How to Finesse College Finance

Arnav Srivastiva ‘19
EE Senior Opinions Editor

Welcome to college: never before did striving for your dreams have such a high sticker price. Thankfully, there are a plethora of aspects to counter the daunting task of affording college.

One of the most popular methods of paying for college is definitely student loans. However, student loans are often not the best way to pay for college simply because there are numerous paths to affording college without paying the money bank. Ultimately, student loans just offset the financial burden whereas there are options which can completely alleviate some of the costs of college.

Often times, the college institutions offer financial aid to incoming students in two forms: need-based aid and merit-based aid. Need-based aid is financial aid provided usually throughout all four years of college, determined by the applicant’s family’s financial situation and ability to pay for college without any external monetary aid. It is highly encouraged that most applicants apply for need-based aid by filing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to help afford college. Many colleges take a holistic approach on evaluating one’s financial need, including family income, parents’ marital status, siblings, and assets.
Meanwhile, many colleges offer merit-based aid, or aid that is awarded to students based on their accomplishments (in academics or extracurriculars). Although a more subjective approach to granting aid, students from higher income families have a fair chance at receiving some aid to relieve the burden of costly college (which can be a significant help to middle class families who do not qualify for need-based aid yet concurrently cannot easily afford college). Most schools consider students for merit aid conveniently alongside their application to the college, meaning that there is no extra hassle. Both types of aid are offered to students in different forms, and can take place in grants (money that does not need to be paid back!), campus jobs, and/or low-interest student loans.

On top of that, many external scholarships are available for students. While a variety of scholarships are based on family incomes, there are an enormous amounts of scholarships available to all students. Oftentimes aid from colleges is preferred since colleges offer four-year contracts for money while scholarships usually give money just for a single year; however, some aid is definitely preferred to no aid, and students can re-apply for scholarships each year.

Scholarships range from being awarded based on sheer luck to quality of a response to an essay prompt. Sometimes, supplemental requirements must be fulfilled such as needing to have certain college ambitions to receive a scholarship, which can be an advantage or disadvantage based on the scholarship as the candidacy pool becomes smaller but can also lead to only more qualified applicants applying for the scholarship. Be sure to check the scholarship bulletin provided by the THS Counseling Department to explore helpful scholarship options!

However, at the end of the day, affording college is possible, and not as intimidating as it seems. There is a world of opportunities for lowering the cost of college, from aid from the institution to scholarships, which empower students to truly choose their own college path, and strive for their ambitions despite its cost.

Take it from the successful Class of 2022. With effort and persistence, plenty of seniors have been successful in cutting their costs of college. As UCONN Class of 2022 student Matt Yellen advises, “apply for as many scholarships as you can.” After a lot of hard work in Matt has successfully earned numerous external scholarships to make UCONN more affordable. Similarly, senior Alex Zimmerman received $35,000 in merit-based aid from Champlain College, decreasing the cost of college by more than half. In the end, the cost of college is but a mere illusion, and the price of college is in the hands of students for the making.

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