How I Graduated College Debt Free and Survived

Graduating college debt free. Most people would say it’s impossible, but I’m living proof that it’s not! It’s so rare these days that most people I tell my story to don’t believe me. Maybe I should write a book on this haha.

I attended the prestigious University of Washington for four years and graduating without a single dollar of debt. I actually graduated with a large surplus in my checking account! Although it was a lonely, hard road, you too can do it. It takes sacrifice, perseverance, a little creativity, and lots of hard work. The key is to ignore the people around you. No, no, not like that. I mean ignore what other people are DOING AROUND YOU. This means ignoring friends buying new cars, friends taking out loans for tuition, ignoring friends eating out all the time, and ignoring friends with expensive hobbies. All these things take a significant amount of money. If you don’t have the money to do it, don’t go into debt when you have a tuition bill looming over your head! It’s all about your frame of mind.

If you are focused on the long term goal, which was graduating debt free for me, then the actions of people around you now shouldn’t faze you! If anything this type of thinking should excite you! You’re doing something completely against the “American way” and doing something totally unique. And if anything else, you will have an amazing story to tell your friends, family, and children someday.

These are simple, common steps I took to prevent college debt:

-I drove an old car. During my senior year in high school I was blessed with the opportunity to buy a friend’s Geo Prizm for $500. Yes, it was a Geo, you heard me right. My pride is still intact! The key here is to drive a low maintenance vehicle that gets good gas mileage. This is especially crucial if you live off campus and commute.

-I lived at home. This is a no-brainer. Free food, free cable, free internet, free EVERYTHING. Thankfully, I am blessed to have been raised in a wonderful family, so living at home was an easy choice for me. Living at home will cut out hundreds of dollars in expenses every month.

-I worked A LOT. I did some type of work at least 5 days a week for all four years of college. It seems like I worked everywhere. Let’s look at the laundry list: produce clerk at Safeway, desk manager at a local gym, carpenter, and multiple paid internships.

-Ran my own side gigs. The beauty of side gigs is that your pay is significantly higher than typical college jobs. I consistently ran two side gigs, landscaping services and furniture moving services. I made roughly $15/hour mowing lawns, weeding yards, and pruning bushes. I would bring a radio and lanscape away. You can;t be afraid to get your hands dirty! The real money maker for me was furniture relocation. I make $25/hour pretty consistently and never had trouble finding clients for weekend work. I advertised on Craig’s List and even set up my own website. It was a hard way to make money, but you can’t beat $25/hour!

-Rarely ate out. I remember time after time, friends asking me to go eat out at restaurants. And I remember time after time saying “No thanks!” I’m sure some thought I was being rude, but I had a goal and a silly thing like eating out was not going to stop me! I packed brown bag lunches and brought snacks from home as many times as I could. Thank you Mom!

-I had a cheap hobby. Having a cheap hobby is critical during college. My finances were tight so I didn’t want to get into any expensive hobbies. Mine ended up (and still is) being bodybuilding. Since I worked out at my college gym, it was free. Also, food wasn’t that expensive due to living at home.

-Shopped at Ross for clothes. Ross is still my favorite place to shop! When everyone around me was buying $200 designer jeans, I was buying $20 Levi’s. I’ve never been a materialistic person, so maybe that helped. I’m not going to lie, I was definitely tempted at times to buy expensive clothes. To be honest, it’s not worth it. Over the years, I’ve learned that improving your personality is far more important than trying to impress people, let alone, people you don’t even know.

-Attended an in-state University. When I was researching colleges, I considered out of state schools. But I just couldn’t justify the cost difference. University of Washington was $6,000/year where as most out of state schools averaged $20,000/year. Quite the savings huh?

And there you have it guys! These are tried and true ways I graduated college with zero dollars of debt. It is possible! Comment below if you have more tips.

-JE

Interacting With Students While Visiting A College Campus

Interacting with the students on-campus wherever you are thinking about attending college, will be your best source of real life information about the college. While you visit the college, you need to set aside a nice amount of time to interact with students. You need to think of a few general questions that you can ask them about the college to gain more information and insight.

Young adults, especially students in college, are very opinionated and had no problems sharing their opinions. Feel free to ask questions about whatever you like. The students that go to the college you are visiting have first-hand experience with that particular school. There have been many students that have found out more information by talking with other students who attend the college of their choice than by any other means.

Be sure and talk to students at all different locations in the university. These locations include, but are not limited to the library, the gym, cafeteria, and in the general walking areas around campus. Ask the students about all the classes, the professors, the atmosphere, the social life, housing conditions, and the food in the cafeteria. Get all by table information that you possibly can from each and every source.

When you talk to students at the college, you should pay attention to their personality. This will give you one of the best insights into the college’s personality in the type of students that they have attracted. This will give you an idea if the college’s liberal, conservative, nerdy, clean-cut, or a party school. Knowing the school, its personality, and what other students identify it as is very important.

Whatever particular major you have decided on or are leaning towards, visit that particular area or building of the campus. Talk to the students that are hanging around that area. This will give you another great insight into what kind of students will be your peers. Large universities can have a wide range and mixture of different personalities and students. Matching your personality with the other students that are attending is a great way to make friends and build your social life while you are attending college.

Getting Your Degree Online Or On-Campus – Which One is Better and Why?

With the invention of Internet, there are many things that are now possible to do or made easier. Education is one of those things. Now students can take classes and not go to an actual campus. This is great news for those who are having difficulties completing a formal education. Let’s take a look at both the pros and cons of online educations versus real campus educations to find a choice that suits each person.

Pros of Online Educational Programs

The main advantage of online courses is the flexibility in when you work on your class. You are able to work around your schedule. There may be times you have to be online for interaction, but most of the work is done when it is convenient for you. You can interact with your instructor by email.

Also with online classes you are encouraged to be more interactive with other students. If you are behind a computer you will feel free to state your questions, fears or ideas, including those students who may not say anything in a normal classroom. Also, the cost is very close as you do not pay for boarding, food and commuting fees.

Cons of Online Educational Programs

The biggest disadvantage is the self discipline it takes to take a class online. Many people are taking classes online because they have many other commitments and this allows them to do that. They may find it harder to complete the needed and required course work.

Pros of Campus Education

A big advantage with this type of learning is the interaction with guest lecturers, professors and other students in the class. This provides intellect they may not otherwise receive and help improve their communication skills. They also have access to more academic materials that will help them in their education and future. It also helps build a sense of belonging.

There are some degrees that need the practical experience of a class room like medicine, engineering and health-care.

Cons of Campus Education

The only disadvantage is that your have a fixed time and number of sessions that have to be attended to receive your degree. If you have a career or other life situations going on it will make it difficult to do this.

Decide what is Best for You

Both learning options are great and have their down falls, it is up to you to decide what is best for you and will meet your needs.