1 – Scholarships: Now before you click away thinking this page has nothing to offer you just know that I too was in the camp of “here are the 100 reasons why I won’t get scholarships.” Your lack of confidence is justified because statistically most of y’all are probably the average American student.
And being common doesn’t make you special enough for free money. However, just as you are special to your mommy there are scholarship committee’s that think you are special too. There is a tone of weird and unique scholarships out there that you probably have never heard of. Maybe its 500 dollars and not a full ride but every little bit helps. Search high and low, cast a wide net and sort them out later. There are scholarships each semester that go without anyone applying for them, all you have to do is find them and bam you win by default. As for the specifics of where, how, when, why, and all that there’s plenty of expert resources out there that are much better at navigating scholarships and their complicated processes. I recommend you go and look elsewhere for that type of advice. I’m just here to be in your corner cheering you on, telling you that the more applications you send out, the more likely you are to receive free money from someone.
2 – Work Work Work Work: As the lyricist Rihanna puts it work work work work, well maybe not in the line of work she is talking about but, you get the point. Get job and put in the hours. Whether you are in college already or a high schooler trying to figure things out, get a job that is flexible around classes and work as many hours possible. Not as many hours you think you can handle but 10 hours on top of your believed max. You’ll be surprised how much you are able to handle if you push yourself and manage time well. I’ve walked alongside many college students as they put in more hours on the job than they ever thought possible all the while still getting good grades. Plus, if you are putting in the hours especially in a college employment setting you will be around more often than your peers, gaining more experience and more exposure. So, when promotions come up you have a better chance at being at the top of list and earning that promotion, and in most situations gaining more money.
3 – Roommates x 1000: Its simple math the more you can divide up your rent and utilities the less you have to pay. When you rent a 4-bedroom house with 8 people rent is dirt cheap. I know this may seem scary and it can be, but if you navigate roommate selection carefully this could be the best part of college. Living with your bro’s (or gal’s) hanging out at home, saving you even more. And if the roommate situation blows up on you just pick up more hours at work and study in the library. (I’m only slightly joking). Honestly there’s been semesters where I never went home except to sleep so why pay 700 dollars a month to store your furniture in a private room? Heck this may be your last chance to build custom bunk beds.
Gentlemen take it from me once you’re married the wife isn’t going to let you keep you sick homemade bunk bed. Trust me I tried.
4 – Take the risk: Most likely you aren’t going to walk into college with the 50 grand you need. If you do have that kind of cash then you probably aren’t reading this anyways. Yes, it is scary to go into college without the needed funds or to pick up extra hours at work without knowing if you can juggle it all. But you will learn so much from the trials and tribulations through these stresses. Whether, you finish the semester with 85 cents in your account (true story) or find yourself in a bind and have to take out a student loan because the math didn’t add up. You are still in less debt than the safe option of 10k in loans upfront as a “safety net.” Plus, the stress of having to check your bank account daily will keep you from overspending on frivolous things.
5 – Budget: Now there are a million ways to do this so find one that works for you. If you don’t know where to start or already know struggle in this area, I recommend the Dave Ramsey envelope method its great for beginners. Make sure every dollar you earn has a name and purpose. This plan alone will keep you from over spending whether its at the Taco Bell drive through or in the grocery store. Try to keep each budget line item to a minimum, doing oil changes yourself (YouTube will help with this), maybe ride your bike to save on gas, eating at home most nights with a meal plan or even meal prep on those busy weeks. Getting the chicken instead of steak, (don’t eat ramen for every meal you will certainly die before you graduate making all of that work vanity). I would (and still do) buy my rice and chicken in bulk and just freeze if for the month. Lowest price per ounce is your new best friend. Especially if you already don’t have the funds and will be taking out a loan. A smaller loan is always the better than a bigger one.
6 – Budget: No this is not a typo, I put budget on here twice because it is that important, your money management and time management will be the biggest contributor to your success or failure. Making a plan for the week on when and where you’ll eat/ work/ study will keep you on track financially but also in the classroom. Working more hours means you have less time to study so you need to be intentional about what you do in your free time, nothing is worse than cramming for a test in an hour because you went on a 7 hour Netflix bender.
Now this planning does come with an astric of being realistic. Yes grinding 18 hours a day and eating ramen for every meal is the cheapest and most successful option on paper but you are a human being and need to plan accordingly. This means having time and money for yourself to treat yourself.
Now in doing so you still need to be responsible, have a set amount of time and money per week for these activities. But by having a set limit you are forced to evaluate if spending all your out to eat money at taco bell on the first day of the month is worth it or if you should save it for later. Do what makes you happy, buy what makes you happy, just do so with a plan and purpose.
7 – Be a Weirdo: Most students that don’t have daddy’s black card (the one made of metal) graduate college with some sort of debt. So naturally to be weird and without debt you have to be a little bit of a weirdo. How this looks specifically is different between you and I. Going against the status quo can be good for you. If it takes you 5 or 6 years to graduate, or you always bring a lunch box of boiled eggs and rice, it is still sexier than pounds of student debt. Do the weird thing now so you can be weird later.
8 – Community: This journey you are about to embark on is not an easy one. So, make sure to get a community of people that have the same goals as you. People that can encourage you when times get hard because they will, and you will be able to do the same for them. Exchanging cheap meal recipes or small tips and tricks y’all find along the way. Now I am not saying all your friends have to be ramen noodle every night kind of people, diversity is important, you just need a go to person or persons to learn and grow with through this adventure.
9 – Have a Reason: College is not for everyone, and that is okay. Don’t do this just because you think that is what you are supposed to do. Too often people go to college as a placeholder or way to figure out what they are wanting to do forever. Spending money but never finishing the degree or getting a degree and then do something that they didn’t need a degree for. Being an engineering major I interacted with countless people that wanted to be an engineer because that’s where the money is therefore the 40,000 in loans is an investment into their future. But then they quit engineering because it wasn’t for them and have 10,000 in loans and a year of straight D’s on their college transcript. So, if this is what you want to do and you’re at least 75% sure (you’ll never be 100%) then go for it. Just remember your why for when times get hard. And do not let your why be because you want to make fat stacks, that’s a terrible reason and you are just going to end up unhappy. Do something you love to do and the rest will fall into place.
10 – Don’t Quit: I have hinted at this in several sections but it is worthy enough to be highlighted one last time. Now if college isn’t for you after a semester or two that’s fine, not everyone should get a college degree. But if you know college is for you just keep going even if it takes a little longer. Or if you do have to take a loan out to cover one of your semesters that’s fine but don’t give into the loan beast. Because 5,000 in loans for a semester is way better than giving in and leaving college with a stained sofa and 20,000 dollars in student loan debt.