College can be made affordable

Maura Freeman, Staff Writer

College is scary. Obviously. There are so many reasons to be anxious about starting college. College means starting over, often moving away from home, from friends, from mom and dad. It means having to learn to do everything from doing laundry to paying bills for the first time. It means living in a big, scary dormitory complex, with new, scary roommates.

Worst of all though, starting college means paying for college. If life were a movie, this is the part where the scary music would play, because paying for college is possibly more frightening than the climax of a horror movie.

Few seniors (and college students) fully understand where to begin paying for college. Of course, there are scholarships and loans and grants. But how and where do you apply for a scholarship? How do a student obtain a grant? What if it’s still too expensive?!

Those are valid questions. And unfortunately, there are no guaranteed answers.

In regards to where scholarships can be found, “Student Services has a scholarship newsletter that is updated [monthly] with information about local scholarships”, said counselor, Beth Cammiso. That newsletter includes the monetary value of each scholarship, the due date for each scholarship, and how to access and apply for each scholarship.

For non-seniors, in the years leading up to graduation, it is important to “focus on working hard in classes, [getting] involved in extracurricular activities, volunteering, and preparing for the ACT,” Cammiso said.

Like fingerprints and zebra stripes, no scholarship application is exactly the same. Most require the usual information (i.e. name, address, school, etc.), and there is usually essay writing to be done. Sometimes, receiving a scholarship means going through several tiers of applications, from extra essays, to phone calls, to interviews and overnight stays. For the most part though, they are all relatively easy to apply for. Often, the hardest part is waiting to find out if you actually receive the scholarship.

With scholarships, the most important thing to remember is that every penny counts. It may seem tedious to put effort toward applying forth a $100 scholarship, when there are $10,000 scholarships available, but a bunch of hundreds add up. So put for that extra effort for the seemingly small scholarships. Your time will likely pay off—literally.

Another big part of financial aid is federal loans and grants. To apply for this “free money”, it is mandatory to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Once filed, a student financial status will be evaluated in order to determine just how much financial aid he or she is able to acquire. However, as counselor, Julie Bortoli, pointed out, there is only so much money budgeted for Student Aid, so it is vital for all prospective students to file your FAFSA now.

Another way to save in college is to get a job. That seems simple enough, but many college students forget that this is an option. Most college campuses have employment opportunities on campus that have flexible hours to fit around classes and busy schedules.

And even though the majority of those jobs only pay minimum wage, minimum wage is better than nothing. The money earned from a college job could entirely cover textbook fees and a food plan if the money is spent wisely.

Another easily overlooked way to pay for college is to finish on time. It may seem silly now, but when paying per credit hour, an additional semester or year worth of credit hours could completely deplete your bank account. So work hard in school to finish on time or even early. Be careful when selecting classes, because the last thing a student wants is a class that doesn’t go toward a student’s degree that he or she took accidentally.

Finishing on time or early may mean less partying, but others will wish they hadn’t partied when they see other students graduate before them with thousands of dollars less debt.

In the end, if college is still too expensive, consider attending JJC. Earning an associate’s degree through a Junior College is significantly cheaper than earning it at a four year university or college. And Junior College also provides a slightly smoother transition into the college experience.