Saving for College: Don’t Just Hold Out for Scholarships

By Delores Dell

Saving for college can be extremely expensive and extremely confusing. There are grants that if you qualify for that you do not have to pay back, which is of course ideal. But what happens when you don’t qualify, or the amount you qualify for doesn’t come close to what you need? These are important questions that need to be addressed early on in the college process. Families need to sit down and honestly discuss what they can afford based on a few factors including financial aid projections, personal savings, loan qualifications and possible academic or private scholarships.

It is important when you have this discussion to not rely too heavily on scholarships. While scholarships are a very efficient way to pay for college, they are often not easy to obtain. Let me tell you my story.

I was a good student in high school. I had a grade point average over a 3.5 and was a proud member of the national honor society. I had joined clubs, was an athletic trainer and even held down a part time job all throughout high school so I was pretty confident that I would receive a large scholarship for all of my work. That was not the case. I did apply to a few schools of choice and settled first on Ithaca College in NY and Bloomfield College in PA. I had actually received a small academic scholarship for Ithaca, but not really enough to make a dent in the costs and the same for Bloomfield.

Then the craziest thing happened. I visited and didn’t feel comfortable at either campus. The campuses were beautiful and everyone was very welcoming but I just had that feeling inside that these schools weren’t for me. Now I was back to the drawing board with time marching on toward graduation. My mother luckily got back on the search and found Ramapo College in NJ. The minute I stepped foot on that campus, I knew it was for me. I was so excited! But it was getting late in the process and the scholarships were not available anymore.

It upset me because I had really worked hard in high school and hoped it would pay off in a scholarship. For the next four years as I kept my grades up, and continued to participate in activities such as being business manager of the college radio station and being one of only ten girls to start a new chapter of sigma sigma sigma sorority, I kept trying. Every semester I applied for the new scholarships posted on campus in hopes that I would finally obtain one. It never happened.

My story is not one to discourage anyone from applying for scholarships, but to let you know that they should not be the main component in paying your college tuition.

So that is the best advice I can give, have a sit down conversation about college expenses. Parents should be honest about what they can afford and children should be honest about what they want. It is also might be a good idea to hire a college funding advisor. They can offer excellent ideas on how to pay for college based on your individual financial situation. They will make this process less overwhelming and confusing.

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