How I Got a Free Ride to Loyola University
“You’ve heard the horror stories of Sallie Mae and she does not seem like the kind of friend, or enemy, you want to make.”
Avoid getting beat down by graduating debt free!
My cousin Ceyera Byrd is a highly intelligent and driven individual! On Choose FI, Jonathan and Brad list hacking your college education as a pillar of financial independence. I am beyond excited to share with you all my cousin’s story of how she got a free ride to Loyola!
It’s junior year of high school and the buzz around college is growing more and more intense. All of your friends are chatting about ACT or SAT scores and every adult from kinfolk to the school counselor, to your favorite cafeteria lady are asking the same question: “What do you want to do after you graduate?” Fast forward a year and you are a big bad senior. Maybe you have a letterman jacket, possibly even a car, but most importantly you’ve probably figured out the answer to that previous question. Some of your friends chose trade school. Traveling, joining the workforce, and a lot of y’all chose college. You’re proud to tell all of those people that you’ve chosen a university or a community college to attend in the following fall, but as you go to yell this from the top of your lungs, it hits you. How the hell are you going to pay for this decision? You’ve heard the horror stories of Sallie Mae and she does not seem like the kind of friend, or enemy, you want to make. How do you avoid her?
Depending on your GPA and test scores, you may have finessed some money out of your chosen college. That’s exactly what I did. I had almost straight A’s and a 3.6 GPA, not too bad for the band captain and president of the creative writing club, right? I wouldn’t say I got lucky, but I definitely wasn’t on the short end of the stick. There are a few factors that helped me out. First of all, most states have some sort of government funding for exceptional students. Louisiana’s program is called TOPS. Due to my GPA, I was given money from the state that would go toward any college as long as I stayed in Louisiana for school. I know this seems limiting, but for me it was ideal. Why work so hard for four years and not stay to reap the benefits of guaranteed assistance? This school I currently attend also gave me an academic scholarship. In my opinion any school worth going to will offer some type of scholarship for good grades.
Benefits of Playing an Instrument
Another factor that helped me is that I play a musical instrument. Even though I didn’t originally plan on continuing with my instrument after high school, it became very clear to me that I could get more from my potential school if I kept on playing. Besides, once a bandhead, always a bandhead. So naturally, the next step was to audition for a few different schools. The school I currently attend was the first school I auditioned for. I’ll be honest here, I did not hear back from them immediately. This left me kind of discouraged and worried. I still went to the open house and sent in all the appropriate paperwork but I decided to shop around just in case things didn’t work out in that realm. I had already been accepted but that money would make a huge difference on whether or not I would choose this university.
At the open house I ran into a faculty member who I chatted with on audition day. She remembered my face, mostly because we bonded over me not being able to drink the lovely strawberry water provided on audition day and her hunt for regular water, but i digress. She asked me how the auditions went and I admitted to her that I hadn’t heard anything from the school about results. Her next few words had me excited. “Shoot me an email right now with a reminder to look into it and I’ll call you ASAP”. My fingers couldn’t move fast enough as I basically wrote my life story in that email. A few days passed and I had no calls from her, but one day in the middle of AP English my phone starts buzzing with an unfamiliar number. However, the area code 504 was all I needed for everything to register. I excused myself to the restroom and answered her call where she spoke the magic words,” You got in and they want to give you money”. Okay, those weren’t her exact words, but that’s what I gathered from the conversation. So there I am, in the girls bathroom clutching my phone and smiling like a fool as she spoke logistics. Basically, my intended major hadn’t been changed from Psychology to Music Therapy with a minor in Psychology on my application, so the College of Music and Fine Arts had completely overlooked me. Not even a week letter, I received another set of congratulatory acceptance letters from the school along with my awarded scholarship amounts, a grant I wasn’t expecting, and an estimated financial aid package. It definitely pays to be talkative!
FASFA & Work Study
Another important detail I must add is…. DO YOUR FAFSA! I cannot stress enough how important it is to do this as soon as possible. This can get you grants and a little thing called work study. Work study allows you to work in certain departments of your school and get paid your state’s minimum wage for doing so. You may have to try a few different jobs but I definitely recommend it. Sometimes those jobs can offer promotions which means excess money for your pocket or on in your student account. Those extra dollars can go toward books and other supplies. Always read the fine print! These jobs also allow for networking possibilities, so take them as seriously as you would any other job.
Overall, I did the basics. I made good grades, pestered the financial aid office, and maintained everything stated in both my academic and music scholarship contracts. I know it seems like a lot but that’s because it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. So keep doing community service, join clubs, make good grades, and lastly but certainly not least, don’t be afraid to speak to the people that run your potential school. Good luck out there!
Guest Post by Ceyera Byrd
Just a little southern woman trying to make a way out of words. My main medium is poetry but I’m no stranger to the occasional short story or blog post. When I’m not writing, I’m either reading, listening to music, in class or binging on Youtube videos.
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