Hannah is a Junior at the University of Central Florida currently majoring in Event Management. She is a finalist of the Student Debt Relief scholarship program, and needs your votes. If you like her advice on how to avoid student debt while attending school, please use the above social icons to like, tweet, +1, and share her essay across the social networks. The finalist with the most social shares will be awarded $2,000 to help pay for their education.
Paying For College
by Hannah P.
Everyone knows that after your high school graduation college approaches way too quickly! Your head becomes filled with so many questions: What am I going to do with my life? What will I major in? and most importantly, How will I pay for it?
When I got my first college acceptance letter I couldn’t contain myself, it was Halloween and there was a huge envelope stuffed in my mailbox. I couldn’t even make the walk back inside, the rest of the mail that day ended up all over the driveway, I ripped open the envelope and there it was, “Congratulations!” Now the hard part was over, right? The school of my dreams wanted me what else did I have to do? My fairytale was short lived when my parents starting probing me with questions, and there was one that caused a dry lump in my throat, “how are we going to pay for this?”
I never really thought about it before then, like actually thought about it, kids who work hard and get good grades deserve to go to college, right? I mean we spend 13 years in school just to be told we don’t have enough money? I had done everything I could think of to try to help my parents because my education was so important to me and I could not give it up.
I hated the idea of loans; well I hate the idea of loans. My grandmother is still in debt from trying to go to school. My senior year of high school I probably over worked myself: my second semester consisted of five college classes and three AP classes. I was so close to finished my Associate’s degree that I just couldn’t give it up. When May of 2014 came around I had received 63 credits for free! My school provided money to pay for my classes, my books, and even offered college classes at my high school! I never felt more proud than on May 19th, 2014 when I was presented with not one, but two diplomas!
It was so important for me to finish my Associates in high school because I had already planned to attend the University of Central Florida in the fall and if your degree isn’t completed not all of your credits may transfer to fulfill the general education requirements at your selected university.
My first step to assuring a debt free college experience was completed: finish my AA.
Next, I applied for as many scholarships as I could imagine. Along with those that I received, Bright Futures was one of them. I graduated in the top 10 in my class and you wouldn’t think it would be so hard for people to help you through college, but it is!
A lot of scholarships are considered “need-based” which depends on how much money your family makes. That didn’t make any sense to me; my family helped put money away in a college fund but I have two older brothers, not all the money my family makes can be spent on me moving away to go to college, and a lot of need-based families receive government funding to help support their children’s college career, yet I don’t need money for college? Should scholarships not be equal opportunity? Work hard, get good grades, and maintain an active part of your school and community?
Scholarships received and placed in my college fund, what could I do next? A job. My parents always told me that if I worked hard in school and kept my grades up I wouldn’t have to get a job until I had moved out, but desperate times call for desperate measures!
I received a job from Dick’s Sporting Goods in April my senior year and I was so excited for my first job. Things didn’t go as smoothly as planned and the hiring process was confusing, but nevertheless I was on payroll! I worked nights after I got out of school and weekends. I didn’t know senior year could be so stressful. Some of the money I received stayed in my bank account to fuel my social life and my 18-miles-per-gallon guzzler, and the rest went into my fund. I wasn’t playing any games!
Graduation passed and summer came. I had lined up an internship for myself that related to my prospective college major. I was hoping to get a feel of what I wanted to do with my life because I didn’t have two years of general education like everyone else. I wanted to make sure I didn’t take classes that would be wasted if I changed my major. I interned with Sight and Sound Productions in Jacksonville, Florida and lo and behold I was right! I was so excited for my Event Management major more than ever!
August came and boy, was that scary! I didn’t know what to do. I had to leave an internship that I loved and a job that I grew to love, and I had to leave my family and my friends. I moved two and a half hours away to live in a very expensive, very little room with another person. I must’ve been crazy!
I didn’t get a job my first semester at UCF because I wanted to focus on my studies in such an odd transition. Being on my own meant that I could do whatever I wanted, and that was scary. I wanted to get a feel for how college actually was before I overloaded myself and it all went down hill. Now I am actively pursuing a job to help my parents support my college education next semester, and have inquired about a summer job from my former employer and the company I interned with last summer.
My first semester away at college is almost coming to an end and I’ve learned a few things. Buy more food you have to make in the oven or on the stove, it’s cheaper and it tastes better. When people offer you money for favors, don’t be lazy: taking out someone’s trash for a dollar gets you a dollar more than you had. All gifts can be made from things you already own. Go to all the events on campus, a lot of free clothes and a lot of free food. If you’re already going home for the weekend, you might as well bring home your dirty clothes. Washing and drying is expensive! Visits home are cheaper if you split gas. And home cooked meals are the best.
So far I haven’t had to take out any loans to support my college education and I am so lucky that I have parents who support me in everything that I do. Next school year I plan to share an apartment with three of my friends so that our housing costs aren’t as high and hopefully I can return to a job in the fall if I receive one for the spring. I will be using a free shuttle to get from my apartment to our main campus and another free shuttle to get from UCF’s main campus to our Rosen campus for classes to avoid driving my car and spending extra money on gas. I’m actively working on making my college experience as debt-free as possible everyday. I stay conscious on how I spend my money and my friends are my accountability partners, we all look out for one another. Paying for college can get a little difficult sometimes, but it makes it so much easier if you have a great support system.