Not paying for your kid’s college doesn’t equal debt

My friends at school were talking about their college funds. When they asked me how much I had in my savings account. Money wasn’t such a personal thing back then. Or at least we didn’t know it was. So when I got home I asked my parents how much was in my college savings account.
My mom chuckled. I was confused.
“Well?” I pushed.
“Nothing,” she told me.
“NOTHING?” I was shocked. My parents who had been drilling education and the need to go to college in me since I could talk had nothing saved for me? “How am I going to go to college then?” My eye began to water as I felt my dreams washing away.
“You’ll take out loans,” she told me so matter-of-factly.
I let that word simmer in my mind for a while.
Years later I was in line waiting to go on stages for the Miss Teen Georgia Pageant (betcha didn’t know I was a pageant girl). I listened as they announced the reigning queen, and shared her achievements. That’s when I heard something that changed my life. The man over the microphone said she had applied and won enough scholarships to pay for her entire college degree, and books.
By this time I new scholarships existed, but I didn’t realized the extent that they helped. I worked hard to get good grades so I could go to college, and I had a fantastic GPA, but not the 4.0 I thought many academic scholarships wanted. I also didn’t realize how many independent scholarships were available.
You may remember my he says/she says from a few weeks ago discussing paying for our children’s college education. He says we should help our kids out and I say they can do it themselves.
Not paying for college doesn’t mean you expect your kids to take out tons and tons of loans and be in debt the rest of their lives. There are so many options. The GI bill, grants and scholarships. It is possible to graduate without debt.
After hearing that announcement in that pageant I was determined to do that same. My senior year of high school I applied for scholarship after scholarship. A $500 scholarship here, a $1000 scholarship there. The good things was after writing a few scholarship essays I was able to recycle most of them for other awards I’d apply for.
Sadly, I didn’t win any. So I had to take out loans to pay for my books and living expenses that my grants didn’t pay for.
That next year I got married, and we were poor enough to get grants to pay for our school, and my husband’s athletic scholarship paid for our housing. We also worked part time, and full time in the summer to make ends meet.
I wrote for my college newspaper, and met others who had applied for and won journalism scholarships. By then I had started to realize the more specific the scholarship, the better.
We transferred schools where was husband wasn’t able to play collegiate sports. I created a resume and cover letter like I would for a job, and started applying for awards specific to my studies. I also visited my Universities’ multicultural office to inquire about other scholarships I could apply for. Based on my financial need and grades, I was able to obtain a full scholarship as long as I kept a 3.0 GPA, did service, and other requirements to stay in good standing.
I wasn’t satisfied yet. I was still working a couple of jobs to pay for our living expenses, and if I traveled for internships (which I planned to) I’d need money for that. I asked my professors and counselors if they knew of journalism scholarships I could apply for, and I worked with an adviser to perfect an application for an award I didn’t even know the amount of.
A month or so later the Dean of my college called me in to sit down and discuss the scholarship I had won–for $20,000. My mouth dropped. I was shaking when I called to tell my husband I had won an award that would more than pay for both of our college education.
That spring I went to a journalism convention as a volunteer and met scholarship winners who also were at the event for free. I picked up an application and tried to decide which to apply for. They ranged from $2,000 to $10,000 and I decided to go big or go home. Imagine my shock when I won again.
By then I had lost my need-based scholarship, but obviously I didn’t need it anymore. My last year I applied and won one more scholarship from a local television station, which helped pay for my internships and pay off the original loans we accrued.
I still worked through college to gain work experience (which also helped me to get the scholarships). I worked hard, and it paid off. I didn’t depend on my parents to pay for my schooling, and I didn’t need to take out loans and rack up mounds of debt.
I’m a strong believer in scholarships. So many companies and organizations offer scholarships to students. So many go unclaimed, and so many people don’t know how to find them. You don’t have to skip out on saving for retirement to pay for your children’s schooling. And they don’t have to take out a mortgage to pay for loans. It doesn’t matter what race you are, if you don’t have a perfect GPA, or if you don’t come from an affluent background. There are scholarships out there for everyone. I’d encourage those who are worried about saving for their student’s schooling to work with their kids to find these, and improve their resume so they can win some of these awards that are out there.
That’s what I plan to do with my daughter. And if we happen to save some money to help, well she’s not going to know about it. Because I want her to work her butt off to earn the scholarship in my name. And if things go as I hope and she doesn’t need it? Well, it would be a nice graduation present.

Bobbi Janay says:

Even though this is a sponsored post it is a great eye opener for a lot of people.

Hehe, well I was going to write this post anyway, I figured if I could add a couple of links in and get paid to give my usual rant, why not?

Emmy says:

That truly is awesome. I started to look into lots of scholarships but never did apply- silly I know. I got married after my sophomore year and by then had a partial academic scholarship and my husband had a great job for just being a student so we made it.

