Money talks: finding funds for college education

The ins and outs of lowering the total cost of attending university.

Emma Finn

More stories from Emma Finn

Students often struggle with balancing the cost of college while also listening to his or her heart on where they feel at home. Seniors are committing to the next four expensive years of their life and paired with the anxiety surrounding leaving home, the transition can be difficult for many. It is important to be comfortable with his or her choice. However, many will agree that money also speaks loudly.

Universities often offer individualized scholarships based on both financial need and academic merit to admitted students. For many seniors this is the bait for attending a certain college. It is no secret that college is expensive, and many students out of necessity base their college decision on monetary aid.

North Carolina Central University commit and Wakefield senior Palace Jones was able to find a college that fulfilled her school-musts but also provided a significant amount of scholarship money.

“I’m going to be spending the next four years at North Carolina Central University, and I’m very excited,” senior Palace Jones said. “The cost of it definitely played a role in my decision. I got into the school I wanted to, and I was really happy when they sent my scholarship amount.”

Wakefield career counselor Sarah Joyner commented on the significance of also considering the services offered beyond education at a particular school that can affect a student’s success post-graduation.

“Another important thing to look at is how good the school’s career services are. For example, some schools will brag that they have good career services and will help you find a job after you graduate.  That is worth something.”

While many students have the view that the essays and other qualifications are a waste of time and not worthy, it should push motivated students even farther to continue applying. When fewer students apply, there is an increased likelihood of an applicant receiving a scholarship.

Uncommitted, deciding senior Alec Ashforth pushes the advantages to this common, predetermined outlook.

“The fact that the sentiment [of scholarship applications being a waste of time] is going around is even more of a reason to start applying to scholarships,” Ashforth said. ”If more people have that perspective, that means fewer people applying which increases chances of receiving money.”

For those who are stumped thinking “I’m not sure if there is anything that would pertain to me,” there are a plethora of scholarships that can be found in online research databases, through local contests and school student service websites. Check out Wakefield High School’s page! Even the silliest qualifications can be played on for a scholarship in Jones’ experience.

“I was flipping through a scholarship book (check this book out here!) and two scholarships for playing the ukulele caught my eye, and I was like that’s really cool!” Jones said. “There are also some offered for being taller than a certain height or for having red hair. It’s exciting when you see one, and it’s like ‘that fits me!’ There’s [a scholarship] out there for everybody, and each [scholarship] gives everybody an opportunity to get money.”

Scholarships aren’t always out in plain sight. Joyner encourages students to look beyond college offerings and consider researching hidden general scholarships.

“There are tons of scholarships out there,” Joyner said. “It is hard to name just one place to look because there are a lot.  My advice would be to go to the resources that we give you on our websites for most of the local ones. You should also ask your parents if their employer has a scholarship.  I was able to get a $4000 scholarship from my father’s employer when I was a senior.  It doesn’t hurt to check.”

For juniors out there thinking they are off the hook until next year, think again. Unique scholarship opportunities are often offered exclusively to juniors.

“Juniors, for sure, start looking now. There are millions out there that offered only to juniors which not many people know about,” Jones said. “It’s a great opportunity to start early.”

As for seniors feeling like the ship has sailed–and without them–it’s not too late to start!

“There are plenty of scholarships out there that are still available,” Jones said. “It’s best to research these opportunities before looking into applying for student loans. A 500-word essay could be the difference between you getting a $100,000 in loans or $50,000. It can definitely make a huge difference.”