Taking on $8,000 of debt doesn’t sound like a good thing, especially when you don’t have much to show for it other than a piece of paper and a funny looking hat. But when you consider that most students come away from college with much more debt than that for the same piece and paper and same funny looking hat, I suppose I did ok.
There are several reasons why I was able to escape with such a comparatively low amount of student loan debt and I wanted to share them with you today in case you or someone you know is headed off to college soon.
Utilize Community College
Although I never went to the community college in my hometown as a full-time student, I still took advantage of it being so near to me. I took several classes at the community college during high school for dual credit. Additionally, I took two classes right after my senior year of high school before heading off to an in-state university in the fall. This allowed me to build up 30 hours of transferrable credits before I even went away to college. I was able to start as an incoming sophomore and I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in only three years.
Do Your Research
A lot of students from my community went to the local college before transferring to the same in-state university that I attended. However they weren’t so lucky when it came to transferring their credits. In fact, a lot of them that graduated our community college with an Associate’s degree were only able to transfer about half of their classes to the university.
The morale of this story is to do your research to cut the cost of going to college. If you think there’s a possibility you might go on to a certain university, you better make sure the classes you are taking at your community college are eligible to be transferred in. Otherwise you wasted your time and money taking community college classes that you’ll have to repeat at the university later.
Take a Full-Load
After you get to your university, make sure you are taking a full-load of classes each semester. Some student advisors will recommend that you only take the minimum number of credit hours per semester, but in my experience most diligent students can take more than that and still earn good grades.
I took between 15-20 credit hours each semester and I still graduated with a 3.7 GPA. Taking extra classes each semester allowed me to stay on-track to graduate in 3 years and saved money on tuition as my school charged a flat rate for full-time students no matter if you were taking 12 credit hours or 15 credit hours. That might have changed at some schools now, but you’ll still save on college living expenses if you don’t have to take an extra year of classes due to not having a full-load each semester.
Speaking of living expenses, I was able to send back a portion of my student loan money each time it was disbursed because I chose to work part-time during college. My part-time job, along with a side hustle writing for my college paper, was enough to pay most of my living expenses during school and I earned extra by working full-time during the summers and school breaks. This meant that I never had to rely on money from my student loans to pay for my living expenses.
This last one is something that I was blessed to have and I know not every student has the luxury of family financial support. My parents were generous enough to help me pay for school tuition during part of my time in college.
This family support combined with the scholarships I received and the money I earned working helped me graduate with just about $8,000 of student loan debt from my three years of attending a university. Getting a college education doesn’t has to be as costly as some students make it out to be if you go in with a clear plan and a goal to keep your costs to a minimum.
Did you take out students loans? How did you keep them to a minimum? Did you work during college? What other options can be used to keep college costs as low as possible?
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