I Won!


Yup, I won, and you can too!

I am a member of a fitness group that provides many resources including online challenges, recipes, and healthy eating tips. Last week, I entered a challenge and answered the following question posted  by the group administrator.

How many steps did I have for this week (5 days)? 

Fitbit walking trackers encourage their consumers to start with 10,000 steps/day, and the group administrator who has been participating in these challenges for a while can double this amount. So, I doubled the fitbit starting point and added an additional 5,000 steps to arrive at my guess of 105,000 steps.

A few days later, I was notified that I had won the challenge and I could pick up my prize at the local fitness class where we meet three times weekly. I was immediately happy because I love winning prizes. Later, I went back to the discussion forum to review the responses and see how close I came to the actual number. As I perused the forum, I noticed that I was the only one who participated—I won by default! Which was OK with me. There are over 200 group members and I was the only one to submit an answer for this challenge.

When I reflect on my experience of being the only participant in the challenge it made me think of the advice I provide through this blog. When submitting my guess I did not know if I was going to win, but I knew I was going to offer an educated guess based on what I knew about step tracking, the administrator, and fitness. Regardless of the outcome and the number of applicants,  I was a contender because I put in some work before I entered my submission.

Through Become A Debt-Free Scholar I encourage individuals to search everywhere for financial aid resources and to submit their best application packet. In previous posts, I mentioned how I have heard students express that they do not want to write or that they pass by scholarship opportunities because they think they’re not a competitive candidate. I always say, if you meet the requirements—apply! You never know the composition of the applicant pool.

I understand that winning a fitness challenge and earning a scholarship result in two different outcomes, but the processes are similar. Both have eligibility requirements, a submission deadline, review period, and the announcement of a decision. So, the next time you may want to turn away from a scholarship that you qualify to apply for, think of my experience and how I was the only one to participate in a challenge, and won!

“If you’re not actively involved in getting what you want, you don’t really want it.”

-Peter McWilliams, Author

Feel free to contact me if you have questions. Make sure to check back for scholarship search tips and announcements.

~Dr. O


The Lowdown on Loans

According to College Board, in-state tuition increased between the 2005-06 academic year and the 2015-16 academic year at an average rate of 3.4% per year. For example, in 2005,  Institution X’s annual tuition for in-state residents was just shy of $5,000 and nearly $14,000 for out-of-state students. Then for the 2014-2015 academic year, tuition increased to over $10,000 for in-state residents and almost $26,000 for out-of-state students. And for the 2016-2017 academic year, Institution X has increased tuition again. The aforementioned tuition rates do not include books, room and board, and other miscellaneous costs associated with attending college. So, unless students and their families can cover rising college costs, they have to search for scholarships, grants, and/or loans to foot the bill. I did not have to take out student loans, however, for almost 10 years I have worked closely with students who have taken out federal and personal loans to fund their college education.

Many students may not have money or scholarships to support their college expenses, so I understand how individuals view loans as an educational investment. But, it is not until after graduation when many students begin to think about the length of time, hard work, and interest required to repay this investment. So, before making loans a premier financial aid option, please read advice from college graduates below and view the Faces Of The Student Debt Crisis In America video.

Student loans are the albatross of my life! They are always there when they could go into other funds. It could have been a car or something else. I should have made better decisions as an undergrad.-Thomas, University Director

Apply for as many scholarships as you can! What a wonderful way to finish up college and not be in debt. If you spend as much time applying for scholarships as you do on social media you should be all set! – Kyla, Counselor

If I could get scholarships and avoid student loans, then I definitely would. It’s nice to graduate and get a good job, but with loans to repay it takes a while to reap the financial benefits of that job. Do it [apply for scholarships] and avoid debt by any means necessary.-Denise, Doctoral Student

Being myopic in one’s thinking can be painfully detrimental to one’s future. There are many successful people in the world who who have great careers as lawyers, medical doctors, engineers, and so on who live under the crushing weight of college debt.-Andre, Engineer

Student loans are with you with or without a job, through illness, and can never be included in bankruptcy. -Alana, Educator

My purpose for writing this post is not to scare anyone, but to get incoming and current college students to think about their financial future. I am a  staunch proponent for higher education, so I am not discouraging anyone from earning their educational credentials. Rather, I am encouraging individuals to do some work and search for scholarships, grants, fellowships, and other forms of free funding to avoid making loan payments for several years to come. The investment on the front end can pay off, big time!

There are many places you can begin to search for scholarships or other financial awards. When I speak with student groups, I ask them to think of some clubs or activities they are involved with and inquire if they offer scholarship opportunities. Another great avenue to search for scholarships is through conducting a random google search.

I want to hear from you, so leave a comment below.

If you are still not sold on scholarships, consider that yearly there are scholarships that are not awarded because individuals fail to apply. So, as you submit your scholarship applications, imagine that you are the only one applying because this may indeed be the case!

~Dr. O