College Debt Can Actually Hurt Academic Performance—Here’s Help

There’s no question about it—the ability to focus and concentrate for extended periods is absolutely critical to college academic performance.

The problem is—college debt can actually hurt focus and concentration.

debt affects academic performance

In this article by college student Ashley Bulchandani on, she tells adults exactly how she feels. “As a current college student, I am personally struggling with college debt and paying off my loans.” She worries that “debt accumulation can stress out students and lead to negative behaviors such as drinking, smoking, working a lot, and not focusing in class.” She points to research showing that “excessive college debt results in overall low academic performance in college and low graduate school attendance.”

The happy news is that parents can help. A lot.

1. Restrain your urge to push your child toward education that comes with a high debt burden.

Surprisingly, prestigious Gallup research concludes that expensive education does not lead to a happier life, more career success, or more money. See the exciting, liberating article I’ve written on this subject here. Or see me talking about this here.

2. Fill out the FAFSA financial aid form every October you’ll have a kid in college the following fall, even if you think you’re too wealthy to get anything.

Your child could get thousands extra to help pay college bills without loans. Even if you make over $200,000 a year and have significant assets. It’s worth a try!

3. If the stress is so bad that your child’s considering dropping out of college, here’s help.

You can see the gentle, practical advice I provided for a worried parent just like you, here.

4. Communicate with your child about the debt, and make a strategic plan together.

A research study at Montana State showed that when students with significant debt received letters warning and guiding them toward better actions and academic decisions, those students ended up with “improved GPAs, a higher number of credits completed, and increased retention in school.”

It would be helpful if your child’s college would send out a letter like this, but if it doesn’t—you can.

Or maybe you don’t know what to say to your kid on this subject? My STRATEGIC COLLEGE STUDENT class will do all the talking for you, in just one 3-hour session. To find out when you and (or) your child can next take this class either live or online, subscribe to my email updates at

This class can do great things for your child’s academic performance.

5. Let your kids know—it’s possible to drastically slash their student loan debt while still in college.

I provide free help on exactly that in the article I wrote here.

6. Remember, the best plan is to use multiple strategies so that student debt isn’t a problem for your child.

For clear, step-by-step help that provides parents every viable strategy for getting kids through college debt-free, get your copy of my book:

It’s a reference book, so nobody reads the whole thing cover to cover. Pick out what you need to read in it using the fast-paced, 10-minute video instructions here.

You can see more than 100 reviews of it on Amazon at:

(Tell your friends.)

You can see why financial advising professionals love LAUNCHhere.

You can see the top 9 questions parents are asking me about LAUNCHhere.

Read just one chapter of LAUNCH every 1–3 months while your child’s in middle school and high school, and you’ll know every viable strategy for debt-free college at exactly the right time to implement it.

And if your child’s already well past middle school? That’s OK; you can run to catch up. But the process of getting your kids through college debt-free goes more smoothly the earlier you start it—especially if you’re not planning to save up any money to pay for college.

Take a step on this right now. Get regular, inspiring help from me—every Monday morning.

Subscribe to my free weekly email newsletter here.

Do you have specific questions for me about debt-free college and career for your kids?

It’s my members that get most direct access to me. Doors to my membership open each year for just 5 days in March, and 5 days in September. It costs just pennies per day, but space is limited. Join the Waiting List here.

Have you heard?

Exciting FAFSA changes may apply to you in 2022–2023 and beyond. Be the first to learn about them when you subscribe here.

Learn one sentence that can help your child achieve more academically—starting this year.

You’ll find it in the article I wrote here.

Get more help enhancing focus and concentration—whether you’re a college student or not.

In his outstanding book Deep Work, author Cal Newport says this about extended periods of focus and concentration: “Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. It’s like a super power in our increasingly competitive twenty-first century economy.”

What about you? How did student loan debt affect your feelings about college and your academic performance?

Comment below or LIKE Jeannie Burlowski Author on Facebook, find this post on that page, and let’s talk about it there.

Who is Jeannie Burlowski?

Jeannie is a full-time academic strategist, podcast host, and sought-after speaker for students ages 12–26, their parents, and the professionals who serve them. Her writing, speaking, and podcasting help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free, ready to move directly into careers they excel at and love. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, Parents Magazineand US News and World Report, and on CBS News.

Jeannie also helps students apply to law, medical, business, and grad school at her website You can follow her on Twitter @JBurlowski

This article was originally published on this blog on November 6th, 2017. It was most recently updated on July 1st, 2021.