Graduate College Debt Free with These Five Tips

Posted by Shaun Morgan in CollegeAugust 5, 2022(Last Updated August 22, 2022)4 min read
Key Takeaways
  • According to Student Loan Hero, the current student loan debt in the United States is $1.7 trillion. 
  • There are more than 48 million federal student loan borrowers in the United States. 
  • To graduate from college debt free, you can lower your tuition costs by working hard to get scholarships and grants.
Are you ready to make some real money moves?

According to Student Loan Hero, the current student loan debt in the United States (U.S.) is $1.7 trillion. There are more than 48 million federal student loan borrowers in the United States. 


As a potential college student, you must carefully plan how you will pay back or avoid student loan debt. Although the total student loan debt in the U.S. is shocking and can deter many high school students from going to college, there are several ways to graduate college debt free. 


There are many options to get through college without student loans. Below are five tips to help you graduate college without student loan debt.

1. Pick the Right School


The school you choose to attend is the foundation for whether you’ll have student loan debt. Schools range wildly in cost depending on their status, whether public, private, or community college. For example, some community colleges offer free tuition to in-state residents, and some ivy colleges charge $60,000 for tuition. 


So your choice of school can mean up to a $240,000 difference in tuition alone. Does that mean no one should ever go to an ivy league school? Not necessarily, but working smart to get scholarships can make a huge difference.


Attending a community college is a cheap way to get your general education out of the way. So if you are still figuring out what you want to do, consider doing your first two years at a community college and then transferring to a four-year college to finish. The cost to attend a community college is as close to zero as higher education can get.

Choosing a school based on affordability is your best bet for graduating debt-free.


Recommended Read: Tips on Successful Budgeting While in College


2. Scholarships/Grants

Many schools offer scholarships to their students, whether income-based or merit-based. Talk to your designated admissions officer or visit the financial aid office to talk with someone about how you can apply for the school’s scholarships. You can also obtain grants through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application.


College student studying for test - scholarships/grants


Also, there are hundreds of scholarships available outside of your school. Millions of dollars worth of scholarships go unrewarded yearly from a lack of applications!

The competition for most scholarships is relatively low. So while you are in high school, start applying for scholarships. If you haven’t reached your financial goal to pay for school, continue applying for scholarships. 


Some people pay for their entire college education, including room and board, just with scholarships, which is a great way to increase your “income” as a student.

3. Work Study

If you can get a work-study position at your school, that’s great! If you can get a part-time job at a local store, that’s great too! The point is that having a job can help you pay for expenses like food and textbooks. 


By working throughout college, you will have funds to pay for what you need and maybe even graduate college with money in the bank. In addition, if you work at a job in your field of study, you can get experience and meet people who can help you find work once you graduate.

Recommended Read: How to Transition from College to a Career


4. Slow College is Debt-Free College 


The faster you want to get through college, the more money you’ll need to pay over a shorter period, and the more likely you are to get into debt. Now, this doesn’t mean you should drag out college over a decade trying to figure out what you want to do with your life because those bills will add up eventually. 


However, if you are trying to figure out your next step or you are low on money, consider taking a semester off. Many colleges have deferred enrollment programs that allow you to keep your spot while taking a break. 


If you take a semester off to work full time, the likelihood of being able to pay for college debt-free skyrockets.


5. Reduce Costs on Housing, Transportation, and Food.


Lastly, a lot of student loan debt doesn’t come from the tuition costs but from paying for day-to-day living. Many college students use student loans to fund their lifestyle, specifically on housing, transportation, and food


Housing, transportation, and food will dominate your budget throughout your life because they tend to be the bigger expenses. So if you want to reduce how much money you need to borrow for student loans, reduce how much you spend on the big three. 


Cut expenses


Get a cheaper apartment—you don’t have to live in the trendiest place. Drive a cheap, paid-off car or use public transportation and walk. Buy your own groceries and cook meals at home. These principles will help you save money and reduce the amount you would have to borrow. 


The Money Wrap-Up 


It is still very possible to get through college debt-free, even as college prices continue to rise. If you choose the right/least expensive school, leverage free money in the form of scholarships, work throughout your schooling, take breaks as needed to save money, and cut back on your biggest expenses, there is no reason that you can’t graduate college debt-free!

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