Anna - University of Texas at Austin - Class of 2018

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I started to believe I'd never be able to afford my dream college. But instead of applying for scholarships, I did nothing. This was a big mistake.

When I began applying to college, all I knew was that I wanted to get out of my home state of Texas. I had dreamed of going to Boston University since freshman year. I craved a city, and Boston was a kind of city that Texas didn't have.

Hometown: Lewisville, TX

High School: Public

GPA: 3.56 / 4.19 (weighted)

SAT: 2020

Major: English

Goal: To expand who I am and what I can become.

College

Status

U of Texas at AustinAttending
Boston UniversityAccepted
Emerson CollegeAccepted
Texas State UniversityAccepted
U of North TexasAccepted
Freshman Year Update

On my first day, the campus was bursting with people and energy—and I found out what a school of 50,000 students felt like. It was a little overwhelming, but also cool to be part of it.

I changed my major to education and I love it. In high school, learning was often a chore. But it's exciting now that I can focus on my strengths and passions. But in college classes, you get one chance and that's pretty much it. No forgetting homework or missing exams, and no skipping class because some teachers take attendance or have daily quizzes.

Living in a dorm is great because I get to live on my own, but someone still cleans my bathroom and cooks my food. But managing my money has been stressful! There are so many expenses I never thought of, like toiletries and transportation. My advice: work in the summer and save, save, save.

Boston or bust

I applied to BU even though my mother swore up and down that we would never be able to afford a private school, regardless of financial aid. At my mother's insistence, I applied to some in-state colleges, but I didn't seriously consider University of Texas at Austin. I thought it was a reach. UT Austin automatically accepts in-state students in the top 7 percent of their class. But I was in the top 20 percent. I never took the time to imagine myself there.

While I was completely focused on attending BU, I felt conflicted. Looking at its $60,000 price tag, I started to believe I'd never be able to attend my dream college. But instead of trying to do something about it by applying for scholarships, I did nothing. I thought it was futile. This was a big mistake.

I'm accepted! Now what?

When I found out that I was accepted to UT Austin, I was flooded with unforeseen joy. This famous school had reviewed my application and decided that I was worthy of attending. It was even better than being accepted automatically! Then I got BU's email. I couldn't believe it. I was accepted—with a generous merit scholarship! Now the cost of attending BU was closer to UT (but still more).

When my family and I considered the additional costs of living on the East Coast, it was clear that UT Austin was more affordable. Surprisingly, this didn't make me as sad as I thought it would. I realized that I wanted to attend UT Austin! It was a great school (a public Ivy!) with famous programs. And, if I lived in Boston, I would only be able to come home for major holidays. What would I do if I got sick, or something happened? Suddenly, these became big concerns for me. I guess I didn't want to be so far from my home state after all.

I went to Austin for orientation still feeling a little unsure—until my seminar with the English department. That's where I felt like I was finally in a place that fit my interests, along with people who understood them! The campus didn't feel so much like a "school," but like a home with a school woven into it. And, although it isn't Boston, Austin is an amazing city—one I think I'll eventually be able to call my home.

My ups and downs

One of the worst moments was realizing I had been accepted to Boston University and that BU was very close to meeting my financial need as determined by the FAFSA. But there was a big difference between what the FAFSA said my family should contribute, and what they could actually afford to contribute. I scrambled to look for scholarships to make up the difference—but by this point it was too late. It was painful to realize that I should have been searching for scholarships the entire year.

My favorite moment was at the orientation for UT Austin, when I was walking around campus early in the morning. I wasn't rushing to get anywhere, and I felt peaceful and at home. It was a beautiful feeling.

What I learned

I regret not seeking the assistance of my counselors as much as I should have. I thought they should seek me out and make it their mission to help me. But that's not how it works. My counselors might have helped me understand financial aid earlier in the process. I didn't really understand how it worked at private schools until I got my offers from BU and Emerson.

The money factor

My aid package from UT Austin included only loans. My parents and I are contributing a large part of my tuition and fees through our savings. I will continue to look for scholarships inside and outside of the university during the next four years.

My advice

There is always the chance that you will not be accepted to, or won't be able to afford, your top school, so never isolate your options. There are other amazing schools out there that will appeal to you just as much. If finances are an issue, immerse yourself in scholarship applications as early as possible! There's so much out there, but applying for scholarships takes time and advance planning.

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