While we know that many career paths require a college education and that obtaining one can increase your earning potential, many students believe that college is simply to expensive to consider. It’s true that a higher education can be very expensive: national averages considering undergraduate tuition, fees, and housing estimate a $17,237/per year cost at public universities, and it is only growing. However, financial aid and scholarships are more widespread than they seem, and these resources are not reserved for students with exceptionally high GPAs and test scores. Most federal and state financial aid is actually awarded based on financial need, not GPA. There are scholarships available based on a wide variety of characteristics, including racial/ethnic identity and commitment to diversity: there are many specific opportunities aimed at recruiting more diverse student bodies and future workforce, including from the national organization Hispanic Scholarship Fund and scholarships at specific universities to promote diversity.
Furthermore, attending a community college, earning an Associate’s degree, and pursuing higher education after some years of employment are all options for saving some money right out of high school. Attending community college first can actually help you finish your degree, and 40% of Bachelor’s Degree holders in the US attended community college. USA Today cites that 74% of undergraduates are “non-traditional” students, meaning they didn’t enroll straight out of high school. Because university settings offer significant opportunities for meeting possible future employers, recommenders, and contacts, the increased career outcomes for college graduates do not only rely on the attainment of a degree.
Depending on the college you attend, you may have access to free legal services, free transportation and free or reduced prices for entertainment, such as movie theaters, concerts, and city tours. While you may be paying some for your education, your other expenses could be greatly reduced by your student status. Your expenses may also be offset by getting a campus job: while you can seek entry-level part-time work anywhere, a campus job often pays more and offers greater flexibility. Some campus jobs even let you study on the clock!
Although many believe just paying for textbooks will be a significant strain on their budgets, this is not necessarily true: you can often find available copies of required textbooks through the university library (physical or digital copies) for free, and gently used bookstores near universities often have extensive collections of used and often-assigned textbooks. You can also rent textbooks from many providers, like Chegg. Click the images above to see just some of what Ohio State has to offer. With a little research, you can find out about what benefits other universities can offer as well.
Being a university student often offers access to affordable health care, access to free campus food pantries to combat food insecurity, and access to fitness and wellness centers. Many colleges and universities also offer free mental and sexual health services to students. Due to these factors and others, there is significant data that demonstrates college graduates have increased life expectancy. Watch the video below for more information.
There are several free college search tools you can access, such as BigFuture College Search, where you can filter and compare colleges by location, environment, average financial aid provided, selectivity of admissions by test scores, additional service, and more. To organize your efforts and establish yourself as an excellent candidate for your chosen school, consider following this suggested timeline for preparing and applying for college and review the tips for success below.
- Keep a calendar specifically for admission application deadlines, scholarship deadlines, and college visits to keep yourself on track and the whole family up to date
- Get advice from current undergraduates
- Ask guidance counselors about which scholarships to apply for & visit school specific financial aid websites
- Apply to as many as possible to increase your odds. Sometimes, more obscure scholarships have such small applicant pools that your chances of receiving them can be quite high.
- Save any essays you write & recycle them on future applications. Many scholarships want to see similar traits in applicants, so this will save time.
- Extracurricular activities (ex. volunteering) shows what you’re passionate about outside of school, and demonstrates your commitment to supporting others. IMPACT is an excellent resume booster!
- GPA isn’t everything, but keeping your grades up definitely increases your chances of getting accepted and earning a scholarship.