For years I thought perhaps my window of opportunity had passed to return to college and really finish my undergraduate degree. I had been dabbling in taking classes for a few years—one class here, another there—yet not making real progress toward a degree.

Attend school and work full time?!

My main reason for not committing to return to school full time was the thought that I couldn’t afford it. It was hard enough taking one or two classes on top of working full time, but I could not imagine attending school full time while also working full time to pay for it. It wasn’t until last year that I finally looked more in depth at the possibility of returning to school and found out about scholarship opportunities.

On my own as a first-generation college student.

Having grown up in Mexico, I was unfamiliar with the process of finding scholarships and applying for them. In addition, growing up with a single mother with only a high school education from a foreign country, and the fact that I was already an “adult,” I did not have a lot of support or guidance from my family.

In the spring, I remember receiving an email with information about scholarships for the upcoming year from Front Range, and from there, I learned of the many opportunities available to help me return to school. Not only were scholarships available locally, but also nationally.

Discovering scholarship opportunities.

I spent many hours filling out applications in categories that applied to my circumstances. Not only were scholarships available for older students going back to school, there were additional opportunities based on the fact I was Latino, the first person in my family to attend college here in the United States, and that I have hemophilia. I had never realized that there were so many opportunities for funding out there, and once I got the hang of filling out the applications, the process became easier.

Scholarships make return to college possible.

In early summer, I found out I would receive enough money to fund almost the whole year of studies with only taking out minimal loans! It really pays to take the time to think about your individual characteristics that may qualify you for scholarships. Also, know that funding is available, but a person needs to seek it out and learn about the process of applying for it. Without these scholarships, I could never have considered returning to school full time to complete my degree.

What’s holding you back from college?

If it’s the cost, consider starting at your local community college and seek out the numerous funding opportunities to assist you. I hadn’t known these resources existed before, and learning about them has made the world of difference for me.

If you grew up in another country, don’t have parents who “know the system” or to help you figure out the process, or are an adult considering taking the leap to return to college, it likely will take you more time and effort to learn how to find and apply for scholarships, but it can be worth it.

It’s worth the effort.

Having the chance to really focus on school, to do well and learn, and to not accrue massive debt to improve my life circumstances, is worth the time and effort it has taken to seek out these opportunities. I’m sure there are opportunities for you just as I found out there were for me.

What’s been your experience? Have you had success with scholarships? How have you paid for college?

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