College is expensive in the U.S., there is no argument there. I remember being a high school senior, realizing that the $42k yearly tuition cost would still be $12k (plus) annually with scholarships to the University, and panicking. Yikes. That’s a lot of money for a seventeen year old to commit to. My family didn’t have the ability to financially support my college career (which is completely fine and understandable), so it would all be student loans with interest rates. If you have been following my blog, you know that I left college after one week (when tuition was still refundable), so I didn’t accrue debt, but if I waited one more day I would have.
I worked in housekeeping at a local hospital for a few years and then as a nurse aide. I had a love-hate relationship with both jobs. I met a lot of awesome people (including my husband) and got to take care of some super sweet patients over the years. One of those patients actually contacted hospital administration about me and ended up paying for the remainder of my LPN schooling. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have been able to afford school and wouldn’t be a nurse today. Not all hard work goes noticed, but this time it did and I am forever grateful.
Working in pediatrics, I working with a lot of high school kids who were planning for their future after graduation. There is so much advise to be given to those kids who are only a few years (or months) away from their new adventure.
- Enter any and all scholarships that you can. When in high school, I didn’t sign up for any additional scholarships because I honestly didn’t think I would make it to graduation due to my depression and anxiety. The aide that I did receive, was from the University due to grades. I always tell teens to start researching private scholarships in their area. Some require volunteer work, others have an essay for entry. There are even some scholarships that just require your information (name and school district) to apply! There are scholarships for left-handed people, volunteer firemen (and firewomen), and pretty much anything else you could think of. It’s worth it to apply and possible be rewarded money for your education!
- Save whatever money you can. I know it’s tempting to spend your after school job money on going out with friends, but try to save what you can for your post-secondary education. I spent hundreds (honestly, thousands) of dollars during high school on clothing, movies, dinners, and other frivolous things. Try to find free or cheap things to do with friends and save your cash – your older self will thank you tremendously. When I graduated, I received over $4k from my grandparents who had been savings since I was born and what did I do? I bought a car and quit my job so I could have one last summer before starting college. I could have done a lot of great things with that money instead of blowing it on things that I don’t even have anymore.
- Consider community college for prerequisite classes. Why spend $42k a year at a University if you can spend $6k at a community college? You’re essentially getting the same education for your pre-requisite classes (year one English, psych, math,…) Just be sure to call your desired University to ensure they accept your community college’s credits. I would hate to see your credits not transfer, but if your community college is state accredited, it should be good! Always call and double check though.
- Consider housing off-campus if permitted. If you are going to a community college or local University, think about staying home with your parents instead of living in a dorm. Room and board along with dining plans are a huge cost to your education and can very easily break the bank. If you will be going to school too far to travel from home, maybe a family member or family friend could rent you a room in their house nearby for a lot cheaper than dorm living. I have heard of a lot of people doing this and it sounds like a great cheaper alternative.
- Consider the cost of your education vs. average salary of your desired job. If your schooling is going to cost upwards of $100k and your desired job’s average starting salary is $50k annually, it will take you a long time to pay back your student loans with interest. Don’t forget, you will have living expenses to pay for along with your student loans. I’m not saying that you can’t go to school for a job that you love, just do a lot of thinking about career choices and schooling options beforehand.
College is a great opportunity to continue your education and prepare for your future, but you should definitely do what you can do make life easier for you. If you don’t have to worry about finances, that’s great! For those of us who need to consider financial situations, learn whatever you can about paying for your education and prepare yourself to the best of your ability.