Advancing Your Education For Cheap or Even Free

Advancing Your Education For Cheap or Even Free

It's no secret that an education isn't free. In the U.S, a college education comes at a high cost. Even with a scholarship or large savings account, you could find yourself with a financial burden from your college degree. But you don't need to choose between advancing your education and having a savings account. There are affordable and free ways of furthering your education.

1. Don't Go the Traditional Route

Some career paths demand a traditional college education. But you might not need a four-year college degree to succeed in your career of choice. If your career path has limited education requirements or allows you to substitute education for experience, reconsider getting a bachelor's degree.

Although having a Bachelor's degree is useful, it's not the only way to succeed. Many people struggle to get degrees and then end up working in a different field. In some cases, they never finish their degree in the first place. Don't feel pressured to go to college just because that's what everyone else is doing. In some industries, you can work as an apprentice or go to tech school.

2. Take Advantage of Open Courses

You don't need to pay for a college course to get an education. As online courses have grown in popularity, more and more open courseware has been released. Several universities have put together online courses available to the general public. The OpenCourseware Consortium is one platform you can use, along with YouTube EDU and Einztein.

If you do an online search, you can find an online course related to your desired topic. Although you might not get a college degree from your coursework, you could gain valuable experience. And there's no reason you can't include your new education on a resume. If you are unemployed and looking for work, a free online course is a great way to eliminate a gap in your resume.

3. Take Credits Where You Can Get Them

If you go to college for a traditional four-year degree, you pay top dollar for all your college credits. But you don't need to get all your credits from the same place or from an expensive institution. Before you enroll in a college program, you can look into the transfer policies. You might be able to take online classes or night classes from a different institution. Once you have all the basic requirements met, you can transfer the credits over and work on achieving your degree.

Usually, you can get as many as half of your credits from another institution and still graduate from your desired college. While you get the degree you want, you can achieve it for a reduced cost. Just make sure you understand the transfer credit policy, and you only take courses that will transfer over.

4. Look into Federal Loans

You don't need to pay for your college education out of pocket. Even more importantly, you don't need to take out a private loan to pay for it. Generally, private loans have high interest rates and inconvenient repayment plans. To save yourself from a lifetime of debt, you can look into federal loans.

Federal loans often have low interest rates and gracious repayment rates. Before you start applying for private loans, look into your federal options. To get started, fill out a FAFSA. If you're not sure how to get started, you can elicit help from an accountant. Once you submit the forms, you can learn more about loan availability.

One frequently overlooked loan is the PLUS. Instead of showing up on your credit score, a PLUS loan shows up on your parent's score. You can borrow a significant amount of money with this type of loan and still have a low interest rate. As a general rule, you should avoid borrowing more than one year of the starting salary in your career of choice. If you borrow any more than that, you're setting yourself up for a lifetime of debt.

5. Read Books And News Stories

Before the internet became what it is today, people had to rely on books to learn new things. And although there's a wealth did resources available on the internet, books still have value. Head into your local book store and check out the books available in your career field.

If you read recent books, you may gain valuable insight and impress an employer. It's a great way to develop knowledge without spending much money. You can further educate yourself by staying up-to-date on the latest news stories from your industry. By remaining current, you can be more of an asset to your employer.

6. Tell Your Employer You Want to Further Your Education

Under some circumstances, an employer is willing to provide financial support to an employee who wants to further their education. But you can't expect your boss to just offer you to take a course or go to a conference. If you want them to give you educational opportunities, you need to tell them.

One great way to do this is to research courses or conferences in your field. If you find one that's relevant, mention it to your employer. They might offer to pay for your attendance or to give you a raise if you complete the training.

7. Add to Your Experience

You don't need to go to school to expand your education. In fact, work experience is one of the best ways to expand your knowledge. Apply for an entry-level job in your desired field, or take an internship in a related position. If you can't afford to work without pay, consider volunteering in your free time. Look for an organization in your desired field, and ask if they need volunteers. In addition to helping out the organization, you gain invaluable experience.

Finding the right opportunity takes time and effort. Typically, organizations don't advertise all of their volunteer or intern opportunities. Reach out to individual organizations and explain your interest. In the end, you could end up with a well-rounded education and a great job.

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