On my Facebook, I gleefully announced that I was watching Hamilton, which prompted a barrage of comments such as “omg so jealous!” and “I wish I was you!!”

Well… I have a confession to make: Yes, I watched Hamilton. For free.

Three times.

(it could’ve been four times, but I was so burned out from the previous evenings I had to say no to the Friday night show. And yes, I was getting bored of the show. Me. Turning down a chance to see Hamilton. WHAT!)

I bet you’re wondering how I did it… No, I had no connections to anyone in high places, nor a rich boyfriend, nor anything that could give me such an advantage. Instead, what I did was fill out an application to become a volunteer.

They trained me, they gave me my uniform, they told me I could watch the show after my job was done. That’s it.

Which brings me to the entire point of this blog post… Be flexible about your methods, all while keeping your sight on the final goal

Think outside the box

I learned this lesson all the way back in my senior year of high school, when preoccupied with college I researched scholarship applications. While my grades were stellar, my extracurricular activities and community service were not, and so I was stuck in this place where I had the qualifications to apply for scholarships, but I just didn’t stand out. So rather than to throw my stone in with the rest of them and be lost in a sea of students with shining resumes, I sat down and figured out what I had going for me:

I was very good at writing.

My English teachers loved me.

My mom worked in a hospital, and could get me a spot as a summer volunteer.

So, armed with this knowledge, I got my English teachers to write me a recommendation letter and I penned an essay about volunteering at a pediatric wing of a hospital during the summer. This, I then submitted to many organizations that were offering $500 in scholarships or less.

You see, those smaller scholarships… they are not very well known, and so you have a higher chance of getting the scholarship. Especially if, like me, you have on your side an English teacher with years of experience writing and proofreading essays.

And that, my friends, is how I attended college for free.

There is always a lower-cost or free alternative to everything. Let’s list a few.

  • Can’t afford to buy books? Check them out from the library for free.
  • Spending too much money eating out? Try to recreate your favorite meals at home, usually for much cheaper than at the restaurant.
  • Can’t get Netflix/Amazon Prime/Hulu/Whatever? Free trials, baby! Also, you can try sharing accounts with friends and family in exchange for one of your accounts. Maybe they can get some of your BirchBox products every month in exchange for their Hulu password?
  • Need new clothes? Head to the Goodwill that’s closest to the most affluent neighborhood in your town. Look at all the beautiful, barely worn, usually designer, clothes. Go wild.
  • Want to travel, but can’t afford it? Open a credit card that gives you points that you can redeem for plane tickets. Put all your every day purchases on that card, including groceries and gas. Do this for as long as it takes to earn enough points for that sweet flight.

… Well, you get it.

There is always more than one way

We are so used to believing that the way in front of us is the only way, that we forget other people have forged their own paths and succeeded. Sometimes the way in front of us is the best way, or the easiest way; but, other times, there are so many unexplored possibilities just out of sight. And the thing is, if you don’t see this option, someone else will, and they will ultimately obtain the prize before you do.

It is okay to hustle and work hard; but do it smartly.

It is okay to do it the tried-and-true way; just ask yourself, is there another way?

And it is definitely more than okay to forge your own path. It’ll be harder, and you will make more mistakes because there is no handbook that you can follow, but chances are you will succeed because you are doing what works best for you and learning along the way.

Remember: where there is a will, there is a way. Just remember: there might be more than one way.

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