My Path to Finishing College Debt Free

If I am being truly honest, my path to a degree has not been without any debt.  Early in my college career I was taking classes that I did not need. I changed my major many times before deciding I wanted to be a Bilingual Education teacher.  Unfortunately during the course of my educational journey, I ended up racking up close to $20,000 in student loan debt. I took some time off school, paid off my debt, and focused on being a parent before getting back on that horse again.  This time around, I took advantage of all the resources that The Peer Money Mentor Program taught me and started saving money to help pay for my education. I was recently accepted into Texas Tech and I knew my program (The 2+1 program through Texas Tech) was going to be strenuous to the point where I can’t work for an entire year.  So I opened up my first savings account through the Student Money Management Office’s Rainy Day Savings program. The program is meant to encourage students to have an emergency savings account. I saved $500! Then, I started looking elsewhere to save more money. I was already getting my classes paid for through grants. However, I made the decision to save my grant money for my classes at Texas Tech. Next I found out about the Succeed Program, which is a savings program through Foundation Communities that helps ACC students and even Texas State students with paying their tuition.  How it works is that they match your $1 for up to $3 of their money with a cap off of $2,000. What this means is that I deposited $500 and I qualified for $2,000 to go towards my tuition!  All they ask is that you are either a first generation college student (meaning your parents do not have a college degree) or that you are a non-traditional student (either an older student or a single parent).  The deadline for the Spring semester has already passed but they will be opening up the fall application May 2020!

Another place that I looked for money was through scholarships. I signed up for one of the Finding the Money Scholarship Sessions through the Student Money Management Office and got started with the process of applying for scholarships.  If you all have never gone down this route, I truly recommend attending one of these sessions as they will take you through a 10-step process of applying for scholarships. The workbook even includes four sample essays to help inspire your writing.  I truly believe that attending a scholarship session helped me with getting an Education Scholarship that awards me $800 per semester. After having tuition paid for through The Succeed program, this scholarship money went straight into my college savings account.  However, if you choose to do this process on your own, the best way to get started is to check out ACC’s scholarship website.  Just apply to all the types of scholarships available to you, meaning Major Scholarships, if you are a single parent apply for the ones for single parents, Scholarships geared towards Latinos or African Americans, just apply to them all.  Always remember, the worst they can tell you is no but you won’t know unless you try.

Lastly I would say to take advantage of ACC’s resources for its students.  The Student Support Center offers book vouchers for s offers many resources to students, such as book vouchers for students who qualify and even help with paying for childcare for the single parents.  Also, as an ACC student you have access to the food pantry through Student Life and even qualify for free groceries through ACC’s partnership with Central Texas Food Bank.  Just be sure to check out your ACC email for information for when and where the free groceries will be happening.  The biggest tip that I can give you in trying to save money is to keep your eyes open!!! ACC campuses have bulletin boards everywhere. Take a moment to stop and read.  You never know where your next hussle or free money will be coming from!