Many desire a full-ride to their chosen university. Anyone who has their hopes set on achieving a higher education wants to do so without being in debt for half of their adult lives. Yet, the number of those who graduate debt free seem to be decreasing at a faster rate every year. Despite all of this, in a system designed to make money — few find it very hard to believe that kids can go to school these days without giving up their freedom.


Imagine this — your parents have absolutely no savings for your college education and can't cosign on a student loan for you. You have a few scholarships, but they barely cover the costs of books for the year. Your heart is set on one particular university. They give you just enough of a merit scholarship to cover one semester every year, but you’re responsible for the rest.


Not only do you need more scholarship money, but you need a place to lay your head because the university is 200 miles away from home. You need books unless you plan on failing all of your courses. And of course, there’s registration, lab, parking, and all types of other fees. Oh yeah, and food. You need to eat. Let’s face it, there’s more to college finances than tuition. College life comes with its own set of monetary factors and once you add up all of those costs, tuition becomes just another dollar.


Many of your peers have scholarships or decent size college savings accounts. Those who don’t — well, they worked their butts off and applied for every scholarship they could get their hands on. You, however, you’ve just decided you really wanted to go to college all but two seconds ago.


Your grades are decent enough to get you into college, but the financial implications you’re not prepared for. Now you do have a few options. You could attend this university and incur the tens of thousands of dollars you’ll be borrowing every year. Or you could attend that nice community college down the street from your parents.


However, you want your freedom and I can relate. I’ve walked in those shoes some time ago and I can honestly say freedom is nice. But don’t be fooled — it’s nice now, but you don’t have much freedom when you graduate and your student loan provider expects payment. The parties, late nights up with your college buddies, and last minute cram sessions lose their allure fairly quickly.

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Compare all of this to a $80,000 college bill and dinner at mom’s kitchen table and cram sessions in your childhood room don’t sound too bad.


There are options though — a glimmer of hope, so to speak. If you still want that college experience but want your freedom to stay intact, there are ways people are graduating debt free. Consider the students of “Hard Work U” who are able to work off their college tuition. This college, better known as College of the Ozarks offers financial aid packages that combine school scholarships, work programs, and state and federal grants.


While this school is unique and very few colleges and universities in this country model similar financial aid packages, there are other unique ways students are graduating debt free. Amanda Reaume, founder of Millennial Personal Finance, was able to graduate with two university degrees and $40,000 in the bank. She achieved this goal by applying heavily for scholarships, side hustling, and living frugally. You can even graduate debt free from college without scholarships or financial aid — just ask this cocktail waitress who worked a high-paying gig every weekend. Then you have Jon, who avoided doing everything his peers were doing in college.This alone was enough to keep him debt free.


Graduating from school debt free is not an easy task, but it is possible. Going to college may be a last minute decision for you, but don’t let this last minute decision keep you in a financial bind until you’re in your forties. You’ve made up your mind you want to attend college and being a skip, hop, and a jump away from your parents isn’t going to cut it. You don’t have anything saved for school and the scholarships have left much to be desired, but I implore you to consider other options before reading over that student loan promissory note. There is another way to go to school ― you’re just going to have to work for it.


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