It IS possible to graduate debt-free from college — our guest podcaster, Kara Walker, has done it! If you want to know how to graduate college debt-free, this episode will give you the nitty gritty from the perspective of a homeschooled student.
Kara is on a quest to help other students graduate debt-free with her podcast, Money and Mental Peace and her upcoming course “The Debt-Free College Blueprint!” She is a twenty-something Christian entrepreneur, amateur snowboarder, and recovering over-achiever. Kara enjoys goal-setting, budgeting, and living a debt-free lifestyle, and wants to help YOU do the same!
I think you’ll find this episode extremely informative and hope-giving. Kara is enjoyable to listen to and has actionable advice you can get started on today.
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This episode sponsored by My Father’s World Curriculum
If home is the center of education, God’s Word should be the center of the home. With My Father’s World Curriculum, God’s Word is not just a subject. It’s central to everything your child will do every day. From preschool through high school, My Father’s World combines the best of Charlotte Mason’s ideas, classical education, and unit studies with a Biblical worldview and global focus.
For high school families, My Father’s World has teamed with Unbound to provide an exciting new coaching program helping students and parents through the difficult high school years. Students will receive 18 bi-weekly group coaching calls as well as gaining access to an online community of coaches and like-minded students in a secure, private environment. Quarterly “Design Your Future” calls with student leaders will provide insights on the struggles and rewards of a Christ-centered life in this season.
From preschool through high school, My Father’s World has you covered. Go to mfwbooks.com today, download a catalog, schedule a free consultation, and let us help you find the fun, engaging, life-transforming curriculum your family has been waiting for. Go to mfwbooks.com today!
Episode 78: How to Graduate College Debt-Free
You can also listen on:
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- And now playing on KEY Radio 89.3 FM in Osage Beach, MO!
The Money and Mental Peace Podcast
Kara’s Facebook Group – Christian College Girl Community ~ Scholarships & Graduate Debt-Free
Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University
Homeschooling for College Credit
Thomas Edison State University
Should Your Teen Go to College? — how to tell if it’s a good fit
How Your Teen Can Pay for College
The Ultimate Guide to Preparing for College
Ann Karako: Hi. This is Ann Karako, and you are listening to Episode 78 of the It’s Not That Hard to Homeschool High School podcast.
Welcome to another episode of It’s Not That Hard to Homeschool High School, the podcast for real people, so that you can confidently, competently and yes, even contentedly provide the high school education that is best for your teen and your family. I’m your host Ann Karako from notthathardtohomeschool.com.
Hello everyone, and welcome. I am so excited today because we actually have a guest podcaster today, and she’s got such great information for y’all. You’re going to be listening to Kara Walker, who is the host of the Money and Mental Peace podcast. She’s here to tell us how you can get some or all of your kids’ college absolutely debt-free. It’s great information, so stay tuned. I’m going to let her introduce herself. [chuckles] I think you’ll really enjoy this one. Then I’ll catch you at the back end to give you some more information. Here’s Kara.
Kara Walker: Hey mamas out there. I just wanted to let you know that I agree with Ann. It is not that hard to homeschool high school — because even though I’m not a mom, I was homeschooled in high school, but I am here to tell you it is not that hard to prepare your high schooler for college. Not only college but being able to get a debt-free degree. That’s right. No loans. Completely no loans.
Hey guys. I’m Kara and I graduated from college debt-free. I’m now on a quest to help other students do the same with my podcast Money and Mental Peace. I’m actually creating an upcoming course called The Debt-free College Blueprint. I’m a 20-something Christian entrepreneur, amateur snowboarder, and let’s be honest, recovering overachiever. I like goal setting, budgeting, living debt-free, et cetera, et cetera. I’m here to tell you about getting into college and finishing a college degree debt-free for your high school student. It is not that hard to do; it’s very simple. It might not be super easy all the time as you learn and try to research things, but it’s not that hard.
