How to Graduate Without College Debt
In 2016, the average college graduate finished school with a degree and $37,172 in college debt
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, according to US News. As the cost of secondary education continues to rise, so does the concern over how much college debt students are taking on. The most recent statistics, however, have a silver lining. About 30 percent of college students manage to earn their degree without going into debt
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— and you do not need to be independently wealthy to do so. If you’re beginning or already in college, here’s how to get through your courses without taking out any loans.
Select an In-State or Local School
The first step toward graduating from college debt-free is to choose an affordable school. While a private school that costs a quarter-million dollars to attend might be enticing, remind yourself youd spend the rest of your life paying for your four years at the school.
Rather than going to an expensive school, look at state schools or local colleges. Many state schools are well-respected, and in-state students can save thousands (sometimes tens of thousands) of dollars on tuition. Alternatively, you might live close by a good school that you could attend while staying at home. Enrolling in such a school might not reduce your tuition, but you’d likely be able to save $10,000 or more each year on room and board.
Apply for Financial Aid
The next step is to apply for financial aid. Even if you do not think you will qualify for any, it is still worth filling out the FAFSA — and doing so by the deadline. While most financial aid is in the form of student loans, there is a chance you will also be offered a grant or scholarship. This is money that you would not have to pay back, and you do not need to accept the loans to take advantage of any grants or scholarships.
Apply for Outside Scholarships
Once you have filled out all the financial aid information your college of choice requires, begin applying to outside scholarships. (You can even apply to outside scholarships before filling out the FAFSA, but prioritize the FAFSA once you have the financial information that’s needed to fill it out.)
Apply for as many scholarships as you are able to, no matter how small they seem or how far-fetched your chances of winning are. Every little bit helps, which makes the small ones worth while. The large scholarships have to choose some winner, and why not you?
Once you apply for a few scholarships, you will find that additional applications are easy. Most ask for similar information, and you can re-purpose essays for multiple applications. College Mouse provides you with access to hundreds of scholarship opportunities through our scholarships resource page.
Ask Whether Family Will Help
At this point, you should know how much you will have to pay out-of-pocket for your college education. Share this information with any family members who might contribute to your tuition, and ask them if they’re planning on helping you. Parents and grandparents generally will not mind if you’re upfront, as long as you phrase your request as a request and explain that you want to avoid taking out loans.
Work Whenever Possible
While you’re in college, you’ll spend a lot of time studying. You’ll also have a lot of free time, though, and this free time can be devoted to working.
If you work as much as possible during your four years of school, you’ll likely be able to any remaining balance. Getting two jobs over the summer could net you $10,000 or more, and many students find time to work both during the semester and on breaks.
Getting through college without any student loans isn’t easy. It is doable, though. If you put the work in, you’ll be glad you did when you’re choosing a career without any loans to pay.