Thank you for this! I feel like a loner when I tell people I’m not saving for my son’s college education. My parents gave me nothing–yes I took out loans, but we’re paying them, we’re living our lives, and I’m still very proud. I also don’t feel like they OWED it to me…

Kimberly says:

Nice post. Scholarship are amazing.

Plus, here is my view…I started at a community college to save money and now work at a community college. Our classes transfer to the local university (it isn’t as bad of a process as some believe – as long as you plan ahead). Our community college price = around $3500 a year. Yeah, what an amazing difference.

Alicia says:

Wow, I really never knew there were that many different scholarships out there!

Kyla's Mommy says:

I love this post! I actually never thought about it this way.. I always thought I would be a this horrible parent if I didn’t save up all my money to send my child to college. It makes so much more sense to make them ‘work for it’ plus it will also help them learn the value of a dollar!

Rebecca B says:

I’m already saving up for my child’s education, but I also will expect him to apply for scholarships. My parents had college funds for me and my sister, but I didn’t end up needing it for my undergraduate studies. I used common market, which I believe is in the Southeast, and because I was going after a degree that was not offered at any state school in which I resided, I could go to an out-of-state school on in-state tuition. I also received an academic scholarship and won several smaller scholarships. Heck, those $500 scholarships add up. When it was time for grad school, I didn’t have as much scholarship money to pay for it, but since I didn’t use my college fund for undergrad, I used it to pay for my graduate program. Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean my child has to use it. My mom helped me find, research and apply for a bunch of scholarships, and I plan to do the same for my son.

YUMMommy says:

I agree that before we just up and volunteer to pay for our kids’ tuition, we need encourage them take financial responsibility and search scholarships and other methods of financial aid. However, I still think it’s smart to save up just in case.

Jessica says:

I worked my tail off in high school and was rewarded by receiving enough scholarship money to pay for my tuition and living expenses. My siblings didn’t receive any scholarships, but they have worked to earn enough money to pay for their educations themselves. I know that because we had to work to earn the money to pay for school (either through scholarships or employment) we value the education we received far more than we would have if our parents had just footed the bill.

For that reason, my husband and I decided not to save any money specifically for our children’s education.

Jenna says:

I SO agree! My parents gave me not a dime for college. I paid for my own education with scholarships, Pell grants, hard-earned cash and THEN Stafford loans. That’s how you do it!

my parents didn’t save for me either and i worked really hard to earn as many scholarships as i could. I was successful in this but not enough to cover my tuition as my choice school was incredibly expensive and so were my living expenses. my parents ended up making major sacrifices to cover any tuition not covered. so, i plan to save secretly just incase my kids need it and if they don’t, we will make other plans for the money.

Kathryn says:

I love this! My parents did not have the money to pay for my college education either. I plan on doing the same thing you are with children. Good for you!

Arya says:

my parents never saved anything for my schooling – they just couldn’t and I took a few classes at a local community college and realized it wasn’t for me but my sister did a lot and got scholarships to help with her college tuition and I have told my kids that if they want to go to school and not be in debt they need to work on getting good grades and find out what scholarships there are so they don’t have to go into debt…it can be done.

Domestica says:

I came from a large family, that valued education. They also valued working for what you get in life. I payed for my college education, without the assistance of my parents. I took out some loans and did get a couple grants and one $500 scholarship.

I worked odd jobs here and there (mostly babysitting/nannying) and I made it. It taught me so much, to do it for myself. It gave me confidence that I was once lacking and helped me overcome a lot of my fears about money (my large family was a poor one too).

I hated my loans so much that I paid them off within a year or so after graduation.

I am not saving for my kids education, but I expect them to work hard to find a way to go to school!

Thanks for posting!! It is nice to hear there are others out there that found how to pay for their own education.

Teka says:

Thank you so much for this article! I showed my sister the Ashworth school and she just signed up for an accounting certificate! This was exactly what she has been looking for for months, and she’ll be able to do with while still working full time and not have to take more loans. I am also looking at a few of their programs. Thank you so much. I’ve only started reading your blog a few weeks ago, and you might have changed our lives! I don’t know how to say thank you more!

How awesome of you! And I have heard many many times that it’s more important for us to think about and save or our future retirement than our kids’ college educations. Surely you have some mad skills to pass on to your daughter about scholarship applications and just plain hard work!

ashalily says:

I plan on funding my child college university education, i wont be funding their living expenses as there are so many colleges and universities in our area so its not like they have to travel far. Scholarships are great but you can’t count on them, not everyone who derseves to win will or if they do they wont always get enough. I am going to be strict about it though, I will not pay for them to fail or get a D and if they get a C they better have worked really hard for that C. I had to take out student loans and its REALLY hard paying it back in this economy. When you have $21k to pay back and you dont have a job yet its hard, thankfully I dont have to pay anything for 6 months.

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Hi! I’m Jennifer Borget


I'm a former journalist, and lifelong creator striving to make the world a better place. This is the space where I share my journey in making the most of every day by cherishing our individuality and celebrating our differences.

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