Let me walk you through it. I’m going to teach you essentially how I was homeschooled for part of college. Yes, that sounds weird, but I was pretty much homeschooled for part of college. I’ll get there. Even since then, I’ve learned how college can be done for free for the first couple of years, no matter the parents’ income or what your FAFSA says, if you know what that is. It’s the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Generally, people have to fill that out, and it includes some of parents’ income — well, not some — parents’ income and past tax information to decide if the government would help your kiddos with any funds for college.
No matter if you’re not even eligible for any sort of needs-based help, we can get your student through college debt-free, and even for free for a few semesters or a year or two if they’re interested in following what I did.
My story. In high school, I was homeschooled. Honestly, my mom is a teacher, so throughout homeschooling previously I had a really great education in that regard, but actually, while I was in high school, my mom and dad both worked full time and I was involved with co-ops with friends. It really helped me learn how to prepare for college too because I’d go once or twice a week for classes, do stuff with other students. We had prom every year. It was fun. We did field trips and sports and whatever. I know I’m not an expert on homeschooling as a mom, but just throwing that out there that those are awesome opportunities.
If you can look at your community, if there are any co-ops or classes — we dissected a fetal pig in biology. It was pretty cool. Anyways. One of my classes that I did for math was a personal finance class, and we went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. Basically, I learned how I could become a millionaire – no joke – and use that money to steward God’s kingdom. Yes, to enjoy some awesome things, and I still would love to travel around the world, but also to be able to grow it and give it and invest well.
The first step for me though seemed to be debt-free college. Now, I work with college students, and I would be the first to tell you college is entirely unnecessary. I’m not saying you have to just thrust your kids into college. They might need to do a gap year or a few years. Trade schools are also great, and even just starting their own business or taking a while to get their feet under them, going on mission trips, it’s fine.
Let’s say your student wants to go to college. I did want to go to college, like a personal goal. I wanted to get a degree, but I wanted to do it debt free.
What I’d like you guys to imagine is if you are preparing your child to get married. Now, I know you’re like, “They’re only in high school right now. Don’t freak me out.” When you’re trying to get married and prepare for a wedding, it takes a lot to prepare for a wedding, but you really want to be preparing your kids for a marriage, not just the wedding. Right? The life beyond. Someone can have a great wedding and a terrible marriage, and that just ends. That’s not good. When I went to college I was like, “I don’t want just the wedding,” or I equated that with college years. “I want the great life after.”
To me, that encompassed being able to graduate debt free. I’ll get to later what that thrust me into. What great opportunities and blessings that became, but right now that was my mindset. I had the mindset, “I am not getting loans,” in the sense that someone getting married, they decide they’re not getting a divorce. I mentioned earlier sometimes stuff ends in divorce, but anyone listening out there, there are Christians who are committed to work through this, and they basically just take divorce off the table as an option. That’s what I did with loans.
I’m not sitting here saying I hate people who take out student loans, but that’s what I was going to do, and that’s what I believe is possible, for any of you guys listening, for your kids. I basically was like, “I just have to figure something else out. I’m willing for it to take longer.” That’s another thing probably as parents might need to let go of. It doesn’t have to be done in a certain amount of timeframe, but of course, that can depend on the student. I’m just going to figure this out, and hopefully figure it out with some other people because community advice is always better.
Ann: Hey, I’m just going to jump in here for half a mo and tell you that the sponsor for this episode is My Father’s World. If home is the center of education, God’s word should be the center of the home. With My Father’s World curriculum, God’s word is not just a subject. It’s central to everything your child will do every day. From preschool through high school, My Father’s World combines the best of Charlotte Mason’s ideas, classical education, and unit studies with a biblical worldview and global focus.
For high school families, My Father’s World has teamed with Unbound to provide an exciting new coaching program helping students and parents through the difficult high school years. Students will receive 18 bi-weekly group coaching calls, as well as gaining access to an online community of coaches and like-minded students in a secure private environment. Quarterly Design Your Future calls with student leaders will provide insights on the struggles and rewards of a Christ-centered life in this season.
