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Finance 101

The Real World: Dollars and Sense - College is Expensive

Posted on March 03, 2015 by Maddi Carr
College. Is. Expensive. It’s a nasty fact of life, friends. I’m not talking about “iPhone expensive” or even “spring break trip to Panama City” expensive.  I’m talking, “if you don’t do something you’re gonna be paying for this when you have grey hair” expensive.

As young people, most of us are aware of this fact, but not yet highly impacted by it. Whether you’re preparing to enter the college years or you’re already there, the high price of higher education is going to hit you at some point, and I’m here to help you do everything you can to soften the blow.

Lesson 1: It’s never too early to start planning for the rest of your life. Student loans are saviors when it comes to affording a college education, but why not go one step further and save yourself even more?

For those of you getting ready to embark of the adventure of a lifetime (college), I have a very valuable equation to share with you: 

Financial Aid + Scholarship= Lifesaver

Kind of a scary equation, I know. The good news derived from that formula? Almost no one has to pay for their college education completely out of pocket, nowadays. With the right desire and effort, anyone can find a helping hand when it comes to tuition.
FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is a great starting point. Almost any student (new or current) planning to attend college in the fall of 2015 is qualified to apply for Federal Aid. Based on a reported “Expected Family Contribution,” FAFSA calculates an individual’s eligibility for financial aid and sends it directly to the school you choose. FAFSA applications went live on January 1st, and aid is given on a first come first serve basis up until Jun 30th, 2015. More financial aid information.

While a good place to start, FAFSA isn’t the only way to fund your future. Contrary to popular belief, scholarships are EVERYWHERE—and you don’t have to be the next Michael Jordan or have a 5.0 GPA to snag these bad boys. There are scholarships for duck calling, candy technology, soybean research, and even prom dresses made of Duct Brand Tape. And, for a more reasonable example, R.I.A. Federal Credit Union awards three $1,000 scholarships every year.  Trust me when I say, there’s something out there for everyone.

What’s the saddest truth in the scholarship world? Every year, thousands of scholarships go to waste due to lack of application. This is where you come in. 

In order to find these scholarships and make use of them, you have to take the initiative to put forth a little effort and elbow grease—crazy, I know. Seeking out available scholarships and completing application forms, essays and statements are not easy tasks, but they are tasks that will save you and your bank account later on. Just taking a bit of time each week (before you go to bed, on commercial breaks during The Walking Dead)  to surf the web or  talk to counselors, teachers or financial professionals like your friends at R.I.A. FCU, you can open the doors to countless opportunities that you had no idea existed.

And yes, you might still have to live on Ramen Noodles and PB&J for four years, but they’ll still be some of the greatest years of your life… and your post-grad self will be thanking you further down the road. So, what are you waiting for? Get to work on that Duct Tape prom dress!