Posted at 11:25 AM on February, 8 2016
What do we mean when we call someone smart? Smart is someone who can get certain things done easily, which others may work very hard and long to achieve. And what do we mean when we say someone is being smart about college? Exactly the same isn’t it?
Being smart about college to me means someone who can naturally and easily complete their college degree, while spending very little money on it and in a short timeframe. The natural and easy part happens when you as a student study things that you enjoy learning about and are really good at. The spending less money and the short timeframe part tend to go hand-in-hand. The less money you need to spend, the more you get to keep, and the more time you have to study, without the need to spend that time earning more money.
But that is not the only way to shorten the timeframe for completing college. Transferring credits from prior college level courses can help save time and money. Writing tests such as CLEP can be a real life saver. Taking CLEP tests cost less than $100 and each test can provide between 3 to 6 credits. There are many students who take CLEP tests by simply buying a few books and studying for a month or less. CLEP tests are also accepted by most colleges across the US for college credits.
By far, one of the smartest students are those who are able to complete their college degree quickly and without taking any student loans. Most of us generally assume that there is no other way, either get a full scholarship, or take student loans. Student loans are a real killer, thousands of students take student loans and end up paying them back for 10 to 20 to 30 years after they have completed college. Many of them postpone important life events such as marriage, or having kids or buying a home because of the burden of their student loans. You don’t want to be one of those students, we are here to ensure that you never have to take any student loans for completing college.
Instead of focussing your efforts on college applications and essays and so on, start by looking for colleges that provide the lowest fee structure. Look for other benefits such as work-study programs, amount of credits transfer permitted and so on. Rather than going for the beautiful college campuses with the just as huge tuition bills, look for colleges that minimize your expenses. Also see that the curriculum matches your interests and that it has enough flexibility in terms of course choices. Look more for value-for-money than the superficial aesthetics.
Living expenses are generally the second highest expensive part to watch out for. If you can find an affordable college that is close to where you currently live, that is the best option for reducing cost. Do you want to spend money on college dorms and then spend years paying back student loans after college? Or would you rather cutdown your living expenses during college and then have a carefree life and job after graduation? It’s all your choice.
In case you are ok to start with a community college for the 1st two years, cost can be further reduced. Community colleges are one of the most inexpensive routes to a college degree. Keep in mind that there are many issues with community colleges, but if you have a clear plan for finishing your associate degree quickly, this could work very well for you. College counselors can sometimes be helpful but a lot of them may also mislead. Just take all the brochures you can find and ask them specific questions. Then take a few pieces of paper and write down a plan for how you can quickly meet specific degree requirements. Be sure to only complete the minimum courses for the core and electives. Don’t waste your time taking an excess of core courses. Once your quota of core courses is complete, stop. Then move on to the electives.
After completing your associate degree, just apply to an affordable university or public college. Private colleges generally tend to be more expensive than the public ones, so keep that in mind. Please be sure not to use up all your scholarship money at the community college. If you clearly only take the minimum courses needed for graduation, then you can use the remaining scholarship money for completing the bachelor’s degree. Also, be sure to enroll as a fulltime college student and not as a parttime student. That is the best route for getting a full scholarship. In case of any issues, it is ok to take a partime job to fill the gap between the scholarship money and your actual expenses.
But no matter what you do, never ever take big student loans, never ever go to another state and enroll as an out-of-state student. I have met several students who enroll from out-of-state, then do not get any scholarship, have much higher fee structure, and then take student loans and still struggle to get by. In case you cannot get a scholarship, or if need to study out-of-state, the smarter thing would be to move to that state, take a job for an year and then apply as an in-state student.