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How to Graduate from College Debt-Free

Speak to anyone who has graduated with a bachelor's degree today, and you probably have heard a dark tale of massive student loans and other ongoing payments. It seems that the only way to go to college these days is to either save up enough to pay for everything yourself or take on a huge debt load that will take years to pay back. Fortunately, there are ways to graduate from college debt-free. Sometimes, all that stands between you and an education is the knowledge of the options for financial freedom.

1 – College Funding Always Starts With the FAFSA

Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form on time every year throughout your college career. While this does include information about student loans you may be eligible for, it also gives essential details about grants and some potential scholarship opportunities. When it comes to college funding, it is always the first step. You do not have to use any of the options you are offered in the financial aid package if they do not suit your quest to graduate from college without any debt. However, you want to know what options are available to you, and the only way is to complete the FAFSA.

2 – Explore All Possible Grants First

Grants are the ultimate and most prized choice for debt-free education. This is money given to you for free that you never have to repay for any reason. The US Department of Education offers multiple types of grant money to people who want to go to college. Some are competitive. Others are need-based. Still others focus on specific demographics or situations. One of the most common is the Pell Grant. You can apply for most of these online. Non-governmental grants exist for some individuals, groups, and situations. A specific university may even give out some based on financial need, although these are usually referred to as scholarships. Grants are the best and easiest way to pay for college without going into debt.

3 – Apply For and Win Scholarships

Scholarships also give you free money that you never have to repay, but these always involve an application process. While many are competitive, there are quite a few that do not get enough applications every year and may not even be paid out to students in the end. This is where your exceptional research skills come into play. The more scholarships you apply for, the greater chance you have of winning some and escaping your university years without crushing debt.

4 – Work-Study Programs Help Prevent Debt

Most colleges offer work-study programs that allow you to attend without accruing massive debt at the same time. You will have to hold down at least a part-time job associated with the college itself in order to reap the benefits. Some of the most desirable jobs on campus are only available to students who qualify for work-study, so you'll want to take advantage of this program if it is offered to you.

5 – Cut College Costs

Finally, one of the best ways to prevent debt is to decrease the costs of attending college. Compare financial aid offers from multiple colleges to select the one that will incur the least debt. This is not always the least expensive college as some colleges have more generous financial aid packages. Consider attending community college as well. Many states offer free tuition for community college, and even if your state does not, it is a less expensive option than attending all four years at a four-year institution.

Your dream of graduating with a bachelor's or other advanced degree should not fail due to funding worries. No one wants to owe tens of thousands of dollars for decades after graduation. These tips will help you graduate from college debt-free and reap the benefits of your degree financially in the future.