Campus Confidential: My Bank Account Is On A Diet

There’s one thing that really, really sucks about college. Yes, there’s no way around it: college costs an insanely large amount of money for which I personally think it’s borderline inhumane to even charge. It’s my silly little opinion that education should be a basic human right and therefore should be free. Unfortunately, almost every major academic institution in this country disagrees with me.

But even beyond the tuition itself, as soon as I arrived here I felt the very distinct pain, depression and slight panic that comes with the knowledge that your bank account is significantly dwindling. First, there was the cost of books that neared $500 (for my first semester alone) and this even accounted for scouring the internet for the best deals on used editions. Then there was the whole “going out” thing. Somebody would suggest going to a nearby sushi restaurant, or maybe catching a concert or show. Torn between being social and being frugal is not a fun place to be, especially when trying to make new friends.

Scholarship are not a given; in fact, they can be pretty freakin’ hard to come by. My advice is to truly excel in your formative years. Write a bestselling novel. Cure cancer. Be a former child star. It’s true: in order to gain admittance to a good college or university, let alone find ways to pay for it, you must have already accomplished the things colleges are supposed to teach you how to do.

So, since there’s very little I can do to productively change this expensive system, I’ve decided to work within it. Yes, I have compiled an official, comprehensive list of ways to pay for college. Unfortunately, it’s too late for me. Financial decisions have already been made. But I hope that this guide can help those of you who are still looking for ways to pay — either for yourself or for your children. Good luck to us all.

Option #1: Scholarships, Scholarships & More Scholarships

Of course, having other people pay your way is probably the best financial plan of attack. This was the conclusion that most of my high school classmates came to, as evidenced by the communal copy of The Scholarship Book that floated around all the areas dominated by seniors last year. Of course, scholarships are not a given; in fact, they can be pretty freakin’ hard to come by. My advice is to truly excel in your formative years. Write a bestselling novel. Cure cancer. Be a former child star. It’s true: in order to gain admittance to a good college or university, let alone find ways to pay for it, you must have already accomplished the things colleges are supposed to teach you how to do. Because, obviously, that makes a lot of sense.

If it so happens that you are not at the top of your field of choice by age 17 and colleges and other organizations aren’t throwing money at you, then my advice is this: apply for scholarships. Then apply for more scholarships. And once you’ve done that, apply for some more.

Option #2: Find A Sugar Daddy

Apparently, there’s an emerging movement of college students (predominately female, but not all) who are using “sugar daddies” to pay for their college tuition. Websites like SeekingArrangement.com promise to set up indebted college students with wealthy benefactors who, in exchange for sex (or, they claim, simply “companionship”) will pay for the tuition of these “college sugar babies.” I’m not even going to comment on this one, but you can read more about it here.

Option #3: Cross Your Fingers That The Financial Aid Office Takes Pity On Your Poor Soul

Colleges can be pretty douchey about this. I’ve seen scenarios that range from kids getting full rides based on their financial needs to schools that purposely do not fill their students’ needs based on the idea that they should get a job, earn it themselves, and learn lots of valuable life lessons in the process. (Sure). Basically, financial aid from your school is wonderful … if you can get it.

The Huffington Post recently ranked the 13 colleges with the best financial aid. Definitely worth looking at it if you’re in the application process.

Option #4: Student Loans

Oh, the saga of student loans. I can’t even count how many times I have been warned against taking out a loan, or how many times I’ve seen eyes darken at the mention of Sallie Mae. But it seems like a lot of kids my age approach student loans as an inevitable necessity. We just figure we’ll take out the loan, get a college degree and make a s**t ton of money from the high paying job that will just inevitably come with graduation, which will in turn allow us to pay back the loan a few years after graduating.

We don’t really think about the interest involved in student loans, or forbearance or penalties or all of the stuff that can double or triple our original loan. The idea of a seemingly limitless future of an all-too-large chunk of our salaries being eaten by loan companies is almost too depressing to even fully comprehend. But then again, in many ways it’s the “easiest”” way to pay for college.

There are people out there doing great work on the student loan front. A documentary was even made to raise awareness about and attempt to take action against loans (“Default: The Student Loan Documentary“). But, basically, loans still suck.

I’d like to close this post by turning this over to you, readers of the Frisky. For those of you who graduated from college: how did you pay for it? How is it working out for you? And really … is it worth it? (For the love of God, please just tell me it is.)

Want to contact the writer of this post? {encode=”juliez@thefbomb.org” title=”Email her”} Julie Zeilinger also edits and blogs for The FBomb.

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