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September 14, 2010


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What is a "true blood" marathon?

Paul - True Blood is a popular show on HBO.

I agree with the points provided above. My parents were kind enough to pay for college (tution and living expenses) - but I received enough scholarships to cover all my tution. However I was expected to work in order to pay for my books, supplies, and any "fun" things. It was a great trade off because if I didn't want to work - that was fine - but I couldn't go out to eat, to the movies, or shopping. Taught me a great lesson about managing my money!

Good advice in general. AP classes are a good way to get credit too.

3 year degrees don't seem very common at all. Only time I've seen them myself is from private for-profit colleges (Devry, ITT, Phoenix, etc) and you really want to avoid those for profit colleges as they aren't cheap and the quality is low. I did a google search and there are at least some legitimate universities with 3 year programs but not very many.

Good advice in general. AP classes are a good way to get credit too.

3 year degrees don't seem very common at all. Only time I've seen them myself is from private for-profit colleges (Devry, ITT, Phoenix, etc) and you really want to avoid those for profit colleges as they aren't cheap and the quality is low. I did a google search and there are at least some legitimate universities with 3 year programs but not very many.

In general, isn't it possible to get a 4 year degree in 3 years, if you go in the spring/summer semesters? The schools I went too offered 2 1/2 semesters in the summer. If you went after your freshman, sophomore, and junior year, you would have 1 1/2 more "years" of school. Making the typical 4 1/2 year degree 3 years.

It seems that some degrees are more than 4 years these days as well - I know that teaching degrees are at a min. 4 1/2 years b/c you need to have 1/2 a year student teaching on top of what you have.

With engineering-type degrees, often schools require a coop, that although it may give you a few credits, it does not give you as much as a full semesters worth of classes.

Im not sure that the three year college thing means you will save 1/4 the price. Aside from 3 year schools, I knew people who rushed through school and got out in three years, but they took 17 or 19 hour semesters along with summers. The classes still cost per hour and summers were never cheap. Also, most of them could not work any significant time and handle a courseload like that. Another thing to think about is, not everyone can handle 17 or 19 hours. If they are forced to drop a class or take a failing grade, they just threw money away. Lets also think about the college experience and how much one could miss out on by trying to finish early. Making friends, socializing and having fun is a huge part of college that is just as important as learning material. Getting out one year early just to save a few thousand dollars at the risk of having no social life or networking ability out of school is not worth it.

One thing not mentioned, but typically not possible for an undergraduate degree is to find an employer that will help foot the bill. When I was in undergrad, I knew of two local employers who would cover 80% tuition at the local schools so long as you put in 30 hours a week. It might have taken a bit longer to graduate, but that's a great plan for those who don't have much family financial support (like me). Sadly, I never took advantage of that opportunity in undergrad. I've learned my lesson though - I'm in the process of getting a $90k+ MBA from a top 10 school, and I'll graduate with no debt thanks to generous reimbursement from my employer (and being very careful with my expenses to have cash for the 35-40k portion that they don't cover).

a lot of cost-saving depends on the will of the child. i packed in 5 classes, 30 hours of work per week (in Kaiser Pharmacy, no less!), went to the gym 2 nights a week, partied in between (somehow) and flew out of school (UC system) with honors. if the student isn't willing to get the parents' money's worth, make sure you see the signs early on. a kid who took 3 classes paid the same as I did. a more effective way to graduate early is to pack in classes if/where you can. i also agree it would be difficult finding a 3-year program from the start.

on another note, my parents sent my brother to Cal so by the time i was able to go to college, they couldn't afford to send me anywhere "nice." it's a sacrifice we all had to make, and i was ok with it. in the end, i had no student loan debt or any debt of any kind when i graduated!

It is completely possible to graduate with a 4 year degree early and not sacrafice anything. I hold 2 undergraduate degrees, completed in 3 1/2 years. That meant taking 18-19 hours every semester and some summer classes. During that time I worked a minimum of 20 hours per week and still had a very robust social life. It is absolutely dependent on the student and overall motivation - but it can be done!

Depending on your career goals, getting through college in 3 years instead of 4 due to AP classes can really backfire.

Besides not leaving you time to work and make career connections, your AP credits will often not impress a grad school.

I'm a professor involved in graduate school admissions for the sciences and medical school. We know that AP classes and tests are often inappropriately easy, and that even if you pass a difficult test you won't learn as much as if you took a college class. A few AP classes are no problem, but if you try to use AP to cut out a whole year of college, you will be considered shortchanged in your education.

