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I come from a low income, first-generation family. Grants, scholarships and loans (yes, loans) are how I was able to go to college. I lived on campus even though I knew that it would have been cheaper to live at home but I wanted the whole college experience and I didn’t want to let money stand in my way. Although I have received financial aid, I have also held 2 jobs while in school. It’s been hard to balance both work and school but it’s possible. Never let money stop you from going to college.
The easiest way to apply for financial aid is by completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines the grants and scholarships you qualify for. The first time I filled out the FAFSA, I was nervous because the application was very lengthy and can take a while to fill out. And in addition to your personal information, you’ll need your parents’ as well. The good thing is that it saves all your information so if you don’t know the answer to something you can continue it later.
Try to go to FAFSA seminars at your high school or ask a counselor for help on any questions you may have. I remember I went to a seminar that explained what certain questions meant and they even helped me get started on filling out the application. If you need more help you can also call the colleges you plan on attending, or you can even get live web help from the FAFSA site too. Try your best to apply and finish the application before March since the deadline is usually in the first days of March.
Financial aid can be very helpful, and in my case it’s the only reason I was able to go to a CSU without paying for it all myself. I’ve been in school for five years now and each year I got enough financial aid to pay for all of my schooling, including books and housing. So remember, it doesn’t hurt to apply for a FAFSA. Plus, it saves your personal information so the following school year it will be easier and faster to fill it out. So go to www.fafsa.ed.gov and get a head start on applying for free money!
College is sure to be one of the most memorable and (for some) most expensive experiences of your life. As such, you must remember that money matters and know how to budget for college. What is a budget? A budget is an estimate, often itemized, of expected income and expenses for a given period. In other words, it is the total sum of money set aside for a purpose based on what you have coming in and how much you plan on spending.
One key thing that will help you not just before college but during and after is to prioritize and know the difference between a “want” and a “need”. A want is usually something you wish for, crave, or desire but DO NOT NEED. A need on the other hand is a requirement or a necessity. For example, most people “need” a cell phone but they “want” an expensive one that costs several hundred dollars. So, with that being said, what do you think you will need and want as college students? Try this: List the top 5 things you think you will need in college and the top 5 things you think you will want in college. Organize that list based on priority and in the order that you will acquire them. The results may surprise you!