By Mareesa Miles
I sat at my desk, my chair pulled in tight and my books stacked in front of me waiting for class to begin. With my hands folded in front of me, my knee bouncing up and down with anxiety, I listened to the jumble of voices circulating throughout the room. Initiated by a girl sitting in the far back corner, everyone was discussing where they would be attending college. They all seemed excited and without concern, they smiled and laughed and exchanged facts. I remained seated and silent. I felt as though I was the only one worrying, the only one who was still waiting to decide where I was going. I didn’t know which school would offer the best financial package, where I could actually afford to go.
Of course I wasn’t the only one waiting past the acceptance letters to see what the schools would offer, to see what I actually had for options. But I felt isolated by my situation and I felt afraid. My heart beat faster as I listened to the voices around me, as I prayed no one would ask where I was going. I hadn’t thought ahead, and I hadn’t listened to my parents and teachers.
Not my smartest choice ever. Far from it.
And as much as I like to believe in living in the present moment and not the past, it is something I still look back on with a bit of regret. When I was 13 I started looking at colleges, dreaming of finding myself sitting with a book on the perpetually green grass of college campuses. That was how they appeared to me, magical. And yet, I didn’t think of it realistically. I should have been applying for scholarships and looking for ways to pay for tuition prior to applying. If I had taken responsibility then, I would have had less stress coming out of college.
Learn from my experience and consider taking control of the financial realities of applying for college ahead of time. Scholarships, both merit based and otherwise, are available from a number of different organizations. Maybe the college you dream of attending has some of its own to offer. The following tips might help you as you search for scholarships or other ways to help finance your education:
- Conduct a simple Google search around scholarships available in your state
- Use the FAFSA website to learn exactly what scholarship the college and universities in question offer
- The CollegeBoard website offers a scholarship search which allows you to input specific information about yourself and will lead you towards scholarships that fit your demographic and situation
- CollegeBoard also has a very informative section called Big Future offering information on understanding college costs
- Consider reviewing the college or university’s government issued college score card
Not only is the process an educating one, but also knowing that you have found a way to pay for your own education is rewarding. It puts you in control of your own future. How are you going to pave your path? What school do you dream of attending? What do you dream of studying? No matter what your dream, it is a possibility that financial situations shouldn’t alter.