How to Graduate from College with No Debt

Eric M.
November 8, 2018

With college so expensive these days, it seems impossible to pay for it all up front. But debt can be avoided with these 4 tips.

Did you know that the average student loan debt hovers around $40,000? If that doesn't boggle your mind, did you know that all of that money has to be paid back (seriously)? 

While people are in school it may seem sensible to take out massive student loans. What they fail to realize is that one day they do have to repay the loans, and therein is where the difficulty lies. Instead of taking out student loans, can you imagine the freedom in your life if you were able to graduate from college debt-free? Below are 4 strategies to do just that.

1) Work During Summers and Part-time During the Year

Just like your parents may have told you when you turned 16, I am also reiterating, "Get a job". The reality is, people can work in college. And many people do. I have a very technical degree and can squeeze in 15 hours a week which is a good considerable amount of side cash. It allows me to pay for room and board and other miscellaneous expenditures.During the school year a part-time job is prime, but during the summer why not shoot for the sky? 

If you're not working at least 40 hours a week then you are getting too much free time! When you are able to focus on work in the summer, it is quite rewarding. You will be amazed at how much extra money you can make with 2 jobs at around 60+ hours a week. I worked 80+ hours a week when during my summer after high school. It was well worth it when I was able to spend that money on college and not have to take out a student loan. Working in college is by far one of the biggest factors when trying to graduate with no debt.

2) Consider Attending a Community College

Sometimes community colleges can get a bit of unfair treatment. In reality, they save tons of money and prepare you even further for university level classes. Community colleges are typically less than half the cost of popular universities. On top of that, most credits will transfer. Consider completing general breadth courses and then moving onto higher level courses at the university level. Plus, it is likely you can stay with your parents or a relative and save even more by not paying rent.

3) Apply for Scholarships (and Lots of Them)

Perhaps scholarships are better known methods of paying for college debt free. Personally, scholarships have allowed me to go through college debt free. For that I am extremely thankful. How did I get the scholarships I received? Academics and extracurriculars. 

Throughout high school I was a nerd - straight up. I still am a nerd, but especially in high school. I got A's in all of my classes and I even took the ACT 4 times (even though it was painful...). But, in the end it paid off. I barely squeezed by in order to qualify for a full ride to a college I wanted to go to. Keep in mind that most scholarships never pay room and board, so you will still need to get money for the livin' expenses. 

A wonderful scholarship website is

4) Keep a Long Term Outlook

I have mentioned this in one of my other debt-related articles, but truly I cannot stress this enough. The underlying cause of debt is instant gratification. Staying out of debt requires a long-term outlook and approach. Sure, it's not all that fun to work during the school year, but it's benefits far outweigh the other option. Think of the extra money you are making and the time management skills you are acquiring by balancing work and school. 

Sometimes the more logical path is not always the most popular. But hey, if staying out of debt was easy then everyone would do it, right? Pick a plan and stick to it. It is possible to graduate debt free. Hard work really does pay off, literally.