You'll also risk being considered "too young" for many grad schools. The reason is that the extra year represents a big difference in maturity. Living at home with your parents (or relying on their dime too much) can hurt your maturity too. On the other hand, living on your own and working while attending school and pulling down great grades is a big plus.

We recently asked an outstanding med school applicant to wait and work at a job for a year and apply again. She had awesome grades and aced her MCATs, but she did college in 3 years using AP credits & lived at home with her parents all through college. She just didn't consider her mature enough to move across the country and start a demanding grad program while trying to live on her own for the first time ever. Grad schools around the country have too many students who change their mind and drop out of the program or who struggle with "life issues" due to their immaturity.

We'd much rather enroll the young adult who demonstrates maturity and resilience, and who knows how to be independent and work hard, even if their grades are slightly lower.

Take College/AP classes in HS. This saved me a full semester of what I consider to be wasteful classes at college.

Everyone who isnt in an intense program (engineering etc) can take 18 hours per semester and work 15+ hours a week. And still party like a rock star and be involved with other clubs, sports, etc. College is only really busy/demanding a few times a year. Manage your time and you can do everything. Life doesnt get less busy after college!

Use electives to get a second major. College is a hoop to jump through in life with as much as you can as fast as you can.

Dont take classes in the summer (or very few). Work experience matters! Internships matter!

Was talking to a guy the other day who has 3 kids that are just starting college. He thinks that it will cost him 500k for all three kids at the state school over 8 years. wow! Get in, get out asap is the way to save.

I am in the process of looking at colleges as my oldest son is a Junior this year.

It is getting harder and harder to get merit - based scholarships, so kids need to scrounge deep for scholarship money. Not to mention the competition is great at public universities as people cannot afford what the private schools are costing.

I totally agree with your suggestions by the way. I would also suggest for kids to focus on prereqs the first 2 years instead of diving right into a 'major'. Kid's ideas change over time, and you would hate to spend a bunch of money on useless credits.

I went in to college with 16 hours from the local community college earned as dual credit while in high school. That allowed me to graduate a semester early with a double bachelors. A high enough AP score will often get you out of the freshman 100+ person classes that serve the college as a weed/drop out courses. If you do well in the higher level courses I don't see how APing out of freshman courses would hurt you.

Become familiar with how your school determines tuition costs. Some it's a flat fee up to a certain number of classes. Some it's per hour. I decided against summer courses because after the added expenses as a commuting student (plus the regular semester fees) they were actually more expensive overall than an extra class in the regular semester.

As far as MC's comment about maturity goes, everyone is an individual. Hopefully grad schools look past the number to the person behind them. MC's example is a good one of having looked at the life experience of the girl and not just her age.

I was barely 21 when I graduated college, but by then I'd been married for a year, living apart from my military husband. I also lived at home through 2 1/2 years of college and commuted twice a week (15-18 hr semesters and 20+ hrs work) because I was the second adult in my house helping my mother raise three younger siblings after my step-father passed away due to cancer the summer between my 1st and 2nd year. I had many people believe me much older than my true age due to my maturity level.

Big items to saving money on college is high school grades, being involved and ACT /SAT scores. Stress and make it a priority for the best grades they can. Help your child the best that you can. Be there pain in the butt and keep on top of bad grades. Some teachers give extra credit to take a bad grade and make it less painful. Our school has ACCESS which is viewing grades on line. Do it at least 3 times a week to keep on graded. Other things is sitting down with them and teaching them time management skills to help them achieve their fullest. If they have 30 days to read a 300 page novel that means 10 pages a day. Next is the ACT and SAT scores. My boss’s kids one got a 29 on the ACT and he received $3500 in scholarship money, The next kid received a 30 on the ACT and he received $7500 in scholarship money from the same college. So once again grades count along with teaching them how to take a test. If he had spent a couple of hundred dollars on an ACT coach to help him with test taking skills for the ACT the one kid could have had a 30 like his brother and save his dad over $16k. Also merit scholarship money is granted on grades and ACT /SAT scores. But that is not all. A well rounded involved student is also important. A student who is involved in the national honor society, an Eagle scout, volunteers for handicapped soccer are all part of the resume of scholarship money.

One thing to ask when looking at colleges might be whether students can actually graduate in 4 years in their chosen major if they attend full-time and pass all their classes.

