I remember being 10 years old and sitting on the edge of my bed trying to figure out how I was going to pay for college. A college degree has always been important to me. From a young age I understood how expensive college could be. However as an adult I see this issue time and time again. I work with adults who are twice my age and still making payments on student loans. I mean what’s the point of going to college when you’re going to be paying for it for the next 25 years! So I made the decision I was going to get a college degree and that I was going to graduate debt free.
I come from a very middle class family and I never qualified for financial aid until my senior year which meant I needed to find a way to pay for college. I always felt the responsibility to pay for my own degree and not delegate that duty to my parents.
In May 2016 I was able to graduate with a bachelor’s degree with absolutely no debt and over $10,000 saved in the bank. For any of you who think college is expensive and impossible to pay for I’m here to share with you some ways that make it entirely affordable regardless of your grades and whether or not you qualify for a pell grant.
Junior Colleges Are An Option
As a little girl I had dreams of going to Harvard, Stanford, and other ivy league schools. I was able to get good grades in high school and even graduated with a 3.9 GPA. However, when I got a somewhat low score on the ACT I soon realized that ivy league schools were going to cost a fortunate, that is if I could even get in. Unfortunately my low ACT score left me with little scholarship opportunities so I chose to go to a junior college which in turn was one of the best decisions of my life. I received an academic scholarship because the size of the competition applying was nothing compared to the bigger schools. Not only were the classes more of a 1 on 1 basis with the professor, but I was able to finish a 2 year degree in 1 year due to the smaller and more individualized atmosphere.
After 1 year of school in a junior college I graduated with two associates degrees and was offered an academic scholarship to a division one school where I later graduated. Once you have an associates degree under your belt, colleges no longer look at your ACT test scores. In fact you can graduate high school with a 1.5 GPA and if you do well at a junior college you can still receive a full ride academic scholarship to a bigger school. So bad grades and test scores in high school? Don’t worry! Not only are junior colleges cheaper but they can set you up for success when applying for transfer scholarships to bigger universities.
Get a Good Summer Job
I know what you’re thinking, “I don’t have a degree so how do I get a good a job?” The truth is there are loads of high paying jobs that do not require a degree. When I was desperately trying to find a way to pay for the upcoming school semester I came across a friend who was a wildland firefighter and suggested the opportunity to me. While it took some humility to pack up my dresses and high heals for the summer, I found this job to be very rewarding financially. The work was hard but the pay was high and the hours were good. I sometimes worked 16 hour days for 1-2 weeks straight. It was a hard job but when fall rolled around I was able to pay my housing and fees up front and still have money left in the bank.
Take Online Classes
My junior year of college I was broke just like many other college students. I didn’t qualify for financial aid and I couldn’t afford to live on my own. I made the decision to move home for a year and do classes online. Many schools offer tons of classes online. I ended up taking 16 credits a semester and working 3/4 time. Living at home and taking online classes isn’t a bad option! I didn’t pay rent or groceries and I was able to save a lot of money in preparation for my senior year in college. Online classes also give you the ability to be flexible. Thus you can work full time and still attend college full time.
Get a Job While Attending College
I have a friend who was taught to take out student and personal loans to be able to afford college. She was taught she shouldn’t work through school so that she could achieve good grades. This logic makes absolutely no sense to me for a few reasons. First of all you’re going to graduate college and be thrown into 10-15 years of debt. Graduating college isn’t going to be a fresh start; it’s going to be the beginning of paying more bills than are necessary. Secondly there is no reason why you can’t work and get good grades. My freshman year I was working 30 hour work weeks while taking 20 college credits and graduated with a 3.9 GPA that year. Of course this lifestyle requires sacrifices; less of a social life, spending weekends doing homework, and not attending college parties, but this allowed me to be able to afford college and put me on the path of no debt. Don’t use getting good grades as an excuse to not work. We are millennials and we have been trained to multi task since the day we received our first flip phone.
Affording college isn’t easy. It’s a time of learning and growing. However if you are able to graduate without student loans and debt this allows for less stress and a financially more stable course as you continue your career path. I understand not everyone has the same circumstances as I do and maybe some cannot live at home while attending college. If this is the case there are other ways to afford school. Looking into the military is always a good option seeing as they will pay for your education. Avoiding college debt has been one of the best decisions I made. It’s not entirely easy but it is entirely possible.