If you can't make enough to pay your loans then your not trying hard enough.
IMO there's nothing "dumb a**" about going to school or taking a student loan if needed. The bigger problem with student loans is not the cost of tuition, it's taking loan $$ and using it on vacations, over priced knives, beer etc.
Taking a loan is a pure financial decision.
Treat it like one. It's not free $$$.
There's a really flawed theory that gets regurgitated all too often here at CT from my perspective. That theory suggests that you just go get a job cooking for minimum wage or washing dishes etc and you will make more $$ in the long run. That may be true for a select few but certainly not the majority. The first problem is Joe Schmo at the local greasy spoon that hires people with zero experience probably doesn't know his rear end from a Chinoise so your not going to be taught much from Joe. Secondly even if you do move up through the ranks on average it takes several more years than those who go to school and most earn less $$ with out a degree.
There's a world of difference between being a small owner/operator and working at a corporate level. Nothing wrong with either option but with out a degree you almost completely exclude yourself from some of the best and highest paying jobs.
That doesn't mean you should go over your head in debt going to the most expensive school. But lets not forget that not every one needs loans to go to school.
Going to school and working are not mutually exclusive of one another.
School is of little value with out experience. Experience pays poorly with out an education.
Find a balance between the two. Find a skilled ACF certified chef and try to get a job, at least helping out at peak times and breaks while you attend school.
The shortest degree is two years. That's two years to plan where you want to go in a geographic sense and two years to pursue leads assuming the school couldn't help with placement.
If you are graduating soon I believe you have six months before payments start. That's plenty of time to still find a job.
In those first few years while you pay off your debt;
Use public transportation if that's an option. Car loans, insurance, gas, parking etc may not be necessary expenses. All that $$ can be paying down your debt.
Stop smoking and buying beer etc. Add that cost up for a year and apply it to your loan!
If you buy a car buy used.
Share housing with a room mate while your young.
If you have several loans at various rates consolidate them into a single payment. This can reduce your interest rate and your montly payment.
If you have SallieMae loans use auto debit for your payments. IIR they drop the interest another .25% for that.
ALWAYS pay more than the minimum payment even if it's only a small amount.
Adding to what Nicko said about Hospitals look for work at corporate HQ's that have cafeterias. Those are often run by Co's like Aramark, Hostess etc. It's not sexy work but it's often very stable, M-F, 8-4, No nights, no weekends, no holidays with insurance and steady pay. That leaves you free to take a PT job at a high end restaurant where you can pick up more experience but the pay is low.
Draft a written budget. Writing down how much you pay for every thing and setting aside the $$$ you need out of each check really helps keep the budget on track. That's a simple step many fail to do.
Never take a job you don't want to keep for a year.
Try to be selective about who you work for but keep an open mind.
Best of luck no matter where you go!
Edited by DuckFat - 12/15/12 at 8:11am