How I’m Getting Through College Without Debt, Not Even a Penny!*
by Jordan Elizabeth Borchert
College can be a daunting thing.
When looking at the costs of an advanced education, it is very easy to get discouraged. According to the Harvard Institute of Politics “Majority of College Students, 42% of all 18- to 29- year olds, have student loan debt”
When I started looking at schools, the first thing I noticed was the prices. I really wanted to avoid loans because I’ve heard horror stories about how much people have to pay back in interest.
I made a plan and hopefully it can help you or your children fund college.
- I Took AP/Concurrent Classes While in High School
One of the most important things I did was look into AP and concurrent classes at my high school.
Most schools have some sort of way to earn college credits whether it’s the AP or concurrent classes like I took or doing some kind of post-secondary classes.
If you want to go to college, take classes like these. You’ll have to take them in college anyway, so why not get them done early when it’s free?
Also, if you take the classes in high school, they usually go at a slower pace than they would in college so they’re actually easier. It will be a little harder than the normal high school classes, but college is definitely harder than high school, so it will also prepare you for what’s to come. It can be a good stepping stone for future success.
I took 29 college credits in high school and 28 of them transferred to the school I now go to. It made it possible for me to skip my entire first year of school and start college as a sophomore.
This saves a year of tuition, housing, food, books, and everything else. It’s a great way to save money.
- I Work During the Summer for Extra Cash
The next thing I did to make money for college was get a full-time job over the summers when I wasn’t in school.
I work in a factory and I don’t like it, but it makes me good enough money to keep me there for the summer. Since it is just a temporary job, I put up with it. If you don’t want loans then think long term; sometimes you have to do a job that you don’t like for a while if it pays well.
I then tried to save as much of each paycheck as possible by putting it in my savings account. The more money you can keep in your savings, the more money you’ll earn in interest every month.
Remember: every penny counts!
I also stopped buying things like gum and mints; little things like those don’t seem to cost much but, when you buy them every week, it adds up. You don’t need those things; they aren’t a necessity.
If you don’t need it, don’t buy it. Save!
You can also try to sell your old college text books for some cash.
Since I work full time in the summer and over winter breaks, I do not work during school. I take a full class load and completely focus on my schoolwork and grades. It is helping me to graduate a year early by taking so many credits every semester.
Also, by not having a job and only focusing on my studies, I’ve been getting straight As in all my classes so far. This is important but I’ll talk more about that shortly.
- I Applied (and Got) a Scholarship
The other thing every college student should do is apply for scholarships. Even if you don’t think you’ll get any, check them out, especially the ones through the school you’re going to.
I found out that my college would give me $5,000 right off the bat. Then they told me if I retook my ACT and scored one point higher, they’d more than double my scholarship.
I retook it and scored higher, and they raised my scholarship to $13,000.
I wasn’t in any sports or activities. I was just focused on my academics in high school. I never dreamed I could get that much but I did. You’ll be surprised what you can get too if you just look and ask.
The best and safest way (without being scammed) to find available scholarships is through the U.S. Department of Labor’s FREE scholarship search tool.
You should do the followings to find any available scholarships:
United States Department of Education suggest (on their blog) to check for available scholarships opportunities through:
- “the financial aid office at a college or career school
- a high school or TRIO counselor
- federal agencies
- your state grant agency
- your library’s reference section
- foundations, religious or community organizations, local businesses, or civic groups
- organizations and professional associations related to your field of interest
- ethnicity-based organizations
- Your employer or your parents’ employers”
- I Made a Deal with My Parents
The last thing that I did when preparing for college was talk to my parents. If you have parents who are willing to help you with school then use that and make a deal with them.
My parents and I have a deal that if I get straight As and stay in the honors program at my college, they will pay for my food, books, car, and phone. That’s a great deal and I took advantage of it.
I work hard in my classes so that they will be willing to help me out.
Talk to your parents and see what you can work out, and parents talk to your kids and tell them your terms if you are willing to help them.
Most importantly, both sides must keep up their end of the deal! If you slack off in school then don’t be disappointed when your parents stop helping you. My dad tells me, “I don’t fund stupid.” I doubt your parents will want to “fund stupid”, too. Make them proud to help you, and be responsible.
- I Didn’t But You Should Take Advantage of Free Money
Crowdfunding sites have changed the way people raise money. You can now raise money for almost anything, including college. And while I personally haven’t used this option, there are hundreds of thousands of students who are.
You can read about it more and see a list of the top 3 crowdfunding sites to get free money for college here.
What’s Next for Me?
Right now I am half-way through my second year of college. I have a year and a half left. I’ll graduate in three years instead of four (most people even take longer than that).
I have absolutely no loans/debt, and won’t have any loans/debt in the future, and I don’t even have a job when I’m in school.
I work hard in school and out of school and I utilize my resources whether it’s through the school or through my family. It is possible to make it through school without a lot of debt. You just have to be willing to work for it.
Guest Writer Bio: Jordan Elizabeth Borchert is an undergraduate at Bemidji State University in Minnesota. She is pursuing a creative and professional writing degree. So far she has managed to pay out of pocket for school and has no loans or debt of any kind for school.
*This article was featured first on Money Pantry.