How I Graduated College Debt Free As a Minority- NJ Edition
Let’s face it, college is not cheap and nowadays you need a college degree to land a decent paying job in less you were just plain lucky. College does not guarantee money though; it just increases the chances of you making more money compared to just being a high school graduate with no degree. It’s a good thing to attend college to educate and expand your mind, as well as, meet new people, and gain new experiences. Anyway, I’m not trying to convince anyone to go to college because people will do as they please, this blog post is going to teach you ways in which you could attend college and either come out debt free or have less debt by the time you are done. Please keep in mind that this post is going to be directed towards low income families/minorities, if your parents are very wealthy then this blog post won’t really be able to help you (or maybe a little if your parents cut you off and you have to pay for school yourself).
Often times, students who pursue a higher education end up in massive amounts of debt due to the high cost of college which requires students to take out lots of loans. Students soon realize that after they graduate they’re working solely to try to pay back their debt while also trying to save money to move out of their parents’ house and do other things. Thankfully and humbly, I beat this system and graduated school with $0 debt, I was able to do whatever I wanted with the money I soon started making as a registered nurse. Please continue reading if you’d like to know how I did this. 🙂
- Get a job! – If you’re a parent reading this, encourage your teens to start working a part-time job now! I can’t stress this enough, it’s one of the main reasons I was able to graduate debt free. This will help your teen to slowly save money, gain responsibility, learn to work as a team, network, become more organized, and develop time management. I worked my ass off as a teenager, and not because anyone was forcing me to but I actually enjoyed making and saving my own money. I started working when I was 13 yrs. old. and haven’t stopped since. During my sophomore year of high school I played sports, as well as, worked 4 jobs all at once (and I still always kept my grades up). I worked in bagel places, pizzerias, retail stores, restaurants, medical offices, etc. It wasn’t like I was making loads of money either, I was only making between $7-$11 per hour at each job, but I taught myself to always put a little money to the side in a savings account; I would usually put away between $50-$100 a week or every 2 weeks and the rest I would use to buy whatever I needed. I also wasn’t wasting my money buying clothes and sneakers to try to win best dressed at school, I was thinking about the things I wanted in the future car, house, vacations, etc. Try to instill this in your children/teens at an early age, no one will care years down the line what kind of clothes/sneakers you were wearing in high school. By the time I graduated HS, in which by this time I was 18 yrs. old, I had saved $10,000.00. That’s more than some adults have in their bank account today.
- Scholarships – There is almost a scholarship for anything nowadays. Often times, high school students don’t take the time to look for them or are too lazy to do the requirements since most scholarships require an essay. Just a tip for high school students- Write one good essay and have it proof read by one or two of your teachers, then just tweak it as needed for each individual scholarship based on what they want. There are private, community, company, and nonprofit scholarships available to you, so take advantage, it’s literally free money! The great thing is that you can apply to as many scholarships as you want and there’s no limit to the amount you can get.
- This is a resource you could use to look for scholarships in NJ http://www.collegescholarships.com/local/new-jersey-scholarships
- Ask your school guidance counselors for scholarship opportunities
- Use google to look for additional scholarships, there’s plenty! There’s ethnicity-based organizations, organizations (including professional associations) related to your field of interest, foundations, religious or community organizations, local businesses, or civic groups
These are a few scholarships I applied to and got:
- Hoboken Rotary Club Scholarship – $1,250 per year for 4 years= $5000.00 total
- This was one of the scholarships I applied for and received as a high school senior, it helped put money towards my tuition as well as my books every year.
- Puerto Rican Culture Committee Scholarship – $1,000.00 one-time only
- I also won this scholarship my senior year of high school, I took this money and bought myself a new apple laptop J
- This is the article from NJ.com regarding the winners for this scholarship including myself- http://www.nj.com/hobokennow/index.ssf/2009/06/puerto_rican_flag_raising_tomo.html
- I received other scholarships but unfortunately I cannot remember the names, in total, I received $8,000.00 in scholarships.
