Getting through college without debt is a privilege reserved for only a few – those kids whose parents can pay for it and those who are given full academic or athletic scholarships.
Then, there’s the rest of us – not rich, not geniuses not athletes - who have to figure out how to afford college and come out with as little debt as possible. Seriously, I know people who have over $100,000 in student loan debt still looking for that first career position!
Paying for college as I go has become my mission, and I am doing pretty well at it so far.
Unlike the title may say, it is not totally effortless – that would be for the geniuses, athletes, and rich – but I’m here to tell you that there are some creative ways to pay for college that you should think about.
After you ready my list, you might actually come up with more.
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- Beg: Yes, I said beg. Sit on a street corner with a sign and a bucket and ask for money; if you’re the lazy type, use social media, like gofundme.com or charityfordebt.org. If you are paying for college on your own, every dollar is one less you have to chase!
- Got a special talent like playing the guitar, juggling, doing magic tricks, or drawing caricatures? Set yourself up on a busy street and literally entertain for your meal money! It may not be the best way to pay for college, and certainly it won’t pay for an entire semester of tuition and books, but I have found that eating is something I have to do.
- This may be a “long shot,” but does your family own land? Sometimes, colleges will barter a scholarship for land – really, they do!
- Do you have any really valuable things that you have never wanted to part with? That autographed baseball or guitar? Rare coins? A baseball card collection? An entire set of original Star Wars action figures? Don’t just sell them – have an online raffle and see if you can’t take in more than they would actually sell for. If you don’t get enough takers, just don’t go through with it.
- One of the best ways to afford college is to start a small business – yes, stop doing things for free, even for friends! If you’re a master of technology, charge to repair computers and laptops; clean dorm rooms and apartments; find rich people and run their errands, walk their dogs, or scoop their yard poop; shovel snow or do yard work. I read about one guy who began with a lawn mower and an old truck. By the time he graduated, he had a lot of equipment and a large crew of workers. He majored in education but never used that degree. Instead, he set up his own landscaping business and bought land for a nursery.
- Can you get a scholarships during college? The answer is affirmative! If you really “shine” in a field, and members of that academic department are really impressed, talk to your professors about your need. If they want to keep you, they’ll come through.
When you think about how to pay for college, don’t forget that there are some more traditional ways too, and some of them might be appealing.
- Join ROTC – yes, the branch of service will “own” you for a while after you graduate, but the stipends are pretty generous.
- If you can get in, consider going to one of the military academies – It’s all free!
- Start at your local community college and work part-time to save toward the cost of finishing up at a four-year school.
- Check out colleges in foreign countries – they are usually cheaper, and it can look good on your resume. A BA year in France would cost you 237.25$.
- Look for scholarships that aren’t based on grades or athletics. Check out your family heritage and look for organizations that will provide even small scholarships for your ethnic or national background.
- Stay in-state where tuition is less for residents
- Stockpile as many AP course credits in high school as you can. Transfer them in at only half the tuition cost of courses you actually take in college.
- Get a cheap associate’s degree at the local community college, and then look for jobs that pay for college. There are lots of companies that will give tuition assistance – even Starbucks – so do the research and take any low-level paying job you can get.
- If you incur lots of loan debt, check out jobs that come with loan forgiveness – usually education, social service, or government agencies. Each year you do cuts some of that debt! This can be important for students who go to medical or law school.
Do you write well?
Besides, charging your fellow students to do their essays and papers, check out freelance writing opportunities or essay contests. One company, TrustEssays.com , is a great writing service that runs a writing scholarship competition, and, even if you don’t take first place, you may end up with a remote writing job!
Some freelance writers can make up to $2000 a month while in college.