For the next installment of our Creative Ways to Save for College Series, we head to Texas and Tampa with RaiseMe Ambassador, Morgan Maxwell. Morgan’s journey from high school in Houston to college in Tampa reveals just how confusing and shocking the cost of college can be. It wasn’t until she was already accepted and at her dream school that she realized it’s true cost. Morgan’s reaction to the news is a great example of how students every day step up to adversity, stay calm, and create actionable plans to make their education priorities attainable.
My name is Morgan. Right now I live in Tampa, Florida because I am going to the University of Tampa. I started Spring Semester, so technically I am still a freshman.
Before Tampa, I went to Carver Magnet High School in Houston, Texas. As a Magnet school, my high school was separated into different strands. I was in the Performing Arts strand because I wanted to become an actor. But over time, I changed my mind and decided that I wanted to pursue business.
When did you start thinking about college?
I started thinking a little about college my freshman year of high school , but I didn’t start seriously thinking of it until my junior year because my school required students to take a college planning class spring of your junior year.
Why did you start thinking about college?
It is kind of cliche, but I guess I liked college because of movies! In high school, some of my friends were considering Junior Colleges, but because of movies, I knew I wanted the full four-year experience. I decided to jump at it and see what happened. I talked to my mom and we planned summer tours over my junior summer going into senior year.
I decided to pursue going out-of-state because I wanted to be different from all my classmates. A lot of people from my high school were going to the same colleges, and I didn’t want to be in the same classes with the same people forever. I believe I’m the only one who went the farthest away from Texas.
How did the cost of college factor into your college application thought process?
I didn’t start thinking of the cost of college until I got to college. My parents never told me the maximum cost of college, so I didn’t know how much I’d actually pay. When I did realize how much it cost, I was shocked. I thought “oh my gosh, I am going to be paying student loan debt until I am 55, maybe longer.”
RaiseMe Insight: Wherever you are in your academic journey, the earlier you start learning about the cost of college, the better prepared you can be in making decisions of both where to go, and in planning your payment strategy.
But you got over the shock and made a plan to save for college. How?
First, I used a little hobby I’ve done forever. I’ve always collected coins and dollar bills from what I find or what is leftover from change. After collecting, I cash them in for things I want or need every six months or so. But when I got my student loans, I decided to put them towards the loans instead.
My job is also part of my plan to start paying off my student loans. For my first semester, I didn’t work because I wanted to get in the groove and focus on school. But this summer, I am working at Whataburger and going to put a third of my paycheck to my student loans. And this coming semester, I am going to get a job on or off campus to pay $500 – $1,000 off of my student loans each month.
RaiseMe Insight: Morgan is making her college of choice possible by setting up a concrete plan. Finding work is a great option for students already in college. However, if you are still in high school or community college, you can check out RaiseMe to start earning micro-scholarships to colleges before you even apply, and to learn about the true cost of the colleges that interest you. Factoring in how much college will cost is an important factor in determining where to apply and where to actually go.
What advice would you give to other students as they think about paying for college?
I would say that you need to think about every single dollar you get. Even though you may really want something, think about how you can multiply that one dollar by saving it now. A new pair of shoes might come out, but think about what your dollar can do in helping you get through college.
I would say that one little sacrifice will help you times ten when you are out of college.
How do you like your college experience so far?
When I first got to college I was really nervous because I was on my own without my family, and it is very different than Texas here in Tampa. But thankfully, I joined a mentorship program, Success Scholars, at my university which has helped me feel comfortable and adjusted. It also introduced me to other students and mentors.
What advice would you give to other students in applying to college?
I would say don’t be afraid, take that chance. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to do something better and greater for yourself.
Editor’s Note: Edits have been made for reading clarity.