How I survived college without student loans…until I cracked

Photo Courtesy: Forbes

In my early college days, I had made up my mind that I was not going to fall into the student loans trap. I never knew a lot about the loans but in my heart and mind, I knew there were just bad. That was enough to kick me into survival mode.When I was in school for finance, I was lucky to have a scholarship and so I did not take any loans. Fast forward to nursing school, I experienced first hand the pain of paying tuition.

I paid my tuition when I did my nursing pre-requisites.However, it was not easy because I only had one job that was paying me a little bit over 1k per month. I had to eat, pay rent, insurance, gas up and all those good things and so nothing much was left. But somehow I was able to pull it off. I was able to save some money every month by doing simple stuff. Here is what I did;

  • I went to a community college instead of the local university or trade schools – Community colleges are inexpensive compared to other colleges and universities and they do provide quality education due to small class sizes.The tuition at that time was not going to be over $2000/semester regardless of how many credits you take.The private business college I attended was $5500/ semester.
  • Attend as a part-time student – I wanted to finish school quickly but I could not afford being full-time. It was not also a big enough reason for me to take student loans. Every semester, I did 8 credits instead of 12 or more. However, I was able to accelerate the process by going to summer school before joining the nursing program.
  • Set up a payment plan with the business office- Every semester, I contacted the business office and we made arrangements for me to pay my tuition in 3 installments.
  • Make my first payment on registration – Once I made the first payment, I knew my class was secure and even if I was not able to make my other payments on time, they could not drop me from the class. However, I had to make sure I pay everything before registration for the next semester opens because I would not be able to register for any classes. In my college, all science classes like microbiology and Anatomy and Physiology¬† filled up fast and so you had to register on the first day to get a seat.
  • Bundle up classes¬† – I have seen students attend school everyday of the week. I made sure my classes were in such a way that I would only attend twice which saved me gas and an eat out at the cafeteria.
  • Car pool – Whenever possible, I would car pool with friends.
  • Rent a room instead of an apartment – By the time I finished nursing school, I was married. However, during my single days, I rented a room and I used to pay $350 per month.
  • Borrow books or buy used straight from students – I had some great friends who would give me their books if they did the class before me. I would also buy used books from students because I would pay them better than the college book store who in turn inflate the price of the book.
  • Work Overtime – I used o actively seek overtime at my job and that would give me some extra cash.

All these things helped me save some little money which added up and helped me pay my tuition. Others were just smart tactics. All in all I made it. However, a lot changed in life including getting married and so my responsibilities increased. Nursing school program is known for being tough and rigorous and so as a student you have to avoid any distractions. When I got accepted in the nursing program, I applied for student loans so that I would only concentrate on my studies. I was able to complete my the program stress free financially and even if I am repaying the loan now, I do not have regrets.

What are some of the things you did in college to save money or get by?

Special Mention: A big thanks to Ramona from Dojo Blog for including my post  in her Money & Personal Finance: top articles this week (5)

17 Responses to How I survived college without student loans…until I cracked

  1. dojo says:

    You’re welcome ;)

    I worked full time during college. Sure, it wasn’t a very hard specialty, it wasn’t easy (I was at home maybe 7 hours/day), but it was worth the effort.

    It’s good you were able to go through at least a big part of your college education and not take too many loans, it’s surely easier to pay off a smaller debt.
    dojo recently posted…Money & Personal Finance: top articles this week (5)My Profile

  2. That’s awesome that you avoided students loans for at least part of your schooling. There’s no shame in taking out loans for nursing school…it happens!
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted…Adulthood: Changing Times, Changing PrioritiesMy Profile

  3. These are fantastic tips. I did many of them myself, like attend community college. My state actually had a program called A+ which allowed me to attend up to 3 years of community college completely free of charge. I did 1.5 years to get my associates degree and was so thankful for that. Scheduling classes on 2 days is another great idea.
    Cash Cow Couple recently posted…Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard Review – Pros and ConsMy Profile

    • demaish says:

      Wow..your sate really did you guys a favor. Community colleges are a great alternative / good start because they are inexpensive.

  4. Great tips. It is always good to reduce the amount of student loans you take out. I went to a State University which was semi-affordable but I did take some loans out. For grad school, I worked full-time and went to school part-time, but tuition was so expensive, that I had to take loans out but working allowed me to only take out federal loans which have better terms.
    Andrew@LivingRichCheaply recently posted…Save Money While Holiday ShoppingMy Profile

    • demaish says:

      Going to school part time also helps to reduce the amount of loans. I have heard grad school is no joke when it comes to cost and so I understand.

  5. I have warmed to the community college option, but I worry that you will miss out on some stuff by going that route (though you will also miss out on student loans!). I also am not a huge fan of part-time college mainly because you put off an increased income in exchange for lower tuition costs or no student loans. I’m not saying full-time works for everyone, but you have to weigh the pros and cons.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…3 Things That Motivate Me To Work Hard In My 20sMy Profile

    • demaish says:

      You definitely have to weigh your pros and cons. For me, part time worked better but once I got to the nursing program, you have no choice and have to go full time.

  6. Good thinking asking friends for their old books. Even the “used” books at the school bookstores are expensive. I wonder if they have all the textbooks available in the library as well?
    Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life recently posted…Citibike SavingsMy Profile

  7. I did a bunch of these when I was in college and grad school. When I was in school renting books didn’t really exist, so I bought used. Last semester when I was taking a course at my alma mater I rented a book for a fraction of the price of buying it. I only wish I had that option “back in the day”.
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted…Dear Santa, I Hope You Got a Raise This Year!My Profile

  8. Michelle says:

    My sister did community college for the first two years and saved herself a fortune. I am so jealous that instead of 30k in loans, she has 10k.
    Michelle recently posted…Giving Tuesday: Donate WiselyMy Profile

  9. Money Saving says:

    Awesome!! Major congrats to you for doing the smart thing and not owing tons of money in student loans.

    Believe it or not, I actually made money going to college! I worked real hard in HS to get good grades. By the time college rolled around, I got two scholarships to go to mechanical engineering school (a university scholarship and a mechanical engineering department scholarship). As a result, I actually got a check for ~$2,500 a semester :-)

    I think they got rid of the possibility to get refund checks a couple years after I graduated, but it really does pay off to work hard in HS!!!
    Money Saving recently posted…Book Review – Rich Dad Poor DadMy Profile

    • demaish says:

      That was smart for you to work hard and get a scholarship. It is always a major breakthrough if someone funds all or part of your college tuition.

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