Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A semicogent rant on going to college for free and such..

With tuition costs becoming even more of a back alley rape job (speaking metaphorically of course), I thought it helpful to share some tips on not getting plundered and pillaged by your chosen institution of higher learning. Part of this is a facebook message I sent to a cousin, the rest is stuff I forgot to mention at the time. 

Let us begin... 

Preface, Shilling Me Softly: For those not yet attending college or those considering a grad degree:

First, be sure college/grad school is what you really want to do. I know we've been conditioned since the inception of our lives to think that attending college and gaining an "education" (understood by most to mean paying money to memorize sets of fact, subsequently testing on those facts, then forgetting them in order to receive a pretty piece of paper) was the golden ticket to wealth, magical family trips to disneyland, home theaters, and hot pool boys. That simply isn't the case anymore (if it ever was). Tuition costs have increased faster than inflation, which means your degree's earning power isn't the same as daddy's was. One example... Law (I use law because most people tend to glamorize the profession...and I'm well versed in the costs portion of law school).

Most starting legal jobs pay about 40-60k (unless you go to Harvard and end up practicing at a huge firm in New York). Most law students end up in about 100k of debt (public schools) or between 150k-200k (private schools). Upon gradyootashun, monthly interest payments can take up to $2,000 dollars a month. You may justify that and think it's okay, but realize you'll be paying that off EVERY MONTH for the next 30 years. For those less math savvy like myself, that's $24,000 of your yearly income sucked up for the next 30 years. Remember you're also likely to have a mortgage, a family, and taxes to pay for..  sounds appealing right? 

If your aim for attending college is to become a cultured and refined human being, realize that your bachelors degree in russian literature is probably only good for an hourly job at Sears... which you could have had without shelling out a couple grand for school... you also could have learned about russian literature just by checking out some books at your local library for free. I've learned a lot more about political philosophy by reading a 14 dollar book I got for my birthday than I have in any course I've taken in college. 

My point is this; while learning is always a good idea, college isn't. The two aren't synonymous. College only has a monopoly on learning because we as a society wished it so. Remember, the market rewards people based on value added, not merit. If you invent something innovative like facebook, or provide a service that has value, your Harvard Phd in physics is irrelevant. If you want to read Nietzsche, you don't have to be enrolled to do so. If you want to learn about quantum physics, buy a book about it and ask a physicist some questions. 

I don't want to come down too hard on college, because I've loved my time in school. I've learned a lot, and wouldn't trade my experience for anything. College is always great if money isn't an issue, but if your cash is tight and your decision to attend school is purely to advance your earning power, it may not be the best investment of time or money. College is great as a means to an end...but that's it. If you're reasons for attending school aren't monetary in nature, there's plenty of value to be had. I'm going to law school because I think the law is fascinating and I'd like to be a prosecutor, not because I think it's a wise investment. 

If you still want to go to college please "google" the search terms "The Great College Hoax" and "Is Law School a Losing Game?" It should bring up an article from Forbes and an article from the New York Times. If you're still sure about it, continue on to Part I.

  • Part 1, What I told my cousin about getting scholarships to minimize the impact of horrendous tuition hikes and hopefully maybe have a good life.

How did I do it? In short, a really good mix of hard work, creating friendships with professors, and a little luck.

I currently have a half tuition university scholarship and am the Bullen scholarship recipient for my department (also half tuition). The end result is that I pay nothing.

I'm not sure what worked for me will work in every case, but here's the best roadmap to scholarships as tainted from my own personal experience:)..

1) Try to have at least a 3.5 college GPA, but preferably a 3.7+

I don't know anyone competitive for many scholarships unless they've broken into this range.... Perhaps curing cancer or a medal of honor would make up for it though:). If you aren't at that GPA plateau yet, keep working, then proceed to the next steps.

2) Network with professors.

Attend office hours. Your professors most likely just sit there playing Tetris on their phones because no one ever comes. They absolutely love the students who take the time to come in and ask questions about the course material, things beyond the course material, and eventually about their lives and grandkids

3) Apply for all applicable university scholarships

Lots of people get good grades in college, but not many get full scholarships. The biggest reason is that people just don't apply for the scholarships available to them. Most universities (not sure if BYU-I is this way because it's largely tithing funded) have huge endowments and scholarship funds set aside from a mixture of state and/or private donors. I believe students get lost in the revelry of getting good grades and forget to "cash in" on their success by not applying for these scholarships

4) Apply for all applicable departmental scholarships

Also--this is key-- most colleges and departments within universities have separate departmentally sponsored scholarships. These are the ones most people don't apply for simply because hardly anyone knows about them. Go to your major's homepage on BYUI.edu and find out the deadlines for these scholarship applications. You'll probably only be competing with around 20-50 applicants as opposed to the larger numbers with university scholarships. The thing that should set you apart here is step number
2. The professors you've been chumming it up with at office hours are the ones who decide who gets these precious monies. It should be you, because you have good to excellent grades and the profs know you. 

Part 2, Other stuff I thought of

1) Have a good nest egg. Put your money in the best interest gaining savings account possible. Right now, I'd say it's at ING Direct Bank. For more information about setting up an account here, talk to me. It's important to be accruing some interest because tuition is constantly increasing, and if you have student loans, so is their balance.

2) If married and both enrolled in undergrad, both you and your spouse need to fill out a fafsa. You're probably eligible for about 5k a year from your dear old Uncle Sam. It may seem silly to even mention this, but I know too many people who failed to apply for this free money.

3) Be employed and work, but not too much. Working too much diminishes your potential grant amount, and even worse, takes time away from school. Your grades are most important to increase your chances at scholarships and grad school admissions (and to "wow" potential employers). Don't throw away a lot in the future for a little bit now. If you need supplemental income, sign up for sites like opinion outpost and fill out surveys, or donate plasma. Doing both of those consistently could net you 400 dollars a month in extra income without the stress of going to work. 

4) Lastly, read everything here with a grain of salt. I readily accept responsibility for any potential bias or misinformation

1 comment:

  1. At byu in provo I applied for a department scholarship but because I had a academic scholarship I was not eligible....