5 Financial Tips to Help You Graduate Debt Free

Scattered dollar bills.

This spring, I will graduate with no college loan debt, but I was kind of dealt the financial aid jackpot when I applied for college. I live with a single mom who had two other kids in college. Due to my situation, I was eligible for multiple grants and scholarships at any college I picked.

Public relations major Maria Mancini at her Glassboro home
Public relations major Maria Mancini will graduate this spring debt free.

Although I got a lot of help through financial aid, here are some tips for high school and college students for saving money and graduating debt free. 

  • Take advantage of high school classes that can earn you college credits.

In high school I was able to take advanced placement (AP) courses such as AP calculus AB and BC. At the end of the marking period, I then took AP tests to earn college credit for those classes. Taking advantage of these classes allowed me to graduate with a whole semester worth of college credits.

There was also a course called High School Option. This meant you had a period or two free, but you attended a college course at your local community college. Both of these options allow high school students to receive college credits at low costs. Now, there are even more opportunities for high school students to receive college credits. My cousin attended GCIT, where she graduated with almost a full year of college finished. 

  • Apply for grants and scholarships and don’t miss the deadlines.

Another way to lessen your student debt is to apply to all grants and scholarships that are available to you. Local businesses and organizations in my town gave out scholarships to high school students. I was able to take advantage of these and although it may not have been tens of thousands of dollars, I was able to use that scholarship money and pay for books for two years of college.

Each state also gives out grants and financial aid, but there are deadlines for both of these. It is very important that you do not miss these deadlines. Missing these deadlines can result in you not getting the full financial aid you are eligible for. 

  • Consider going to your community college for 2 years. 

While you may not get the full college experience, going to community college allows you to finish your first 2 years of college at a third of the cost, possibly even less. Going to a community college cuts down the cost because you only pay for the classes that you are taking. You don’t have to pay for room and board, a meal plan or all the additional expenses that a 4-year college charges you. Attending a community college also allows you to work part time or possibly full time. This can help you pay out of pocket for your classes you are taking or it will give you an income to help save money for when you transfer to a 4-year college. Either way, attending a community college will help you cut expenses and college costs in the long run.  

  • Create a budget and stick to it!

The first step to creating a budget is calculating all of your monthly expenses. This means going through your bank statements and receipts and figuring out how much you spend and what you spend it on each month. Next, calculate your monthly income. Once this is all determined, you can figure out how much money you are left with each month. In order to save or pay off debt, you must create a budget. It can be to save $100 every week or $200 a month. Whatever you determine your budget will be, it is important to stick to it!

  • Apply for a work-study or to be an RA.

Another option for college students is applying for a work-study on campus or applying to become a resident assistant (RA). Work studies are a great way to gain experience with on-campus jobs and can also connect you with a lot of resourceful connections for after you graduate. R.A’s get free housing, but also a lot of responsibility that may leave you not gaining the full college experience, if that is what you are looking for. Both of these options allow college students to lessen the cost of college or allow you to make money while attending college. 

Using these 5 tips can help you towards graduating with little to no debt. 

Public relations senior Maria Mancini at her home

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Story by:
Maria Mancini, senior public relations major

Header image courtesy of:
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