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Creative Ways to Go to College for FREE - A Debt Free Strategy to Graduate from College

As of 2020, more than 42 million borrowers owed more than $1.7 TRILLION in federal student loans. Yes, TRILLION!!! That’s why I have it in caps - more than a trillion dollars in student loans just astounds me!

Partly because I can’t even fathom what a trillion dollars would even look like (or what better things it could be spent on than student loans), but also because student loans are pretty much just out of control! But, the good news is that they don’t have to be.

So, I’m going to address a topic that could potentially change your life if you’re planning to seek higher education. That’s right, I’m going to explain how you can go to college for free, or with significantly reduced student debts.

After all, repaying student loan debt is one of the most crippling expenses in the American household. Many grapple with it for decades. Why not take any opportunity to lower or eliminate these costs? Now, you’re probably already familiar with the standard tactics like AP classes and standard scholarships. I’m not going to go over these here. Instead, I’m going to introduce eight unconventional ways to go to college for free (or at reduced rates)!

Apply For Ivy League Schools

Many people don’t know this, but some ivy league schools pay full tuition, plus room and board, if your family earns beneath a certain threshold.

Take Stanford, for example. Quick side note, for those of you that want to point out that Stanford is not an ivy league school, I already know that! But, as they say, Stanford is the “Harvard of the West,” so I’m putting it under this category!

Back to my point: Stanford University offers free tuition for students whose parents earn less than $150,000 a year! If this includes you, it’s worth applying. Stanford may generally come with a hefty price tag, but not if your parents make less than $150K! So, don’t be deterred from applying just because of the initial sticker shock!

And, it’s not just Stanford - many ivy league schools offer similar packages: Princeton, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Harvard . . . the list goes on. They may not have the same $150K yearly income threshold, but they do offer free tuition (and, in some cases, more than just free tuition) for students of parents that make below a certain threshold in yearly income. It’s worth checking out!

Tuition-Free Outside The Ivy League

Many Americans also don’t realize that there are schools in America that are 100% tuition-free, for anyone who chooses to apply (and, of course, gets accepted)! It sounds too good to be true, but it isn’t. It is extremely rare, however.

Through my research, I found three schools that offer free tuition. These include:

College Of The Ozarks: A liberal arts school in Missouri, founded in 1906. To get free tuition here, students are only required to work 15 hours a week in hands-on vocational work experience.

Brea College: Founded in 1855, this college is 35 miles south of Lexington, Kentucky. Each student is required to work 10-15 hours a week while carrying a full academic workload.

Macaulay Honors College at the City University of New York: Not only does this school offer free tuition, but it also provides a free laptop and a “cultural passport” which gives students free access to cultural institutions throughout the city.

Now the catch with these schools is that you do need to work at some point throughout the academic year. Personally, I think it’s a great trade-off, allowing you to invest in both a better career and a debt-free future.

Golf Caddie Scholarships

This is one of those niche scholarships that have tremendous payoffs but that isn’t really being talked about. With a golf caddie scholarship, everything is paid for - room, board, and tuition!

In exchange for four years of full tuition and free housing, to be eligible for the scholarship, students must have worked as golf caddies in high school and must continue to work as caddies during college. What’s more, in previous academic years over 25% of applicants were accepted for the scholarship. With an acceptance rate that high, there’s no reason not to apply!

But no doubt, there are many high school kids earning some side cash on the golfing green, and they don’t even know about this scholarship! Here’s some details:

Applicants: 1) need to have caddied successfully and regularly for a minimum of two years in high school, 2) are required to caddy during the summer they apply for the scholarship; 3) must complete their junior year of high school with a B average, 4) are required to take the ACT or SAT, and 5) must demonstrate a need for financial assistance.

To learn more, just google “the Evans Caddie Scholarship.”

Take A CLEP Exam

A CLEP exam is a great way to reduce your tuition fees, as it means (by passing the exam for a particular topic) you don’t have to take the college equivalent and pay college prices for that course. There are more than 30 CLEP exams that cover entry-level college courses.

The only catch with the CLEP is that it isn't accepted at all schools in the US. Currently, about 2,900 colleges and universities accept CLEP exam pass rates in exchange for college credits. Thankfully, due to its increasing popularity, acceptance of the CLEP is growing.

One final thing to keep in mind: CLEP exams cost $87 to take, but there is also a non-profit organization called the Modern States that offers to pay the CLEP fee for some students. So, if you’re interested in taking a CLEP exam, also check out Modern States to see if you can also get that $87 fee covered!

Tuition Reciprocity Agreements