Dopers who went to college without money from parents

I just want to know, how did you do it? Did you get a scholarship, a FAFSA grant, a student loan, or all of the above? How do you go about applying for schools? What did you make on your ACT/SAT/whatever? I’m especially curious about you “non-traditional” students who didn’t go for a few years after you graduated High School.

At least one inquiring mind wants to know.

I was a nontraditional student (okay, I was older) and paid for my entire college education by myself. To think that my parents would have helped out in any way, shape or form was laughable. Not only did I support myself, but also three kids as a single parent on top of it all. It took me about seven years to get my Bachelor’s degree going part time, except for the last two years. I worked part time (driving a school bus) as well. I have tons of school loan debt, which I wouldn’t recommend. However, I do have a degree, like my job and had a cool time living through it. That being said…

I have two daughters in college–one a junior, the other a freshman. BOTH of them are putting themselves through college, both financially and physically. They live in another city to attend college–one lives in the dorms and the other in her own apartment this year. They both got a few scholarships (around $1,000) when they were seniors in high school, but mainly they’re going the financial assistance route with state grants, college grants (your school has them, but usually you have to ASK about them) and school loans. I honestly do not provide financial support (other than helping them out with train fare home every now and then, or buying groceries or something minor). They both work (work study and sometimes another job on the side) and both go full time to school.

Because of my school loans, I can’t afford to help them out financially, however, with all that I saw when I was in school with kids wasting their parent’s money by being stupid at school, I’m not sure that it’s the financial responsibility of the parents to support their 18+ year old sons and daughters in college. I taught my kids how to manage their money and their lives, and now that they’re “adults” it’s their responsibility to put it into action.

There are limited scholarships available for those who didn’t get them in their senior year of high school. (Check out I would also advise you to contact your high school–sometimes they will have info relating to alumuni of the high school (not just graduating seniors).

I did it on my own, but this was 30 years ago, when in-state students paid $222.25 per quarter at the University of California. I also paid for grad school (20 years ago) myself, though I got scholarships for all the tuition, so again it was mostly fees, books, living expenses.

I got grants, took out loans ($1500 for undergrad, $15,000 for grad), and worked part-time during the school year and full-time during summers.

Test scores were good, grades were good.

I danced my way through college at a local strip club. Every semester I paid with a money order. It was hard then, but well worth it now because I have no student loans to repay like all my friends.

I had a full scholarship, books, room and board, and tuition.

I did it on my own also, with a combination of FASFA student loans and scholarships. The problem with the scholarships is that they were performance scholarships I had to audition for. So some years I got almost enough to pay for both semesters and some years I got $500–maybe enough to pay for textbooks for one semester. Currently I have about $9,000 in school loans to pay off.

As far as textbooks went, usually I’d go to class for a couple of weeks before buying the text book. In at least 1 class every semester, there was always one professor who didn’t even use the assigned textbook. That saved some money. Also I shared textbooks with classmates. We’d each contribute 50% to the book’s price and share.

It took me about 7 years to finish because I was working full time to help pay for college, but it was worth it. My sister N.Sane just finished too. I’ll have to get her to come contribute to this thread.

Inexpensive state university. When I started there in 1984, it was about $1500 a semester for tuition, room, and board. Books were extra.

I had pretty good test scores and won a National Merit Scholarship – $1000 a year for four years. That helped a lot.

I also took out student loans every year. I was never eligible for grants, for some reason. When I graduated, I had something like $13,000 to pay off, IIRC (I took six years to graduate). Payments were about $112/month for ten years.

I worked as close to 20 hours/week as I could, during the school year, and full-time during breaks and summers.

And my mom sent me a few bucks (typically $5 or $10, sometimes $20) when she could afford it. Every little bit helped.

I had a combo of all the above. My first two years I was away from home (Ball State). Those two years were paid mostly with scholarships and grants, and a small amount was borrowed with a Stafford Loan. I then transferred to Indiana University Northwest in Gary, which was funded fully with loans. While at IUN, I worked as a waitress and lived with my Mom.

To apply, you just contact the school’s registrar’s office. Also contact that school’s financial aid office and they’ll give you more than the help you need to find the money to pay them.

FYI, I’ll be done paying off my loans next October. YAY!!

I put myself through school through a combination of means. I graduated high school in '81, and didn’t start attending college until '88 or '89. I did a year at the University of Utah, and financed that through a combination of a GSL (which I repaid) and the fact that the University of Utah cut tuition in half for full-time employees, which I was at the time.

Then I did a year at a community college that was financed by GTE Directories, which had just laid me off. Their separation package included either resume assistance with a professional headhunter or reimbursement of tuition and books for a year. My husband at the time was making enough money that I was able to attend school full-time without having to work outside the home as well.

