First Person: How I Graduated From the Ivy League Without Any Student Loan Debt

Yahoo Contributor Network

College is expensive enough these days, but for those without financial backing, it can be almost impossible to get a four year degree without racking up a tremendous amount of debt. Despite financial aid, grants, and scholarships, most college students still maintain a large amount of debt well through their thirties.

I was fortunate enough to gain entrance to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Private Universities cost roughly $50,000 per year or $200,000 for the entirety of undergraduate studies. I received a partial financial aid package based on my family's financial standing and my academic achievements in high school. Those concessions defrayed my costs to roughly $25,000 per year.

Prior to my acceptance, I spent a good deal of my spring semester of high school applying for every grant, scholarship, gift I could possibly think of. My efforts resulted in me receiving an additional $10,000 per year in benefits.

I entered college in the fall of 2006 on pace to owe about $15,000 per year or $60,000 in total over the course of my education. I took out that amount in government student loans. My savings were certainly nowhere close to the $60,000 I required and so I found it necessary to pursue a good deal of part-time employment while at school.

One interest of mine is sports broadcasting. Jobs in broadcasting are usually hard to come by, however a small division one school in the middle of nowhere has its benefits. Namely, the school had over 30 sports, and only two broadcasters for their major sports like Hockey, Football and Men's Basketball. Despite having no official experience, I mustered up all my confidence to ask for an opportunity to work in broadcasting and journalism.

Fortunately, the Athletic communications department was woefully understaffed and it was quite easy to get a part time job reporting on Cornell sports and updating various blogs and websites. It didn't pay well by any stretch of the imagination, however $10 dollars an hour for 15 hours a week does add up over the course of a semester. After my first three months, I was able to promote myself to work on road trips, with my travel expenses and over time covered by my job. With various side projects and extra hours, I found a way to make about $5000 per semester.

With that part time, moving towards full time status job in hand, I reduced my debits to only about $5,000 per year. Summers were not of the enjoyable type for me, as I worked 40 or so hours per week in my hometown on a number of various jobs, waiting tables, and performing administrative work at local businesses. The skills I accrued were of the odd variety, but money was money, and finishing school without any debt was my goal.

The most expensive part of college is going to college that is, spending eight semesters costing $25,000 each. By my junior year I realized that the easiest way to avoid debt was to avoid accruing it. To do that, is to work hard, to graduate early. I buckled down my final three semesters to escape with a degree six months early, and $25,000 less in debt. Working hard for about four years straight was a tiring experience to say the least, but it was much preferable to the alternative of having a mountain of debt hanging over me in the adult world.

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