From preschool through high school, My Father’s World has you covered. Go to mfwbooks.com today, download a catalogue, schedule a free consultation, and let us help you find the fun, engaging, and life-transforming curriculum your family has been waiting for. Go to mfwbooks.com today. That’s mfwbooks.com.
Kara: My friend’s mom introduced us to College Plus, which has changed to the different names of Lumerit Scholar and Unbound, et cetera. The point is they they advise students on ways to test out of classes to be able to do college on their own terms and their own time, cheaper money, their own schedule, their own pace, et cetera. We researched into that, and what I started doing was studying on my own, aka I was homeschooled for college.
This is how it works. A friend and I would study together study guides that we bought online for like $20 for CLEP tests. CLEP stands for College Level Examination Program. These CLEP tests would be content. It’s like a final exam for a college class. English comp, a math algebra class, world history, biology, whatever. If a student takes this test and passes, they get three to six college credits to transfer to their college of choice. Get this. Each test was only $100. I actually got one year of college done for about $600. Crazy, right?
The next year I did some DSSTs. I’m going to say that slower. It’s the letters D as in dog, S as in Sally, S as in Sally, T as in trampoline. I know those aren’t usually the explanatory words you use with letters, but I like making my own up, okay? [chuckles] DSSTs used to be specifically for people in the military that wanted to get their degree while they were deployed or active duty, whatever. Now civilians can pay for them to take these tests as well. I took different tests. There are others out there.
Now, let’s clarify. These tests often transfer to a lot of colleges, but you have to check.
I had my community college and several universities around me that I was considering to transfer these credits to. They all worked except actually some of the DSSTs wouldn’t work to a few of the colleges. What I did was I did the next best thing that I knew of, and just took general prerequisites that would’ve gone to any college. Well, any of the ones I was looking at.
That is something to consider. Imagine your student is in high school, even freshman year. You don’t have to wait for a certain age range. Your student’s in high school and they just did American history, whatever years, and they already studied it. Then you still got a study guide online just to check about what would probably be on the test.
Yes, it is $100, which probably wasn’t what you were going to spend for a final exam for your high school student, but you send them to a local testing center at whatever local university or closest university has. There are many around the US that have testing centers. You have them take the test for $100, and if they pass it, great. You just got credits for college ahead of time while they’re like 13.
There are some ways to get that repaid to you; reimbursed so it’s actually for free, but we’re going to get to that so you’ve got to stay tuned. Anyways. Next step, I took a couple classes at my community college. Just night classes in the evening that I paid cash for, still from my graduation party. Graduation party money was used for these CLEP tests, and then even further on for when I did night school. That was in my community college, so it was relatively cheap there.
A credit hour is like $100, which is a lot more than three to six credit hours for $100, but that’s still pretty good for a college. After that I was like, “I don’t know what I wanted to study still.” Let’s be honest. All throughout this I did not know what I wanted to study, but I did the next step in front of me, and I really prayed over it.
I decided to go ahead and apply for a full-ride choir scholarship we had at our community college, and it was late. I was past the deadline, but I asked about it and apparently someone had given back the scholarship, so I had a chance to apply. This is my example to initiate and check into things, and politely bug people about getting scholarships.
Beyond that, I transferred to Eastern Michigan University and I had a couple transfer scholarships. I had a Phi Theta Kappa scholarship which is an Honor Society one. I paid quite a bit out of pocket still. However, not as much as I would have paid out of pocket because I still graduated with about $10,000 in the bank. We’ll get to that.
I also did an internship with the National Park Service. Great resume experience. It was my gap year. I learned how to write a federal grant proposal. I led a kayak program. I was the volunteer manager. At a young age, I was managing all of this. It was a small national park, let’s be honest. Not like Yellowstone. I got an educational award for that through AmeriCorps. I got scholarship money for that.
