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Pay Your Way Through School

It may seem impossible to actually pay your way through school, but there are thousands of college kids across the country that can prove that it isn’t. While many parents do choose to help their kids attend school, some cannot, and others won’t. For incoming freshmen who aren’t receiving financial assistance from mom and dad, the thought of owing thousands of dollars in student loans can be daunting. Besides the obvious financial benefit of working in school, there are many intangible benefits that can be gained by joining the workforce. Working or even interning in school helps you develop confidence in your strengths, while revealing your weaknesses in a way that allows you to learn from them and build up your skills.

If your primary goal is to avoid debt by working through school you may want to consider some of these options in order to cut costs and earn more cash.

College Choice. In order to truly minimize your student loans, you may have to reconsider the institution that you have selected. Unless you have a full-tuition scholarship, there are few colleges that are as inexpensive as your local community school. Some private colleges can run you as much as $800 per credit hour. In contrast, a community school can cost as little as $60 per credit hour. The difference is astounding and the amount you can save should lead you to seriously consider the community school option. For the most part, college is what you make it. Students who choose to attend a community school for the first two years before moving to a 4-year university can be just as successful as those who attend a private university. Success is yours for the taking.

Living at Home. Serious about avoiding debt? Live at home while you pay your way through school. It is simply the most economically efficient way to obtain an education. If you planned on going out-of-state to attend a specific school, you will need to prioritize your goals. Which is most important to you: staying out of debt or going to the school that you’ve had in mind since you entered high school? This is a difficult decision for many students. One way to decide is to try and anticipate what your life may look like a few years down the road. If you can’t withstand the disappointment inherent in attending a second tier school, don’t do it. However, if you have the confidence to take control of the financial and academic aspects of your college career you can come out ahead of the Ivy League grad as long as you take your goals seriously.

Alternatives to consider. These days, colleges offer many accommodating scheduling options. If you plan on working while in school you may want to check out these schedule alternatives:

Online classes. These are a great alternative because they allow you to organize class work around your own schedule. Online courses are more naturally suited for some subjects than others. If you are not comfortable with the subject/class that you are interested in don’t pursue an online version. Choose a course that is challenging, but also one that you have some background in—online foreign language classes can be particularly thorny.

Night courses. These classes take place one or two times per week. Potentially, a student could take a full-course load of night courses, allowing him to work four or even five days per week. Many students even find that they prefer night courses to standard day time classes.

Once a week classes. Three or four hour classes can be a great alternative for students organizing their schedule to accommodate a part-time job. You can free up a great deal of time by taking longer classes. Most students find that it takes extra effort to keep up in a class that only meets once a week, but for the amount of free time it lends you, it is a worthwhile trade off.

Maximizing the benefits of working during school. Not only does working during school give you an extra source of income to help you eliminate debt, it also gives you an opportunity to build your resume while teaching you invaluable finance management skills. For instance, if you are interested in using your degree to get a marketing or client facing sales position after school a part-time job in retail could be perfect for you. Most jobs that are available to college students build customer service skills, communication abilities, and leadership potential. All of these qualities are exactly what employers are looking for when you graduate.

Alumnus Voice

"As a college student, it can be tough to make ends meet and succeed in classes. But you make it through, and once you graduate and get a job, life is much much less complicated. Organization was the key for me and outlining my priorities was equally important. I worked while earning a double major and was able to pay my bills in addition to gaining experience that helped me obtain the job that I am currently in."
-- Sarah B. University of Iowa, Iowa Business/ Finance Major

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