Graduation season is upon us.
While those I attended elementary through high school with are graduating this spring, I’m not quite yet.
But I planned it this way.
From the news, statistics and stories I hear from people I encounter, I know many struggle with debt after graduation. I can’t imagine how hard it is to find a job right out of college with the added burden of a loan that can take years to pay off.
But I know there are others out there who aren’t graduating with debt. How do they do it? My parents are not paying for my college education, neither did I win any scholarships, so I’m sharing my story, how I’m graduating college this year, without debt and hopefully inspire others to do the same.
1. I didn’t go to college right after high school.
Like most middle and high school students, I didn’t like school. I was bored. But I didn’t just complain and not do anything about it. With support from my parents and my brick and mortar school counselors I was able to split my day between physically going to classes and taking classes (and a few extra classes) online. This way, I could still be a graduate of that high school and also play on the school’s golf team.
I had this schedule with the intention of graduating a year early. This way, I could spend time figuring out what career path I wanted to take. Then, I wouldn’t start spending money on a degree, then switch it because I figured out it wasn’t for me, then have to pay even more money.
Of course, there are some occupations that definitely need college degrees, but there are some that are arguable. For me, I had to be sure college was worth going to depending on my career path. I took time to discover what career path I wanted to take, which meant I started working towards a college degree about a year and a half after my peers did.
2. I took a gap year and knew what I wanted to study.
With the extra time I had from graduating high school early, I took a gap year. I traveled with my family to 14 countries. I started a business. I interned at one of the top digital agencies in New York City. These experiences helped me decide what I wanted to do.
Without these experiences, I would’ve gone to whatever college and probably end up paid lots of money. I would’ve been at risk of changing my major multiple times, which could mean paying even more money if I had to take different classes. I would also have been really miserable.
Read all about why I took a two year gap year here.
3. I worked…
While in high school taking classes in a brick and mortar high school and online, I also started a business. With the help of a mentor, I served clients as a virtual assistant and helping small businesses with their social media presence. This allowed me to not only gain experience in working with clients and in the industry, but to make money.
A lot of what I made was used towards traveling (I paid for all my travel expenses during my family’s two year trip around the world), but I was also able to save up and now use it to pay for college.
4. and worked, and worked, and worked…
During the two year around the world trip, I continued working on my business and serving clients. I had fun traveling but also had to work. And during the two year around the world trip, I felt it was time to learn from the experts in my industry. Even without being in college at 18 years old, I had the privilege of interning at a sought-after digital agency. (A story for another time!)
5. and am still working.
After the two year trip, I decided it was time to get a college degree. But at the same time, I was fortunate to return to the agency as a part timer, while working towards my degree. The experience I’m getting there is invaluable and I am grateful that I get to work with some of the best in the industry.
I’ll also note here that making money is part of how I can pay off my college fees, but it’s also the ability to save money. This will be for another discussion, but after traveling, I realized you really don’t need much to be happy and live. So I spend my money wisely.
6. I’m taking classes online.
When I decided it was time to get a degree, I again, went the untraditional route. I found a university that offered an option to get a degree completely online. I chose this option so I could save lots of money. Plus, I wanted to stay in New York City and continue working at the digital agency.
Through careful planning, staying open to opportunities that came my way, and lots and lots and lots of hard work, I’m graduating at the end of this year, without debt.