It’s a cold February morning here in Fremont and we each have our ways of fighting the cold. Some of us like to drink a warm cup of tea, while others make ample use of their blankets. But for you, high school students, the only way to survive the cold is to take the heat. It’s time to face the truth that college is going to be expensive, and you are going to have to learn the various ways of financing your education:
1. Scholarships: This is probably the best way to pay for an education. This is money that does not have to be paid back, and you can start looking for scholarships at any time whether you’re a freshman in high school or a freshman in college. Many scholarships are related to the area of study you are interested in such as biology scholarships or history scholarships. Others are offered through an essay writing competition, and some may even be for students who show exceptional dedication to community service.
Check out: www.highscholarships.com for a fairly large list of opportunities. Also never forget your own school’s resources such as your counselor or career center.
The best part of scholarships is that the opportunities never end. Even once you’re in college, you can keep trying for scholarships. All universities offer their own scholarships, so always scour every university’s website. For example, UC Berkeley has a page of resources: http://www.berkeley.edu/apply/aid.shtml for current and prospective students. And while College Board is your least favorite institution for the moment, they offer plenty of resources as well on www.collegeboard.com.
2. FAFSA (Seniors Only): The dreaded FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is difficult to complete because you need to fill out your parents’ tax information. However, if you take the time to do it, you may be eligible for federal grants, subsidized loans, or scholarships depending on yours and your parents’ incomes. Check out www.fafsa.ed.gov for more information.
3. The Pell Grant: Unlike scholarships, grants are usually awarded based on need but they are not loans. They do not have to be repaid. The Pell Grant is the largest financier of student aid after federal loans and institutional grants. You must fill out the FAFSA to qualify for the Pell Grant.
4. The Military (Juniors): These are the good guys for more reasons than one. Attending the United States service academies such as the United States Military Academy at West Point is free, plus you get a monthly stipend for your own expenses. You must have a letter of recommendation from your Senator or Congressional Representative to be appointed to the academies, so make sure to contact them in your junior year so that they will nominate you by the time you apply. Also look into the ROTC program, in which you will get a scholarship in return for being an officer in the military after graduation for a certain amount of time. ROTC rules and requirements are different for various students depending on when they join the ROTC program and to which type of ROTC they join (Army, Air Force, or Navy).
5. Jobs and Internships: This is the most traditional route for most students in terms of financing their college careers. Once you are 16, you can apply for a work permit and take up a job. However, a more popular route is to get an internship which will eventually lead up to a job. Many companies offer summer internships for juniors and seniors, which can eventually become paid. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have work experience on your college resume. Check out internships at community colleges, universities, and large companies. Also ask smaller companies if they are looking to hire or if they can even offer an unpaid internship. These often translate later into employable career skills.
In conclusion, young high school students, while others have the luxury of relaxing indoors on cold February mornings, you don’t get to enjoy that free time. Gather your winter gear and brave the cold tundra that is the college tuition system. Perhaps, it is time to save up for a rainy day. And while you may hate the extra responsibility put on your shoulders, remember nothing is quite as cold as a frozen account.