So you’ve thoroughly researched many career options, and decided that becoming a PA was the decision for you. Perhaps you are a nerd like me and want to use your book smarts and love of science to help others. Or maybe you wanted to choose a safe profession that is constantly growing and will continue to be in high demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the growth rate for PA employment will be 31% from 2018 – 2028! Regardless, congrats on choosing to pursue an awesome career! Now the hard work begins. You are likely already feeling the pressure to ace every class in high school. You are likely also considering how to do that in undergrad as well so you can get accepted into a PA program for your master’s. Besides trying to get good grades, if you are visiting this site, you likely are also trying to figure out ways of going to college without diving deep into debt before you even start PA school. Well, here are some suggestions to do just that!
Take AP / Dual Enrollment Courses
If you are trying to ace classes to become a PA, you likely are a pretty smart cookie. Well, why not take AP / dual enrollment courses to get both high school credit and FREE college credit? I went to a very small private Christian high school, so I was not afforded the opportunity to take these types of classes as my school did not offer them at the time. I really wish I could have taken AP classes! So if you have the opportunity at your school, definitely look into this as an option. Additionally, please do your research to see which of these options would be accepted by the college that you are planning to attend.
Take CLEP Exams
Although I didn’t have the opportunity to participate in AP or dual enrollment courses, I was able to take CLEP exams to test out of a few classes while still earning college credits for a fraction of the cost it would be to take the college course. Again, you will still need to do your research to see if the college that you are planning to attend accepts CLEP credits. Additionally, you will need to research which PA schools that you are ultimately planning to apply to will accept CLEP. For example, there are several PA programs will not accept CLEP for prerequisite classes, but may for other undergrad classes that are not considered prerequisites. Learn more about CLEP here.
Plan to go to a Community College (at least to start your college education)
Community colleges are typically so much more affordable than state or private colleges! It is seriously amazing how much someone can save attending a community college. And here’s the secret: literally no one really cares where you earned your college degree, especially the first two years. It just doesn’t matter. Now what does matter is that you get at least good if not great grades in undergrad before applying to PA school, as GPA is one of the several factors PA programs review when considering an applicant. But if you do the work, and get good grades at a community college versus a fancy (and expensive) college, you still will have an excellent shot of getting into PA school. Of course, the (seemingly small) catch is that most community colleges do not offer bachelor degrees. However, several community colleges do now partner with other local colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees. So, if you do attend a community college for two years (while possibly earning your AA degree) prior to transferring to a college / university to complete your bachelor’s degree, you will again need to research to confirm that the credits from the community college will transfer to the college / university that you plan on graduating from. Now if you’re still on the fence about whether or not to attend a community college (at least to start your college education), go do this quick Google search: first search your local community college cost per credit, and then search your local four-year college or university cost per credit, and be prepared to have your mind blown at the difference!
Earn a Great ACT or SAT Score
Many colleges and universities require students to take at least one of these tests before they apply. However, if you are able to achieve a great or excellent score, you are also more likely to receive a merit-based scholarship from the school to which you are applying. Which brings me to my next point…
Apply to (a lot of) Scholarships
This is the area where I feel as though I fell a bit short, though I was fortunate enough to receive some scholarship funds. Let me explain…
Even though I was already planning on starting my secondary education through a community college to save money while working on my generals, I was fortunate enough to receive a presidential scholarship to the school. This scholarship was for full tuition and books for my two years there, which was amazing! This was a merit-based scholarship, which means that this scholarship was awarded based on my application to the college (GPA in high school, ACT score, extracurricular activities, etc.). I did apply to a few other smaller scholarships and was awarded a couple of other smaller scholarships as well.
However, here is where I feel as though I came up a bit short in regards to scholarships. Although it was truly amazing to have 2 years of my undergrad be completely free, I truly feel as though that played a role in me not pursuing and applying to other scholarship opportunities. I believe I was thinking something along the lines of, “Well, school is already free at this time, why would I need to apply to other scholarships?” Here is why: I still had two more following years of undergrad to complete (and to ultimately pay for). For finishing my bachelor’s degree, I did end up going to one of the local private colleges because I liked the smaller feel of the college. Additionally, this college had the only PA program in my state at the time, so I thought I would perhaps end up going to PA school there as well (which ultimately did not end up happening). That college also gave me a scholarship, but I ended up having to pay for approximately 50% the cost of each of the 2 years to complete my bachelor’s. Some people have actually been awarded so many scholarships, which have been equivalent to or even exceeding the total amount of their tuition! There are many types of scholarships available, so I would encourage you to research different options, and apply to many of them throughout your high school and college years.
To conclude, there are many things you can consider in regards to FI even when you are still a high school student. Doing one or even all of these things will help limit your debt, and therefore accelerate your path to FI!
Do you have more ideas for a Pre-PA high school student who is trying to save money on their way to become a PA? If so, please leave your ideas in the comments section!