- When I graduated from high school, I was terrified of the cost of a four-year degree.
- To avoid loans, I decided to go to community college for two years and take the bus to school.
- I also joined AmeriCorps for tuition money and applied for countless scholarships for extra help.
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I sat at my college orientation, terrified. I was worried about my new school, my classes, and meeting my teachers – but mostly, I was nervous about the price to pay to attend.
This fear wasn’t new, it was something I had considered throughout high school. But even with a lot of thought and planning, I wondered how am I going to pay for this?
Everyone is different – and what was available to me may not be the same for others – but I was able to complete a four-year degree without owing anything on loans due to four factors.
1. I spent my first two years at a community college
Spending my first two years of school at a community college was the biggest money-saving tactic I used to pay for my education.
When I started going to college I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and realized I could get all my general education requirements at a local two-year community college. at a much lower level. rate that a four-year school would have cost me.
2. I commuted instead of living in student accommodation
While going to community college, I also commuted by bus every day instead of living on campus.
Not only did I save money on student housing, but I also saved a ton on expensive student meal plans, and got my bus ticket covered by my tuition.
Looking back now, I realize how much it helped me financially. Although tuition, textbooks and hidden gym fees are expensive, living off campus has saved me significant amounts of money.
3. I got an education award through AmeriCorps
Even though my community college classes were cheaper, they still weren’t free and I had to find a way to pay for them. It was then, for the first time, that I heard about scholarships.
An education award is comparable to a scholarship, but instead of receiving it for academic merit, some jobs will offer them to their employees after working a set number of hours. With that in mind, I looked for a job that offered one.
That’s when I found US Corps. Here I worked as a paid volunteer at my local library. After working with them for a full summer season, I had earned enough hours to receive a scholarship.
By doing so, I was able to pay for my tuition with the money I earned from this work and with the award. After a season with AmeriCorps ended, I decided to start over. I accumulated more hours, which allowed me to earn an additional reward.
Over time, I saved enough to pay for the upcoming semester. Or when I couldn’t pay my bill – which I sometimes did – I paid what I could every week.
At the time, $25 or $50 here and there didn’t seem like much, but it slowly added up and allowed me to pay off whatever was left.
4. I applied for tons of scholarships every week
When it came time to transfer my last two years of school, I knew I would have to look for additional options.
Although a job, scholarships, and travel made my first two years more affordable, my new public school tuition was going to be much more expensive than my community college.
I chose to continue commuting by bus and use what little I had left of my scholarships, but I still needed more.
In high school, I remember my English teacher saying, “There are a lot of scholarships that go unclaimed because people don’t apply, but students hold back from applying because they think they don’t. have no chance. Have a chance.”
It changed the way I viewed paying for college. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, and it wasn’t. But I kept thinking that there are ways to make it easier to pay for education, and I just have to find them.
So every week I was looking for new scholarships to apply. Because I was a journalism student, I also placed my writing in contests for money.
I would keep the deadlines for scholarships and writing contests in a file on my computer to remind me to apply before the deadlines. Then, every Friday, I would sit for an hour and send in my writings. This has kept me afloat for the past two years.