What is this going to cost?
Good question, and big one, too! If you're going to spend anywhere from four to 12 years in the classroom, thereby delaying your entrance into the workforce (and your much-needed paycheck), you must know how much it's going to set you back. For the academic year, earning a bachelor's degree at Brooklyn College, for instance, will currently cost you $4,830 per year, whereas a bachelor's degree at Harvard University will cost more than $35,586 per year. And tuition only increases as you aim for higher degrees. But, as Derek C. Bok, the former president of Harvard, once said, "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance." So consider your education the best investment you'll ever make.
How am I going to pay for all that?
The United States is currently facing the reality of not being on the cutting edge of technology anymore. Other countries, especially in Asia, are making rapid advances in the STEM fields, and related jobs are leaving the United States at a frightening pace. But fear not — your timing is perfect! The City University of New York has declared 2005–15 "The Decade of Science," and a huge effort is now being made to encourage students to enter these disciplines and to provide support for them.
When you start to apply to colleges, inquire about scholarships, awards and grants and follow all instructions carefully, especially those regarding deadlines. Many schools are very interested in students who want to enter STEM fields and are willing to offer substantial financial assistance to help defray the cost of your education.
Once you arrive on the Brooklyn College campus, you'll find many organizations that can help you with support, either financially or academically. These include:
- NYC Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation — NYC-LSAMP
- Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program — CSTEP
- Research Initiative for Science Enhancement — RISE
- Maximizing Access to Research Careers — MARC
- MARC Research Introduction Program — MRIP
High-achieving students are attracted to the Honors Academy family of programs, which includes the Coordinated B.A.-M.D., Macaulay Honors, Brooklyn Scholars and Coordinated Engineering programs. In addition, many majors have societies and organizations that you can join which offer some support as well. This may be the only time we condone Gordon Gekko's words in Wall Street, but "greed is good." Take any help you can along the way because you have a long road ahead, and it only gets more expensive. Just because you may receive one scholarship or award does not mean you can't receive a second, or third, or fourth. Apply for as many financial aid programs as possible. The Office of Scholarships, for instance, offers more than 600 scholarships, awards and prizes every year. Qualifications vary, so be sure to check with the appropriate office or department.
As a Brooklyn College student, you are also able to participate in CUNY-wide scholarships, grants and fellowships. Students are encouraged to apply to outside scholarships that can support them both financially and academically.
As you start to contemplate what to do after completing your undergraduate study, research graduate programs and check with your undergraduate institution to see if it will support your graduate work. Another option is to apply for grants from outside organizations and government agencies for funding. Many students receive financial support to study in a particular field or area. Whatever you do, the earlier you start and the more people you ask for help the better your chances will be to deflate some of your education costs.
When you begin going through the application process, you should also begin the financial aid process. In many cases, this means filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application, which may be completed online, is offered by the U.S. federal government and acts as a clearing house for the information you provide. It collects information about your (and your parents') income and ability to pay for your education. Colleges and universities use the information collected from the FAFSA to determine what or how much aid, if any, you will qualify for. This process is complicated and can be confusing, but be patient — the rewards often make the effort well worth it. Make sure you do your part by submitting all paperwork requested by the college or university and be aware of all deadlines. You should fill out a FAFSA regardless of whether you think you are eligible to receive aid or not. It is better to complete the application and let the college tell you that you are not eligible than to assume so and risk losing some much-needed assistance by completing the FAFSA.
If you're wondering if all this financial assistance is free, the answer is yes and no. Grants, scholarships, awards, prizes and fellowships provide money that is given to you with no repayment necessary; loans, however, provide money that you must pay back in the future. Many organizations provide grants from the federal government, such as Pell and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity (FSEOG) grants, and state governments, such as New York State's Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) to private organizations and companies, including the college and university you are applying to.
The federal government has a host of information to help students with the college application process in addition to the financial aid process. In addition, KnowHow2GO can help you figure out what steps you should take as early as middle school.
So good luck, and plan, plan, plan!