If you do not have money, you can still go to college

Quince Madrina

Without a doubt, turning fifteen years old marks the beginning of an overwhelming phase. New emotions and responsibilities come with age and you are considered within the circle of adults. It is not early to start worrying about your future studies, in the end, is the next step to becoming a full career woman.

My experience with the studies was intense. Years ago when it came time to apply for college, I was distressed by the prices. I had no family savings and scant guidance, so it seemed that my only way in was to get a full scholarship — an all-or-nothing proposition. However, I had more options than I realized then, just as kids have more options than they realize today.

Cost is the main factor for many Latino families when selecting colleges, but those families often lack critical information about financial aid. My blind spot was that I was not aware that there were scholarships offered by organizations other than colleges.

There were also loans, but they seemed out of the question. My parents had made many sacrifices and were already stretched thin putting my three siblings through Catholic grammar and high schools. At this age you can start planning your future, established long-term goals and remove that weight off your parents.

For that reason I started my extensive search for a school, which took me more time than my schoolwork and part-time job combined — I remember getting to bed after midnight for months. I was gambling everything on my application essays winning me a university scholarship.

Thankfully, the effort paid off in one of the most important moments in my life. The day all students dream of and dread: the arrival of the university award letter.

The long awaited answer came. I opened the letter with my mom watching anxiously, I knew it was the closest I would ever come to winning the lottery. I was offered a full scholarship to DePaul University, a great private not-for-profit school in Chicago. Our screams and cheers could be heard down the block.

When I examined the award letter more closely, I was surprised to find out that in combination with a generous merit scholarship, my aid package included a Pell Grant — federal money given to me based on my financial need. There were other types of aid that could help me out as well.

With available scholarships from universities, the government (including loans), private foundations and employers, there are so many financial aid possibilities. Although you may spend long hours researching opportunities, filling out applications and writing essays, it will be necessary to secure financial aid.

Tips for getting a loan

Be extra cautious to ensure that you are getting the best terms, and to secure federal loans over those from private banks. Remember, loans have to be repaid, scholarships and grants do not.

Trends in College Pricing 2010, a report recently released by the College Board, gives an analysis of the costs associated with going to college in the United States.

Don’t be discouraged by the sticker price of college or limit yourself to the option that appears to be the cheapest. There are many funding options and students facing financial challenges can be helped significantly. Use the calculators on the College Board website,www.collegeboard.com, to get a handle on all the costs involved. Choosing your dream school should involve balancing fit with cost.

Fifteen years old is the perfect age to start being determined and seek the direction in your life. It’s a given that kids should be striving for great grades — that’s how they qualify for merit scholarships. They should also know that there is a lot of need-based aid out there. There are no excuses for skipping college. I acquired a scholarship, and is the most rewarding effort I have obtained.

Average price of colleges and universities for full-time undergraduates in 2010-2011*
2-year community college:
Price:                     $2,710
After aid:             $670
4-year public university:
Price:                     $7,610
After aid:             $1,540
4-year private not-for-profit university:
Price:                     $27,290
After aid:             $11,320

*Prices are estimated and reflect only tuition and fees. They do not include room and board, food, books and other costs. Source: Trends in College Pricing 2010, College Board.

Quince Madrina

Author Quince Madrina

The ultimate Madrina for all quinceañeras!

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