Thursday, January 24, 2013

How This College Instructor Graduated Debt Free!

Not too long ago I started writing an eBook with tons of ways to save money.  I got about 20 pages in and realized, that I had absolutely NO DESIRE to finish it.  But since I'm the type of person who hates waste, and I definitely hate wasting time, I figured what would have become an eBook would make a few good blog posts.

Today we're talking about how to save money when you go to college, or really if you even should go to college right now.  I realize this won't apply to many of my normal blog readers, but if you have kids who are approaching college age, or if you have friends who have college age students, pin this post for later!

Determine Whether You Need a Degree, or Just Education
There are plenty of ways to get educated without going to college.  The library and the internet are full of amazing resources.  You can learn how to start your own business, or teach yourself a new skill without actually spending a dime.  Obviously some career paths require one or more formal degrees, but trust me it is possible to continue learning without going to school.  For example, most of the money I make right now, are from income streams that have nothing to do with my degree.  I learned how to make money blogging and writing eBooks not because I got a degree in internet marketing, but because I didn't want to work a full time job outside the home.  I read every book there was from our library, snagged every Kindle freebie, and will learn from any expert willing to teach me.  None of this cost me a dime.

Do Well In High School
I was one of those people who had my room, board, and books paid on an academic scholarship.  I know I’m the oddball and not everyone is so fortunate, but I worked my rear-end off in high school.  My mother wisely limited our extracurricular activities, and did not permit me to get a job.  Both of my parents, educators themselves, were very involved in my education.  One year of education, board and books at this school was $20,000.  I attended there 2 years, so even though I didn’t work during high school my hard work earned me a $40,000 education.

Go To a Less Expensive School and Work!
Although I could have stayed at the university I had a scholarship to, I decided after my sophomore year in college, the school was not the best fit for me.  I transferred to another school that was much less expensive and closer to home.  I still received a scholarship for half of my tuition, but now I had to “pay my way” so to speak.  Living at home, rather than in the dorms saved me a huge amount of money, but I still had to make up the difference by working.

I went from an all “A” student to an “A”, “B”, and a 1 “C” student.  Grades were always important to me, but working 3 jobs while trying to carry a full load of classes means there will be less time for study.  I’ll be honest with you, getting some “B’s” and that 1 “C” *sob* were tough pills to swallow at the time, but my college grades don’t matter AT ALL today.  Considering the fact I’m currently employed part time by said college as an instructor, my grades must not have been that bad, and my general work ethic must have shown through.

Take Less Classes At A Time and Work More
One of my biggest pet peeves is hearing college educators gripe about how it takes so many students 5 years to graduate with a “4 year degree.”  But my thoughts are, “SO WHAT?!” I went boarder line crazy my last semester and took 25 credits just so I could graduate in 4 years, yes I accomplished my goal but my education suffered.  Even though my grades weren’t bad, I’d be hard pressed to tell you what I actually learned that last semester.

Don’t Get  a Degree Right Away Unless You Need One
The notion that everyone is college material at 18 fresh out of high school is FALSE.  It’s sad to watch students spend a ton of money on education only to drop out after their freshman or sophomore year with no degree, and 2 year’s worth of debt.  Potential students should think long and hard before choosing a course of study.  There are plenty of certification programs that lead to great entry level jobs that could be completed in lieu of a 4 year degree, or completed before pursuing a traditional Bachelor’s.

Don’t Fall In Love With A School
Seriously look into at least half a dozen, if not more schools before selecting the right program that will fit your needs and be a bargain.  If money is a chief concern apply for all the grants and scholarships you can and keep searching for the best school that will be your best bargain.  For example the University I attended my first two years of college ran $20,000 a year for tuition and dorm fees.  Normally this wouldn’t be the best deal but because I qualified for some serious scholarships it was.

Don’t Buy Books From The Bookstore
Every college Freshman needs to know this!  Text books that go for over $100 in the school bookstore can be found for less than $50 online.  Some books have even bigger savings.  It’s so automatic to go into the college bookstore and purchase all your books there, but DON’T!  Unless your professor will be giving you a huge test in the very first week of class you can almost always find a better deal online for a book.  As soon as you know your courses and professors find out your book list so you can get your books as soon as possible.  I’ve found Amazon has excellent deals in this area, but I generally always check a few online stores first.

Ask If An Older Edition Book Will Work
There are some courses I’ve taught where it’s imperative that all of my class has the same edition book as I do, but for the most part older edition books are perfectly acceptable.  Ask your professor, you can save some HUGE money buying older editions.  My hymnology students love me this semester because our text book was in public domain and they were all able to get their copies FREE!

Make Finding Scholarships and Grants Your Job
FAFSA is the application for government grants and student aid.  Fill out the form as soon as you think you might be going to school.  There are also many websites that can show you other potential grants or scholarships your qualify for as well.  Your most powerful tool though is the financial aid officers at the schools you’re considering.  They will know the scholarships available for students at their school and might be able to suggest some other programs as well.  Students who attend college on scholarships and grants.

Don’t Go Into Debt
I mentioned this before, but it is better to take a smaller course load paying your way through than go into debt.  Taking on debt has become so common place in the world of Academia and it NEEDS TO STOP.  I have countless friends saddled with debt and their not even in the career field they wanted to be.  There are ways of getting through school without debt, even post graduate programs.  I recently had a friend get into a Doctoral program where the museum she works at pays for it completely, in exchange for her continuing to work there after she gets her doctorate. Look for these programs.  They are out there.

Don’t Get Discouraged
If you are smart enough to get into college, and if you are intelligent enough to graduate, then you are smart enough to figure out a way to go to school debt free.  Yes it’s hard, yes it takes time, but consider it to be your first test.  Will you pass or fail?

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