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How does a 1st generation student pay for college?

I share a summary that details my personal drive and strategy to paying for college education.

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 During high school, I made a conscious decision to pay for higher education by myself. Even though my parents offered to contribute, I wanted to reduce the financial burden tuition would have had. Finding a way to pay for school was my top priority because I wanted to be able to graduate with the least amount of loans possible. Therefore, I started conducting an immense amount of research. I created a chart that cross-referenced my personal goals and educational preferences against tuition and housing costs. This allowed me to easily make the decision to attend the University of Texas at Austin for the great value and academic prestige of the McCombs Business School.

I also looked into different ways that other students paid for college through college confidential and US News. After weeks and weeks of research, I remember not finding a surefire way of paying for college except for jobs and scholarships. Therefore, I took on a job every summer with roles that ranged from being a tutor, busboy, lawn mower, etc. Moreover, I applied to every scholarship I eligible for which came out to be 50 scholarships in total. By the end of my senior year, I have saved up a decent amount and even awarded with four scholarships that would cover about 90% of my college tuition. Lastly, I used the salary I made from internships to help pay for housing and general expenses.

As an immigrant and more specifically the elder of two children, I personally took the responsibility of providing for my parents upon graduation. This goal has definitely been one of the strongest driving forces to my success, but it did come with stress and pressure. After seeing all the hardships my parents have faced to provide for me all these years, it is without a doubt my turn to contribute my fair share.


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Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Thanks for sharing your story Douglas and congratulations on your achievements. I am excited to learn more about your motivation and any resources you had, or guidance you had. It seems that you started on this journey early in high school. As immigrants I imagine your parents may not have had that much knowledge about the US college system. Who did you reach out to regarding how to do this research on schools and scholarships? Did you share resources with friends at school? There is a lot to be learned from your experience. Thanks again for sharing it here.

Photo of Douglas

Thanks, Bettina! I was introduced to a college forum known as college confidential. It included a wealth of information including scholarships, application processes, etc. In addition, I was lucky enough to have an amazing counselor that I met with frequently to discuss my college plans and scholarships. She was able to send notifications of potential scholarships that I was qualified for. But apart from those resources, I primarily focused on independent online research. I found several websites that aggregated scholarship results based off of a self-evaluation.

Interestingly enough, most of my friends from high school weren't as interested in scholarships. That being said, their families were financially comfortable. Moreover, they were the second generation to live in America, which may or may not have affected their need or perception of financial help.

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