Eva Baker is a high school student passionate about preparing for her financial future and helping other teenagers prepare as well. When she isn’t rock climbing at the gym or pinning ideas for her non-existent wedding, she documents her financial journey over at TeensGotCents.com. Find her on Facebook, Pinterest and Google+!
Eva has already guest posted on Reach Financial Independence about how responsible she is with her money and how she plans for her future as a teenager. If you missed it, you should check it out, it is a great read and awesome to see someone so young with a retirement envelope!
Graduating from college debt free is a goal that I have had for a couple of years. Although I am only seventeen years old I know that taking on huge amounts of student loan debt is not how I want to start the adult portion of my life! There are several ways to do this and teens have more options than ever before when it comes to graduating debt free from college. If this is important to you then it is just as important to map out how you are going to do this and plan accordingly. Here are some of the things that I plan to do so that I can achieve my goal:
Dual enrollment is a great way for high school students to earn college credit while also earning credit toward high school graduation and is available in most states. I had to take a standardized test and have the scores needed in order to qualify. As a dual enrollment student in Florida you do have to buy your own books but the tuition is free! You are limited to two classes per semester (in my county) and only high school juniors and seniors are eligible to participate. Dual enrollment is a good option to get as many college credits as possible before ever even graduating from high school! I have several friends who are not limited to the number of classes they can take in their dual enrollment programs and will graduate high school with their AA degree. Be sure to carefully check with your local community college to see what the requirements and limitations are to enroll in the program. It is best to start that process the January BEFORE you plan to enroll for the fall term. If you plan to pursue an Associate or Bachelor degree then you should contact the school you hope to attend and make sure that your dual enrollment credits will be accepted.
If you are really smart, are a hard worker, or have some combination of the two, then getting a scholarship could be a great way to graduate debt free. There are many academic scholarships available to students but there are also other types of scholarships that may be available to you. But there are so many other ways as well! Are you good at sports? Does the company your parents work for offer scholarships to children of employee’s? Are you willing to enter a contest in order to win money to put towards college? You can find entire books devoted to scholarships and contests at your local library to give you plenty of ideas on how to get started. My brother was a finalist in the VFW ‘Voice of Democracy’ contest two years in a row and won a little over $1,500 in cash prices that he put towards his undergraduate degree. (I have a feeling that entering this contest is in my near future as well.) You can read about my friend, Tim Caiello and how he won a full scholarship to the school of his choice by working very hard at academics in order to qualify for scholarships. His goal was to go to school debt free and he put in the time and effort to achieve that goal while he was still in high school.
Living At Home/Going To A Local School
More and more people my age are planning to attend a local school in order to reduce the overall cost of college. The cost of living on campus or getting an apartment can almost double the cost of college for the average person. Although some people need to go to a specific school to pursue what they want to study most of us can find a program that suits our needs very close to home. My plan is to live at home while I am in college so that I can keep my costs as low as possible.
Working While In School
Another way to avoid taking out student loans is to work while you are in school. Many colleges and universities have opportunities to work right on campus which is really convenient if you don’t have a car. You can also get a part time job off campus as well. If you are a hard worker most companies will work with your school schedule. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that many people take out loans not only to cover tuition, but also to cover their living expenses. What’s worse is that sometimes students are buying expensive clothes and eating out for every meal – on BORROWED money instead of doing everything they can to keep costs low! Don’t do that! Instead of borrowing money you can get a job, spend carefully and graduate debt free.
Skip It Completely
This is the ultimate way to avoid student debt and is an option that is growing in popularity here in the U.S. In an article written by Andrew Dalbanco for the New York Times “Illiberal Arts” ‘Is College Worth It?’ and ‘College (Un)bound’ Mr. Dalbanco describes William Bennett’s (former education secretary) outlook on college. “In the search for employment, he believes, a college education confers less advantage than is commonly assumed and leaves students with crushing debt. He would prefer to see the United States emulate countries like Germany, where most young people are tracked into vocational training, and he wants more Americans who do go to college to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics rather than what he calls “irrelevant material.” An infographic that appears in Time Magazine ‘Is College Worth It?’ shows what the Pew Research Center found as it took a look at the value of a college education for today’s families. This really is something to consider. College isn’t for everyone. Don’t be locked into attending university just because you feel pressured to do what everyone else is doing. Make the decision that is best for you.
To tell the truth I absolutely hate school. I work hard and make good grades but it is not my favorite. If I could do what I wanted with my life without a degree you can better believe that I would do it! However, I have decided that I want to be a respiratory therapist, and I have to go to school. Thankfully it is only a two year degree which will further reduce my costs.
How are you planning to keep cost down while in school? If you already have a degree, what worked for you and what would you do differently?