Graduation, Excited and Nostalgic

Graduation is right around the corner, May 18th and as it quickly approaches, I find myself getting a little excited and a little nostalgic. I am barely 19, (just had my birthday a few days ago) so I am graduating when most people start college. Graduating early is very exciting but also bittersweet.
I attend California State University, Sacramento. I will earn my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration: Entrepreneurship. I’ve been very fortunate to have several exceptional professors, one of whom, has been mentoring me. What excites me is that I will be able to get out in the world and apply all that I have learned. I am lucky to have several job opportunities waiting for me when I graduate so I don’t have a fear of not being able to get a job. I don’t have resume anxiety—I’m a business major we polish that thing every semester! I know what I need to do to pursue my goals.
What makes me sentimental is that college has been my main focus since I was 13. I’m good at it and I enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong, not being a slave to a syllabus and homework will be amazing, but I love to learn, and I like structure. I also enjoy the majority of my professors. Their personal stories over the years have been very entertaining. Years ago, I actually started writing some of them down because they were so hilarious, and I didn’t want to forget them.
Scantron, calculator, and pencil vending machine at Sacramento State!
Eating Lunch in Class

Campus is my home away from home.

I’m comfortable there. I know where everything is, I’ve mastered parking, and know all the great places to grab a bite to eat. I enjoy mingling with fellow students and preparing for presentations and projects with those in my classes. I love how campus looks as the seasons change. I get excited with all the wildlife that scurries around, squirrels and a fox once! When the therapy animals are on campus, it’s heaven! You walk out of a class and you are greeted with dogs to love on. I won’t be sad that it’s over, I’ll smile because all of it happened.
I’ve written a post, Top 5 Ways to Get Through College Without Student Loans. It was how I got through college debt free.
Sacramento State in the Fall
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Top 5 Ways to Get Through College Without Student Loans

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.
Butte Community College, Oroville, CA

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.
Olli, 3D-printed, electric-powered autonomous shuttle, Sacramento State

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.
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