I returned to school in the fall of 2001, and just graduated a few weeks ago. I received two scholarships–one from Phi Theta Kappa that provided $500 per semester; the other was an outstanding transfer student scholarship from UTA that provided $1000 per semester. I also worked full-time; this helped in that UTA exempts full-time employees from having to pay the fees.

So no help from my parents other than moral support. It’s tough, but it is definitely do-able. I should probably add that one of the benefits of waiting to go to college until I was older includes making much better grades. I frequently had other students upset with me for wrecking the curve (particularly at the community college).

I can also tell you that the feeling of graduating with a BA at the age of 40 is quite exhilarating. :slight_smile:

I demand photographs as proof. :wink:

Twenty-three years ago, I did two semesters immediately after high school. It was a state-affiliated university, so I had the reduced resident rates. I received a $500 Pell Grant (amount based on my 1350 SAT score) from the state, worked two jobs (delivering beer during breaks in my classes during the week, waited tables on Thurs, Fri, and Sat dinner hours.) I lived at home, so commuted everyday. And I still had to take out a student loan to pay tuition - something I paid off during my time in the military.

Me, Mrs. FtG, my brother, a bunch of uncles and cousins, etc. all went thru college without parental financial help.

The bulk was paid for by working. Some money from various government programs helped in some cases. No loans. For grad school, many of us had assistantships/fellowships and whatnot. To get my PhD I spent just a few hundred dollars out of my own pocket. (So I saved a lot of money from my assistantship for the downpayment for my first house right out of school.)

But with the astonishingly fast rise in tuition over the years, the next generations have had to resort to parents and/or loans.

Cal grant for good grades/low family income paid for tuition all four years, or almost all of it. I had a student loan my freshman year because I had to live in the dorms. After Freshman year, I had a few other school grants and a smallish scholarship from a high GPA, and I paid for all the rest of my housing/living costs myself, primarily by living in the co-ops (Berkeley has a great student co-op system) and being kitchen manager of my house for a year. That year got me reduced housing (rather than pay), so for that time I paid almost nothing to live, as room and board were included. After that, I worked as a notetaker/editor for the campus notetaking service. When I moved out of the co-ops, I lucked out and found a room to rent that was super cheap.

Now, four years after graduation, I’ve paid off 3/4 of that one student loan, and thanks to my new job I’ll have the rest paid off in a couple of months. Yay!

My parents gave me exactly $400 the entire time I was in college. I still had two younger sisters at home when I was in school, so that helped with my finanical aid package. I also did things like check books out from the library rather than buy them, and a copy of every reader for every class was available at the undergraduate library, so I didn’t have to always buy those, either. I shared textbooks with friends. Sometimes I found that I didn’t need books that were “required,” either. And I sold back most of my books at the end of every semester (or at least when they were going to be offering that class again).

I went to college for two years right after high school. Sophomore status walking in the door, thanks to AP tests (take and ace as many as you can). Paid for it with savings and some state/federal loans.

When the money ran out, I took whatever jobs I could find to pay off the debt I owed. Ended up defaulting on my loans, and just finished paying all that off last month (hooray me). About five years ago, I got a job that paid my tuition expenses based on the grades I got. Great incentive to ace the courses.

Long story short, I just finished, twelve years after I entered.

Advice for you? Don’t let anything get in your way. Don’t choose comfort over your goal. Ramen noodles taste a lot better when they are liberally spiced with “I’m eating these because I’m paying for school.” Ace your classes. Professors who know you and like your work will go out of their way to help you outside the classroom. Whatever job(s) you take to get by, do them well. You never know when you’re going to meet someone who can help you to the next step. Never burn your bridges, no matter how satisfying it might be in the short-term.

Most importantly, and I say this with as much seriousness as I can muster: Be proud of yourself. Despair is an insidious enemy, and it can poison you and slow down your progress. No matter how bleak things might look, the fact that you are making your own way in the world is something that no one can take from you and no one can diminish. Resolve fed me on many a night when I had no food, and I never once felt hungry or tired.

I watched my older brother work his way through college. It took him 8 years of construction days and college nights. Not for me, so from age 13 I worked at getting a scholarship. Salutatorian, 30 ACT, blah blah blah

I decided to go with a full tuition scholarship to Troy State University when I got a phone call from a much smaller state school. Livingston University (now University of West Alabama) offered me a huge scholarship (Tuition, books, fees, room & board - my expense ended up to be about $75 a quarter). LU here I come! Got a small student loan for the first year, then worked summers saving every penny possible for the next year. When I paid off my loan about 5 years ago, they sent my last check back to me with a note saying my loan was “paid in full”. It was just so beautiful!!

