So here’s the problem. College is expensive.
For 12 years, I’ve gone to school to learn. Not just “reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic”, I’ve discovered the values of responsibility and found reasons to keep striving for the dreams of tomorrow. I’ve always dreamed of going to college- being accepted into the university of my dreams, and spending 4 years developing a passion for my studies. I want to learn so that I can change the world. Education is the surest indicator of development in a country. Research has shown that education is the pathway to success on a personal, national, and global scale.
I’ve always loved to learn. I’ve always loved school. As time went on though, school became more and more expensive. I’ve been privileged enough to have the opportunity to attend a private high school, a choice that I made for myself in the hopes of a better future. A choice that my parents had never planned for. I could never regret that decision. There I was challenged to grow as a student, a leader, a friend, and a human being. I look back, as senior year comes to a close, knowing that my high school has prepared me for all that is yet to come.
However, it came at a cost. What little college fund my family had set aside was used to pay for my high school tuition. I was also privileged enough to attend a school that offered AP courses. Each class, taken in the hopes of earning credit, demanded a fee to take the test. When a student is taking four our five AP classes, it starts to add up. Then there’s the SAT and the ACT. Each time you take a standardized test, you pay a fee to sit for the test. And in order to send your scores to all the schools you’d like to apply to, you might have to pay even more. Speaking of applications, those cost a good deal as well. Many colleges charge somewhere between $50-$100 just to apply.
Then there’s the matter of getting accepted. Visiting schools so that you know you can make the right choice. Making that final decision. The problem for many students is that decision. They might have been admitted to their dream school- but without enough financial aid or scholarship to afford it. Then what happens?
I’m in this situation now. I’ve been accepted to three schools so far. I’ve fallen in love with one of them. I can so easily imagine myself there for the next four years. It’s everything I wanted in a school- a close community, an challenging but collaborative academic environment, great study abroad programs, and career advisory programs. When I visited, I felt at home. I was so excited when I found out I had been accepted. And I was crushed when I received my aid information. I had received some, but nowhere near the cost of the attendance. It was a staggering amount- and that was just for the first year! My family is middle class, both my parents work, and my dad has a pretty well-paying job. I know that I am privileged to have these things. But there are circumstances that can’t always be seen from a FAFSA. My dad has student loans to pay off. My brother has expensive medications he needs to take. I have old medical bills. My brother’s conditions forced him to withdraw from public school and seek out a private middle and high school. Sure, we might make more in a year that than the cost of attendance, but when all these things are factored into it- not to mention food cost, gas, bills, taxes, mortgages, and so on- we wouldn’t have enough to get by on if we paid that amount each year.
I know that wherever I go, I will likely find wonderful friends and good professors, and continue to cultivate my intellectual passions. Still, it breaks my heart to think that all my work was for nothing. All those hours of homework, preparing for tests, writing essays, filling out applications. All the money spent on standardized testing and applying to schools. I got in, but does that even matter? I have watched the past three valedictorians from my school- girls with perfect GPAs, resumes the length of a short novel, incredible recommendations, and essays that could win a Pulitzer prize- turn down the schools of their dreams because they could not afford to go. How many families truly make enough to pay $40,000-$70,000 each year for one child to attend a university?
I have learned much in my 12 years at school, and for that I am incredibly grateful. I know that education is a gift, a blessing, and a privilege. I just hope that the last lesson will not be that hard work pays off, if only you can afford to pay for it.