You don’t need a list of 22 things to do to pay for college
Unless you’re an idiot.
Or you like click bait titles.
Or both 🙂
I’m going to tell you how to pay for college and how I avoided drowning in student load debt. In fact, I graduated from the University of Connecticut owing a massive 3 thousand dollars worth of debt (that’s sarcasm by the way).
I know things are really insane right now with the cost of college. It was like that for me as well a little over a decade ago when I was attending university. It’s a tough place for a lot of young people are in if your parents did not prepare for you to go to college or like my parents, simply did not have the money (4 kids will do that!).
I know there is a lot of talk on the merits of university and if you should even go. As I talk about in 19 things no one tells 19 year old’s, you really do need to be careful with why you’re going to college as you could be saddled with a small mortgage if you’re not careful.
I get how expensive it is, that’s why you need to be smart. I got into an argument with my uncle who is in his 50’s and talked about how “he worked” to pay for school and really thought young people were just entitled for wanting government support for school.
It’s true that the older generation who do not have kids in school are actually quite delusional about the cost. They grew up during a time where you could get a few loans, work a part time job and graduate with a few thousand dollars of debt. No big deal.
Not anymore today. Today you could take on tens of thousands of dollars a debt that you can never get rid of (this is the next bubble to pop in my opinion). You can’t declare bankruptcy and if you die your debt goes to someone else in your family.
It’s really unbelievable how our society has decided to make it risky for young people to get educated, take risks and make something of themselves.
Here is what I did to avoid student loan debt.
1 – How To Pay For College: I joined the Air Force Reserve
Joining the reserve was actually essential to me graduating debt free. If it was not for the Air Force Reserve I would have been in massive debt from UCONN.
“But I don’t want to join the military” you may say. So? I did not either. I wanted to go to school at 18 like everyone else. If you want generic 13 tips go read Nerd Wallet or CNN money. I’m sure if you just cut back on lattes and having a social life you’ll have saved enough (sarcasm again).
The way the reserve works is that you go off to basic training and then technical school for your specific trade. When you’re finished you report back to your reserve unit and being your one weekend a month, 2 weeks a year contract for the next 6 years.
And yes, it really is one weekend a month every month and then 2 weeks full time per year.
It’s also a 6 year commitment so be mindful of this.
For me, my position was that of a crew chief for the C-5 galaxy. I was better qualified for administrative and health positions but the C-5 Galaxy position offered a recruitment bonus and a bonus toward tuition if I remember correctly.
So because the payout was better for me as a university student, I decided to become a crew chief.
1 – For the tuition payment you’re paid directly actually. So for one weekend a month I was being paid over $1,000! That was the pay for tuition and my salary as an airman combined. It was great for obvious reasons because I was able to make a lot of money and only have to work one weekend a month.
You’re not going to find a job to pay you $500+ a day as a 19 year old.
2 -The time spent in basic training and technical school you’re paid for as well. So for about 6 months you’re going to be paid a salary every month and have close to NO expenses. Room and board and food are all taken care of for you. It’s not uncommon to finish basic training and technical school and find yourself with $10,000 in savings.
I used my savings to pay for Lasik eye surgery.
3 – You can go “active” when you want. So it’s the summer and you’re done with school. You could ask your unit to go “active duty” for a month and live on base and get paid your salary and a bunch of pay benefits like per diem pay for being away from home. Again, as a college student I was able to make thousands of dollars a month doing this.
The main drawback of the reserve is that you’re committed for 6 years. Now, contracts are for 8 years, but it’s 6 years where you have to report in and 2 years where you’re on call. You can also be activated at any time which means you will be working full time for the military.
You’re also tied to a unit and need permission from your commanding officer if you ever want to go anywhere.
So you’re in school and want to study abroad for 6 months? You simply can’t if you’re in the reserve! For some this may be a deal breaker.
It also makes you a bit stuck to one area of the world. I had to report to a base in Massachusetts. If I got a job say in Texas, I would have had to cross train to a new field so I could work at a base in Texas. To cross train means to go back to tech school for another 6 months. No thanks!
2 – I lived at home for the first 2 years
You’re so lucky if you get to go away to college as a freshman. I envy you. It’s an experience I never got to have. My late teens were spent in the military. Then once I was done with everything I got accepted to University and decided to live at home for the first 2 years.
Living at home was a sacrifice. I wish I did not have to do it. But it’s what helped me be debt free. You can’t have your cake and eat it too as they say.
However, if I had to choose between being in debt or going away to college I can easily say that being debt free from student loans is the better and smarter choice.
I also made up for the lack of partying when I moved to Thailand, so things always seem to come full circle anyways.
3 – I worked a part time job
The Air Force reserve was only one weekend a month. Because of this, I was able to have a part time job where I worked mornings in a warehouse for Macy’s. My hours were 6 to 9 am. Yea, by 9 am I was finished with work.
Working in a warehouse for Macy’s or Amazon is dreadful if it’s your full time occupation. But as a part time gig it was fine. I was finished by 9 am and was able to get 12-15 hours a week. On average I would make about $150 a week and that was my spending money and then some because I had the Air Force Reserve paying me the bulk of my money.
4 – I lived at home and commuted to a branch for the first 2 years of UCONN
As I decided to live at home, instead of going to the main branch at Storrs Connecticut, I went to a smaller branch near where I lived in West Hartford. I did this because Storrs was almost a 1.5 hour drive from where my parents lived in Connecticut. It just made more sense to go to a smaller campus where I could get my prerequisites filled.
This saved me a TON of money on room and board at Storrs.
I actually had a lot of fun going to this branch so I can’t say this was a sacrifice. We tend to get it stuck in our heads that it’s not “real” or as “fun” as it could be because were not on the main campus. But this mindset was wrong. I meet a lot of great people, good teachers and simply had fun while saving money.
5 – I choose something I could follow an education funnel for
I just made that up, “education funnel” but it’s the best way I can describe it. Education funnels are where you have some sort of step by step process to follow where you will end up with a job.
For me that was the accounting and finance funnel:
Go to UCONN >> get accepted to the business school >> major in accounting and finance >> get an internship >> get a job.
That’s what I did.
I suggest you do something you think you can be world class at. Don’t chase money. Chase excellence as you can only make money by being the best at what you do.
If I did not join the Air Force reserve and know what I know now, I would have:
1 – Traveled for 6 months to 1 year. You finished high school, see the world. Don’t worry about falling behind your peers. You’re gaining life experience and that will help you make better decisions.
2 – Do what it takes to study abroad. Maybe even consider university in Europe if it’s cheaper.
3 – Be aggressive with scholarships. They are worth your time. $50 here, $70 there really add up if you make it into a part time job for yourself.
I get bored when I read posts on student load debt. It’s always the same drivel.
Don’t go out. Don’t have fun. Don’t spend money on lattes. Buy used text books.
Give me something useful other than the obvious stuff I always think.
So that’s why I wrote this, because I did a few unconventional things that really got me good results. Nothing is perfect. You’ll always have to sacrifice something for something else. But student loan debt is no joke.
Unless you’re dead set on what it is you want to do, you need to be very careful about student loan debt. Even with everything I did, I still had 3k of debt from living at Storrs for 2 years. I paid this off quickly as I was making $60,000 a year at PriceWaterhouseCoopers my first year.
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