"Yo momma and I ain't taking out any loans and neither are you. " Well, it was a little more proper than that, but thats how I interpreted it.
My parents already worked diligently to get out of debt and there was no going back. They understood the value of being good stewards of what they had and being debt free. It was now their lifestyle and they wanted the same for me. When they told me neither party would be taking out a loan to go to school and I was mortified. I was left asking, how could anyone go to school without taking out loans? When I should have been asking- how can I get financial assistance without loans? In that moment I was introduced to: FAFSA, scholarship applications and grants.
BOOM! Did you hear that!? Yeah, those are the scholarship forms and instructions that hit my desk- all 130 of them. Yup, little did I know I would be applying to 130- local, state, and national scholarships from sun up to sun down my senior year.
As my dad said, work harder not smarter. A majority of scholarships ask the same 3-4 questions regarding the applicant's background, future aspirations and career goals. I essentially had 3-4 essay templates I would tweak.
I applied to three in-state four year universities and knew my back up plan would be attending a local community college. There was one in the county I lived in and one in the next one over with multiple campuses throughout the triangle.
In the end my parents told me the financial aid packages would help us make a decision. I waited eagerly for each to arrive and with each my heart sunk a little. The only college I did not apply to was the largest, most affordable, and prestigious in the state because I believed I would get lost in the crowd and I let fear get the best of me. My parents however thought it would be a great fit and I rejected the school all together, North Carolina State University.
I landed at Wake Technical Community College (WTCC) at their newest (and greenest) campuses for two years- with three scholarships awarded to me at my senior year's scholarship award evening. I was ELATED to have earned three scholarships and later found out through the FAFSA ALL of my tuition was paid for in full- and I would be receiving money for books, supplies, etc which I also ended up using for gas, clothing and other essentials, as well as going into my savings account for the following year. I was living at home (saving those dolla dolla bills y'all), working part time doing child care for two different churches that hosted bible studies for mothers of pre-schoolers twice a week, going to school, and through a serious of events making friends at North Carolina State University (the not-so-scary school anymore).
After two years of hard work at WTCC I applied and was accepted at North Carolin State University where after applying for financial aid (through FAFSA) was on cloud nine to find out my tuition was paid for as well as room and board (and meals) so I could live on campus with all of the friends I'd made over the past two years. I devoted my time to God (growing in my faith and sharing it with others), my studies (taking every single Sunday off to rest and re-charge, family, friends, and my studies. During that time I decided to really enjoy the exciting new season of life and only took on one chid care position my senior year.
- To find what I wanted/ needing clothing wise: I shopped at goodwill/thrift stores- of which there are a plenty in the triangle!
- For groceries- I purchased at Aldi's (a very inexpensive grocery store), I used bedding and room furniture from what I had in my room at home.
- Entertainment- I really didn't eat out or travel all that much except for two weekend/ week pack retreats with the student ministry I was a part of, CRU, formerly, Campus Crusade for Christ
- NO CREDIT CARDS- my parents and I decided the best way was to spend what I had not what I didn't have. The idea was if you can't spend cash on it you shouldn't be buying it in the first place. I said no to credit card after credit card
- Money from FAFSA, working, work- savings generally paid for my insurance and gas money.
- Car- NO PAYMENTS, PAID CASH. My first car was a 2001 Toyota Corolla (RIP CARLA), I spent 2,000 cash for her and she helped me stay humble. After wrecking her ( don't worry no one was hurt or injured) my parents graciously gifted me with a 1992 green machine- Toyota Camry which I drove for several years (RIP).
Thankfully- with my parent's guidance and wisdom I had: NO CAR PAYMENTS, NO LIVING EXPENSES LIKE RENTING FURNITURE, NO TRAVEL DEBT BECAUSE I HAD NO CREDIT CARDS.
All in all I am humbled to be able to have graduated from college debt free. LONG story short, it propelled me into the career path I love. I was able to take a (unpaid) internship serving survivors of sex trafficking, which lead to joining a staff team as a residential staff member as well as a Manager of Volunteer Services- which I fell in love with!
Being debt free can and will allow you to live well, give well, and have financial peace. Whether you are contemplating being debt free, are in the midst of your debt free journey, or just crossing the finish line I hope you are/were encouraged by this. Please feel free to share your debt free story with us!