So, lets talk about college – and how tuition rates are steadily increasing. The rates are already outrageous – but do you know why they keep increasing? Because they know students will pay the price. They know the system very well, and they know how to get you sucked in to absolutely having to stay on campus and get that super cool meal plan. In college you are just a number, and the amount you spend are the numbers they are most interested in. Thankfully – I am smarter than the average Joe when it comes to managing money. I know that what I do now, will greatly affect my future.
Tip #1: Have a plan.
I can honestly say I’ve always been more mature than my age group – when I was in 7th grade I was thinking about college and my career. In 12th grade, it dawned on me that I did not have a financial plan or how I was going to pay for college – I honestly was relying on financial aid and thankfully, that covered my tuition for my first year, on top of receiving a very generous merit scholarship through my college. However, I did not have money for food, room and board, or anything else for that matter. So what did I do? I moved down to the city where my college was two weeks after graduating high school so I did not have to live on campus or get a meal plan – I decided to work full time and pay rent and buy groceries instead – this was the best decision I ever made. Although challenging, working and going to school full time, I managed. I didn’t die. In the end, it was a much cheaper option, because hey – I don’t owe any money for room and board and a meal plan that serves the same food every week.
Tip #2: Take college courses in high school.
In high school, it wasn’t until my senior year that my advisor decided to share the fact that high school students could take college courses for only $15 a credit if the class was after 5PM on weekdays or on weekends…. um what. ONLY $15?! This was insane. If I knew this sooner, I would have completed my associates before graduating high school. Soon as I found this out though, I took a few courses at a very cheap price, and by the end of my senior year I had completed a year of college already. On top of this, I was already working at a restaurant until around 10:00PM some nights. My senior year was not filled with awesome memories like most – I was working my ass off for my future. This is not what a typical eighteen year old does, but this is what I did and I do not regret it one bit. It has only shown me my true abilities, and the depths I am willing to take to have a future that is financially secure.
Anyways, completing one year of college while in high school saved me thousands, and I graduated a year early! If you are currently in high school – please take advantage of these opportunities if they are offered at your high school! I cannot stress this enough – why pay over $1000 for a class at a university, that you could take at your community college for half the price or in my case, $15 a credit? Classes like public speaking, introduction to psychology, basic world history, (any general education course basically), are much cheaper taken at your local community college. And besides, why are you being forced to take entry level courses (general education requirements) like this that take up two years of your time, when you were basically taught a lot of those subjects in high school for free? (Oh yeah…. money.)
Tip #3: In-State Public Universities
I get it – you want to move out of state and experience the ‘awesome’ college life. If you are not worried about the money that out of state tuition entails, then you got dealt a lucky hand! But for the ones that are on the fence about it – I promise you, go with the school that is in state. Another thing: nobody will care where you graduated from, it is all about the education you receive. You are paying thousands of dollars, you need to invest in something that will benefit you – not the name of the college. I had a professor recently tell me, “You know what? I got offered a job from Duke University. Funny thing is, the salary was lower than the place I work at now. Their response was: but we’re Duke.” Some colleges only care about the reputation the name of the college gives off. (I am not knocking Duke in any way – they do phenomenal work!) But this exemplified my point that some colleges purposefully make their tuition pricey just because of their name. I never thought of going out of state, because I knew that meant unnecessary higher tuition. What’s the point? I received a great education at ODU.
Another thing, why are private colleges a thing? (I can’t say too many negative things since I will be attending a private college in the Fall – this will be discussed later as to why I chose this particular college), but for an undergraduate degree it is insane. Unless they offer you amazing scholarships – it is too much money! Wow! For my undergraduate degree, private colleges were unthought of. Please, outweigh your options. And think to yourself, will I be making with my degree what I have paid for college so far? If loans are in your future – think. If you take $70k out worth of loans, will I be able to pay this back with the degree I earn without going into the hole? Factor in interest. These are all important options to weigh before even starting college.
Tip #4: Avoid loans. Work.
As I mentioned, I worked during my entire undergraduate degree. In order to work full time, I took most of my classes online, at night, or only on Tuesdays/Thursdays so I could work the rest of the days. I was determined to not take out any loans, and if I did, it would be for a very small amount and I would start paying it as soon as I got it. So my very last year of college, I had to take out a small loan – nothing crazy. Interest is not building on it at all and my goal is to pay it off before it starts accruing within the next year. So to wrap this up – I graduated from ODU in three years and my degree only cost me $5k. Not bad.
With all of these things in mind, I beat the system in taking out tens of thousands of dollars. I made my education worthwhile and I am steady building my future. Please, do the same. You will thank me later.