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How To Leave College Debt Free

Updated on April 24, 2020
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Guy Wald is a passionate content writer. Originally a HR Consultant, now producing articles for various organisations.

College should be one of the best times of a student's life. Unfortunately for many students, it can also be a very stressful time as it has become increasingly difficult to leave college without owing money. According to the Federal reserve, an incredible fifty-four percent of students took on debt in the year to May 2019 and as many as seven in every ten students face the decision of whether they pursue a college degree, knowing they could finish their schooling with significant debt.

According to, the average cost of an in-state college education for the 2019/2020 academic year was a staggering $26,590, if you factor in the room, board and other fees, this could potentially rise to more than $37,000 per year, meaning a four-year course would cost students over $140,000.

A significant majority of college students have no financial support, and with the cost of a college education rising, students should consider how they will leave college debt-free.

Consequences of Student Debt

Graduates face the financial pressures of paying loan repayments, instead of saving. They also face the possibility of bad credit ratings if they are unable to repay their loans, so some short term sacrifices now can result in financial savings and favorable investment opportunities upon graduation.

Nobody wants to be paying off student loans in their 20's or 30's, so here are several ideas that can help keep students debt burden as low as possible:

Start Saving Before You Start College

The optimal way to reduce potential student debt is to start saving for college before you get there. Planning for college savings should be started as soon as possible; this way, students can maximize their savings.

Save The Income From A Part-Time Job

Saving income from part-time jobs, while living at home with parents can make a big dent in students' first-year fees. Students should save as much as they can from summer, weekend, or part-time jobs.

Strict rules surround when children can work, so students have to wait until they are at least fourteen before they apply for a part-time role. Most employers will only employ children over the age of 16.

Start with a part-time or weekend job at a supermarket or fast-food restaurant. Spend your summer as a lifeguard at the beach or in a tourist shop; this will give you a great start to your college savings.

You can offer your services to your neighbors, friends, and family; there may be young children around your neighborhood that you can provide babysitting services to, you can pet sit, or submit your services as a gardener. Be creative with your ideas, and before you know it, you will have added more to your college savings account.

When you start a job, you can start saving by opening a savings account with a high-interest rate (your parents can help you). Decide how much of your income; you wish to save and then stick to saving that amount each month. Saving your income can result in a considerable proportion of your fees met.

Work Hard At School To Gain A Scholarship From Your Prospective College

Scholarship grants or payments help students pay for their education, colleges award scholarships for a variety of reasons. All scholarships have different eligibility requirements, most require you to be an honor roll student, or gifted in an extracurricular activity such as music, art, theater, or excel at a sport.

Completing scholarship applications is a lengthy process, requiring students to write essays, provide financial information, and provide letters of recommendation. Spending the time to produce an impressive application can result in a scholarship that reduces your dependence on loans.

Advanced Placement Courses

Many high schools offer advanced placement courses; these courses enable you to gain college credits, which results in students having a head start on their college education as they do not need to sit the introductory college courses.

Apply For Scholarships From Not-For-Profit Groups

Scholarships are available from not-for-profit groups, civic groups, and many other organizations. Students have to meet specific criteria to apply. You can find out more by talking with your financial aid officer at college.

Complete a FAFSA

Complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) before completing your college applications. If successful, you will qualify for a federal grant or funding from another federal aid program.

The student aid report does not specify how much funding you will receive as each school gets different levels of grant funding. As funding is limited, ensure you get your FAFSA in early, to ensure receipt of grant funding for the school of your choice.

By setting yourself up for financial success in high school, you will positively reduce your need for debt during your college years.

Ways To Keep Debt Minimized While At College

Don't stop now. You should continue to try to reduce your costs once you reach college. At the same time, remember school remains your number one priority.

Start A Part-Time Job

The vast majority of students fund at least a proportion of their college fees by getting a part-time job to pay for those expenses. Consider jobs that fit into your college schedule, and apply for part-time internships or a range of other roles which will help you develop your skills ready for when you hit the workplace full-time.

There are several ways you can earn an income without impacting on your schooling, a weekend job is one and working through the summer is another. These seasonal roles could help you earn without affecting your education:

  • Golf Caddy - During the summer months, golf courses and country clubs are always looking for a student to work as golf caddies, not only will you receive a reasonable income, tips are often good.
  • Jobs In Hospitality - Hotels, shops, and other businesses in the entertainment industry find themselves busier when tourists come to town.
  • Summer Sports Coaches - Throughout the summer, a variety of roles become available, from soccer coaches to walking guides.

Get A Side Gig

If you can't get a part-time job or the job doesn't pay well, you may want to consider a variety of other options available that can help you to reduce your debt. These side hustles include:

  • Selling home-made wares on Etsy
  • Starting a blog
  • Pet-sitting
  • Tutoring

By putting all the income you earn from these side gigs into your loan account, you will shave a significant proportion off at the end of the year.

Complete Your FAFSA Each Year

You can apply for federal aid each year, so complete the form early each year to be considered for financial assistance.

Make A Budget And Stick To It

By creating a personal budget, you will be able to manage your money, resulting in less debt. By reviewing your expenses each month, you will not only learn money management skills; you can avoid taking out more loans.

A budget will help you cut costs; you will be able to see where the majority of your expenditure goes and then look at ways to reduce your spending in those areas. Ways to reduce costs are:

Buy used textbooks, borrow them from the library, or share the cost of books with friends.

  • Shop in the sales for clothes, or in a thrift store.
  • Don't eat out, every day - make meals at home
  • Find free activities for you and your friends.
  • Take advantage of gift cards, coupons, and any other cashback offers.

Do Not Apply For A Credit Card

Credit cards should be avoided at all costs, and be the last form of finance you consider. The majority of credit cards charge exorbitantly high-interest rates and fees, which can put you further into debt.


A college education is supposed to prepare students for their future, not set them up for a lifetime of debt, so it is never too early to start thinking about your college fund, the best time to start saving is right now!


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