It’s a cold December morning here in Fremont and we each have our ways of fighting the chill. 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:
- Scholarships: This is probably the best way to pay for an education. Money from scholarships 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 different areas of study, such as biology, history, or political science. Others are offered through essay writing competitions, and some may even be for students who show exceptional dedication to community service.
Check out: www.highscholarships.com for a 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 in college, you can keep applying 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. College Board offers plenty of resources on scholarships as well: www.collegeboard.com.
- FAFSA (Seniors Only): The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is difficult to complete because there is a lot of information you must fill out in order to apply. 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.
- 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.
- The Military (Juniors): 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 these schools, 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).
- 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 start a job. However, a more popular route is to intern at a company which will eventually (and hopefully) lead to a job. Many companies offer summer internships for juniors and seniors, which can eventually become paid internships. Also, having work experience on your college resume is a plus. 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 into employable career skills.
In conclusion, it’s never too early to think about how you and your family will pay for your tuition. 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.