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My son graduated from college with no debt. Want to know how?

Mike was a typical college-bound student in high school. His grades were good, but not exceptional. He was involved in many extracurricular activities including sports, music, and church youth group. He took Advanced Placement (AP) courses, did well on his SAT, and was all set to apply to colleges. Then we hit a snag, which turned out to be a huge blessing.

While considering options for colleges and potential majors, Mike applied to a specific scholarship program, but his application was completed at the eleventh hour and he was not selected for the program. A bit deflated, his enthusiasm waned and he began to think about holding off on college for a year to work, save money, and gain clarity about his future.

Mike has always has been somewhat of a miser. Because of this, the financial burden of college seemed especially
daunting to him, and gave him another reason to take a year off and work full-time before starting college.

Taking a “bump year” is not all that unusual these days. We’ve seen parents encourage their graduating seniors to take a year to travel the world. My son loves to travel and has been on many mission trips to far-off places, but this bump year was not about exploring. It was all about working a ton of hours and saving a ton of money.

When Mike graduated from high school, he immediately began working full-time for a local landscape company. With spring and summer being peak seasons, he worked long weeks, collecting huge paychecks with lots of overtime pay. By the end of the summer, he already had a nice bank account and it was growing week by week. 

In the fall, all of Mike’s high school buddies went off to college. He continued to work full-time plus overtime and socked away even more money throughout the fall and winter. When spring came again, those big fat paychecks rolled in once more and continued throughout the summer. By the time he started as a freshman in college, he had a sizable bank account that allowed him to completely cover his first two years of college.  

Mike didn’t even need to work part-time while he was taking classes like so many of his peers. He was able to focus on his studies without worrying about finances. After each year at college, he went back to the same landscape company and worked all summer, reloading his bank account.

He thoroughly enjoyed working for the landscape company. The job offered much higher wages than most comparable jobs for a college student, and Mike was able to work outside every day. He also learned many things about working in a team, problem-solving, communication, and leadership, in addition to skills related to the work itself.  

Mike graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree after four years. Unlike many other college graduates, he was debt free. In today’s world of out-of-control college costs, what he did was nothing short of amazing. Not yet 30 years old, Mike is a home-owner, has a young family, and a growing investment account.

This may not be the right path for every student. Mike was very motivated to save money. He enjoyed spending another year at home before going to college. He actually went to college after his bump year, which is not always the case. But, for him it was the right move. Could it be the right move for your student as well?

Phil Harwood is a managing partner at GrowTheBench, an online resource for high-quality, affordable, and industry-focused workforce development solutions for contractors, suppliers, and those affiliated with the professional landscape and snow management industry.

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By Phil Harwood, managing partner at GrowTheBench

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