To secure a successful future, education is vital. Yet, degrees take an average of five years and thousands of dollars to attain.
I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree from a highly-ranked University at 20 years old. My parents wanted us to work for and value our education; thus we were responsible for paying for ALL of it. Even paying for it myself, I had zero debt when I graduated.
Here are 7 steps on how to graduate at age 20 (or even before) with a Bachelors Degree and zero debt…
1- Aim to complete your associate’s degree while in high school. It is possible. I did it (shy of one credit) and many others I know have done it too.
2- Meet with counselors on both the high school and college level and make a plan. Triple check all credit requirements and make sure classes (if taken at different schools) transfer correctly.
3- Enlist in as many pertinent concurrent enrollment classes that your high school offers. Concurrent enrollment classes are college accredited classes that are offered at the high school level. They typically count as both high school and college credits. For example, I took Math 1010 and Math 1050 in high school. They counted for my high school math credits as well as the math requirements for my associate’s degree. Further, concurrent enrollment courses are typically very inexpensive and are taken during regular school hours during high school.
4- Take AP courses that you know you will pass. It’s devastating to study for a complete year and then fail the test. Courses like AP Photography that are based on a portfolio and cannot be failed due to one test are great as well.
5- Attend on-campus classes while you are in high school. I was on the high school tennis team so I enrolled in a college tennis class. It was awesome earning credits for the practice that I needed to do anyway. I also took a biology class on the campus and learned a lot. If you do not live close to a university look for online courses. I completed 4 online courses while in high school. Some were offered at the high school and we could go to the class and watch our professor miles away on a screen, others I paid for an took on my own. The internet has made going to college and completing college courses younger much easier.
Don’t be intimidated to go to school on campus. I got great grades by studying well despite testing against older classmates. I also took courses during my last summer semester. I found that summer courses were easier and shorter than other semesters. I wished I had taken more summer courses when I realized this.
6- Find and apply for multiple scholarships. I was on track to earn a very high value scholarship. Had I not been one credit short of my associate’s (due to an unfortunate misunderstanding), I would have received it. Yet, despite NOT getting this high value scholarship, I was STILL able to graduate with a bachelor’s degree with zero debt. But it would have been a lot easier to do with a scholarship. Spend hours researching and applying for scholarships. And as my mother would say, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. Apply to many scholarships just in case the one you are counting on falls through.
7- Earn your way through school. I paid tuition on a monthly payment plan so I could use my weekly paychecks. Also, save up your money during the times you aren’t at school. Between high school and moving away for college I worked very hard and saved up enough to pay for the next year of school. During the next two years, I worked during school and was able to pay for my schooling before the end of my final semester. Here are 9 additional Ways to get a degree without going into debt.
Despite losing out on a high value scholarship and having to pay for every penny of the degree, I was proud to have been able to get my Bachelors Degree without going into debt. I valued my education much more than I would have had my parents paid for it. I also took my grades very seriously because I didn’t want to pay another couple hundred dollars to re-take a course or be forced to go to school an extra semester. Because of the valuable lessons I learned, my own children will be responsible to pay for the majority of their education.
Just to show that anyone can do this, at age 19 I took a 5 month break from college to travel to Taiwan (to teach English) and to New Zealand (to snowboard). I financed these trips as well as made money while abroad but when I came back I was broke. I had to work a few low key jobs (that allowed me to study) to get through my last couple semesters. If you (or your kids) don’t take a 5 month travel abroad trip they may be able to graduate even sooner than I did.
Following the aforementioned tips, I was able to graduate from a University with a four year degree at age 20 with zero debt. By using these 7 tips your children can too.