A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about options for going to college without going into debt, in response to an article about the near impossibility of doing so.
Commenter “t” shared his or her experience:
I also chose the state school route. I’m lucky enough to have grown up in a state (washington) with an outstanding public university (it wasn’t really luck, it was a conscious decision on my parents’ part), and I went to the best university in the state. With good grades and test scores, I got even that paid for – a state tuition waiver for my HS grades, and a series of scholarships and research jobs that came with stipends.
One thing I didn’t know and just lucked out on was that by applying for so many scholarships, I not only got things paid for, but I developed a great resume. When it came time to apply for graduate training, that made a huge difference – not only did I get in with full funding to every program I applied to including the three most competitive programs nationally, but I even got a 10k signing bonus to sweeten the deal.
Another streak of good luck attached to this strategy: at a large state school, you typically have first rate professors, and a mix of highly motivated students (so you have plenty of peers to challenge you) and less motivated / more distracted students (so your professors aren’t yet sick of students who all want extra attention, and are instead still happy to have you show up with further questions / ask to work in their lab).
I was really unsure when I made my decision to go to a public university when all the rest of my peers were going to private universities – but it’s made all the difference. I would do it the same way again in a heartbeat.
Get good grade in high school, apply for lots of scholarships, and live where the state college system is inexpensive and provides a good education.