If you’re serious about getting out of college without owing a big pile of money, the best strategy is to knuckle down and get the best grades possible and study hard for your SAT/ACT. Your shot at getting a sports scholarship is slim and of getting a free ride even slimmer, but getting good grades is much more likely. The hard work you put in during high school can be critical in saving you BIG when it comes to paying for college and can enable you to go to the college of your dreams rather than the cheapest one around the corner. In fact, if you can get in, most Ivy League schools will be more affordable than your typical state university (surprising, huh?). Check out these eight schools that will get you a great education without wiping out your financial future.
#4-8 US Military Service Academies If you don’t mind giving up a few years of your life to serve your country in exchange for an absolutely top-notch and totally free education, consider one of our country’s military academies. The Army school is West Point in West Point, NY; the Naval Academy is in Annapolis, MD; the Coast Guard Academy is in New London, CT; the Merchant Marine Academy is in Kings Point, NY, and the Air Force Academy is in Colorado Springs, CO. Most terms of service are five years after graduation but you’ll be earning wages as an officer (which isn’t too shabby), you’ll have no debt and you can even score some pretty cool world travel. There are a number of cool posts in Europe, Asia and even Hawaii. But bear in mind that you’ll need great grades, high test scores and some pretty stellar letters of recommendation, as these are highly coveted slots.
#3 Harvard One Ivy League school that asks comparatively little of its students financially is Harvard. According to their statistics, 90% of parents would pay the same or less to send their kid to Harvard than to a state school – and wow, what a difference in the education and outcome. Plus, those earning $65,000 or less will not be expected to contribute even a dollar to their student’s education. This is different than most other “no loan” programs that push back and qualify their no loan guarantee with the statement that it’s “based on available resources.” As we well know, most Ivy League colleges have HUGE endowments, much more than state schools, and so they can afford to be much more generous when it comes to doling out dollars for high performing, low income students that they admit.
#2 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) If you have the smarts, GPA and test scores to get into MIT and your parents earn less than $75,000, you can get a for-real free ride and graduate owing nothing. For those that have to pay, this top-tier school costs roughly $40k for tuition and fees. For those from lower-income home, tuition is fully waived and expenses outside of tuition and fees that you would have to take out student loans for or get your parents to pay for are covered by grants. MIT is a huge win if you can get in – you’ll come out with a great degree and ZERO debt!! If you’re a top math student with an eye on an engineering degree, you can’t do better than MIT and you definitely won’t do better on scoring an engineering degree for gratis. So study, study, study and keep those grades up.
#1 Dartmouth This Ivy League college is fully committed to providing accepted students generous financial aid and waives tuition and other costs for those whose parents earn less than $100,000 and meet their rigorous admission requirements. You will still need to complete the FAFSA so that Pell Grants and other free aid can be applied to your costs of attendance, but if your family is middle to lower-income and you have a good GPA, SAT/ACT scores above the norm and can get accepted, what’s in your wallet won’t matter. This is another school you can graduate from owing zero dollars with a great degree that’s sure to get you a job you can be proud of. It pays to keep your eye on your GPA and keep it high since Ivy League schools are among the most generous when it comes to helping out with tuition. Plus they’ll meet or beat any other Ivy League financial aid offer you get!
If you do end up having to borrow for college, sign up for Tuition.io’s free student loan tool to keep track of all of your debts – federal and private – in one easy dashboard so you always know where you stand, who you owe and how you can get out of debt faster.