Saturday, May 11, 2013

Debt Free College?

I wish I would have even considered the idea that going to college debt free was possible when I was deciding what schools I would be going to, how much I wanted to work, etc.  I have read many articles and some books that helped me realize that going to school debt-free is possible, even for those with modest means.  Here are some tips on how you or your children could begin working today to have a chance to going to school debt free.

  1. Take high school seriously!  The work you do in high school can lead toward large financial rewards in college through scholarships and into your future without student loan payments.  My wife was able to get a scholarship to go to school tuition free by the hard work she put into her high school career.  
  2. If you cannot get a full ride scholarship and cannot afford to go to a 4 year university or college debt free then look into attending a community college for the first two years.  This could allow you to live at home and slash the long-term cost of college.  Most community colleges now have agreements with the four year universities to be able to transfer the first two years into a four year degree program so you are not behind starting your junior year. 
  3. Don't pick a school that is outside of your price range.  Apply to several schools that are within your budget based on the amount you or your family is able to save, the scholarships you have earned, etc. 
  4. While you are in high school earn as many credits as you can for college credit either through AP course offerings or dual enrollment classes if that is an option in your area.  Once you are in college check to see if there are any tests you can take to test out of classes or possibly earn some credit (make sure to study before the tests).  During the summers you may want to consider some online classes that could transfer into your college (make sure to check that they can transfer in before registering for them.)
  5. Apply for every scholarship you can find.  Check out local organization, national organizations,
    stores, the college, churches, etc.  Use the internet to search for scholarships and apply for them of all sizes from hundreds to thousands of dollars.  Each scholarship will help! 
  6. Many studies have shown that students who work while in college are more successful academically than those who don't.  This also will help you pay for college as you go rather than having to put your college on a student loan or you books on credit cards.  Make sure to get summer jobs too to help save up to pay for your tuition. 
  7. Start saving now.  No matter how old your kids are or you are, it is never too early to save for college.  You can invest in ESA's, 529s, or even a money market account if college is very close.  One of the programs that our family takes advantage of is the U-Promise program that allows a portion of purchases we make at stores to go into a 529 account to help save for our son's college. 
  8. When in college don't take out loans for "extras" like partys, upgrading your computer, eating out, etc.  You don't need to keep up with your college classmates in terms of spending.  
Do you have any other tips on how you or our children could go to school without debt?

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