Start Your Career Without Debt!
It might be hard to believe, but it’s entirely possible to graduate from college debt-free. Think about how amazing it would be to start your new career without worrying about paying off student loans.
Here are some surprisingly simple ways to graduate from college debt free!
HAVE A PLAN
Similar to making a monthly budget for life, having a plan will help you budget for college. Set financial goals along with your educational goals and stick to them.
SAVE CASH BEFORE COLLEGE
If you have time before starting college, start saving money now and set it aside just for college. Parents who plan to fund some or all of their child’s education should start saving money as soon as possible. High School students can get summer jobs to save some cash before college too. Anything helps and extra money could be used for textbooks.
GO TO A PUBLIC UNIVERSITY
Tuition at a private collegeis significantly more expensive than public college. According to US News, the average cost for a 4 year private college for the 2013-2014 school year is $30,094. This is for tuition alone! But the average cost for a 4 year public college is a fraction of that, at only $8,893 per year.
That’s an average savings of $21,201 per year by going to a public college.
RESEARCH STATE-SPONSORED SCHOLARSHIPS
Of course, many students don’t pay sticker prices at private or public colleges since scholarships or grants are sometimes available too. In addition to your college’s scholarships and grants, look into other state-sponsored programs for additional educational aid.
For example, in Florida we have the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Progam. Other State of Florida Grant and Scholarship Programs are available too. Look up your state for eligibility.
APPLY FOR LOCAL & ORGANIZATIONAL SCHOLARSHIPS
Another great place to check for scholarhips is your local high school, community and organizations. Many, many, many companies and organizations offer scholarship programs based on finanical need or academic achievement. Start seeking applications and talking to your organizations about scholarships.
CONSIDER MILITARY PROGRAMS
There are several education benefits for military members. The Post 911 GI Bill is an education benefit available to active duty military, reservists, and dependents, based on eligibility and time in service. If eligible, it covers tuition and fees for 36 months for in-state tuition. Additional details and eligibility is on the Post 911 GI Bill’s Website.
Another military option is an Reserve Officer Training Corps military scholarship. This scholarship pays full tuition for 4 years of college and has a 4 year military obligation upon graduation. Students complete the program and get comissioned as a Officer. This is an excellent way to graduate debt free! Like any scholarship, this is highly competitive. I was fortunate enough to use get this scholarship and I highly recommend it to high school juniors and seniors who want to join the military.
FRUGAL LIVING WHILE IN COLLEGE
Once you’re in college, remember to live like a college student. Don’t waste money on “wants” and focus on your “needs” instead. There’s nothing wrong with eating Mac and Cheese or Ramen to save money. If you’re using money from a 529 educational fund, be cautious about only spending the money on what you need.
Remember, you’ll need to fund college for 4 years. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
GET A JOB ON CAMPUS
Getting a part-time job on campus can significantly help pay for extra costs like meals or textbooks. Besides, having a job during college will help you gain valuable time management skills, build up your resume, and give you work experience. And some on campus jobs offer extra perks that save money. For exmaple, becoming a residence assiantance, or RA, could mean getting free room and board for the semester.
LIVE WITH YOUR PARENTS
While it’s not as exciting as living in a dorm on campus, living with your parents while attending a local, public college is a great way to save money. You’ll still have access to all the events on campus but you won’t have to worry about paying for a meal plan or a dorm room.
GO TO FREE COLLEGE EVENTS
Every college has lots of free college events, clubs, and organizations that usually include free food. Join a group, meet your peers with similar interests and get some free food!
DON’T GET A CREDIT CARD
Stay away from credit cards while in college! Some people say that it’s important to build up your credit card in college. But I think that having a credit card is too tempting for college students. When I was in college, I got one credit card “for emergencies” with a $500 balance. Although it was intended for emergencies, I rarely used it that way. I was tempted to buy clothes, food, and stuff I didn’t need.
DON’T GET A CAR (OR GET AN INEXPENSIVE CAR)
This one is controversial since many kids get cars when they first get a driver’s license. But if you’re living on campus and working a part time job on campus, do you really need a car?
But, if you do get a car, consider an reliable but inexpensive used car like a Volvo or Honda instead. And remember to budget for gas and maintenance fees too.
GRADUATE FROM COLLEGE ON TIME
Don’t get so caught up in college that you forget to declare a major and end up graduating late. Staying an extra semester to finish your classes can costs thousands of dollars in tuition, meals, and dorms. Not to mention, it will delay your ability to graduate and get a job that makes money. Meet with your academic advisor each semester to make sure you’re taking the right classes to graduate on time.
Readers: What are other ways to graduate from college debt-free? Add your comments below!