We stress, especially in high school, the importance of higher education, regardless of what its initial cost is. This has lead many college students to find themselves in massive IOU’s that will last lifetimes. For me, the thought of owing anyone any amount of money is scary, pressing, and a real fear. Fortunately, the world rewards people who work hard, and are willing to make sacrifices, for the betterment of themselves. For me, that came in the form of a scholarship. Last year, around this time I was in the position many high school seniors are in right now. They’re waiting for an acceptance or denial letter, hopefully the former, to take that next step in higher education. What may even be a more pressing matter than going to a certain college, is the question of being able to pay for that schooling. These were the two questions I considered. What college will I go to? And, How will I pay for it?
Last year, I had spent many of my free hours searching through scholarships, and anything that would give me money for essays. As I recollect how many scholarships I applied to, the number must have been over 20, possibly more. I had a running list of all the applications and their costs. I remember I applied for something like a potential million plus dollars worth of monetary compensation. I know, it was a crazy amount that is hard for me even now to comprehend. But, I told myself that even if I got 10 percent of all the scholarships I applied for, I’d be set. It was not a stressless year. I’d considered not going to college on more than one occasion, and although it seemed like a rational thought at the time, it was my reaction to a world that was changing in front of me faster than I could think. Luckily, I was able to gather myself and realize the bigger picture. I owe the reality check to my father, and while he forced me to consider every potential outcome, I think it was a way to rationalize and categorize my options. And when the acceptance letter to USC came in the mail, I had my first break, my first real step towards my goal of higher education. While I had gotten into USC, I also found myself an owner of an acceptance letter from West Point. I will not go into the long and laborious process of that application, but I will say that it was another outcome I had to consider.
My second break came in the form of a scholarship, a big one. At the beginning of my senior year I applied for an Army ROTC scholarship to a list of colleges. They had gotten back to me, and USC was on that list. At that moment, I had a school, and how to mostly pay for it. I was ecstatic. I had found my dream, and a way to achieve it, especially considering that USC is one of the most expensive colleges to attend. Over the course of the next few months, I found myself the owner of a few other scholarships that allowed me to attend USC this first year with as little debt as possible.
Next year, however has been an increasing variable as I had not considered many scholarships this year. Fortunately, I saw the perfect opportunity at USC. I had spoken to my RA about potentially being an RA for next year, and he believed that I would be a perfect fit. It was a long process, but I have come out the other end successful. Next year I will be an RA as USC, and it gives me great pride and happiness to say that. Not only will I have the finances to continue my learning, but I will also have the ability to gain applicable experience for many of my future jobs. And so next year, I will be going to college for free. In fact, I will get paid for learning.
The biggest thing that I have gotten out of this whole ordeal is how important it is to consider every route, every possibility. For all the high school seniors, I know what it feels like to be confused and anxious for the future, but all it requires is one goal, one committed person, and lots of persistence. And maybe college could be free for you, too.