There's one thing that screws most of us over in our 20s when it comes to our money: it's usually student debt. We go to college in hopes of coming out with a job and a bright future. We usually leave confused and in tons of debt. This doesn't always happen, but it's far too common.
Too many of us feel unprepared in our 20s. This article over at Forbes has some scary highlights, such as:
In 2011, 1.5 million, or 53.6% of college grads under age 25 were out of work or underemployed.
Ouch. There's more:
Since there are 1.7 million grads who are getting bachelor’s degrees this year, that means 120,000 young people are working as waiters, Gap salespeople, and baristas because it was the only work they could find.
Okay, I'll stop with the stats. You get the point. Graduating in debt sucks. While I can't help you with time travel if you're already done with school, I can help all future college students with graduating ahead of the game.
Can you graduate from college debt-free? Can you have fun in college and not have to pay for it in your late-20s?
The answer is yes. I did it. I can out-drink anyone. I wasn't a nerd that missed out on parties. I also managed to graduate 100% free of any debt.
What are the golden rules for graduating college debt-free?
1. Research Schools and Programs in Advance
Okay, this one is obvious.
If you're in your teens (as my brother is), you have to look into all programs, towns, and options. You want to look at the history of graduates and what sort of work the program leads to. You can't blame anyone if you studied something that doesn't have much demand for work post-college.
Ensure that your program is right for you.
2. Find a Work-Term Program Arrangement
This one is key if you want to graduate debt-free. I didn't do this because I always had a part-time job and I was able to start my own blogging business in college. However, my friends that are debt-free did this.
How does it work? Certain programs offer a co-op/internship/work-term program. It varies depending on the program. You need to seek out these programs. The work terms will allow you to gain experience in the field and to make money.
My cousin Matt made a lot of money as an engineering student. He was able to save up for the next semester and gain all sorts of references.
3. Work Like Mad During the Summer
I know that it's tempting to just chill out in the summer. It's fun. I've done it. The thing is that summer is the best time to find work, make money, and save up like crazy.
You also must remember that working during the summer won't ruin your summer. You'll always find time to party and hang out with friends. You just won't have time to creep on Facebook for six hours daily. I imagine you'll survive.
Summer is your time to make some money and save it up! If you don't want to work a crappy job, you can also consider getting into freelancing.
4. Apply for Every Single Form of Free Money
There are so many sources of funding available to all students. We just don't apply for them because we're too lazy or we just create excuses.
This money is available for all students! All you have to do is apply. The worst case scenario is that they'll say no. So what?
What Should You Apply For?
Just remember our financial aid pyramid to remember the best types of free money for school:
The most you'll have to do is write an essay. Imagine that? One essay could land you thousands of dollars. I've seen it happen first-hand.
You've got to apply ASAP.
5. Suck It Up and Stay Local
This one pains me. I was tortured throughout college. I lived with my parents. I still had tons of fun, but I never had the fun of living with friends and drinking on Tuesdays until after college. I had to take the bus an hour each way. I had to stay with a friend when I wanted to be careless.
With that being said, I saved a fortune living at home. I'm not paying off my freshmen living expenses at 25. It's totally worth it in the long run if the option is available to you. There's nothing wrong with staying in town to attend a local school. The savings could help you get your life started a lot faster.
Those are my golden rules for graduating college without any debt. It worked for me. All of these tips won't likely work for you. That's cool. I do guarantee that at least one of them will help you.
Cheers to your financial freedom in the future!
This was a guest post from Martin of Studenomics, who happens to be on a journey to become financially free by 30.
Do you have any other golden rules for graduating from college debt-free?