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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.
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!
Unfortunately we have come into a new generation where when we think of college we immediately think of six-figure loans. As the tuition is rising the decision of whether college is worth it gets more difficult. Of course many students already have a college savings account from their parents, but some like myself do not. Affording college was not always a breeze for me and the same goes for other students. We all struggle in our own way. The best thing to do is to apply for financial aid, even if you think you won’t qualify. They offer loans to some students or work study jobs on campus. One benefit that I received was the Educational Opportunity Program, where if you are a first generation student with a low income then you can qualify for about $1300 per year and guidance from counselors. High school students can also apply for as many scholarships to get more aid. Once you start college you can always find jobs on campus to pay for your expenses if you continue to struggle. The important thing is that you are not alone and almost all students struggle with the same issue.