I've heard that at the state school in my area, a number of the upper level courses don't have enough sections for everyone to get in or the course is not offered every semester so you have to wait until it's offered again. So sometimes you can't graduate in 4 years, even if you wanted to, depending on course availability. Something like that, I'm not totally sure of all the details. I think it has to do with budget cuts and the ability (or lack thereof) to hire faculty.

But the point is, if that's the case, students would have to extend their coursework into subsequent semesters, which adds to housing costs, etc. if they're living on campus or if they've moved to the area just to go to school there.

Re graduating in three years.

My wife graduated in 3 years, and here is how she did it:

1. Advanced Placement courses. This is, by far, the best way to get college credits on the cheap. The only cost is the fee to take the AP exam at the end of the course, which is nominal. Also, AP courses are generally more demanding than regular courses because of the higher standards of the class, so they look great on a college application.

2. Choose the right school. Every college has different policies regarding what AP courses they will accept, what scores you need, whether or not you will get credit for them or just use them to skip an introductory class, or whether you can use them to skip a year. This will not only vary by school but by major as well. Ask the schools for their AP credit policy before you apply.

3. Take summer classes. You don't have to destroy your summers but taking one or two classes during the summer will help shave some time off your degree. Take an easy introductory required class so you still have free time to recharge your batteries.


Actually, you could spin the situation about the 3-year graduate who lived at home a different way. It could be that she knew that her ultimate goal was to become a doctor so she smartly saved her money for med school by only taking three years to graduate and by living at home. That way, she would be able to pay for med school that much more easily. Also, anybody who can graduate in 3 years obviously has enough maturity to plan out how they are going to do it, and manage their time well enough to accomplish it. I hope there was some other indicator that she was "immature" other than physical age and that she lived at home. Otherwise I would say that you made the wrong choice no doubt about it.

In the above paragraph, I am basically describing my wife. Since she was a little girl she knew she wanted to be a vet. At the age of 12, she started working at a local vet hospital cleaning cages, getting paid under the table because she was technical too young to work, but she just loved being around the animals. By the time she was in HS, she was working as a vet tech. Since her family didn't have a lot of money for college, she knew that she had to figure out a way to make her dream come true. She worked hard to position herself so that she could graduate in 3 years and she lived at home to further save money for vet school. Throughout undergrad she continued to work at the vet hospital to earn money. Finally, her hard work paid off when she was the youngest member of her vet school class.

If somebody had excluded her soley based upon some preconceived notion that she was immature, they would be dead wrong, and they would have missed out on a great student. By the way, she got into 5 vet schools she applied to, which is quite an accomplishment considering the ratio of the number of applicants to the number of spots. It is harder to get into vet school than human med school, which is why going to human med school was actually her fallback!

@MBTN: I agree that there had better be another indicator of the med school applicant's "immaturity" other than the fact that she lived at home. Obviously, if she got awesome grades and "aced her MCATSs," taking all those AP classes didn't mean she had shortchanged her own education in any way.

She could have been taking care of an ailing parent or sibling or something else. And living at home sometimes takes more maturity in order to co-exist peacefully with your parents. Just because you're 21 and living on your own doesn't mean you're mature.

I see a couple of comments talking about getting a 4-year degree in 3 years by taking extra classes and going during the summer.

People! This article is about graduating from college with zero debt. You may be able to take extra classes during the regular semesters and during the summers, but you're still paying for classes per credit hour. The cost of 120 credit hours will cost the same regardless of how quickly you get them done.

The article mentions a 3-year degree, which is a program designed to be completed in 3 years at a standard pace. The number of credit hours are lower than in a 4-year degree. We are talking about a different type of degree program... we're not talking about finishing a 4-year degree in 3 years.

[end rant]

Getting free credit hours during high school, testing out of courses (AP test and the like), and cheaper, transferable credits in a community college are the best options to graduate college with little or no debt.

Anthony: You are assuming that all colleges charge you by the credit hours. It depends upon the school. The undergraduate school that I went to charged a flat rate by semester no matter how many courses you take. You could take as many classes as you could handle without paying an extra fee.

Also, graduating in three years saves you a year of housing, food, activity fees, and all of the other little charges that are tacked onto your bill. Finally, graduating in three years means that you can enter the work force a year early and start earning a paycheck a year ahead of your peers. One of the "costs" of college that people forget about is the opportunity cost of giving up years of working full time.

Actually, the best way to graduate college debt free which nobody mentioned I don't think is to get your employer to pay for it. This is how I earned my graduate degree. Yes you have to balance a full time job with going to school at night or on the weekends, but once you get into a routine it really isn't that bad.

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