It’s not uncommon to hear news stories anymore about the millennial generation going thousands upon thousands of dollars into debt to receive a college education. This is a conundrum because most jobs that offer good pay require a college degree, but this also requires students to go into debt for a large portion of their lives in order to eventually make a profit from their education. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. There are ways of going to college without going into debt at all!
Is College for You?
Firstly, you need to determine if you need to go to college. There are individuals who are more skilled working with their hands, to which a vocational school would be a better (and much cheaper) option. There is a gap of laborer jobs because of the large emphasis put on people to go to college after high school. If you do not fit into this category and feel called to go to college to achieve your dreams and livelihood, then please read the tips below to help you go to college without a large debt to pay off afterward.
1. Scholarships and grants
This should be the first step to pursue after you receive your college admission letter. Complete the FAFSA, a form that will allow you to determine how much the government can help you, and you could also receive some money from the government for free if your family fits into a certain socioeconomic category.
However, if you complete the FAFSA and find that there isn’t much help the government can offer, look at the college’s financial aid. The scholarship and grants options are listed the university’s website and can help you determine which scholarship options would be best for you to apply. AS a general rule, always apply for scholarships even if you think you aren’t the perfect fit. It’s surprising how many people don’t apply for scholarships for this reason alone!
2. Negotiate with the financial aid office
This is not a common way to obtain some funds for college, but it can be done if handled tactfully and if the university policy allows it. This could be as simple as finding out how much you would spend each semester, proving that you are just shy of being able to pay it, and talking to a financial aid officer about your situation. You will need to go through a rigorous process of proving your income and expenses, but this may be an option worth considering if you need a little extra help.
3. Work study
This is an option typically offered through the university for students that are within a certain income bracket. The university will offer on-campus jobs that are an excellent choice for those wanting to focus on their schooling, but need some financial help as well. This does count as job experience, and most work studies are flexible with your school schedule and understand that your grades come first. Work studies may pay a portion of your tuition in exchange for some part-time work on campus.
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4. Employer reimbursement
If you already have a job, look into whether or not they will pay for your college tuition. Some employers take a strong stance on bettering their employees, and if you are fortunate enough to work at one of these companies, they will offer to pay your tuition so long as you continue to work at that company for a specified period of time and can maintain a good grade point average. This also counts for military veterans: the military will pay for schooling after your time in the armed forces.
5. Choose an affordable college
As much as private universities tout their reputation, immaculate campuses, and benefits of attending their school, it is usually rarely a good idea to go into a large amount of debt to go to the top college of your choice. Public universities have their benefits as well, one of them including minimal to no debt upon graduation! Public colleges tend to have a wider range of degree options to choose from, have a wider range of classes that are offered, and can have just as accomplished faculty as those in private schools. Before going into debt for your dream college, really think about if it’s worth it to you to spend almost triple what it would cost to go to a public university.
6. Transfer credits
If you have (or had) the opportunity to take college-level courses in high school, then you are already off to a good start! These high school credits will usually transfer into college coursework and can save you money paying for more classes, meaning you may be able to graduate sooner. This also means that you get to focus on more major-related classes instead of having to take required courses in your first semester or two.
Coursework can also transfer from other universities. Going to community college for a year or two can save you a lot of money and once you find a college that will accept the credits you had already taken at the community college, you can move ahead in your degree program as if you were at that university the entire time. However, be aware that you may need to retake some courses if you feel that a course at the community college did not teach as much as you would need to successfully take higher-level courses.
7. Commute to college
If you live with parents or a roommate off campus, you will already be saving yourself a lot of money in the long run. You will still be able to have the college experience even if you don’t live on campus and you will be able to save a lot from not paying for meal passes and dorm room costs. Though you may need to cough up the cash for a parking permit and spend money on gas, it will pale in comparison to how much on-campus housing costs. That, and you will hopefully be able to have a much quieter living space.
8. Learn to budget
This is a skill that a lot of college students learn too late. They will spend money without thinking about the consequences of every purchase and then will need to take out loans. Budgeting gives you a birds-eye view of your finances and how you are spending your money. It can be uncomfortable to see how much you may find yourself spending on eating out or shopping, but learning your spending habits can drastically reduce how much money you will spend while you are in college and for the rest of your life.
Start Your College Journey
With these tools, you should be more equipped to tackle college and all the financial burdens that come with it. It will be a hassle to go to various people and research various things in order to make sure you go to college debt-free, but all that hard work will pay off in the end when you can enter the workforce and not have to spend years and years paying off your college debt.
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