1. Choose the Right College
First things first, you need to choose a college. While you may think a private college or expensive state college is the best option, I don’t think that anyone really cares where you went to school.
So why go into debt for a college that won’t automatically guarantee a job?
Instead, I highly recommend going to a community college or a cheaper state college. For example, I live in Missouri, but it would be cheaper for me to go to the state college in Kansas, even though I would have to pay out-of-state tuition.
List the colleges that you’re interested in and research their tuition costs. Don’t forget to add miscellaneous expenses like living on campus (or commuting) and buying textbooks. Once you add everything up, are some colleges cheaper than others? Apply where the cheaper options are offered.
You may hear about scholarships a lot – and for good reason. There are hundreds of thousands of scholarships available, and many of them go unclaimed every year. You don’t have to be an athlete or have a high GPA to qualify for them. In fact, if you’re left-handed or planning on going into a certain field – or even if you love being in front of the camera – you’re bound to find scholarships that work for you.
You won’t receive every scholarship you apply for. But something is always better than nothing, and they provide good ways to avoid student loan debt – or at least mitigate it. Even a $500 scholarship can help you pay for things that you couldn’t pay for otherwise. And the biggest plus about scholarships? You aren’t limited to just one!
3. Work for Your Tuition
Did you know that some colleges offer you free tuition in exchange for 10 to 20 hours of work each week?
While these colleges can be highly competitive, nothing beats free education and housing, so they’re still worth applying to.
Before applying to these colleges, make sure to read the fine print. Some require that you live in the same state, come from a low-income household, or have a specific major. But even with these requirements, the schools are great ways to avoid student loan debt.
4. Online College
Some online colleges have gotten a bad rep over the years, mainly because they have enormous fees and aren't all accredited. As such, students can’t always get a job in their fields. However, there is one online college that is looking to change the face of higher education:
University of the People (or UoPeople) is an accredited, tuition-free online college. The only items you pay for are your exams and assessment fees, which are given after each course. Exams cost $100 each, while assessment fees cost $200 each. According to their website, UoPeople lists the average costs for a bachelor's degree at around $4,000. Plus, you can always apply for their scholarships!
UoPeople isn’t perfect, though. For example, as of right now, they only offer three majors (health science, business administration, and computer science). Still, the university could be a great option for parents, those who chose to work first before college, or even incoming freshmen who don’t want to go to a brick-and-mortar school.
5. Get a Job First
Sometimes you just don’t want to go to college straight out of high school, and that’s okay. Instead, why not get a job that would pay for you to go to school? While the military may be the most popular option, there are plenty of companies that will either pay for you or reimburse you for courses that you pass with a certain GPA.
If you go this route, just keep in mind that you’ll have to work and go to school at the same time. Plus, many companies only offer this option for employees who work a certain number of hours or years. But if you can handle working long hours for both your education and your job, this is certainly doable. Some companies even give you the option of taking a higher position once you graduate, which is always a plus.