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Securing the Check: How to Successfully Pay for College

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Just last year around this time, I had kicked my feet up and was resting while my friends and fellow senior VOXers were full of anxiety, waiting for admission results from colleges. I had applied to more than 20 colleges/universities across the country — and for numerous scholarships. Everyone wondered why I was so calm and confident about the college application process, and my secret was preparation before senior year.

By the end of my sophomore year I had already created a resume and personal statement, and had completed two internships. I involved myself with extracurriculars I enjoyed and that I could also explicitly explain their connection to my career and academic goals. Now, no one has to accomplish and set huge goals like I did leading up to my senior year, but I believe everyone should be actively taking steps to create a distinguishable and comprehensive portfolio for themselves. Your portfolio should consist of a resume, personal statement, references, any published work, etc. This made applying to colleges and scholarships easier, and I worked smarter.

Financial aid is a scary topic, usually because many people assume loans are the only option of paying for college. (They’re not.) So, I planned and facilitated a workshop for my peers at VOX (alongside Josie, our program manager) about applying for financial aid and scholarships.

A few pieces of advice I wanted to get across:

  1. Talk to your parents: I am adamant about being prepared by talking to my parents about how the process is and the documents needed for it. I suggest describing the college’s  process thoroughly to your parents (or guardian) and keeping them updated on deadline and important documents needed for the application process.
  2. Use the college’s website: Understanding the process is easy if you go to a university’s financial aid website to find out what they require in order to apply.
  3. Use your network: Being aware of and utilizing VOX’s resources, adult staff and alumni/mentor network was also a tip I gave to the teens. All of the organization’s resources are accessible and its resources better prepared me for the college application process.

Because I was proactive, I am a freshman at DePauw University (a $61,000 per year institution), and I am attending with no out-of-pocket costs. All of my fees are covered from a combination of the need-based aid I receive from DePauw and the numerous outside scholarships I have earned.

Telling my story and how I accomplished this feat I believe can relieve a lot of stress teens feel about financial aid and paying for higher education.

For more resources about paying for college, check out these stories:

Money Mantras: A Breakdown of Common Financial Aid Terms Mikael, a freshman at SCAD, defines 10 common terms in the world of financial aid.

Tips for a Smooth Application Process Alimah, a South Atlanta High School grad who now attends Sarah Lawrence College, describes the forms, essays and other parts of the college application process.

Resources for First Generation Students – Arlena​, ​a​ ​sophomore​ ​at​ ​Barnard​ ​College, shares tips and resources for college-bound students.

Kaleb, 19, is a freshman at DePauw University and who listens to Migos track “Bad and Boujee every morning on his way to class. The art is from the VOX Vault, created by Tekeyah Hall in 2011. 


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