Graduating from College Debt-Free Amidst a Financially Global Turmoil

by Paulina Pachel 11 months ago in college

Life of a Poor College Student at a Private University

Graduating from College Debt-Free Amidst a Financially Global Turmoil

College is probably the most pivotal point in an adolescents' life. This is a time for reinventing yourself, drug experimentation, and fun. It is also a time of self-discovery, thought-provoking debates, insightful lectures, seminars, and planning for the future.

There was a time where I had taken education for granted; a time where I thought school, classes, and homework assignments were infinite and that they’d never end. School has had its moments where it stressed me out, made me lose sleep, and eventually lose sight of why I had went to college in the first place.

Millions of high school seniors apply to college every year. Millions of them get in. But not all of them are a “legacy” or have parents with a six-figure income, so finding a way to pay for college without the help of daddy’s Platinum card can be difficult.

The one thing college brochures won't tell you is that there are two types of students: the one that just paid for their gas in quarters while scarfing down last night's left-overs for lunch and one that have just wrapped up their second study-abroad program in Paris jet-setting around campus with a Gucci handbag. There is no in-between.

You have students who appreciate a crisp $100 bill and students whose idea of being broke is being "just a smidge under a grand."

Life of a poor college student in a private university is a magical paradox. It seems unsettling, but these students are the caterpillars that eventually spread their wings and turn into beautiful, blossoming butterflies...with thick wallets and booming empires.

For kids who are coming from a low-income household, unlike their privileged counterparts, scholarship options and financial aid resources are limited. I believe that the biggest scam that any 18-20-something can be reeled into are federal and private loans.

Loans are a great long-term solution for future investments, such as a mortgage or a new car....not education. I am not blaming or bashing on the people that resort to loans for financial help. It is strictly their prerogative, but I think what a lot of people forget to realize is how these fresh-out-of-high-school college freshman had been treated prior to enrollment. Our school system babies the living hell out of their students all the time. I mean, asking permission to go to the bathroom? sneeze? sharpen a pencil? C'mon. You expect them to have a say in financial planning/funding?

Most people fresh out of high school do not understand the concept of interest or APR percentages. At first, you’re infatuated with your tuition balance being covered in its entirety, presented with a starting low APR percentage of 11...which gradually expands as years go by, but all of that is in the fine-print. Does anybody care how they’re going to pay these back? Absolutely not.

New college students are only given a taste of what loans can do for them in the moment, but not how it’ll turn into a catastrophic financial hole in their wallet for years and years to come.

Before enrolling and committing to any private institution, cracking the numbers and going over a distinct list of pros-and-cons is a must.

If you’re like me though, you may have already had a particular school in mind and a couple majors or minors already determined before enrollment. You may also have a preference in terms of campus size and student body ratio...or not...and that's alright.

I applied to 13 schools and got into all of them, but one school in particular lured me in by covering 80% of my tuition through a number of academic scholarships. Despite the fact that a vast portion of my tuition was covered, I was struggling to make ends meet. I grew up poor. The idea of savings was unknown to me.

I had picked up a part-time job at the university with a wage way below the minimum, but eventually I learned how to make a small income work for me. I picked up more and more shifts, looked for any side-hustles I could get my hands on, and utilized my prior babysitting/tutoring connections to my advantage. I knew I had to make this work despite my own self-doubt.

I started to look for any extra academic scholarships and grants that fell within the realm of my degree/future career path. At the end of my college freshman year, I had officially declared a major in Corporate Communications which encompassed media, public relations, business operations, business management, marketing and business strategies. This cleared the number of options that were available for me.

I had promised myself that loans were always going to be a last resort option. I’d prefer to not even acknowledge them if at all possible, so that’s how I found myself balancing three jobs, homework, internships, concerts, and a social life. I ensured that I had never missed a deadline and was paying large sums of my tuition until the final hours of the last semester where everything was zeroed out. My sleep schedule was a daily dose of four to five hours a day.

It was tough. I only allowed myself about 20% of what I made and sometimes I sacrificed that to get ahead of future "service fees," but it was so completely worth it.

The good news came about when two academic scholarships opened up and covered a large portion of my outstanding balance, but it was another blissful reminder of how much hard work and perseverance can amount to lower financial burdens.

This experience has allowed me to appreciate the worth of a hard-earned dollar. It sharpened my research skills and resources. It showed me that in an economy where things can be rocky and full of turmoil, you're still able to succeed.

Defy the odds of an indebted America and start saving, researching, and applying for all and any available scholarships out there.

Education is an investment. One we have taken for granted for far too long. We need education now more than we have ever needed it. We're surrounded by ignorant, bigoted, self-centered, arrogant and racist "public figures" who spew their blasphemous rhetoric to the masses due to their enormous platform. Education combined with knowledge and experience helps to shut that rhetoric up, but it doesn't have to drown you in debt.

Work. Save. Invest. Repeat.

How does it work?
Read next: The Unconventional College Life
Paulina Pachel

Contrary to popular belief, my first name is not pronounced PAH-LAYNA. I am an intricate mix of flavors and you'll get a taste of them through my writing pieces; versatility and vulnerability go together like a fresh-baked croissant+coffee.

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