Many of you may have been accepted by various colleges all over the country. So let me first say, congratulations!
But unless you have the means to not worry about such things, with every college acceptance comes the same question, how do I pay for this?
The first piece of advice I'm going to give you is to understand that you're not the only one asking yourself that question. Very rarely, if ever, have I met a student who isn't concerned at all when it comes to affording college. So don't feel like you're the only one in this situation.
After you understand that, here are some things you should definitely inquire more about.
Scholarship packages will differ depending on what type of degree you're looking to do. Most BFA programs have their own scholarship budgets and methods while most BA programs go through the general scholarship practices of the entire institution.
So always make sure you inquire about the process in which scholarships are awarded. Some schools award based on GPA and SAT/ACT scores, others award based on achievements. Make sure you find out if scholarships can be combined or stacked. For instance, some institutions might allow you to receive both an academic scholarship as well as a scholarship to the BFA program. Again, make sure you ask.
Another question to ask is if scholarships can be earned while you're a current student. So ask if a high college GPA or involvement in the program can earn you more money.
I'm sure some of you are dreading these two words, but it's more than likely, that if you want to attend the theatre program of your dreams, students loans are going to be a part of the equation.
With all the loan programs out there, there are a couple of things to remember. The first is to understand the types of Federal Student Loans that are out there.
There are two federal student loan programs: The Perkins Loan Program and the Direct Loan Program. Typically the maximum loan amounts from the Perkins are higher than the Direct. Unless you absolutely have to, stay away from PLUS Loans. PLUS Loans allow the parents of undergraduate students to pay for educational costs in excess of what other financial aid, including the federal loans, might cover. These loans come with high-interest rates, hefty loan origination fees and not to mention unlike other Federal loans, this one is based on your credit score. Just stay away from it at all possible.
The other loans I would advise you stay away from, unless you have to, are private loans. Reason being is that private loans typically carry higher interest rates, you may have to start repaying the loan while you’re still in school and flexible repayment plans, loan forgiveness, and other benefits aren’t guaranteed.
Student Employment and Work Study
Something you should always be asking is what types of student employment and work study programs are available. When I was in college, my theatre department had jobs available in lighting, props, costuming, scenic design, etc. I would also take a look at other jobs around the school as well. One in particular is being a Resident Assistant, these positions usually have the perk of having free room and board, which can save you thousands of dollars.
The other type of student employment is work study positions. These are positions where instead of being given a paycheck, you work off the amount owed to the college. These can be helpful but often don't alleviate a good portion of what you owe however are a good idea if your out of pocket cost is in the low thousands.
Pick a More Affordable School
This is the answer no one likes to hear but it's true. At the end of the day, after you've exhausted all your options, if the school you want is still too expensive, it's time to move on to a more affordable one.
Now don't let this dash your hopes of being on Broadway, cheaper tuition doesn't necessarily mean the program isn't as good. For instance SUNY Purchase has one of the finest Theatre and Dance conservatories in the country and is half the cost of the likes of Julliard and NYU. So remember, not every great theatre program costs upwards of $50,000 a year.
So in closing, paying for college can be an anxious process, but remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question and make sure you know all the facts about what you ACTUALLY have to pay when going to the school of your dreams.
Thumbnail Photo: Missouri State University, Tent Theatre