Across the country, high school seniors are receiving their letters of acceptance to their chosen colleges. Next up: financial aid. Check out some advice from a few of us at HonorsGradU (most of us aren’t too far removed from that game, and some are still there) as you consider your college financing plan!
Ashley: Apply for everything!
“I never applied for any [scholarships] because I was always under the impression that you had to maintain a certain GPA or be some kind of genius to qualify for any scholarship. Turns out, I could have been earning scholarship money every year, just because my parents never went to college. Being a first generation college student can get you a scholarship. Who knew?”
Mary: Follow up with your scholarship donors!
I got a scholarship from my city’s rotary club. Six months later, I found out that they were willing to offer additional funds if my college GPA met their standard, and I ended up getting my books unexpectedly paid for that semester!”
Ashley: Think outside the GPA/ACT’s box
“There are scholarships like ours, where you apply with an essay or a project, there are scholarships for students with specific ethnic or cultural backgrounds, scholarships for being an honor student with a great GPA, all kinds of options. All you have to do is apply, and even a tiny $50 scholarship for being a red-head would be helpful in financing someone’s education. I had a friend who spend all summer every year just scouring the web for any scholarship he could apply to. ”
Brittany: Don’t wait for graduation to start paying back
“If you can’t afford [college], take out student loans and get done as quickly as possible. Besides that, I’d say that you should pay off your interest even while you’re going to school if you can afford it! My sister has done that and says it makes a world of difference as far as how much they will owe once she’s graduated.”
Jared: Finish faster with loans instead of dragging out school
“It recently hit me that I will not be able to go to school full time without financial aid in the form of loans. Unless I get married and can get money from the FAFSA, I will have to take out student loans. It kind of still upsets me when I think about having thousands of dollars of debt after school, but I figure that I will have a good job, and I won’t have to go through school slowly. I think I prefer being able to graduate in 4 years instead of dragging it out and trying to pay for it all myself.”
Jared: Start with a junior college & use academic advisers!
“Another option is to go to a junior college to get your associates degree. This can help you save a lot of money. If you work with an academic adviser they can help you prepare to enter a 4 year university and make sure that your credits will transfer. Community colleges are very affordable and even have programs that can help you get jobs after a 2 year degree.”
Bart: Get your finances–and your true passion–in order before you start school!
“If you think you can’t afford college, have you considered putting it off for a year, getting some real experience, and finding out what you are passionate about?”
Working During School
Bart: Find authentic job experiences during college
“Try as hard as you can to have your work while at school mean something. Find a job that has something to do with what you might want to do with your life…frankly, your work experience might be the only thing you have going for you in the job search after you graduate.”
Bart: Prioritize physical and mental health over graduating a semester earlier
I worked a job full time at night (9pm to 6am) while going to school full time. That went ok for about a year until I crashed and suddenly couldn’t function at all, and had to learn how to adjust my life to handle work and school in a more healthy manner (I cut back on classes and switched to working during the day until graduation). (see more about Bart’s story in our post on studying).
Heard of any other awesome financial advice? Share in the comments below!