You’re going for it! You’ve decided to upgrade your skills, seek a better line of work, move ahead in the world. One problem-you need more education and you’re not sure how to pay for it. Going deeply into debt isn’t a good option. You’ve already cut your budget to the point where you’re eating rice and beans. How can you get the extra education you need without breaking the bank? It’s not easy, but it’s entirely possible. I did it myself. Here are some helpful tips.
Focus, focus, focus! Your education is going to look very different from that of the typical youngster you see on campus. For one thing, your parents aren’t footing the bill, you are. For another thing, you have a clear vision of what you want and how to get there. Use that clarity to concentrate on your education.
Community colleges are your friend. Here in Florida, community colleges offer a “2+2” plan, which allows students to complete the first two years of college at community college and then move on to a state university for the last two years. Other states, including Iowa and Pennsylvania, have something similar. Investigate whether this is an option for you, as community college tuition is lower than that of most universities.
Take the time to meet early and often with your advisor. You simply can’t afford to take an extra course or two that you don’t need! In my own case, I knew I needed a Bachelor’s degree to go to seminary, but the seminaries didn’t particularly care what subject I studied. I’d taken a weird hodgepodge of English major classes and business courses during my earlier stint in college. My advisor listened to my story and immediately suggested a major that managed to use my existing credits. Added bonus for me: my major included a great deal of writing, which prepared me well for graduate school.
Get someone else to pay for it. What? You say you don’t have a doting uncle who is also filthy rich? Consider using the tuition reimbursement benefit on your own job to pay for classes that may bridge to a different one. Apply for scholarships and grants. Be persistent!
Distance learning is your friend. Look for affordable alternatives that may not be close to home and investigate the options for distance learning. I was extremely fortunate-not only does Florida offer the 2+2 plan, but my local community college partnered with the University of Central Florida. I could take courses via television and online from the University of Central Florida, saving me gas, tolls, money, and a 3-hour round-trip drive to class. The first time I set foot on UCF’s Orlando campus was my graduation day.
Take the test. CLEP and AP courses aren’t just for high-school seniors. Buy a study guide and put in some times mastering the format and brushing up on your skills. For one low flat fee, you get college credit. Play your cards right and do well on the tests and you may test out of a year or more of courses. That’s money in your pocket!
Take the scenic route. Sure, it seems like it’s going to take forever to get that degree at the rate you’re going, but don’t give up. Live your life while you’re learning. Focus like a laser but don’t forget that you’re not in this alone. Your family and friends are there to help you enjoy the scenery along the way. Added bonus– I believe that my decision to finish college in my early 40’s gave my son some valuable life lessons in persistence, hard work, and family sacrifice. I know it taught me those lessons, too!
You can do it!