Also because it took me a while to get through college, when I turned 24, I got the Pell Grant because I was counted as an independent student then because I wasn’t under my parents’ income classification level for FAFSA. It does pay sometimes to do gap years, wait till you want to know what you want to do, and then you get money otherwise.
Let me tie this together and give a few suggestions, practicals on how you specifically can help your student graduate college debt free. I want you to look up the website Homeschooling for College Credit. It talks about all these different tests like CLEP tests, DSSTs, others, and it puts them in level of excellent transferability to different colleges, to good transferability, to limited transferability. This lady is actually an advisor at Excelsior College. Look up Excelsior and Thomas Edison State College. They accept almost unlimited transfer from testing out of classes.
My friend got his bachelor’s from them when he was 19. Bachelor’s, mind you, when he was 19. I don’t remember exactly. It was only a few thousand dollars; $3,000 to $5,000. Which is insane for a bachelor’s degree, but he was homeschooled and he was able to do a test out of stuff and do the classes throughout high school.
Now, I don’t think he knew about this part, and I didn’t either until after college, unfortunately, but I want you to look up the website Modern States. Yes, that’s Modern, like the opposite of old-fashioned, and States, like the United States of America. They have an online study guide program for free and CLEP voucher program that if you take a CLEP test and pass it they will reimburse you.
Listen. Here’s an example. Take your kiddo starting freshman year, having them go through high school classes, however Ann is teaching you, and then have them test out of these classes based on what they just learned. They can go through the study guides online. They can find a CLEP study guide. They can go through the Modern States’ one and then get reimbursed for it. They can graduate from high school with a year or two of college under their belt for free.
Now, there are also other options like dual enrollment, or middle colleges also give students a chance to do college for free, but they have to go to the college and take the classes. For whatever reason, if it’s location or timing, or they’re not interested in that, this is another way to get a year or two of college for free just working from home.
What is this helpful for? After I graduated debt free, the month after I was able to start my business and start investing for retirement. Sounds crazy for a 25-year-old, but listen. I want to use that compound interest and invest like crazy. I’m not saying this is the top purpose of life, but with the amount of years I still have left for me to invest and compound interest, I could easily be a millionaire by the time I retire; whatever age that is. What I want to do is really be able to give to others and help others with this type of opportunity.
I started my podcast called Money and Mental Peace where I help Christian college students graduate from college debt free through scholarships and school hacks. I walk them through advice. My story, I’m working on creating a course that can help them go through it with accountability, but the podcast has all free advice and info, and hopefully they too could get a chance to go through high school and then through college debt free. Maybe even graduate with $10,000 in the bank like I did after I was debt free and finished with college.
I hope to see you over there at Money and Mental Peace. I just want to thank Ann for letting me come on today and tell her real quick did you know my middle name is Anne? It’s Anne with an E from Anne of Green Gables, but I still feel like that’s a connection for us, right? Anyways.
This is Kara from Money and Mental Peace. It was awesome talking to you all today. Remember, it’s not that hard to homeschool high school and college.
Ann: Wow. Wasn’t that some great stuff about how to graduate college debt free? Aren’t you glad you listened all the way to the end? Of course, all of the resources and websites that Kara mentioned will be in the show notes, and you know how to get those. Go to notthathardtohomeschool.com, click on PODCAST in the top menu and then look for Episode 78, and all of those links will be easily obtained right there.
I want to thank Kara for being such a great guest podcaster. I also just want to say that I know [chuckles] I don’t have an E, and that Anne of Green Gables does. It’s been something I’ve had to deal with my entire life, but we rise above these things, right? [laughs] Have a good day, everybody. See you next time.
- Episode 81: Communicating with Teenagers - July 1, 2022
- Episode 80: Gena Mayo Shares Her Best Advice for Homeschooling High School - June 17, 2022
- Episode 79: Granting Autonomy to Your Homeschooled Teen - June 3, 2022