Cost of college is a price worth paying

Graphic+by+Sophie+Nauyokas.

Graphic by Sophie Nauyokas.

By Kristen Shepard
Staff Writer

It seems like every year, high school becomes more and more of a pre-college. Every class becomes a college-prep course and every sport is pushing its athletes towards college scholarships.

As students, we have been hammered with the importance of college since as early as elementary school, and everyone I know has had at least one “college crush.”

Gabriella from High School Musical went to Stanford. Ronnie from The Last Song was accepted to Julliard. We grow up admiring the smart and successful, and attending a top-tier college seems like a piece in the puzzle of their perfect life.

Hundreds of CEOs, several presidents and renowned artists have graduated from these prestigious schools, and, as students, we desire to one day be just like them.

“College crushes,” the unparalleled admiration of a school for nearly any reason, are a lot of what compels students to work so hard. There is some truth to the reputation of a school, and what certain schools can help you to achieve.

When you are in sixth grade, there is really nothing telling you that your dream college is too hard to get into, too expensive or too far away. But as you grow up, you start to see that the college fairies may be making it harder to get there than you expected. As money and distance come into the picture, the fantasy image of attending a dream college fades into the background.

It breaks my heart to see a phenomenally intelligent, talented or driven student reject the school of their dreams for a more-economical school. Paying for school is no small undertaking, and for some students, this can involve decades of debt following their graduation.

According to The New York Times, the average loan debt for a college graduate in 2012 is a whopping $26,000. That is a lot of money for anyone, especially for the typical 23-year-old American student.

But, if your college years are some of the most important and fun years of your life, it may be a price worth paying or weaseling around. There are 36 million Google results for the keywords “college scholarships” and more organizations handing out money than you could think of counting.

Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to be a star athlete, genius or impoverished to get your hands on this.

Schools and businesses give scholarships to bilinguals, student leaders and those with music talent; you would be surprised the amount of money you can get your hands on. Too often, though, students dodge this process and default to an in-state, inexpensive option. State schools are fantastic options for some people, and universities like Texas A&M and the University of Texas can give some of the best educations around, but they are not the best for everyone.

If there is a school out there that screams your name, listen. Do not let the money hold you back, seriously consider the money involved, but also put some serious value in the fact that paying for these schools is possible.

You only go to college once. The last thing you want to do is look back on your education and life thinking what it would have been like on the campus of that Liberal Arts or Ivy League college.

This being said, so many of the costs of college are not covered in the tuition that universities publish in shiny brochures. If you want a nice dorm, there is a fee for that. If you want a top-tier meal plan, there is a fee for that. If you join a sorority or fraternity – you guessed it – there is a fee for that.

Going to your dream college might mean cutting back on some of the luxuries like Greek life, trips and food, but ask almost any college student, and chances are they do not have much extra cash laying around.

Remember that there are tens of thousands of other students in the same boat as you, who are trying not to drown in these expenses, and there are all kinds of vouchers and part-time jobs that your university can provide you with.

I am not saying that paying for college is easy or that it comes with no strings attached. It is important that students remember they have options, and the hard work and dedication they have packed into their high school years should pay off.