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Things I Wish I Had Known Before Applying to College; By Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

Today my teen, Riley Jensen, is going to share with you a bit about her journey trying to get into the college program of her dreams. She got accepted, but we didn’t get enough financial aid to make it happen for her. Here’s some more on that story. We’re trying to figure out what she does now. In the meantime, she has some advice for other high school students.

As many of you know, I have been accepted into Ohio University and I hope to go there. I recently received my financial aid from this school, and, let me just tell you, it’s not enough. My family is not poor, but we are not exactly able to drop large sums of money whenever we want to. So, here are some things that would have been helpful to know before I applied.

First of all, college is really expensive. That’s something everyone knows, but I didn’t know it was THAT much. You have to pay for most everything. Books, room and board, meal plans, and just general tuition. Those costs add up. And they add up a lot. I mean, if I think about it, then it makes sense. Obviously I would be expected to pay for all of this, but there’s not really anyone who’s telling you every single cost. It’s just so overwhelming to look at all of the things that you will have to find the money for.

To give you an idea of how expensive college is, my mom is 48 and she just paid off her college loans 4 months ago. She has been paying on them my entire life, all 18 years of it, because she had to refinance them when they realized I was going to come along. Refinancing them meant my parents could by diapers and pay for childcare, but it also meant they ended up paying on them for far longer than they anticipated.

Also, I did not start applying to scholarships soon enough. I thought scholarships were just for seniors. Apparently you can start applying for them a lot sooner than that. You don’t have to wait until you get that big bill from whatever college you go to. I’m sure if I had looked into it then I would’ve come to this conclusion sooner, but I was so busy with high school that I didn’t really think about it. High school in itself is stressful and hard and then in the middle of it they want you to plan your entire adult life and figure out how to pay for it while still trying to graduate from high school.

Another thing about scholarships is that some of them have a lot of requirements. Yes, that’s great for the people who meet those requirements, but when you don’t it can be a little bit frustrating. There’s scholarships for specific districts, specific majors, specific colleges. That makes perfect sense, but it’s so much work to go trough all of those requirements for every single scholarship. But, it has to be done if you want to find even one scholarship, and you really need those scholarships.

When I say you need those scholarships, I mean you NEED them. It does not matter if that scholarship is for $500, apply for it. Money is money. Take all the money that you can get. You can use that money for something, and it’s better to have that than to not.

Overall, college is expensive and money is important. Start getting money as early as you can, you will need it. Don’t wait until the last minute. I didn’t, not really, but it still may cost me my dream.


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