Paying For College Without Debt (Choosing Your Path)

Is it possible to get a Bachelor’s degree without debt? Most people would say that it isn’t realistic for one reason or another. But contrary to popular belief, you can pay for college without going into thousands of dollars worth of debt.

college students graduating

Before diving into getting through college without debt you need to ask yourself a few questions.

  1. What is the purpose of a college degree?
  2. How important is a college degree for you?
  3. What is your motivation for pursuing a college degree?

The goal of the individual in learning is to increase their capacity for independent action”  – John Boyd, American fighter pilot

Your goal in learning should not be to make gobs of money or live a specific lifestyle but to create value in the marketplace and serve your community well. 

tools stacked up

You will first want to do a self-audit, to really “know thyself” through personality and career testing, exploring career areas you haven’t yet, and being deliberate about what career is the best fit for your skills, not just your passions.

Once you have some direction in areas you might want to study, the next choice is picking a school and a major. In order to do this well, you need to evaluate why you are leaning toward a specific school and/or major.

Degree vs Pedigree – Is the debt you would acquire at a bigger name school worth the pay-off? And can you get the same degree from another school for less?

Passion vs Practicality – How do you envision serving people in the future? There is a downside to prioritizing passion over practicality. Passions can shift over time, so be careful basing a study path on passion alone. You can always minor in an area of passion while majoring in an area that fits your gifting and skills.

Location – Where should you live when attending school:

  • On campus
  • Apartment with roommates
  • With parents or family
  • Do you need to be in a specific state or area for licensing purposes?

What costs will be involved?

  • Tuition
  • School Fees
  • Housing
  • Events
  • Personal expenses
  • In state vs. out of state (residency takes 365+ days to establish)
  • Would attending school overseas help you get the same degree for less cost? 
students in a college classroom

Education Options:

Community College – No future job is going to care which school you started in, only where you finish. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of your local community college.

State Schools – These schools will have more opportunities for scholarships and can be less costly, but keep in mind residency requirements. For example, a state school for local residents might cost $10,000 a year for full-time, but $30,000 for someone out of state. Be sure to check residency requirements before choosing a school.

Note: Does the school you are looking at have a good track record of placing people in the career you are interested in?

College Alternatives – There are plenty of career paths that do not require a college degree. Some can be accomplished through training programs, while others can receive certification or a degree through online programs like edX

Once you have narrowed down which path is best for you it will be time to apply and look into funding options, which we will talk about next time. Stay tuned for Part 2Part 3, and Part 4 to find out what to do next.

university building

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