This is a guest post from Chase Miller, a high school student from Orange County, California. He loves to surf, travel, Tweet, and catalog life through photography.
â€œWhere are you going to college?â€
“What are you going to major in?”
“What kind of career do you want?”
As senior year flies by like a speeding car, there are certain questions I have been asked countless times by friends, family members, and coworkers. These questions are probably the same for every high school senior â€” what’s next? What do I want to do with my life?
Intimidating price tags on a college education
Now this isn’t a bad thing, in fact I think it’s rather positive. Deciding on what you will do after high school is part of growing up and setting a course. But with the average cost of attending a private university in the U.S. at a staggering $28,500 per year, not including room and board, the goal of attending a four-year college without debt seems unattainable to most people.
Whatâ€™s even more discouraging is that with these price increases, many are going to community college. Classes are now overcrowded and difficult to enroll in.
My plan for a debt-free education
I have always had a goal of staying debt-free through college, which is why I had a formula since entering high school. Below are some things I have done to cut the cost of college for myself. They are easy steps other students can replicate no matter where they live.
- The first thing I did was to take college classes when I was in junior high. They were all online, and I did them in addition to my regular junior high classes. Back then I took them to prove to myself that I could do it, but now I realize how beneficial they were. When I graduate high school this spring, I will have 32 college credits, which equals a full year of college. Whatâ€™s amazing is that these credits didnâ€™t cost me a dime, as junior high and high school students can take college courses for free in California. Talk about a money saver â€” this will allow me to graduate an entire year early!
- I plan to go straight to a four-year university, but with a few sacrifices. Having the college experience of living in the dorms and making lifelong friends is something I have always wanted to experience, so I plan to make cuts in other areas. My plan is to go to a local four-year university and only live on campus the first year. The second and third year I will live at home and commute to classes and school activities. This will allow me to make friends and experience living in a dorm for the first year. I’ve estimated that doing this will save more than $20,000 in room and board expenses for those three years.
- While in college, I will be without a car. While this will be a difficult adjustment, in reality a car is not a necessity, and I can always get a ride from a friend and use public transportation to get to class when I’m not living on campus. I should save approximately $24,000 by living without a car.
My total savings from taking these three steps comes to an estimated $81,000. Not everyone can or should follow my exact plan, but when you get motivated and creative I think most anyone can find a way to get a college degree without taking out student loans.