The short answer is hard work, persistence, dedication.
The long answer lasts for 3 years. Yes, it took me three years to graduate with an Honor’s Bachelors Degree and to give myself an honor for graduation without a student loan.
These three years were the most active, engaged, intense years of my life but I made it through and now I am going to share with you my story of how I did it. Let’s look back in time.
Since I was a little tiny girl instead of playing with the dolls I had some passion to play the role of a bookstore seller or a cashier, to walk around with my notebook and pose in front of the camera in some philosophical, thinking poses. The business person in me at the age of 10, even sold my dad’s silver necklace chain for 1 Bulgarian Leva ($0.60) – That was a bad business decision. That was me and I am still the same. I am an analytical person and I would say that I even overthink sometimes (this stresses out by the way) but I like thinking about the details and those little things that help make the big picture. However, that also helps me out with planning and organizing my life.
So after my high school graduation in Bulgaria, I knew that I wanted to do something related to business. So I applied at the university in my city to study Business and I did it for 3 years. Meanwhile I had the opportunity to travel and spend a couple of summers in the US and I figured that my life will change completely and to the better if I can study in the US. Although it seemed like a dream since schools in the US cost a lot of money to complete, I was a bit hesitated but with the mental support and encouragement of my now husband I decided that I can do it.
This is what I did to go through 3 hard working, hard studying, but definitely worth it years of my life.
First I figured how much it would cost me to study at the different colleges and universities. Then, I thought about whether these school are actually legit because there are so many private colleges in the US that are under cover businesses and their diplomas are not worth in front of any institution. If you invest your money, at least invest them in something that would help you with your future and career.
Then, I figured out their payment system and if I could do multiple smaller payments of the tuition instead of one big chunk of cash that every student would feel coming out of their pocket.
I also figured out that I can use my 3 years of accredited education in Bulgaria to transfer some classes and to reduce my 4 year education to 3. I translated all of the classes I already took and presented them to my new university in Chicago. They accepted quite many classes so I did not need to take them again. I was extremely happy. However, I didn’t realize at the time that the American postsecondary educational system requires from you to actually take classes that are called gen eds (general education classes) What the hell? At the time I was thinking why do I need to take classes that I don’t even care about? In Bulgaria you get accepted in university and you study 4 years of just your area of studies starting your first year. Why American schools require from you to first take gen eds. Now I can kind of explain myself why and I feel thankful that I took them because these classes actually made me a relatively well rounded person. However, at the time I was just thinking cha ching – physics, cha ching – ballet, cha-ching – art of film.
So, I had to study a total of three tuition years all together including one summer of intensive classes (consider almost 4 years).
Now you wonder how I paid for it. Here is the answer: I worked full time – 40 to 50 hours at a local but famous worldwide restaurant in Chicago while studying full time at school. I started working there as a front desk – taking phone calls and managing orders and I was “promoted” (in the restaurant world) and I was able to earn more money as a server. I actually realized that I can make pretty good tips and support myself by just being a helpful, smiling, communicative individual that serves people from all over the world – literally. It was an amazing experience for me and an eye opening experience at the same time.. Serving, probably shameful for some and not for other actually helped me pay my school.
Although I was earning a lot of money for a student (according to my standards), I was not going to clubs that much if at all, I did not buy an expensive car, I was not buying myself expensive clothes. I did none of those things. I lived in a shared apartment, I drove an old car (my first car ever – Hyundai Elantra), I lived a simple live where “I am going to work.” and ” I am going to school.” were the two sentences I used the most.
I worked Monday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday all day. I went to school Tuesday and Wednesday spending my time at school from early morning to late evening – writing papers, listening and taking notes, sleeping, drinking coffee (lots of coffee). It was crazy, tiring, and frustrating sometimes. The only day off that I had was Friday and not always actually but in my day off I was studying from morning til night for exams and final papers. You wonder: “How did you not get crazy?”
I was going crazy from time to time but I was reminding myself my ultimate goal – to graduate without debt that will keep me down and restrain me for a long time. I was always paying my credit card on time, I was very strict with my purchases and I was very strict about the fact that most of my money needed to go towards my education.
This is how I did it. If you want to do it you can do it too. I graduated with honors and with a big smile on my face. A smile from happiness to be proud of yourself. A smile from happiness not to start your life with a loan.
Now with my education, English skills, determination and character I was able to find good jobs that are still helping me build my career. I keep dreaming, I keep planning, I stay active.
if I can do it, you can do it too. Just plan your path to your goal, stay focused, stay determined.
I hope that my story somehow inspired you as well.
Were you able to graduate university without a loan? Share with me in the comment section below.