- Apply for Financial Aid: Based off of your household income, as well as other factors, these sites and resources will determine how much federal and state financial aid you receive.
- https://fafsa.ed.gov/ – When you finish filling this out, you will hopefully see an Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) of 0. This indicates that you are eligible for a good amount of financial aid. (Please keep in mind that if you pick a very expensive school, this aid will only help so much). P.S. make sure you fill this out by the deadline!
- http://www.hesaa.org/Pages/default.aspx – As per the HESSA website, the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority, is the only New Jersey state agency with the sole mission of providing students and families with financial and informational resources for students to pursue their education beyond high school. This will help see what other resources/grants you can receive to pay for school.
- EOF Program Grant – The program is offered only in NJ, other states may have similar programs. Each school has different requirements so depending on which school you choose; see if you qualify for this program. You will receive additional grant money (money you don’t have to pay back) and assistance.
- Look at how much your school costs!!
- Public vs Private Schooling
- In-State vs Out-of- State Schooling
- Commuting vs Dorming
- Community College vs Four year colleges
– Public vs Private: So overall, the cheaper the cost of tuition, the less you’ll have to pay out of pocket. Always note that a public school will usually always cost less than a private school, this is because public colleges are funded mostly by state governments, whereas private colleges rely heavily on private contributions, donations, and tuition. I myself went to a public school, Rutgers University, which was cheaper than a lot of the colleges in NJ.
–In-State vs Out- of State: So this is just simple, if you go to any school that is out of the current state that you live in, your tuition is automatically more expensive. It might seem really cool to get away from your parents and go to school out of state but when you look at how much debt you’ll be in by the time you graduate, it won’t be so cool anymore. 🙁
–Commuting vs Dorming: To be totally honest, I had a lot of fun dorming and it was great to roll out of bed and walk to class but keep in mind that because of the money that I had gotten from working, scholarships, and financial aid I was able to pay my balance automatically without taking out any loans. Also keep in mind that I only dormed for my first 2 years and then for the last 3 years I started commuting. When I started commuting, because of all of the financial aid I was getting, I actually got money back in which I used to pay for gas, food, and books. If you’re really trying to save mone and you don’t live too far from school, commuting is a better option, dorming is expensive and adds up… you can still always just meet people on campus who dorm and visit/stay in their dormitory just so you could see what it’s like (plus the food isn’t that good anyway lol.) 🙂
–Community College vs Four year colleges: Although I didn’t do this at the time because it had never crossed my mind, I came across other people who did do this and saved tons of money. To save money, you could always start going to school at your local community college for the first 2 years. All colleges require “General Requirements,” that students must complete before they get into the requirements for their major. You could do these requirements at any community college and then transfer your credits to the four year college of your choosing.
So after all this information, the magical question is, how much did I pay out of pocket for my 5 yr. college education at an in-state four yr. public school for my BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing).
As previously stated, I dormed my first 2 yrs. of college so my balance was about $1,800.00 per semester for the first year, which totaled to $3,600.00 and the second year was about $2,000.00 per semester, which totaled to $4,000.00. This means that for my first 2 yrs. of college I paid a total of $7,600.00 (not including books). The last 3 yrs. I commuted and got money back from the school; therefore, I had $0 balance. So now you do the math, I had $10,000.00 that I saved on my own from working, got $8,000.00 in scholarships, and received federal/state financial assistance, which means I paid for college in full and still had money left over. I understand that I am very lucky because I haven’t come across one college student yet who hasn’t told me they aren’t in debt; this is why it’s so important to start early and take the necessary steps to try to save yourself and/or your kids from coming out of college in thousands of dollars of debt.
Even if this helps one person out there, then I’m happy. Please leave comments below so that I know you enjoyed this blog post. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to my page to be notified about new posts! 🙂