How to Finish College with No Debt

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Oh, those student loans – for most people, they’re a fact of life. Unavoidable, and something to be thought of later. Much later. Maybe treated like that old pair of jeans that you just can’t get rid of, but you don’t really like, so they sit in the back of your closet for five years. College with no debt seems like an impossibility.

Instead of carrying a dark cloud of student loans around after graduating, what if you didn’t have to worry? I knew when I started school that I wanted to avoid loans at all costs. (Pun not intended -haha.) Maybe you’re thinking the same thing.

It’s important to note that you will have to be very dedicated to get through college this way. It’s not easy, but if you’ve read this far, I think you can do this. All it takes is a can-do mindset, some research, and being willing to work hard.

It isn’t a big deal if you already have some debt, either. You can always make a plan and get on track to graduate without those extra expenses. So, let’s jump into how you can finish college with no debt.

1. Money from grades, activities, and more.

Scholarships are everywhere. If you research, you’ll find that there are possible scholarships in almost every category. Check by your major, by your grades, by your college, and even extra-curricular activities or hobbies. Some planning is needed as most scholarships have deadlines, and you’ll need to apply, sometimes send in an essay, and whatever else they require.

Competition for scholarships can be fierce. Get started early, probably before senior year, and apply for many, according to scholarships.com. You won’t get all of them, but you need to get as many applications out there as possible. That way, your chances of success are heightened.

For some scholarships, you need to make specific grades consistently, or you could lose the money. Some have other criteria. But seriously, how hard are you willing to work for money you don’t have to pay back? If someone wants to offer you a full ride for A+ grades, then do it. Those chances are rare. 

Here are some websites for finding great opportunities: Niche.com has a ton of information about schools and colleges to help you decide where to apply, etc. Another source is fastweb.com. They have a lot of valuable scholarship details for students.

2. Grants.

I used a lot of grants to get through college debt-free. Depending on your state, some will offer you a grant simply because of the school you go to or if you’re in your first year or two.

It’s a golden opportunity – and you’ll need to be smart about it. What I mean by this is take as many courses as you reasonably can. Grants don’t last forever. But it is free money – let me write that again – FREE MONEY – that you don’t have to pay back. 

Mine didn’t cover everything, but it helped pay for some textbooks and stuff. Find out what they offer at your college of choice. According to salliemae.com, the best thing to do to begin your search is to get the FAFSA turned in. It’s what I did, but it can vary depending on the type of grant you are looking for.

open book, library, education

3. Work Your Way Through School.

I did this while in college, and it turned out great. It takes a certain amount of time management and dedication, but so does the rest of your life, so why not get started early? If you can, it’s best to find a job that has a consistent schedule so that you can plan your classes around it.

For example, maybe you take courses in the morning and work afternoons, or work weekends and focus on school during the week. Just find what you can, and make it work for you.

It’s important to note that this job does not have to be in your field or be something you love. Think of it this way: this job lets you get through college debt-free, which is the dream of many. It gives you real work experience and MONEY!

In college, I worked as an intern for my church, then a housekeeper, and as a freelance writer, too. It doesn’t have to be glamorous; it has to serve its purpose (paying for your tuition and textbooks).

 The thing to keep in mind is you may have to be a little more patient. It’s important to take a full schedule of classes, but do not go into debt paying for them. It means consulting your budget and deciding how many courses you can reasonably afford that semester. Yes, it can take longer. But I can testify that it’s worth it not to have the student loans following you around forever.

4. Work Ahead.

This is for those who at least semi-know what they want to do after high school, and ideally have at least two years left before graduating. I did not do this, because I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life at that age, but I can think of some highly educated and organized people who did. 

Sadhvi Mathur of blog.collegevine.com says you can usually take courses through your school or local community college to give you dual credit. Start asking around about this. You may be able to get your basic courses done before even turning 18.

I would take this approach for sure, if I could re-do it. When you graduate high school with an associate, you’ll be miles ahead of everyone else. In most cases, you’ll be able to get your bachelor’s in two years or less.

notes, notebook, write

5. Local Colleges with Cheaper Tuition.

I feel like community college gets a bad rap, but this is how I got my education. I found the professors to be helpful and well-educated, and feel that I learned just as much, if not more, in this environment.

The case for community college is simple: it’s cheaper. I’m still trying to comprehend why people would not want to take advantage of this deal. This was one of my best choices.

I’ve never once regretted getting my education at a fraction of the cost, knowing that I learned everything that I would need for my degree. Plus, at community colleges, you’ll probably find many like-minded people who are juggling jobs, home, and schoolwork, as well.

6. Live Frugally.

College is not the time to be living large. Unless you’re a millionaire already. In which case, congratulations, and please tell me how you did it. The more you can save, the better for your wallet and education. Here are some ideas for being as frugal as possible while in college:

· Eat cheap – eggs, sandwiches, rice, and veggies are all inexpensive, and you can save a ton of money on groceries. 

· Get roommates – split the rent as many ways as you can. 

· Save extra money – birthday and Christmas money, extra from side hustles, and whatever else you’re able to.

So these are my six best ideas for graduating college debt-free. I used 4 of the six myself, and they really work. I hope you’ll try at least a couple of them.

If you’ve already started college and gathered up some student loans, don’t worry. There’s still hope to graduate debt-free. Start applying a couple of these methods as soon as possible, so you don’t take on any more debt, and then systematically budget to pay off the rest. Even if you just take on less debt than others, you’re way ahead of the curve.

A large part of success is being willing to work harder than others. It’s simple but difficult to do. Remember, no one ever regretted having no debt.

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