When I started grad school in the Fall of 2014 I knew I did not want to be another statistic, another millennial graduating with a huge sum of debt and no promising job prospects. So I set a goal to pay off my student loans before I graduate in May 2017. I am happy to say that I paid off the loan from my first year of school over this past summer and have adjusted my lifestyle to hopefully achieve this again in the next two years.
This did not come easily though, and I realized I would have to get creative with my time and money if I was going to be able to do this and still do well in school. I took on a part time internship, and was able to bump up to full time over winter break by taking over a position that had just been vacated. Any extra hours offered by working a conference on the weekends or hosting an event at night I eagerly accepted. I also took on a second job as a research assistant in my department to earn extra money by performing work for the team on my free nights and weekends. I started learning how to make the most out of coupons and definitely took advantage of free meals offered around campus! I figured out which stores in my area offered student discounts and traded with my friends for new clothes instead of going shopping.
During this first year I also did some pro-bono work at a local free clinic. I believe in their mission and giving back to the community, but this position also helped me out by giving me more marketable experience I would not have gotten in my regular jobs. I leveraged this experience and was able to use it to secure a full time internship with free housing in Atlanta this summer. i also started a small side business selling my extra clothes, purses, and shoes through an app on my phone. Now I even sell some things for my friends for a commission since I have built up a network of people to view my items. I was able to make enough through just that app to pay all of my bills in September and have a little left over! It was with this last boost of income that I was able to make the final payment on my first loan, with a 4.0 GPA as well. I know I will have to keep this hard work up this year if I am going to be able to pay off this year's loan. I have already been actively pursuing babysitting jobs for extra money and have opened a high interest savings account because I know that every penny truly does count. I will keep working hard at my jobs and finding other creative ways to earn money to make sure I can reach my goal.