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How I Funded My Undergrad Tuition

When it was time to prepare for college, I had my eyes set on Marymount Manhattan College. As a private, liberal arts college in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, it wasn’t going to come with a cheap tuition tab.

My parents didn’t have enough knowledge or understanding of the college system in America, let alone think about college savings! By the time I was ready to apply to colleges, there wasn’t much to lean on and my mom was very honest about the kind of support I could expect from my parents. This honesty allowed me to plan ahead and make my dream school, a reality.

Marymount did in fact become my alma mater. Here is how I made it work:

  • My high school had an arrangement with Hunter College which allowed me to take 4 college level courses free of charge. This gave me a head-start with 11 college credits by the time I graduated high school that I was able to transfer.

  • When I submitted my college application, I requested financial aid from Marymount and received a financial package that covered a good portion of my tuition. You never know how people can help, unless you go for it and ask!

  • I decided to live at home with my parents and opted-out of living in the dorms. Our apartment was further from campus, but it also made my tuition manageable.

  • Marymount accepted a language proficiency exam to fulfill up to 12 elective credits. Russian being my first language, it would’ve been silly not to try to go for it. I received 11 out of the 12 credits!

  • I had a high school job which contributed to parts of my tuition in the beginning. Once I started attending Marymount, I went on to get internships and any money I made helped me pay my way through school.

  • My parents helped with tuition where they could. My dad was diagnosed with Stage IV colorectal cancer the week before I started my senior year at Marymount. In a matter of weeks, he was undergoing chemo treatments and quickly after that had to quit his job. My mom and I knew that after coming this far, this couldn’t stop me. Not when I was so close to the finish line. We took out an interest free loan from the Hebrew Free Loan Society to cover any tuition my parents would have contributed otherwise.

At the end of my 3-year undergrad experience, I graduated with $17,000 in student loans. While this may sound like a lot of money, and no doubt it was for me at the time as well, let's put this in perspective for my graduating year. In 2011, the average student loan amount was $26,500 for undergraduate students.

If you're thinking of attending a school that has higher price tag than what you think can afford, look at all of the option and possibilities before you give up on your dreams. My undergraduate experience was unforgettable and I wouldn't trade it for the world!

If you're interested in more options on how to pay for college, send me a message. I'm happy to help you brainstorm! 😊


If you have a money question, submit it here for a chance to be featured in the "Dear Olga" column!

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