How I Graduated College Early and Saved $93,845

A little background about my upbringing… No one in my family had a college degree before I was born. My mom, who was a teen mom, attended college when I was in preschool-elementary school. I remember attending class with her in the HUGE lecture halls during the summer. I could write a whole separate post about the inspiration & experiences I had during those times. My dad also made it a huge priority to focus on my education. We read together all the time so that my reading level was way above my peers, and there were big consequences if I didn’t “exceed expectations” in school. Needless to say, I knew from a very young age I was going to graduate with a Bachelors Degree much earlier than most people. With that being said, here’s how I graduated college early and saved $93,845 before the age of 21.

How I Graduated College Early and Saved $93,845
How I Graduated College Early and Saved $93,845

How I Graduated College Early

Running Start / Community College Classes

Each state offers a different program, but in Washington State, it’s called Running Start. Basically, running start is a program where high school students can attend classes at the local community college. These classes are tuition-free and can be applied towards high school credits and college credits.

I cannot say enough great things about the running start program. I did running start part time, which was a great balance for me. Being a part-time running start student allowed me to still socialize with friends my age and stay involved in the high school during my last 2 years.

Everyone has a different opinion about taking classes at a community college, but it was a great experience for me. All the classes I attended during running start with entry-level classes such as English 101, Spanish 101, Psychology 101, Calculus, etc. I also took some fun classes like a yoga class in lieu of high school PE, and Photoshop in lieu of art class. 🙂 In these classes, there were only 20-40 people. At a huge public university, the same entry-level classes will have several hundred people. Plus, these classes were irrelevant to my major, so taking them at a community college vs university didn’t make a difference.

I graduated high school with 45 transferable college credits. TUITION FREE! That’s a full year of college classes.

Running start saved me $27,578 and I enjoyed every minute of it! This figure was the total cost of attendance at my college during my freshman year

*I only attended running start part time. If I had done it full time, I could have graduated high school with my associate’s degree and saved $55,156 in tuition and living expenses. However, I really enjoyed doing it part time and wouldn’t change that decision.

AP Classes

Advanced Placement (AP) classes are another great way to graduate early. I took 1 AP class each year from sophomore year to senior year, which was a total of 3 AP classes at graduation. In high school I also played soccer and tennis, so one AP class per year was a good balance for me in addition to running start.

I will admit, the AP classes I took were more challenging than some of my running start classes (probably because I took AP Math classes). They were rigorous and prepared me for a university. I would highly encourage you to take an AP class in high school if you want to be challenged. However, just because you take the AP class doesn’t mean you get credit. At the end of the year, you can pay $92 to take the exam. If you get a good score (4 or 5 for the classes I took) then you can receive college credit for the class.

Thankfully, I passed all my AP tests, so I received 15 college credits. That’s equivalent to a full quarter of classes!

AP Classes saved me an additional $8,917 in tuition and living expenses!

Summer Classes/Online Classes

After my freshman year, I had to take 3 summer classes in order to meet the requirements to get into my program in the fall. I was working full time during the summer, so I had to take these classes online. They were pre-requisite accounting classes, so I decided to take them online at my local community college vs. the university.

By taking these classes at the community college vs the university I saved $2,850 in tuition! Plus I was working full time, so I was able to pay for these classes without any loans.

How I Graduated College without Financial Help

I’ve lived on my own since I was 18 and haven’t had any financial help from my family. Some people might think that sucks, but I’m proud of it! I’m so glad my parents raised me to be independent in all aspects of my life!  But with that being said here’s how I was able to stay afloat without any help while in college.


I received a couple different scholarships in high school that totaled to $6,500. Those scholarships covered nearly two-thirds of my freshman year tuition! If I could go back in time, I would apply for more scholarships. I got lazy after I received the first few and didn’t re-apply for any once I was in college. I’m sure I could have saved much more money if I continued to apply for scholarships while in college.


Thankfully, I qualified for work study in my financial aid package. I honestly don’t know all the details, but work-study is basically a type of financial aid that helps you pay for school while working part time. It’s pretty much like a regular part time job. During my freshman year, I worked in the insurance office for student athletes. I attended one of the universities in the PAC 12, so it was awesome to meet and hang out with all the stinky student-athletes 🙂  Plus my work schedule was extremely flexible!

I earned $3,000 during my freshman year through work study.


This may seem obvious but get I had to get a J-O-B! Throughout college, I’ve always had a job. During several summers I worked full time on the navy base as a student worker. I also got a paid internship my junior year and a full-time job my senior year. Working full time while attending college is tough, but my time management skills were amazing by the time I finished college. Plus, once I graduated and “only” had a full-time job, it felt like I had all the time in the world! I don’t have exact numbers, but I did some math based on my current student loans and what I was making at my old jobs.

I was able to pay approximately $45,000 of tuition and cost of living by working while in school!
*I did receive some financial aid and take out student loans while in college. But considering I paid for everything on my own, I could have easily had 4x the amount of student loans.

How I Graduated College Early and Saved $93,845
How I Graduated College Early and Saved $93,845

Overall, I saved $93,845  while attending college! Hopefully this post can help you are your kids the the future. Feel free to comment with your thoughts or any questions 🙂 Thanks for reading!

6 thoughts on “How I Graduated College Early and Saved $93,845

  1. This is such an awesome and practical post. I love it! You should share this on all the mom groups on facebook. Everyone knows you save money with AP classes etc. but I love how you broke it down and have a specific number. Nice work!

  2. Very impressive! Hindsight is 20/20, I wish I would have participated in the program offering college credit in high school (out here its called PSEO). Between working, commuting from home and some help from mom and dad I didn’t have to take any loans until my last year, I could have avoided them completely if I had thought ahead like you did. Great job!

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