My parents only paid for my one post-4 year semester at the University of Alabama doing an internship in public health. Which got me the job I have had for the last 15 years. :smiley:

Started my undergrad degree at age 24, after working in various bartending and waiter-type jobs, as well as a stint as a car salesman (don’t ask!).

I went to university in Australia, which has a system called the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS). Under this scheme–available to all Australian citizens–your undergraduate degree is paid for by the federal government, and you pay back the money through the taxation system once you graduate. Your HECS repayment is added onto your regular income tax, and appears separately on your tax return. So, essentially, you don’t pay any up-front fees at all. If you do have the money to pay up-front, you get a 25% discount on the fees. Also, the fees themselves are very low compared to US universities.

As far as actual living expenses were concerned, i also received about $400 a month from the government under a program called Austudy, which provides money to students who come from poor families or (in my case) are independent of their parents. Independent status requires that you be at least 23 years old, or offer proof that you are estranged from your parents.

Of course, $400 a month was not enough to live on in Sydney, so i worked also. I worked for a catering company whose main clients were downtown corporate offices. We served lunches to board meetings and other business groups. We also often did private functions at the houses of the companies’ CEOs, MDs, and Board Chairmen. It paid $25 an hour, which was about twice the award wage at the time, and the two guys who owned the business were (and are) really great. The great thing about the high pay rate ws that i didn’t have to work heaps of hours every week to get by, so i could concentrate on my studies.

Now i’m in grad school in the US, and so far i haven’t had to go into debt, although that may change. I’m just starting the fifth year of my PhD. When i was accepted into the program, i got four years of full funding, including both tuition and a stipend. I’ve managed to stretch that out another year by getting a couple of outside fellowships, and by doing some extra research and other work (within the limits of my F1 student visa) on the side. My current funding will run out in May next year. I anticipate that it will take me another year after that to complete my degree, and if i can’t find another fellowship for the final year, i may have to go into some debt.

Since i’ve been a grad student, my mother has helped me out occasionally when i’ve run short of money. Not for living expenses, but for a couple of other things that i couldn’t have otherwise afforded. For example, when my old computer died, she lent me the money for a new one. I’ll pay her back when i have a real job.

I received a scholarship from the Navy through the NROTC program. Each of the services offers something similar. The service acadamies are completely free of charge as well.

Depending on how long “a few years” out of high school means, may limit this opportunity due to military age restrictions.

I had my own apt and job but they had been cutting my hours, and I took out pen and paper and did some calculations and realized the next month’s rent would be the last I’d ever be able to pay, I’d have to give up my apartment and live with my folks. So I quit my job and told my folks I wanted to go to college in New York, see, cheap tuition, program that I want…

Now, my folks had been trying to get me to go to college since I’d graduated high school, and I’d tried once right after HS (dropped out) and once about 2 years later (got disenrolled when I got held by the psychiatric bin), and now for the first time it was really my idea, but folks said they didn’t feel like throwing good money after bad and that I was apparently mentally ill and would never succeed in life anyhow, so…

Hitched to NY, landed badly (didn’t hook up with contact people, was underplanned, housing shortage made it difficult to rent even an unfurnished room, got all my stuff stolen like typical clueless out-of-town tourist in old NY movies), ended up homeless, got into shelter for homeless mentally ill folks…

After I’d been a NYer for a year, qualified for all financial aid, got myself in, commuting for the first year to the homeless-mentally-ill shelter (contrast between there and SUNY / Old Westbury in the day was a really weird juxtaposition), moved out into the dorms beginning my second year.

(Made up with my folks OK by then as well but didn’t take money from them)

Non traditional student here also. Didn’t start school until I was 22. Got lucky and received a couple big grants. I ended up taking a loan for only about 4k.

I’ve been both traditional and nontraditional (currently I’m a senior in college, nontraditional).

Either way, though, it’s been paid for the same. Pell grants and student loans.

My first college was a public school in Kentucky. I had decent grades in high school, tons of extracurriculars and I vaguely remember getting some kind of scholarship for my freshman year, nothing major. My ACT was 26.

Nearly flunked out of that school due to having undiagnosed ADHD.

This time around, no scholarships although my grades are great. The bulk of the 30k in loans I’m going to have to pay back has been taken out during this go-around in school, as we use my loan money mostly to live on.

Another NROTC Scholarship here, Marine Option. Covered books, tuition and fees, plus $100 a month stipend (it is now $250/mo). It was about $50,000 in the mid-80’s. Uniforms were included, too. That left room and board not paid.

My parent set it up so that they would pay for 1/2 of the cost of a four year undergraduate degree for their five kids. If the kid couldn’t cover the other half through scholarships, grants, jobs, or whatever, my parents would give a no-interest “loan” to them. My three older sisters took “loans” from my parents, so my mom and dad were pretty stoked I got the “full ride” minus food and a bed. They did pay my room and board.