are used to a certain level of respect, and you should approach them with that in mind. Start any communication with them by addressing them as “Professor” before their last name, until you are directed to do otherwise.
Triple check to be sure you have spelled their names correctly. Use polite language (never slang) and err on the side of being too formal. That means don’t send an email full of texting abbreviations, and always thank them for taking the time to help you.
Act Like You Deserve to be Taken Seriously
Of course, to lay a good foundation with your professors, you need to be a good student. Get to class on time, not 5 minutes late. Pay attention to what is being taught and participate in the discussions. Don’t spend lecture time on your phone or playing catch up with other students. Get your work in on time and with all the requirements. Be focused and your professor will be likely to notice and take you more seriously.
Reach Out for Help If Needed
Despite your best efforts, you might get a professor who is impossible to please, is rude, doesn’t give good lectures, and gives exams that border on out of line. If you have approached the professor for help and have gotten no where, you are not out of options. All schools have either an academic advising or a student support services office that will work with you to help you resolve any conflict or miscommunication. The Dean of Students is also an excellent resource when you are having real difficulties with a professor.
Find an Out
If you just have a really bad feeling (for instance,your professor tells you that even a hospitalization is not an excused absence), then see what your options are. Talk with your advisor and see if it’s too late to switch classes.
If you feel the professor is on a mission to fail you and you have exhausted all your options and outside assistance, you might look into withdrawing from the class. You ‘ll probably lose money, but it might impact your nursing school career less than failing a class. Your advisor will help you through this decision.
Accept the Life Lesson
Dealing with unpleasant people is difficult and can rattle your confidence. But it also makes you tougher, and as a nurse, that’s a skill that will come in handy. Learning how to cope with someone’s unflinching criticism (whether deserved or not) is good practice for anyone’s career. If your professor has pushed you to the limit, take a step back and see what you can learn from the experience and use that to your advantage in the future.
Whatever problems you might have with a professor in your nursing school years, you can turn the lessons you’ll learn from it into something useful and helpful.
When you think of being successful in college, you know lots of hard work, hours of studying, and a dedicated commitment will pay off. But if you’re heading into nursing school this fall, there’s also another essential, piece of the puzzle that will help your college years go as smoothly as possible.
What else can you do to help you make the most of your time in nursing school? Get a team together—one filled with other students you can rely on, professors who can teach you, advisors who can guide you, and college services offices filled with information.
While many students enter college thinking this will happen naturally, planning for the right kind of team is almost a strategic business move. You aren’t going to pick your friendships and associations with an eye on getting ahead, but knowing where to go for help and developing relationships with people on campus will always help you.
Friendships Are Your Foundation
Good friends will be a life saver when you are in college. Not only will they be right in the trenches with you and understand what you’re going through, but they’re also a steady source of sage advice, on-target observations, and, hopefully, some comic relief. Friends aren’t all good for the same thing all the time. You might find you develop friends to study with, friends to blow off steam with, others who help you reach your fitness goals, and others who’ll binge-watch Netflix with you the day after your last final.
Professors Motivate You
Some professors will make you pull your hair out and others will push you to make yourself better. Reach out to your favorite professors to cultivate a good relationship. They will help you when you are struggling with a class, offer you career advice, and will serve as references when you are seeking internships, externships, or a job.
Academic Advising Introduces You to the Possibilities
The most successful students are the ones who seek out help. You may have never needed a tutor or needed extra help in a class, but nursing school is a whole new situation. You aren’t expected to know everything, and keeping up the intense pace of nursing school is difficult—even for the best students. Get to know your school’s academic advising office and staff. Ask them for help with classes, difficult professors, or time management. They are an important part of your team and the sooner you develop a relationship with them, the more likely you are to avoid pitfalls like burnout, poor grades, or procrastination.
Health Services Watches Out for You
If you have any kind of chronic medical condition—from diabetes to depression —college is not the time to manage it all on your own. Health services will help you with getting medication, finding outside providers, and checking in to keep your health on a steady course. When you get to campus, start getting acquainted with the people and routines of the health services center. If you ever need to take any time off for medical reasons, they will be a big help with the process. The first time you see them shouldn’t be an emergency.
Career Services Takes You to the Next Level
All nurses have an end goal of a career in nursing, but that final career will look different for so many students. Career services will help you figure out how to narrow down your best career path, but they will also help you take steps to get there faster. Start early to get a resume in order, explore career options, and even develop a plan of outside experiences (volunteer work, summer jobs, internship or externship opportunities) that can help you get there.
Nursing school is a step toward independence and your career, and surrounding yourself with people who can help you will make your experience that much better and more successful.