College is expensive.
The average cost for a student to attend a state university in Florida is over $20,000 a year. And did you know it takes an average of 5 1/2 years for students attending the state schools in Florida to graduate with a four-year degree? Students are now graduating with an average of $24,000 in debt.
So, how can students avoid going into debt?
For starters, students should keep their options open. Look at many colleges and see what scholarships/aid/grants they offer. Visit the financial aid office when you take the campus tour. Their financial aid people are “experts” on the aid and scholarships that their college offers.
Don't rule out the private and Christian schools. Many private schools have really great scholarships. Even though their tuition may be higher, they may offer great scholarships that can bring the cost down. And if a student can graduate in four years, as opposed to the 5 ½ years at the state school, it balances out.
Community colleges can be a great option for some students. The tuition is cheaper and students can live at home. Students can take different courses and explore majors. Once a student receives their A.A. degree, they can transfer to a state school. Some community colleges, like Polk State College, even offer Bachelor’s Degrees.
Apply for scholarships, lots of them. During the Financial Aid Presentation at our Christian College Fair, the presenter shared a neat story. A parent told him that she agreed to pay her daughter $3 for every scholarship application she completed. Her daughter ended up completing 100 applications. Out of those 100 applications, she only won 2 or 3 scholarships. But the award amount totaled to $8,000. If it takes an hour to complete each application, $8,000 for 100 hours’ worth of work is a great deal. You can’t make that much at a part-time job during the summer.
Students with high GPAs and test scores can often receive merit scholarships. Merit scholarships are based on test scores and GPA. But there are scholarships for other things such as athletic ability, musical and artistic talents, community service, parent employment, a medical diagnosis, financial need, and majors.
Some scholarships can be quite competitive to receive, but others not so much. Recently, I attended the Lakeland Elks Lodge Scholarship Dinner. They awarded eight students scholarships. Three of our students won scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $1,500. After the presentation, the Scholarship Chairperson told me that they had only received fifteen applications! I tell my students to apply for everything they can. You definitely will not receive scholarship money if you don’t complete applications.
In summary, college is expensive. But there are many things students can do to help keep the price down. It does take time, hard work, and a lot of essay writing. But it can definitely pay off in the end.
Mrs. Christy Lee serves LCS as the secondary guidance counselor. To reach Christy, you may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image courtesy of hywards at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
**This is a repost of a blog post written in 2015.