A Real Story About Paying for College

Recent Free Press Grad Looks Back at Freshman Year

by Jonah Huang, age 19

As a former student at the ">Simpson Street Free Press, I was frequently told that I needed to learn how to manage my money well once I was in college. Being able to afford higher education is a challenge that involves seeking scholarships, taking loans, and paying attention to money management.

I have completed my first year of college and I now understand the wisdom of efficient money management. For me, it seemed like it would be a fairly simple process. At the age of 14, I often thought about what it would be like to live alone. In my head, I would calculate the cost of housing, the cost of food, the hours that I would work, and the amount of extra money I would have left over to spend on leisurely pursuits.

At the age of 19, I now realized that there is no such thing as “extra money to spend on leisurely pursuits.” I have also realized that I spend far more money than I think.

Everything costs significantly more when you’re paying for it yourself. Many universities often offer food plans; my college does not. Food isn’t the only thing you have to pay for—you also have to pay for textbooks and materials. At the Simpson Street Free Press, we often talk about how payday loans are essentially scams. I have come to think textbooks, in a way, are also scams. They are overpriced, constantly updated, and worth little money after the semester is over. If you aren’t careful, you can spend up to $700 per semester on textbooks alone.

Being able to manage your money is only half of the battle; the other half is finding the money. Besides finding scholarships and taking out trustworthy loans, you also need to find a good job. Your savings aren’t enough to pay for college. But believe me, the more savings you have, the better off you’ll be.

Depending on the school, you may be eligible to apply for a work-study job. These jobs range from being a janitor to working as a tutor at a writing center. In college, summer is no longer a period of rest and relaxation: it’s a time of hard work so that you can afford your education.

Paying for college is a tremendous challenge, especially if you try to handle it alone. The best way to survive the ordeal is to make and keep as many connections as possible. There are people who are willing to give you used textbooks, free supplies, and important information.

For example, it’s possible to spend less than $100 on textbooks if you look hard enough. Be diligent and always look for good offers and well-connected friends. College isn’t something you do alone.

I'm not sure I understand the principle behind the work-study. As far as I can tell, it has to be given through the federal government and therefore seems subject to all of the hidden drawbacks of federal aid. I'm not sure I see the purpose of work-study... – ConnieMadison (2011-02-03 22:06)
Jonah, I loved this article! Such great, and very applicable advice! I especially liked your comparison between textbooks and payday loans, it is extremely relevant! – Brianna WilsonSt. Olaf College (2011-05-31 19:13)
Excellent article, Jonah! Well done. – MckennaMadison, WI (2015-06-10 19:36)
I really liked your article! Great Job! – Sammy GardunoGlendale (2015-06-10 19:45)