I will graduate for the University of Sacramento in a few weeks and I will do it completely debt free. I didn’t get any financial aide because I didn’t qualify for it and I never took out a student loan. I was responsible for half of my college—tuition and books. Sacramento State is a commuter college, so my fuel costs are a lot, which I pay for. Graduating debt free was a huge goal of mine. Here are the top 5 things I did in college that saved me a lot of money. There are a lot of little things I do too, but I will save those for another post.
Live with your parents.
Living with your parents, if possible, is the best way to save through college. I don’t pay for power, water, cable, internet, or most of my food.
Community College First.
Go to a community college. I attended Butte College where I received my AS-T Degree in Business Administration. Attending a community college saved me over 4 semesters at the university. That is a savings of about $25,000. Community college is also great if you don’t know what degree you want to get because you can take classes in areas which you’re interested at a much lower price than at university. Also, if you live in California all community colleges are free for the first year. I didn’t get a free first year because it became available the year I graduated. Be sure to investigate this because that’s a huge savings too.
Choose a State College.
Choose a state college. State colleges are cheaper. For clarification California State University (CSU) and State University (SU) are the same thing. I live in California and CSUs or SUs are more affordable than UCs, (University of California). At Sacramento State, there are programs to help students save and finish their undergrad quickly. There is the “Finish in Four” program for first-year students and the “Through in Two” program for transfer students, these programs provide incentives and support for students who commit to taking at least 30 units a year. 30 units a year, are the minimum units needed to complete their degrees in four years or two years, respectively. I took advantage of the Through in Two and in addition to saving on tuition I also received one of my summer courses (an $855 value) for free. Check with your college and see if they have any programs like this.
Get a job and save.
When I was in high school, I knew that I wanted to go to college, and I knew that I had to find a way to pay for half of it. My parents saved for my brother and I to go to college, but they always told us that we would be responsible for half because they thought it was very important for us to invest in ourselves. My dad also would say, “I want you to have some skin in the game.” Meaning I would be more driven to apply myself, pass my classes, and graduate on time if it was my money to. Knowing that I would have to pay I began working and saving when I was in high school. I saved everything. When I received birthday money or Christmas money, I didn’t spend it, it went directly into the bank. The same with my part-time job and babysitting money.
Apply for Scholarships and contests.
I have applied for scholarships for four years straight and I only received one. But every bit helps so don’t give up. Applying for scholarships isn’t easy and it’s important to find your niche. I was able to apply for scholarships geared toward women, Native Americans, and business students. I recommend people look for scholarships in areas that apply to them. I also applied for a few contests, which I placed in. The local Chico and Oroville Optimist clubs co-sponsored the “I Have a Dream” Speech Contest as well as a writing contest. I got 2nd and 3rd place and though it wasn’t a lot of money it all adds up.
It’s hard work and sacrifice to graduate without debt but it’s so worth it.