Image from Pexels.

Image from Pexels.

Most college students arrive at the beginning of their freshmen year with scholarships, graduation money, and grants to make the financial impact of tuition a mere pebble as opposed to the mountain it normally is. However, some students are faced with none of these alternatives and have to shoulder the burden of their college bill by themselves or through their parents. I am one of these students, and you may know quite a few yourselves. Today, I want to showcase how students without financial aid view college.

In the beginning, I had scholarships and graduation money. However, the FAFSA (while helpful to some students) didn’t help me financially. At the end of my first semester, the scholarships were gone and the graduation money had been used up. I’ll admit, I was lost. However, luckily my parents opted to pay my tuition as long as I produced good work. The fact that my parents were now solely funding my education really put things into perspective for me.

Later, my school released a statement that showed that for every class you miss, you lose 110 dollars. Many students skip class and take time to really get the college experience. However, those 110 dollars really resonate with me and because my parents are footing the bill, I don’t want to let them down and make them waste money on my behalf. Therefore, I go to every class, every office hour, and every tutor session not just to do well, but to also ensure that my parents are getting what they paid for.

However, not all students lacking financial aid have parents that could or would fund their education. Currently, college writer Paisley Conrad is living financially independent. It is a challenge for anyone, but she makes the best of it. She says, “I’m so wrapped in surviving and making my rent the next month that school is often the bottom of my priority list. However, it’s taught me how to budget and how to live without. I am confident that I am better prepared for life after school.” Sometimes the pressures of staying afloat teach valuable lessons, so it’s a nice give and take. Nevertheless as Paisley said, there is always that underlying fear of paying for school.

Living without any financial aid is, in fact, doable but difficult. Whether it’s hard on you, your parents, or those close to you, there is always a burden on someone. However, there are ways to ease the burden all around even if your parents are paying for your education out of pocket and you don’t have to lift a finger.

  1. It’s always a good idea to get a summer job or even an on-campus job.  That way, you have your own hard earned money or you can contribute to paying for school.
  2. Make it a point to go to every class unless you are sick beyond measure.  This advice is two-fold.  Whether you are paying yourself or your parents are footing the bill, attending class at least will help feel like you are getting your money’s worth.  You don’t even have to be awake (although I really recommend being somewhat aware of what’s going on); you just have to be there.
  3. Living without financial aid definitely has its downsides.  You’ll find you can’t go out as much, spend as much money, or even go on family vacations, and I’ll admit that it’s tough.  But, at the end of the day, would you rather miss paying the rent or paying tuition to go to Disney World?  That’s the compromise, the silver lining in an otherwise dismal situation.

When it’s all said and done, financial aid, if you’ve got it, is amazing. Nonetheless, living without it has its merits and although it’s a difficult path financially, believe in yourself and you can make it work.



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the author

Carlton Smith is a junior at the College of William and Mary currently majoring in Government. He loves to sing and dance and is involved with one of his school's A Cappella groups known as DoubleTake. He has served as the Class of 2015's Vice President for the past three years.

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