Photo by Cole Keister, http://www.unsplash.com

Senior year, and you’re going through your email with message after message from colleges practically begging you to choose them.  That’s the goal right?  But how are you going to afford to actually going to one of those schools.

With the average American student spending $25,290 at an in-state four year college, $40,000 at an out-of-state four year college, or $50,000 at a private four year college, getting a college degree can be pricey (stats from Collegeboard.com).  This isn’t even factoring in getting a Masters or a Doctorate.  And if your parents aren’t paying, the next best thing is making yourself look as good as possible on both your college and scholarship applications.

“My parents aren’t going to pay for college, and that didn’t hit me until the summer before my senior year,” senior Caitlin Lawrence said. “So then I freaked out and began to look for any scholarship that didn’t require an essay, and came upon one about texting and driving. Basically they would send you these things called ‘thumb socks’ which are exactly how they sound. Like little thumb mittens, but with little messages like ‘DNT TXT’, and all you had to do was take a picture with you wearing them and send it in. So of course, I did it.”

In doing this, Lawrence has the chance to win $5,000 in scholarship money, and is still currently waiting for the results. Lawrence is currently in the top 10% of her class, so although she is set academically, she is still adamant about getting funding for college by other means.

While Lawrence realized her need for scholarships at the beginning of senior year, others have been planning for this since middle school.

“So basically ever since I was little, my mother always pushed college and resume building activities,” senior Gwen Pietrzyk said. “Before high school, about 7th grade, I filled out my very first application; it was so bad but I was so proud of it. It included an essay about why I wanted to be an engineer – that’s what I was into at the time – and a letter of recommendation. A lot of what I do or am involved in mirrors my mother’s educational experience. She got into Girls State so I had to get into Girls State; she was a part of drill team, so I had to be a part of Drill Team. A huge push of motivation came the summer before junior year. I went to a camp in Rochester, New York called the Lorenzo De Zavala Youth Legislative Camp. So basically this organization called the National Hispanic Institute has camps to cultivate young Latino leaders and this camp is the craziest one of them all. It’s a mock government camp where you run for officer and write proposals based off of a certain prompt they give you. Long story short, I went there a girl and came back a woman. I was ready to take on everything. When I came back, I threw myself into so many different clubs and organizations. I am a part of the Enrich Club, Speech and Debate, I was social officer for the Hi-Steppers, mock trial Vice President, a part of Youth and Government, I applied and was selected as the finalist from Dripping Springs to intern for Jason Isaac (our Texas State Representative), I applied and was selected to be a Girl State delegate, I am a part of a youth presidential council in Johnson city, I am an ambassador for the Texas Advocacy Project, and my personal favorite, president and founder of the Young Women’s club.”

There are plenty of different opportunities available to students both within the high school and outside of it. Even if one thing doesn’t work for you, another might open up a whole world you never knew about.

“Through all of these experiences, I have so much to offer to colleges and organizations who offer scholarships,” Pietrzyk said. “I love what I do; it can get really crazy at times, but it is so rewarding knowing that I am doing something so cool at such a young age.”

Along with being involved with organizations, the act of already having what is considered to be real life experience in the field you want to go in can also be a step up.

“I’ve thought a lot about college and life after graduation,”  junior Tori Listoe said. “One thing I’ve done to help me in preparation for university life is applying for different kinds of internships. This allows me, an indecisive intellectual, to get a feel for the various fields I’m interested in and would consider/like to pursue, or at least participate in post high school as far as education and career wise.”

Scholarships aren’t just available to those who are willing to put themselves out there. They can also be given to people with say a great essay on an admission, or got super high standardized college- ready test grades. This leads to students spending hours and hours preparing for both the SAT and the ACT, along with learning how to write the perfect essays for their college applications.

“So, basically what my plan is this year, is to graduate a year early because I feel passionate that I am ready for college and all the responsibilities that come with it,”  junior Giselle Copa said. “I intend to pursue a pharmaceutical career, which I have been told is not an easy route. However, I am not looking for easy — just possible. I am working hard right now doing college applications, which include SAT scores, letters of recommendation, final transcripts, scholarship applications, student loan applications etc. Gross, right? This is probably the hardest, most nerve-wracking, and most time-consuming part of this whole experience. It’s quite a long process that’s very meticulous, and leaves you with months to bite your nails and ask, ‘Will I get into my dream college?’”

On the counseling page within the high school’s website, there is a regularly updated page with scholarships and financial aid opportunities available to the students. On there you can find other websites entirely dedicated to scholarships, and they will even send out emails to alert you when a new scholarship becomes available.

Scholarships are helper money; the grades and the rest are up to you.  Hundreds of different types of  loans, financial aid, and grants are also available.

Just don’t do senior Collin Miller’s suggestion of “offering [your] body to the college administrators.”

Written By Gisselle Galletti, Feature Editor