Maggie: We all know college is expensive. The class of 2013 graduated with an average of more than $35,000 in student loan debt. But how would you like to graduate with a debt of, well, zero? Keith Kocinski introduces us to one student that figured out a way to do just that.
Keith: This is Chris Gray. He is a junior at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Four years of college here racks up to about $150,000. And he lives on campus, so add on another $60,000 for a whopping grand total of $210,000. But Chris won’t pay a single cent. That is right, not one penny.
Chris Gray: I have no student loans and no debt.
Keith: That’s because he landed more than $1 million worth of scholarships.
Chris: That’s how I ended up getting dubbed ‘the million dollar scholar.’
Keith: Unlike student loans, which have to be paid back, scholarship money is essentially free money to help pay for college costs, and not just tuition, even books and living expenses.
Scholarships are awarded to students based on things like grades or financial need, or even writing the best essay.
Chris: There are some scholarships that don’t even look at GPA at all, or some scholarships that are just volunteer scholarships. Some scholarships are just leadership scholarships. There are even some scholarships for people that have parents who are widowed, there are scholarships for left-handed people, scholarships for people in other states too.
Keith: Thirty-nine percent of families used scholarships to pay for college during the 2012 – 2013 school year, according to a recent Sallie Mae study. And Chris says students aren’t taking advantage of all the scholarships available. That is because finding that money can be an overwhelming task.
Samuella Takyi-Buachie: Searching for scholarships became a full-time job.
Romiamoudi: I felt like I was spending more time searching for scholarships than actually completing them.
Chris: I found that so many people wanted my help, and trying to help them find these scholarships that fit them was so long and tedious that I was like, ‘there has to be a way to scale this.’
Keith: He started early in high school, and it became even more important after his mom lost her job during the 2009 financial crisis.
Chris: We could kind of barely afford to pay our bills, let alone to try to pay a tuition bill.
Keith: Chris worked with his guidance counselor, scoured the internet, and worked with a mentor to land more than 30 scholarships totaling $1.3 million. And now, thanks to Chris, there is an app for that.
Chris: It turns that month-long, those hours and months or days of searching for scholarships into minutes.
Keith: He came up with Scholly, an app and website that takes your information and gives you a list of scholarships that you qualify for. Creators of Scholly say the app doesn’t require personal information, which makes it even quicker to find scholarships.
Chris has advice on what can help snag those scholarships once you find them.
Chris: Being involved on your campus or in your community is really, really important and really can help you stand out. If you work really, really hard, if you are really nice, you surround yourself with good people, your success, I mean, will give you even more personal power.
Keith: As for Chris, he plans to finish college and move into investments and start-ups. And if you take his advice, maybe you can be the next million dollar scholar.
Keith Kocinski, Channel One News.