Young people today have had a heck of a life so far. After decades of war and the worst economic drop since the Great Depression, Millennials’ financial outlook isn’t looking too rosy. Add in escalating health care costs and education expenses and you get a financial future that looks downright miserable.
Fortunately, through a variety of ways anyone can graduate debt free.
Live at home
I know, this is the worst thing you can tell an 18 year old. Living at home with your parents sucks. You can’t stay out late, you can’t really bring friends over and you’ll probably still have to help with chores. However! Living at home is more-or-less free and your parents might even still cook you dinner or take you on vacation. There’s literally no better deal in the world.
Make your own lunch and coffee
Whether you live at home or on campus, eating meals out and buying take-out coffee are huge expenses. Not only can lunch cost upwards of $10 per day but it’s likely unhealthier than what you can prepare at home. Unhealthy meals mean more time at the gym which can eat into your expenses and your limited time.
Community or public college
Attending a community college or public college can make your savings or earnings go a long way towards tuition. In this coming school year, students at Harvard University will pay $59,550 in tuition. By comparison, students at nearby Bunker Hill Community College will only pay $4,860 for a year’s tuition. The education standards might not be as rigorous but there’s always the opportunity to study at a community college for a couple of years and then transfer to a school with a more prestigious name and educational program. Short-term sacrifice for long-term gain
Be prepared to have no social life. In high school you can (and should!) take AP classes which are mostly free. These AP classes can then be used as transfer credit at your university, depending on the course and school.
Once in college, maximize your workload as much as possible. Instead of taking five classes a semester, I took six which let me graduate sooner. I also took four classes every summer which let me not only finish my degree earlier but also to save on a year’s worth of housing and ancillary fees charged by my university.
Get a job
Working while in college is a great way to move you towards your goal of graduating debt free. Imagine an adult saying that he would take four years off of work and live off debt – you’d call him crazy, wouldn’t you? Unfortunately that’s something we not only allow but that we expect from 18 year olds headed off to college. Colleges have career centers which can be used to find part-time work on-campus. On-campus jobs allow for maximum flexibility while also helping you to make connections in academia.
Scholarships and student aid
Finally, the big one! Talk to your financial aid office about opportunities for scholarships and grants. While some scholarships are quite competitive, there are others which go unclaimed every year due to lack of applicants. Grants for low-income students are also an opportunity to get some free money. Some applications require reference letters and hard work. But, if the alternative is graduating $50,000 in debt, a little hard work seems like nothing.
Don’t be one of those horror stories of people who graduate with six-figures of debt. Obviously you can’t apply all of these solutions – no one can maximize their college course schedule and have time to make their own lunch and coffee and work a full-time job while still qualifying for and applying for scholarships! The idea is that you take one or two of these suggestions and apply them to your life ASAP. Young people have a bad reputation when it comes to finance – rebel against that reputation and graduate debt free.
Even if you do take some loans, going through the ideas above can minimize them, which can still really help later in life when it comes time to pay them off.