That's reality for the typical college graduate these days, according to a new report by Fidelity Investments .
Seventy percent of students in the college class of 2013 are graduating with an average of $35,200 in credit and student loan debt. Only 30% are graduating debt-free.
If they had a better understanding of debt when starting college, 39% said they would have made different choices. That's a 14% jump from the same survey in 2011.
“The number of graduates reporting surprise by the level of student debt they have accumulated is a big concern and shows that there is a considerable need for families to better understand the total cost of college,” said Keith Bernhardt, vice president of college planning at Fidelity Investments.
Of course, that's easier said than done. The vast majority (85%) of respondents said they personally contributed to their college costs, and one in five spent more than $10,000. And 80% took on part-time jobs to support themselves.
Likely thanks to the crushing blow of the Great Recession, more students said they considered the "hireability" factor of different majors –– 57% said they picked their major based on their prospects of finding a high-paying job.
That's a wise place to start. But the greatest takeaway from the report is this:
When it comes to paying for college, the earlier you start strategizing and saving, the better.
There are useful tools out there, many of which can be found at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's website, which has a page just for students.
For pre-college students, check out their guide to paying for college.
For new graduates saddled with debt, check out this guide on how to start paying off your loans.
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